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Authors: Dahlia Rose

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Baby on Board

BOOK: Baby on Board
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Baby On Board

by Dahlia Rose

Copyright © June 2012, Dahlia Rose

Cover art by Mina Carter © June 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936668-62-5

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel

are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved, including the right to

reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Sugar and Spice Press

North Carolina, USA

www.sugarnspicepress.com

Baby On Board Dahlia Rose

Chapter One

Major Rafe Steele of the United States Marine Corps slid behind the

wheel of his black Escalade with a sigh. For a moment he leaned his head

back against the leather headrest and closed his eyes. A big grin crossed

his face. It was the start of his four-week leave and it was long overdue.

He’d done two back-to-back nine month tours in Afghanistan and then a

three-month recon and capture mission in Somali. Leading his unit, they’d

managed to take down a terrorist cell and had also taken one of the leaders

alive so their mission was a success. Now with all the leave time he had

earned and not used, he had four weeks of rest and relaxation. He planned

to ride his motorcycle, probably head to Myrtle Beach and sit in the sand

and enjoy the cool breeze and waves lapping at his feet. Whatever it was,

he intended to be completely and utterly relaxed and enjoy every minute

of it. Rafe put the vehicle in drive and drove out of Quantico with a wave

to the guards on duty at the gate.

Memorial Day weekend meant one thing: party at his house courtesy

of his good friend Lieutenant Brody Gillis. His friend was high on life and

could basically find an excuse to have a party at a moment’s notice.

Usually the party ended up being at his house because he had a pool and,

to Brody, that was a prerequisite at any party. Rafe’s cell phone rang.

Thinking of the devil—it was Brody.

He slipped his wireless bluetooth earpiece in his ear and pressed the

button to answer. “Hey, guy, what’s going on?”

“Only the best party to end all parties,” Brody yelled and whooped.

Rafe winced. “Remember what we said about inside voices, Brody?”

Brody laughed. “I’ve got the beer coming on Sunday—two kegs—and

Giovanni’s is going to cater so some of the best Italian food ever will be

there. If the food is not to your liking, we’ve got part of the Swedish

volleyball team coming to the party.”

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Baby On Board Dahlia Rose

Rafe laughed. “How the fuck did you manage that?”

“They were in town visiting our nation’s capital and I happened to be

in D.C. the same day they were.” Rafe could hear the smile in Brody’s

voice. “I gave them the special invite.”

“I’m sure,” Rafe said dryly.

“See ya Monday, buddy,” Brody said. “Oorah!”

“Oorah,” Rafe replied and pressed the disconnect button on his phone.

Leave it to Brody to find the Swedish volleyball team
, he thought with

a grin. Rafe lived in one of the more expensive subdivisions that had

sprung up in the area around Quantico. He joined the Marines when he

was eighteen even though his family had a few million dollars. His father

was a retired senator who fished constantly since leaving Capitol Hill and

his mother came from old southern money. Yet they were two of the most

down-to-earth people anyone could meet. The trust fund that he came into

when he turned twenty-five bought his house and car and the rest gained

interest in the bank. Rafe preferred to live off his military pay. By

Saturday, his house would be crawling with women in bikinis and his pool

would be full of drunk soldiers.

Rafe gave another long sigh. He actually just wanted time alone in

front of his TV doing nothing and napping. But, unfortunately, the party

was already planned. Just another reason for his neighbors to think he was

some kind of party animal. He saw the looks on their faces sometimes but

shrugged it off. It wasn’t any of their business anyway. Ten minutes later,

he was turning into his neighborhood. His house was at the end of the cul-

de-sac—a four-bedroom, three-bathroom red brick home. It was one of

the largest on the block. He frowned as he pulled in the driveway. There

was something sitting by his front door.

“Is that a car seat? Is that a fucking car seat?” he mumbled to himself.

Rafe parked and quickly hopped out of the Escalade. He jogged up to

the front door and hell if it wasn’t a baby sleeping on his doorstep. He

looked around, hoping that this was some kind of practical joke. He saw

no one. It was after seven p.m. and everyone was inside. Anger surged

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Baby On Board Dahlia Rose

through him. Who leaves a kid outside like this? He tore off the note that

was taped to the handle and read the words printed on the paper.

This is Bonnie. She’s your daughter. Take care of her. I can’t

anymore.

What the fuck? My daughter?
Rafe looked down at the sleeping baby.

Next to the car seat was a baby bag. He picked it up to search through it.

There were three cans of baby formula, a few diapers, and some

paperwork. The baby moved and made a sound as she opened her eyes.

Her gaze met and held his. It seemed like they stared at each other for

minutes until her little face scrunched up and a loud wail came from the

tiny being.

“Oh, shit. Oh, shit. What do I do?” Rafe looked around, panicked, as

the screaming got louder. He saw the little white car in the driveway of his

neighbor’s house. He’d seen her before. She dressed in nurse scrubs.

They’d never really spoken but for a few “good mornings” if he happened

to pass her on his way out for a run. A nurse would know what to do.

Without a second thought, he put the bag strap over his shoulder and

picked up the car seat. Rafe jogged several steps to her door and pressed

the doorbell one too many times. The baby’s wails were increasing, and

when he looked down, her face had turned a bright shade of red.
Oh, no,

not good!
He pressed the doorbell harder and then pounded on the door.

“Who’s out there trying to break my door down?” a female voice

yelled.

“Major Rafe Steele, ma’am,” he called. “Um…your neighbor. I’m the

house at the end of the street.” She opened the door and he held out the

baby carrier. “Fix it, please!”

She looked up at him. “Fix what?”

“The crying! The baby is crying. I don’t know what to do,” he said

hastily. “You’re a nurse. You can do something, right?”

“Because I’m a nurse you think I can automatically stop a child from

crying? Whose baby is it?” she asked.

“Apparently mine. I came home and found her on my doorstep with a

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Baby On Board Dahlia Rose

note.” Rafe took a breath. “I have no clue about babies. Please, please

help me fix it so it stops crying.”

She stared at him and sighed. “Fine. Come in. Let’s see what’s going

on.”

She took the car seat from him and he trailed in behind her. She put

the car seat down on the sofa and began to unclip the baby from its

confines before lifting the baby into her arms. The crying immediately

quieted down to low whimpers as his neighbor crooned and softly patted

the baby’s back.

“What’s the matter with it?” he asked.

She gave him a cool stare. “First, stop calling her it. She’s probably

hungry and wet. Look in the bag and see if there’s a bottle and a diaper.”

“Okay,” he said and swallowed the lump in his throat. “The note said

her name was Bonnie.”

“What’s the matter, Bonnie? Are you hungry?” she said gently.

“Ma’am, there’s a bottle in here and it’s still warm.” Rafe held it out

to her along with a diaper.

“Second thing, my name is Ivy St. Clair, not ma’am,” she snapped.

“You’ve been living forty-six steps away from me and haven’t seen my

name on my mailbox?”

“Ma’am… I mean Ivy, I’m hardly here,” he said. “Tours of duty back

to back to back.”

He watched as she changed the baby’s diaper quickly and then popped

the bottle in the baby’s mouth as she held her in the crook of her arm. He

watched the little girl suck hungrily at the nipple. Jesus, what if he had

come home later? The child would have been outside alone all that time.

Another round of anger flooded him. What kind of mother would do this

to her baby?

“Are you going to search the bag and see if you can find any

information?” Ivy asked. “Bonnie is well nourished and she has obviously

been taken care of. I guess her mother got tired of doing it alone.”

He caught the underhanded meaning to her words and gritted his teeth.

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Baby On Board Dahlia Rose

“Do you think if I knew I had a kid out there I wouldn’t have taken care of

her and her mother?”

She gave him a bold look. “How do I know? All I know about you,

Major, is that every time you’re home there are cars parked up and down

the street blocking people in their own driveway, loud music is blasting

and a bunch of scantily clad women are running through the neighborhood

giggling obnoxiously like airheads.”

“My friend throws those parties,” he snapped.

“And you’re sure reaping the reward, aren’t you?” Ivy replied. “Have

a seat and check the bag, Major.”

“You keep calling me by my rank. Most civilians don’t do that,” he

commented as he sat on her burgundy sofa. He looked around and saw

that the rest of the room was decorated in burgundy and blended with

hunter green and beiges. It was cozy and welcoming.

“I work at Walter Reed. I deal with you guys all day, everyday,” Ivy

explained.

Bonnie finished the bottle and Ivy turned her over and rested her

against her shoulder and patted the baby’s back. The baby burped loudly

and they both grinned. He met her gaze and something sparked between

them. He knew she felt it too because she looked away quickly.

“Okay, I found her birth certificate. Her name is Bonnie Jaclyn Steele.

She gave the baby my last name,” he said. “She’s six months old.”

“What’s the mother’s name?” Ivy asked.

“Juno Corwin. I don’t know that name and can’t fix it to a person in

my memory,” Rafe said truthfully.

“I’m sure you can’t,” Ivy said dryly. “I don’t suppose you keep a file

on your conquests—notches on the bedpost must suffice.”

“I don’t have notches…” Rafe shook his head. “Never mind. Here’s

Bonnie’s immunization record and a list of things she can and cannot

have.”

Ivy took the papers and scanned them. “She’s up to date, has an

allergy to amoxicillin, and strawberries give her a rash. All in all, she

BOOK: Baby on Board
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