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      “I need to talk to you.”

      Dylan’s words carried a foreboding Shaye only was beginning to understand. Did he want to take Timmy away from her?

      Stalling, she asked, “Now?”

      “Now.”

      Swallowing hard, she turned away from him and on wobbly legs went down the stairs.

      In the living room, Dylan sat on the couch. She perched on the armchair next to it. To her surprise, even that still seemed too close.

      “Have you started adoption proceedings yet?”

      Her dreams for Timmy were huge, her mind filled with scenes of the two of them facing the world together until Timmy could do it on his own.

      She didn’t like where this was headed. “I want to. And I know that’s what Julia would have wanted, too.”

      “It is, Shaye?” he returned quickly. “Or deep down in her heart did she want to leave Timmy to me?

      “Did she want me to be his father?”

      Custody for Two

      Karen Rose Smith

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      KAREN ROSE SMITH

      read Zane Grey when she was in grade school and loved his books. She also had a crush on Roy Rogers and especially his palomino, Trigger! Around horses as a child, she found them fascinating and intuitive. This series of books set in Wyoming sprang from childhood wishes and adult dreams. When an acquaintance adopted two of the wild mustangs from the western rangelands and invited Karen to visit them, plotlines weren’t far behind. For more background on the books in the series, stop by Karen’s Web site at www.karenrosesmith.com or write to her at P.O. Box 1545, Hanover, PA 17331.

      To Liz Conway—

       Thanks for being my lifelong friend.

      With thanks to Char Rice who welcomed us

       to Cody and enriched our stay there.

      With appreciation to Ken Martin who knows

       and understands the mustangs so well. I’ll never forget Grey Face and his band.

      For information about wild mustangs,

       visit www.wildhorsepreservation.com. For adoption information, go to www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov.

      Contents

      Chapter One

      Chapter Two

      Chapter Three

      Chapter Four

      Chapter Five

      Chapter Six

      Chapter Seven

      Chapter Eight

      Chapter Nine

      Chapter Ten

      Chapter Eleven

      Chapter Twelve

      Chapter Thirteen

      Chapter Fourteen

      Chapter One

      He couldn’t believe his sister had entrusted her son to Shaye Bartholomew rather than to him. Still in shock even after two days of traveling, Dylan Malloy stepped inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. His gaze focused intently on the woman seated by Timmy’s tiny bed…the woman who had custody of his nephew.

      Walter Ludlow’s call had been a severe blow, and Dylan was still reeling from it. His lawyer and long-time mentor, calling Tasmania from Wild Horse Junction, Wyoming, had hastily told him, “There’s no easy way to say this. Julia and Will were in a serious accident. Will died on impact. Julia hung on until Timmy was delivered, then we lost her, too.”

      We lost her, too.

      The words wouldn’t fade out. They’d been a shout in Dylan’s head ever since he’d heard them. Seconds later Walter had followed them with, “Julia gave Shaye Bartholomew legal guardianship. She didn’t want to burden you again.”

      Dylan couldn’t wrap his mind, let alone his heart, around losing Julia. The grief enveloped him like a dark shadow that continuously seeped through him, leaving no room for anything else.

      “Fight, Timmy. Fight.” Dylan heard Shaye Bartholomew encouraging Timmy, her voice breaking.

      The doctor had explained Timmy’s condition to Dylan. Born twenty-eight weeks into Julia’s pregnancy, he was on a ventilator to help him breathe normally. He had a good chance to survive. But with so many tubes and wires connected to him, that was hard for Dylan to believe.

      Did Shaye already think Timmy was hers? he wondered.

      She hovered beside the baby, her lips moving silently. Maybe in prayer?

      Dylan’s work as a wildlife photographer had taught him stillness and patience. But now he had questions, and Shaye Bartholomew held the answers.

      After crossing the room, he pulled her attention from the infant bed. “Miss Bartholomew?”

      She gave a small sound of surprise when she saw him and recognition dawned. They’d met at Julia’s college graduation. Shaye had been a year ahead of his sister, and the two women had become friends.

      “Mr. Malloy. I’m so sorry about Julia.” Her eyes brimmed with tears.

      Why did he suddenly feel as if he wanted to take this woman into his arms to give both of them some comfort?

      Dylan knew he looked unkempt. He hadn’t shaved in two days, his hair was disheveled and needed a cut, his sweatshirt was streaked with lines from being slept in.

      “I got here as soon as I could.” He’d been photographing kangaroos when he’d gotten the call. That seemed like eons ago.

      Standing, Shaye let him come in closer to Timmy’s bed. Dylan could see the reflection of the fluorescent light on her shoulder-length, coffee-brown hair and noticed the sheen in her amber eyes. When their gazes locked, the grief inside him shifted a bit, but he let it settle back into place as he broke eye contact and stared down at his nephew.

      Timmy had sandy-brown hair and green eyes…like Julia…like himself.

      Softly, Shaye said, “During Julia’s pregnancy we talked about baby names. She said she wanted to name a girl after her mother, a boy after her father. Your mother and father.”

      Ironically, like Julia and her husband, their parents had also been killed on a slippery road. That night, Family Services had taken the two of them to a holding facility in Cody. Back then, Dylan had had to break out of his shock to take care of his sister. Now he had to break through it to think about Julia’s baby.

      Forcing his attention back to Shaye, Dylan couldn’t keep the edge from his tone when he said, “I want to know how you came to be named Timmy’s guardian. I know Will’s mother was too frail to consider—”

      One of the monitors began to beep loudly. At once, a nurse appeared at Timmy’s bedside while another rushed to call a doctor.

      A physician in a white coat hurried in. One of the nurses put a hand on Shaye’s arm and spoke to Dylan. “Please wait outside.”

      “I want to know what’s happening,” Dylan demanded, fear for his nephew beating hard against his chest.

      “We have to let them work.” Shaye tugged at Dylan’s elbow. “They know what they’re doing. The doctor will come talk to us when they get him stabilized. We have to do what’s best for him. We’re just

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