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Page 74 of Third Time's a Charm (Holland Springs 3)

Her heart jumped so high into her throat that she almost choked on it. If he were in such a bad way, then why did he look so good? Had Christian lied to her?

“You have visitors,” Pemberly intoned.

Sasha glanced around the impressive foyer. “Attention to detail is why I keep you around, Pemberly.” He hadn’t seen her.

But she saw him. His golden hair and bronze skin. Sexy eyes and broad shoulders. The way he wore a button-down shirt and slacks. The way he grinned when the butler managed to look even haughtier than she thought possible.

Switching the baby to her other hip, Rose wished for a hole to open up in the floor and swallow her. Of course he wasn’t in a bad way. Not that she expected him to be walking around, wringing his hands and looking like hell. But she wasn’t prepared for the bone-deep pain it caused her to view him like this. And she couldn’t hide out in the corner until he left. Heck, she was surprised Ivy hadn’t given them away by now.

Before Rose’s courage could fail, she took a deep breath and stepped into the light. “He means us.”

Ivy babbled and extended her arms, reaching for the man Rose knew without a doubt the baby loved.

The coat fell from Sasha’s hand, missing Pemberly’s outstretched fingers and hit the floor. Along with his heart, his stomach and every other internal organ as pure astonishment replaced them.

He turned to face her and swallowed. “Rosebud…and Ivy? But I thought Summer had her.” She had to be a mirage. There was no way in hell Rose would be standing in the middle of his foyer, looking achingly beautiful and holding his sweet Ivy.

He’d honestly thought the baby had been lost to Rose. There had been a time, after his mother died, that he considered going to Summer and persuading her to give Ivy back. But Rose wouldn’t have appreciated his interference.

“Summer signed adoption papers.” Blue eyes regarded him warily. “Ivy’s my daughter now.”

“I’m happy for you,” he said simply. However, the aching spot she occupied in his heart reminded him of just how unhappy he’d been. Until now. Joy threatened to consume him, but the woman he loved didn’t look quite so smitten with him. “When…how…why are you here?”

She glanced away. “Christian flew us here.”

“Christian’s in Fiji. Apparently they haven’t outgrown the whole twin switcheroo bit.”

“That was his brother?”

“Apparently, Scrooge, er, Sebastian, got a bit of the Christmas spirit in him.” He narrowed his eyes. “He didn’t flirt with you, did he?”

Rose shook her head. “No, he slept most of the time and played a game on his phone. The plane ride was a little bouncy but nice. Ivy and I had a little nap. There was a big bed. It was soft and I drank hot chocolate in the limo.”

Sasha bit back a smile at her nervous ramblings. “Did you come to spend Christmas with me?”

Pemberly sailed away, Sasha’s coat in his hand.

“I came to help you.” She still wouldn’t look at him. “Your cousin said you weren’t doing too good since your momma died.”

His heart sank a little. “That’s the only reason?”

Ivy wiggled and squirmed until Rose knelt down and placed her on the floor. “Should there be another?”

Well, he had hoped for more. As soon as he’d seen her, he’d thought she’d come to tell him she wanted to be with him. He didn’t need anything else but that.

Rose kissed Ivy’s head. The baby got on all fours, rocking back and forth.

Who was he kidding? He wanted everything from Rose, especially her love and trust. But those things took time. Lucky for them both, he had plenty of time. Of freedom to do whatever he wanted. Be with whomever he wanted.

The baby did some sort of army crawl, inching Sasha’s way. He couldn’t keep the smile off of his face. “Ivy’s crawling!”

“Kinda.”

He knelt on the floor, torn between the fascination of watching her show off her new skills and wanting to hold her in his arms. Her mother, too. “She’s gotten so big.”

“Could you call a cab for me, please?” Rose asked and he jerked his head up.

“Why?”

“I need a ride to Heathrow. I think your cousin pulled a fast one on me.”

Panicking, he mentally raced through a plethora of ideas and blurted out the first one that sounded sane. “At least stay until lunch. Let Ivy get her morning nap, and you get one too.”

“I’m not tired.”

Sasha searched her face. No, she didn’t look tired. She looked exhausted and slightly scared. Not that he could blame her. He was terrified that she’d leave. “It’s Christmas Eve, love. You’ll be lucky to find a place to sit for the next twenty-four hours, much less a plane ticket.”

“I’ll get a hotel room.”

Undeterred he said, “You can stay in one of the fifteen—”

“Twenty-two.” Pemberly brought in a tray of snacks, set it between Sasha and Rose and disappeared to only he knew where, acting like two adults kneeling in the middle of the foyer with a baby crawling around was a regular occurrence. Bless him.

“What he said.” He scooped up Ivy and kissed her forehead. She tried to bite his nose with her one tooth. “It’s been awhile, but does the tooth fairy leave money for when a tooth comes in?” He’d missed so much, but for damn sure he wouldn’t miss anything else.

Rose bit her lip. “I don’t know.”

“I’m sure we can look it up online and check,” he said with a shrug.

“I meant about staying here.” Rose closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Tea?”

Her eyes popped open. “No, thank you.”

“Pemberly can charge you twice what’d you pay at Claridge’s, if it’d make you feel better.”

One of her rare smiles pushed at the corners of her lips, then to his eternal gratitude she sat down on the floor, crisscrossing her legs in front of her. “How are things?”

The breath he’d been holding in rushed out. “I’m not working for my uncle anymore. I quit, before my mum died.”

“That’s…good. And sad about your mom.”

“It surprised Vladimir so much that he had a stroke.”

“Is he okay?”

An image of Childers’ stark hospital rooms sprang to mind. “He’s not dead.” Yet.

“Your house is pretty.”

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