Taming Natasha Page 53

There had to be a way to find her. When he did, he would beg, plead, browbeat and threaten until she came back to him.

She’d had a child. The fact left him dazed. A child she had lost, Spence remembered. But how, and when? Questions that needed answering crowded his mind. She had said she loved him, and he knew that saying it had been difficult for her. Even so, she had yet to trust him.

“Daddy.” Freddie bounced into the room, her mind full of the Christmas that was only six days away. “We’re making cookies.”

He glanced over his shoulder to see Freddie grinning, her mouth smeared with red and green sugar. Spence swooped her up to hold her close. “I love you, Freddie.”

She giggled, then kissed him. “I love you, too. Can you come make cookies with us?”

“In a little while. I have to go out first.” He was going to go to the shop, corner Annie and find out where Natasha had gone. No matter what the redhead said, Spence didn’t believe that Natasha would have left her assistant without a number where she could be reached.

Freddie’s lip poked out while she fiddled with Spence’s top button. “When will you come back?”

“Soon.” He kissed her again before he set her down. “When I come back, I’ll help you bake cookies. I promise.”

Content, Freddie rushed back to Vera. She knew her father always kept his promises.

Natasha stood outside the front door as the snow fell. There were lights strung along the roof and around the posts. She wondered how they would look when they were lighted. There was a full-size Santa on the door, his load of presents making him bend from the waist. She remembered the witch that had stood there on Halloween. On that first night she and Spence had made love. On that night, she was certain, their child had been conceived.

For a moment she almost turned back, telling herself she should go to her apartment, unpack, catch her breath. But that would only be hiding again. She’d hidden long enough. Gathering her courage, she knocked.

The moment Freddie opened the door, the little girl’s eyes shone. She let out a squeal and all but jumped into Natasha’s arms. “You’re back, you’re back! I’ve been waiting for you forever.”

Natasha held her close, swaying back and forth. This was what she wanted, needed, she realized as she buried her face in Freddie’s hair. How could she have been such a fool? “It’s only been a little while.”

“It’s been days and days. We got a tree and lights, and I already wrapped your present. I bought it myself at the mall. Don’t go away again.”

“No,” Natasha murmured. “I won’t.” She set Freddie down to step inside and close out the cold and snow.

“You missed my play. I was an angel.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We made the halos in school and got to keep them, so I can show you how I looked.”

“I’d like that.”

Certain everything was back to normal, Freddie took her hand. “I tripped once, but I remembered all my lines. Mikey forgot his. I said ‘A child is born in Bethlehem,’ and ‘Peace on Earth,’ and sang ‘Gloria in selfish Deo.’”

Natasha laughed for the first time in days. “I wish I had heard that. You will sing it for me later?”

“Okay. We’re baking cookies.” Still holding Natasha’s hand, she began to drag her toward the kitchen.

“Is your daddy helping you?”

“No, he had to go out. He said he’d come back soon and bake some. He promised.”

Torn between relief and disappointment, Natasha followed Freddie into the kitchen.

“Vera, Tash is back.”

“I see.” Vera pursed her lips. Just when she’d thought Natasha might be good enough for the señor and her baby, the woman had gone off without a word. Still, she knew her duty. “Would you like some coffee or tea, miss?”

“No, thank you. I don’t want to be in your way.”

“You have to stay.” Freddie tugged at Natasha’s hand again. “Look, I’ve made snowmen and reindeers and Santas.” She plucked what she considered one of her best creations from the counter. “You can have one.”

“It’s beautiful.” Natasha looked down at the snowman with red sugar clumped on his face and the brim of his hat broken off.

“Are you going to cry?” Freddie asked.

“No.” She managed to blink back the mist of tears. “I’m just glad to be home.”

As she spoke, the kitchen door opened. Natasha held her breath when Spence stepped into the room. He didn’t speak. His hand still on the door, he stopped to stare. It was as if he’d conjured her up out of his own chaotic thoughts. There was snow melting in her hair and on the shoulders of her coat. Her eyes were bright, teary.

“Daddy, Tash is home,” Freddie announced, running to him. “She’s going to bake cookies with us.”

Vera briskly untied her apron. Whatever doubts she’d had about Natasha were eclipsed by the look on her face. Vera knew a woman in love when she saw her. “We need more flour. Come, Freddie, we will go buy some.”

“But I want to—”

“You want to bake, we need flour to bake. Come, we’ll get your coat.” Businesslike, Vera bustled Freddie out of the room.

Alone, Spence and Natasha stood where they were; the moment stretched out. The heat in the kitchen was making her dizzy. Natasha stripped off her coat and laid it over the back of a chair. She wanted to talk to him, reasonably. That couldn’t be done if she fainted at his feet.

“Spence.” The word seemed to echo off the walls, and she took a deep breath. “I was hoping we could talk.”

“I see. Now you’ve decided talking’s a good idea.”

She started to speak, then changed her mind. When the oven timer went off behind her, she turned automatically to take up the hot mitt and remove the latest batch of cookies from the oven. She took her time setting them on the cooling rack.

“You’re right to be angry with me. I behaved very badly toward you. Now I have to ask you to listen to me, and hope you can forgive me.”

He studied her for one long, silent moment. “You certainly know how to defuse an argument.”

“I didn’t come to argue with you. I’ve had time to think, and I realize that I chose a very poor way to tell you about the baby, then to leave as I did.” She looked down at her hands, her tightly laced fingers. “To just run away was inexcusable. I can only tell you that I was afraid and confused and too emotional to think clearly.”

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