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Alaskan Nights, Baby Surprise

Written by Catherine Mann

Chapter Two

Broderick Steele had never felt less like conducting business in his life, which, given how much he loved his job, was saying a lot. But he needed to clear away paperwork in his home office now that Glenna and the baby were asleep in a rocker. Even their husky was sleeping in his dog bed in the sunroom.

Glenna hadn’t spoken a word to him the whole way home. Not that he could fault her for that. She’d stayed on the phone with the sitter, then singing to Fleur right up to the moment they’d walked through the front door. Their daughter needed her. And no way in hell was he going to risk her saying he was questioning her parenting.

Since two days ago, when she’d mentioned the possibility of time apart, his gut had been in knots. At first he’d buried himself in work, silent, trying to keep the peace and give Glenna time to cool off after their latest argument. But he knew they were only delaying another showdown.

Warily, he’d taken a couple of breaks from work to walk the floor with the sick baby, trying to soothe her. It was a challenge to keep her from waking the other family members that lived in the Steele family compound. Finally, thank God, she’d drifted off in Glenna’s arms about thirty minutes ago.

He powered down his computer and gave up on work for the night. He should offer to help with Fleur. Glenna had looked exhausted at the retreat earlier. Gorgeous, yes, but completely wiped out.

Rolling the kinks out of his shoulders, he strode across the thick wool rug in their suite at the Steele mansion. Suite was an understatement, really. The space was larger than most luxury apartments. They’d expanded with a nursery and a study, with more room to add on if needed by creating loft space.

The view of the water and snowcapped mountains was breathtaking. But his wife was even more so. He leaned a shoulder against a thick wooden beam and took a moment to drink in the sight of her as she slept in a rocking chair, their daughter out for the count in her arms.

Glenna’s sun-blond hair was gathered in a messy bun on the top of her head, revealing her delicate ears and the pearl earrings she’d worn to the retreat earlier. He’d bought the earrings for her on their honeymoon and took heart that she wore them now.

Her normally sparkling sea-blue eyes had seemed duller lately, a sure sign she must be more worn-out than usual. She held the baby, as still and unflinching as a marble statue.

Concerned about his wife not taking care of herself, he made fast work of putting together a tray of snacks for Glenna. Holding the wooden tray, he wished he’d thought to grab a flower from a vase in the hall, but his brain was foggy from lack of sleep. He felt much like the moose outside making lazy steps through the night.

One look at his daughter’s face, though, and he didn’t regret a minute’s lost sleep. While Fleur wasn’t his biological child, he loved her without reservation. As did Glenna.

He wanted things to work, but as each day passed with more friction between them, he was beginning to have his doubts they had what it took to make it the distance. He felt the weight of a stare and realized Glenna had woken. She studied him, her blue eyes guarded.

“I brought food.” Sheepishly, he held up the assortment of fruit, cheese, sliced sausage and fluffy buttered biscuits.

“Thanks, but I’m not really hungry.” Bright pink lips omitted a sound barely above a whisper. She nodded down toward the now silently sleeping baby. “Besides, I’m scared to move for fear she’ll wake up.”

“Understandable.” He set the tray down on the coffee table alongside a crystal-framed photo of the three of them playing in the snow with her dog, Kota. The laughter from that day echoed in his mind. “I’ll take her, and I promise, I’ll be careful.”

He scooped up the little one, and Fleur wriggled. Broderick froze, then patted her back softly until she settled back to sleep. A few steps later, he placed her carefully into her crib, where she curled up with a sigh, warm in her purple footed sleeper.

After he clicked on the monitor, he returned to the living area, where Glenna still sat in the rocker as if too weary to move.

He pointed to the tray of food. “You haven’t eaten much lately, though. Are you all right?”

She averted her pale blue eyes. “I had some strawberries at the retreat since we didn’t have time for breakfast.”

Her words found their mark, sending a tremor of guilt through him. Their argument this morning had kept them both from having breakfast.

Momentarily at a loss for words, he simply dropped a quick kiss on her cheek, the almond scent of her perfume mixing with a hint of baby shampoo. “I did get some work done during the night.”

“Work.” She offered him a terse smile. “Our joint job?”

They’d both been the CFO for their respective family businesses. When the merger started, they’d decided to share the job and work less, spend more time building their family. But sharing the job had been tough so far, each of them having their own style, and it had been hard to give up control. So they’d been spinning their wheels, doing more work rather than less, which made things tough on the job as well. A deadline missed looked bad for both of them since they shared the position in hopes of having more time for each other and family. Their plan wasn’t panning out so well.

“Packing it up would have taken longer than finishing things. And then there’s the security at the office— Glenna, can we table this discussion? I’m hungry and tired.”

“And I’m not?”

Now there was a land mine. He looked down at the carved wooden platter of food on the coffee table. “You said you ate.”

“I meant I’m tired.” Dark circles under her eyes offered proof to her words. “It’s going to be a long weekend with everyone having come in for the retreat.”

Part of their argument had been about how all the work to prepare for the influx of family seemed to fall on her as “woman’s work.” Not that he intended to wade into that discussion again. “Let’s call the sitter back.”

Without looking up at him, her voice raised from that almost whisper to her boardroom voice. The one that commanded attention. “I’m not going to turn her over to the sitter every time she’s difficult. That’s not parenting.”

He agreed. And he also knew that no question, stress was gathering inside Glenna, building. He could see it in the way she sagged in the chair.

He rested his hands on Glenna’s shoulders and, sure enough, he found tensed knots. He massaged along each side, sorry she ached, but damn, the feel of her never ceased to slay him.

Glenna’s head fell back, her eyes closed as she moaned. “That’s nice.”

“Parenting and marriage and managing the merging companies is not easy. Things will get better, though. Our lives will streamline.”

He had to believe that.

But she tensed under his touch. “How does your sister manage with twins? I’m embarrassed over complaining. But two babies seems like…” There was a hitch in her throat.

He chuckled darkly. “Seems like mayhem? Overwhelming? I have no idea how she does it. My sister is…”

Glenna glanced up, her eyes troubled. “Pretty special.”

“And outlandish.” He laughed, thinking about his wild sister. After all her crazy schemes over the years, it was surreal seeing Naomi settled with Royce and twin baby girls.

They made it all look so simple.

But Broderick wasn’t giving up. He could feel the tension start to diminish as he continued to rub Glenna’s shoulders. If only every moment could stay this peaceful.

Silence settled in the room, wrapping them in intimacy. He eased her hair free and combed his fingers through, then slowly massaged her scalp. Glenna’s deep sighs stirred him. And for the first time in the past few weeks, Broderick felt…

Hopeful.

He angled his head, his gaze catching hers. Her eyes lit with a blue flame that matched the heat inside him. He linked fingers with her and guided her to her feet, close to him, so near it would just take one breath to bring them flush against each other.

He drew her to him just as she arched up on her toes with a breathy moan. Their mouths met with ease, familiarity—and passion.

Their chemistry had always been intense, from the first time they connected in college.

They’d self-destructed then, too.

Something he couldn’t let himself consider would happen again. The stakes were too high. It wasn’t just about the business. But also their marriage and their daughter.

Her hands gripped his shirt tighter, her nails grazing along his skin even through flannel. He slid his hands down her back, cupping her bottom and bringing her closer to him. Arousal throbbed through him, hot and hard.

He wanted her. His fingers combed through her golden tresses, their mouths matching, mating—

His phone rang across the room, and as much as he wanted to ignore it…

Glenna whispered, “Hurry, before it wakes Fleur.”

Easing his hands from the silky glide of her hair, he leaned over to snag the phone and silence the ringer. One look at the ID, though, and he winced. “I have to take this.”

“Of course,” she said, smiling tightly.

Taking the call, he could still feel the tension from Glenna shadowing him all the way out to the balcony, along with a sense that there was another shoe about to drop on their lives.

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About the author

Writing military romances seemed like a natural fit for me - since I'm...

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Catherine Mann

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