“Nothing. Everything. Christ, Rose. I’m so damn sorry and...and I don’t know what to do or say.” He looked as though he truly meant it. Regret seemed to fill his green eyes and she couldn’t make herself look away. This was the real him.

“You made me cry,” she whispered.

He rested his head against her forehead, his golden hair soft and silky. “I’m a bastard.”

“I waited up for you. I put on my prettiest dress.” Tears grew thick in throat. She would not cry in front of him. She only wanted him to know how badly he hurt her. But honestly, if he’d cared, he wouldn’t have been so cruel in the first place. Lifting her shaking hands, she tried to push him away, but he wrapped his arms around her and held her close.

“Forgive me,” he said, his breath hot in her hair. He kissed the side of her neck, her jaw and her cheek. “I need your forgiveness, Rosebud.”

Turning before he could find her mouth and she lost all self-control, she said, “I’ll give you another chance.”

She wriggled out of his embrace, running upstairs to her room and shutting the door behind her. Pressing cold fingers to her heated cheeks, she closed her eyes and sank to the floor. What had she done?

Chapter Fifteen

Sasha shot out the front door, wrenching the passenger side door open before she put the Jeep in park. “You grab the diaper bag. I’ll grab Ivy, then come ‘round to get you. It’s a wee bit slippery out here.”

Rose didn’t wait for him to come get her. She parked the Jeep, grabbed her keys and stuffed them in the diaper bag before she got out. They met in the middle and he grabbed her hand. She ran beside him, dodging the fat rain drops that had followed her home.

“Why are we running if it’s slippery outside?”

Yesterday he’d weeded the garden, cleaned her house and collected eggs from the chickens. All she had to do when she got home was cook supper and put Ivy (and herself) to bed after thanking a very subdued Sasha. One that kept his hands and everything else to himself.

But tonight, she’d never seen him so excited.

He tightened his grip. “You’ll see.”

As she walked in the foyer, Sasha kept glancing over his shoulder with a boyish smile on his face. After the third time, she finally asked, “What are you so happy about?” But before he could answer, the sight of her kitchen and family room made her stop in her tracks.

Ivy’s diaper bag fell to the floor with a thud.

The kitchen table was covered a white tablecloth and a large vase of violets. Strawberry Grove’s fanciest china held their supper. The set of dishes was one that the fourth Poppy Holland’s aristocratic lover had gifted her with before sailing back home to Italy.

The small family room had been transformed with white sheets draped over the couch, new fluffy pillows in tasteful shades of green and blue.

The sound of water bubbling caught her attention and she rose up on her tiptoes, amazed to see a foot bath sitting on the floor. Like the kind that they sold at big box discount stores with settings for heat, bubbles, and massage. It was placed directly in front of a chair that normally sat to the left of the massive fireplace in the formal living room.

“What is all this?”

He gestured at the two rooms and gave a silly bow. “Welcome to Strawberry Grove’s day, er, night spa.” He set Ivy’s car seat on the floor and had her out in seconds, pressing a swift kiss to her forehead. “Sit and eat first.”

No man had ever cooked her dinner before. She shook her head, unable to keep the smile off of her face. “You thought this would butter me up?”

He flashed a heart-stopping grin her way. “Working, is it?”

As they sat and ate, or rather as she ate while he fed Ivy, her eyes kept straying over to the family room. The fireplace blazed, casting cheery shadows along the walls. Blackbeard sauntered in, making his way to the sofa and jumping on one of the pillows. He circled a couple of times before laying down, purring contentedly.

“What made you think to do this?”

“Your hands and feet, or rather your nails,” Sasha said as he propped Ivy against his shoulder and began to pat her back with an ease that didn’t surprise her.

Hovering her hands above her lap, she examined her nails. They weren’t that bad. She kicked off her flats and rubbed her feet together under the table. “You want me to paint them?”


He stood and walked over to Ivy’s swing, strapping her in and turning on the musical mobile. Immediately the baby’s eyes left Sasha and locked on the slowly turning animals. Then he grabbing a two-chambered bucket, sat down on the floor and pulled off Ivy’s socks. He selected a bottle and held it up to the light.

“You want to paint Ivy’s nails?”

He scrunched his nose and twisted his lips. “No, you daft woman, I did it to paint yours, but honestly, why should she miss out on the fun?”

“Haven’t you noticed how she tries to put everything in her mouth?”

“Erm, yes. Quite so. Sorry, darling.” He quickly put Ivy’s socks back on her feet. He set the small bottle of polish down and took off his shoes and socks. “I’ll do mine first. Venom looks promising.”

Her mouth dropped open.

“Right, too early 2000s.” He rummaged through the bucket again and pulled out a bright red bottle. Turning it over he read, “Cherry Bomb Harlot. Fantastic.”

While she finished eating, he painted his toe nails. “Dammit,” he muttered, using a cotton ball to swipe at some polish. “This is harder than it looks.”

“Are you ready for me now?” she asked as he inspected his feet.

“Give a bloke a minute for his polish to dry.”

She stifled a laugh. “It looks great on you. All the guys will be jealous.”

He waved his toes, the bright red paint glaring. “Next time, I’ll go Goth.” He pointed to the chair. “Be a good customer and sit.”

She stood, then moved from the kitchen into the family room. Submerging her feet into the hot water, Rose sighed blissfully and flexed her calves. She leaned back in the chair and moaned. “Nothing’s ever felt so good.”

Sasha snorted. “I suppose I should be offended, but since I’m responsible for your look of sublime pleasure, I’ll let it inflate my ego.”

She smiled. “I’m sure your ego is inflated without my approval or pleasure.”

He knelt down and lifted one of her feet, drying it off before he began to rub lotion up and down her calf. “Mind my cheat sheet, love. I downloaded it before entering the black hole of cell phone signals otherwise known as your house.”

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