Baby Benefits(6)

By: EMILY MCKAY




Next she pounded her forehead against the steering wheel, an action that both released a tiny bit of her frustration and hid her face in case any of the people staring were her coworkers.



Or rather, ex-coworkers.



She glanced down at the paper still crumbled in her hand. Okay, soon-to-be ex-coworkers.



Why—in the middle of her ridiculous and embarrassing tirade—hadn’t she at least had the sense to hand him her resignation? Or, in lieu of that, thrown it at him on the way out the door?



The timing had been perfect. She’d already made an as**s out of herself. She might as well have removed the need to ever see him again. Besides, given her current state of rambling madness, he probably would have welcomed her resignation.



“So why didn’t you just quit, you big dummy?”



She sighed, raised her forehead enough to rub at the tension there and then slouched deeper into her car seat.



“Probably because you’re not really going to quit. At least not now.”



How could she quit now? After all she’d done for him, all the late nights, all the weekends and holidays. How could she walk out on him when he needed her most? She alone knew how important family was to Derek. True, he had an odd way of showing it, but nothing mattered to him more. Which was probably why he was bungling things so badly right now.



Talk about big dummies.



He thought he could learn to be a father in two weeks? He thought he needed to, just because Dex had fallen hard for Isabella himself?



Men. Were they all this stupid or was it just the brilliant ones? Derek was a financial genius. He ran a multi-billion-dollar business. He was handsome, impeccably dressed and a whiz with the ladies. Yet when it came to some things, he was dumber than dirt.



And by “some things” she meant real relationships. Family. The things that mattered. And his daughter certainly fell into that category.



Raina straightened, considering the crumpled ball of paper in her hand. Maybe all wasn’t lost after all. Maybe she could find a way to knock some sense into him over the next few weeks. As for her own emotional state…well, the thought of him sleeping with Jewel had certainly put a damper on her affections. And—if she were honest with herself—probably explained her outburst back in his office.



One thing was for certain. She wasn’t going to sit in her car and cry, no matter how appealing doing so sounded.



As she climbed from the car, she muttered, “And damn that Trinity for being right. Does she have an actual, working Magic 8-ball or something?”



And if she did, what were the chances Raina could get her hands on it? Because she’d darn sure like to know how she was going to get through this without becoming even more emotionally involved than she already was.





“Sounds like you need some help in here.”



Derek glanced up from the screaming infant to see his brother standing in his office doorway. Just beyond Dex, in the reception area where Raina’s now-empty desk sat, stood a cluster of curious onlookers, their heads tilted close together, their “concerned” whispers hung in the air as they angled for a view into his office. Apparently more than one person out there was eager to see him fail. Raina, had she been at her usual guard post, would have put a stop to the rubbernecking.



Damn Raina for leaving him when he needed her most. And damn Dex for wandering by to witness Isabella’s rebellion.



“I don’t need your help,” Derek insisted, but Isabella ruined the effect by letting out a scream of protest so loud he thought it must have ruptured his eardrum.



Dex stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. “You sure about that?”



The bastard was smiling. As if this was just about the funniest thing he’d ever seen.



Isabella must have recognized Dex’s voice, because she turned her head toward him. For an instant, her cries quieted. Then, no doubt sensing an ally, she redoubled her efforts to escape from Derek’s arms. Derek felt each howl like a stab to the chest.



She pressed her tiny hands against his shoulder, shoving her upper body away from his. Since she obviously didn’t want to be held against him, he hooked his hands under her armpits and held her at arm’s length. Her protestations grew louder.



“Um, Derek, she doesn’t like that.”



Derek could only scowl. “You think?”



Before Dex could make any more smartass comments, Isabella kicked her legs out toward Derek. He instinctively sucked in his gut to stay out of range of her feet. As he did so, she squirmed again, nearly propelling herself out of his arms.