Surprising her, he placed a gentle hand at the small of her back and led her down a short hallway into a brightly lit kitchen painted a soft robin’s egg blue. The room was cheery, but still masculine.

“Why don’t you sit.” It wasn’t a question. He motioned to a ladder-back, white-washed chair at a center island. “Still take your coffee with two creams, no sugar?”

“Yes.” That one word came out shaky, but she couldn’t control it. She was nervous over his reaction to the fact that he was a father.

After he filled both their mugs and sat in front of her, she could see that he was about to talk. But if he started, she’d never get out what she needed to. Hell, she’d been trying to work up the courage to see him for weeks.

Here goes nothing. “I had a baby three months ago. He’s yours.” When Kell swallowed hard, she wondered if he thought she was lying. The thought made her frown. “We’ll do a paternity test, but I can guarantee he’s yours.” She hadn’t even slept with her husband four months before he’d died so there wasn’t even a question. “I wanted to tell you earlier. God, I wanted to tell you so bad, but I was high risk and on bed rest my entire pregnancy. My doctor was very adamant that I have no stress in my life, and you and I…” Well, he knew how they’d left things. After he’d said three little words she’d freaked out and kicked him out of her house and her life. Months later, she’d realized she was pregnant.

He just sat there, his expression blank as he listened. Which made this so much harder.

But she continued. “I should have told you right after he was born but I just couldn’t. I’m a coward and I freely admit that. The first six weeks I was barely sleeping or eating and just trying to be a new mom. I couldn’t bring a new baby into your life until I’d gotten ahold of this whole motherhood thing. And for the last six weeks I’ve been working up the courage to tell you. I just want you to know I don’t expect anything from you, but if you’d like to be involved we’ll work out a custody agreement. I know what kind of man you are and our son deserves to have both parents in his life. This is a hell of a lot to lay on you at once, I know that, so don’t think you have to answer now. Just know that I don’t expect child support or anything. But you have a right to know so…here I am.” She wished he’d just interrupt her or something! He was simply listening intently and she couldn’t stop rambling. It was like she had verbal diarrhea.

He hadn’t taken those pale green eyes off her once and it was wildly unnerving. Finally he spoke. “What’s his name?”

She blinked, surprised he hadn’t mentioned anything about paternity. “Reece.”

Now it was his turn to blink. “You named him after my brother?”

Charlotte nodded. His brother had died in Afghanistan years ago and he’d been Kell’s only living family.

Kell rubbed a hand over his face and shifted against his seat restlessly. “Can I see him today?”

“Of course. I would have brought him, but…” Shrugging, she trailed off. “Don’t you want to do a paternity test first?”

He snorted. “When was the last time you slept with Andrew before he died?”

Damn. “Not pulling any punches today, huh?”

“Should I be after your sister dropped that bomb on me last night?” he asked quietly.

Fair enough. “Maybe four months, probably a little longer,” she rasped out, embarrassed. Despite what her family had thought about her supposedly perfect marriage, she and her husband had been on a path straight for divorce. He’d been distant for almost a year before he died, blaming it on his job, but she’d suspected the truth. He’d been seeing someone. Looking down at her hands, she swallowed the shame. She hadn’t even been able to keep her husband happy enough not to stray.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Kell bit out.

Her head snapped up at the quiet words. “You knew he was cheating?”

He nodded once, his expression tight.

Rage popped inside her like fireworks. Kell had known? Of course he had. Probably everyone with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had. Those guys were all like brothers and they all stuck together. “Of course you did,” she muttered in disgust. She wasn’t angry at him, but the entire situation.

“I wanted to tell you.” There was a raw honesty in his voice that surprised her.

She ignored it and focused on the present. “It’s not important.” And it wasn’t something she wanted to talk about with Kell again. Ever. “I guess I expected a little resistance or something, but whenever you want to see Reece, you’re welcome to. If you want to come over now, that works, but… I’m not giving him up fifty percent of the time. He’s too young and I’ve been his whole world. I want you in his life, but I just can’t change his life like that.” The truth was, she wasn’t worried about that anyway. She was pretty certain Kell wouldn’t try to do that to her, but she also knew how much the courts favored mothers in situations like this—her parents had looked into it and had wanted to hire an expensive lawyer but she’d told them to back off. She was fairly sure that she and Kell could work things out amicably.

“Why are you living with your parents?” His question surprised her, but she supposed it was fair.

“Now that I have Reece I wanted to be closer to my family and DC holds too many memories. I have no family there, the cost of living is terrible and,” she shrugged, “I can teach anywhere. I only moved there for Andrew anyway. This is my hometown and I missed it. I couldn’t believe it when I found out you’d taken a job here.” It had almost seemed like fate—if she believed in that kind of crap anymore.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me I had a son sooner.” There was a bite of anger in his words that didn’t surprise her. He was almost preternaturally still, the anger pulsing off him in waves.

Sitting there, she prepared herself for whatever he’d throw at her. When she’d admitted to Andrew’s parents that their ‘perfect’ son wasn’t the father of her unborn child they’d called her all sorts of names. Her old friends in DC had been shocked she’d gotten pregnant with another man’s child so soon after her husband’s death. God, she could just imagine what Kell had to say to her now. Yes, they’d used condoms, but clearly one of them had broken. It wasn’t like she’d planned it, but for all she knew he could accuse her of getting pregnant intentionally. She nearly snorted at the ludicrousness of that thought.

“You’re moving in with me.”

Her eyes widened at his statement. “Excuse me?”

“I’ve already lost three months of my son’s life. I would never try to take him away from you, but I deserve to spend time with him. I’m not saying this is permanent, but I want him here. With me. I want to see my son every day when I wake up and when I come home at night. I deserve that.” His voice was heated.

Charlotte swallowed back the tears. Kell was such a good, caring man and a dark, very small part of her was a little jealous he wasn’t saying he wanted to see her every morning and evening. Which was stupid considering she didn’t want a relationship with him—or any man for that matter. “That’s insane, Kell. Babies are a lot of work. Sleepless nights, teething, crying—”

“Exactly. And I’ve had to miss out on all of that for three months.”

Because of you. He didn’t say the words, but she could hear them hovering in the air. “So you seriously want me and Reece to move in with you?”

“It’s happening.”

She gritted her teeth. She hated when he got all bossy like that. Scrubbing a hand over her face, she sighed. Her first instinct was to say hell no, but the guilt swamping her over how she’d waited so long to tell him about Reece was stomping on that instinct. “What about your job or social life or girlfriend…?” She struggled to come up with more excuses, but just the thought of him having a girlfriend or even dating anyone clawed at her insides.

“None of that will be a problem.” Okay, he hadn’t exactly answered if he had a girlfriend or not. “This will be a temporary thing. All I’m asking for is three months and I think that’s fair considering what I’ve lost. It’ll give you time to find a place to live and after that we’ll figure out a shared agreement that works for you.”

“Three months, then we figure out a permanent solution?” The one thing she wasn’t worried about was Kell being a good father to Reece. The man was loyal and giving and would do anything he could to protect and care for their son. She was just worried about what being under the same roof as Kell would do to her heart.

There was something in his gaze she couldn’t define as he said, “Yep.” He crossed his arms over his chest, looking fierce and demanding.

Guilt was a huge factor pushing her into this, but the truth was her loud and usually drunk sister had just moved back into her parent’s house and she didn’t want her son around that mess. Not even for a little bit. She’d looked at a few places but they hadn’t been in areas she was comfortable living with a small child. She knew she was going to regret it, but… “Okay.”

Chapter 4

Kell waited impatiently in his foyer, trying to force himself to stop pacing. His heart was beating out of control as he imagined seeing and holding his son for the first time. He knew what he’d done was slightly dirty, playing on Charlotte’s guilt, but he didn’t give a damn. Though the thought of being a father scared the hell out of him, he wanted desperately to meet his son. He was supposed to be sent off for two weeks on an out-of-town security job, but he’d talked to his boss and worked things out so he could stay local for the next month—at least. There were so many things he and Charlotte needed to figure out, but the only thing he could focus on now was keeping both her and…his son close to him.