Expecting his child(8)

By: Leanne Banks

She turned her head quickly, and her cheeks turned pink with embarrassment. "I, uh, was just—"

"—feeling sorry for yourself," he finished for her. "I brought Chinese food for dinner. Does it agree with you?"

Martina sighed. "Unfortunately every food agrees with me now. And I wasn't feeling sorry for myself."

"Uh-huh," he said, without an ounce of conviction.

Martina stood. No, really. I—"

"Martina, you are a very beautiful woman, pregnant or not pregnant. You just haven't had a man around to remind you."

She stared at him for a long moment, revealing a glimpse of the woman he'd known in Chicago. She took a deep breath. "Don't flatter me."

"I won't," he assured her. "I just tell the truth. I'd say something else," he said, allowing his gaze to linger on her full breasts. "But I don't want you to take a swing at me. You might hurt yourself. Are you hungry for Chinese food or not?"

She blinked and paused as if debating whether to hit him, anyway. "I'm hungry, period. Let's eat inside. I didn't expect you," she said, leading him though the back door to the cool kitchen.

"Didn't your mother tell you to always expect the unexpected from a Coltrane?"

Her smile wavered. "My mother didn't get an opportunity to teach me anything about the Coltranes. She died when I was born."

Noah immediately regretted his joke. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean any disrespect."

"That's okay. Besides, my father and brothers gave me an earful about the Coltranes." She plucked the containers of food from the bag.

"I'm sure they did," he muttered, and carefully voiced his next thought. "I realize you descend from Amazons and you could easily harvest an entire field of corn in the morning, deliver your baby at lunch and finish up another field in the afternoon. But do you ever think you might have problems when you deliver the baby?"

She drummed her fingers on the cabinet. "If you hadn't included the Amazon part, I would say no. But the truth is, although I don't worry about it a lot and the doctor says I'm perfectly healthy," she emphasized, "I think about it every now and then."

He saw the fleeting vulnerability and longing in her eyes and remembered how he had felt when his mother died. "You still miss the chance of knowing her, don't you?"

"I would have given anything to know her. I've always missed her and I probably always will. I was lucky to have two brothers who tried very hard and awkwardly at times to make up for the loss." She pushed her hair behind her ear. "What about your parents?"

"I think I miss more of what might have been. My parents weren't happy together."

Martina lifted her eyebrows. "My parents were crazy about each other. My brothers told me that was why my father never seemed happy after she died. Looking at me was too painful for him, because I reminded him of his loss."

Noah realized he had known Martina's mother was dead, but he'd never heard the whole story, and they'd agreed not to speak of their families during their time together in Chicago. It made him see her in a new light. "We had a foreman named Zachary, who taught my brothers and me about being a man. Zachary always said the strongest love survives distance and death, and it always makes you a better man."

She narrowed her eyes. "Are you saying my parents didn't love each other?"

"I'm saying your dad missed an opportunity to love and be loved by a little girl who could have taken away some of the hurt."

Martina looked at Noah for a long moment. He could practically see her mind poking at his statement, examining and pondering, then setting it aside. She glanced at the boxes of food on the counter. "Dibs on the sweet 'n' sour chicken."

They dug into the food, and Martina didn't eat nearly as much as Noah had expected. "I thought you were eating for two. You made it sound like you're eating everything but the living-room furniture."

"I'm not eating for two. It's more like I'm eating for one and one-twelfth. Besides, I wanted to save room for ice cream." She smiled with mischief. "I need my calcium."

"Have you had an ultrasound yet?"

She nodded as she scooped fudge-swirl ice cream into two bowls. "Two months ago. The way the baby was positioned didn't reveal its sex, but I have a feeling it will be a—"

"—girl," he interjected.

"—boy," she said at the same time with a look of surprise on her face.

"I would have thought you'd have some sort of macho expectation about producing a male," she said.

"And I would have thought you'd have some sort of feminist expectation about producing a female," he said. "Both wrong about each other. Looks like we've got a long way to go to get to know each other."

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