Inherited: One Child(55)

By: Day Leclaire



“Then?”

Her sigh rippled through her and into him. “I took one look at her and fell head over heels. I would have stuck to my original plan if it weren’t for one other problem.”

He stiffened. “What problem?” he managed to ask.

She lifted her head and looked at him, her heart in her eyes. “I fell in love with you. One minute I was trying to build a world for you and Isabella, and the next you became my world.”

The inner coldness cracked, splitting apart like chunks of icebergs beneath a spring thaw. He didn’t resist any longer. He lowered his head and kissed her. The kiss shouldn’t have been any different from all the other ones they’d shared. But it was. He didn’t know if it was the absence of secrets or the fact that they’d both allowed the last bastions of their defenses to fall. Maybe the fact that they’d confessed their love altered the elemental nature of the embrace. Whatever the cause, he knew he’d remember this moment for the rest of his life. Remember the heat and the generosity, the certainty and the passion. Most of all, it was the awareness that he’d finally come home. That he’d found what he’d spent most his life searching for—and he held her safely in his arms.

“Come home now,” he urged. “We’re lost without you.”

“I thought I was the one who was lost.”

He forked his hands deep into her hair, allowing the curls to bind them together. “The three of us ultimately found each other. That’s all that matters now.”

He took her mouth in a lingering kiss, sinking into the softness and the warmth. If they’d been anywhere else, he’d have fallen into the nearest bed and spent the next twenty-four hours making her his in every possible sense of the word. Reluctantly, he drew back.

“I never realized how empty my life was until you filled it up,” he said.

Her smile was the most radiant he’d ever seen. “Let’s go home.”

Robert eyed them closely as they left the boat. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him because he simply smiled in satisfaction. “I’d appreciate having an opportunity to get to know my granddaughter,” he addressed Jack. “If you’re willing.”

“Anytime.”

The drive to Lover’s Folly seemed endless. But they finally arrived. It felt like weeks since he’d last had his wife at home, instead of mere hours. They walked hand in hand from the garage across the backyard. The kitchen door flew open and a half dozen rambunctious puppies spilled out, yipping and squabbling as they came, with Madam close on their heels.

Behind them, Isabella appeared in the doorway and cut loose with a shriek to end all shrieks. She took off at a flat run and arrowed straight for Annalise. His wife released his hand and knelt, cushioning Isabella’s landing in a loving embrace.

“Hello, Baby Belle,” Annalise greeted her daughter with a tearful laugh.

Isabella twined her twig-thin arms around Annalise’s neck and buried her face in the soft crook between neck and shoulder. Jack found he had to swallow hard at the sight. Isabella pulled back and spared him a brief, nervous glance. He gave an encouraging nod, praying for a miracle. And then it happened.

With a shy look, Isabella said, “Hi, Mommy.”

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