Riley's Baby Boy Online - Karen Rose Smith

Chapter One

The first knock on Riley O’Rourke’s door was hesitant.

The second was stronger.

Riley opened the door to the May day, expecting to see a friend. Family never knocked when they visited his house in the woods. They barged in. However, when he saw Brenna McDougall, his heart skipped at least one beat and his chest tightened because...

She was holding a baby!

Riley’s marine training was the only thing keeping him standing while his head spun. The infant looked to be about six weeks old. Six weeks old.

Keep your head on straight. Listen to her before you make a giant leap to the wrong conclusion.

“Hi, Riley,” Brenna said brightly. Then her confidence seemed to fade. “Maybe I should have called first, but I thought this was the best way to do it.”

“Do what?” He was proud his voice remained even as he remembered their fifteenth-year high school reunion, their passionate night in his bed, then her departure without a word or a goodbye or a note.

“I had a baby. Derek is...your son.”

Seeing Brenna again had knocked him for a loop, but her statement of his paternity felt like a sucker punch.

A former marine, he never lost his composure—not in the field, not in his post-military life. Raking his fingers through the black hair that had grown out over the past year, he recovered quickly. Yet he couldn’t take his gaze off of the little boy in Brenna’s arms.

“I guess you’d better come in,” he said, wishing he’d taken a shower, wishing he and Brenna didn’t have a past between them full of regrets.

Brenna held on to Derek as if he was the most precious bundle on earth. She rubbed her cheek against the baby’s and murmured something soft...something Riley didn’t understand.

“He’s just waking up,” she explained. “He was so good on the plane. And he fell asleep again on the drive from Flagstaff to Miners Bluff. I came straight here.”

Another surprise. Why hadn’t she driven to her parents’ first? After all, Brenna was the obedient, loyal daughter. Okay. He was still cynical about that.

Although she’d been in his house the night of their reunion last summer, her gaze wandered over it as if she were seeing it for the first time. One word could describe his place—comfortable. After living in the desert, in barracks, huts and bunkers, he’d wanted comfortable as well as enough furniture to seat a good portion of his family. With his dad, two brothers and a sister who sometimes dropped in unexpectedly, he needed a place for them to land.

With Derek in her arms Brenna turned around, assessing the long sofa and Western-patterned earth tones, the native-stone hearth, the recliner. There were two cushy chairs angled to watch the large-screen TV. Outside the dining area’s sliding glass doors, she could glimpse a patio with its brick wall and outdoor fireplace.

Still, Riley wasn’t concerned about her opinion of his house.

Anger created a slow burn through his blood. “Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”

When she looked up at him with her sea-green eyes and pushed her long blond hair over her shoulder in a nervous gesture that had been a habit since high school, he almost forgot to listen.

“It’s complicated.”

“It’s complicated?” he snapped. When he realized his voice was a little too rough with a baby present, even though that baby had his blue eyes, he vowed to stay calm.

His gruffness didn’t seem to intimidate Brenna. After she stole a glance at him, she went to sit on the long sofa, settling the baby, who was dressed in a blue-and-white-striped onesie, in the crook of her arm. Derek waved his arms and smiled, if a six-week-old could smile. Brenna obviously thought he could because she smiled back and tickled his tummy.

But her smile slid away as her gaze met Riley’s. “I couldn’t get back to Miners Bluff before now.”

“Cell phone service might be a little spotty out here, but I do have a landline. I’m listed in the Miners Bluff directory.”

She ran her thumb over the embroidered puppy on Derek’s outfit. “I needed time, Riley, to figure out what I wanted to do. I was in the middle of designing a new bridal gown collection. I had orders for custom gowns. I had a show in March and then I went into labor early—”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “So?”

“So...I just didn’t know how I was going to handle all of it...any of it...you.”

“You wanted to handle me?”

Now her temper flared. “You know what I mean. I live