“I don’t need you.”
“So you’ve said.”
“I don’t want you.”
His full lips curved, and his expression lightened with genuine humor. “Now, now. Let’s not lie, not among friends.”
“We’re not friends. And I’m not lying!”
She closed her eyes and leaned back, deciding the only way to deal with this was to ignore him.
“Dream of me,” he whispered.
And damn him, she did.
The sunny warm weather in Southern California was so different from the cold autumn she’d just left, Delia couldn’t believe it. How could she have forgotten, even for a moment, how delicious the weather was at all times in Los Angeles?
She rented a car from the airport, still trying to ignore Cade, which was becoming increasingly difficult, especially since each long assessing glance he gave her seemed to affect her accumulatively, so that she was aware of little else. It got so she didn’t have to be looking at him; she could feel his every move.
Jacob, she reminded herself. Concentrate on Jacob. There had to be a way to ensure custody, which she wanted so very much. It wasn’t just that she couldn’t imagine letting him live anywhere else when his family was in Idaho, but also that she already loved him and had from the moment she knew he existed.
“It’ll work out,” Cade said into the silence, his voice gentle and subdued, all joking gone. “Getting Jacob.”
Startled, she glanced at him. He was driving-he’d insisted, claiming that it would leave her mind free to race around if she wanted-and was concentrating on the road in front of him. He had the window down, his hair whipping wild in the breeze. With his sleeves shoved up to his elbows, revealing strong tanned forearms and big sure hands, he seemed relaxed. Confident. And just a tad cocky.
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“Do what?” he said innocently.
“Am I such an open book that you can read my mind?”
He risked a quick glance at her. “On the contrary, actually.” He gave a smile that might have been a killer, if she wasn’t immune to such things. “But I do have an edge.”
“Yeah. I understand you.”
“That’s interesting, considering we’re polar opposites.”
“Opposites attract,” he said so grimly she realized for the first time that he resented their strange chemistry even more than she did.
Because that gave her too much to think about, she made a disagreeing sound, turned away to look out the passenger window and tried to think about other things.
Soon she’d meet her brother for the first time. Her stomach danced with jittery butterflies. What would he be like?
What would great-aunt Edna be like? It hadn’t been until after their mother’s death just months ago that Jacob had even met Edna. She was Delia’s mother’s second aunt by marriage and until last year had lived in France-which was why twenty years ago, when Delia’s mother had left her in the foster home, there hadn’t been anyone available to help.
Jacob must be terrified; she’d certainly been all those years back. But in spite of everything, Delia considered herself lucky. She had found Zoe and Maddie, and they’d turned out to be her heart and soul.
Jacob had no one but Edna, and no matter how sweet and kind and wonderful she might be, it wasn’t the same as close family.
Delia didn’t fool herself. Getting close to Jacob-given the terse restrained phone conversations they’d had-wasn’t going to be easy. But she knew what it was like to hide behind a cool facade; she’d find a way to Jacob’s heart. She’d never abandon him.
But as she gave Cade the directions she’d been given, they went from the relative slums surrounding the airport to the elegant mansions of San Marino, and any confidence she’d managed to muster faded.
Jacob was living like a king.
How could she compare?
That was simple enough-she couldn’t. With a sinking feeling, she stared at the house they’d pulled up in front of. Three stories of brick and windows shaped into the most charming Tudor-style home she’d ever seen. The circular drive was surrounded with meticulous gardens, and a BMW sat in the drive, beneath a colorful flag waving the words Welcome, Friends.
She felt every bit the misplaced unwanted city girl. She couldn’t do this, couldn’t compete, and all her buried feelings of worthlessness worked to the surface.
At the touch on her arm, she looked into Cade’s unsmiling face. Yet she had no trouble detecting the warmth and compassion that made her want to crawl into a hole.
Where was her own inner strength?
Instead of hugging her, as she knew he would have Zoe or Maddie, he reached over and gave her a gentle shake. “Don’t you give up. You’re better than that.”
“In case you missed it, that little flag over there is worth more than I am.”
“I’m not talking about your checkbook,” he said, his disappointment in her clear. “I’m talking heart. Soul. Now get out and go show them what you’re made of.”
Delia stared at him as panic raced through her veins like wildfire.
“Go,” he repeated firmly. “I’ll wait right here.”
What had she expected-him to hold her hand? She didn’t need that, or him. She could do this. Drawing upon years of experience, she took a deep supposedly calming breath and got out of the car.
She might not know exactly what to do or how to reach Jacob, but she’d find a way. By herself.
Just as always.
She looked at Cade, bracing herself for either anger or pity.
“I believe in you,” he said softly, making her heart pound ridiculously. She ignored it and walked toward the house.
Edna greeted Delia with a cool sophistication that matched her home, but the woman’s eyes were warm and joyful, which gave Delia even more to worry about.
For the first time she wondered what she was trying to take Jacob away from. And did she even have that right?
Edna, with her height and undeniably regal presence, was a well-preserved sixty-eight, which Delia knew only because Edna mentioned her age as they walked through the house to the back deck. They sat at a cozy patio table laden with snacks that made Delia’s empty stomach grumble loudly.
“Scott Felton will be here shortly,” Edna said, which surprised Delia because the social worker had made it clear he would be present for every moment of this first meeting.
At Delia’s unspoken question, something flickered across Edna’s face, something that looked suspiciously like guilt. “I might have led him to believe our meeting was for half an hour from now,” she said evenly.
“Well…yes.” There was no disguising that flash of emotion now, though it was more good humor than remorse. “I wanted to see you for myself first,” Edna admitted
Delia, who could act cool, calm and collected with the best of them, didn’t move, didn’t so much as give a hint of her nerves and fear and worry. “And?”
“And…I like what I see.” With that, she sent Delia a genuine smile. “It’s funny, I never thought I’d find myself a parent, especially at my age.” She waited a beat. “But I have to say, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating-or as tiring-as a child.”
Much as Delia wanted to meet her brother, she needed to feel out this situation. “You enjoy having him? He’s happy here?”
“Yes to the first question, but as for the second, I haven’t a clue.” Edna sighed. “He’s eight years old, he’s been alone too long, neglected too long, and he’s a boy. Therefore he’s a master at hiding his feelings.”
An unfortunate family trait, Delia thought.
“When I found out about you,” Edna continued, casually pouring tea from a pot that looked like an heirloom, “I of course had you investigated.”