Nate picked up his cell phone. He wondered if she had already made it into the city. It was now after five on a Friday and the office was deserted with everyone taking advantage of the new summer hours. He wasn’t working on anything pressing and didn’t look forward to going home to his own quiet condo.
He found Mia’s number and hit the send button, listening intently to the ringing. Maybe if she was already here, he could take her out to dinner. The polite thing for him to do would be to let her get settled in, maybe suggest they meet for lunch tomorrow. Nate rejected the thought. He didn’t know what had brought her back to Chicago, but he’d waited five years and wouldn’t wait another night.
Nate was startled at the young, high-pitched voice that came through the line. For a second, he thought he had dialed the wrong number.
“Hello,” Nate replied hesitantly. “Who is this?”
“Mommy said I shouldn’t talk to strangers,” the little boy said casually, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that he was indeed talking to a stranger.
For a moment, Nate was baffled. Mia had a kid? He couldn’t help the stab of jealousy that pierced him at the thought of her bearing another man’s child.
“What’s your mom’s name?”
Nate stifled a groan then laughed. “Okay…what’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Mikey,” Nate said lightly. “Is there a grown-up I can talk to?” At the brief silence, Nate imagined the little boy was shaking his head.
“I’m not ’posed to talk to strangers.”
Nate’s lip quirked. He didn’t want to point out to Mikey he was doing exactly what he wasn’t supposed to. “Yes, buddy, you’re right. You shouldn’t talk to strangers. Now can you pass the phone to your mom?”
Nate jerked his head back, surprised by the casually spoken refusal. “Why not?”
Mikey’s voice became a hushed, earnest whisper. “Because Mommy’s having her bath, and I’m not ’posed to play on the phone.”
For some reason, Nate felt the need to ease his little worries. “You’re not playing. We’re just chatting.”
“I’m not ’posed to do that either.”
“I dunno. Mommy said I’m ’posed to just sit still and watch TV, but I hate it here. It smells like dirt.”
Nate didn’t know how to respond to that—or what to make of this unusual conversation. He wasn’t used to dealing with kids or talking to them. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had been around one.
“Please don’t tell Mommy,” Mikey whispered.
“All right,” Nate assured him. “But when your mom gets finished with her bath, tell her I called. Okay? Can you remember that?”
“Yes, I’m good at remembering.”
“Excellent. I’ll talk to you later, Mikey.”
When Nate hung up the phone, he realized he hadn’t given the boy his name. ♥