Suddenly Engaged (A Lake Haven Novel Book 3)(8)

By: Julia London

With a grunt, Dax pushed the dog aside, then staggered into the kitchen. He heaped some dog food into a metal bowl and put it on the ground. In the time it took him to fire up the coffeepot, Otto had eaten his food and was standing at the back door, patiently waiting.

Dax opened the door. He glanced over to Three. The Subaru was gone, and he couldn’t help wonder who was driving that massive red truck. A husband? A dad? Jesus, he hoped the guy wasn’t the chatty type. Hey neighbor, whatcha working on over there?

Yeah, Dax was in no mood for more neighbors or barbecue invitations or neighborly favors. But it was becoming clear to him that little Miss Ruby Coconuts was going to make his policy of isolationism really difficult.

Dax got dressed and went out to the shed to work. A few hours later he walked into the kitchen to grab some rags he’d washed in the sink and happened to look out his kitchen window.

The redheaded devil was hanging upside down off the porch railing of her house, her arms reaching for the ground. She was about three inches short, however, and for a minute Dax was certain she would crash headlong into that flower bed and hurt herself. But she didn’t. She managed to haul herself up and hopped off the railing. And then she looked across the neat little lawn to Dax’s cottage.

“Don’t even think about it,” he muttered.

Ruby hesitated. She slid her foot off the porch and onto the next step down. Then the other foot. She leapt to the ground from there, looking down, admiring the lights in her shoes. Then she looked up at his cottage again.

“Don’t do it, you little monster. Don’t you dare do it.”

Ruby was off like a shot, headed for the fence.

Chapter Two

Kyra went in silently, like a shark, quietly circling around the two women bent over their wineglasses, sliding in to collect the check so she could get the hell out of here. The women had been at the Lakeside Bistro since two o’clock, giggling and whispering across the table, ordering glass after glass of wine, showing no signs of going anywhere, which meant Kyra had to wait it out until the night shift showed up.

This was not how her day was supposed to go. But when did it ever go as she’d planned? Had anything gone as planned since Brandi met Kyra at Planned Parenthood and Kyra had realized she couldn’t end her pregnancy? As much as she hadn’t wanted to be pregnant, as much as she’d hated that unexpected and catastrophic complication in her life, she just couldn’t go through with it. She’d had a breakdown in the lobby instead, and Brandi had gently steered her in through another door—the intended pregnancy door—where they verified Kyra was indeed pregnant, loaded her up with prenatal vitamins, and advised her to visit her OB-GYN.

Everything since had been a struggle. But Kyra wouldn’t change anything.

She’d managed to keep her job at US Fitness until Ruby was born, but Brandi had warned her, “You know you can’t work here anymore, not with a baby. It’s too demanding.”

Kyra had already figured that out. So she’d taken her paid maternity leave, and when that had run out, she’d handed in her resignation and had begun to look for a job. Unfortunately, jobs were hard to come by when you had a baby on your hip. Kyra was forced to take low-wage jobs where she could get them, then spend all her spare time looking for something better that would pay her enough to live and give her flexible hours so that she could manage with a toddler, then a preschooler, and now a first grader.

After a series of part-time jobs, she’d felt lucky to land a position at a day care, because she could bring Ruby to work with her. But the day care didn’t pay the rent, and Kyra had struggled to keep the roof over their heads. When the opportunity for something better had come up in East Beach, she’d jumped at it.

And still nothing was going as planned. Today, it was already almost five o’clock. Her babysitter had said, unequivocally, that she would not stay past six. Kyra would be extremely lucky to get home by then, and then she’d have to try to read boring real estate law while a six-year-old talked and danced and sang around her. Kyra loved her daughter so much, of course she did . . . but that child made it impossible to concentrate on reading her coursework.