"You're all heart,"
Liz said as she reached for a diaper. "It's made of stone, but you're all heart."
"How would you know what my heart's made of?" Griff demanded.
She deposited the wet diaper into the blue pail and glanced over her shoulder. "Well, for one thing, you didn't kiss me before. You wanted to, though."
If ever a woman deserved the label Impossible, it was her. "I also wanted to strangle you a minute ago, but I didn't do that, either."
"Murder's against the law," she told him as she expertly tucked and secured the new diaper onto the baby's bottom. "Kissing isn't."
"Maybe it's against mine."
"Laws are made to protect people."
She turned, a challenge in her eyes. "Are you afraid of me?"
He should have just ignored her, should have just taken his niece and driven away. Instead, he met her challenge head-on.Borrowed Baby
This book is dedicated to the memory of Jack Teal, a very fine gentleman,
and to Liz Lax and her Casie for inspiring it all.
SILHOUETTE BOOKS 300 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017
Copyright © 1990 by Marie Rydzynski-Ferrarella
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known oì* hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of Silhouette Books, 300 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017
First Silhouette Books printing July 1990
All the characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
®: Trademark used under license and registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.
Printed in the U.S.A.
The last thing in the world that Elizabeth Ann MacDougall had on her mind that fateful brisk Thursday afternoon was a stop sign. It wasn't part of her hastily conceived plan.
She had just picked up Alec from his first-grade class. Alec's teacher, Ms. Giles, was not one of those educators who immediately threw open the doors at the sound of the dismissal bell. She was dedicated. There were, it seemed, always last-minute instruc-tions to be heaped upon their six-year-old, incredibly short attention spans.
Today, it appeared, Ms. Giles was outdoing herself. Liz, whose life was usually planned down to the second, had not allotted herself time for the extra few minutes that it took Alec to finally emerge from the classroom, wet watercolor clutched in his hand.
"Look, Whiz. Alec," Winston pointed out eagerly.
"Yes," Liz assured the three-year-old as she forged forward. "I recognize him."
Grabbing Alec and herding Bruce and Nathan before her while she held on to Winston, she piled the boys into her dusty yellow Honda. Peter, the baby, chose that moment to wake up and howl his displeasure at being left confined in his car seat, never mind that he had slept through the whole ordeal of waiting for the boys to appear.
A shortcut home was her only way out. She turned the car around.
Liz snaked her way past the countless cars and vans that made precarious pit stops before the sprawling, one-story suburban school and took the back road out. She barely missed having a blue VW bus become intimately involved with her rear bumper.
"Made it," she breathed, and clenched her teeth. From here on in, it should be smooth sailing.
Her words were drowned out by the fight that suddenly flared up in the back seat over who had scored the most points in yesterday's GI Joe battle.
"Boys, it doesn't matter who scored the most points, remember?"
They obviously didn't, because the argument, complete with new, imaginative titles for each of the participants, continued. These were soon followed by screams. By now, she was becoming pretty astute at discerning which scream was serious and which was just for effect. Still, the noise was disconcerting while she was trying to concentrate on the road. That, plus the fact that there remained only six crucial minutes before the timer in her kitchen went off, did not render Liz in the most lucid frame of mind. She wasn't quite as alert as she should have been. Oh, she could have averted a collision with an oncoming truck. But the stop sign was a lot smaller. Also sneakier.
It just seemed to pop out of nowhere as she pulled out of the school road and onto the main thoroughfare. She caught sight of it out of the corner of her eye just as she eased the car onto the semiempty road.
Jamming her foot down on the brake, she stopped, then went on, both satisfied and relieved that there was nothing around that could hit her or impede her progress back to her house.
A bloodcurdling scream rose from the back seat. Liz tightened her hands on the wheel. "Alec, you know Bruce bites when you provoke him." She didn't have to turn around to know what was happening. She just knew. "You shouldn't have put your hand in front of his face like that."
The indignant grunt told her that Alec was retaliating. Some days, Liz thought with an inward sigh, were worse than others. This was definitely going down as a "worse."
The only silent one in the car was Peter. She glanced in his direction and saw that he was continuing to drool onto her upholstery as he shoved his fist into his mouth.
Liz blew her blond bangs up from her eyes and made a turn into her development, grateful that it was right down the road from the school. Just as she made the turn, she realized that one of the children was trying to get her attention. It was Winston. He prob-ably wanted to know what there was to eat once they got home. Winston always wanted to know what there was to eat.
"What is it, Winston?" She tried to sound patient.
But this time, the boy's question had nothing to do with food, only colors. "What do whirling red and blue lights mean?"
With a sinking feeling quickly spreading in the pit of her stomach, Liz looked up into the rearview mirror. Sure enough, the lights were there, swirling and dancing. They were attached to an ominous police car.
Liz's shoulders sagged beneath her denim jacket. "About fifty-five dollars," she answered with a sigh. "All this and heaven too." There was nothing left to do but pull over to the side and wait.
The argument in the back seat evaporated as the boys craned their necks to be the first to see what was going to happen next.
"Wow, a police car." Bruce clambered to his knees on top of Alec's hand. "Are we going to jail?" The possibility clearly thrilled him.
Alec shoved him off. "I told you not to bite me," the older boy taunted. "Now you'll get it."
No, Liz thought in despair, only me.
It seemed to Liz that the policeman was taking forever to reach her car. Probably part of their training to unnerve their victims. In her mind's eye, she saw her cake going from golden brown to charcoal. Served her right for trying to juggle too many things at once. Someday, she was going to learn to take things slowly and do them one at a time. Of course, that didn't help the situation right now, but it was food for thought.
Officer Griffin Foster was not in the best of moods. His disposition could more aptly be described as akin to that of a wounded bear. It was an hour before his tour of duty would be over and he was more than ready to go home. He had been traveling down Jeffrey Road trying to understand how a single nine-inch taco, consumed in a rush three hours ago, could be making every inch of his six-foot-three frame suffer this way. His was not a stomach that could tolerate Mexican food that came from a place that promised "meals in a minute," he thought with resignation.
He was just becoming acquainted with the true meaning of the word heartburn when he had spotted the yellow Honda sliding past the stop sign and out onto the street.
Another California stop. Another housewife rushing off somewhere without regard to the proper rules of the road. Didn't they ever stop to think what one misstep could cost them?
Griff had shaken his head as he'd followed the car, throwing the switch that brought the lights on the roof of his squad car to life. The errant driver had kept going. Obviously the woman hadn't bothered to look into her rearview mirror, either. He had been about to engage the siren when the driver had finally slowed down and pulled over at the entrance to the development. He'd thought it rather a dark twist of fate that it should be his development. So near and yet so far. He thought longingly of the antacid tablets in his medicine cabinet.
Duty first. Griff got out of the car and slowly walked over to the yellow Honda, bracing himself for the onslaught of breathless, imaginative excuses that usually met him when he pulled over a careless driver.
Liz watched the tall policeman in the navy blue uniform approach in her side mirror. His uniform looked as if it were molded to his body. How did these men even breathe? she wondered. He was the picture of a solemn, unsmiling giant. Even his mustache looked as if it were frowning. Probably because he couldn't get in enough air.
There was no talking her way out of this one, she thought in resignation.
"May I see your license?"
His voice matched the rest of him, Liz thought. Deep, forbidding. As she pulled her wallet from her purse she wondered if he knew how to smile. Liz flipped to her license and offered it up to him.
He made no move to take it. "Take it out of the wallet, please."
That struck her as odd. "Aren't you allowed to handle wallets?" she asked.
He wondered if he had a wise guy on his hands. "Just take it out, please," he repeated.
Liz forced a smile to her lips. The man probably has a heart of stone, she thought. She passed the license to him and waited for the inevitable ticket.
Griff looked down at the license and absently noted that she lived on Chambers Street. Six blocks away from his house. He looked back at her face. She looked unfamiliar, but that wasn't all that unusual. For the most part, although he had lived in the development for almost four years, he kept to himself. He wasn't into socializing.
Liz wondered why he was studying her so intently. Was he trying to decide just how much trouble she was in? How much trouble was she in? She almost asked, but then the boys took over.
"Are you going to take us to jail, Mr. Policeman?" Bruce asked eagerly.
Griff looked into the back seat and saw that it was filled to overflowing with children. He looked at Liz in mild surprise. She looked awfully young to have so many.
"No," he answered, his tone expressionless. He turned his attention back to Liz. "Did you see that stop sign back there?"
He'd make a wonderful interrogator, she thought. Probably had ancestors that went back to the Spanish Inquisition. Where was he when Alec's bicycle had been stolen from in front of her very door? She decided that it was prudent not to bring the matter up.
"Yes, I did," she answered brightly. She gave him her most confident look. "I stopped." It never hurt to try.
Griff's brows drew together as another surge of heartburn attacked him. "You slid," he corrected.
God, he looked angry. Heart of stone, just as she predicted. "I slid," she admitted. She reached toward the glove compartment. "Do you want to see my registration?" That was usually step two before the dreaded ticket materialized, or so she had heard. This was to be her very first ticket and she was more than a little distressed about it.
Griff glanced again into the back seat. She must really have her hands full all day long, he thought. He saw her hesitate as she reached for the glove compartment. "Why?" he asked. "Did you steal the car?"
She looked down at Peter's drool marks on the upholstery. "If I was going to steal a car, it wouldn't be a compact." She saw him raise his eyebrow question- ingly. Terrific, now he thinks you're contemplating stealing cars. "No, I didn't," she said quietly.
She looked honest enough, just slightly harried. "Then I don't need to see your registration."
He didn't normally make exceptions. That wasn't his style. But every once in a while, it didn't hurt to look the other way. And if there was ever a woman who needed a little leeway, it was this blue-eyed, honey blonde. She made him think of the woman in the shoe, except that she was a lot younger and prettier than anything he'd picture in a nursery rhyme book.
Liz stared at his hand as he offered her back her license. After a beat, she took it from him. This didn't make any sense. "Aren't you going to give me a ticket?"
"Do you want one?"