He kissed his baby, settling her on his lap. "She done being pampered?" He inclined his head to Carolina.
"Actually no. We have to rinse the bubbles off or her skin will get dry." Ciara opened her arms for the baby and he put his naked child in her arms.
Their hands folded over each other to get a better grip on the slippery infant and Ciara lifted her gaze to his.
He looked at her differently somehow. She couldn't quite put her finger on why it was different, it just was.
"Look how she trusts you." Carolina laid her head on Ciara's chest and jammed her thumb in her mouth. Ciara continued to drizzle water over the baby. "Next time use the tub in my bedroom. It's bigger. And the whirlpool makes great bubbles," Bryce said.
"Sure, but I'd rather just have you in the tub with me." Ciara wiggled her brows. "Could be interesting."
He groaned with frustration and though he was reluctant to leave, he climbed to his feet. He stared down at her, at his baby against her breast, at the blanket of bubbles cloaking them.
"Call me when you're done," he said reaching for the doorknob. "I want to put her to bed."
"I'll be just a few minutes, she's already sleepy." Bryce looked back, his body growing harder at the sight of Ciara. "I'll be close." She nodded and he stepped out, pulling the door closed.
Ciara looked at Carolina, then slid deeper into the water, warming the child and admitting that the moments just past felt incredibly normal and what they did for her tired soul. In the past couple of days since she'd told Bryce about her family, they'd fallen into a routine. Like a family. She did all those things she used to hate, but because they were for Bryce and Carolina, she didn't mind. Though she was really glad he could afford a housekeeper. It gave her more time for them.
Thoughts of returning to her real life grew more distant and though she knew her boss was wondering what had happened to her, she didn't care. She could keep that locked out forever, but the fact that she was keeping it from Bryce gave her doubts as to how long this would last. Especially when she was falling more in love with him every day.
* * *
Downstairs, Bryce was halfway through the meal Ciara had left for him when he realized she hadn't come down. Leaving the table he went upstairs and when he pushed open the door to Ciara's room, he smiled tenderly. Ciara and Carolina were snuggled together on the bed, the baby tucked under Ciara's chin. His daughter's little fingers were wrapped around a lock of Ciara's hair as if she was afraid she'd leave her. Bryce understood, because he was having those feelings himself. Not knowing what to do about it right now, he stepped close, untangling his daughter and lifting her into his arms. He went to her room, putting her in her crib. She fussed for a minute at the loss of warmth, then settled.
Bryce went back for Ciara.
Scooping her in his arms he carried her to his bedroom. Instantly she woke.
"Bryce?" she said on a yawn as he laid her on the bed.
"Shh." He lowered the lights and stripped out of his clothes. "I want to sleep with you, darlin'. Just sleep."
She slipped out of the robe and reached for him, pulling him down on top of her. "You sure it's just sleep you want?" she said, moving against him.
"Yes." Was that gallant, or what, he thought?
Her hand snaked under the covers. "Can't I interest you in more?"
He rolled on top of her, his arousal pushing against her softness. "I'll always want more from you … always."
* * *
"Honey, would you grab the potato salad?" Ciara called as she headed out the back door.
Bryce grinned and did as she ordered, following her onto the pool deck.
"Honey?" Hope said when he was outside, her baby on her hip.
He looked at his sister, deadpan. "You want me to say you were right, don't you?"
"Okay, you were."
Hope smiled at the sky. "Ahh, sweet justice."
"Now keep your mouth shut."
"I swear." She crossed her heart to prove it.
"Oh, yeah right, like I believe that."
"Believe what?" Ciara said coming back for the bowl of salad.
"That Hope could keep her mouth shut."
"Not a chance. That's what makes her so interesting."
Hope stuck her tongue out at her brother.
"I'm going to stand at the hot grill and repent," Bryce said dryly.
"Yes, man kill food, man burn food," Hope said.
"Yeah and women clean it up," Ciara added.
He winked at her, running his hand over her waist as he passed.
Bryce laid out the hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids, the steaks for the adults, then shut the grill. His gaze scanned the pool yard.