Home > The Single Dad (The Dalton Brothers #3)(2)

The Single Dad (The Dalton Brothers #3)(2)
Author: Marni Mann

“I don’t want her, Ford. I want you to have her, raise her. Be the parent she needs. The parent I can’t be to her.” The tears started to well in her eyes. “You’ll be so much better than me.” She placed the bag on my shoulder and wrapped her arms around her still-swollen belly. “After today, you’ll never see me again.”

I glanced between Rebecca and the baby. “Let’s go inside and talk about this. I’m sure you’re just exhausted and—”

“I never wanted her, Ford. My feelings haven’t changed now that she’s born.” She held her hand out as though she was stopping me from coming closer. “Either you take her or I’m calling the social worker in the morning.” With her other hand, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a card. “I kept her information.” Tears now dripped down her cheeks.

“Rebecca, you need to give me a minute to process this.” I looked at the baby again, my brain not computing that I was holding my child in my arms. I tried to connect the pieces of her that resembled me. The eyes? Nose? I couldn’t think; I couldn’t even breathe. “It’s the middle of the night; you woke me out of a dead sleep. You’re leaving me with a baby.” I swallowed. “My baby.” When I looked at Rebecca, the tears were wetting her lips. “I don’t know what to do. What to think. How to care for her. I have questions. I have …”

I wanted to take Rebecca by the arm and bring her into my house and tuck her into the bed in my guest room, giving her the sleep she needed. I would call a therapist in the morning, so we could figure out exactly what was going on here.

But those were just ideas, and all I had in this moment were words. Words that needed to be persuasive enough that I could convince her we could somehow do this—together. So far, it seemed like nothing I’d said was registering. She wasn’t hearing me; she certainly wasn’t listening.

She was just looking at the baby, crying.

“Rebecca, I’m sure it’s been almost impossible to get any sleep. You’re tired, your body is recovering from—”

“Don’t tell me how I’m feeling.” She pulled the sides of her jacket together, the material too small on her to close. “I know exactly what I’ve gone through and what I want, and my mind is made up.”

Our stare broke as she looked at her daughter, using the back of her hand to wipe the newest tears. “I failed you … I’m sorry.” Her voice wasn’t any louder than a whisper. “Your father will be everything you ever need.”

“What? Wait! Rebecca,” I called for her as she turned around and walked toward the gate. “You’re her mother. You can’t just hand her to me and tell me you don’t want her, and she’s suddenly my responsibility.”

Her stare intensified. “You’re her dad. Yes, I can.”

I held the baby toward her mother, trying to close the space between us, but at the same time, she was moving in the opposite direction. “Rebecca, we need to talk about this, rationally. We need—”

“Everything you need is in that bag. Birth certificate; a form from the attorney, giving you all parental rights; formula, bottles, and diapers. Notes for what you need for her and when to feed her.” She turned her back to me, taking several more steps, but looked over her shoulder to add, “Take care of her, Ford.”

She hurried out of the gate, and she was gone.

Fuck.

Me.

As though the little one had heard my thoughts, she started to stir. I instantly froze, having no idea what the fuck to do.

Shit.

Is she going to cry?

Is she hungry?

Does she need to be changed?

“Waaah!” the baby wailed.

I didn’t know how to make her stop or figure out the reason she was crying—I’d never been around a baby before—but she was getting louder.

Much, much louder.

“Rebecca!” I yelled, trying to look through the hedges for a flash of headlights. “Rebecca, come back!”

While I waited for her to return, I rocked my arms, hoping the movement would help, establishing a pattern of swinging forward and back.

She didn’t calm.

She only cried harder, each sway filling my ears with more, “Waaah!”

My eyes shifted between the entrance of the driveway to the baby. But the longer I stood here, expecting Rebecca to round the corner at any second, the more I realized she wasn’t coming back.

“What am I going to do?”

I gazed at the baby as she screamed in my arms. Her lips, so miniscule, were curled, showing her bare gums, her cheeks scrunched and red from all the crying.

“I don’t know what to do,” I told her. “I don’t know how to make you feel better. Until I can figure out what time it is and wake your grandma up and have her come over here, I need to somehow care for you.” I continued to look at her, hoping the answer would come to me. “Are you cold?” I closed the blanket, bunching it up to her neck. “Hungry?”

I waited for the answer to hit me.

For the realization of what I was actually holding and what my eyes were staring at.

For a picture to form in my head of what my life was now going to look like versus the direction I'd believed it was going in.

I didn’t know how long I stood there.

Frozen.

My feet should have been taking us inside, where it was warm, where I could go through the bag and see if there was something in there that could soothe her, see if Rebecca’s notes told me how to stop the baby’s crying.

But they weren’t moving.

For some reason … I was locked.

My knees didn’t want to hold us anymore, and they started to bend until they hit the pavement, the sharp slap of hardness jolting something inside me.

I held the baby up to my chest, patting her back. As I rubbed small circles, my body shifting, swinging, a feeling entered. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what it was, but it made me hold her tighter.

It made my arms build a wall where nothing could get in.

“Hey, hey,” I whispered into her face. The heat from her crying thick like steam. “I know you don’t know my voice or the feel of my arms, but I’m going to tell you something.” I pressed my lips against her forehead, breathing her in, her scent so clean and powdery. “I’m never going to let anything happen to you.” I held my lips there, my eyes closing, my heart pounding away. “I promise.”

 

 

One

 

 

Ford

 

 

I sat on the edge of Everly’s fluffy pink bed, holding her heavy, long, freshly washed curls in my hands so she wouldn’t feel the tangles as I brushed them. Hair time followed bath time—a ritual we did every night.

“Here I go. Wish me good luck,” I said.

She snorted. “Good luck, Daddy.”

With her wet hair all combed, I separated it into three sections, starting the painful process of weaving. “I swear, your hair gets thicker and harder to braid every day.”

“It’s ’posed to be easy. You been doing it foreveeer.”

I laughed at her remark. “Cut your old man some slack, little one. Hair isn’t my specialty.”

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