Heart of the Raven(12)

By: Susan Crosby


She straightened. “What do you mean you don’t know where she is?”

“She sold him to me for ten thousand dollars, then she left.”

It took her a second to comprehend what he’d just told her. “Seriously?”

“Signed, sealed and delivered.”

She sat on the sofa but kept her hand on the basket as Heath related what happened.

“What do you think?” she asked. “It sounds like she was emotional.”

“Definitely. But there are all kinds of emotions, Cassie. I can’t pretend to know what she was feeling. I only know the truth of what’s here in front of me—my son. He needs me to take care of him now, no matter what happens in the future.”

She looked into the bassinet as the baby stirred. “Yes. First things first.”

“I doubt the paper she signed will hold up in court.”

“I doubt it, too. But it’s a start. You need to have him checked by a pediatrician. You need his birth certificate as soon as it’s available. And he needs a name.” The baby’s eyes opened. Cassie smiled at him. “You need a name, don’t you, sweet pea?”

Heath lifted the baby out of the basket. “Daniel. Daniel Patrick.”

“That’s nice. Is there some significance?”

“My father’s name—before he turned hippie and started calling himself Journey.”

“You’re the product of hippies?” Cassie laughed.

He didn’t react, just stared at her for a few seconds, but she couldn’t figure out why.

“It’s the truth,” he said finally. “My mother calls herself Crystal. They live on a commune in New Hampshire.”

“Did you grow up there?”

“Yeah. I couldn’t wait to go away to college.”

There was fondness in his voice, though, indicating he might have resented his upbringing then but not now.

“They’re into macrobiotic diets,” he added.

“That’s grains and vegetables, isn’t it?”

“It’s cardboard.”

She smiled. “I like steak.”

“Me, too. And ordering in.”

Daniel started to fuss. Cassie clenched her hands. She wanted to hold him, but Heath hadn’t offered, so she leaned close and sang. “The itsy bitsy spider—”

“Don’t.”

Startled at his vehement tone, Cassie sat back. The baby wailed. “Don’t what?”

“Sing.” He bounced Daniel.

“Why not? Babies love singing. It calms them.”

“I don’t have to explain myself.” He tried to shush the baby, who had worked up a full head of steam.

Cassie wondered about Heath’s sanity. Or was he just stressed over everything that had just happened? “Maybe he’s hungry,” she offered.

“He had a bottle right before you got here.”

“Maybe he needs a diaper change. Do you want me to check?” When he didn’t answer, she looked straight at him. He’s afraid to trust me, she realized. He’s probably afraid to trust anyone. “I’ll take good care of him,” she said gently.

He stared at her for at least ten seconds. “Yeah. Okay.”

The exchange was a little awkward, but soon Daniel was settled in her arms like he belonged there.

Like he belonged there.

Cassie didn’t question the feeling. She blinked back tears as love for this total stranger flooded her. This helpless little boy whose mother abandoned him and whose father wanted to do the right thing, but who needed to open up his heart and soul again. Learn to laugh and live life. Go back into the world. Daniel should not grow up a hermit, just because his father chose to be one.

“Do you have diapers?” she asked.

“In the nursery. Follow me.” He led her across the foyer into a yellow bedroom so bright and sunny that it seemed like something out of a fantasy, not a room in this gloomy house.

“This is nice,” she said. “Did Eva help you put the room together?”

“No. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

She set Daniel on the changing table. Careful not to disturb his cord she changed a very wet diaper for a dry one, then wrapped him up again. Still he fussed. She tucked him against her chest and swung back and forth. His cries grew quieter, then they stopped. He’d fallen asleep.

Heath had hovered over them like the protective father he was. “Where’d you learn about taking care of babies?”

“Here and there.”

“Baby-sitting?”

“In a manner of speaking. I spent a lot of time in foster homes. There were always babies to be tended.”

She felt his gaze intensify but ignored it. She’d never wanted sympathy for what she’d gone through. It was done. She’d moved on. So instead she sat in the rocking chair, satisfying her need to hold Daniel while also keeping him asleep with the motion. She looked around the room. “Do you have everything he needs?”

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