Chapter Eighteen ~
Jedidiah continued to rock Janna back and forth, soothing her with shushing noises. After a while her breathing became slow and regular. She’d fallen asleep.
Using his back to push up against the counter where he’d leaned, he pushed upward until he was on his feet with the tiny woman in his arms.
He carried her to her room and laid her on the bed. She didn’t move a muscle. She must still be tired from her ordeal, he thought. He stared down at her, a myriad of emotions flitting through his mind. He sighed. No use worrying about it right now. He needed to fix that supper she’d been preparing. It was the least he could do.
He pulled a light pink throw from the desk chair, covered her, gazed at her relaxed features once more and then turned on his heel and left the room.
This woman was an enigma. She came off strong and determined on the outside, yet was so broken and needy on the inside. It was like being around two totally different women. But she wasn’t. She was one, and he was falling for her. He gulped in a ragged breath as he stopped to check on Jessie. He’d fallen asleep in the floor amidst his toys. Jedidiah stepped over the gate and gently laid him in his crib. His heart gave a tug. He had to admit it. This little guy was pulling at his heart strings too. He swiped at his eyes. Real men don’t cry.
He left the room and rushed into the kitchen like the hounds of hell were on his heels. Dear Lord, is this why you sent me here? Is this what’s going to become of me? Tamed by a broken bird and a tiny child full of hurt? He thought he heard an audible yes, but knew he was imagining it.
“Suck it up Jedidiah and get some supper on,” he commanded himself.
He moved around the kitchen opening doors and drawers, setting out the things he would need. Thirty minutes later he had spaghetti and garlic bread well on the way to being done. He smiled in accomplishment. He felt good. He had a purpose. “You asked for a purpose, Jedidiah,” whispered through his brain. “Yes I did.”
Hairy sauntered into the room and sat at the end of the counter. Jedidiah tried to ignore him, but big brown eyes seared through him.
He laughed. “What is it boy?”
Hairy looked from the stove to Jedidiah.
“What?” he asked, pretending not to understand,
Hairy returned his gaze to the hamburger in the skillet.
“Oh, you want some of this?” He asked.
“Hairy, quiet down,” Jedidiah urged. He opened the silverware drawer and pulled out a spoon, scooped some of the burger into it and fed it to the dog.
Hairy ate it and then sat back on his haunches once more, his expectant eyes trained on the skillet.
“No, that’s enough you spoiled beast. Go check on Jessie,” Jedidiah commanded.
Hairy rushed from the room and Jedidiah heard his back foot graze the child gate as he cleared it and landed in Jessie’s room. Thank you for my dog, dear Lord. You know what he means to me.
Jedidiah stirred the spaghetti noodles and whistled under his breath. He stopped abruptly when he became aware someone was staring at him. “Who’s there?” He jerked around, and then grumbled, “What are you doing slinking up behind me you vicious monster?”
The white cat stared at him, hatred shooting from those cold green eyes.
“Well you don’t sound half as mean as you look. What do you want?”
“Are you hungry?” He walked into the pantry and pulled down a can of cat food, opened it and dumped some in the bowl. When he turned around he almost tripped on the long-haired cat. He grabbed the wall. “Wow, you could wait until I put it on the floor, you know.” He tsked, but set the bowl down. The beast ate hungrily, ignoring the man who’d taken the time to feed him.
“And that’s why I don’t like cats. So ungrateful…”
The sound of laughter behind him caused him to jump. He turned. Janna stood there.
Her face was flushed from sleep, but the desperation had disappeared from her features.
Easy Jedidiah. “Did you purposely teach that thing to be mean to me?
She grinned. “Of course. Do I smell spaghetti?”
“Yes you do. You fell asleep and I knew the boy would be hungry,” He answered.
“He’s still asleep.”
“Yeah, maybe you should get him up. If he sleeps all evening he won’t want to sleep tonight.”
“You think so?” Janna frowned.
“Yeah. My sister Jenny has two kids and she can’t let them sleep too late into the evening or she ends up staying awake with them half the night.”
“Okay, I’ll go get him up. I hate the fact I don’t want to face him because I don’t want him asking me about his mom again.”
Tears filled her eyes, and he stepped toward her. She held up her hands to ward him off. “No, we know what you being close to me causes…”
He stopped. “Of course. I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize. We just need to prioritize.”
“You’re correct. I’ll set the table.”
“Okay. Do you need help finding anything?” She fidgeted, not moving.
What is she waiting on? Doesn’t she know I want to hold her in my arms? Kiss her? “Nah, I think I can manage.”
She turned and disappeared.
“Dear Lord, give me strength, and answers. How am I going to do my job when I’m so attracted to her? He asked out loud as he rummaged in the cabinets looking for dishes.
He pulled down three pink-flowered plates and set them at the small round dining table, following that up with some silverware and cups. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this unbalanced around anyone before. He was the guy who could assess a situation and have it under control within minutes, yet he could barely remember to breathe for this one. Is this what a crush felt like? He was afraid he already knew the answer.
Janna returned with a sleepy Jessie. She sat him in one of the wooden chairs and scooted him up to the table. “We’re going to need a high chair.”
Jedidiah’s heart thundered at her words. The sound of the ‘we’ falling from her lips was like honey to a starving man. Stop it, Jedidiah. Get it together. You aren’t sixteen. The memory of their kisses was emblazoned on his brain and he couldn’t dispel it. He still remembered the feel of her hair. Her soft, pliable lips on his…He groaned.
She gave him a curious look. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m fine. We’ll go shopping in the morning. I think tonight we all need to rest.”
“True.” She sat down at the table. “Jedidiah, do you think he’ll come here?”
“Yes I do, but this isn’t the time to discuss it.” He cut his eyes toward the little boy, who hadn’t said a word. “Are you hungry Jessie?”
“Yes,” he replied, his lip pouting out.
“Do you like spaghetti?”
The child smiled for a moment, said, “Yes.” And then he frowned again. “Mommy did too.” Huge tears of sorrow filled his eyes.
“I’m sorry Jessie. I know it must be hard for you Buddy.” Jedidiah was on his knees at the boy’s side before realizing he’d moved. He put a hand on the tiny back. “I know you may not understand, but you’re not alone.”
Huge, tear-filled eyes swung to stare directly into Jedidiah’s. “Will you be my Daddy?” Little arms reached up and encircled his neck and Jedidiah melted like burning wax. He heard a ragged sob escape from Janna’s lips. He pulled the little boy up into his arms and hugged him to his chest. He looked at Janna over the boy’s shoulder. She nodded. “Yes I will. I’ll be your daddy.” His voice cracked, and to his horror, he felt hot tears escape and trail down his cheeks like a burst dam.
Janna captured his eyes with hers. “And I’ll be your Mommy, Jessie.” She ran to them, encircling both of them in her arms. We’ll be our own little family.”
Warm lips brushed across Jedidiah’s neck and he groaned, turned his head to whisper in her ear, “Don’t Janna. Don’t tease me.”
“I’m not teasing. Will you marry us?”
He pulled back in amazement, holding his breath. He examined her face. She was serious… “Of course I will,” He groaned as he returned the embrace. And with those words, he knew his life had just changed forever.