“Leah.” When a woman says my name, I jump in place with my heart lodged in my throat. My head flies up as a woman I don’t know comes toward me. “I’m guessing you’re Leah, since I don’t think my brother would give his key to just anyone. Plus, Bruce seems to know you.”
Oh my God. Tyler’s sister? I didn’t know she was going to be coming to town. Tyler mentioned a few days ago that his sister was divorcing and going through a serious custody battle with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, but he didn’t mention she’d be here.
“Heather?” She’s a prettier version of Tyler, with long dark hair cut into lots of layers, big blue eyes that take up most of her face, and an hourglass figure of which I’m instantly envious. Wearing cowboy boots, wide-leg jeans, and a button-down plaid shirt, she looks like she belongs on a farm in Tennessee.
“I see he’s told you about me as well.” She comes toward me, and I stand just in time for her to wrap her arms around me in a hug.
“I . . .” I pause when she lets me go, then shake my head. “Tyler didn’t tell me you were coming to town.”
“He didn’t know.” She smiles softly, taking a step back. “Kennedy and I needed a little break from Montana, so I thought I’d surprise my little brother with a visit.”
“Kennedy is here?” I ask, looking around for Tyler’s adorable nine-month-old niece I’ve seen pictures and videos of on his phone.
Her face softens. “Yeah, but she’s sleeping. She passed out after we got here. I laid her down in Tyler’s room.”
“He’s going to be so happy to see you both.” I don’t tell her that he’s been worried about them. I don’t think that’s something she needs a reminder of right now. From what Tyler’s said, her divorce has been ugly and the fight for custody even worse.
“Hopefully, that’s true. I know he wasn’t expecting us. I called him earlier, but he didn’t answer. I wanted to give him a little heads-up, but I know he’s working.”
“He won’t care,” I assure her, and then I look down at Bruce, who licks my hand. “I’ll take him out if you haven’t already. Then I’ll come back here and hang with you until your brother gets off work, if that’s okay with you.”
“I didn’t have a chance to take him out, but I’d really like to hang with you when you get back,” she agrees with a grin.
“Cool.” I smile in return, then lead Bruce outside and take him on a short walk to take care of business. On the way back, I stop at my house to get my cell phone and send Tyler a text letting him know I’ll be at his house. When I get back to his house, Kennedy is awake, and she’s just as adorable in person as she seemed to be in photos.
Stretched out on a blanket on Tyler’s floor, Kennedy crawls toward me and the toy duck I’m waving at her. She gurgles and smiles, and I laugh. I pick her up and lift her above my head, laughing with her as she giggles. There’s nothing better than a baby’s laugh. The carefree sound they make is irreplaceable. I miss when my niece and nephews were this age. I miss the way they looked at the world with complete wonder. I tuck Kennedy to my chest and then kiss the top of her head and smile at her mom, who’s sitting on the couch watching us.
“You’re good with kids,” Heather says with a smile.
“I have a niece and two nephews. They’re older now, and most of the time they’re running away from being cuddled by their aunt,” I tell her while laughing as Kennedy fights to get away from my hug. Once she’s free, she wraps her hands around my fingers and stands while bouncing up and down on my thighs. “I miss when they were this age.”
“Do you want kids of your own one day?” she asks, watching us.
“Yes.” I bend forward and blow a raspberry on Kennedy’s neck, making her giggle. “I want a dozen of these adorable bundles of joy.”
“A dozen?” Her eyes widen, and I laugh.
“Okay, maybe three or four, tops, but I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I always wanted to cook dinners, do craft projects and homework, and take care of little ones,” I tell her, watching Kennedy smile and drool while bouncing.
“Tyler’s always wanted kids,” she says, and I look up to find her studying me. “He’s always been about family.”
I know that, even without him telling me. I can see it in his eyes when he talks about his parents and sister. I know how much he loves them, how much his family means to him. I know he’ll be an amazing dad one day, because he’s great with my niece and nephews and proud to be an uncle.