“Hi, Nick,” she responded quietly. “How are you?”
Nick laughed awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair.
“I’ve been better, Hannah,” he replied, watching as Jack grabbed a handful of his mother’s blonde hair and pulled it into his mouth. “Do you… Want to come in?”
Nick moved away from the door and Hannah walked past him, untangling her hair from the trap of Jack’s fingers as she went. With a sigh, Nick followed her in and closed the door.
“Can I get you something to drink?” he offered, crossing the kitchen and opening the refrigerator. “Juice? A glass of milk? Something for the baby?”
“No, thank you,” Hannah replied as she surveyed her surroundings.
Nick closed the refrigerator and turned to face her.
“So… This is Jack?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest and leaning back against the wall.
“Would you like to hold him?”
Nick looked at the two of them in silence. Jack, enthusiastically sucking his thumb, stared back at him. “He won’t bite,” Hannah added gently. “Even if he does, he doesn’t have enough teeth to do any real damage.”
Nick stepped forward hesitantly and Hannah moved towards him. Jack shot Nick a frightened glance before he turned to his mother and buried his face in her neck.
“He doesn’t seem to want…” Nick began.
“He’ll be fine,” Hannah replied, gently extracting herself from Jack’s grip and brushing his blonde hair back as she spoke to him. “Do you want to say hello to Nick while mommy finds your truck?”
“Mommy tuck,” Jack copied, his eyes lighting up. “Mommy tuck!”
“Yeah, mommy’s going to find your truck,” Hannah said, offering Nick a reassuring smile. “You wait here with Nick while I get it for you.”
Nick took the boy awkwardly in his arms and watched as Hannah moved towards the door.
“Where are you going?” he asked nervously.
“I left his bag on the deck,” she replied, disappearing outside.
Nick looked down at Jack and the boy met his stare. Nick could see how Hannah’s photos must have triggered some loud warning bells for Jane. The blue eyes and blonde hair didn’t bode well at all and, as Jack frowned up at him, Nick’s heart leapt into his throat.
“He has your eyes, doesn’t he?” Hannah asked quietly from the doorway.
“Yeah, I guess he does,” Nick replied with a weak smile. “But listen, Hannah, we need to organise a DNA test.”
The hurt in Hannah’s eyes was obvious but her hesitation before taking Jack from him was minimal.
“Here, Jack. Mommy has your truck.”
“Tuck!” Jack announced, clutching the bright yellow dump truck in his tiny hands.
“I need to put him down or he’ll drive it over my face.”
“Sure. Of course,” Nick replied. “We can go in the living room.”
“We haven’t really been outside today… Could we sit on the lawn?” Hannah asked. “He likes to play on the grass.”
“You two go on out and I’ll find us a couple of lawn chairs,” he said, turning to leave the kitchen. “I’ll be right back.”
With the bedroom door closed behind him, Nick snatched his mobile phone from the nightstand and dialled Cassie’s number, his heart pounding as he stood listening to the dial tone.
“Hi, this is Cassie,” her voicemail message began. “Sorry, I can’t take your call right now but, if you leave me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
“Cassie… It’s me,” Nick began carefully as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Listen, I just… I just want to talk to you. Please. I don’t want us to go on like this. Please just… Call me when you get this, okay? I love you…”
Even as he spoke them, Nick knew his words sounded hollow and he disconnected the call with a sigh. Slipping his phone into his pocket, he left the bedroom and returned to the kitchen.