Romancing Wisconsin #4
Nikki Rowen desires a family of her own—but first comes love, then comes marriage. She thought she had the former, until the moment she mentioned the latter and her boyfriend left her with nothing but a broken heart. Just as she’s beginning to doubt she’ll ever have a ‘til death do us part Happily Ever After, she meets her new neighbor in the most unexpected way.
In Sam Mallin's experience, the word family is synonymous with abandonment; he’s more than content on his own. Yet, in less than a week, he finds himself caring for an infant dropped on his doorstep, and playing house with his beautiful next-door-neighbor. When his feelings for Nikki deepen, he fears he’s nothing more than the ready-made family she so desperately wishes for. How can a self-proclaimed loner hold onto the two females most important to him without history repeating itself in a world of heartbreak?
He’d just reached into the refrigerator for a beer when the doorbell chimed. The cheery summons grated across his nerves, making him cringe. Could he ignore this unwanted visitor who appeared to have practically been waiting in the bushes for him?
A glance over his shoulder gave him the answer. Nope. His bare windows, glaring lights, and the volume of the TV made it impossible to pretend he wasn’t home. Curtains and blinds seemed a great investment right about now.
Kicking the fridge shut, he twisted the cap from the bottle. The doorbell went off again, twice as long as before, as if the person on the other side held it down. Damn it. If this was another married woman bringing him pie, he was going to—
Smile, and say, “Thank you.” That’s what neighbors did, right?
He took a long, fortifying pull off his beer, then thumped it on the counter on his way to answer the door. Too bad his neighbor right next door hadn’t been one of those pie-wielding visitors. He’d have invited her inside.
Then he got a glimpse through the window...of her standing on his front porch.
“Well, whaddaya know,” he murmured with a sudden grin of anticipation. Maybe she’d come in and watch the game with him. Hell, he wouldn’t even care if she held a pie in her hands.
He swung the door open and smiled his welcome at the pretty blond. His gaze dropped, then froze. Where he would’ve preferred a pie, she held a baby carrier—complete with baby.
Damn, she had a kid. After what his mother put him and his sister through, he didn’t do women with kids.
He lifted his gaze up from all that pink to a pair of guarded blue eyes. Forcing his lips to maintain their upward curve, he answered, “I prefer Sam. And you’re Nicole, right?”
“Nikki.” She frowned. “How’d you—”
“I had some of your mail in my box yesterday,” he admitted.
Her wry smile was appealing enough to make him forget about the baby. But it faded fast as she took a breath, shifted her stance, then extended her arms, carrier and all.
“Sam, this is yours.”
There was a crumpled envelope clutched between the fingers of her right hand. Tilting his head, he read his name in the crinkled address field and removed it from her grasp with a laugh. He liked that she’d chosen to bring his mail over personally. If he’d been thinking, he’d have done it first—and found out about the kid.
“Thanks,” he said as her baby began to fuss. “I just put your stuff in your mailbox.”
Nikki lifted the carrier higher with an exasperated huff. “You don’t understand. She is yours.”
In the middle of stuffing the folded envelope into his back pocket, his gaze dropped to the baby. Blue eyes, just like her momma. It took his brain a moment to make the connection, and then his pulse jumped as his eyebrows shot skyward. “Uh...I don’t think so.”
The baby sucked hard on a pacifier, her eyes shifting back and forth as she squirmed in the confined seat. Oh, hell no. He lifted his gaze once more, taking note of the woman’s curves on the way up. Yeah, she was pretty, but not worth this level of crazy. He’d have much preferred another pie.
“May I come in?”
“No,” he stated. “She’s not mine.”
He fumbled for the edge of the door. The woman stepped forward as he began to shut her out.
Her chin lifted and those blue eyes of hers glittered with determination. “Her name is Ella. She’s three and a half months old.”
He broke off as she shouldered her way past, into his living room. Sam closed the door and followed her to the couch where she set the carrier and an overflowing diaper bag. He glanced toward the kitchen, searching out his cell phone on the counter. Was he going to have to call the cops to get rid of her?
The baby started to cry, so Nikki picked her up and rocked her while speaking in a soft, crooning voice. The gentle sound soothed his nerves until common sense returned with a vengeance.
Denial shook his head as he moved to stand in front of her. “Listen, I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of this, but we’ve never met before, much less done what we would’ve needed to do to create that baby.”
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