Finding a Hart

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Chapter 36

Stephanie

I pulled into the parking lot of a Safeway near Jared’s place and grabbed a small hand basket when I walked through the doors. The store was already starting to get busy with people who were doing the same thing I was.

There were a few potatoes in my basket and I was standing in front of the asparagus when an arm dropped across my shoulders.

“Why are you even pretending to consider something healthy? We all know it won’t happen.”

I glanced to my left and smirked at the newcomer. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, telling me that he’d been in class for the day. “It won’t be so healthy once I smother that asparagus in butter. Hey, twerp.”

“Says the woman who is still shorter than me when she’s wearing those ungodly tall heels.” Austin hugged me to his side, only emphasizing the fact that he was taller than me. “Who are you making dinner for? Lyssa?”

I shook my head and reached out to grab a bundle of asparagus. “A friend of mine that you don’t know.”

My brother plucked my handbasket out of my grip and stuck it into his cart, ever the gentleman our mother had raised him to be. With his arm still draped across my shoulder, the two of us began walking towards the dairy section.

“A friend? Of the male variety?”

I elbowed him slightly, causing him to let out a grunt of pain. “You know that I’m the older one, right?”

“Doesn’t mean I won’t do my brotherly duty, Steph.” He dropped a kiss to the top of my head and I turned to grin at him. Before I could reply, someone spoke in front of us.

“Vanilla Latte.”

Austin and I both turned our heads and it was pathetic how my heartbeat immediately quickened at the sight of Jared Hart. My lips curved into a smile.

“City Roast.”

He was still in his suit for the most part except he’d ditched the tie and jacket and his hair was a crazy mess. The best part, though? He was wearing a baby carrier and had Chris strapped to him so they were chest to chest.

The entire grocery store probably heard my ovaries explode.

When I finally got over how adorable the sight in front of me was, I realized that his handsome face was lacking its usual happy expression. In fact, he looked almost angry. His eyebrows were slightly pinched, his lips were pursed together, and his shoulders were tense. It wasn’t until his narrowed eyes flicked between me and Austin that I understood.

Jared was jealous.

Austin obviously didn’t get the jealously, though, and instead just saw man with a slightly hostile expression on his face. His arm tightened and he pulled me even closer to him. I brought my hand up to pat his chest, letting his know it was okay, and didn’t miss the way Jared followed the movement.

“Jared Hart, I’d like you to meet my brother, Austin Gibson.” I tipped my head so I could look at my brother. “Austin, my friend Jared who also happens to be Marco’s boss.”

I watched as the tension and irritation immediately drained from Jared. Surprise flashed across his face for just a second before all of his features softened and he gave my brother a friendly smile.

“Oh, hey. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Austin removed his arm from my shoulders so he could offer Jared his hand. “Nice to meet you. Marco has nothing but good things to say.” He nudged me with his elbow. “Is this the friend of the male variety that you’re having dinner with?”

I rolled my eyes and shoved my brother slightly. “You’re such a pest.”

“You love me.” Austin moved a bit so he could peek at Chris. “Oh, he’s a cute little guy. How old is he?”

“Eleven weeks today,” I replied proudly and my brother turned to look at me with his brows raised. I hadn’t told anyone in my family anything about my friendship with the baby I found or his father but my brother was smart. I saw the second the dots connected in his head.

“Is this the baby you found?”

“The baby she saved,” Jared corrected softly as he looked down at the top of his son’s head. “One and the same.”

“Huh.” Austin stared at me with an unreadable expression on his face before pasting the charming smile back on it. “Well, I better finish my grocery shopping and get home or the two ladies in my life will have my head.” His hand came up to ruffle my hair while I tried to duck away. I finally managed to sidestep him and grabbed my basket out of his cart.

“Give Lila a kiss for me.”

He nodded at me before jerking his chin in Jared’s direction. “I’m sure we’ll see you soon, Jared.”

“Yeah, good to meet you, Austin.” Jared nodded at my brother as he walked away and then focused his green eyes on me. “Hi, Steph.”

“Hey, handsome.” I put my basket into his cart and moved so I could see Chris’s face. He was sucking on his fist while staring at nothing and he gave me a wide smile when his eyes focused on me. I used a finger to stroke his little cheek. “There’s my sweet boy.”

“This is the only way the two of us can grocery shop harmoniously. I’m pretty sure I look like a giant idiot, though.”

I straightened up and shook my head. If only he understood how completely sexy it was to see him carrying the baby like he was. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. I’d seen no less than three women cast glances his way in the few minutes since we’d run into each other.

“I think it’s amazing.” I fell into step next to him and both of us were quiet as we pulled a few more things off the shelves. The only time we spoke was to ask if the other needed something and we headed off to the registers.

I started putting our items onto the conveyor belt and couldn’t contain my smile when I saw the chocolate mousse cheesecake he’d put at the bottom of the cart. When I looked up and met his eyes, he just shrugged his shoulders.

“Chris picked it out. Only the best for his Stephy.”

Jared managed to swipe his debit card before I knew what was happening and he just smirked when I glared at him. I pushed the cart out to his car and loaded the groceries into the trunk while he put Christopher into his seat amongst the baby’s protests. When Jared straightened up and closed the back door, he sighed.

“He hates the car now. This is what he does the whole way to work in the morning and the whole way home.”

I chuckled and reached out to squeeze his upper arm. “He’ll grow out of it. In the meantime, play music and see if that helps soothe one or both of you. I’ll meet you at your place.”

He nodded his head and stood next to his car as he watched me cross the parking lot. Once I was in my own vehicle, I followed behind him all the way back to his building.

I barely noticed anything during the drive because all I could think about was how jealous Jared had been when he saw me with Austin. That knowledge thrilled and confused me at the same time. I knew I needed to ask him about the woman I’d seen him with the week before but the fear of rejection was real.

Too real.

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