"Come on, sweetheart, let's get you all dolled up for public viewing," she told Carolina as she lifted her out of her high chair.

"Public viewing?" Bryce said, taking a last sip of coffee before he had to leave.

"We're going to the park."

"Be sure to put some sunscreen on her, it gets…"

"I have it covered," Ciara said in a monotone as she pried little baby fingers from her hair.

"I imagine you do."

Her gaze snapped to his. The silence between them pulsed and Bryce said, "Ciara, about last night…"

"No. No more last nights or five years ago or anything, Bryce. No nothing but Carolina." She propped the baby on her hip. "How much clearer do I have to be?"

She didn't expect an answer, but she couldn't keep her distance emotionally if he kept bringing up their sexual attraction for each other. It was that kiss last night, like no other before, and sometime during the night Ciara admitted it had scared the hell out of her, made her feel stripped and vulnerable and weak. Because she'd wanted more. She wanted to slip easily into a role she'd no business considering.

She was temporary.

Very temporary.

She was a CIA agent, surveillance specialist, covert operation. She was good at what she did. She even had an alias, a code name, and heck, Stuart wasn't even her real last name.

If Bryce knew any of that, she'd be out of here as fast as last week's trash.

She'd been right about him. He was deadly, a foe that was too hard to fight. Especially when he kissed her like he … like he adored her. Like he wanted more from her than to rekindle a long ago night. And she didn't know what she wasn't willing to risk more. His anger, or losing these few days of being normal. Of just being Ciara. Mentally she snickered at her own audacity. She was lying to him, what was normal about that?

At her bitter expression, Bryce's brows drew down, his scowl as hard as hers. He wondered what was going on in that sharp mind, besides drawing more barriers. He'd known something had changed between them last night, in that single kiss. It had suddenly involved deeper emotions. It spoke of a gamble she didn't want any part of, and neither did he. He reminded himself that he'd already screwed up one woman's life, and likely would again if he kept at it long enough.

He stood, reaching for his jacket. "I'll be late," he said, slipping it on.

With a sharp nod, she left the kitchen and he followed. They parted in the foyer, yet a whine came from his daughter and Carolina, not to be denied, pouted at her father's inattention. Bryce smiled gently and stepped close, running his hand over his baby's downy curls and kissing her. "Bye, my princess," he whispered and then lifted his gaze to Ciara's.

Frosty eyes stared back at him, yet her hand lovingly stroked his daughter's back. If ever there was a fortress, he thought.

"See you later," she said, then turned and mounted the stairs, still smelling his cologne and still feeling the heat of his body that her knees almost folded. Damn him, she thought.

Bryce walked to the door. He was halfway out when something made him stop. He glanced back over his shoulder, unwilling to admit he needed a last look at her. While cool tension radiated from her like a winter chill, even with her back to him, Carolina was happily gurgling away in her arms, completely unaware of the trouble between them.

Bryce wondered for the hundredth time why he could give himself a good talking to about why he shouldn't get involved, in any form, and be prepared to face Ciara down, then take one look at her, and all the warnings vanished.

He admitted she was a weakness he never knew he had.

And one he planned to fight. Big talk, he thought as he stepped outside and closed the door behind him. His life with Diana was a harsh reminder of the pain he could cause. And even as cool a customer as Ciara was, he couldn't do that to her.

* * *

"Ciara, look who wants to join in."

Ciara looked up from teaching three children to swim, to where Bryce's sister, Hope, was sitting under the shade of the deck overhang. Hope pointed to Carolina, who had one chubby leg hiked up in a feeble attempt to climb out of the playpen.

Ciara smiled. "My lord, she hasn't even taken her first steps and already she wants to run." Making the kids sit on the side of the pool, she went to the baby, gently pushing her leg down and telling her no.

Carolina's lower lip curled down.

"Don't try that pout with me, young lady," Ciara said. "This is for your own safety." Carolina dropped down onto her diaper-padded rump and whimpered. Fat tears filled her blue eyes. Ciara took pity and lifted her out of the playpen.

"Wimp," Hope said laughingly as she traded places with Ciara as lifeguard.

Ciara knew there was a guilty look smeared over her face, but she just couldn't stand to see her little charge unhappy when she kept thinking about that other nanny neglecting her. She didn't want Carolina to think she was the same. At that thought, she smirked to herself, wondering if the child thought of her as anything but the person who kept her dry and well fed.

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