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A Baby for the Boss(56)

By:Maureen Child

“No point in having a convertible if you keep the top up,” Hank argued.

Jenny just laughed. It was so good to see them; she was enjoying their usual banter. But she had to ask, “You didn’t drive all the way out here just to look at my paintings, did you?”

“Well,” Hank hedged, “that’s part of it, sure.” His eyes narrowed on something behind her and without even looking, Jenny knew who was coming up beside her. Her uncle’s features went cold and hard as Mike stopped alongside Jenny.

“Mr. Snyder,” Mike said with a nod.

“Ryan.” Hank gave him another narrow-eyed stare, then shifted his gaze to Jenny, ignoring the man beside her completely. “Jenny, I came to tell you I’ve sold Snyder Arts.”

“What?” Stunned and in shock, Jenny stared at the man who’d raised her. First a convertible, now this? His company had been Uncle Hank’s life. He lived and breathed the business, dedicating himself to building Snyder Arts into a well-respected, multimillion-dollar firm. She couldn’t imagine him without it. “Why would you do that? You loved that business.”

Still ignoring Mike, Hank moved in on her and dropped both hands on her shoulders. “I love you more,” he said and Jenny received her second shock of the day.

He’d never said those words to her before and until that moment, she hadn’t been aware of how much she’d wanted to hear them.

“Uncle Hank...”

“I see tears,” he blurted and warned, “don’t do that.”

She laughed and shook her head. “I’ll try. But tell me why.”

“Main reason?” he said, sliding an icy glance toward Mike. “So no one could accuse you of being a damn spy for me.”

“Damn it,” Mike muttered from beside her.

Jenny hardly heard him as she stared into her uncle’s sharp blue eyes. Oh, God. Guilt reared up and took a bite of her heart. He’d given up what he loved to prove something to Mike and it was all for her sake. “You shouldn’t have done that,” she whispered.

“It was time,” Hank said, pausing long enough to glare at Mike.

“There’s more to it than that,” Betty interrupted, her clipped tone cutting through the sentiment that was suddenly thick in the air.

Stepping in front of Hank, Betty looked at Jenny and said simply, “It was long past time he sold that business. Haven’t I been trying to get him to live a little before he dies?”

“Who said anything about dying?” Hank wanted to know.

“Nobody lives forever,” Betty snapped, then focused on Jenny again. “With the company gone, we’ll both have time to help out when the baby comes. We can both be there for you, Jenny. And that’s the important thing. Family stands for family. You understand?”

“I do,” Jenny said and reached out to hug the woman who had always been a constant in her life. Heart full, she looked at the older couple and realized that she’d always had family—she’d just been too insecure to notice. Now, she couldn’t understand how she had ever doubted what these two amazing people felt for her.

“Now, you just show us around,” Hank said, letting his gaze slide around the lobby and briefly rest on her entry wall painting. “Let us see what all you’ve done here, then you can quit this job and come home with us where you belong.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but Mike cut her off.

Speaking directly to Hank, he said, “I know you’ve got no reason to trust me, but I need a minute with Jenny.”

“Mike—” She didn’t want more time alone with him. Didn’t think she could take much more.

“I think you’ve said plenty already,” Hank told him.

“I agree with Hank,” Betty said, lifting her chin imperiously.

“Please,” Mike said, looking at Jenny directly, catching her off guard with the quietly voiced plea.

In all the time she’d known him, Jenny had never heard him say please to anyone. And that one simple word decided it for her.

To her uncle, she said, “I’ll be back in a minute.” Then she turned, walked into the game room, which was currently unoccupied, and waited for Mike to join her.

With so much happening, Jenny’s heartbeat was fast, her mind spinning. She hardly knew what to think. Her uncle selling the company, her quitting her job, having a baby. And now Mike, wanting to talk again when they’d already said both too much and too little to each other.

She tried to calm the jumping nerves inside her by focusing on the view out the window. The desert landscape was softened by the trees swaying in a soft wind. Jenny focused her gaze on the purple smudge of mountains in the distance and tried to steady her breathing.