Candace gaped at them both.

A vision of Jilly clad in black leggings and a belted long cardigan floated through her mind. Jilly had been reed slim when she’d excitedly assisted the midwife at Jennie’s home birth in the cottage, and bore absolutely no resemblance to the rounded belly Alison had mimed.

Hitching Jennie higher against her shoulder, Candace said slowly, “That’s not possible, because Jilly was never pregnant.”

Alison stared at Nick and raised an eyebrow.

“She’s crazy.” Nick shrugged. “I’ve been saying exactly the same thing as you, Alison, but she won’t let go of her delusion that Jilly was never pregnant—that she’s Jennie’s mother.”

Confusion clouded Candace’s brain, making it feel wooly. Was it possible that Nick Valentine and his wife had pulled off a spectacular deception, fooling even their own families that the baby was Jilly’s? Had they gone as far as to fake Jilly’s pregnancy? Placed padding beneath Jilly’s clothing to fool everyone—even Alison? That was crazy!

Candace struggled to put her chaotic thoughts in order.

What would be the point of such a massive deception? Nick was a wealthy man, and Jilly had made it clear that Candace could name her price for her kindness, though, of course, Candace had refused all Jilly’s generous offers. It was, after all, illegal in New Zealand to be paid to be a surrogate. She’d done it because Jilly had been so desperate. As a pediatric nurse, Candace had never met a woman more deserving of a baby. Her heart had gone out to the other woman as they’d become friends.

“Perhaps Mrs. Busby could make us all a cup of tea. I’ll see to it.” Alison cast her brother a look that Candace couldn’t interpret. “I’ll also call the doctor just to check that Jennie is really going to be okay.”

Had Alison decided that Candace was unhinged? Was that the reason for the secret exchange of glances, for the call to the doctor?

“Yes, by all means let’s call the doctor.” Candace pressed a kiss on top of Jennie’s downy head, then lifted her lashes and gave Nick her most dulcet smile. “And while you’re at it why don’t you call Jilly’s doctor to clear up once and for all the small matter of who really is Jennie’s mother. Ask for a copy of the DNA report that was done once the pregnancy was confirmed.”

“The DNA report?”

Nick stared at Candace in disbelief. Was she going to persist with this? Of course there was no DNA report. An urge to snatch the baby out of her arms overwhelmed him. He quashed it. To do so would reveal how deeply her mad claims were unsettling him. Far better to play it cool.

Candace’s eyebrows lowered. “All I want is for you to give me a chance to prove I’m telling the truth. The doctor should have a copy of the results of the DNA tests that were done after Jennie was born as part of the terms of the surrogacy agreement—” She broke off as he rolled his eyes skyward. “You still think I’m lying!”

“I don’t know anything about postbirth DNA tests or a surrogacy agreement. Don’t you think that’s a little strange?”

She was chewing her lip. That mouth. Heat popped in his groin. God!

“You’re not drawing me into another debate where you clearly have no intention of conceding anything. All I want is for you to see the test results.”

Was that really all Candace wanted? After all, if she’d been telling the truth, it wouldn’t be an unreasonable request. Except it was a lie—it had to be. Yet she was still gnawing her lip and her eyes were troubled. She didn’t look like a fraud…or a crazy. She looked worried.

And he wanted her more than ever.

Nick sucked in a deep breath. He had to get over this.

She might look like a worried angel, but how could he trust his reactions? Sure, she was lovely. And sure he desired her. Right now his priority had to be Jennie.

Still, what if Candace was telling the truth?

He tried to think sanely. Why was he so sure that everything Jilly told him was the truth and Candace’s claim was pure fiction? He’d witnessed Jilly’s blossoming body…that was indisputable. Yet he’d never gone with her to the doctor. Never seen her naked or touched her burgeoning belly. He’d been so certain the baby wasn’t his…

In the past, Jilly had gotten what she wanted at all costs. What if…

He shied away from the thought. Jilly didn’t deserve this. She was dead. Yet the distress in Candace’s eyes niggled at him.

“Call the doctor,” she insisted.

Nick excused himself. It took only a few minutes for him to ascertain what he’d already suspected. There was no DNA report—and Jilly’s doctor had never heard of Candace. Although he did remind Nick that Jilly had used a gynecologist and midwife for the birth, and they might know more.