He kept his tools out of Roxy’s reach and used the spirit level to get the shelf straight.
Behind him he could hear Mia chatting away.
Like mother like daughter, he thought, marking the wall with pencil.
“James horsie.” She appeared at his side, a curly-headed angel wearing a Superman outfit. Last week it had been all fairy wings and tutus. Today she wanted to be a superhero.
Another thing she had in common with her mother, he thought, as he stooped to lift her into his arms.
“I can’t be a horsie right now. I’m building shelves for your mama.”
“For books.” He saw her face brighten and felt her small hand grip his shoulder.
She patted his face, rubbing her palm over his jaw and giggling. “Scratchy.”
“I apologize. Next time I promise to shave before we spend time together.” He put her down carefully, before he was tempted to do something stupid, like offering to build her a house to go around her library.
“Library for Kissmass?”
“Kissmass.” She wandered away, obviously deciding that conversing with him was a waste of her time.
“She means Christmas.” Roxy bent and picked up the Lego bricks Mia had dropped. “Have you ever trodden barefoot on a Lego brick? It’s more painful than childbirth.”
There were days when he couldn’t believe she had a child. She seemed too young to have been through that.
“Who was there for you?” The question came out before he could stop it and he glanced across the room, checking that Mia was out of earshot. “When you had Mia, who was there for you?” He saw the sudden flash of vulnerability in her eyes.
“I was there.”
“No one else?” How about your mother? The man who made you pregnant? He kept those thoughts to himself.
“Just me, and an impatient midwife who talked to me the whole time about contraception. I can tell you that when you’re pushing something bigger than a watermelon out of your body, you don’t need anyone to remind you about contraception.”
“He should have protected you.”
Her gaze met his, as if it was something that hadn’t occurred to her before. “Yeah, well, as we both know Eddie wasn’t big on protecting anyone but himself. And it was my own stupid fault.”
James dragged his eyes from hers. He had to stop thinking that way. She wasn’t ready. She’d never given him the slightest signal that she was interested.
“Do you have another pencil? Or a sharpener?”
“By the bed in my bedroom. I’ll fetch it.”
“I’ll go. You check on Mia.”
Her bedroom was pink, Mia’s color choice. It was like walking into a mass of spun sugar. On her nightstand were a stack of books, most of them about childcare. He could imagine her poring over them, studying the contents, determined to do everything right.
He reached for the pencil and then noticed the sticky notes. Each had a single word written on it.
He smiled. Roxy and her new words.
He leaned closer and read the word closest to him. Infatuation. He’d never heard her use that one. Laconic.
The words were random. Unrelated.
He continued to read. Fantasize, arousal, heady, electrifying, paroxysm, orgasmic, James.
He dragged his eyes from orgasmic and focused on his own name. And realized in a blinding flash that the words weren’t random. Nor were they unrelated. She’d been lying here at night, thinking about him as she’d written out those words.
And those words made it obvious to him that she did have feelings for him. Powerful feelings.
He heard her behind him and dragged his gaze from the words on the wall to her startled, horrified eyes.
If he’d needed any confirmation that the words were about him, he had it now.
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