She glanced at the platters. "Yeah, it was, huh? Thanks. Haven't lost my touch, I guess."

"I bet this is a stretch from embassy work."

"I'll say," she said with feeling. "This is harder." But she enjoyed it and felt fulfilled. Weird, since that was the last thing she expected to feel being a nanny.

Carolina fussed. Loudly. Bryce lifted her out of the high chair as Ciara reached for her.

"No, relax," he said. "I'll bathe her and put her down."

Nodding, her gaze followed him as he left. Over his shoulder, Carolina whimpered for Ciara. She waved and blew her a kiss, her heart fairly exploding with love for the little girl.

She wondered what she would do when she had to leave.

Just the thought of never seeing either Bryce or Carolina again left a heavy ache in Ciara's chest. But the time was drawing close. It wouldn't take the agency long to work up a sting and apprehend Faraday. Yet the one thing that made her nervous was that Mark Faraday wasn't stupid. And he was still loose, out there somewhere and no doubt looking for her. He had to notice she wasn't around, although they'd been assigned to different teams in the past weeks before she recognized his behavior for what it was.

Finishing the dishes, she flipped on the dishwasher before she went around checking the doors and setting the alarms. She wouldn't take any chances. Not with the baby, not with Bryce. Her hands were shaking as she returned to the sunroom, to her favorite spot in the huge house. Her mind ran with thoughts of Mark Faraday finding her. Of him harming Carolina or Bryce. She dropped onto the sofa, staring out the window. The backyard was lit with flood lamps that covered the shadows and illuminated the water. Bryce's cabin cruiser rocked gently at the end of the pier next to the small johnboat. She was almost tempted to ask him for a ride in it, to see the low country from the water.

Anything, she thought, to stall this time with him.

* * *

Bryce stepped into the sunroom, knowing he'd find Ciara there. Yet he didn't expect to find her looking so sad. "Want some wine?"

She whipped around like a frightened animal. "Bryce," she gasped. "I didn't hear you." She clutched the throw pillow with a death grip.

His brows rose and he frowned. "Obviously. I'm sorry." He held out a glass of red wine and she accepted it, draining half. Then with a long sigh, she slumped deeper into the sofa.

"I needed that. Thanks." Lord, her nerves were a pitiful thing, she thought, all tattered and tender.

"You're jumpy this evening."

She absently fluffed the pillow. "No, you startled me. I thought you'd be longer."

"The walking wonder went out fast." He pointed to the ceiling and Carolina's room above them.

Ciara smiled tenderly. He beamed with so much pride, Ciara felt herself relax. Then he sat down beside her.

She eyed him.

Her constant suspiciousness amused him, and Bryce wanted to get to the root of it. Of why she shut him out all the time, why she couldn't trust herself around him.

"Hope tells me you left the Secret Service for your wife."

If a door could slam shut on his desire, that was it. His body instantly clenched and his expression darkened. "Hope has a big mouth."

"She was more concerned for me I think."

His lips quirked in a quick smile. "Yeah, she knows there's something going on here."

Something, Ciara thought. Yeah, that was about it. Something powerful, something strong. Something she shouldn't touch. Something she wanted badly. "Well? Is it true?"

He hesitated, not wanting to have this conversation with her, not now. But he found no way around it. "Yes."

Her voice lowered, soft and sympathetic. "You must have loved her a great deal."

"I didn't love her at all."

Ciara's brows shot up and she propped her elbow on the back of the sofa, and regarded him.

Bryce shifted deeper into the cushions and sighed. "I married her because of Carolina."

"I know."

Only his gaze shifted to her. "Did my big mouth sister tell you Diana had it planned."

"No, she didn't. What makes you say that?" He told her what his sister had finally revealed, about Diana planning their life out, and that Hope thought Diana wanted a family and didn't care how she got it.

"Sounds like a lonely woman who needed a family."

"She was orphaned, so I guess so, but the marriage was a mistake. She was possessive and afraid to be without me, so I left the service." He stopped, shaking his head. "I tried to love her. I wanted to love her. She was carrying my child, for pity's sake. But I couldn't, and she ended up hating me." He scraped his hand over his face, hearing the insults and rage in Diana because he couldn't love her and she'd finally understood it. "I didn't blame her." Copyright 2016 - 2023