The Baby Contract(4)

By: Barbara Dunlop

 The baby dug into the meal, his little hands clasping and unclasping as he sucked and swallowed.

 Mila took an armchair, perching on the edge to watch. “What things need to calm down?” she asked Kassidy, concern evident in her voice.

 Troy started to protest. Mila wasn’t a guest. She had no business engaging his sister in chitchat while his lunch hour ticked away. He had a busy afternoon coming up, and he didn’t intend to spend it starving.

 “Or until I get used to it all, I suppose,” said Kassidy. “And used to him.” She smiled down at Drake, smoothing a lock of his dark hair. “Isn’t he adorable?”

 “You could have put him up for adoption,” said Troy.

 The baby was adorable. There had to be dozens if not hundreds of stable, loving couples who would want him. Kassidy was in absolutely no position to take on an infant. She could barely take care of herself.

 But her eyes flashed angrily at him. “I told you, I promised.”

 “What a thing to say,” Mila cut in, adding her own glare at Troy. “What kind of support is that? This is your nephew.”

 “He’s not my nephew,” said Troy.

 “He will be,” said Kassidy. “Legally, morally and in every other way there is. You better get used to it, Troy. Because little Drake here isn’t going anywhere. Not anywhere.”

 Now Mila just looked confused.

 “She’s adopting him,” said Troy, wondering why he bothered to explain. It was past time for Mila to leave.

 “Where are his birth parents?” Mila asked Kassidy.

 “His mother passed away,” said Kassidy, her tone going soft and her hand smoothing over Drake’s head for a second time. “She was a good friend.”

 The baby was blissfully oblivious to the discussion swirling around him. His hunger was being satiated, and that was all he cared about. Troy felt a pang of jealousy and then realized he could make that same decision for himself.

 “I need to get lunch,” he announced, checking the time on his wrist.

 He had less than thirty minutes before he had to be back downstairs. The Bulgarians had hired Pinion Security for an important upcoming UN reception, and he needed to get the team set up.

 “Help yourself to whatever you want,” he told Kassidy. He dug into his pocket for a key card. “This will get you into the exterior doors as well as this apartment. You should know there are cameras all over the building.” His gaze moved to Mila. “We can track anybody, anywhere, at any time.”

 She obviously understood. “You knew I was coming.”

 “We saw you hiding from Vegas on the elevator. We were curious.”

 “Sneaky,” she said.

 “Seriously? Me, sneaky?”

 “You could have said something.”

 “Why would I say something?”

 Kassidy’s gaze was ping-ponging back and forth between them.

 “I only wanted to talk to you,” said Mila.

 “And you did. And we’re done.” He gestured to the apartment’s front door. “The control room will be watching you all the way out. So don’t try anything.”

 “Who are you?” asked Kassidy.

 Mila looked at Kassidy, but obviously hesitated over her answer.

 “I thought you were his girlfriend,” Kassidy continued as she lifted Drake to her shoulder and began patting his back.

 “I’m applying for a job,” said Mila.

 “She means she’s stalking me,” said Troy.

 “Welcome to the club,” Kassidy said to Troy.

 “Someone’s stalking you?” Mila was quick to pick up on the inference.

 “I don’t know,” Kassidy answered. “Maybe. I have these fans.” She gave a little burst of laughter. “I guess if you’re not dating Troy—”

 “I’m not dating Troy.”

 “—then you wouldn’t know I was a singer. I’m a singer. And I have some fans. Not a whole bunch of fans, but enough. And some of them have been sending me emails. They’re a bit creepy.”

 Mila looked to Troy.

 He gave a shrug to indicate he wasn’t unduly alarmed. “I’ve forwarded copies to a profiler.”

 “Can I see them?” asked Mila.

 “Sure,” said Kassidy.

 “No, she can’t,” said Troy. “She doesn’t work here, and they’re none of her business.”

 “Why doesn’t she work here?” asked Kassidy.

 “That’s none of your business,” said Troy.

 “I’m serious,” said Kassidy.

 “So am I.”

 Kassidy turned to Mila. “Why don’t you work here?”

 “I’m trying,” said Mila. “But your brother doesn’t hire women.”

 Kassidy’s blue eyes went wide and she stared at him with patent disapproval.

 “That’s not true,” said Troy, wondering why he was feeling defensive. “I have three women working in this building alone.”

 “Not as security agents,” said Mila.

 Troy glared at her, sending the unmistakable message that she should shut up.

 “Why not as security agents?” asked Kassidy. Using one hand to hold Drake, she dug into her shoulder bag. “I’ll show you the latest emails.”

 “Mila is leaving, and I’m having lunch.” Troy had to try at least.

 “Go ahead and have lunch,” said Kassidy. “I want a woman’s opinion on this.”

 He turned his tone to steel. “Goodbye, Mila Stern.”

 “Don’t you be a jerk, Troy,” said Kassidy.

 “I won’t charge you,” Mila said, rising to her feet and heading for Kassidy.

 “Charge me with what?” He was baffled by the statement.

 “Charge you for the time,” she said.

 “You don’t work for me.”

 “This new one came yesterday,” said Kassidy, holding out a sheet of paper.

 Despite himself, Troy’s curiosity was piqued. He hadn’t seen this one. “Who’s it from?”

 Mila was quicker on the draw, taking the printout from Kassidy’s hand.

 “BluebellNighthawk,” said Kassidy.

 Mila was reading her way through it, and Troy went behind her to look over her shoulder.

 The message rambled about Kassidy’s hair and her eyes, her voice and a song she’d written that BluebellNighthawk seemed to think was about him.

 “Is this the only new one?” asked Troy.

 “Is there any significance to the word window?” asked Mila.

 Troy stared down at her. “Why?”

 “None that I can think of,” said Kassidy.

 “He uses it twice,” said Mila. “And both times it’s the end of a thought followed by an awkward transition.”

 Troy reread the note. “It’s all awkward.”

 “True,” said Mila, sitting back down in the armchair, still gazing at the printout.

 Troy summoned his patience. They were going backward here.

 “I’m starving,” he said to both of them.

 “So go have lunch,” said Kassidy.

 Mila merely waved him away.

 * * *

 Mila had managed to stay in Troy’s apartment with Kassidy while he went downstairs for some meetings. She now had a hundred fan emails sorted into piles on the dining room table and had reconstructed Kassidy’s recent concert schedule on a digital map on her tablet.

 Drake cooed in his baby seat in the corner of the living room. Kassidy chatted on the phone to her business manager in the kitchen, the occasional word or burst of laughter filtering out.

 Mila was matching the emails to the performance dates, and now she needed to link them all on the map. For that, she needed a scanner.

 She glanced around and spotted an open door that looked promising. She rose to look more closely and discovered it was Troy’s home office. Sure enough, she found a scanner on the corner credenza.

 It looked straightforward enough, and she loaded in the documents.

 “Can I help you with something?” Troy’s deep voice came from behind her.

 “No.” She turned to meet his decidedly annoyed expression. “I think I’ve got it working.”

 “I didn’t mean that literally.” His frown deepened.

 “What did you mean?” she asked conversationally.

 She refused to let herself be intimidated by his scowl. Kassidy was living here with him, and she had invited Mila to stay and sort through the emails.

 “I meant, what the hell are you doing in my office without permission?”

 She held his gaze. “I’m scanning documents.”

 He advanced a couple of paces, shrinking the space with his presence. “I thought you’d be gone by now.”

 “You have cameras all over the place. You’d have known if I left.”

 “I don’t monitor the control center.”

 “Your staff wouldn’t notify you?”

 He paused at that. It was obvious from his expression they would have contacted him immediately.

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