Montana Homecoming

Chapter Two

Cord did his best to ignore Maggie as he drove. He had less than a mile to go, and he couldn’t get there fast enough. Why he was so ticked, he couldn’t say. But the fact remained.

He’d been with her for one weekend. And what a weekend it had been. But when she’d proclaimed that she hadn’t been with anyone in a long time, he’d believed her. Not that it mattered. He never expected women to be celibate. Just like he wasn’t. But something about how she’d said that to him, just before he’d entered her for the first time . . . He’d let himself like knowing that.

But what the heck? Clearly, she’d been lying. As she clearly still was. Because no way did she have weeks left before her due date. She’d obviously been with someone else, and only a short time before him. She had to be due any day now. He’d guess a week at the most.

His teeth ground together. He hated liars.

And he hated how much he’d enjoyed that damned weekend.

What he didn’t hate, though, was that there was no way that baby could be his. And that had been his first thought. But aside from the fact they’d used protection religiously, he just couldn’t believe she wasn’t ready to deliver. He also couldn’t let go of the fact that he should be taking her to a hospital right now instead of going in the opposite direction. If only to confirm her declaration that she was fine.

“I got a signal.” Her words were spoken so softly he assumed she was talking to herself. From the corner of his eye, Cord watched her hold her phone out in front of her, the screen glowing bright.

“Good. Make the call.”

Her entire body tensed, and he sensed her continuing anger. But he didn’t care what she felt. In fact, he didn’t care if she felt anything at all. He just wanted her gone. He just wanted to get on with this forced vacation and get back to his life.

“Crap,” Maggie murmured a minute later. “It won’t go through.”

“Try again.”

“You think?” Sarcasm dripped heavy from her words. “Do you really think I need you to tell me that, Cord?”

He gave a shrug meant to annoy. “I don’t know what you need. And even telling me still doesn’t mean I’d know, does it? People lie.” He glanced at her, making sure his glare wasn’t missed.

She glared back. “What are you insinuating?”

“I’m not insinuating anything. Make the call.”

Her eyes narrowed, but she didn’t lift the phone back to her ear. “What do you think I’m lying about?”

“I never said I think you’re lying. I just said that some people do lie.”

He went back to focusing on the road, knowing his behavior was beyond childish, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Seeing her pregnant had annoyed him an absurd amount.

After several seconds of what was likely more glaring being fired his way, Maggie went back to trying to get a call to go through. The driveway was within sight now, and since the house phone had never been disconnected, even throughout the renovations, there was really no need to keep trying. He’d have her to a working phone within minutes.

Neither of them pointed that out, though.

He kept slowly making his way through the piling snow, and this time, a millisecond before a sigh sounded in the cab of the truck, he heard the “unable to complete the call” message. He gave no indication he’d heard it, and when her hand lowered, he tossed a questioning glance her way. “I guess I was right, then.”

Steam practically leaked from her ears. “Right about what?” She straightened and held her phone up between them. “I tried to call. Did you miss that? It isn’t going through.” Her voice rose with each word. “Why would I lie about making a phone call?”

“Why would you lie about anything?”

“I don’t lie!” Her breaths came out hard and fast then, and one hand went to her stomach.

Shit. What was he doing? He went instantly into professional mode.

His gaze raked over her, taking in everything from head to toe. Her water hadn’t broken, as far as he could tell, but that didn’t always mean a woman wasn’t in labor. And he hadn’t been kidding before. She could be in labor and just not be aware of it. Adrenaline had a way of hiding things.

He needed to quit being a dick.

“Are you sure you feel okay, Maggie?” He kept his focus split between her and the road. “No pains? No contractions?” It would take only a minute to turn the truck around and head toward the hospital. He shouldn’t have let her convince him otherwise in the first place.

The questions seemed to catch her off guard, and the tension seeped from her shoulders. She leaned back against the seat. And as had happened while she’d been standing in the middle of the road, tears once again sprang to her eyes.

“Damn it,” he muttered. That was it. He was taking her to the hospital.

“No.” She held up a hand, the word being choked off with tears. “No pain. No contractions. I only ran off the road. I didn’t hurt anything but my ego.”

“Then why are you crying?”

They were at the driveway to the house now, and he didn’t hesitate. He turned in and immediately shifted into reverse. A gloved hand touched his forearm before he could start the vehicle moving backward, and he jerked his gaze to hers.

“I’m fine.” Her soft proclamation came out sounding sad. “I promise. I’m crying simply because all these emotions have to go somewhere. If I can’t yell right now, then I have to cry. And I can’t yell at you for asking if I’m okay.”

He stared through the darkness, unsure whether to trust that she was really okay. Things weren’t always as they seemed from the outside. After raking his gaze over her yet again, he took in the curve of her cheek and the slight downturn of her lips. The glow from the moon reflecting off the snow provided the only light in the cab, and the space suddenly felt too intimate. It reminded him of sitting on the floor in her living room, the roar of the fire in front of them. Them laughing, playing cards, making smores by use of that very fireplace.

All the fight drained out of him.

“Maggie,” he started, but he didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t know why they’d been arguing to begin with.

Just because they’d had that weekend . . .

Just because he’d liked thinking she’d hadn’t been with anyone in a long while . . .

Eyes he knew to be a mix of pale green and gray peered back at him, and he had no clue if his read on things was correct, but it felt as if her look held hope. Only . . . hope for what? For whatever future lay ahead for her and her baby?

Or was it simply memory of a really nice weekend staring back at him?

Those two nights back in April hadn’t been like others. At least, it hadn’t for him. It hadn’t just been about the sex. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been a lot of sex. And a lot of really good sex. Because dang, she was hot. And as bold in bed as out of it. And adventurous. And just so darned fun to be around.

But he’d been in a weird place that weekend. Worried about his dad. Wishing he could somehow be both here but not have to leave his home several hours away, at the same time. She’d been just what he needed.

In between the rounds of sex, they’d talked. Not about anything in particular for the most part. Work, general day-to-day stuff. But he had shared a couple of thoughts about his dad. And because he had, because the time with her had put him so at ease that he’d confessed feelings he’d normally never speak to anyone, he’d shed some of the stress he’d been carrying. The weekend had relieved him when he’d been so concerned about his father, and he’d wanted more of it. He’d wanted more of the normalcy of all of it.

That’s why he hadn’t called her back over the summer. Because he’d been afraid talking to her would make him want to see her again. And then he might want to see her even yet again.

He put the truck into park as he sat there. He shouldn’t have said he’d call her. He knew that. He’d done it to protect himself. To get her to back off. Because he knew that “they” could never be. And the last thing he’d wanted was to get either of their hopes up.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call you back, Maggie.”

A vat of silence sat between them. “You’re not sorry.”

Her gaze wouldn’t let him look away.

He wanted to explain himself. They’d agreed from the beginning that it would be a one-time thing. She’d been as on-board with that as he. But suddenly he felt the need to make her understand why he didn’t do relationships. Why he never would.

And he wanted to do that even while she sat there pregnant with someone else’s baby.

He wanted to talk to her as freely as he had that weekend in April.

“You’re right,” he admitted instead. He wouldn’t share his feelings, but he would acknowledge the truth. “I’m not sorry. Or, I wasn’t. Not then. But if my not returning your call hurt you in any way”—if his not calling was any explanation for her tears—“then I do apologize for that. Sincerely.”

She didn’t have a response, and he let his gaze roam over her once again. But not in the medical way he’d done before. She was beautiful. Several tendrils of her dark-blond hair had escaped her hat, floating whimsically around her face, and her skin wore a healthy glow. She’d been gorgeous before, and pregnancy certainly hadn’t diminished that fact. And she absolutely wasn’t “fat,” as she’d insinuated. She was healthy and vibrant. She was filled with life, and she glowed from the inside. And the man who would be by her side during all of it . . .

He brought his gaze back to hers. “Congratulations on your pregnancy. The father is a lucky man.”

He spoke with honesty, not considering whether he had any right to say the words. Not caring if he had the right. But his words only made more tears roll down her cheeks.

He wanted to reach out and pull her in. “What is it, Mags? What’s wrong?”

She wiped at both eyes, and she inched her chin higher. Her lips pursed before she spoke. “The father doesn’t know about the baby, Cord. Not yet.”

The words came as a shock. “Why not?”

She hadn’t struck him as the type not to share something like that. She would want both baby and the man.

He could picture her settling down with a husband and having several kids. Living in the house she’d bought earlier that year. Fixing it up together. It was yet another reason he’d made sure not to return her call. She wore that kind of persona easily.

“Why haven’t you told him?” He pushed for an answer, though he had no right to do so. At the same time, while sitting there in his truck together, her eyes now locked on his, her hand moving in small circles over her belly . . . it suddenly felt like his business.

It felt like he should have already known.

The thought stirred another. One that filled him with the urge to quit pushing. To turn and run instead. Had he been wrong? Was she not due in the coming days?

Fear seized him. She still hadn’t answered his question. She just sat there, silently watching him spiral. And the longer the silence lasted, the harder his heart hammered.

He swallowed. Then he forced himself to ask the one question he never wanted to hear the answer to. “Who’s the father, Maggie?”

“You are, Cord. You’re the father.”