Songbird (A Sinclair Story #1) (7 page)

BOOK: Songbird (A Sinclair Story #1)
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He
turned to leave. Melodee halted him with one soft word.

“Why?”

He
didn’t pretend not to understand as he turned back his head to face her.

“Because
you deserve to be cared for. I’m not sure I’m capable anymore, but I’m going to
give it my best shot.” And he left the room again, leaving the door just
slightly ajar.

Melodee
was stunned, and before she could check the emotions flooding her, a single
tear escaped her eye. She had not cried for ten years, and today wasn’t about
to be her undoing. Drawing on her strength, she finished undressing. Flicking
off the running water, she stepped into the hot tub. It was deep, she sank to
her shoulders, and leaning her head back on the padded rest, reached out and
hit the button. The powerful jets whirled to life, and for the first time in
hours her tense muscles relaxed.

 

She must have drifted off,
because when she opened her eyes the water had cooled and her fingers were
starting to wrinkle. Time to get out. She stepped onto the mat, and using one
of the thick towels started to dry herself. Grimacing, she pulled on her old
underwear. They were only from this morning, but she was a bit pedantic about
clean clothes. Stepping over to the cabinet, she found an oversized Syracuse
College sweater. She had to roll up the sleeves a half-a-dozen times, but it
was soft and warm and would be heaps more comfortable to sleep in. It hung to
her knees, so she just slipped on her socks. Thankfully, her shoulder was much
more maneuverable after the bath. Gathering up her clothes, she wiped down the
vanity and stepped out into the carpeted master room.

Nathan
was sprawled out on the bed, his long arms resting behind his head. At first
Melodee thought he was asleep, but then she noticed his eyes lazily assessing
her.

“I’m
pretty sure you were sent here to tempt every sense of restraint I possess,”
Nathan drawled, pulling himself up to sit. “Seeing you standing there in my
shirt is doing all kinds of shit to my caveman instincts.”

Melodee
laughed; she couldn’t believe it, she was never usually this cheery. But she’d
had a crazy image of Nathan trying to club her over the head and drag her off.

“Who
asked you to be restrained?” she finally said. There was no use denying the
attraction between them. It was there, it was real, and it was filling the room
like a beating drum. And while she hadn’t forgotten the accident and those poor
victims, the strength of her emotions were an added reminder that life was
short. They needed to seize every second.

Nathan
stood, moving like a sleek panther toward her, so smooth and graceful. “Trust
me, there’s nothing I want more than to strip you bare and put my mouth and my
hands on every section of your beautiful body.” He lowered his head to meet her
eyes. “The need I have to taste you is strangling my ability to think clearly.
But you deserve better.”

He
pulled back and Melodee almost cried again. “I’ll do everything in my power to
help you and Jewel, but I’m not the man for you.”

Melodee
lifted her head, defiance defining her features. “You don’t have to protect me,
I’m a big girl and I’ve been on my own since I was thirteen.” She paused. “No,
in all honesty I’ve been on my own since I was born, if you don’t count two
brief years where I had a sister.” She growled out her last words. “But you’re
right, we are from two very different worlds, and this could only end in
disaster.”

She
turned then and left the room.

 

Nathan wanted to punch
himself in the face as he watched her march out. She was strong, but he’d seen
the hurt in her eyes. Why the hell was he being such a good guy now? He wanted
her more than he wanted his next breath, but his track record at sticking
around was not the best. And for some reason he never wanted to be the reason
those sapphire eyes filled with pain. Better to not get involved. The Sinclairs
were really good at breaking things, and he could already tell that Melodee had
already had enough people try to break her.

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 5

 
 

The night was uneventful.
Miguel checked in a few times, the last to announce the arrival of the foal. ‘A
prize winning colt’, he’d said proudly. Melodee stayed quiet after her
embarrassing episode of flirting upstairs. Jewel kept her busy, she was unsettled
through the night, and Melodee was getting the distinct impression that she had
a pacifier normally. She was trying to suck on anything that came near her little
rosebud lips.

In
the early hours of the morning, when the storm sounded like it was dying down, Melodee
had just finished feeding Jewel and was walking slowly up and down the fire-lit
room, patting her back.

“It’s
okay, baby girl,” she murmured against Jewel’s whimpering. It was too cold to
leave the warmth and she was trying not to wake the men. They’d been up and
down with the foal and were exhausted. “Do you have a sore belly, sweet?”

Her
voice seemed to soothe her, along with the rhythm of walking. Jewel hiccupped a
few times, her blue eyes wet with unshed tears. Melodee couldn’t stop herself
from pulling her close and hugging her tight. Something about children got to
Melodee in a way nothing else ever could. Truly the only time humans were
allowed to be innocent. Well, not all children, but it should be the time for
innocence.

“You
really want to keep her, Dee?” Nathan’s husky tones startled her. He’d taken to
calling her Dee and she couldn’t get him to stop. At least it wasn’t Mel; that
had been her mother’s pet name for her, and when she’d used it bad things would
happen.

“It’s
impossible,” Melodee sighed. “They would never let me. Plus, I’m sure she has
family somewhere.”

“And
if she doesn’t?” He repeated her words from earlier as he sat up on the couch.
Melodee’s eyes were drawn to the way his broad shoulders filled out the light
gray sweatshirt he wore. “They will take her into the foster system.”

Melodee’s
features tightened as fear and fury simultaneously flooded her. “We can’t let
that happen, Nathan.”

His
eyes sought hers until they clashed. “Trust me,” Melodee said, “there are too
many bad foster families.”

“What
happened to you?” Nathan said. He pulled himself from the couch and moved to
tower over the two of them.

Melodee
shrugged. “Selfish women with perverted husbands.” Her tone was light,
throwaway. “I know it’s not always like that. Others from the home said they
found wonderful families. But my experience was worlds from that.”

“Are
you telling me that you were … abused?” He choked a little on the last word.

Melodee
smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Let’s just call it attempted abuse. I
should be grateful that my useless parents at least gave me the skills to
defend myself. Even at thirteen.”

Nathan
reached out and captured her free hand. “We will not let that happen to Jewel.”

When
Jewel was finally asleep, Melodee sat on the couch, keeping the little girl
against her shoulder. Nathan sank in next to her. He was pressed against her
side, and everywhere he touched was warm and tingly. She felt so safe and
comfortable, and then for the first time in Melodee’s life she fell asleep in a
room with strangers.

 

Nathan knew he was being a
creepy asshole, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from Melodee. As she slept, he
couldn’t believe how sweet and innocent she looked. Awake, there was no
mistaking the depths of hell that Melodee had traversed in her life, but
asleep, the long dark lashes folded down, hiding her eyes and her pain.
Reaching over, he grabbed one of the wool throws and draped it over the cuddled
pair. He figured he’d just close his eyes for a minute. He was sure it wouldn’t
be long until Melodee woke and realized where she had fallen asleep. And
probably kick him in the nuts for drooling all over her. He shrugged. Worth it
for sure.

It
took him quite a while to lose himself to sleep. He couldn’t understand why he
felt such a need to protect the two females sleeping soundly next to him. Maybe
it was how alone they seemed. He knew he was lucky. Despite the fact his
parents were absent and selfish assholes, he had awesome brothers, and until the
helicopter accident a few years ago, grandparents who gave freely of their
love. Melodee seemed to have no one, and yet she seemed tough and independent and
not completely fucked up. Her strength touched something deep inside of him. He
knew he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from helping her, and as he relaxed
and let the first drowsiness of sleep wash over him, he had one last hope that
this would all have a happy ending.

 

A loud clanging noise woke
Melodee from the deepest sleep she’d ever had. Her face felt cold, but the rest
of her was warm. Her right cheek was numb and she realized it was pressed
against something hard. She opened her eyes, all drowsiness fading, and she was
immediately alert. Jewel was still snuggled into the hollow between her
breasts, her rosy mouth open slightly, her baby smell so sweet. And then
Melodee realized why her pillow had been hard, it was a muscular chest.
Holy shit balls
, she’d fallen asleep on
Nathan Sinclair, the damn star of Syracuse basketball team and all around
golden boy of this town. And why the hell did he smell so good? He could at
least do her a favor and be less attractive, both physically and scent-wise.
She must have suffered some type of damage in that car crash, somewhere in the
vicinity of her common sense and survival instincts.

The
front door slammed open, and by the time the figure had dashed into their room,
Melodee had already slid Jewel onto the couch and moved in front of the
vulnerable sleeping forms of the others. She let out a relieved breath when she
realized it was only Miguel.

“The
snowplow has been through. They found the crashed cars, and the police are here
to talk with you.” He spoke quickly, but quiet enough not to disturb anyone
else. Or so Melodee thought until Nathan shifted.

“Don’t
say anything to them without me, Dee,” he said, jumping to his feet and moving
to her side.

She
felt confused. “Why? I’m not the biggest fan of authority, but there’s no way
they can pin the crash on me.”

“We
need to present a united front in case they want to take Jewel straight away.
I’m not letting that happen until we know she has a decent family to go to.”
Nathan started to move forward and Charles was somehow already at his side
despite the fact that he had been asleep all of five minutes before.

Pulling
on her jeans and black boots, Melodee picked up the still-asleep Jewel and
followed the men out of the warm room. The air was like ice away from the fire,
so she quickly ducked back and grabbed a blanket to cover the baby. Leaving
again, she headed toward the open front door, and all Melodee could see was the
blinding sunlight reflecting off the snow. Stepping out onto the wide front
deck, there looked to be at least four cars parked around the large circular
drive. Further back was a huge Dodge Ram truck with a plow on the front, which
she assumed was Charles’. Nathan was a head taller than the uniformed officer
he was chatting with. Glancing up, he locked eyes with her, and the brief smile
he sent her way was reassuring. Charles was away from the main group, speaking
with others in uniform. Emergency services. She recognized the EMT symbol on
their shirts.

Stepping
carefully along the cleared path, Melodee was glad the ground seemed to be
salted; she would hate to slip with Jewel in her arms.

“Hello,
ma’am,” the younger of the two officers near Nathan greeted her. “We just have
a few questions about the accident.”

Melodee
nodded her consent. Might as well get them out of the way.

“So
I understand you were in the car of…” He looked down at his note pad. “Douglas
Barrant. We found him deceased at the scene. Can you tell me what happened?”

Melodee
tried to block out the images that threatened her mind again: lifeless eyes,
the stillness of death. Nathan reached out then and took her hand. The warmth
and comfort was so foreign that it shocked her back into focus and she was able
to regain composure.

“Doug
was heading out here to Nathan’s place. He was driving pretty fast, and then
suddenly a car was coming at us, out of control and already on its roof. I
wrenched the wheel but we still clipped the edge and went over the embankment.
I checked the other car, but the driver was deceased. We rescued Jew … the baby
from the other car, but the storm was too bad to get the bodies out.”

“The
woman is still unidentified at the moment, her car was unregistered and she had
no identification,” the officer said. “We will check out the missing people
reports back at the station.”

An
older woman, thin, with dark brown hair, walked over to the group. She held a
clipboard and tablet computer in her hands.

“Hello,
my name is Denise Ronin from Child Protective Services.”

Melodee’s
heart sank. Nathan pulled her closer to his side, his bulk providing warmth.

“I
was called in when the officers realized there was a baby capsule shell in the
car.” She smiled brightly at Jewel. “I’m so glad to see that she is doing well
after the accident, but we need to have emergency check her over to be sure.”

Nathan
drew the woman’s attention. “If you don’t know who the girl is, then you are
going to have no idea of the baby’s family. What will happen in the meantime?”

Denise
seemed to blush as she caught Nathan’s direct gaze. Melodee was glad to see she
wasn’t the only one thrown off by his magnetism and good looks.

“Well,
we arrange for temporary care until we find her family,” Denise finally said.

Nathan
didn’t hesitate. “Melodee and I would like to look after her until you find her
family. She knows us and it’s much better than moving her all around.”

Denise
looked surprised, her brows rising as she glanced at the way Nathan held my
hand.

“I’m
sorry Mr…”

“Sinclair.”

She
opened her mouth, closing it again before clearing her throat.

“As
in Nathan Sinclair, basketball center and son of Senator Sinclair?” Her voice
was breathy.

Nathan
sighed. “Yes, that’s my father. I can get him on the line to verify my identity
if you require.”

She
shook her head rapidly. “No, no, no need to bother your father. I’m sure it’s
fine for me to leave the child temporarily in the custody of you and your
girlfriend.
 
I’ll just need a copy of
your identification, and I will have to make a few phone calls.”

Melodee
opened her mouth to correct the woman on the girlfriend comment, but Nathan
squeezed her hand and shook his head slightly.

“I’ll
just get my documents,” he said, leading Melodee from the group.

“Why
did you let her believe we were a couple?” she asked when they were out of
earshot.

“CPS
believe children function better within a family, especially if the couple are
in a happy, settled relationship. If you want us to be able to keep Jewel for
now, we need to present a united front.”

Melodee
slammed her mouth shut. Damn him and his thoughtfulness, he was undoing
twenty-three years of independence and the inability to rely on anyone but
herself.

 

After a few hours, many
phone calls, and a quick check of Jewel by the EMT’s, the cars finally left
Nathan’s place. Melodee, Nathan and Charles were back inside the house. Power
had been restored, and the heating had kicked back in.

“I
say we head into town and meet up with Matty and Luke,” Charles said, his long
legs spreading out before him as he sprawled back on the kitchen stool.
 
He had Jewel sitting on his lap. “If the
second storm hits, I don’t want to be stuck out here. I fitted the car seat
into my truck, so we’re safe to go.”

“Jewel
is going to need some food and diapers soon,” Melodee added. “If you drop me at
the shop near my place I can walk home.”

Nathan
growled. “You and Jewel are staying with me.”

Melodee
shook her head, her first instinct demanding she stay in her own home. “No, you’ve
done enough already. I can look after her until they find her family.”

He
stalked across the room until he stood right before her. “Denise is going to
check in with us. We have to be together or they might place her with another
family. It’s just easier if you come to mine.”

His
words were casual, but his eyes held depths of anger and something more that
she couldn’t place.

Melodee
sighed, she had forgotten about the CPS random checks. Denise had warned it
could take a while to determine the identity of Jewel’s mother, and that she
would pop in to make sure everything was going okay.

“Fine,”
she said, throwing her hands in the air, “but you better have a spare room.”

Charles
snorted. “His condo near the college has four bedrooms.”

It
was Melodee’s turn to snort. “That’s as much a condo as this place is a cabin.”

BOOK: Songbird (A Sinclair Story #1)
5.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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