Suddenly their little white lie is out of control. They’re spending Father’s Day with Ian’s family and lying about being a couple. Only pretending isn’t enough for Darcy anymore. Ian is the best father her daughter could have, and she’s ready to make it official. But how can she know for certain where the lie ends and reality begins?
“Fletcher has created characters who show real emotional growth.” – RT Book Reviews
Xander and I.
The words had pounded through Ian as he’d carried Cady into the house, leaving Darcy and Xander alone in the driveway. Alone together.
Xander and Darcy.
He had walked blindly into the kitchen, where he’d come to a sudden stop. Cady had grabbed his chin and Lulu whined at his feet. A distant corner of his brain had whispered reminders about food, water and diapers, but another, more urgent voice had had him perching Cady on the edge of the counter, where he’d held her tight around the waist and stared at her.
He could see Xander in her now. The pale blond hair pulled into one ponytail on top of her head like a platinum exclamation point above her rosy cheeks. Legs that were starting to shed their baby fat in favor of lean length. That crooked twist to her lips that he and Darcy had laughed over, calling it her Elvis impersonation. How many times had he picked her up and touched that mouth and sung “Heartbreak Hotel” to her? Her first real laugh had happened during one of those moments.
Turns out the laugh was on him.
“Mum mum mum.” Cady wriggled within his grasp, a familiar unhappy edge creeping into her voice. He shook his head.
The best way to cure your worries is by helping someone else. His grandmother’s voice was so clear in his head he almost expected to see her walk through the door. She’d drilled those words into him all his life. He had to admit, she had a point. Doing things for Darcy, especially once he had figured out she was pregnant—well, he’d certainly felt better after shoveling her driveway than he had after time spent mulling the mess his life had been.
Though even Grandma Moxie probably would cut him some slack right now.
“Come on, Cady Bug. I bet you’re hungry. How about something to eat?”
He ran Cady’s hands under the faucet, making her squeal, then strapped her into the high chair and raided the refrigerator for cheese cubes and tiny cooked pasta, all while maintaining a nonstop monologue. The words didn’t matter. As long as he kept talking, she would be distracted enough to stay happy.
“Looks like everything has changed, right, cutie? That’s the truth. I always thought that Jonathan the rat bastard was the one who did your mama wrong—oops, don’t cry, I won’t say the M word again—but I guess I blew that one. And you know how I feel? I feel like a goddamned idiot, that’s what I feel like. There’s some words to toss out sometime when M-word isn’t expecting them. Goddamn. Yeah, that should get a reaction out of her. Maybe even an honest one. Wouldn’t that be a change?”
He was overreacting, but so what? Darcy was his friend. Nothing more—but nothing less, either. He would have thought that as her friend, as the person who had brought Xander into the picture, as the one who had fallen in love with Cady the moment she’d arrived—
“Guess I thought wrong. No surprise there, right, kiddo? That’s right, shove the cheese into your mouth. Nom nom. Eat with your fists while you can. Those days will be gone before you know it.”
He dropped into the chair beside the table, his arms, legs and spirits crossed. Lulu sniffed his knee and let loose with a noise that was somewhere between a whine and a moan. He laced his fingers through her silky fur and scratched behind her ears.
“You know something’s wrong, don’t you, girl? Don’t worry. I won’t let him take you.”
“Ru! Ru!” Cady slapped her palms on the tray and threw a piece of cheese to the floor. Lulu snapped it up. Cady broke into the chortles that always accompanied the game. Ian was supposed to make sure the food made it into the proper mouth, but at the moment he didn’t have the heart.
“Laugh now, sweetie.” Despite himself, he angled his head so he could sneak a peek through the lace curtains at the kitchen window. He should have saved himself the effort. All he could see was a fringe of cinnamon—the top curls of Darcy’s hair. Curls that Xander had laced his fingers through while—
Ian jumped from his chair and forced his feet toward the hall, the refrigerator, the small pantry stocked with baby food and diet pop. Anyplace where he wouldn’t be tempted to watch what was happening in the backyard.
But when he narrowly avoided stepping on Lulu, trailing him with her nose to the ground, he forced his itchy feet to halt. He fell back onto the hard wooden chair. He tipped his head toward the ceiling, where the white blades of the fan stirred the air and his thoughts.
He had to get a grip.
So Darcy and Xander had…whatever. So they had made a baby together. It was none of his business. It had happened almost two years ago. It had nothing to do with him.
Except it felt as though it did.
“I frickin’ hate secrets.” Good thing his only audience was a dog and a baby. Neither of them could point out the irony that he, Mr. Honest-and-Aboveboard, had been keeping a hell of a whopper from Darcy for God only knew how long.
“But that’s different.” He patted his thigh. Lulu, who had been gnawing on his shoe, jumped at the invitation and rested her paws on his knee. “It’s biology. That’s all. I’ve been alone awhile. Darcy is right here and cute and single… It’s good that I’ve started noticing her. Proof that I’m really over Taylor. That’s all. Saying anything to her would have been stupid. Pointless.”
Despite himself, he glanced at the window again.