Read Merry Christmas, Baby Page 1

  Chapter 1

  Chloe came awake aware of two things: one, she was alone in the bed, and two, she didn’t like being alone in the bed. She sat up and blearily blinked into focus a sight that immediately had her brain clearing.

  And her body humming.

  “Officer Hottie,” she murmured, and had the pleasure of seeing the big, badass, steely man grimace at the nickname he hated.

  She grinned.

  Five years and she still loved to poke the bear. And right now the bear stopped shoving things into a duffel bag and looked at her, quiet and assessing, taking her temperature from across the room. “You’re awake.”

  “Seems like,” she answered, hearing the exhaustion in her voice.

  Evidently Sawyer did as well. His mouth tightened slightly as his eyes scanned her from head to toe. Whatever he saw had him moving from his duffel bag to the side of the bed, where he stood looking down at her. His dark brown eyes could be cool and unreadable—his cop eyes—or soft, melting chocolate, like when he was feeling frisky, though she hadn’t seen that side of him lately.

  Your fault, she reminded herself, and tried to swallow the ball of anxiety over the fact that he was leaving for one of his dangerous DEA jobs while they were barely speaking. You’re the one who picked a fight over his job, which is as much a part of him as you are…

  She couldn’t help it; the way he was taking on more and more of these types of jobs was a big problem for her. And because of that, it’d become a big problem in their relationship.

  “You okay?” he asked, voice low and morning gruff. He hadn’t been up long then, and for some ridiculous reason, this made her feel better. She wanted to think that they’d slept entangled together and that he’d had a hard time pulling himself away from her, but the truth was she didn’t remember a damn thing except her haunting dreams.

  The ones where he wasn’t in her life.

  “I’m fine,” she said, and when he just looked at her, she shook off his concern because hell if she wanted him speaking to her simply because of worry.

  She wanted him speaking to her because he couldn’t live without her, the stubborn ass. “Really,” she said. “Totally fine.”

  As if the baby already had a sense of humor, she kicked Chloe in the bladder. Or maybe she was saying “Hey, be nice to my daddy.”

  Sawyer’s big, work-roughened hand settled over hers, where she’d been rubbing her belly without even realizing it. “And the Bean?” he asked.

  Ah, yes. The elephant in the room. The pink elephant in the form of their unborn daughter in her eighth month in the womb.

  To say that the pregnancy had been unplanned was a huge understatement. What could they possibly offer a kid? Because this thought brought on more panic, Chloe shrugged that off too. She had a lifetime of experience of living in the moment, and she was going to keep doing it for as long as possible.

  “The Bean’s okay, too,” she finally said, hoping that was really true. She shifted, trying to get comfortable, which was hopeless. As if in agreement with that, the baby turned and kicked her again. The people in Chloe’s life liked to remind her that she’d once been hell on wheels. She had a feeling her baby was a chip off the old block. “You’re leaving,” she said softly.

  Sawyer didn’t respond to this because they’d already talked about it, and her husband wasn’t one to mince words. Or waste them. He kept his big, warm hand cradled around her belly for another beat, rubbing in a way that never failed to soothe both baby and mama.

  Neither she nor Sawyer knew the first thing about babies.

  Or happy childhoods.

  Becoming a parent was a role that neither of them had ever anticipated. Aside from the fact that they’d each been raised by wolves, Chloe especially had absolutely zero confidence in her own ability to be a mother.

  And then there was Sawyer. He’d had an unhappy childhood, and she had no idea how he felt about becoming a father. He was a man who would always honor his obligations, but it didn’t mean he wanted this baby.

  She blew out a breath and looked out the window. Not quite dawn. Two weeks before Christmas and the trees were dusted with snow, as all of Lucky Harbor was.

  Winter on the Pacific Northwest coast was only for the hardy.

  And there was no one more hardy than her husband. His head was dipped to the task of rubbing her baby bump. He had thick brown hair that contained every hue under the sun and fell over his forehead in front when he was in the shower or otherwise occupied in bed. It was tamed now only because it was still damp from a shower, and he’d clearly used just his fingers to shove it back.

  When the baby settled, he dropped his hand from her and went back to his packing. Chloe watched as Sawyer pulled a gun from the safe, checking it with the ease of a man whose gun was an extension of himself, and then it, too, went into his bag. She knew from experience that he had at least one other gun on him, and most likely a knife as well.

  What was it about him checking his weapons like other men buttoned their shirt that was so damn hot? And how was it that even though she was the approximate size and weight of a buffalo, she still could get aroused just by looking at him?

  The silence between them gave her a bit of a reality check. She might be turned on by him, but he wasn’t having the same problem.

  “It’s only a week,” he said, and Chloe jumped.

  He was at her side again, all lethal stealth. He set her fast-acting asthma inhaler on the nightstand for easy reach and then her cell phone, which he’d no doubt charged for her since she’d forgotten. His bag hung from his shoulder, and he watched her from those fathomless eyes. If she looked closely she could see the gold flecks in them. Sometimes, when he laughed, those flecks danced.

  But they were still now.

  As still as the man watching her.

  “I know,” she murmured. “Just a week. You’ll be back for the town Christmas party. You promised to take me.”

  His jaw went a little tight. Parties weren’t exactly Mr. Social’s thing. “We talked about this,” he said.

  “Yes, and you agreed to take me.”

  He shook his head. “I said it wasn’t a great idea, you exerting the energy to dress up and go to a crowded event.”

  “I’m not a piece of china,” she said.

  “No one would ever mistake you for one,” he responded, and she was pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.

  “But,” he went on in that voice of steel, “you’re eight months pregnant and suffer debilitating asthma. Give yourself a damn break.”

  “I’ve had one,” she said. “Maddie and Tara won’t even let me work at my own spa. I need to get out, Sawyer. I need to see people.” Before her life changed forever… “I’m going.”

  “I’ll be back,” was all he said.

  “And the party?”

  “We’ll see.”

  Not exactly a promise, but then again he was careful never to promise anything he couldn’t deliver. His word, when he gave it, was good as gold.

  He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes for a long beat. “Dr. Tyler is only a call away,” he said. “Your sisters are close by. Jax and Ford are in your speed dials and are on standby for anything.”

  Chloe’s obstetrician was wonderful, and so were her sisters Maddie and Tara and their husbands—Sawyer’s BFFs Jax and Ford. But if there was an emergency, it wasn’t any of them that Chloe wanted.

  It was the tall testosterone and attitude-ridden man standing in front of her, already long gone given the look on his face.

  “I want you to take care,” he said.

  “You heard what Dr. Tyler said the last time we were in her office for false labor.” She patted her belly. “The Bean’s in for the long haul.”

“I meant you,” Sawyer said. “Take care of you.”

  Coming from him, the words were tantamount to a shouted vow of love, and they moved her as only Sawyer could. “Always,” she promised, softening. “And what about you?”

  “I haven’t had any labor pains, false or otherwise,” he deadpanned.

  That got a laugh out of her.

  He smiled but it faded quickly. “You know you can text or email me, and that I’ll call when I can,” he said. “And if anything happens—anything at all, Chloe—I can be back here in two hours.”

  “Anything?” she asked playfully, trying to lighten the mood, using a voice that once upon a time would’ve made him kick off his shoes and strip and crawl back into bed with her, the hell with obligation and responsibility.

  “I’ll be here.” He met her gaze, his own serious. “Always.”

  An alarm on his watch beeped. He turned it off without taking his eyes from her.

  She blew out a breath. “You’ve gotta go.”

  He touched her face. “Chloe—”

  She closed her eyes and turned her jaw into his touch. “I know,” she said. “And it’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.”

  She just hoped that was true.

  That night Chloe dreamed about how she’d told Sawyer she was pregnant. She’d planned a seduction to ease him into the news, but nerves had gotten the best of her and she’d blurted it out. She couldn’t help it; they’d both barely survived their growing-up years, and as a result they’d never even discussed having kids. And yet here they were, having a baby. Terrifying, and potentially devastating to their relationship…

  “I’m pregnant.”

  Sawyer stared at her.

  “I don’t know how or why—” She broke off and rolled her eyes. “Okay, so I know how,” she said, and let out a nervous laugh.

  He remained silent. Stoic. Absolutely unreadable.

  “It’d be really great if you could say something,” she finally said.

  That mobilized him. He came to the couch where she was perched but didn’t sit. “What are you going to do?”

  “What am I going to do?” she repeated, staring up at him towering over her. “Don’t you mean what are we going to do?”

  “Your body, your decision,” he said.

  She gaped at him. “Well,” she said through gritted teeth, “I suppose I’m going to have a baby.”

  He relaxed slightly at this, and she stared at him. “What did you think I was going to do?”

  Shaking his head, he sat on the coffee table facing her. Taking her hand in his, he looked at her with those warm brown eyes. “What do you need from me?” he asked quietly.

  “I have no idea.” She let out a breath and dropped her forehead to his chest. “Whatever you’ve got.”

  He gathered her into his strong arms. “Everything,” he said, and brushed his mouth along her temple. “You’ve got everything I’ve got and everything I am.”

  The next morning Chloe awoke and knew she was once again alone in the bed. But this time she wouldn’t open her eyes to the sight of her sexy-as-sin husband packing his bag.

  Because he was already gone.

  Every snippy, bitchy, unhappy comment she’d made to Sawyer over the past few months as she got bigger and more and more anxious about the baby had haunted her all night long.

  She wanted to take back each and every one of them, but she couldn’t. Her heart trembled as she forced herself to roll out of bed. Quite the feat with the Bean like a basketball out in front of her.

  She headed to the bathroom—where she seemed to live these days—and paused by Sawyer’s dresser, eyeing the two picture frames he kept there. Sentiment was mostly wasted on the man, but sometimes he surprised her. Like he had with these, which he’d picked by himself.

  The first had been taken back when she’d still been flirting with screwing up her entire life. She’d been pulled over on her Vespa by none other than Sheriff Sawyer Thompson himself. It wasn’t a flattering pic of her. She was sunburned and windblown and looking a little bedraggled.

  Not Sawyer. He looked big and badass, and like maybe he wouldn’t recognize a smile if it bit him on the ass. Someone had snapped the pic with the two of them staring at each other like caged tigers.

  The second picture was Sawyer with his best friends and partners-in-cahoots Ford and Jax, the three of them barely out of their teens on a boat looking like the scofflaws Sawyer now caught for a living.

  The pics represented the people he cared about most, and gave her some comfort. If he could love that crazy girl she’d been, he could love the pregnant shrew, right?

  Shaking her head at herself, she moved to her dresser and went still. There was a small wrapped box sitting there. It definitely hadn’t been there yesterday. Gingerly she picked it up. Shook it. Finally, curiosity got the best of her and she opened it and gasped.

  It was a gorgeous locket on a long chain in the shape of a heart.

  She called Maddie first. Maddie was the middle sister, the one with all the emotions, the one who cried at the SPCA commercials and made her two ornery sisters hug and kiss when they fought. Maddie had kids of her own and was super enthusiastic about the baby, so whenever Chloe’s fears about becoming a mom got the best of her she entertained a secret fantasy of turning the baby over to Maddie.

  If anyone had gotten Chloe a sentimental heart locket, it’d be Maddie.

  “You okay?” Maddie asked immediately.

  “Sure. But if you see a plate of bacon running down the street screaming ‘help me,’ please return it to me. It’s totally overreacting.”

  Maddie laughed in delight, and Chloe asked her about the necklace.

  “Not me,” Maddie said over the sound of her kids playing. “Maybe Sawyer before he left—”

  “No,” Chloe said, a lump in her throat. “He was already gone when it appeared.”

  She didn’t add that, given the state of their relationship, it was unlikely he would have left her anything at all.

  “Chloe,” Maddie said softly, reading right through her baby sister. “He loves you more than his own life.”

  “I’m not exactly lovable right now,” she admitted.

  “Of course you are. It’s just pregnancy hormones.”

  “Even when I told him this whole baby thing was his fault?”

  There was a pause. “Um, excuse me,” Maddie said, “but didn’t you jump his bones every chance you got?”

  Chloe blew out a sigh. “Did I start this by saying I was lovable? No, I did not. I told you I am unlovable!”

  “Still don’t buy it,” Maddie said firmly.

  “I also told him if he thought we were ever having sex again, he was oh-so-wrong.”

  Maddie snorted. “I used that one myself…”

  “I may have said I shouldn’t have let him near me with his thing.”

  “His thing.” Maddie burst out laughing. “Did you really?”

  “Yes,” Chloe said miserably. “I’ve been out of control, Maddie. And now he’s gone.”

  “Honey, it’s going to be okay.”

  Chloe nodded, even though that was stupid because Maddie couldn’t see her. She swiped angrily at a tear that had escaped. She wanted to believe her sister, with all her heart she wanted to believe. But she wasn’t sure she did. “Gotta go,” she said.

  And then she put on the beautiful locket and pretended that it was from Sawyer after all.

  Chapter 2

  The next morning, there was only one thought on Chloe’s mind.