Nicole Grant no longer recognized herself. Her body had ballooned into a blimp-size storage facility for the two babies that floated inside it, fighting for elbow room. Her skin stretched tight across the massive protrusion that had once been her stomach. Her breasts were the size and consistency of overinflated basketballs, her face red and splotchy and dotted with pimples. Her auburn hair hung dull and lifeless while the brain it encased had taken to misfiring and short-circuiting without warning or apology.

And then there were her moods, which had stabilized during the middle months of her pregnancy, but which now swung this way and that like a metronome sprung from its housing. With a groan of effort, she attempted to roll onto her side. She was halfway there when a muscled arm reached out to pull her up against a rock-hard abdomen. That abdomen belonged to Special Agent Joe Giraldi. Whose gold medal sperm had found and fertilized the eggs she’d believed were way beyond their expiration date. His large hand curled protectively against her stomach as he placed a kiss on the top of her head. “Are you okay?”

“I’d be better if I could actually turn over on my own. Or think. Or stop peeing every two minutes,” she murmured. “Seeing my feet would be nice.”

“It won’t be long now,” he said, his hand lightly stroking her stomach, his tone meant to reassure.

But then Joe had none of the fears or doubts that stalked her. She was eight months pregnant. If nothing went wrong, she would be the thing she’d given up on long ago and failed at so spectacularly as far as her younger brother was concerned. She would be a mother.

As if in response to the thought, a soccer-strength kick landed beneath Joe’s hand. A second came swift and sure from the side. “They’re fighters.” His breath was warm against her ear. She could feel him smiling.

“They’re girls,” she reminded him.

“All the more reason for them to know how to fight,” he said. “Like their mother.”

“Do you have to see the bright side of everything?”

“Can’t help it,” he replied easily. “I can’t think how things could be better.”

“That’s because you aren’t carrying them around in your stomach. And they’re not sitting on your bladder.”

“True.” But he smiled as he said it.

Being married might be better, she thought but did not say. Because she had refused him one too many times and he’d taken the offer off the table with no sign of renegotiation.

One Good Thing