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Page 14

I came out of my own warm bathroom, toweling my wet hair, just as Cara had dried hers. Only Phillip's presence in the house was keeping Robin from waiting in here in my bedroom, and oddly, I was glad of that. I needed a few more seconds to myself, more than my quick shower had afforded. I was warm now, and with the heat turned up in the house, my hair would dry fairly quickly. Short of sticking me in the oven, Phillip and Robin had done everything they possibly could to warm me up. This had been tremendously important to them.

I couldn't suppress a snigger as I thought of how they'd competed with each other to be the most solicitous. That wouldn't last long, of course, and they'd be back to their more normal selves shortly, but I would enjoy it while it lasted.

At the moment, I'd just discovered I had a whole new set of worries.

I should have gotten dressed again. I wasn't an invalid. But I felt like putting on a nightgown and bathrobe, so I did. I hadn't been hurt, but I was exhausted and achy. I'd actually thrown up after I'd come out of the pool. I'd found this acutely embarrassing, but none of the law-enforcement personnel had seemed to think much of it. They were quite busy dealing with their own embarrassment, Arthur Smith. No matter how we glossed over it, Arthur had been mooning around Poppy's house when he shouldn't have been, and Arthur had kicked a suspect. Oh, he said Cara had tried to get up and attack me again, and I'd nodded weakly when they asked me if that was so, but I could tell they didn't believe us, especially Cathy Trumble. Besides, Arthur was in a peculiar mental state, and there was no disguising that, either.

Cathy Trumble had questioned me intently for about thirty minutes, until it became obvious that I had to get into dry clothes. She sent me home in a patrol car, with the warning that she was going to come by within a couple of hours to take a full statement from me.

Cara had gone off to the hospital under guard. I pitied the officer who had to call her husband. Dr. Stuart Embler was going to be pretty unhappy with anyone who'd arrested his wife. He could afford the best lawyers, too. Bringing Cara to trial might be a struggle; I'd have to testify in court, if it came to a trial. I figured I wouldn't count on that until it happened. If there's one thing television has taught Americans, it's that justice doesn't always move at the pace, or in the direction, that it should.

My black glasses were somewhere at the bottom of the Emblers' pool. I got my tortoiseshell ones and pushed them up the bridge of my nose. With a brush in my hand, wrapped in my favorite golden brown gown and robe, I wandered out into the den. To my surprise, Robin was there by himself.

"Where's Phillip?"

"I sent him to the store for some Epsom salts."

"Epsom salts? Why?"

"It was the only thing I could think of that you didn't already have."

"Why the need to get Phillip out of the way? Don't you like him?" I was pretty anxious about this, since I wasn't sure at all that my dad meant to get Phillip back right away.

"Yes, I do. I just wanted to be alone with you for a little while."

"It's not going to take him very long to get Epsom salts."

"I did also mention that if he wanted to stop by the Finstermeyers' house to tell Josh why he couldn't come over for supper tonight, I was sure that would be better than calling him."

"Okay," I said cautiously. "So, here we are, by ourselves."

Robin was beginning to wilt around the edges. "Don't you want to have some alone time? So I can just sit and hold you?"

"Probably Phillip is old enough to understand that you might want to hug me or cuddle me from time to time." I said this with an absolutely straight face.

Now Robin was looking really downcast.

"But what I'd like for you to do is come get on the bed with me and hold me," I said.

He brightened considerably. "Sure. I understand you're tired and upset. I just want to be next to you."

Within five minutes, we were snuggled up in my big bed, Robin in his T-shirt and jeans, and I in my gown. I pulled a quilt up over us. I would have been utterly content if I hadn't had one long bridge to cross.

I was lying with my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. I was hoping that heart was feeling extra large today. I might be taxing it.

I took a deep breath, started to speak, let it out. I was just a big chicken.

"Robin," I began. Then I stopped dead.

"What, baby?"

"Exactly," I said, and didn't get any further. It was the second time today I'd been terrified. My eyes were focused on the pattern of the quilt - oddly enough, it was the Wedding Ring. I didn't dare look up.

"Are you trying to tell me about the kit on the bathroom counter?"


"I saw it when I started your bathwater. Did you use it?"


His big hand reached over and rested lightly on my pelvis. "Are you..." his voice broke. "Are you carrying our child?"


I stole a look up at his face. It was radiant. If he had smiled any wider, his face would have cracked. My own heart gave a leap, and I felt my whole body relax against him.

"You're not going to be an unwed mother," he said firmly.

Another fear discarded. I was far too traditional to face single parenthood with equanimity. All at once, I felt lighter than air.

So, naturally, being so happy, I started crying. "Not just because of the baby," I said, "don't marry me just for that."

"You know it's not just because of the baby." He scrambled out of the bed and rummaged around in the pockets of his jacket. He dove back under the covers and pressed a little velvet box into my hand. "Proof," he said triumphantly. "I've been carrying this with me for two weeks, trying to find the right moment to ask you if you'll wear it."

I hesitated before opening the box. I thought of the past few days. "It's hard to believe anything can end this well," I said. I didn't want to ruin the moment, but I was plagued by the deceptions of my sister-in-law. She had lied to everyone, offering each of us in her life just a little glimpse of one facet of her true character. In the end, she had become so splintered, she could not present a coherent whole to anyone. Maybe Poppy had lost her core.

"I love you," I said to Robin. "And I'm proud that you're the father of my baby." It was an incredible feeling, hearing myself saying the words I'd never believed I'd get to say to anyone. I opened the box, to see a lovely yellow diamond with clear tiny ones set around it. The ring was small and delicate, and I thought it was beautiful.

"Hey, Sis! What's for supper?" Phillip yelled from the living room.

I groaned, then rested my head against Robin's.

"Lest the moment get too tender and mushy," Robin said, but he didn't sound angry. He sounded tolerant.

"We'll be fine," I said bravely, and tried to call up a mental list of what was in the refrigerator.

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