Undercover Father, page 14
“Megan?” Rafe said, then waited. Finally, the dial tone came on, indicating he’d hung up.
She stood frozen at the sink, her breath caught in her throat and her hands clutching the towel. There was silence in the loft again, echoing silence. Then she pushed away from the sink and went back to the workstation. She reached for the phone, picked it up quickly and dialed Ryan’s number. It rang twice, then he was on the line.
“Ryan, it’s me,” she said.
“Hey, I’m glad you called back. That was too brief last time.”
“I need to talk,” she said. “I couldn’t talk last time.”
“A man was here, and I couldn’t—”
“Who was there?”
She closed her eyes tightly and knew what she had to do. After the way she’d responded to Rafe, she knew exactly what she had to do. “Ryan, we need to talk.”
THE NEXT MORNING, Rafe had been awakened by the boys yelling and jumping on his bed, which gave him a wicked headache.
Now he was at LynTech, ostensibly working on the computer to check on alarm maintenance, but was actually working off of Zane’s password, going through security checks on newer employees. He was having trouble focusing on the screen because of his headache, and because of thoughts of last night.
He’d felt nothing for any woman since Gabriella died, but last night everything had exploded into a maze of confusion and need. He’d felt so much, and it had seemed such a relief—as if a dam had burst and some sort of freedom was within his reach. Then everything had shifted. Megan had withdrawn, gone back to the man she was going to marry, and Rafe had gone on alone. He still didn’t know why he’d called her when he was driving away from the loft. That was crazy, and he was probably lucky she hadn’t answered.
“Hey, are you going to be all day at that thing?”
He looked up to find Brad McMillan standing there, a bit flushed, even angry-looking. “What’s up?”
“Your job. You gotta get back out there and do the hourly check. Milt isn’t coming in today, and Gus is already on the parking garage.” He motioned to the computer. “Do that later.”
“Sure,” Rafe said, careful to get out of the secured program before leaving the terminal, and trying to ignore Brad’s commanding tone. He stood, flexed his shoulders and winced at his headache. “Do you know if they have some sort of nurse or something in the building?”
“What’s going on?” Brad asked, his eyes narrowing.
“A headache. I just need an aspirin or something.”
“Oh,” he said. “A rough night?”
“Very rough,” Rafe admitted.
“Anything to do with that ice princess I sent on down to you last night? Although it beats me why I was helping you. I stand to lose a ton if you get anywhere with her.”
“No,” Rafe said.
“Oh, too bad.” The security guard grinned. “You’re gonna strike out, buddy.”
“Probably am,” Rafe muttered. “Now, the aspirin?”
“Yeah, they got stuff like that at the day care center. They’ve got a first aid kit. Just ask that old lady, Mary something or other, and she’ll take care of you.”
“Thanks,” Rafe said, and stepped around Brad to head down to the center. He would check on the boys while he was at it. He turned as he left the computer area, and saw Brad slipping into his seat. The other man looked up, frowned and said, “Get going.”
Rafe did exactly that, heading for the elevators and down to the center. When he walked in, the place seemed empty, until he went farther into the main room and he saw the teenager who had been there earlier. She was sorting through books and looked up when she heard him. “Hi there, Mr. Diaz,” she said.
Hearing his mother’s maiden name still seemed weird to Rafe. But it was necessary in order to keep up the cover. “Where is everyone?”
“On a field trip to the dairy. Cows and things,” she said, with a bit of a grin. “The babies are in the quiet room napping.”
“Okay,” he said, realizing the twins had been saying something about that on the way in today, but he’d been preoccupied. “I was told there’s a first aid kit around here somewhere?”
“Sure,” she said, and motioned beyond the tree. “In Mrs. Garner’s office, on the shelf right by the door. You can’t miss it.”
He thanked her and headed for the office. The door was open and he started to go inside, but stopped when he saw Megan working at the desk, intent on papers spread out in front of her. He watched her quietly for a moment, the way she leaned forward, exposing the nape of her neck. Her hair was caught back in a low twist, revealing a flash of gold—earrings. Watching her, Rafe could barely breathe.
He’d thought last night was madness, but at least a passing madness. Now he knew he couldn’t even look at her without wanting her. But he wasn’t going to get her... He would have turned and left if she hadn’t looked up right then. If she hadn’t met his gaze with her improbable blue eyes, and if her pink lips hadn’t parted softly in surprise. A flush of color crept into her cheeks.
She sat back slowly, but didn’t look away. She didn’t say anything at all, just watched him. He knew he had to speak. “Hello.”
Sparkling dialogue, he thought miserably, while his head throbbed.
“Hi,” she murmured, then let him off the hook. “Were you searching for Mary?”
For a moment he’d forgotten why he’d come, then recovered. “No, just looking for the first aid kit.”
Megan seemed to straighten in the chair. “Why, is something wrong?”
Yes, everything, he thought to himself, but actually said, “Nothing serious.” He looked to his right and found the kit. He retrieved two aspirin and sighed with relief. “Perfect,” he said, and closed the box, then put it back in its place.
“Are you sick?” she asked.
He glanced at her. “No, I’m not sick, just a bad headache.” He let his gaze skim over her features. “So, did Trig leave you alone last night?”
“Mary Garner knows the daughter of the man who used to own that loft—the hippie? And she said that Trig is really a CEO of some corporation in Colorado. He does the biker thing for relaxation. I mean, the man is worth millions and he wears that ugly leather vest, and rides a hog, or whatever they call those big bikes.”
“A CEO named Trig?”
“Mary said that he got that name because he’s some sort of genius at math. Isn’t that remarkable?”
What was remarkable was the way her whole face had softened and her eyes were glowing with delight. Obviously she was relieved that a killer biker wasn’t living next door. “Very remarkable,” he said.
“So he’s okay.”
“Are you reconsidering letting him be your bodyguard?” Rafe asked, and the instant the words were out, she blushed.
“He’s just a nice guy,” she said, then changed the subject. “Mary had my keys, by the way. She took them home with her accidentally. So everything’s just fine.”
It wasn’t fine for Rafe. Not at all. He’d finally figured out there was life out here for him, had finally realized that Megan stirred that life, but now he knew she couldn’t be part of it. That wasn’t fine. Not even close. “Yeah, just fine,” he said, the headache making his eyes slightly blurry.
He thought she was frowning at him, but her face was a soft blur now. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.
“The headache,” he said, and held up the aspirin in his hand. “Just the headache.” He turned to leave, but she stopped him when she said his name.
“About last night, I was...” She spoke softly, her words trailing off, and he wasn’t at all sure that he’d heard her correctly.
He swallowed hard, but didn’t look back. “Feed the cat
Megan sank back into the chair, trying to make her heart stop hammering in her chest. She hadn’t wanted to talk about Trig or the cat, but it was easier than discussing what had happened between them. The long hours after he’d left had been strange and disturbing, with little sleep and many unanswered questions.
It had been so hard to talk to Ryan once Rafe had left. The words had come haltingly, but she’d known what had to be said.
“We need to talk.”
“We sure do,” he’d said softly.
No, that wasn’t what she wanted. This man deserved more. “Ryan, can you come out here for a day so we can talk in person?”
“Don’t tempt me. But with the business so crazy right now, it’s just not possible.”
“Oh,” she said softly.
“Is something wrong?”
She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them as she caught the phone between her shoulder and her ear. She touched the engagement ring, then slipped it off. “Yes, something’s very wrong.”
There had been silence, then a single word. “What?”
She took a breath, then laid the ring on the desk and said, “We can’t get married.” The words had hung there, and she hadn’t been able to take them back. And more important, she hadn’t wanted to. She sighed at the memory, sadness lingering still, but she’d done the right thing for both of them.
Rafe was there, in her life, good or bad. He was a stranger who was as lonely as she was, or maybe lonelier. He was also a guard with two little boys, a man she didn’t know existed two weeks ago, but suddenly none of that mattered. None of it. She knew him now, and there was something there. Something that shouldn’t be if she loved Ryan enough to marry him. With Ryan, those feelings hadn’t been there; they never would be.
Her thoughts interrupted, she looked up to find Mary coming into the office. “It’s noon already?” she asked.
“No, I had to come back early...to talk to someone.” She looked bothered, but made a dismissive motion with her hand, then smiled a bit weakly. “How are things here?” She glanced at the papers. “How did we do with the ball?”
“From what I can tell,” she said, thankful to have something simple to focus on, “with Accounting’s figures, if they’re verified, you did very well. The hospital will be grateful, and the center will have enough funding to begin plans for expansion.”
“That’s wonderful,” Mary said as she came around the desk. “Just wonderful.”
The phone rang, and Mary reached for it. “Just For Kids.”
Megan gathered her things together, ready to head back up to Legal.
As Megan stood and Mary took the chair, the older woman said, “What?”
Megan glanced down at her, and saw the blood drain out of her face. “Oh, yes. Yes. I’ll take care of that. Where did they take him?” She grabbed a pen and scribbled on a scrap of paper. “Tell them to do everything they can, and I’ll get his parent.”
“What’s wrong?” Megan asked as Mary started dialing another number.
“It’s one of the twins—Greg. He’s been hurt.”
Megan stared at the woman. “But they went to a dairy, didn’t they?”
Mary was on the phone again pushing in numbers, then said, “Yes. Greg fell and they’ve taken him to—” The explanation was cut off abruptly. “This is Mary Garner at the day care center. I need to contact Rafe Diaz immediately. It’s an emergency.” She listened for a moment. “Find him, and have him get down here or call me right away,” she said, and hung up.
All Megan could think of was how much the boys meant to Rafe. He’d lost their mother, and there was no way he could go through losing a child, too. “He was just here ten minutes ago.”
“They said he’s on rounds, and they’re going to try and page him, or send someone to look for him.” Mary sank back in the chair, her complexion still pale. “Oh, my,” she breathed. “That poor baby.”
Megan left her papers on the desk, grabbed her purse and started for the door. “I’ll find him,” she said.
She ran out of the office, through the center, then out into the lobby of the building. Brad McMillan was at the front door, and she pushed past a group of people that had just gotten off the elevator and hurried over to him. “Where’s Mr. Diaz?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” he muttered. “Everyone’s looking for him. What do you need with him?”
She ignored the strident question and turned, running to the back exit and out into the parking garage. His car was still there. He wasn’t in the guard station at the security gate. She started to turn to go back inside, but stopped when the door to a private elevator that went straight up to the executive level opened and Rafe burst out.
One look at his face and she knew that he knew. “Rafe!” she called, and met him halfway between his car and the elevator. “They got in touch with you?”
He looked at her as if she was speaking a foreign language, then seemed to focus slightly. “Yes,” he said, and broke away from her, heading for the car.
She ran after him, and when she saw him try to manipulate the alarm release, she reached out and took it from him. “Get in. I’ll drive.”
He had the keys back in his hand before she could react. “I’ll drive,” he said, and the doors opened.
She ran around and barely got in the passenger side before Rafe had started the car and headed for the security gate. The tires squealed slightly as he braked, reached out the window, punched in a code. She thought for a minute he was going to ram the gate, trying to get out before it was up all the way, but he managed to just clear it as he drove up the ramp and out onto the street.
Megan held the armrest on the door, her other hand clutching the edge of the seat as Rafe wove through traffic, hitting several lights too close to the red. He muttered under his breath when the traffic up ahead started to slow.
Before Megan knew what he was going to do, he made a sharp right turn into an alleyway, shot through it, with the huge car barely clearing the sides, then burst out onto the next street. Thankfully, there was a gap in the traffic, and the SUV skidded, turned left and accelerated up the street.
“You...you have to slow down,” Megan gasped when he barely missed sideswiping a car in the left lane.
He didn’t act as if he’d heard her, but she saw the way his hand gripped the gearshift and his knuckles whitened.
“You won’t be any good to the boys if you get hurt,” she said.
The words must have gotten through, because he slowed slightly, easing back just a bit. But he never looked at her. “What did Mary tell you?” he asked in a low, tight voice, his eyes determinedly focused as he made a tight right turn.
“Just that Greg was hurt.”
She thought she heard him say, “Oh, no,” but the words were all but obliterated when a horn sounded as Rafe cut in front of a slower car and shot through a light just before it turned red.
Then she saw the hospital ahead of them, the sun glinting off the banks of windows in the huge complex. There was a squeal of tires as Rafe hit the turn into the E.R. parking lot. He skidded to a stop by an idling ambulance, then turned off the engine and leaped out, running toward the entrance. Megan scrambled out after him, ignoring someone yelling that they couldn’t park there.
When she got into the emergency room, she saw Rafe talking to a white-coated doctor. “Where is he?” Rafe demanded.
The man checked a clipboard in his hands, and as Megan reached them, she heard the doctor say, “Bed ten.” He glanced at Megan, then back at Rafe before he motioned to a door behind them. “I’ll ring you in.”
He went to a security pad by the door, punched in a code and the door buzzed. Rafe hit the handle, and when
Gabe all but leaped out of the arms of one of the day care center’s staff and into his dad’s. He hugged Rafe for dear life, burying his face in his chest. Then Megan saw Greg. The child was lying very still in the bed, his skin pale and his eyes closed. A stark white bandage covered almost his entire forehead.
Rafe held Gabe, but moved to Greg, reaching out to touch his son’s hand. “Greg?” he said in a low, unsteady voice. “Buddy boy?”
The little boy stirred, opened his eyes, then focused on his father’s face, his relief heart-wrenching. “Daddy,” he whispered, and Rafe bent over him, holding Gabe and hugging Greg at the same time.
Finally he stood back and looked at the woman who had been sitting with Gabe when they came in. Megan had recognized her as a part-time worker at the center. “What happened?” he asked.
“Sir, I’m so sorry. He just moved so quickly. He got in a stall while a cow was being milked, and he tried to climb up and ride it.” She looked so worried. “Now that you’re here, I really need to get back to the center.”
Rafe thanked her, then looked back at Greg. “You tried to ride a cow?”
“Huh,” the tiny boy said. “He was real big and brown, sort of.” He grimaced. “But I couldn’t. He wouldn’t let me. I hurted my head real bad.”
Megan saw the tension in Rafe, and could only begin to imagine how he felt right then, seeing his child in a hospital bed. Her heart ached with sympathy. When he shifted Gabe to his other arm, she found herself touching him on the shoulder.
He darted her a quick look. “You can leave,” he said, without giving her a chance to say anything.
“No, no,” she said. “Let me take Gabe?”
He hesitated, probably as surprised as she was by her offer. She knew she didn’t have many maternal instincts, but right then she felt an overwhelming need to do something to help make the situation easier for Rafe. “He’s okay,” Rafe finally said, but Gabe overrode his words by twisting toward Megan, his hands stretched out.
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