Nanny Makes Three

By: Cat Schield

One

 Shortly after the 6:00 a.m. feeding, Liam Wade strode through the barn housing the yearling colts and fillies, enjoying the peaceful crunching of hay and the occasional equine snort. It was January 1, and because of the way horses were classified for racing and showing purposes, regardless of their calendar age, every horse in every stall on the ranch was now officially a year older.

 Dawn of New Year’s Day had never been a time of reflection for Liam. Usually he was facedown in a beautiful woman’s bed, sleeping like the dead after an evening of partying and great sex. Last year that had changed. He’d left the New Year’s Eve party alone.

 His cell phone buzzed in his back pocket, and he pulled it out. The message from his housekeeper made him frown.

 There’s a woman at the house who needs to speak to you.

 Liam couldn’t imagine what sort of trouble had come knocking on his door this morning. He texted back that he was on his way and retraced his steps to his Range Rover.

 As he drove up, he saw an unfamiliar gray Ford Fusion in the driveway near the large Victorian house Liam’s great-great-grandfather had built during the last days of the nineteenth century. Liam and his twin brother, Kyle, had grown up in this seven-bedroom home, raised by their grandfather after their mother headed to Dallas to create her real estate empire.

 Liam parked and turned off the engine. A sense of foreboding raised the hair on his arms, and he wondered at his reluctance to get out of the truck. He’d enjoyed how peaceful the last year had been. A strange woman showing up at the crack of dawn could only mean trouble.

 Slipping from behind the wheel, Liam trotted across the drought-dry lawn and up the five steps that led to the wraparound porch. The stained glass windows set into the double doors allowed light to filter into the wide entry hall, but prevented him from seeing inside. Thus, it wasn’t until Liam pushed open the door that he saw the infant car seat off to one side of the hall. As that was registering, a baby began to wail from the direction of the living room.

 The tableau awaiting him in the high-ceilinged room was definitely the last thing he’d expected. Candace, his housekeeper, held a squalling infant and was obviously trying to block the departure of a stylish woman in her late fifties.

 “Liam will be here any second,” Candace was saying. With her focus split between the child and the blonde woman in the plum wool coat, his housekeeper hadn’t noticed his arrival.

 “What’s going on?” Liam questioned, raising his voice slightly to be heard above the unhappy baby.

 The relief on Candace’s face was clear. “This is Diane Garner. She’s here about her granddaughter.”

 “You’re Liam Wade?” the woman demanded, her tone an accusation.

 “Yes.” Liam was completely bewildered by her hostility. He didn’t recognize her name or her face.

 “My daughter is dead.”

 “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

 “She was on her way to see you when she went into labor and lost control of her car. The doctors were unable to save her.”

 “That’s very tragic.” Liam wasn’t sure what else to say. The name Garner rang no bells. “Did she and I have an appointment about something?”

 Diane stiffened. “An appointment?”

 “What was your daughter’s name?”

 “Margaret Garner. You met her in San Antonio.” Diane grew more agitated with each word she uttered. “You can’t expect me to believe you don’t remember.”

 “I’m sorry,” Liam said, pitching his voice to calm the woman. She reminded him of a high-strung mare. “It’s been a while since I’ve been there.”

 “It’s been eight months,” Diane said. “Surely you couldn’t have forgotten my daughter in such a short period of time.”

 Liam opened his mouth to explain that he wasn’t anywhere near San Antonio eight months ago when it hit him what the woman was implying. He turned and stared at the baby Candace held.

 “You think the baby’s mine?”

 “Her name is Maggie and I know she’s yours.”

 Liam almost laughed. This was one child he knew without question wasn’t his. He’d been celibate since last New Year’s Eve. “I assure you that’s not true.”

 Diane pursed her lips. “I came here thinking you’d do the right thing by Maggie. She’s your child. There’s no question that you had an affair with my daughter.”

 He wasn’t proud of the fact that during his twenties, he’d probably slept with a few women without knowing their last name or much more about them other than that they were sexy and willing. But he’d been careful, and not one of them had shown up on his doorstep pregnant.

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