Baby Benefits(8)

By: EMILY MCKAY




Almost as if she was reading his mind, she countered with, “I have four younger brothers and sisters. I’ve been around babies all my life.”



“Four? I had no idea you had that many brothers and sisters.”



“Yes, four. And of course you didn’t. It would never occur to you to ask. You just don’t pay that close attention.”



He frowned, fairly certain she’d just insulted him. Something else she’d never done before today. “What’s gotten into you?”



Her gaze narrowed. “You want to know what’s gotten into me?” With her free hand, she pulled out the crumpled sheet of paper he’d noticed earlier and tossed it at him. “This. This is what’s gotten into me.”



The paper bounced off his chest and fell to the floor. He didn’t bother to pick it up. Raina had worked for him for a long time. He knew her as well as he knew anyone. Whatever had brought about this sudden change in her attitude, he’d find a way to fix it.



“Whatever is on that sheet of paper, whatever has you so upset, we’ll work it out.”



“Not this time. That’s my letter of resignation.”





Raina watched Derek’s expression shift from his normal confidence to confusion and shock with more than a modicum of regret. This was so not how she’d imagined this conversation going.



She’d envisioned herself sitting across from his desk, carefully outlining her reasons for leaving, him frowning with regret, but eventually standing up, shaking her hand, and watching her walk out. In her mind, it had all been very dignified.



She had not imagined throwing things at him.



Nor had she imagined holding in her arms this sweet baby girl.



Even as the thought went through her mind, she squashed it as ruthlessly as she had her doubts about quitting. This child in her arms was not a “sweet baby girl.” She was a booby trap. She was a cuddly little bundle of emotional attachment.



If Raina thought it was going to be hard to walk away from Derek, this little cutie pie would only make it that much harder.



Which was why, as soon as Isabella began to quiet down, Raina scanned the room for somewhere to place her. When she didn’t see one, she crossed to where Derek stood.



“Okay, lesson one. Babies like to be held close to your body. Let her hear your heartbeat. Let her feel you breathing slowly in and out. Here, try it.” She placed the baby into his arms and then quickly distanced herself from them both.



For an instant, they wore identical expressions of confusion and surprise. Isabella immediately started squirming again. This time, he brought her close to his chest and it seemed to calm her.



“And just remember, babies are like a savvy business rival. They can sense your insecurities. When you’re nervous, don’t let her know it.”



As Derek glanced down at the infant in his arms, determination narrowed his gaze. She watched him following her advice, deliberately slowing his breathing with the steady rise and fall of his chest. Then he looked back at her. “You’re resigning?”



“That was the plan.”



“You can’t resign.”



Had he and Trinity been comparing notes or something? “Trust me, I can resign.”



“You’ve worked here for eight years. Why would you want to resign now?”



The blank confusion nearly did her in. He honestly couldn’t imagine her wanting to do anything else. It was charming in a way, his absolute conviction that she was as devoted to the company as he was. His total faith in her.



“Nine,” she admitted with a sigh. “I’ve worked here for nine years. It’s time for me to move on.”



“You have another job? A better offer? I’ll match it.”



His confidence sent a jolt of panic through her. Negotiations were second nature to him. If she wasn’t careful, he’d bargain her into submission before she knew what was happening.



If he knew the real reason she’d come back…If he knew that she’d simply been unable to walk out on him when he needed her…well, if he knew that, she’d be doomed.



No, she needed something to throw him off the scent. Luckily, she’d been watching him closely all these years. She’d learned a thing or two from him.



“I don’t have another offer. I’m not leaving because of money or benefits packages. I’m leaving because I just don’t want to work here anymore.”



“I don’t believe you. You love this job. You love this company.”



His voice was filled with fierce passion. She could only shake her head.