Coming to Terms With Love – Excerpt

Toby brought his chubby hand up and smoothed it over Corey's cheek. He giggled. "It's prickly." His laugh was like a tinkle of a bell.

Corey brushed his own hand across his chin and could feel the rasp of his bristles against his glove. "Yes, I haven't shaved today."

"He shaves like Daddy." He looked at Beth, waiting for her to answer.

Corey immediately saw how uncomfortable she looked, and he frowned. Something like a brick had just settled in his stomach.

"Daddy?" he asked.

"It's time we went in, Toby, your nap time is closing in."

"Daddy in heaven now with Jim." He pushed out his lip. "I miss Daddy and Jim." He buried his face into Beth's neck, pulling his glove off and giving it to Beth. He put his thumb in his mouth and sucked, his eyes closing, and just like that he was asleep.

Corey let out a deep breath, and selfishly, he felt relieved at those words. Beth gave him a fractious glare before she closed her eyes, her teeth biting down on her bottom lip, lips that he had fantasized over. Now he felt as though she was another woman, someone totally different to the one he had kissed.

"Don't even think about telling me to go," he said firmly.

"I wasn't, I just didn't think you would want to come in. After all, we both decided it would be best if we stayed apart."

"Pass Toby here, I'll carry him."

"It's okay, I can manage."

"I didn't say you couldn't. I'm offering to help so that you can go on ahead and open up the door." He put his hand on her arm. "Jim?"

"Our cat, he was run over by a car."

He nodded.

Reaching forward, he took the small bundle from her arms. Immediately, Toby wrapped his arms around Corey's neck. Beth looked so forlorn he wanted to hold her close and tell her he would take care of whatever it was that seemed to be bothering her. Damn it all to hell, he wanted to take care of them both.

Because she was a woman on her own?

Because he couldn't bear to see that hurt look on her face?

It certainly wasn't because he cared for her…personally. He shook his head. No, it was just a sexual attraction that he couldn't get out of his system.

He followed her in, stopping while she picked up Toby's toy, all the time wondering what had happened. No one said she had been married, let alone a widow. No one had even mentioned she had a child. Perhaps she hadn't been married. There was something haunted about her face. He'd thought that from the beginning, but he hadn't been able to put his finger on it.

Soft and gentle, the smooth, easy, warm breath of a sleeping Toby warmed the side of his neck. Beth held the door open, motioning for him to follow her up the stairs. A small hallway took him past two closed doors to an open one. There was a cot there made up with red and blue bedding covered with buses. It was neatly made, ready for the baby to go into it.

They didn't speak, but he put Toby in her open arms, stepping back while she pulled off his boots and undid his coat, taking it off with his scarf and hat. He could see now without a doubt that Beth was his mother. The little boy had bright red curls softly falling about his small head. His cheeks were ruddy from the cold, and his pink lips were wrapped around his little thumb as he made sucking noises.

She spread the covers over him before pushing back his hair from his forehead, kissing him gently. She crossed the room to the window, pulling the curtains shut to block out the late morning sunlight. She quietly went around as if she was used to doing things on her own.

He knew damn well that he had no right to be so intrusive, but he wanted to do the right thing, to be there if she needed help. Goddamn it, he had to try and undo any damage he might have done at the wedding.

As she went through the door she gave him such an evil look he could hardly contain the rumble of laughter deep in his chest. She could freeze water with those eyes.

Oh yes, she was ticked all right.

* * * *

Beth was seething. What right did he think he had to be so damned bossy?

Ahead of him she ran down the stairs straight through the door to the kitchen. Retrieving the coffee out of the refrigerator, she spooned it into the filter. Filling it with water, it started to hiss and spit. She took out two cups, placing them on the worktop.

His presence was palpable in the small kitchen. She turned around as he shrugged out of his coat, putting his hat and gloves in his coat pocket. He drew his long fingers through his disheveled hair. She couldn't help but think how sexy he looked. Toby was right, he was a Hulk. His body was in supreme condition. The way his jeans clung to his legs gave her goose bumps just thinking about it.

He leaned his back against the pine unit that held some of her grandma's crockery, folding his thick arms across his muscled chest. The deep brown turtleneck matched his smooth, velvety chocolate brown eyes perfectly. There he stood as if he owned the place, obviously waiting for her to say something. Honestly, the arrogance of the man was a joke.

"Come on then, spit it out. I can see you're just dying to ask." She pushed her hands into her jeans pockets, waiting for him to speak.

He pursed his lips, raising his eyebrows. "No, I'm not dying to ask…but, sugar, you're gonna tell me."