"You seem to be forgetting something," he said, with enough authority in his tone to warn her that he wasn't going to disappear from the scene merely because she commanded it. "You're not the only victim here—and you're not the only parent. Even though neither of us planned this, the kid happens to be mine, too, and I have rights."
The word "rights" jolted her. "Rights" implied legalities, attorneys, more talk of lawsuits and a host of other problems she didn't want to dwell on. All she really wanted was to be left alone so she could plan for her unborn child and the future they would have together. A future that did not include a father figure. But one look at Kurt Williams' determined face told her she'd better hear him out.
"What kind of rights are you talking about?" she asked, unable to mask the apprehension in her tone.
He must have noticed, because his face immediately softened as he folded his hands underneath his chin. "I can't even pretend I know. Like I said, I'm still in shock. But I'll tell you this much, I would never try to talk you into terminating your pregnancy."
"I'm glad to hear that," she said, feeling some relief that at least he wasn't going to start in on her the way his attorney had earlier.
"I was six years old and halfway through the first grade when my dad walked out on my mom and me," he said. "My mother raised me by herself, and it wasn't easy on either of us. There were times when I really missed my dad, times when I needed a father. I give my mom a lot of credit. She worked long hours to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. She had enough love for two parents. So I did okay."
Madeline couldn't help noticing the pride in his voice when he spoke of his mother, which, as far as she was concerned, served to better illustrate her point. "Well, see, there you are. The baby and I will be fine on our own. It's what I'd planned on all along."
"No, you don't understand, Madeline. Is that what people call you? Madeline?"
"Most people," she answered, unwilling to add that her father had called her Maddie up until he'd dropped dead of a heart attack shortly after her tenth birthday. She'd adored him. Though, no doubt, it was his death that caused her to be so independent. She'd been the one to raise her younger sister while their mom had suffered a breakdown. In fact, Madeline had nursed her mother back to health. Now her sister was married with two kids and living in Arizona, with Mom only two miles from them. While the move had been good for her family, she missed them all.
"Most people?" Kurt said. "So, would you mind if I call you Maddie? It's a little less formal, and considering the circumstances . . ."
"I'd prefer you call me Madeline," she answered.
"Fine," he said with an upward turn of his eyes. "Getting back to my point, I said I did okay. I didn't say I did great without a father. In fact, I swore up and down I would never do that to any kid of mine—walk out on him or her. I won't. You're having a baby. My baby—Madeline," he emphasized. "And I plan on being part of that process."
The skin on the back of her neck prickled. "You know, that almost sounds like a threat. What exactly does 'part of that process' mean, if you would do me the courtesy of being more specific?"
"Now there you go, gettin' on your high horse again. You want to pin me down to answers when I don't even know all the questions yet. I've never been an expectant father before. If you're worried I'm gonna follow you around all day with a bucket in case you have to puke . . . well I'm a busy guy."
"You needn't be crude, Mr. Williams."
"And you needn't be so formal. Call me Kurt," he added, after the waitress had left their sandwiches.
Madeline let out a sigh of resignation and took a bite of the turkey burger that had been placed in front of her. This discussion was going nowhere. "All right, Kurt. Let's change direction for a minute. If it isn't too rude to inquire, what do you do that keeps you so busy?"
"I'm a corporate pilot. I work for Cromwell. They make high performance transmissions and components."
She almost choked as the burger made its way down her throat. "I hate flying," she said. "The last time I was on an airplane, I wasn't sure whether we landed or we were shot down."
She couldn't have been more serious, but her comment prompted him to laugh out loud, which made him far less intimidating. And also rather appealing. In fact, his expression brought out captivating crinkles at the corners of his eyes—eyes so dark they were almost navy. Would her child look like him?
"So, the lady has a sense of humor after all. I take it the trip was a little bumpy? You'll have to come flying with me sometime. My landings are slicker than axle grease."
"No thanks." But she couldn't help returning a smile. "Next time I get a notion to go bounding through the sky in a pressurized crash rocket, I'll resist and call Greyhound."
"Ouch," he said with a wounded look. "A bus is okay if you're in no particular hurry. But what if you need to get somewhere fast?"
"Fast isn't the issue. At least bus wheels stay on the ground."
"Do I take that to mean you don't like heights?"
"Well . . ." Despite the fact that it was true, she hated to admit any weakness to him.
"So that's it?" he pressed. "You're afraid of heights?"
"Let's just say you don't want to get stuck behind me while I'm working up the nerve to board an escalator."
"Whew! That bad, huh?" He caught her gaze with a flicker of amusement. "I'll bet I could take you to some heights you'd enjoy."
"Fly Me To Paradise" is a Five Star publication,
scheduled for release in March 2011. This is my second full-length novel.
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