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The voice came from far awaysomewhere near his mouth, Yiannis decided, which was when he realized he had the receiver upside down against his ear. He rolled onto his back and fumbled to turn it right side up.
"Yiannis? Are you there?"
Ah, yes. Better. Louder, at least. He still didn't have his eyes open. They were gritty and he was stiff all over.
"Yeah. 'M here." His voice was like sandpaper, too, rough and sleep-fogged. No surprise since it felt like he'd barely fallen into bed.
"Oh, dear. I've wakened you. I was afraid of that."
He recognized the rueful voice now. It was Maggie, his ex-landlady and current tenant who lived in the apartment over the garage of the old beach house he'd bought from her almost three years ago. He knew she hated to ask him for anything. Maggie was as independent as they came. For her to call at this hourwhatever the hell hour it washe knew it must be important. Maybe the roof had blown off?
"What's wrong? What happened?" He usually didn't have this much trouble with jetlag. But he'd spent more than thirty hours getting back from Malaysia and his head was pounding. He squeezed his eyes tight shut, then forced them open again.
It was light. Not bright, though, thank God. Through the half-open blinds he could see early morning fog. The California coast was thick with it until the heat of the day burned it off. Yiannis squinted at the clock. It wasn't yet seven.
"Nothing's happened. Well, not to the apartment," she answered. He heard hesitation in her voice. "I have a favor to ask." But she still sounded a little reluctant.
Yiannis shoved himself up against the headboard of his bed and said firmly, "Whatever you want."
When he'd made an offer on her Balboa Island house the realtor had said nervously, "The owner wants to remain as your tenant. In the apartment over the garage," she'd qualified quickly. "It's a condition of the sale." One she obviously hadn't looked happy about.
But, when he'd considered it, Yiannis decided it could be a good thing. After all, an eighty-five-year-old tenant was likely to be far less noisy and troublesome than most of those who would be drawn by Balboa's Southern California kick-back lifestyle.
"Give her a six month lease," the realtor had advised.
But Yiannis had actually offered to let her stay in the house while he moved into the adjoining apartment. He liked the property. Where he lived on it wasn't a pressing concern. Maggie had said no.
She was "downsizing," she had insisted. Climbing stairs would be "good exercise."
So as she'd wanted, he'd moved into the house and Maggie had taken the apartment over the garage. It had worked out well for both of them. Yiannis traveled for his business of importing and exporting fine woods for custom furniture makers. Maggie never went anywhere. She kept an eye on things while he was gone. He added to her postcard and tea towel collection from all over the world. She made him cookies and the occasional home-cooked meal when he was home.
She could stay forever as far as he was concerned. Maggie was not only a perfect tenant, having her there meant he didn't have a lot of extra space for house guests. The Savas family had long ago proved itself infinitely expandable. And while Yiannis appreciated his family's warmth and magnanimity, he didn't appreciate having relatives foisted on him every time he turned around.
He liked his familybut at a distance. A continent between them seemed about right.
Right before he'd headed to Southeast Asia two weeks ago, he'd been able to tell Anastasia, one of his triplet cousins, who had rung him wondering if he'd have "room for all of us" for spring break, that gee, no, he didn't. He smiled now at the memory.
Then he flexed his shoulders and swung his legs out of the bed, and stood up. "Whatever your heart desires, sweetheart," he said to Maggie. "Especially if it's tea towels," he told her. "I brought you half a dozen."
"Good heavens!" She laughed. "You spoil me."
"You're worth spoiling. What do you need?" He squinted out the back window. The roof still seemed firmly attached. But he was always happy to change a light bulb or repair a latch or carry her groceries up to her apartment, though at seven in the morning, he doubted that was the problem.
Maggie sighed. "I tripped over a stupid rug and my own feet this morning and I fell. I wonder if you'd give me a ride to the hospital."
"The hospital?" Yiannis felt as if he'd been punched. "Are you all right?"
"Of course," Maggie said briskly. "Just having a little trouble with my hip," she said. "I called. They said I should get it x-rayed."
"I'll be right there." Even as he spoke, he was pulling on his old Yale sweatshirt. Then he yanked on a pair of jeans and stuffed his bare feet into a pair of worn deck shoes. Less than a minute later, he was pounding up the steps to Maggie's apartment and letting himself in.
She was sitting on the sofa with a disgusted look on her face. Her white hair was pulled up into a neat bun at the back of her head. "Sorry about this. I don't like to trouble you."
"Not a problem. Can you walk?" He crouched down beside her.
"Well, I don't expect you to carry me!" She pushed herself up, wincing as she did so.
"I can carry you," Yiannis said. She weighed about as much as the decorative fishing net she had hung on one wall.
"Nonsense," she said, but when she tried to take a step, she gave a little gasp and would have fallen if he hadn't grabbed her.
"We should probably call an ambulance," Yiannis said grimly. But instead, he swung her up into his arms and carried her down the stairs to the garage where both his Porsche and her Ford sedan were parked side by side. He stopped.
Maggie sighed. "We'd better take my car," she said, a note of regret in her voice.
Yiannis grinned. "You don't want to show up at the hospital in the Porsche?"
"I'd love to," she said. "But you don't have room for a car seat."
He almost dropped her. "What?"
"We'll need the car seat. I've got Harry."
"Harry?" Who the hell was Harry? "Misty's baby," she explained. "You remember? You've met him."
He remembered Misty. She was Maggie's late second husband Walter's granddaughter. No real relation to Maggie at all, but as far as Maggie was concerned, Misty was "family." Mostly, though, she was a flirt and a flake and, now that he recalled it, an unwed mother.
An airy-fairy surfer girl with long blonde hair, a deep tan and wide vacant blue eyes, Misty was beautiful but irresponsible. Age-wise, he figured she was about twentyexcept emotionally, where she seemed more like seven. The world always revolved around Misty. Yiannis was appalled when he'd heard she had a child.
"Who's raising whom?" he'd asked Maggie.
She'd rolled her eyes at the time. "Maybe he'll be the making of her."
Yiannis hadn't thought it likely. But he did remember a scrap of a human wrapped in a blanket from one of Misty's visits a few months back.
"What do you mean, you've got Harry?" he said now.
"He's asleep in the bedroom. Don't worry. You can wake him. He won't fuss. Much," she added, and gave him a look that was, he was sure, meant to be reassuring. It merely looked hopeful.
"That's comforting," Yiannis said drily. He cast a look of longing at the Porsche as he edged past it and carried Maggie to the passenger side of her own car. "Where's Misty? Or shouldn't I ask?"
Now as he opened the door and tried to settle her in the passenger seat without hurting her, she said through gritted teeth, "She went to talk to Devin."
The baby's father. Yiannis remembered that name. He had never met Devin. Didn't think much of his taste in women certainly. But all he really knew was that Devin was in the army.
"There. I'm fine now," Maggie said, giving a little shudder. She looked white around the mouth, and Yiannis was worried.
"You're not going to faint," he told her. It wasn't a question. It was halfway between a command and a plea.
"I'm not going to faint," Maggie assured him. "Go back and get Harry. My car keys are in the rooster bowl on the kitchen bookshelf."
Yiannis took the stairs two at a time, snatched the keys out of the bowl and then went into the bedroom where Misty had apparently set up some sort of traveling crib affair for her sleeping baby. Yiannis supposed he should give her some credit for thata car seat and a crib.
He'd have expected Misty to just dump the baby on Maggie for the day without any provisions at all. Maybe she was growing up.
The baby was stirring as Yiannis approached the crib. His dark head bobbed up and he looked around. Yiannis didn't know how old he was. Under a year, he thought. He remembered Misty being big as a whale and grumpy about it at the beginning of last summer. So Harry must have been born in the middle of it.
"Hey there, Harry old man." He made his voice cheerful as he peered over the top of the crib.
Harry pushed himself to a sitting position and looked up. When he didn't see whomever he'd been expecting, his little face crumpled.
Oh, God, tears.
"None of that," Yiannis told him firmly, snatching the boy up before he could even begin to emit a wail. Harry looked at him, startled, his blue eyes wide but, fortunately, tearless. "Let's go find your grandma," Yiannis said and wedging the baby on one hip, he locked the door and pounded down the stairs.
Harry didn't utter a sounduntil he saw Maggie, whereupon he let out a warbling sound and held out his arms to go to her.
"Oh, honey, I can't take you." Maggie looked as distressed as Harry. "Did you change him that fast"
"What?" Yiannis had opened the back door of the car and was trying to figure out the logistics of getting Harry into the car seat.
"He just got up. He'll be wet."
Yiannis believed that. "We have to get you to the hospital."
"I can wait," Maggie assured him. She gave him a sweet hopeful smile.
Yiannis returned a glare. But he backed out of the car and studied her through the window to the passenger seat. She had her hands folded in her lap.
"You're enjoying this," he accused her.
Maggie gave a little sniff. "I'm not enjoying my hip hurting."
He grimaced guiltily because, of course, that was true. But still he scowled. "Making the most of a bad situation then."
She dimpled. "Something like that."
"You think I can't change a diaper?"
"I think you can do anything," Maggie said blithely, which was of course the right answer.
It was also trueand he'd prove it. "C'mon, Harry. Give us a minute," he said gruffly to Maggie and headed back toward the apartment.
It wasn't that he'd never changed a baby before. Hell, he'd changed a thousand of them. Well, maybe not that many, but when you came from a family the size of hisdespite the fact that he was second youngest of his parents' childrenyou didn't escape babysitting. There were always cousins and nephews and nieces to be fobbed off on the unsuspectingnot to mention, unwillingbystander.
Now he made short work of Harry's damp diaper and redressed the boy quickly. Apparently changing babies was like riding a bike. You didn't forget, even if you wanted to. And Harry was reasonably cooperative. He only flipped over and tried to escape twice, and Yiannis had always had quick reflexes.
"There you go," he said to the baby. "Now let's get your grandma to the hospital."
He scrawled a note and left it on the kitchen table for Misty telling her where they were and to feel free to come and get Harry. Then, carrying the baby, he went back down to the garage.
Harry bounced against Yiannis's hip and grinned and waved his arms and clapped his hands at his grandmother who returned the salute and the smile.
"You are a man among men," she told Yiannis as he put the boy in his car seat and figured out how to strap him in.
The nearest hospital was just up the coast a few miles. Yiannis had never been there before, but Maggie knew it well.
"It's where Walter died," she said.
"You're not going to die," Yiannis said, his jaw tight with conviction.
Maggie laughed. "Not today."
"Not any time soon." He wouldn't permit it. He didn't say anything else, just focused on getting to the hospital as quickly as he could. When they arrived, he pulled into the emergency area and went to get a wheelchair. But before he could, an orderly and a nurse appeared. They efficiently bundled Maggie into the chair and started into the building with her.
"You can fill out the paperwork as soon as you've parked," the nurse told him.
"I'm not" he began, but they had already disappeared inside the building leaving him alone.
Well, not quite alone. He had Harry.