Shattered
Joan Johnston

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“You’re sleeping in here.” He opened the door to the room at the end of the hall and waited for her to enter.

Kate’s heart skipped a beat when she realized he’d invited her into what was clearly his bedroom. A mystery novel lay half-read facedown on the end table. A picture of a woman with a young boy who she thought might be Shaw and his mother sat atop the chest of drawers. A shiny pair of black lizard cowboy boots, one a fallen soldier, sat at the base of a wardrobe.

“What is this?” she demanded.

“Didn’t I mention it? You’ll be sleeping with me.”

9

When the boys began to bicker, Kate knew they were finally exhausted from the excitement of the day.

“Time for bed,” she said.

“Aw, Mom,” Chance said.

“I’m not tired,” Lucky argued.

“Showers. Now.”

“Do we have to, Shaw?” Lucky asked.

Kate was incensed that her son was looking to a stranger for permission. “Yes, you have to,” she said sharply.

“You heard your mother,” Shaw said.

Kate realized it wasn’t until Shaw confirmed her demand that her sons obeyed her and trotted off to take showers in the bathroom across the hall. “I can handle this,” she told Shaw, hoping he’d take the hint and leave.

“Let me stay.”

He didn’t plead, just stood there looking vulnerable. And virile. She knew she was being a fool. He was manipulating her again, using her soft heart against her. She put herself in his shoes and imagined what it would be like to discover you had two children you’d never known existed. How you’d want to be a part of everything they did from now on. It would take someone more cruel than she was to exclude him.

But that meant she was going to have to share the bedtime ritual she performed each night with her sons. She fought back the jealousy she felt. Her sons craved a father, and Jack had taken himself out of the picture for the next four months. She should be grateful Shaw was willing to step into the role.

“All right. Stay,” she said.

“What should I do?”

She was amazed that a man as powerful as Wyatt Shaw could look so helpless. She retrieved a pair of boy’s white briefs and a set of Batman pajamas out of the overnight bag she’d brought and handed them to him. “When Lucky comes out of the shower, dry him off and put these on him.”

It occurred to her suddenly that Shaw might not know which twin was Lucky. She hadn’t yet heard him address either one by name. She eyed him askance, wondering whether he would be able to tell which twin was which, since they were truly identical physically.

A moment later, the boys came running into the bedroom, naked and shrieking, towels flying behind them, tracking wet footprints on the tile floor.

Shaw turned to her, scowling, and said, “You had them circumcised?”

Kate had a sudden vision of a naked Shaw, who wasn’t. J.D. had insisted on it. Flustered, she said, “Yes. And it’s too late to undo it now. So live with it!”


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