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“Thank you.”

She looked up at the ceiling, then the walls and back at him. “Every building on Broad Street could fit in here with room to spare.”

“I thought it was rather Wayne Manor-like.” At her questioning look, “You know, from the movie Batman.”

“I never saw that one.”

This was not how he envisioned a reunion with Rose. Stilted questions and abbreviated answers. Sighing, he placed Ivy back on the floor, sitting up. She grabbed his thumbs and bit down on one, her sharp tooth pinching. “Holy—” He clamped his mouth shut and gently pried his thumb out.

“Give Ivy her bunny to gnaw on.” Rose threw the stuffed animal at him.

He caught it easily, then gestured to the snacks and tea. “Help yourself.”

“Thank you.” But she didn’t move from her spot on the floor.

The silence grew, heavy and awkward.

“You doing okay with your mom passing?” she finally asked.

“I’d been preparing for it for a really long time, or I thought I had,” he confessed and sat down, stretching his legs out on either side of Ivy. “But every day it gets easier. And I did have three weeks with her. No one lording anything over my head.”

She gave him a sympathetic smile as Ivy crawled over his leg. He grabbed the baby and set her back between them.

“I heard you’re partnering with Barbara’s Bugs,” he said.

Rose nodded and traced a pattern on the marble floor. “Barbara is Azalea, my mother. She has a whole new life with kids and a husband. My sisters and I…and Ivy aren’t going to be a part of it.” She looked up at him. “Did you know?”

“No.” The temptation to take her in his arms nearly overwhelmed him. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you wanted.”

She shrugged lightly. “It is what it is.”

“I’ve missed you,” he said softly and her eyes flew to his.

A heartbeat later she replied, “I missed you, too.” Her black lashes lowered, hiding her thoughts from him.

His heart pounded so loudly in his chest that Rose had to be able to hear it. He would tell her now. Confess his soul. It was what he should have done months ago. “Rosebud, I—”

Ivy began to fuss, throwing her rabbit on the floor.

Bloody perfect timing, he thought wryly.

Rose jumped to feet. “She needs a nap.”

“Follow me,” Pemberly said, moving to the stairs. “We’ve set up a nursery of sorts.”

“Don’t forget to charge Ms. Holland extra for that,” Sasha said and Rose rolled her eyes.

Pemberly continued his trek.

“I don’t think he thinks you’re funny.” Rose grabbed her bag.

“He’s laughing on the inside, love. Where it counts.” Sasha picked up Ivy. She snuggled against him, her familiar baby scent making his heart turn over. He followed the butler, Rose close behind him.

After they’d gotten Ivy tucked in and Pemberly went on his way, Rose softly closed the door and stood in front of it. Not moving. Not saying anything, actually. He couldn’t stop staring at her. At her lovely face, her beautiful eyes and the rise and fall of her br**sts beneath her sweater.

He stepped closer. Lights flickered in the hallway and he gave her a slow smile. “I had this house inspected from top to bottom before I bought it, and there’s no faulty wiring.” He braced his hands against the door on either side of her head.

She licked her perfect lips. “It’s not me.”

“So you say.” Lowering his head, their mouths became dangerously close. “But I believe otherwise.”

“I-I thought you didn’t believe in my hocus-pocus.”.

“Everything you to do me is magic.” He pulled one of his hands away and traced her jaw. “Spend Christmas night…with me.”

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Rose breathed him in, luxuriating in his nearness. She knew exactly where Sasha wanted her to spend the night—in his bed. “Just one night—that’s all?”

“If that’s what you want.” His hand drifted lower, dipping beneath the collar of her sweater and turning her flesh hot.

What she wanted was more. She wanted forever, but maybe he didn’t. Maybe she was a fool for even coming here. “Because you still owe me?”

His heated gaze followed the path of her tongue as she licked her lips again. “Poor choice of words.”

“Are you seeing anyone else?”

Giving her an annoyed look, he stepped away. “Do you actually think I’d invite you to spend the night with me if I were?”

Hope blossomed in her heart. “I think…I…” She tried to get out the words, but they wouldn’t come.

He rubbed the back of his neck and she saw a glimmer of a gold chain as it rose with his movements. He still wore the cross. She smiled and tears flooded her eyes, but he’d turned and walked away.

“Stay as long as you like, love,” he called out. “I’m going…somewhere.”

“I love you,” Rose cried out and he froze. “I love you, Sasha. And I want to be with you. Every minute of every day. ”

He turned around, his eyes narrowed and his stride purposeful. His long legs ate up the distance between them. “You can’t take it back. I won’t let you.”

“I don’t want to take it back.” She grabbed his shirt and pulled him closer. “I love you. Come home with me and Ivy. Be with me. Marry me.” Rose didn’t care if she sounded ridiculous. She had to get the words out, even if it meant she scared the crap out of him while doing it. Forget scaring him; she’d never been so petrified in her life.

But Sasha didn’t run away. He stayed firmly planted in front of her, his sexy green eyes full of emotions that she hoped to God were ones that mirrored hers.

He lifted a golden brow. “Marry you?”

“You don’t have to take my last name,” she said quickly.

“Am I to be Ivy’s dad?”

“I’d like for you to be.”

“I have to warn you that I’m the jealous sort,” he said, his voice gruff. “And I insist on staying home with the baby while you work.”

She couldn’t help the giggle that slipped out. “Is that a yes?”

“I love you, Rosebud.”

A thrill of joy ran through her entire body. “That’s not an answer.”

“Yes, a million times, yes.” He kissed her long and hard, until she was breathless. “How’s that?”

Suggessted Novels
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