Oh, and originally it was titled, Baby, It's You, but I went back to my original title. Why? Read the opening scene and you might have a clue! LOL
Allie McGraw knocked on the door.
“What?” a voice barked as the door swung open.
Allie almost jumped as her upstairs neighbor’s face appeared.
Her focus shifted from the face to the rest of the neighbor, standing like an ancient warrior ready to do battle.
Allie momentarily lost all words. He was breathtaking.
She could hear the wailing that had caused her to come upstairs, but she couldn’t see the wailer. “Uh . . . well, I’m Alexandra McGraw, from downstairs,” she finally managed.
“I know who you are, I just want to know what you want.” He glanced over his shoulder. “As you can tell, it’s not the best time.”
“That’s why I came up. I mean, I heard . . .”
“The screaming? The crying? The uncontrollable sobbing?” he asked.
Under other circumstances, she might have been insulted by his sarcastic tone, but the dark circles under his brownish eyes and his haggard appearance wouldn’t allow it, so Allie nodded and said, “Yes.”
Ian Ryan, her normally prim and proper upstairs neighbor, was looking decidedly disheveled. His brown-with-a-touch-of-auburn hair, usually so neatly combed, zigged and zagged every which way. His nicely tailored suit had been replaced with a pair of gray sweatpants that had seen better days and a stain-splattered T-shirt. Somehow he looked all the more attractive because of it.
Focus, Allie, she warned herself and asked him, “I wondered if there was a problem and if I could help?”
He just glared at her. “I’m used to doing things on my own. I’m sure with enough time I’ll find the proper . . .”
The muted wailing escalated and became a shriek. Ian bounded from the door toward the noise, and Allie followed right on his heels.
On the couch, trapped by two pillows, was the source of the noise.
Dressed in pink, so her gender was obvious, was a baby—a very unhappy baby. Ian picked her up, much like someone would pick up a football that had been left on the field, and held her awkwardly to his shoulder.
It did little to halt her protests.
Allie watched, torn for a moment by indecision. But the pitiful wail made up her mind for her. “Here, let me have a try,” she said, gently taking the infant from Ian before he could protest.
“Now, what’s all this noise?” she whispered as she plopped the baby on her shoulder and patted her back. Allie’s fingers snaked through the romper’s legs and checked the diaper. Dry. “When’s the last time she ate?”
Ian flopped onto the couch and shook his head. Gone was the warrior looking for a battle, and in his place was a warrior ready to admit defeat. “That’s the problem. She won’t. I’ve tried every kind of nipple there is on her bottles. The pharmacy delivered them. I’ve called her pediatrician, who just told me give it time, she’d eat when she was hungry.” A muscle in his cheek jumped. “Well, she is hungry, but she won’t drink from any of the bottles here.”
“Where’s her mom?” Allie asked.
“In the hospital. A drunk driver. I . . . well, the baby’s my responsibility until Anne can take over again.”
Rarely at a loss for words, but finding herself suffering from it a second time in the course of one conversation, Allie hesitated a moment before she figured out what to say. “I’m sorry. I hope she’ll be okay.”
She wanted to say more but made a habit of not prying, so she left it at that. The baby’s screams had quieted to a mewling whine punctuated by tiny hiccups. Allie returned to the business at hand. “What did Anne feed her?”
“She breastfed, no bottles or solids yet. That’s why I’m having all these problems. She hates the bottle.”
“Smart girl,” Allie whispered to the baby. To Ian she said, “She knows what’s good.”
“Her knowing what’s good isn’t going to help me. Her realizing she’s going to have to settle for second best is.”
What might have sounded like exasperation or annoyance moments ago was really only worry, Allie realized. She smiled. “Well, I have an idea. Why don’t you grab the formula and come down to my place for a minute?”
The baby kept up her protests as they walked down to Allie’s apartment.
Allie had seen the look of relief that had passed over Ian’s face when he’d grabbed the formula. She had a feeling she’d seen more of Ian Ryan’s true nature in just one morning than most people did after knowing him for years.
In the three months since she’d moved in, he’d only had a passing nod for her after their brief introduction. Oh, he stomped on the floor if her music got too loud, but he didn’t make a federal case of it. Not the most friendly soul she’d ever met but not mean and nasty either. But Allie had a feeling he would have befriended the devil right then to find a way to quiet the baby.
“What’s her name?” she asked as they approached her apartment. There was a lull in the baby’s squalling that allowed further conversation.
“Ryane with an E at the end. Anne always said she was going to name the baby after me, but when it turned out to be a girl, she didn’t think Ian was such a good idea.” Allie turned around and caught the ghost of a smile on Ian’s face as he remembered a happier time. “Ryane was her compromise. It combines Anne’s first name and my last name.”
It was the longest string of words Allie had ever heard Ian put together. “Well, Ryane with an E, we’re going to get you fixed up real quick,” she promised the baby as she opened her door.
Allie felt a twinge of embarrassment as she looked around the apartment. After being in Ian’s pristine quarters, she was sure hers didn’t impress him. Loud colors, piles of this and that, and her books all over. She had plans, but she’d been too busy to implement them. New jobs didn’t allow much free time, and free time was what she needed to finish settling into her new home. Right now her life was organized chaos and so was her apartment.
She glanced at Ian’s face. She’d been right. He wasn’t impressed at all. Well, she’d be darned if she were going to explain. She was doing him the favor and didn’t owe him an explanation or an apology for the mess.
“I know it’s here somewhere,” she mused, looking at the pile of stuff on the dining room table. “I brought a new one home to check . . .”
She tried to hand Ian the baby, but he shook his head. “You keep holding her. She hasn’t been that settled since, well, it’s been a while.” He eyed the table and looked at Allie. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll try to find it?”
“An SNS.” She sometimes forgot that other people didn’t share her expertise. Ian’s look of confusion served as a reminder. “It’s a supplemental nursing system put out by Medela. A sort of bottle with tubing instead of a nipple. Moms hook the tubes next to their nipples and the baby gets the supplement while they nurse . . .”
She stopped as Ian’s face turned a brilliant shade of red.
“I know I’m desperate, but I don’t think I’m quite that desperate,” he stuttered.
Realizing he’d misunderstood, Allie burst into laughter, which startled the baby and set her to fussing again, though more halfheartedly than before.
“I’m sorry,” she crooned as she patted the baby’s back. Her smile remained. The mental picture of the prim and proper Ian Ryan, SNS taped by his nipples and nursing a baby, was more than ludicrous, it was hilarious.
“I think we can find an alternative to that,” she choked out and began to search again.
Want to read more about Ian and Allie's romance? Find it at Amazon.