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Книга Third Degree. Страница 7

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The note would work. He could dispose of it on the way home, the same way she had disposed of the scrawled missives hurriedly passed to her at her classroom door. Like the e.p.t box she would ditch later today. All the detritus of an extramarital affair. Like that baby you’re carrying, said a vicious voice in her head.

The thing was, she couldn’t be sure the baby was Danny’s. She certainly wanted it to be, as absurd as that was, given their situation. But she didn’t know. And regardless of what Kelly Rowland had done in college, Laurel needed to find out who the father was. Only a DNA test could determine that. She was pretty sure you could analyze the DNA of an unborn child, but it would require an amniocentesis, another thing she’d have to go out of town to have done, if she was going to keep it from Warren. She would have to get some of Warren’s DNA without him knowing about it. Probably a strand of hair from his hairbrush would be enough-

“So, what do you think?” Danny concluded. “You’re the expert.”

For the first time in her life, Laurel had not been listening to what Danny was saying about his son. For more than a year, Michael McDavitt had been her highest priority in this classroom. It wasn’t fair, but it was true. She loved Danny, and because Michael meant everything to him, she had let the boy far inside her professional boundaries. Not that he was more important than the other kids; but until last month, she had believed she would one day become his stepmother, and that made him different.

“Danny, you’ve got to go,” she said with sudden firmness.

His face fell. “But we haven’t talked. Not really.”

“I can’t help it. I can’t deal with us right now. I can’t.

“I’m sorry.”

“That doesn’t help.”

He stood, and it was clear that only force of will was keeping him from crossing the classroom and pulling her close. “I can’t live without you,” he said. “I thought I could, but it’s killing me.”

“Have you told your wife that?”

“Pretty much.”

A wave of anxiety mingled with hope swept through Laurel. “You told her my name?”

Danny licked his lips, then shook his head sheepishly.

“I see. Has she changed her mind about keeping Michael if you divorce her?”


“Then we don’t have-”

“You don’t have to say it.”

She could see that he hated his own weakness, which had brought him here despite having no good news. Nothing had changed, and therefore nothing could change for her. He put his hands in his jeans pockets and walked toward the door. Laurel quietly tore the I’M PREGNANT Post-it off the pad and folded it into quarters. When Danny was almost to the door, she stood.

“Are you sleeping with Starlette?” she asked in a voice like cracking ice.

Danny stopped, then turned to face Laurel. “No,” he said, obviously surprised. “Did you think I would?”

She shrugged, her shoulders so tight with fear and anger that she could hardly move them. The thought of Danny having sex with Starlette could nauseate her instantly. Though he’d sworn he wouldn’t do it, her mind had spun out endless reels of pornographic footage in the lonely darkness before sleep: Danny so desperate from going without Laurel that he screwed his ex-beauty-queen wife just for relief-and found that it wasn’t so bad after all. Laurel was sure that Starlette would be trying extra hard to make Danny remember why he’d married her in the first place. Midnight blow jobs were her specialty. Laurel had dragged this out of Danny one night when he’d drunk more whiskey than he should have. Apparently, Starlette would wait until he was sound asleep, then start sucking him while he slept. Sometimes he wouldn’t wake until the instant before orgasm, and his expression when he’d told Laurel about this said all she needed to know about how much he enjoyed this little ritual. Once or twice she had thought of trying it herself, but in the end she decided it was better not to compete with Starlette at her game; better to stick to her own bedroom tricks or invent some new ones-and she had.

“We’re broken up,” Laurel said. “She’s your wife. I just assumed…”

Danny shook his head. “No. What about you?”

“No,” Laurel lied, hating herself for it, but too afraid of giving him an excuse to make love with Starlette to tell him the truth. Besides…if she admitted to sleeping with Warren-even just twice, which was the truth-the pregnancy would become a nightmare of doubt for Danny.

Danny was watching her closely. Then, as he so often did (and Warren almost never), he read her mind and did exactly what she wanted him to do. He marched up to her and smothered her in his arms. His scent enfolded her, and the strength in his arms surprised her, as it always did. When he lifted her off her feet, she felt herself melting from the outside in. The note stayed clenched in her hand, for until he let go, there was no way to slip it into his pocket. When he finally let her down, she would squeeze his behind, then slide the folded square into his back pocket. She could text him later and tell him to look in his pocket.

He was murmuring in her ear, “I miss you…Jesus, I miss you,” but she felt only the moist rush of air, which sent bright arcs of arousal through her body. As he lowered her to the floor, he slid her crotch along his hard thigh, and a shiver went through her. She would be wet in the time it took him to slide his hand past her waistband. She was thinking of helping him do just that when she saw a dark flash at the window in the door, as though someone had looked in and then jerked suddenly out of sight. She clutched Danny’s arm with her right hand and dragged it away from her stomach.

“Keep hugging me,” she told him. “You’re an upset parent.”

“What?” he groaned.

“There’s someone at the door. I think they saw us.”

Danny’s body went limp, and Laurel patted his back as though comforting him. Then she pulled away and assured him that everything was going to work out eventually, that Michael might make surprising progress before the school year ended. Danny stared back like a lovesick teenager, deaf to her words, his eyes trying to drink in every atom of her being.

“I love you,” he said under his breath. “I think about you every minute. I fly over your house every day, just hoping to get a glimpse of you.”

“I know.” She had seen the Cessna he taught lessons in buzzing over Avalon several times in the past five weeks. The sight had lifted her heart every time, in spite of her vows to forget him. “Please shut up.”

“It’s better that you know than not. I don’t want you thinking there’s anything between me and Starlette other than the kids.”

She felt a surge of brutal honesty. “But what’s the point? Either you talk some sense into your wife, or you may as well start sleeping with her again. This is the last hug we’ll ever have. I mean it.”

He nodded soberly.

“Danny?” she said, realizing that she had not yet given him the note.


She moved forward, but now there was a face at the door, and this time it did not retreat. It belonged to Ann Mayer, mother of Carl, the severe ADD case. Ann was staring at Danny with undisguised curiosity.

“To hell with her,” Danny whispered, stepping between Laurel and the door. “What were you going to say?”

“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

“It was important. I could tell.”

Laurel waved Mrs. Mayer in, and the door opened immediately. “Michael’s going to be fine, Major McDavitt,” Laurel said, using Danny’s retired rank to put some distance between them.

“I appreciate you saying so, Mrs. Shields,” Danny replied, a note of surrender in his voice. “I’m sorry I got upset like that.”

“Don’t give it another thought. It’s tough raising a special boy. Especially for fathers.”

Mrs. Mayer nodded encouragingly to Danny; at last she thought she understood what she’d witnessed.


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