“Hello?” he croaked, his throat clogged by sleep.
“Nick? Did I wake you?”
“Mom? What’s going on? Is everything okay?” Wide awake and panicked by the unexpected sound of his mother’s voice, Nick pulled himself up and leaned against the wall.
“I’ve had a visitor today, Nick. Somebody you need to meet. I think you’re going to have to come home.”
Nick ran his hand through his hair as he glanced at the clock again.
“Mom, it’s the middle of the night and you’re not making any sense…”
“She has a baby, Nick. She says he’s your son.”
His mind beginning to work faster, Nick looked at Cassie still sleeping peacefully beside him.
“Can you hold the line for a second, Mom? I’m going to grab a glass of water and take this in the kitchen.”
His mother agreed and Nick pressed the ‘hold’ button before gently returning the receiver to its cradle. He shot another sidelong glance at Cassie before slowly easing himself out of bed.
“What’s going on?” Cassie asked, still half asleep as she rolled over. “Is your mom okay?”
“She’s fine. Just a bit lonely, you know how she gets,” Nick replied, pulling his jeans on with forced calm as his mind raced ahead. “Go back to sleep.”
In the kitchen Nick picked up the cordless phone and pressed the ‘talk’ button.
“Mom? I’m here,” he said, reaching for a glass and moving towards the sink. “Please, tell me what the heck is going on. Who is this girl and why would you believe anything she has to say?”
“She said her name was Hannah. I’ve never heard you mention an HJaneah, Nick.”
Nick’s heart sank. Hannah.
“Carry on, Mom.”
“She turned up on my doorstep - Lord only knows how she got the address - saying she’d met you in New York two years ago. She was a waitress. She said you told her you were a stockbroker, Nick. Why would you tell her that?”
Nick closed his eyes and pressed his hand against his forehead.
“Please, Mom, just tell me what she said about the baby.”
“She said he’s yours. She was adamant there was no way he could be anyone else’s,” Jane Carter paused but no response came from her son. “He’s a year old. His name is Jack.”
“I don’t want to know his name, Mom. I don’t want to know anything about some fantasy baby invented by someone I can only assume is a particularly crazed fan. It’s ridiculous. Ridiculous…”
Jane’s heart broke at her son’s denial.
“Nick, if you’ve got something to tell me - something to tell Cassie - I suggest you get it out in the open as soon as possible and you take responsibility for it.”
“Are you serious?” Nick demanded. “Mom, come on, this has happened to all the guys in one way or another and it’s never…”
“Nick, she has pictures of the baby,” Jane interrupted. “And I’m sorry… You better come home.”
Nick was silent as he tried to collect his thoughts.
“Okay, Mom,” he conceded. “Okay.”