Deadly Memories (Hardy Brothers Security Book 18)

By: Lily Harper Hart

Hardy Brothers Security Book Eighteen




1





One





“Hold him.”

James Hardy stared at the infant his wife Mandy shoved in his direction and cast her a dubious look. Is she kidding? “No.”

Mandy, her sea-blue eyes flashing, made a face. “James, I need you to hold your nephew while I get his bottle ready. Are you really telling me you can’t hold a helpless baby for five minutes while I get his lunch?”

James sat in his favorite recliner in the living room of his Southeastern Michigan home, his dark eyes flat as he regarded the woman he loved more than anything. “How many times do I have to tell you that I can’t touch him until he can hold up his own head?” James adopted a reasonable tone, even though he had a feeling his wife was going to make things extremely unreasonable if he didn’t give in to her demands. “He’s too vulnerable, wife. I can’t hold him.”

Mandy scowled as she cradled Avery James Hardy to her chest. The baby was only a few weeks old – and he could mostly hold his head up on his own – but James refused to be responsible for the baby’s care and safety until he was more durable. That was the word James used, anyway. Mandy had no idea what that meant – but she was annoyed all the same.

“James, we’re watching Avery for exactly two hours,” Mandy pointed out. “I need your help. Please.”

James was almost moved by the plaintive expression on her beautiful face. “No.”

Mandy forced a smile as she looked down at Avery’s features. The baby – his full name a combination of her maiden name and her husband’s first name – stared back. He proved to be happiest when Mandy held him, almost as if he understood he was only alive and thriving because she helped his mother, Emma Pritchard, during a hard birth and delivery. He fussed with almost everyone else. He was content with her, though.

James and Mandy decided they didn’t want children – and the sentiment remained despite Avery’s arrival – but when Emma called and asked the duo to watch the baby so she could visit her brother in prison, Mandy felt trapped. That was more than an hour ago. Avery’s father and James’ brother Finn was expected to retrieve him once his shift at Hardy Brothers Security ended. Mandy was almost at her wit’s end, though.

“James, I’m trying really hard to hold it together here,” Mandy said. “I need you to help me. There’s too much to do. He cries if I put him in his little carrier seat. I need to make his lunch. I am begging you to help me.”

James never denied his wife anything, and when he saw her bite her bottom lip he gave in and held his arms out. “If something happens, you’re going to explain to Finn and Emma how it’s your fault.”

“Thank you,” Mandy said, sliding Avery so he rested comfortably in James’ arms. “I’ll be right back with his bottle.”

James stared at Avery’s round face, fervently hoping the baby – who had remained mostly quiet during his stay – wouldn’t pick now to start howling. Since Emma and Finn lived in the apartment above Hardy Brothers Security – the business he owned and operated with his brothers – James was well aware of the boy’s lung capacity.

“Don’t get any ideas,” James chided, making a funny face to elicit a smile from Avery. “No offense, but I thought we should’ve dumped you on Aunt Ally. She loves to dote on you. I’m a little bit frightened of you, if I’m telling the truth.”

Avery’s soulful eyes latched onto James’ and he smiled, causing James to smile back.

“You’re not so bad, are you?” James made sure to keep the baby solidly pressed against his chest out of fear he would drop him. “You’re kind of cute. You look like us Hardy men, which is fun. That means you’re going to break a lot of hearts.”

Avery blew a spit bubble as he chortled, almost as if he understood what James said.

“You’re sweet … and sometimes you smell okay when you’re not dropping a load in your pants … but you’re a lot of work, kid,” James said. “I prefer hot tubs to diaper changes. Some day you will, too. I can already see it. You’re going to wow women left and right.”

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