Note from Susan
The following scene didn’t happen. Rocco fetches his children from Taggart’s apartment after they spent an evening playing Twister and eating ham-and-cheese sandwiches with Taggart and London. In the actual book, Taggart takes the children home to Eva so he can hand her some items for forensic analysis and get some terrible advice on how to best seduce London.
Anyhow, this is how I wrote the scene in the first draft. I thought you might like to see what might have been!
Rocco waited at Taggart’s door while his children gathered their belongings together. He had refused London’s offer of a drink with a smile, saying he wanted to get back to his sleeping wife. From deep inside the apartment, Taggart heard Ellie demand the return of her wicker basket so that she could bring it back next time. Taggart’s attempts to separate his private and professional life were a miserable failure. He scowled at Rocco.
“Nice night,” Rocco said. His white shirt collar barely hid the suck bruise on his neck.
“You misbuttoned your shirt, boss.” Rocco’s indolent good humor irked him.
“Did I?” Rocco unbuttoned and rebuttoned the white shirt he wore loose over dark jeans. Taggart spotted a smear of red lipstick above his right nipple and wished he hadn’t. The Neris were colonizing his life and mind.
Rocco settled back against the doorjamb. “I heard that an orgasm will induce birth.”
“Jason! Ellie! Daddy’s waiting,” Taggart yelled over his shoulder. He remembered reading a humorous comment about American troops in Britain in the Second World War: “The problem with them is they’re oversexed and over here.” He felt that way about Rocco on his doorstep, clearly awash in post-sex endorphins.
“Have you heard that?” Rocco pressed. “About orgasms.”
“Yes.” Taggart had overheard London tell Eva a vigorous bang would trigger birth contractions. The sound of her fist slapping her palm echoed in his head.
Taggart nodded. He wouldn’t reveal the source of the unsound medical information.
Rocco made a happy noise, irking Taggart further. London had played Twister with Taggart, cheating by teasing him and rubbing against him. It had made him restless. Hungry.
Rocco looked past Taggart. “You bought a plant.”
“London gave it to me.” The fronds brushed Taggart’s thigh like tiny, spidery fingers. He hoped it wasn’t a shedder.
“What is it?”
“Hmm. Kinda personal.”
“So?” Taggart said as aggressively as he could. “I want her to feel comfortable in my home.” He dared Rocco to object.
Rocco shrugged. “You moved her into your apartment, and now she’s offering guests drinks and buying ferns. Maybe you should try playing hard to get? I negotiate billion-dollar deals and—”
“I remember you using your boy as a lure to snare Eva,” Taggart said. Eva loved Jason as if he were her own.
“Only until I found out she was pregnant.” Rocco grinned. “I know how to seal a deal.”
His good mood was impenetrable.
“Thanks for the canned ham,” Taggart said, changing the topic. “London made Croque Monsieur sandwiches.”
Rocco looked blank.
“Grilled ham and cheese,” Taggart explained, glad he wasn’t the only one who didn’t understand French.
“Ellie and Jason loved grilled cheese sandwiches.” He gave Taggart a long, thoughtful look. “Seriously, maybe you should slow down. You’re inclined to dive off a cliff.”
“Back off, Rocco. This is my private life—”
“Just until after Eva has the babies. Then, you’ll have more time to get to know London.”
“I know enough.” Taggart turned. “Kids,” he yelled. “Your father is leaving without you.”
Ellie and Jason scampered to the door, calling goodbye to London, who responded in kind. Ellie carried her empty white wicker basket. It matched the wooly sheep on her pink pajamas. A sparkly pink barrette held her dark hair off her face. Jason wore Spider-Man nightwear. Ellie lifted her free arm, indicating she wanted a hug. Taggart obliged. She felt tiny in his arms. When he straightened, Jason gave him a shy smile. Taggart pulled him into a quick hug, feeling the boy’s plastic, wrist-web-shooters press into the back of his neck as Jason returned his embrace. The Neri children would colonize his heart if he let them.
“Go push the elevator button,” Rocco told his children, his voice kind. He waited until they were out of earshot. “Same time again tomorrow, Taggart?”
“No, I have a right to a private life—”
“Eva wants to try to uh… dislodge the babies again.”
“No.” Taggart closed the door firmly and locked it.
The apartment was quiet without the children. A gentle breeze stirred the pale sheers that framed the patio door, wafting the lingering scent of grilled cheese and ham toward his nostrils. He paused in the open doorway.
London had turned the main patio lights off. The tiny, twinkling lights strung above the lounger outlined her slim shape. She had settled into the cushions, tucking her feet beneath her. Her teeth worried at her lower lip as she stared out at the night. He was unprepared for the warm rush of tenderness her nibbling induced. He guessed she was regretting the way she had tormented him at Twister. She had counted on the Neri children staying the night as tiny chaperones. If she needed time, he’d give her time.
Only a fool gets involved with a protectee.
He was fighting a losing battle against the Neris and London.