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Colton Baby Homecoming(10)

By: Lara Lacombe



He leaned down and pressed a kiss to the soft hair on the top of the baby’s head. “I’ll keep you safe,” he whispered.





CHAPTER 3

Darcy stepped out of the exam room and took a deep breath, trying to center her thoughts. Her head was spinning from the events of the past half hour and she had a seemingly endless list of questions demanding to be answered. Where had that baby come from? Why had someone left her with Ridge? What had he been doing over the past decade since she’d seen him last? Had he truly moved on and found someone or was he still alone, as she was?

First things first, she told herself firmly. Solve the mystery of the baby. Everything else can wait.

Nerves fluttered in her stomach as she made her way back into the waiting area of the emergency room. She’d never met any of Ridge’s siblings before, since they had all been split up and raised in different foster homes. For reasons she didn’t care to examine too closely, she very much wanted to make a good first impression on these people. She knew Ridge was still angry with her for the way things had ended between them, but maybe if his siblings liked her he would soften a bit toward her. Even though there was no chance of them getting back together, it would be nice if they could have some kind of friendship. They’d meant too much to each other to have this bitterness between them persist.

It wasn’t hard to find Sam and Annabel, and not just because the waiting room was fairly quiet. She would have recognized them in the middle of a crowd, as they both had the same studious look as Ridge. It must be a common Colton expression, she decided—that sober, thoughtful gaze made it seem as though they were constantly assessing their environment.

Sam turned to face her as she approached. He had the same dark hair and eyes as his brother, but while Ridge was tall with the broad shoulders and muscular arms of a swimmer, Sam had a more rangy build that reminded her of a long-distance runner.

“Sam Colton?”

He nodded, his gaze assessing as he shook her hand.

Darcy turned to the woman standing beside him. “And you must be Annabel.”

Ridge’s sister offered her a tight smile that didn’t quite reach her blue eyes. “Where’s Ridge?”

“Right this way,” Darcy said, gesturing them forward. “Thanks for coming so quickly.”

“Ridge doesn’t cry wolf,” Sam observed quietly. “He wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.”

Darcy rapped lightly on the door of the exam room, then opened it and gestured Sam and Annabel inside. The pair took a step into the room and drew up short as they both caught sight of their brother with a baby in his arms.

Sam recovered first. “Well,” he drawled. “I leave you alone for a few hours, and you go and get a baby.” There was an odd tone to his voice, as if he’d just been kicked in the gut. Was he upset? But why? Something tingled at the back of Darcy’s memory, but before she could really hone in on the thought, Sam cleared his throat and smiled, smoothing over the moment.

“Penny found her,” Ridge replied, the corner of his mouth curling up. At the mention of her name, Penny lifted her head and snorted in greeting. Annabel leaned down to give her a pat. “Doesn’t look like one of your usual strays,” she observed.

“Very funny,” Ridge said, shooting her a dry look.

“Want to fill us in on the details?” Sam asked.

Ridge glanced at Darcy and nodded at the door. She closed it quietly to give them some privacy.

It didn’t take long for him to tell the story of finding the baby, but Darcy had to bite her tongue to keep from interrupting him with questions. To their credit, Sam and Annabel merely listened quietly until he had finished talking. Once he was done, the siblings exchanged a glance.

“Where’s the note now?” Sam asked.

“I left it in the car,” Ridge responded. “I didn’t want more people touching it.”

“Good thinking,” Annabel said. “Where are your keys? I’ll collect it and take it in for fingerprint analysis.”

Ridge cocked his hip off the chair and dug into his pocket. “I’m parked in the lot just outside.”

Annabel caught the keys midair. “Saw your truck as we pulled in. I’ll be right back.”

After a moment of silence, Sam let out a sigh. “None of this makes sense,” he said, running a hand through his hair.

Ridge huffed out a laugh. “Tell me about it. I’m the last person who needs to be trusted with a baby.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Sam said, a sparkle of humor showing in his eyes. “You’ve taken pretty good care of that dog. How much harder can it be to take care of a baby?” Once again, his voice sounded forced, as if he was trying to make light of something that bothered him. All at once, Darcy remembered the gossip she’d heard about Sam Colton—how his former fiancée had pretended to be pregnant with his baby so she could con him into marrying her. He’d been about to make things official, but just before the wedding, the woman had been killed—one of the first victims of the Alphabet Killer.

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