I felt like I was going to be sick. The whole room was off-kilter, like I’d had too much to drink, but it was information that I was drunk on.
When I stepped off of the jet bridge at the Phoenix airport that evening, I immediately powered on my phone and wasn’t surprised at the notifications that came rolling in. It felt like my department couldn’t survive ten minutes without me.
What had surprised me was when my best friend and co-worker, Dave, had text me a picture of my ex with an accompanying message that said, “Isn’t this Angela?”
The second I text him back that it was, my phone vibrated and he told me about a press conference he’d seen earlier. Minutes later, realization and information had flooded my brain and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I ended the call and brought up my web browser, immediately finding the article I was looking for.
A baby had been abandoned. The woman who’d left him there was my ex-girlfriend. The baby had survived. According to the math, that baby could possibly be mine.
I could be a father.
I had driven right to the police station, who directed me to the hospital, and now I was giving up a DNA sample. Jesus.
“Mr. Hart?” The male detective, Detective Pick, gave me a concerned look. “Are you okay? You’re really pale.”
I ran my hand through my hair and shook my head. “It’s just a lot, you know?”
“I know. You’ll feel better once you really process it.” The two detectives had taken me down to the ground floor of the hospital, into a lab, and someone had immediately taken us back to a private room.
The female detective, Detective Spector, placed a hand on my shoulder. “Have a seat. The technician is going to do a buccal swab, which is just a quick sample of the saliva in your cheek.”
“How long until we get the results?” I asked, watching as a woman in scrubs entered the room with a tray in her hands. She offered me a small smile and began opening different things.
“Anywhere from forty-eight to seventy-two hours and the weekend doesn’t necessarily count,” Detective Pick answered and I looked up at him with my brows raised. “Why so long?”
“Well, this is us rushing it, too,” he explained. “The baby isn’t in any immediate danger so this is as fast as it can be.”
I nodded my head slightly. That made sense. “How is he? He’s healthy, right? Can I see a picture?”
Before either of them could answer, the technician told me to open my mouth and she stuck a cotton swab into my cheek. She repeated her actions with a different cotton swab and tested both sides of my mouth before turning to place them in little containers.
“Until we can prove he’s your son, we can’t answer that, Mr. Hart.” Detective Spector gave me an apologetic look.
Frustration rolled through me. My son, the son I didn’t know I had, could be sitting just four floors above my head and I couldn’t even know if he was okay. Detective Pick must have sensed my frustration because he leaned forward and spoke quietly.
“He’s healthy. He’s thriving. He’s going to be okay. Stephanie is watching over him like he was her own and there isn’t anyone better you could have on your side.”
Stephanie. Or as I liked to call her, Vanilla Latte.
It had been almost two months since she first caught my eye at the coffee shop. I had been standing in line while she was placing her coffee order and she laughed at something the barista said. Her laugh was so damn sexy that I couldn’t ignore it. And then when I laid eyes on her, I realized that her laugh wasn’t the only sexy thing about her.
After four weeks of just catching glimpses of her, I finally worked up the courage to talk to her and every weekday morning since had been perfect. I had spent the whole week missing the fifteen minutes a day I got with her. When I saw her in the hospital, I had almost forgotten why I was there.
She was in a tight, deep red colored blouse and it was tucked into the even tighter, hip-hugging grey skirt. Every perfect curve of her body, from her chest to her waist had been on display, even more so than it normally was in the mornings. Even though she had been obviously thrown off by my appearance, she had spoken to me with confidence and knowledge.
That was what had hooked me in the first place, not her gorgeous appearance. The friendliness when she spoke to people. The passion in her eyes when the conversation hit something she cared about. The way she smiled secretively when she ate her completely unhealthy breakfast pastries. I had felt a connection to her almost instantly and it had only grown since I’d known her.
I had no idea where we went from that point but that was put on the backburner because I had to wait to know the answer I was so desperately seeking.
Was the baby mine? Did I want him to be mine? Why the fuck hadn’t Angela told me? What was I going to do? “Okay, then,” Detective Spector said, jarring me out of my thoughts again. “You’re good to go. You have our cards so you can call if you have any questions, but one of us will call you the second the results are in.”
“Okay. Thank you.” I shook both of their hands and basically stumbled out of the hospital until I was at my car. I slipped behind the steering wheel, started the engine, and then didn’t move.
Finally, I pulled out my phone and pressed Dave’s name on the screen. He answered after just two rings.
“They have to do a DNA test,” I replied, staring at the roof of my car. “We won’t know for two or three days.”
My closest friend was quiet for a long moment. “And you really think it might be yours?”
I had called him after leaving the police station, letting him know everything I’d found out since the moment my plane had landed.
“The timeline fits, Dave.”
“Yeah, but she could have been sleeping with someone else.”
I released a long breath and let my eyes close. “I know but it’s hard to explain. My gut is telling me that the baby is mine.”
“Okay.” Another long pause. “And if he is your kid, what’s your plan?”
I knew why he was asking. My life was about my job and I already had very little free time as it was. Adding a baby to the mix? I had no idea how it would work but I would make it work.
“Then I’m going to be his father and I’ll be the best damn father I can be.”
“Good.” I could tell he was smiling. “I’ll help anyway I can. I’ll dig through the boys’ old things to see what you can use, too.”
“That’d be awesome.” Dave was the closest thing I had to family. He and I had gone to college together in Michigan. When he had received a job offer in Phoenix, Arizona right after graduation, I’d been happy for him but it sucked seeing him go. When an amazing opportunity came up for me to join his company just three years ago, I couldn’t say no.
We talked for a few more minutes before ending the call with plans to get lunch together the next day. I finally put my car into reverse to leave the hospital.
Instead of going home like I should have, I ended up at the nearest Babies R Us. The second I walked through the door, I was overwhelmed. I’d never even held a baby, much less thought about all of the crap they needed.
I mean, I wanted children. In fact, I always thought I’d have a wife and a kid or two by the time I hit thirty but it hadn’t been in the cards. Angela was the only woman I had dated since moving to Phoenix and we were only together for less than a year. I walked down an aisle that started out with bottles, those I at least recognized, but it quickly turned into different types of cups and cutlery. Pacifiers, bibs, shampoos, soaps, creams, food, formula, and other random items swirled around me with every step I took. The diaper aisle was huge and there were so many types and sizes. Hell, there were multiple types of wipes.
And I’d only gone down three aisles.
“Can I help you find something, sir?” A chipper woman in a purple vest appeared in front of me and I shook my head.
“Uh, no. Thanks.”
I walked away from her but my head began to spin again. When I reached the car seat aisle, I turned and walked out before I hyperventilated. I wasn’t the type to have anxiety attacks but I wondered if that was what they felt like.
When I got back to my car, I dropped my head to the steering wheel and attempted to slow my breathing.
How the hell was I going to do this?