Heart of the Raven(11)

By: Susan Crosby


“I’ll take it.”

He hesitated. So little? She knew he could afford much more than that.

Something wasn’t right. But when he looked at his son, the thought fled. “Will you sign a letter agreeing to my assuming full legal custody of him?”

“Sure, why not?”

He started to put his son in Eva’s arms while he tended to business but realized he couldn’t let go of him. “Come up to my office. We’ll draft an agreement.”

He dictated the note as she typed it, her hands shaking, then they both signed it. He wrote out the check and gave it to her.

“You’d better not stop payment on this or I’ll take him back,” she said coldly. “I only have to claim severe postpartum depression. Everyone will understand that.”

He was more concerned that the document wouldn’t hold up in court. “Did you give him a name?”

“No.”

“When was he born?”

“Yesterday.”

“Yesterday? Shouldn’t he still be in the hospital?”

“No.” She started to leave the room, her face ashen, legs wobbly.

“Eva,” he said, touching her shoulder. “You need to rest. Stay here. Sleep for a while. Have something to eat.”

“I can’t.” Her eyes shifted to the baby, then she ducked her head and hurried out of the office and down the stairs. She flung open the front door and raced out.

“Wait!” he called, but she didn’t stop. He tucked the blanket more tightly around his son and followed her into the yard. “Where can I contact you?”

“There’s a bottle in the diaper bag. You just have to warm it.” She got in her car and slammed the door, then she was gone.

He stood there until he could no longer hear her engine, then he walked back into the house. The baby made a noise. Heath pulled the blanket from his face and stood in the foyer staring at him. His son. His second chance.

He leaned over and kissed his tiny forehead. He felt dizzy, almost nauseated. He made his way into the living room and sat down to stare at the boy. Soon he started to fuss, then whimper, then cry. Heath dug through the diaper bag in search of a bottle.

He cried in earnest now. Heath didn’t know whether to heat the tiny bottle in the microwave or—

He decided to run hot water into a bowl. It might take longer but it couldn’t melt the nipple or anything.

While he waited for the bottle to warm, he walked the kitchen floor, whispering soothing words, holding his son close, bouncing him lightly. His cries got louder. Heath tested the milk. Not warm yet. He ran more hot water, then picked up the telephone. He glanced at the business card sitting on his kitchen counter.

Five-fifteen in the morning, he noticed as the phone was ringing. Would she mind?

“Hello?” she said, her voice layered with sleep, but trying not to show it.

“Cassie?” he said above the baby’s cries.

“Heath? Is that—?”

“It’s my son. Can you come over?”



Cassie waited anxiously at Heath’s front door. The usual silence surrounded the house. No sound of a baby crying. No birds singing in the early dawn.

She prepared herself for meeting Eva, for being polite to the woman who’d caused Heath grief and worry on top of what he already lived with.

She prepared herself, too, for the fact she wouldn’t see him after this. The issue was closed. She hadn’t even had a chance to find the baby herself, to solve the case, to show him, frankly, how good she was at her job. She should be glad it was over. She was glad it was over, for Heath’s sake, but he would be completely involved in his new life now.

Maybe Eva would even agree to marry him, and they could live together as a family. The baby deserved that opportunity. Eva should give it a chance.

The front door opened. His arms were empty. He should be smiling. He wasn’t smiling.

“Thank you for coming,” he said, gesturing her in.

Cassie stepped across the threshold and into the foyer. The lights were on in the living room but Cassie saw no signs of the redheaded Eva.

“Where’s the baby?”

“Asleep. In his basket.”

He led her toward the living room. She spotted a wicker bassinet on the coffee table.

“And Eva?”

“Gone.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know.”

Cassie bent over the bassinet, saw that it was lined with yellow gingham. “You don’t— Oh! Oh, how sweet.” He was wrapped in a blue blanket, his tiny face barely visible. Her heart melted. She’d felt a bond with him from the moment she knew of his existence, her concern for his welfare her priority. Seeing him in person cemented everything.

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