When she got back, he was washing his hands in the sink.

“You do realize she was offering you her most prized possession,” she noted dryly. “I guess I’m going to have to teach her that you can’t buy love.”


She saw the tortured look in his eyes and regretted her words. “I’m sorry. But she’s just a child and she wants you to like her.”

“I like her,” he said, though his tone was forced. “It’s not her fault that she reminds me so much of…”

“Of Lisa,” Callie said. She was making a point of talking about them now. “I know. And I know you’re trying to be kind to her. You’re really making an effort.”

“But you want me to love her like she was my own,” he said. “And, Callie, that’s just not going to happen.”

Maybe not. Maybe it was hopeless. And maybe there would come a time when she had to decide who needed her more: Molly or Grant. She only hoped it never came to that, because she wasn’t sure which way she would go.

Something woke Grant up the next morning-a movement on the bed beside him. His heart leaped. Had Callie come back to him on her own? He turned and met a pair of dark, laughing eyes, and then a little chubby fist hit him in the cheek and Molly giggled.

“Da Da!”

He jerked back.

“Callie!” he called.

Molly began to bounce on the bed, laughing uproariously.

He turned back to look at her, frowning fiercely. But as he watched, his frown faded. She did look cute. If only he could look at her once and not see Lisa’s reproachful face.

“There you are, you rascal,” Callie said, coming in and standing at the edge of the bed. “Are you torturing Grant again?”

Molly giggled and bounced out of reach.

“I’ll get her out of here,” Callie said, reaching for the moving target.

But Grant was smiling at her. “Why don’t you come join us instead?” he suggested as he pulled her down on top of him.

“Grant!” She laughed as she slid over to his side. “What are you doing?”

“Enjoying you,” he murmured, looking sensual.

“Oh my,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was open house today.”

“I wish I could wake up this way every morning,” he said, touching her cheek with his forefinger.

He barely got the words out when Molly dove between them, chattering happily as though she thought she should be part of the conversation.

His head jerked back in surprise and Callie pushed up on her elbow, preparing to make Molly move.

But Grant had calmed himself. “Let her stay,” he said. “It’s okay.”

Callie had to work hard to keep from choking aloud. A happy bubble was rising in her chest.

“She’s just being a little dickens this morning,” Callie said lovingly. “Nadine tells me that she had to spend half the day yesterday racing around stuffing things back into drawers after Molly emptied them out.”

“So she’s already getting into the drawers,” Grant said. He remembered when Lisa had been at that stage. As he thought of it and pictured Lisa, he steeled himself and waited for the pain to come. But there was nothing. After a moment, he began to wonder why.

They cuddled in the bed for another five minutes and then it was time to get up. But the warm feeling stayed with him all the rest of the day.

Callie was sure they were making progress, but one big hurdle still remained. Gena had said he was racked with guilt. If that was true, surely it would do him good to get it out in the open and talk about it. Did she have the nerve to bring it up?

One night about a week later, he was packing for another business trip. It seemed like a good time. She waited for him to come out of his room, and she told him she wanted to talk about something. He sat down with her on the couch and she launched into it.

He listened to her version of Gena’s theory about his feeling guilty because he didn’t pay as much attention to Lisa when she was alive as he should have and didn’t say a word. Instead he got up and poured himself a drink and went to sit on the balcony, away from her.

She was pretty sure he was furious with her. And why not? Did she really have a right to push him on this?

But an hour later, when he came in, he pulled her into his arms and buried his face in her hair.

“That last day,” he said, his voice a bit hoarse, “it was obvious Lisa was coming down with something in the morning. I had a meeting. Jan had a presentation she was giving at Junior League. Neither one of us paid much attention to Lisa. We thought we were so damn busy with such important things.”

His voice broke and it was a moment before he could go on.

“The nanny tried to call us all day, but my cell phone wasn’t working right and Jan didn’t pick up because she was in a meeting hall until late in the afternoon. When she finally got home, Lisa was burning up and the nanny was hysterical. She tried to call me, but the cell still wasn’t working and my secretary was out for the afternoon. So she packed Lisa into the car and went racing off to the hospital. She ran a red light. And got hit. She lived another twenty-four hours, but Lisa was killed in the original impact.”

“Oh, Grant. Oh, I’m so sorry.”

He pulled away and just shook his head.

“But it wasn’t your fault. How could you…?”

“Don’t patronize me, Callie,” he said harshly. “Of course it was my fault. If I’d been a proper father and husband, the accident would never have happened. Of course it was my fault. And I’ll pay all the days of my life.”

She refused to be cowed by his anger at himself. Following him into his room, she shut the door and made him face her. “You listen to me, Grant Carver,” she said sternly. “You are a wonderful, caring man. You may have been careless in the past, but you’re older now, more mature. You won’t let family needs slide ever again.”

“How do you know? What makes you so sure?”

“I know you. I’ve seen you in action. And most of all…” She walked into his arms. “I love you.”

His face registered shock. He hadn’t expected that. She was playing against the rules again, coloring outside the lines. He didn’t have an answer, but she didn’t care. Stepping forward, she rose on her toes and put her arms around his neck.

“Make love to me, Grant,” she whispered. “If you can’t love me, at least make love to me. That’s all you ever promised, and I’m holding you to it.”

“I will, Callie,” he agreed, cupping her cheek in his hand. “If you promise to stay with me all night. Can you do that?”

She looked up at him, surprised. “Of course. Are you sure you want me to? I thought…well, I know you still consider Jan your real wife and I thought…”

“Oh, Callie.” He crushed her in his embrace. “You’re my wife. Don’t you ever doubt it. I’ve been aching to have you where I can hold you all night long.”

Tears welled in Callie’s eyes. “Grant,” she whispered. “I’d be honored to share your bed.”

He pulled her down onto the velvet comforter and she knew she had a home there at last.

Grant sat down in the plane, ready for his flight to San Francisco, and stared at his briefcase. He had put a large manila envelope inside. Though he hadn’t opened the envelope yet, he knew what it contained. The detectives he’d hired were finally giving him a report on all Molly’s living relatives. This was what he’d been waiting for. He planned to peruse the document while in his hotel room, but he wasn’t looking forward to it.

He had enough to think about for now. For the entire flight, he agonized over all his missteps and misstatements in his recent relationships. He wondered how Callie had put up with him all this time. She was wonderful and he was so lucky to have found her.

When he got to the hotel, he put his bag on the bed, worked the lock and snapped open the case. He began to pull clothes out and very quickly, he noticed something strange. Someone had added something to the clothes he’d packed. The more he dug, the more he found. Red lollipops were stuffed in every crevice of his suitcase. It looked as though a lollipop-loving squirrel had been at work.

And then the coup de grace. The fine wool suit-coat he was planning to wear to a very important meeting had a half-eaten lollipop stuck to the lapel. Stickiness courtesy, he was sure, of little Molly.

He stared at it for a long, long moment. He waited for the anger to explode in his chest and build in his head. But it didn’t happen. Instead he started to laugh.

“Molly, Molly,” he said, shaking his head. “Oh, Molly.”

He laughed until tears filled his eyes.

That night he had a dream and the little dark-haired girl whose face swam into the picture was Molly, not Lisa. And she was smiling.

He woke up and lay staring at the ceiling, thinking. He was on edge, restless. He wanted something. He was aching for someone now, and it wasn’t Jan. It was Callie.

Callie. Beautiful, sexy, sensible Callie. What a fool he’d been not to notice.

Rolling out of bed, he went into the bathroom and took a long hot shower, thinking things through. When he came out, he was decided.

He was going home.

The first thing he did was to pull the manila envelope out of his briefcase and tear it to shreds without opening it. Then he called the office where the meeting was to be held and canceled. He lugged his suitcase, lollipops and all, down to the lobby and called for reservations on the next available plane. He was going home to the woman that he loved-and the little girl who thought she could buy love with lollipops.

When he walked into his penthouse apartment, Molly was the first to see him.

“Da Da!” she cried, racing to him.

Pulling the little girl up into his arms, he hugged her. “Thank you for all those lollipops, Molly,” he said. “That was a big surprise.”

She giggled and was suddenly shy. He hugged her close and kissed her cheek just as Callie walked into the room.

“Grant!” she cried, her face filled with candid joy. “What are you doing here?”

He put Molly down gently and she ran off. Turning to Callie, he shook his head, looking her over from top to toe.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, suddenly anxious. “Did I do something?”

“You sure did,” he claimed, a slow smile growing on his handsome face. “You made a family for me, Callie. And I didn’t even have the intelligence to notice.”

She smiled. “Oh, is that all?”

“No. There’s something else.”

He took her in his arms, looking down with all his love filling his gaze. “You made me love you.”

Callie’s tiny gasp gave him shivers. “Do you really mean that?” she asked, her dark eyes luminous, “or are you just singing a song?”

“Both,” he said. “Will you marry me, Callie?”

“I already did, silly.”

“I know. But I just wanted to ask you again.”

“Okay. I’ll marry you anytime, Grant. Anytime at all.”

“Good. Because time is the greatest gift. And I promise, my time will always be yours.”


MOLLY loved it at the ranch.

She loved the dogs and the horses and the cows. She loved to make the chickens run. She loved finding where the cat had hidden to have her kittens. She loved all the nice people who seemed to love her right back.

But she was sort of scared of Granpa. He sat upstairs in that big chair and growled at her, all his whiskers quivering. Mommy said he was laughing, but it didn’t sound like laughing to Molly. He was like the bear in the book Daddy read to her. Scary. And she had to walk past that room to get to the room where the baby was.

The baby!

She knew she was supposed to love the baby, but she wasn’t sure yet. She tried to talk to him but he didn’t talk much. Not like Molly. Molly was a big girl now. Next week she would be two and she was going to have a big birthday party.

She had been living at the ranch ever since the baby was born with her mommy and daddy-she used to call them Callie and Grant, but those names were too hard to say. Anyway, she liked calling them Mommy and Daddy better.

“Good baby, good baby,” she said, patting him on the stomach.

“Don’t pat too hard, honey,” Mommy said, pulling her hand back.

Molly felt hurt. She wasn’t patting too hard. She didn’t want to hurt the baby.

“We have to be extra special careful of the baby,” Mommy told her, giving her a hug at the same time. “Babies are easy to break. They can get hurt so easily-things we don’t even think of can hurt them. So we have to touch very softly.”

She nodded. She understood. Babies were precious and special. But she looked up quickly at Callie’s face. Did her mommy love the baby better than her?

She didn’t have time to find out because Daddy swooped her up in his arms and gave her little baby kisses on the top of her head.

“G’illa, g’illa!” she cried.

“You want gorilla kisses?” he said, laughing at her. “Okay, here goes.”

He planted a few loud, rumbling, smacking kisses on her cheeks and her neck and she shrieked with happiness.

“Shh, the baby,” Mommy said, and Daddy put her down.

Molly frowned. People said that all the time. “Don’t wake the baby, don’t wake the baby.” The baby was always asleep. What fun was that? Maybe he didn’t even know about fun stuff yet.

Daddy was kissing Mommy. Mommy was kissing him back and that made Molly feel warm and happy.

Daddy seemed to feel the same way, because he said, “I never knew a man could be this happy. I bless the day you tried to kill me with your orchid pot.”

Mommy laughed and said, “Me, too. Since that day we’ve gained a marriage, a daughter and now a son.”

“Grant Carver the Seventh,” Grant said with satisfaction, looking down at the baby. “We done good.”

Mommy and Daddy were happy. That was good. She had a vague sense of missing someone. Mommy told her all the time about Tina, who was her first mommy. Tina went to heaven because God needed her up there. But she would see Tina again someday. She loved Tina, too. She remembered her a little bit and Mommy always showed her pictures.

Molly was getting bored. She thought she heard the cat meow, so she slipped out of the room and headed toward the landing.

She held her breath as she started across the open doorway to where Granpa was sleeping in his chair. But then she saw something. She stopped. There, on a shelf right beside him, was a box with a red lollipop sticking out of it.

Her little heart jumped. She remembered red lollipops. She used to love red lollipops, but Mommy said they weren’t good for her. She hadn’t had a red lollipop for a long time. And now, there was one right there next to Granpa.

But he was scary. What if he woke up? What if he reached out and grabbed her and growled? Her heart was beating very fast. She crept into the room and reached out. There. The lollipop was in her hand. It was different from the ones she used to have, but…

“What have you got there, young’un?”

She gasped and started to run, her heart in her throat. She couldn’t stop. If she stopped, he would take it away from her, and she needed it. Running down the hall, she came to the baby’s room and dashed inside. Mommy and Daddy were gone, but the baby was awake.