Bryce felt something give in him. Like the floor beneath his feet, and he closed his arms around her and kissed her.

And kissed her.

"Good morning, darlin'," he said against her mouth.

"Mmm," was all she could manage when she could feel him growing hard against her. Her insides shifted, burned as he familiarized himself with the curves of her body. But before she blocked out anymore of her life and hid away in that bedroom with him, she drew back. He wasn't finished and kissed her twice more, quick and deep.

"God, I want you again."

"I can tell." She rubbed her hips against him and loved his pained look. "But I'm going for a jog and taking Carolina with me in the stroller."

"Didn't get enough exercise already?"

"I'm ready for another workout with you, though."

He grinned, and when she rode her hands down over his bare buttocks, Bryce thought the counter was a good spot to make love to her again.

Then Carolina squealed, swiping at her tray and sending bits of egg to the floor.

"I think she's ready to go," Ciara said, giving the child a no-no look. When she looked back at Bryce, he wore the oddest smile. Stepping out of his arms, she picked up a cloth and started cleaning up the mess. Belting his robe, Bryce watched her for a second, then stopped her.

"Go on, I'll take care of it."

Her brows rose.

"I was doing this before you arrived, you know."

"Yeah," she said softly. "I know." And you will again, she thought and looked away before be could see her feelings on her face. She'd been so lousy at hiding them lately.

"How about a boat ride when you come back?"

"No little shrimpies waiting to leap to their death into your fleet of nets?"

"I'm the president. I can take a day off."

"Stand in the Oval Office and say that."

He grinned. "His days off were a Secret Service nightmare."

"Yours won't be." She smiled at the prospect of fun in the sun with him. "I'll run fast." She gathered the baby out of the high chair and walked out, saying, "Don't forget fishing poles."

Fishing? Ciara? Bryce dropped into a chair and snatched up a piece of bacon, thinking that in the past month, his life went from lonely, angry and guilt-ridden, to downright perfect.

Now if he could just get Ciara to trust him enough to tell him exactly what she'd been hiding since she got here.

* * *

Ciara opened one eye and spied Carolina. She was in the playpen on the deck of the cabin cruiser, the boat's blue tarp shielding her from the sun. Her father was at the stem of the boat, aft as he so clearly pointed out, setting the poles. She, of course, was sunning on the bow. The heat beat down on her and she exhaled, her mind drifting into a place of peace and relaxation.

The boat rocked gently on the water, the sensation lulling her into a balmy dream without thoughts of leaving. Enjoy this, her mind cried out like a lonely child. She exhaled, barely hearing Bryce talk to his daughter. A gull shrieked overhead and the breeze cooled her skin. Heaven, she thought.

"You look good enough to eat," he whispered in her ear.

She smiled, refusing to open her eyes. "There's lunch in the cooler."

He chuckled. "Rats."

Her shoulders shook with silent laughter. "Is Carolina okay?" she asked. "Do you think it's too hot for her?"

"She's going to live here the rest of her life. She best get used to the heat and humidity."

Ciara opened her eyes and rolled on her side to look at Bryce. He was inches from her face. "Oh, for pity's sake, Bryce. She's a baby. A gator would get overheated in this weather."

He chuckled. "I gave her some cold water to drink. She's having the time of her life with all those toys and playing with the water bucket."

Ciara shifted to look past him to Carolina, watching her make a valiant effort to pour water from one container to another and squealing with pride when she did it. "Good girl!" Ciara said and the baby looked up and gave her a toothy grin, her nose wrinkling adorably. "Mud pies are next, sweetie," she said as if Carolina understood her.

Ciara waved, and blew the baby a kiss.

The baby kissed her dirty palm and waved back with every muscle she had.

Bryce glanced between the two females, not for the first time seeing the bond they shared. His heart overflowed with pleasure over it. "She loves you, you know."

"I got that feeling," Ciara said warmly, then brought her gaze to his. She smiled. "I marvel every time she discovers something new. It's like seeing the world all over again. She changes every day."

"I don't want her to grow up so fast."

"Yeah, then you'll be beating off the boys with a stick." Copyright 2016 - 2024