Standing there, with his blonde hair completely disheveled and in a suit that looked amazing on him, was the man from the coffee shop.
His light green eyes were full of surprise when they locked with mine. “Vanilla Latte?”
“City Roast.” I smiled but it fell quickly and I furrowed my brows. “What are you doing here?”
“I, uh, I needed to…” he stammered, looking completely unsure of himself for a second, and it was Valerie who finally put together a coherent thought.
She stood and extended her hand to the newcomer. “We are the ones working on the Baby Boy Doe case. I’m Detective Valerie Spector and this is my partner, Kevin Pick. How can we help you?”
He shoved his hands into the pockets of his suit pants nervously and looked at me before glancing back to Valerie. “My name is Jared Hart. I, uh, think I may have some information about the baby’s parents.”
A gasp fell from my lips automatically and Jared’s eyes snapped back to meet mine. Kevin must have sensed the tension between us because he gestured for Jared to sit in the chair across from mine. “Please sit. I see you know Stephanie Gibson. She’s the social worker assigned to the case and also the one who found Chris.”
“You found him?” he asked, his voice quiet. I nodded my head but didn’t say anything. My whole body warmed just being in his presence and it was all I could do to keep my hands from reaching out to him. When Valerie cleared her throat, he finally spoke again. “You’re calling the baby Chris?”
I nodded a second time, a nervous feeling in my stomach as our gazes stayed connected. “We wanted to call him something other than ‘Baby Boy Doe’.”
“Chris,” he repeated almost so softly that I didn’t hear him. The stare down between us finally broke when he ran his hand down his face. He looked over at Kevin “I just got back into town and one of my friends sent me the pictures you released. That woman is Angela Roberts.”
Kevin scribbled the name in notebook before looking back up at the man. “Are you sure, Mr. Hart?”
“Positive.” Jared nodded. “She’s my ex-girlfriend.”
“Ex-girlfriend?” Valerie repeated with a raise of her eyebrow. “How recent?”
His face went completely white at the question. “We separated about eight months ago. I think the baby may be mine.”
My heart thudded in my chest as I absorbed his words. Chris, our little Chris who came to us with no family, no name, no love… There was a real chance that he had family out there.
And that family could be the man I had spent the last month flirting with every morning. “And you didn’t know she was pregnant?” Valerie asked while Kevin stood and pulled his phone out his pocket. Everyone seemed oblivious to my own inner turmoil.
“I had no idea. If I’d known…” Jared looked like he might be sick so I offered him the unopened bottle of water. He accepted it gratefully and took a few small sips before replacing the lid. He didn’t look up as he focused on the plastic in his hands. “He would have died if he’d been out there much longer, wouldn’t he?”
Valerie ducked her head and stared at him until he finally looked up to meet her gaze. “Don’t focus on that. He was found in time and that little guy is thriving.”
“He really is,” I said quietly. Jared turned to look at me again, his eyebrows furrowed in disbelief. I offered him a small smile. “He’s a sweetheart, too. Charmed everyone in the NICU already.”
“Definitely,” Valerie agreed with a laugh. “I don’t think Steph has left his side for very long since she found him. He has her wrapped around his pinky.”
Kevin walked back to us as he tucked his phone back into his pocket. “The driver’s license photo matches the surveillance image. Patrols are heading to pick up Angela Roberts now. We’ll rush a DNA sample from her to compare it against the labs we had done for Chris. Mr. Hart, we’d like to take a sample from you as well to verify paternity. If you are the father, we will work with Ms. Gibson to figure out how to get you and your son together.”
“My son. Jesus.” Jared ran his hand over the top of his head. “I don’t even know where to start. I don’t have anything I’d need for a baby. Where will he sleep? What does he eat? Who’s going to watch him while I’m at work? I just-”
“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” I interrupted, trying to keep my tone as soft and reassuring as possible. “First things first. Let’s do the DNA test and then we can make a plan from there.”
Jared nodded at me and we stared at each other until Kevin mentioned heading to the lab. As we all stood, I offered my hand to him to shake.
When he took it in his own, I had to fight against closing my eyes. Everything about the simple touch felt perfect and I never wanted to let go. I had so much I wanted to ask him, so much I needed to say, but I felt frozen with shock. He opened his mouth to say something but Kevin asked if he was ready to go.
Our hands dropped and I mourned the loss of him immediately but forced a quick smile before quickly hugging the detectives. Kevin promised to call me with the results but warned it wouldn’t be for a couple of days.
I watched the three of them walk towards the elevator and right before he stepped in, Jared looked over his shoulder. He stared at me for a second and I offered him a small wave. He held his hand up to return it and then disappeared from my sight.
I went back into the NICU and said goodbye to Kara and Chris before heading home. It was late, already after ten, and there was no sign of my best friend when I closed myself off in my bedroom. Once I was in bed, my mind began to run wild. Phoenix was a big city. How was it that the man from the coffee shop could possibly be the father of the baby I had found? The universe had a weird sense of humor.
The thing was, I really wanted him to be the father. I wanted Chris to have a family. I saw so many tough cases in my job and I really just needed a win. I also wondered what that meant for me and City Roast.