The Sergeant's Unexpected Family(10)

By: Carrie Nichols

Mary tucked a dark curl behind her ear. “But I—”

“The doc doesn’t want you to stay alone in a motel room,” Jan interrupted as she turned away from the computer. “Don’t worry, Brody might try to act like that big green ogre all alone on that farm of his, but he’s an ole softy who lets store clerks substitute toothpicks for cigarettes.”

“How did...? Tavie.” Cripes, he was never going to live that down. “Is it any wonder I stay on the farm?”

“Pfftt, you’d die of boredom without all of us minding your business and you know it.” Jan patted his shoulder. “Don’t forget she needs wake-up checks to make sure she’s all right and remembering well.”

“Elliott tends to take care of the periodic wake-ups,” Mary said.

“But he can’t ask you questions.” Jan whipped the curtain back with a jangling of metal hooks as they rattled against the rod. “Let me fetch the paperwork and you can spring Mary from this place.”

After Jan left, Mary cleared her throat as if to renew her protests, and he lifted his hand. “I don’t know what happened between you and Roger, but if this little guy is my nephew, then I’d like a chance to get to know him, so staying at the farm makes sense.”

And that was the truth. He was an adult and could deal with any physical attraction he might feel toward Mary. She was too good for his brother, but—

“If?” Mary choked out, her eyes flashing with anger.

“Huh?” Why had she turned on him?

“You said if like you’re questioning my word. I can assure you that—”

“Hold on.” He raised his hands in a gesture of appeasement. “It was a figure of speech...not an indictment of your character.”

Oh, man, what had Roger done to put such suspicion in her eyes, and why was good ole Brody always the one stuck smoothing hurt feelings caused by his family? Mary didn’t look convinced, and he laid a hand over his chest. “I swear...just a poor choice of words.”

She studied him, her dark eyes piercing him before she nodded. “I believe you. My plan was to go forward at a slow pace but the accident changed all that.”

“Forward with what?” Brody shuffled his feet. What did she have planned?

“I brought Elliott to Loon Lake so he could meet his uncle, and I thought maybe after that you two could get acquainted.”

Okay that made sense and she wasn’t flat out refusing to come to the farm. A feeling resembling relief swept over him. But that was crazy, considering he didn’t want to be involved in any mess with Roger. “Thanks. I would like to get to know him.”

She coaxed Elliott to turn his head by cupping her fingers around his chin. “Can you say hello to Uncle Brody?”

Brody squatted so he was eye level with the baby, who turned to study him with big dark eyes. “Hey there, big guy, want to come to my house? Do you like animals?”

Mary brushed a kiss across Elliott’s temple. “He was fascinated by the cows we saw on the way here. He squealed every time we passed some.”

“Is that right? You like cows?” Gazing into the baby’s large, expressive eyes, some of the invisible barrier Brody had established around himself shifted.

Elliott laid his head on Mary’s shoulder and stuck his thumb in his mouth, his gaze intent. Hey there, little man, you’ve got your mama’s pretty eyes. Brody rose and stepped back as if he could return to that protective circle. “Have you called Roger to let him know you two are okay?”

Mary’s smile faded, her expression closed up and she gave a slight shake of her head. “That won’t be necessary. Roger isn’t a part of our lives.”

“I see.” And the sad truth was he did. Born from an illicit affair, Roger had a giant chip on his shoulder, and Brody couldn’t totally fault him. No, blame lay squarely on their father for getting the maid pregnant. But Roger had learned early to play the victim card, and Brody, like many others, fell for it until...until he didn’t.

Of course, Roger might be done with Mary, but that didn’t mean Mary was done with him. So Brody had no business noticing or admiring her radiant eyes and shiny curls. Besides, he didn’t need or want a woman—any woman—in his life right now. Even one as appealing as Mary.

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