Secrets of Paternity(6)

By: Susan Crosby


For now, however, her longtime curiosity about the man whose generosity had given her Kevin had been satisfied. He was tall, dark and handsome, and her son clearly resembled him. And the man was capable of keeping his temper under control, as witnessed by his demeanor toward her after she’d run into his bike. He was in a profession that required intelligence, cunning, quick-on-his-feet reaction—and a willingness to take risks, the part of Paul she’d had the hardest time dealing with through the years. With good reason, as she’d discovered.

Had Kevin also wondered about the man? She and Paul had never kept it secret that Kevin had been conceived by artificial insemination. But then, Paul had never mentioned James Paladin and the agreement. She understood, perhaps, why Paul had kept it from Kevin, but why hadn’t he told her? If she hadn’t found the letter of agreement, what would’ve happened? Would James have found Kevin and her instead, and accused them of not biding by the agreement?

If Kevin didn’t contact the man within a certain amount of time, would he come looking? It wouldn’t be too difficult for a competent private investigator to find out where they lived.

Maybe she would have to intervene, after all, if only to say that Kevin didn’t want contact yet.

But she would give Kevin some time first. Just a little time. She hoped James would, too.



That same evening, James’s doorbell rang. His gut clenched as he hurried downstairs and to the front door. Even after a twenty-year career dominated by anticipation, he was surprised at the almost staggering sense of expectation that surged through him every time the phone rang or someone came to the door. But then, this wasn’t work related.

“I come bearing food,” Cassie Miranda said as she shouldered her way past him, trailing a scent of basil and garlic.

He masked his disappointment—or relief, he wasn’t sure—that an eighteen-year-old with maybe his own green eyes wasn’t standing there instead. He wished he knew whether he was waiting for a boy or girl. “Did we have plans, Cass?”

She looked around. “Do you have company?”

“No.”

“Heath is in Seattle. I got lonely.”

He shut the door and followed her to the kitchen. “You’ve been engaged for three weeks and you’ve forgotten how to eat alone?”

“Amazing, isn’t it?”

James knew why Cassie was there, and it had nothing to do with her fiancé being out of town. In the almost-year that James and Cassie had worked as investigators at ARC Security & Investigations, they, along with their boss, Quinn Gerard, had forged a friendship rare for such independent souls. They were the only people he’d told about what was happening in his life, what he was waiting for.

“Any word?” she asked as she pulled plates from his cupboard.

“Nothing.”

“Give them time.” Her long, golden-brown braid swung along her lower back as she reached for a couple of wineglasses.

He grabbed a bottle of Merlot. “Maybe Paul decided to ignore our agreement.”

“From everything you’ve told me about Paul Brenley, I don’t think you need to worry about him going back on his word.” Cassie stopped dishing up the food and set her hands on the counter, leaning toward him. “Let’s focus on your biggest worry—what if the kid doesn’t want to meet you?”

He plunked down a tub of grated parmesan cheese next to the plates. “Yeah, so? That’s normal.”

“My point exactly, Jamey. And if you don’t hear from them, you only have to track down the Brenley family and get the answers yourself. An easy thing for you, unless they’re in witness protection or something.” She flashed him a teasing smile then went back to serving generous portions of ravioli. “In fact, I can’t believe you haven’t tried.”

“I agreed to no contact, and I’ve stuck by it. I don’t want to take advantage of my resources unless I have to. We’re jaded enough from this business, Cass. Maybe my agreement with Paul was only slightly more than a handshake, but I want to believe he would honor it.” Like the Harley wrecker this afternoon, he thought. He wasn’t going to track her down, but let her prove him right—that most people were trustworthy.

“Speaking of being jaded,” she said, “how was your date last night?”

He’d put the woman out of his mind already. Not very complimentary, he supposed, but he didn’t date for fun anymore. Every woman was a potential wife and mother, now that he was looking to settle down. “It was okay,” he said.

“How old was this one?”

He gave her a cool look.

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