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While I held the baby and cuddled her in the nearby rocking chair, I was vaguely aware of Amanda and Brian getting to know each other. Oops. Apparently I’d forgotten my manners along with making formal introductions as soon as I’d seen the baby. But Brian was standing with his hands in his pockets and a big grin on his face, and Amanda was laughing at something he’d said, so I focused on the sweet little thing in my arms again. She was so light, I could hold her forever. Her little pink face turned up to mine, and she lazily peeked open one eye and yawned. I couldn’t help but giggle.

“So she’s all good, despite being born early?” I asked.

Amanda nodded, pulling her attention away from Brian. “Yeah, she’s good to go. She had a hard time regulating her body temperature, which is why we had to stay a couple extra days, but she’s completely healthy. She’s almost five pounds already, and eats like a horse.”

The pride in Amanda’s smile touched something inside me. It seemed we were all growing.

“So I hear we’re here to spring you out of here,” Brian said, looking at Amanda again.

“Yes, I’m more than ready to leave. It’s impossible to get a decent night’s sleep with nurses coming in every couple of hours and turning on the lights, poking this, prodding that.”

I handed her daughter back to her. “I hate to tell you this, but I think your nights of sleeping are over.”

“Yeah, I know.” She smiled down at the baby in her arms. “But she’s worth it.”

“May I?” Brian asked, stopping in front of Amanda and looking down at the baby.

“Oh, sure,” she said and passed him the infant.

Watching Brian hold the baby only made her look tinier. He cooed something unintelligible down at her while Amanda and I swooned. What was it about a man and a baby?

While Amanda bundled AnnMarie up in the car seat, Brian and I gathered up her bags. “Do you have everything you need at home?” I asked. I knew the birth had been a surprise, and aside from our thrift-store shopping a while back, I didn’t know if she was prepared to take the baby home.

“I have a bassinet for her to sleep in, diapers, wipes, and some clothes. I’m breastfeeding because it’s, well, it’s free and I can’t afford baby formula. Besides, it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be. So yeah, I think we have everything we need.”

I nodded. “Okay.” It sounded like she had the essentials covered. I realized babies really didn’t need much. Despite all the plastic gear and baby products on the market, Amanda was embracing the simple side of things.

Brian’s brows scrunched together. “If you need anything else, you let us know. Any friend of McKenna’s is a friend of mine.”

Amanda smiled up at him. “I will.”

His offer was sweet. I wondered if his demeanor would change if I told him how I knew Amanda, and that she was an addict in recovery I’d met in group. Or maybe his harsh criticism was only reserved for Knox. Either way, I let it go. Today was a happy day, and it felt like everyone was heading in the right direction.

Chapter Nine

McKenna

With the drama of the last few days behind us, I wanted to make the most of my time with Knox. We needed to be alone, to just reconnect. I loved that he’d planned a date for us, and deciding that I quite liked having a boyfriend, I wanted to return the favor. I wanted to go somewhere we could both relax and enjoy the day together. And I’d told Belinda that despite returning to Chicago after my extended leave of absence, she should give my Saturday morning sex-addict group to my replacement permanently.

Which meant both Knox and I were free on Saturdays now. My new schedule felt positively decadent. Having time to actually pursue a relationship was something new for me. The old me would have felt guilty. The new me was going to enjoy every minute of it.

When Knox picked me up later that afternoon, I slid into the warmth of his Jeep, inhaling his masculine scent and instantly feeling happy and secure.

“Are you okay with me being in charge today?” I smiled at him.

His gaze jerked over to mine and an unexpected jab of lust shot straight between my thighs at the wicked grin on his lips. “I think I can handle that. Where to, angel?”

“Downtown,” I answered. “Park somewhere near Lakeshore Drive.”

He was dressed in a warm-looking thermal tee and a black fleece, and since it wasn’t totally freezing out today, my plan should work.

Once he’d parallel parked on a side street just off Lakeshore Drive, I laced his fingers with mine and led him down to the walking path bordering the lake. It was the middle of January, which meant we were completely alone on the beach. Just me, Knox, and the endless blue water stretched out before us, gently lapping at the sandy shoreline.

We huddled into our coats and almost by instinct, our joined hands squeezed tighter. It was just us. No kids. No Brian or Amanda. No drama. I breathed in a deep, refreshing lungful of fresh air and sighed happily.

We walked side by side in silence for a few moments, and though it looked like there was something heavy on his mind, when I questioned Knox, the tension in his features fell away and he dropped a kiss to my mouth.

“Everything’s perfect, angel,” he assured me.

Perhaps it was still lingering worry over Jaxon. Either way, I dismissed it. Knox was by my side and that was all that mattered. I was learning to let the past go, to stay in the moment and enjoy.

I nestled closer into his side, inhaling his intoxicating scent.

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