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In His Keeping (Slow Burn #2), Page 2

Maya Banks

  He tore open the envelope with shaking hands and quickly scanned, fully prepared to spare his wife anything that could hurt her. But what he read shook him to the very core.

  I can’t take care of my baby. She would always be in danger with me. She needs someone to love and protect her. I’m counting on you to raise her as your own and never let anyone know the circumstances of her past. You likely think I’m the most horrible mother on earth to give my baby to complete strangers, but it’s because I love my daughter that I give her into your care and keeping and ask you to love her as I would and raise her as your own. She can never know about me or her biological father. Swear to me you’ll keep my secret. My heart is breaking, but only the knowledge that you’ll provide for her as I cannot gives me the strength to do what is best for her. She was deeply loved. Please never doubt that. I only ask that you love her every bit as much as her father and I do.

  When Gavin finished reading the letter, his hand was shaking noticeably and Ginger sank onto the couch, holding the baby tightly against her chest as she stared incredulously at her husband.

  Then he quickly went to sit beside her on the couch, reinforcing her hold on the tiny bundle because she was shaking every bit as much as he was.

  She pulled the blanket down to expose the baby’s face and Gavin lost his heart on the spot. A beautiful baby girl stared back at him as Ginger gently stroked her finger down one soft cheek.

  And as quickly as he’d lost his heart, he made a decision. A decision that would forever change the course of his and Ginger’s lives. Calm descended even as his mind began working at incredible speed, swiftly calculating their options.

  “I want you to pack a bag,” he said, the betraying note of uncertainty leaving his voice and in its place implacable resolve. “We’re leaving the country and we’ll be gone for a while.”

  His wife’s eyes widened. “What are we going to do, Gavin?”

  His gaze was steady as he stared back at her. He curled his hand around her knee, not wanting to take her hand away from the baby.

  “We’re going to do as we were asked and raise her as our daughter.”



  GAVIN had always had an understanding for what money and power could achieve, but it wasn’t until Arial, the name they’d chosen for their precious baby girl, that he fully appreciated or felt there was a purpose for the wealth he’d accumulated his entire adult life. As though he’d always been preparing for something so important. In the moment that innocent baby girl had arrived on their doorstep, he’d known that his wealth would finally serve a greater purpose.

  It had all come down to this and to what he had been able to provide his wife—and now his daughter.

  Ari was theirs. There was a paper trail he’d meticulously crafted documenting his wife’s pregnancy and the fact that after so many miscarriages he’d taken her away and kept her in complete isolation and privacy to give birth to their daughter.

  A birth certificate listing date of birth, his and Ginger’s names as the parents, even the small clinic he funded where she’d been “born.”

  Now, for the first time, they were returning to the United States with their daughter, assured that Ari’s past was airtight. That all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed. All they had to do was resume their lives, but even with the confidence that Ari’s past was unshakable, Gavin wasn’t fool enough to ever even think about relaxing his guard. Their lives would be forever altered, and he didn’t have a single regret for the changing course of their destinies. He had all a man could ever hope for—wish for. It was all finally his, a fact he gave thanks for every single day since that snowy Christmas night when Ari had entered their lives.

  He’d carefully explained to Ginger the changes to their lives that would occur, that they would have to exercise complete caution in every aspect of their day-to-day lives. He’d worried that Ginger would feel imprisoned, that she’d grow tired of living such an isolated existence, but he should have known that his wife—like him—would do anything at all to protect their daughter.

  An unbreakable bond had been formed that night when Ari had been left on their doorstep. It was inexplicable and instantaneous, as if she’d always been meant to be theirs. And that bond had only strengthened until neither of them could remember their lives before Ari was a part of their family.

  The very first thing Gavin had done in his preparation to return to the United States was to quietly sell his house in Connecticut, because he wanted no trace of their past before Ari. No chance of Ari’s mother showing back up at the same place she’d left her baby, asking for her back.

  He’d systematically worked during the months they were out of the country to remove them from the public eye. He’d sold off several of his businesses and invested the proceeds so that his family would always be secure.

  He’d bought a huge home under a dummy corporation that could never be traced back to him and made sure that the security was impenetrable. And then he’d worked to turn it into Ginger’s dream home. A place she would love and wouldn’t be upset over being confined to so much.

  She laughingly told him that she had everything she could possibly ever want. A husband she loved and a daughter she adored. No sacrifice was too great for her if it meant keeping her family.

  Seeing Ginger so happy for these last months had given Gavin a sense of purpose he’d never before experienced. After so much sorrow and loss, the woman he loved sparkled with life, love and laughter. Every day she delighted in discovering something new about motherhood and their precious baby girl.

  Gavin knew in his heart that there was nothing he wouldn’t do to protect them both. No price was too high to pay. No, he hadn’t done it cleanly or by the book. He should have notified the police and social services. And pursued adoption through the proper channels.

  But he only had to look into his wife’s eyes as she stared at that tiny baby girl and he knew he could never risk losing their daughter by doing things the “right” way. He could live with his conscience and even live with his soul forever being damned just as long as Ginger was happy. He’d brave the fires of hell and the devil himself before ever being the cause of her eyes losing their shine.

  She looked at him as though he was a hero—her hero—when in fact he’d broken so many laws that years in prison spread ominously before him were it ever discovered all he’d done. And he’d made damn sure that Ginger was in no way touched by the decisions he’d made. That if it were ever discovered what he’d done, Ginger—and Ari—would be free.

  Ginger laced her fingers through his, clenching them anxiously as she adjusted the fabric baby carrier that held Ari so she faced Ginger and was nestled against her mother’s chest. They disembarked the small jet, Gavin being extremely careful that she not stumble or fall as they hurried toward the waiting car.

  When he slid into the backseat beside her, she turned to look at him, her brow creased with tension.

  “I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” Ginger said in a shaky, apologetic voice. “I trust you, Gavin. Please don’t think I don’t. It’s just that for the last five months we’ve seemingly lived a world away from reality. Like we had our own little bubble where time stopped and no one but us existed. And now that we have to return to the real world, I’m so scared. I’m scared this has all been a dream and when I wake up tomorrow Ari will be gone.”

  Gavin curled his arm around her shoulders and pulled her and Ari into his embrace. He brushed the top of her head with his lips. He hated that she worried, that she feared the unknown, but he understood it. Knew it was impossible to completely allay her fears, or his own, for that matter.

  Theirs would be a lifetime of always worrying about discovery. Of having their child torn from them. Maybe as more time passed their fears would ease, but right now with their move back to resume their lives as before, they were both understandably afraid of the worst.

  “I will never let that happen,” Gavin
said in a grave tone.

  He glanced out the window of the nondescript vehicle that had picked them up at the private landing strip.

  “Will you be happy here?” he asked Ginger, voicing just one of his many fears. His wife’s happiness overrode any other priority in his life.

  He’d scaled back his many business ventures to just the one oil company that was headquartered in Houston, Texas. It was a city he was familiar with. In his past life, he’d done “business” with Franklin Devereaux and even planned to renew their acquaintance, because Franklin still had his fingers into the life Gavin formerly led, and he could be useful in aiding Gavin in his quest for complete anonymity and the birth of a completely new life.

  It was a decision he’d grappled with, because by contacting Franklin, he risked a breach in the security he’d gone to great lengths to establish. But Franklin had connections that Gavin no longer had, so in the end, he’d decided to assume the risk. Even if he considered Franklin a fool for risking his greatest treasures.

  Franklin had what Gavin—and Ginger—both craved. Or rather had craved in the past. A family. But now Gavin no longer felt envy when thinking of the Devereauxs. Because of Ari and the fact that she had completed him and Ginger, had solidified their relationship and had made a couple a family instead.

  Ari awoke from her doze nestled against her mother’s chest and lifted her head, gifting her father with a toothless smile that never failed to make his heart do a complete flip-flop.

  “Well, hello, little one,” Ginger said, extending her finger for Ari to clutch her fist around.

  As usual, anything that touched Ari’s hand went straight to her mouth and she grinned and gurgled as she gnawed on her mother’s finger.

  “How long before we get there?” Ginger asked. “She needs a diaper change and she’s going to be hungry now that she’s awake.”

  “Ten minutes at the most,” Gavin reassured.

  “She’ll be good until then,” Ginger said, smiling and cooing nonsense at Ari.

  Then she glanced up at Gavin, her eyes full of love and warmth.

  “We’re really a family,” she whispered in awe. “This is real.”

  Gavin smiled and leaned over to kiss the top of Ari’s downy curls, inhaling her sweet baby scent. Then he captured his wife’s lips and kissed her thoroughly, savoring the private moment with his wife and child.

  “Yes, sweetheart. This is our life now and it’s real. No one will ever take it from us.”

  His was a quiet vow, but determined all the same. Nothing or no one would ever take from him what was his. And he would forever shield his wife and daughter from the harsh realities of life. No matter the cost.



  GAVIN squealed to a halt outside his home and left his steel-reinforced, bulletproof Mercedes before his driver had come to a full stop. His gun was in his hand, fear pounding a vicious cadence in his head. Ginger had been hysterical. Had told him to come home immediately, that something was wrong.

  It took all his strength not to ram through the door and burst inside, laying waste to whatever threat there was to his wife and child. Instead he reached over from the side of the door and flipped the handle, allowing the door to ease open and give him an unimpeded view into the living room.

  Ginger was pacing the living room, distress radiating from her like a beacon. As if sensing his presence, her gaze flew to the door and she called out, “Gav? Is that you? Are you home?”

  Gavin relaxed, the terror slowly subsiding. He managed to put a shaky hand out to ward off his personal security men who’d converged the moment Gavin had called them. Even his driver was behind Gavin, gun up and drawn.

  Not in a hurry, Gavin tucked his gun into his shoulder harness and slowly pushed himself to his feet, hoping he didn’t humiliate himself by face-planting on his own doorstep.

  Never had he been as afraid as he’d been for the last fifteen minutes when his wife’s terrified voice had pleaded with him to come home.

  Gavin didn’t often leave his wife and child. Once a week, however, he left them both, a veritable army guarding their estate, and he went into downtown Houston to take care of business or items that required his attention. After today he was wondering if he’d ever be able to leave Ginger and Ari again.

  The door flew further open and Ginger stood there, eyes huge with fright, her face pale and her entire body trembling. While she might be all right, Ari’s safety was still in question, and if his daughter was okay, then what the hell had frightened his wife so badly?

  “Gavin, you have to come!”

  Then she took in the men in position and Gavin could see her grapple with what he’d been through. But her face didn’t soften in apology or regret. Her cold hand slid over his and pulled him inside, quickly shutting the door behind him, cutting him off from his security.

  “Something or someone has been in Ari’s room,” Ginger said, her breath hitching as she hurried up the stairs, dragging Gavin with her.

  He went rigid and once more drew his weapon.

  “There’s no one there now,” Ginger said in a whisper. “She’s napping. Put the gun away!”

  Reluctantly, he re-holstered his weapon and as soon as they were inside Ari’s room and he could see her adorable little diapered behind pooched up with her knees tucked underneath her, thumb inside her mouth, he was finally able to breathe again.

  “What the hell is going on, Ginger?” Gavin demanded, a bite to his voice.

  She flinched and looked startled by his anger.

  “You took fifteen years off my life. Never do that again.”

  “But someone has been in her room,” Ginger hissed. “I am not crazy, Gav. The first couple of times I thought it was my forgetfulness. That I just hadn’t remembered leaving the two stuffed animals in her crib. But then I started paying meticulous attention to where I put them when I put her down for a nap or for the night.”

  Gavin frowned because it wasn’t at all like Ginger to be careless when it came to leaving a choking hazard in their daughter’s crib. He didn’t buy that she’d forgotten anything for a minute.

  Ginger crept over to the crib and then thrust her fist in her mouth to silence her cry. She held up a shaking hand to point. “Gavin, I took them out fifteen minutes ago. When I called you. I put them on top of the chest of drawers. And now they’re back. Someone is coming in here.”

  Gavin pulled Ginger into his arms and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Shhh, darling. I’ll take care of it immediately. It’s quite simple, really. From now on her crib will be in our bedroom instead of the adjoining bedroom and when she naps, put her in her portable bassinet and make sure she’s wherever you are. We’ll get to the bottom of this. I can pull surveillance footage, because if anyone was in here, I’ll know it.”

  Gavin stared at the video footage of his daughter’s bedroom still unsure of what exactly he was seeing. It wasn’t possible. And yet he had tangible proof that said otherwise. There wasn’t someone in his daughter’s room but rather something.

  No matter how many times he replayed the footage, it remained the same. The two lovies, as Ginger called their daughter’s favorite cuddle toys—and the only reminder of how Ari had come into their lives, a secret tribute to the woman who’d left her baby on their doorstep—would move from wherever Ginger had left them and float across the room before dropping into Ari’s crib.

  Logic was something embedded in Gavin. He simply couldn’t wrap his mind around something so . . . illogical.

  And directly behind the realization that logic clearly wasn’t prevailing, was fear that chilled him to the bone. Was something evil shadowing their daughter? He’d never believed in spirits or ghosts. They didn’t fit into his logical, well-ordered worldview. But something was causing those toys to float across the room and land in his daughter’s crib.

  What the hell was he supposed to tell Ginger without scaring her to death? He’d go to the ends of the earth to prote
ct his wife and their daughter. If he could shield her from any fear, any hurt, then he’d damn well do it and suffer no remorse whatsoever.

  He quietly gave the order to his head of security to move Ari’s crib into his and Ginger’s bedroom but instructed him to leave everything else untouched in the nursery.


  Gavin was roused from sleep the instant he heard Ginger’s startled exclamation. He hurried from bed to where Ginger stood at Ari’s crib, a baffled expression on her face.

  The two lovies were in the crib with Ari and she was awake, one of the lovies in her chubby little fists as she gnawed on the ear. She smiled up at her parents, her legs waving and kicking as if to say she was wide awake and ready to be out of her crib.

  Gavin’s sharp gaze went to the door to their bedroom, the door he’d made certain was not only closed, but locked before they’d gone to bed. It was now ajar and the two lovies that had been left behind in the nursery were in Ari’s crib, much to Ari’s obvious delight.

  He knew in that moment that he couldn’t hide the video footage from Ginger. There was something seriously wrong here.

  Ginger reached down to pick Ari up, the lovie falling from his daughter’s grasp. The loss elicited an instant wail of displeasure and only when Ginger picked up the stuffed animal and allowed Ari to reach for it did the cry finally cease.

  There were tears of genuine fear in his wife’s eyes as she turned her pleading expression to him. She was wordlessly asking him to make everything okay. To make whatever was happening go away. And it gutted him, because he was utterly clueless, with no idea of what to do.

  He’d never failed to supply his wife or daughter with anything they needed or wanted. His only purpose was to protect his family, to ensure their safety, happiness and well-being. And yet he didn’t have the answer for the inexplicable.