“Hey, are you ready?”
Zara caught her phone between her ear and shoulder and hoisted Amy onto her hip, simultaneously picking up the packet of chips that she had been feasting upon unnoticed by both Susan and her.
She was running late by more than an hour for their date tonight.
“Hey, I’m so sorry. I’m not even close. Susan had to leave suddenly for some last minute presentation work she has this week and Amy was a bit cranky-”
Nathaniel interrupted her gently, “It’s alright. Why don’t I come by? I’ll be there in a few minutes. I could ask Matt to look after Amy for a while. Is that okay?”
Zara sighed with relief, her heart melting just a little when Amy tried to crawl up her body, her arms going right around her neck and holding tight. She lay her head on Zara’s shoulder and went still, one thumb going to her mouth.
Zara kissed the top of her head and she snuggled closer, her chest rising and falling evenly. She was falling asleep.
“That would be great. Thanks, Nathaniel.”
She heard the smile in his voice and her own lips quirked up.
“I’ll be there soon.”
Then the line went dead.
Zara placed her phone on the table, holding Amy close. She made her way around the apartment, straightening a few things.
The dishes were yet to be done. So taking Amy to the bedroom, she slowly lay her down on the bed, tucking the covers around her. When Amy reached out to pull Zara back to her, she took her tiny hands in hers. Then she kissed both her palms and her cheek.
“I’ll be right here, sweety. Go to sleep.“, she whispered softly, waiting till Amy had settled down.
Leaving the door open so that it wasn’t too dark, Zara went to the kitchen and started with the dishes.
She had just finished washing up the last one and had dried her hands when there was a knock.
She opened it and Nathaniel stepped inside, leaning in to kiss her softly.
She couldn’t help smiling.
He took hold of her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing her fingers.
She nodded, her skin tingling where he touched her. Nathaniel pulled her close to him, gathering her in his arms, his gaze roaming over her face.
“You look a bit tired. Are you sure you wanna go out? We could order in and spend the night at my place with Matt here.”
Zara shook her head.
“No, no. We should go. I’ll have a shower and freshen up. We haven’t gone out for a while, it’ll be fun.”
Nathaniel still eyed her skeptically.
“Or we could stay in.”
She pushed him away slightly.
“No, Nate. We are going out.”
Then she made her way to the bedroom.
“I’ll be ready in a few minutes. When is Matt coming over?”
When he didn’t answer, she turned around and saw him staring at her backside. A flush crept up her neck when he saw her watching him and grinned shamelessly.
“I asked you something.“, she said, failing to sound stern.
His grin widened and he walked over to where she was, his hands coming to her waist and then resting low on her hips, his fingers splayed on the swell of her butt.
“I really like your ass.“, he said, right before one hand moved to her butt cheek and squeezed it lightly.
The back of her neck heated up and she looked toward the bed.
“Amy could wake up, you know.“, she said softly, her cheeks ablaze.
She felt him lean in further and then his mouth was near her ear, his breath caressing its shell.
“I like how your breath hitches every time I kiss you..”
And then his lips were on the spot just below her ear.
“Here.“, he murmured, smiling against her skin, his hand still clenched in her cheek.
Her fingers caught his biceps more firmly and she wondered for a brief moment how he’d react if she told him to forget about dinner and have his way with her on the couch.
Nathaniel continued kneading her flesh while one hand held her waist firmly, his lips tasting her skin, kissing her everywhere but on her lips.
She turned her head toward his, itching to kiss him, to run her fingers through the soft hair at the base of his skull.
The sound of a knock on the door made her jump.
Nathaniel groaned but didn’t let her go, his forehead coming to rest on her shoulder.
“I’m going to kill Matt.“, he growled before slowly letting her go.
He began toward the door but abruptly turned back to her. Before she knew it he had grabbed her by the shoulders and fused his mouth to hers in a quick but hard kiss.
Zara was left reeling when he let her go again and went to answer the door. Not wanting Matt to see her in her current state, she quickly darted inside the room, looking over once at Amy to ensure that she was fast asleep.
She grabbed a towel and the outfit she wanted to wear for the evening and then slipped into the shower.
When she came out a good twenty minutes later, she found Nathaniel and Matt seated on the couch, both conversing about a football game.
“Hey, Zara.“, Matt called out, standing up to hug her.
She kissed his cheek, “Hey.”
“Susan told me about her presentation thing. You guys go out and have fun. I’ll keep Amy company.”
“Thanks, Matt. She’s asleep for now. But she might wake up soon. She’s been pretty hungry today.”
Walking over to the refrigerator, she opened it and turned to Matt. “There’s the food that Susan prepared this afternoon. Just warm it in the microwave if you’re hungry. Also there’s a separate dish for Amy with all the veggies and stuff.”
“Yeah that’s good. I’ll make sure she eats it if she wakes up. Susan said she’d be home in about an hour or so.”
She looked over at Nathaniel who had his eyes riveted on her from the moment she had walked into the room.
“I’ll be out in ten minutes.“, she said, passing him by on her way back to the bedroom.
He followed her in, coming close as she stood before the mirror, debating what to do with her hair.
“Leave it down.“, he said softly from behind her.
Zara tried to ignore the warmth that suddenly flooded her chest when she saw him staring at her in the mirror. His hands found her waist and he pulled her into him, resting his chin on the top of her head.
“You are so beautiful.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, right. I look like a zombie come to life right now.“, she teased, taking the brush and running it through the ends of her hair.
His grip on her tightened just a bit.
“You have no idea what you do to me, Zara.”
The seriousness in his voice made her pause and her eyes met his in the mirror. She was his taken aback at the flicker of emotion she saw there.
He silenced her with a kiss to her hair.
“Don’t say anything. I just wanted you to be sure about how I feel.”
With his words echoing in her ears, he kissed the skin exposed at her shoulder and then turned and left the room.
When they reached the place they were having dinner at, Zara saw that it was already crowded.
Thankful that Nathaniel had booked a table in advance, they stepped inside and were led to their seat by the hostess.
Their table was private, surrounded on three sides by wooden barriers that were part of the decor. A few feet away from them was a table where a family of four were seated.
Nathaniel held out her chair for her before he pulled out his own and sat.
A few seconds later, a waiter came over to hand them their menus. Zara looked through the dishes available, her mind focused on Nathaniel, who sat opposite her, scanning the menu.
“What are you ordering-”
He was interrupted by the shrill tone of his phone.
He pulled it out of his pocket.
“It’s Matt.“, he frowned.
Zara closed her menu. “What’s happened?”
Nathaniel answered his phone.
Zara watched as he listened and slumped back in his seat in obvious relief.
Then he looked at her.
“He wants to know which dish had Amy’s food and which has his.”
She almost laughed.
When she told him, Nathaniel repeated it to Matt and then went silent for a few seconds.
Zara took the opportunity to look around her. The restaurant was lovely. Quaint and beautiful. The decor was mostly wooden with artistic paintings hung on the walls and soft lighting that gave the room a romantic vibe.
Her eyes drifted over to the family that sat at the table near theirs.
The man had his side to her, his face turned away and was seated with his arm around a girl who looked to be around seven or eight years old. Opposite him sat a woman that Zara thought to be his wife and a younger boy who had his hands full with fries.
They were laughing and discussing something. It made Zara smile.
They looked like a real family.
Then the man turned in the direction she was seated and pointed at the painting that was hung on the wall beyond Nathaniel, leaning across the table and saying something to the little boy.
Zara froze in her seat, her blood going cold. The menu dropped from her fingers.
She felt like she had been punched in the gut.
She saw the man laugh and smile, pulling his daughter close and kissing her forehead lovingly. She saw him looking at the boy with utter love shining in his eyes.
The same eyes that had looked upon her and her mother in disgust. The eyes that she saw reflected in the mirror everyday.
It was her dad.