holding two filled coffee cups, along with a small pitcher of cream and a sugar bowl. She placed it on the table in front of the sofa, then took Noelle from his lap and tucked her inside the bassinet.
While she covered the infant with a knitted blanket, he added cream to his coffee.
“This is the first time she’s slept since about five,” Mary Jo whispered, obviously afraid of waking the baby.
“I can’t believe how much she’s grown in just a month.”
Mary Jo’s gaze rested on her sleeping daughter. “Iknow…What I can’t believe is how demanding motherhood is.”
“Your brothers don’t help?”
She sat down on the other end of the sofa and reached for her coffee with a soft laugh. “You’re joking, right? All three of my brothers are scared to death of Noelle,” she said as she spooned in sugar and stirred. “I don’t think Linc’s held her more than once and he looked terrified the entire time.”
“What about Mel and Ned?”
Her smile grew. “If Noelle even burps, they come running for me. As for changing diapers, there’s no way.”
Mack could understand their fear. Noelle was so small, so fragile, so helpless. It was all too easy to imagine dropping her…
The conversation fell off, and Mack broached the subject that had been on his mind. “Have you heard from David Rhodes?”
Mary Jo stiffened noticeably. “No, and I’m glad of it.”
Mack was disgusted with the other man for abdicating responsibility for his child, and he couldn’t resist commenting. “He is Noelle’s father.”
Mary Jo shook her head as if anything to do with David Rhodes distressed her. “I’d rather not discuss him,” she said tersely.
“Of course.” He supposed it wasn’t polite to bring up such an unpleasant subject.
“I’m embarrassed by how gullible I was,” she went on, “and how willingly I accepted his lies.”
Mack just nodded. Mary Jo was the one who’d said she preferred not to talk about Noelle’s father, but once she’d started she couldn’t seem to stop.
“He fed me all this garbage about loving me andwanting our baby. He claimed to be thrilled that I was pregnant, and he said that once he had his finances straightened out, we’d get married.”
She became more agitated as she spoke. Mack wanted to assure her that it wasn’t necessary to tell him all this. But she was in mid-rant, and he couldn’t get a word in.
“Then, of course, I didn’t hear from him for weeks on end. I even put off taking the birthing classes because when we did speak he told me how much he wanted to be with me when the baby was born. Yeah, right. And then—” she paused and took in a shuddering breath “—then he told me he’d be in Cedar Cove for Christmas with his family, which, as we both know, was another big, fat lie.”
She scowled. “His father and stepmother were on this cruise, and when I arrived in town there was no one, and I had to depend on the kindness of strangers. You’d think by this time I’d be smart enough to question anything he said. But did I? Oh, no, I swallowed that lie like all the rest.”
As if she could no longer sit still, she vaulted to her feet. “After Noelle was born, Ben let David know he had a daughter. You might expect him to contact me, but not so.” She started pacing, her arms tightly crossed. “Not that I wanted to hear from him, mind you. I might be a slow learner but once I figure something out, I don’t forget.” She wagged her finger at Mack. “I never want to see or talk to David Rhodes again as long as I live. I mean that.”
“I refuse to accept a penny from Ben Rhodes, either. He offered, you know. His son’s a real problem to him. Ben didn’t say that outright but I could tell. I thanked him—it was a lovely, gracious thing to do—but Noelle isn’t his responsibility. She’s David’s. I don’t expect him ever to do the right thing, though. Neither does Ben. Otherwise he wouldn’t have offered.” Another