“Don’t keep me in suspense.”
“It’s fine.” Although Carter Ambrose had told her that she would be lucky to get another two months out of it. But if the Jeep could hold itself together for just a little longer, then she could pay cash for another one she’d seen on Craig’s list. One that she’d planned on Carter checking out, because he was one of the few men that she trusted to not to take advantage of her.
He placed a hand on the door. “It’s fine because it’s none of my concern, or it’s fine because it’s really fine?”
“Why does it matter?” She brushed past him and got into the driver’s side. He climbed in the passenger seat.
“Because—” Pulling her hat out of his coat pocket, he tugged her it over her head and played with the curls sticking out from underneath. “—I could take a look at it.”
She fought the urge to lean into his hand. To lay her head on the warm, sweater-covered chest so close. “I’ll manage.”
“What do you say we stop for dinner?” Sasha asked as she drove along Highway 13. “My treat.”
Rose was starving, but the thought of cooking and cleaning up her kitchen made her ill. All she wanted to do was put Ivy to bed, then crawl between the sheets. So his offer was a godsend. “There’s a place about five minutes up the road.” Honestly, it wasn’t a restaurant she was interested in eating at. She’d heard the food was some of the best around. Unfortunately the hostess couldn’t stand her.
Not to mention Rose wasn’t exactly dressed for going out. There was a new bleach stain across her chest, and the knees of her sweatpants were grimy.
“Fantastic.” He rubbed his hands together in obvious anticipation.
The parking lot was practically full. The only spots open near the road. Sasha grabbed Ivy’s carrier while Rose reached for the diaper bag.
“Anything else?” he asked before shutting the door.
Yes, she wanted to stay in her car and let him order take-out. “No.”
He placed his hand on her elbow, gently guiding her to the entrance. “If you like, we can get it to go. I’ll drive while you eat.”
She was wary of this new Sasha. One that was trying to be considerate and attentive to her needs. “Ivy needs to eat, too.”
Smiling a little, he lifted a shoulder. “Whatever you want, Rose.”
Well, the hostess certainly looked like she knew what she wanted. As they walked in, Gillian Perry’s hungry gaze slid over Rose and zeroed in on Sasha. Which was entirely fine with her. She’d rather not be noticed at all.
Gillian had hated her ever since Rose had told Gillian’s ex-boyfriend that he shouldn’t go looking for Holland Springs with her. Said boyfriend had not only broken up with Gillian and spilled his guts about the Rose’s advice, but within the next month, had found the woman he was supposed to be with and they’d eloped.
Ducking her head, she scooted behind Sasha. His broad shoulders obscured her view (and anyone else’s of her) as they waited.
Ivy fussed and he set the carrier down on the floor so Rose could take her out. The baby went into Rose’s arms eagerly, but when she wasn’t given a bottle, she began to cry in earnest.
“What can I do to help?” Sasha gently rubbed Ivy’s head.
“She’s hungry. I need some warm water for her bottle.” She gently bounced the baby in her arms, trying to calm her. “Just a few more minutes, baby girl.”
“Can we have some warm water, please?” Sasha asked Gillian.
“You can have anything you want, sugar. On the menu or off. I’m done at ten,” she purred.
“Fantastic. I’ll recommend your pub to all my friends. Now about that water,” Sasha merely said, shocking Rose. She thought he would’ve flirted back with Gillian. He turned and faced to her, his golden head tilting down. “My girls okay?”
Now that he was here, she was. Good grief. Lack of sleep was making her lose her mind, but she gave him what was probably the biggest, goofiest grin in history anyway. “Doing great, honey.”
One side of his sexy mouth tilted at the corner and he braced a hand against the wall beside her, the other hung loosely at his side. “Are we to have pet names for one another, Rosebud?”
She peered at him under her lashes, heat rising to her cheeks. Sasha called her by her full name when she least expected it. Somehow, he made it sound like an endearment. As always it threw her off balance. “I was only teasing.”
Ivy let out an ear-piercing shriek.
Of course, what seemed like everyone in the entire restaurant stopped talking and started staring. Rose’s face began to burn and her skin felt all tingly.
“Hush, baby girl. It’s okay,” she whispered, but the baby wasn’t having it and cried harder, fat tears rolling down her cheeks. She glanced up at Sasha, fully expecting him to be annoyed, but sympathy gleamed in his eyes. The apology she was about to say never left her mouth.
He held out his hands. “Let me take her.”
As soon as she handed him Ivy, the baby settled down, her cries reduced to hiccups and sniffles. Rose was gratefully annoyed.
Sasha held Ivy securely in his strong arms, his large palm on the back of her head. “Seriously, Rose, let’s get something to go, and I’ll drive while you eat.”
She placed a hand on his arm. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me. We’re a team.” He grinned at her, his perfect lips tilting up and making her stomach drop.
“Why, look what the cat drug in,” Gillian said, holding a mug in her hand. “I’d heard one of you had a baby.” Turning to Sasha, she said, “Is she trying to pass this one off as yours?”
Sasha’s green eyes hardened. “Who says this one’s not mine?”
Gillian blinked. She looked pointedly at Ivy, then back at him. “She doesn’t look a thing like you, if you know what I mean.”
This wasn’t the first time Rose had been subjected to cruel remarks concerning Ivy, but usually it was more about the Holland reputation than anything else. “Thank you for the water, Gillian.” Rose took the mug. “I’ll fill up Ivy’s bottle and we’ll be on our way.”
“Ivy takes after my mother,” Sasha said and pressed a kiss on top of the baby’s head before leaning back to look at her. “Don’t you, darling?” Ivy’s watery eyes crinkled at the corners as she smiled at him. “That’s my girl.”