“So are you sure it’s okay that we are here?” I asked nervously as we slid into two seats in the back.
“Yes,” Adrian said, smiling at me.
“What did your dad say?” I whispered looking towards the front where his mom and dad were laughing about something.
“He said that it was fine as long as I was still present and focused in meetings; and that you seem sweet but he’s worried he scares you.” He draped his arms over the back of my chair.
“I’m sorry.” I blushed, shifting closer to him. “I’m just more protective over her to father figures. My dad tends to be harsh to her. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s just him.”
“He was not offended, there’s no reason to be sorry.” He lifted my chin before pressing his soft warm lips gently against mine.
“Mama?” Aaliyah said, struggling to sit up.
I pulled away feeling blood rush into my cheeks. “Yes baby girl? Are you hungry?” I asked.
She nodded quickly.
“Okay.” I reached for my bag then paused glancing at Adrian. “Would you mind holding her for a second?”
Adrian smiled brightly, “of course. We’re friends aren’t we ο ángelós mou?”
Ally clapped, bouncing up and down, before practically throwing herself at him. He caught her easily and they started playing some kind of tickle game. I watched for a second before digging through my bag for a snack for her.
When we landed a black limousine was waiting on the tarmac. Adrian’s dad, Jay, had called ahead and there was a car seat all strapped in and waiting. When I asked the price of the brand new seat to repay them, Jason smiled and nodded like I had passed some kinda test. Rhea just smiled and politely told me to forget about it.
“So you guys are joining us for breakfast at the hotel tomorrow right?” Rhea asked excitedly.
“Mom, I don’t know it’s been a long day.” Adrian trailed off glancing at me.
“N-no I would l-like that.” I responded shyly.
“Good!” Rhea clapped her hands as the limousine stopped in front of a huge hotel. “We are taking penthouse A, you three can have penthouse B. Charlette, you’re in room 1799.”
“Yes ma’am.” The lady with the glasses and clipboard glared at me. I ignored it but noticed Adrian start glaring at her in return.
Everyone climbed out, but as I rounded the car to get Aaliyah I saw Adrian already had her on his hip. I was impressed with how comfortable they both were with this situation. Aaliyah smiled confidently at Adrian, trusting him completely. Adrian for his part had her securely in his arms and looked as if he had been around her her whole life, not just a couple weeks. When we all stood on the sidewalk outside the limo Jason stepped forward to address everyone.
“Okay, we reconvene downstairs at eight o’clock for breakfast and scheduling.” Jason boomed, nodding to accent the importance. “Don’t be late, Phoebe.”
Phoebe rolled her eyes but nodded along with everyone else. Adrian elbowed her playfully as everyone got out and headed for the door. Then, after a quick squeeze of the shoulder and a couple whispered words, he fell back to walk by me.
“What about the bags? The car seat?” I asked quietly.
“The bags will be in the room before we are and the seat is being transferred to my car. Don’t worry, it’s all planned.” He responded, grabbing my hand as we walked into the foyer.
I stopped short in wonder as we stepped onto the immense marble floor in what seemed to be a mostly glass room. Chandeliers hug in intervals around the room.
“Wow.” I blanched.
“Yeah,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “Wait till you see our room, though.”
Something in my mind clicked as we entered the elevator alone. I barely processed how we were the only ones in the small space as the doors slid shut.
I looked over at him nervously. “Our room?”
“There’s three bedrooms in our penthouse, four in the bigger one.” He smiled nervously. “We are just behind the same locked door, completely safe.”
I smiled reassuringly, “that sounds great.”
“Good.” He kissed my forehead then stared down meeting my eyes. “Agápi mou.”
His voice was low and gentle; it sent shivers down my back. I felt a burning desire to be closer to him. I wanted his arms wrapped around me. I wanted his lips on mine. I wanted him, but I had to think of Aaliyah first.
The room was more like an apartment. Actually, I noticed with slight embarrassment it was bigger than my apartment. There was plush white carpet and light brown couches surrounding a huge flat screen that my brothers would die for. The far wall was glass and looked over the lights of New York at night.
Ally who had been sleeping on and off squirmed in Adrians arms trying to get down. When he placed her down she toddled over to look out the window. I chuckled seeing her little face smashed up against the glass.
“Mama mama!” Ally chanted, pointing out over the city.
“I know, isn’t it so pretty?” I responded kneeling next to her.
“Dada!” Ally shrieked delitedly as she turned to find Adrian.
Adrians eyes widened and I felt heat rush my face. I knew my mouth was open but I couldn’t seem to remember how to close it. In fact I couldn’t even remember how to breathe.
I didn’t want to tell her no, it was only her second word and I didn’t want to discourage her. I waited anxiously to see if Adrian would get upset. I knew by now he wasn’t the type to yell. However, I wondered if he would simply walk away or maybe correct the child. In the end I was able to regain control and respond before he did.
“Honey, it’s Adrian. Can you say Adrian?” I asked cautiously.
“Dada?” Ally tilted her head and frowned as if she couldn’t understand the difference.
“It’s okay.” Adrian assured me as he bent down, tossing Ally up in the air. His smile was so genuine and overwhelmingly joyful I had to catch my breath. “I don’t mind. Do I, beautiful?”
“But, you’re not her dad.” I said timidly.
“She knows I’m not her uncle, dad is her next guess, and I really wouldn’t mind claiming her.” He smiled confidently at me. “She doesn’t have one worth mentioning and I love her. I love you.”
“I…” I was stunned by his bluntness.
“I see no point hiding it or playing games. I have been taking things as slowly as I thought you needed but you trust me now. There’s no longer a reason to avoid the obvious truth.” Though Adrians voice was confident there was a hint of uncertainty in the way he shifted his weight and wouldn’t meet my eyes. Not to mention the fact that he was now rambling. “I mean if you don’t want her to call me that it’s ultimately your choice.”
“It’s just,” I thought for a second wondering if it would be any threat to him. “I don’t know if it’s prudent to let her. She’s too young to know to only do it when not in public, and I don’t know if it’s smart to let people know how close we are.”
He frowned thinking for a second before realization struck him. “I don’t care about that. I’m not afraid of him or his family. You don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
I wondered at the last sentence when he lightly kissed my forehead. “It’s been a long day. We should get to bed.”
As if on cue Ally yawned and laid her head down on Adrians shoulder. Her deep brown curls fanned over his shoulder, as her light blue eyes drooped. They looked nothing alike, there was no mistaking that they weren’t related. However, as he shifted her so she was cradled in his arms, the look on his face was unmistakable. He adored my daughter in a way I believed she would never know, and I loved him even more for that.