The Forgotten Claim - The Claim: Book 1

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Chapter 18 - Cameron (Part 2)

Chloe’s face took up the entire screen and she giggled before the screen tilted up to the ceiling. “He’s brushing his teeth too, Mommy.”

“I see that.”

He set the phone down and spat the toothpaste from his mouth and rinsed before picking the phone back up again.

“All done. See?” He smiled wide at Chloe to show his teeth. “Let’s see yours.”

Tittering, she flashed her own teeth at him. “I have a loose tooth too.” She wiggled one of her top eye teeth with a finger.

“Already? Stop growing, kiddo.”

“I can’t!”

Emotion filled him. The pain and guilt for not being there in her life and missing so much of it already fought over his pleasure at making her laugh and smile so brightly.

How could he miss out on the magic that Chloe brought into the world?

“We’re going to read a few bedtime stories together, right Chloe?” Olivia said.

Chloe nodded vigorously before the screen whirled around as Olivia took the phone from their daughter and held it away from her side, angling it toward them. She fiddled with it for a moment, as if trying to get it to stand upright properly.

He could see them sitting together on Chloe’s bed. A big picture book was held open between them.

Setting a pillow up against the headboard of his bed, Cameron slipped under the covers and made himself comfortable as he listened to Olivia read aloud. Her voice took on different tones and pitches, shifting from narration to different characters speaking in the story.

He didn’t listen to the story itself, but rather contented himself with watching them in this moment and allowing the sound of Olivia’s voice to fill his head and smooth the tension from his well-worked muscles. He watched Chloe’s reactions and how Olivia’s face contorted when the evil witch cast a spell on the little heroine.

How could he miss out on moments like this?

The story was over in five minutes and Chloe was already demanding another.

Olivia handed her the phone as she looked for another one on a shelf next to the bed.

“Did you like the story, Daddy?”

“I sure did.”

“Which one do you want, Chloe? This one or this one?” Olivia asked in the background.

Her face scrunched up and the screen tilted to a lovely angle up Chloe’s nose. “That one.”

“What’s next, Chloe-bear?” Cameron asked her.

She chortled. “I’m not a bear!”

“No?” he asked. “You’re not cuddly like a teddy bear?”

She shook her head, a shy smile creeping onto her face as the screen tilted and half her face disappeared off the side.

“You are too, Chloe,” Olivia teased. “You spoil Mommy with lots of hugs and kisses every day. Especially at bedtime.”

More cherubic giggles played on his heart as the screen shifted and half of Olivia’s face appeared before she took the phone and set it back up where it once stood a couple minutes ago.

She held a smaller picture book this time, about the size of her hands and Chloe leaned closer to it to see the pictures better.

Again, he leaned back and watched them, wishing he could be there in person, holding Chloe in his arms while Olivia read to them. For now, he was grateful for this much. To be able to not only see them but to be able to share this moment with them.

When this story finished, Chloe was leaning against Olivia’s arm, her head resting against her as her eyelids drooped. Chloe yawned as Olivia got up again and handed her the phone.

“You getting sleepy, Chloe-bear?” he asked.

“No.” She shot him a mischievous grin.

He perked an eyebrow at her. “Liar liar. Pants on fire.”

“No, they aren’t!”

“You sure? I think I see smoke.”

“No!”

Her cute snickering protests danced on his heart and he wished time would stop and he’d never have to say goodnight to her.

Olivia joined them with another book in her hand and explained to him that this book and another one were always the last books before bedtime.

It was a straight-up bedtime story and it made sense to him that she would finish with it. It was short, no more than two or three minutes, but he watched as Chloe’s head drooped. Her eyes struggled to stay open as she rested against her mother.

It was a moment in time he wanted to imprint in his mind forever.

When the story was done, Olivia got up and tucked Chloe in and held the phone up for Chloe to say goodnight.

“Goodnight Daddy,” had never sounded so bittersweet.

He wished he could kiss her forehead like Olivia before she disappeared from his screen and Olivia slipped out, leaving a pale nightlight on at the foot of her bed.

When Olivia’s face reappeared on the screen, he couldn’t find the words to express himself beyond a simple “Thank you.”

She smiled, tucking a lock of auburn hair behind an ear. “You’re welcome. I thought you might like that. Of course, when you called and she heard it was you, she wanted to talk to you too.”

“I miss her,” he confessed, his voice whispering the ache and longing within. “I miss you both. Can we do this together every night?”

A shy smile greeted him and her eyes danced around before looking back at him. “Sure.”

“I don’t think you realize how much that meant to me. I wish I could be there now.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do.”

A blush rose to her cheeks. “Okay, well, I have a few things to do before I call it a night. Mind if I call you back in thirty to forty minutes?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, because I still have to tell you about Saturday…” She chewed on her bottom lip.

He nodded. “Right, you mentioned that.”

“Okay, I’ll call you back.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

They ended the call and he set his phone next to him, wondering what to do to pass the time. He wasn’t interested in watching TV or Netflix. He opted to lean back, close his eyes, and replay images of Olivia reading to Chloe instead.

He started when his phone rang next to him a minute later but in fact was almost an hour later.

Shit, I fell asleep. He shook his head as he answered the call and lifted the phone to his ear. “Hey, darling.”

“Cameron? You sound tired. Did I wake you?”

He grinned to himself. “Yeah, but it’s okay. Just fell asleep for a minute.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to take so long.” Regret laced her voice.

“It’s okay. Don’t apologize. You’re welcome to wake me up any time of the night.”

“Okay.” She sounded hesitant, and indeed she did hum for a minute before she finally came out with what was on her mind. “So, um, Saturday… My clients ended up pulling out all of a sudden due to circumstances I can’t get into, but I don’t have any other open houses planned for the day and my Sunday open house is from two till four, so I was thinking…”

She trailed off and when he prompted her to continue, he was surprised by what she offered and couldn’t wipe the shit-eating grin from his face.

“That sounds awesome. I can’t wait to see you on Saturday.”

This was it. His second chance.

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