Olivia Capri knew giving birth to quads would cause a stir in her media-starved small town. But she didn't realize it would bring back Zac Bishop, the boy she'd once loved with all her teenage heart. Luckily, as sheriff, he'd returned just in time. It seemed someone was after her and her babies thanks to a past she knew nothing about. And though she knew whoever it was didn't stand a chance against Zac and his protective nature, reminiscing about old times stirred up too many long-buried emotions. Still, Zac assured her everything would be okay, all she had to do was trust him. And she did. With everything but her heart.
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Olivia Capri gingerly swung her legs over the edge of the hospital bed and sat there a moment, fighting a wave of dizziness. Not bad and to be expected after two months of bed rest. She breathed deeply a few times, taking in the Seattle skyline through her window, preparing herself for the next move, the one onto her feet.
Where was Anthony? Why hadn't he come? He'd been acting so odd lately, so distant
She could not lie in that bed another moment. She'd been stuck in it for what seemed forever, a fate she'd suffered with good grace as every moment the babies stayed inside her body where they belonged, the better their chances of survival once they were born. But they were out now, all four of them, declared amazingly healthy considering they were premature, and tucked away in the Special Care Nursery.
She put her weight on her feet and stood slowly. The incision from the C-section made itself known and she winced, but it wasn't that bad. She could handle it.
A sound at the door thundered in her anxious brain and she steadied herself by grabbing the bed rail. She looked up in time to find Faith crossing the threshold.
"What are you doing?" Faith said.
Olivia's heart plummeted. She loved Faith like a sister, but hers wasn't the face Olivia hoped to see.
"I'm going to go find my babies and then I'm going to go find my husband." Her voice sounded kind of wavery, a surprise. "Unless maybe you've heard from him," she added hopefully.
"Not a peep," Faith said, closing the space between them in three steps. She gently took Olivia's arm and said, "Get back in bed, you nut."
"Faith, I'm warning you"
"Not even you can go through what you've gone through today and stagger on down the hall by yourself. I'll get the nurse. Just get in bed and wait for a wheelchair."
"The nurse won't let me go until the doctor checks me over, and the doctor is in surgery."
"Get in bed," Faith said in her stern, brook-no-nonsense voice. She might be a petite womanfive-feet, almost nothing to Olivia's five-feet-sevenbut over a lifetime Olivia had learned when to take her friend seriously. She sat back on the mattress.
"I'm going crazy," she said, "and my babies are all alone"
"Hardly. Your mom and two of your sisters are down there driving the nurses wacko. When the two of us show up and Anthony arrives, we'll outnumber the staff."
"Don't even say his name," Olivia grumbled.
Faith pushed a wavy strand of wheat-colored hair behind her ear and said, "He'll come. Something must have happened. Traffic, maybe. An accident. A fender bender."
"A fender bender that killed his cell phone? You know he doesn't go anywhere without that thing."
Faith nodded. "I know."
"He'd better be dead or I'm going to kill him."
Faith shook her head. "You don't mean that."
Olivia did the unthinkable. She burst into tears.
Faith enfolded her in a hug and rocked her. "Sweetie, you're scared." She paused for a second before adding, "I talked to Zac today. He's coming by later, we'll get him to go look for Anthony."
"I can't bother Zac," Olivia blubbered against Faith's shoulder. "He's a big-city cop now. Besides, he hates me."
"He doesn't hate you."
"I told him I was never going to talk to him again."
"He's my brother. I tell him that every two weeks."
"And I don't cry. You know I don't cry."
"I know. Come on, calm down, all these raging hormones are to be expected. Hey, I know something that will cheer you up. I have baby pictures. Want to see? They're on my cell phone."
"Of course I want to see," Olivia said, accepting a wad of tissue from Faith and wiping her eyes. She took a few deep breaths. Faith helped her settle back on the mattress and pull a lightweight blanket over her bare legs.
Olivia sighed. Back in bed where she started.
What she wouldn't give to gather up her new family and go home to Westerly. How was that for irony? She'd spent twenty-seven years trying to get out of the place and now all she wanted was to get back.
Perching lightly on the edge of the mattress, Faith fiddled with the phone. "Okay, here we go. I took them in order so you'd know who's who."
The tiny screen filled with the image of a very pink baby with its eyes squeezed shut. Olivia had named her babies weeks before, deciding on who got which name based solely on birth order. She'd asked Anthony what he thought and he'd agreed that was fine with him.
Had he looked bored with the subject?
No, she couldn't think like that. It wasn't fair.
"Jillian," she whispered, her eyes brimming with new tears.
"She's the biggest at four pounds, six ounces," Faith said. "Look, she has your hair."
"They all have my hair," Olivia said lovingly.
"Think how family pictures are going to look," Faith said. "You and the girls with long, black hair, and Anthony with a blond buzz cut."
Olivia swallowed a lump as she scrolled down to the next photo. Another baby, not quite as pink, face not so scrunched. Olivia was glad to see the little wristbands each child woreit was a fear of hers that she'd mix her children up, call them by the wrong name She wondered if she'd ever feel secure enough to take the bracelets off.
"That's Brianna," Faith said.
"Three pounds, eight ounces, right?"
"You heard the doctor?"
"Yes." A wave of frustration surged through her body. "Where's my buzzer? I want to talk to that nurse"
"Look at the rest of the pictures first. Then I'll go find a wheelchair and we'll break you out of this joint."
"What would I do without you?" Olivia asked, glancing up at her friend.
"Founder on the rocks of disaster?"
Olivia smiled as she moved on to the next baby. This little doll looked like her sister, Brianna. The truth was, wearing just diapers and little stocking caps, they all looked more or less alike. Time would change thatmaybe. No one was sure right now if they were all identical or two sets of twins or triplets and a singlethere was no easy way to tell.
"And this is Juliet, named after your mother," Faith said. "Look at her little nose."
"They all have little noses and rosebud mouths," Olivia murmured. They were all exquisite.
"And last but not least, Antoinette," Faith said.
"Named after her father," Olivia said, touching the two-inch screen with a fingertip.
They were so impossibly defenseless. They would need time and care to catch up to their full-term peers, time and care to grow strong and robust, and it would be up to her to see they got it.
Where did that thought come from? Anthony would show up. Wouldn't he?
A jolt of white-hot anger cut through her worry. Anthony should be with the babies right now, watching over them when she couldn't, caring about what happened to them, instead of leaving it all to Olivia's family and friends.
Shame immediately followed the anger. What if he really was lying hurt and battered somewhere? What if he'd tried to come? What if someone had attacked him, robbed him, left him to diewhat kind of beast was she?
The door opened again and both women tensed, but it wasn't Anthony who walked into the room. Zachary Bishop, Faith's brother, looked from one anxious face to the other and stopped dead in his tracks. "If this isn't a good time"
"Come on in, Zac," Faith said as she slipped off the bed. His smile of greeting for his sister faded as his gaze sought out and held Olivia's.
Unlike petite Faith, Zac was tall and rangy, with straight brown hair cut shorter than usual, intense blue eyes and a broken nose that had healed crooked in an interesting way. A faded scar ran diagonally across his chin and another bisected his left eyebrow, both remnants of a drunken brawl he broke up his first year as a Deputy Sheriff back in Westerly.
But he wasn't a deputy anymore. He was a Seattle cop, a position he had taken while she and Anthony had been on their honeymoon. Still, she'd be willing to bet he was the same old Zac underneath the fancy new suit, a man of swift action and few words.
"How's the new mother?" he asked, and to her relief, his voice sounded the way it always had. Maybe they could put the past behind them and be friends again.
"The truth? I'm going a little stir-crazy."
He produced a quartet of pink roses from behind his back and handed them to her.
The simple message of the flowers touched her more than the huge bouquets that lined the shelf, sent by everyone she knew and some people she didn't. "One for each baby," she said softly, fingering the blushed petals. Meeting his gaze again, she said, "Thank you, Zac."
"Have you seen them?"
"Briefly. I had to wave a badge to get into the place. Security is tight. They're cute but kind of tiny, aren't they?"
"They'll grow," Faith said.
Zac nodded. No one spoke for several seconds. In the past, the three of them had talked over the top of each other half the time. To fill the void, Olivia said, "How do you like your new job?"
"It keeps me busy," he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets, jingling keys or loose change.
"How about living in Seattle?"
He shrugged. "It has its moments."
Faith said, "My brother, the big talker."
"Well I think it must be very exciting," Olivia said. "Lots more happening here than in Westerly. Are you on a big case?"
"Actually, things are in flux."
"What does that mean?" Faith asked.
"It means things are in flux."
A fond smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he stared at Faith. "You haven't changed a bit since you were ten years old." With a shift of gaze to Olivia, he added, "Neither have you. You've both always been too nosey for your own good."
"You're one to talk," Olivia said softly, but he apparently heard her and again their eyes met.
"Touché," he said. "Okay, you guys win. I'll talk on the condition that what I say stays in this room for now."
Zac groaned as Faith mimed zipping her lips. He stared them each in the eye and said, "Sheriff Knotts got caught stealing marijuana from the evidence room."
Both women blinked before Olivia said, "Our Sheriff Knotts? Bobby Knotts of Westerly?"
"The very one."
"How does a crooked sheriff in Westerly tie in to your job in Seattle?" Faith demanded.
"Knotts has been asked to resign immediately pending criminal investigation. Half the sheriff's department is implicated. Since I left some time ago, it's been decided I'm the one guy who knows the ropes and isn't tainted by Knotts."
"Dad is going to be dancing in the streets," Faith said. "You're moving back to Westerly!"
"That's great," Faith gushed.
He held up one hand. "I haven't accepted yet. I don't know if I want to be interim sheriff. I'm not sure I want to move back to Westerly." He glanced at the flowers in Olivia's hands and turned to his sister. "Would you mind finding a vase for the flowers?"
"You're getting rid of me. No, I don't mind. Back in a moment."
"Don't forget to steal a wheelchair," Olivia called after her.
Faith nodded, then cast her brother a quick look. "I need to talk to you before you leave."
Olivia looked Zac over as he stared after his sister. At thirty-five, he appeared to be in his prime, the boyish mannerisms gone, replaced with easy sophistication. However, under that big-city gray suit she knew beat the heart of a small-town lawman, a man who knew his place in the scheme of the universe. Not for the first time, she wondered what had driven him to leave Westerly.
It couldn't have been their fight. Something like that wasn't important enough to drive a man away from his family and friends and his career.
As if attuned to the direction of her thoughts, he looked down at his feet, then into her eyes. "I wanted a minute alone to apologize to you, Olivia."
No need to ask for what.
"I shouldn't have spoken to you like I did. I had no right."
"No, you didn't," she said. "And on my wedding day, too, Zac. That was just plain mean."
"Yeah. Anyway, I've always thought of you as a little sister, like Faith, but you aren't."
"No, I'm not. You telling me I absolutely could not marry Anthony Capri was totally out of place. Frankly, even if you'd been my brother it would have been going too far."
"I know that now."
"You really upset me."
"I'm sorry. Am I forgiven?"
She stared at him a second, then smiled. "Of course you're forgiven." She'd missed him. She was ready to let that unfortunate day go. Like Faith, Zac was as good as family, and family had to forgive and forget, otherwise there'd be no one to spend holidays with. "Are you really thinking about taking the sheriff's job and coming back to Westerly?"
"That depends on you," he said.
She furrowed her brow. "Me?"
"And Anthony. I wouldn't want to make either of you uncomfortable."
She said, "I've never told Anthony what you said about him that day, Zac. What would that have accomplished? You take the job if you want, too. I think Westerly is big enough for all three of us."
He nodded once. "Fair enough. So, do you know what Faith wants to talk to me about?" He glanced around the room before adding, "Where is Anthony, anyway?"
"That's what she wants to talk to you about," Olivia said, leaning forward to reach the water glass. She'd pushed the tray too far away, however.
Apparently taking pity on her feeble attempts, Zac handed it over with questions burning in his eyes. She gave him the flowers and he set them on the tray. "Did he leave already?"
She wanted to say, Yes, he left a few minutes ago. He's the most devoted husband on the planet. You were totally wrong about him.
"He didn't come," she admitted, busying herself taking sips of ice water.
"He didn't come?" Zac repeated, stepping closer. "What do you mean?"
"Just what I said. I don't know why. I'm worried sick, of course, but he didn't come or call or anything."
"Maybe he's been in an accident."
"I thought of that. Faith said we should ask you to do something, but I don't want to be a bother."
He took the water glass from her hands and set it back on the tray next to the flowers, then hitched his hands on his waist and stared down at her. "When was the last time you saw him or talked to him?"
"The day before yesterday."
"And he knew about today's scheduled births?"
"Did he plan to be here?"
"Yes. Of course."
"Could he have forgotten?"
"I don't see how, though I know he's in the middle of a deal"
"Like the one he drummed up in Westerly? What was it, a chain of snowboard and ski shops? He talked the Robinson brothers into investing, right?"