Poppy didn't know how to confront Jason Worth without seeming like a crazed woman. She hadn't even decided on the words to use. After all, how did one confront New York City's number five bachelor and tell him that he was the father of the cutest boy weighing down her arms. And to make matters worse, she wasn't the mother. To think she was a translator by professional, words were here job. She looked down at little Owen. His winter suit had wrapped snug in the fluffy coat. His scarf covered the plump lower half of his face so the tip of his red nose peeked out. His wide blue eyes stared so trusting back at her. Just suck it up, Poppy.
Sucking in a frosty February breath, she approached the green canopy of Jason's Park Avenue building. A gleaming black Town Car pulled up and out stepped Jason Worth. Poppy understood why he was one of Manhattan's magazine bachelors of the year. Women must melt at his feet and ladies must have held onto his calf, staring up at him and pleased he came to their rescue. Not a feminist image but Jason Worth was hot. A little giggle bubbled up in her throat and replaced the twisted knot of choked back tears.
"Excuse me, Mr. Worth." She hitched Owen up in her arms.
The strong rigid of his brow shadowed over his eyes and increased the power of his icy blue eyes. His gaze scanned over her and his face remained impassive then lingered on Owen. He gave no reply just stepped away from the entrance.
The vise tension wrenching her spine slackened. Not that her heart slowed. It raced like a taxi driver speeding down the avenue with green lights in front of him. Every pore in her body heated. Through it was February in Manhattan and the city was buried under snow, she was sweating.
"What can I do for you?"
"This is Owen." He spared a glance at the baby to be polite, Poppy knew but she forged on, "You're his father."
He stumbled back a step. His mouth gaped and the grunt of the beginning laughter died in the back of his mouth. He shook his head. "You are crazy. I don't know you so that's is not my child."
"I'm not his mother," she blurted out. Her words echoed down tree-lined Park Avenue. His doorman rushed over to Jason. "His mother is Anne Lewis. She was a stenographer that worked for you."
She watched his face soften from sweet memories. Through their relationship didn't last, it ended without much heartache. And no doubt, like Poppy herself, his mind was filling with the memories of her beauty. Her long hair that hung in soft waves down her back and her green eyes that tilted at an angle that always had her up to no good and her tanned golden skin that even in winter months she maintained. She was the beauty that promised men a good time with the sexual implication of those words.
"Does Anne know you're here?"
Poppy licked her dry lips. "No, she doesn't." She swallowed. "Not that I think she cares. She's dead."
Owen began to fuss. He squirmed in her arms and through the winter gear, his little body began to tremor from his building cry. Poppy promised not to cry or even think about the lost of her best friend near Owen, he always got worked up. She couldn't hurt her baby anymore.
"What?" he snapped. He grabbed her arm. With the layers of down feathers, she shouldn't feel the pressure of his touch yet the rest of her body went numb. "Answer me."
She pulled Owen closer and rubbed her chin on top of his head. "She died of skin cancer. We buried her today. I'm only telling you because of this little man here. He deserves to have one parent. He looks for her, you know, and while he is now my son and I love him more than any one else in this world can. I want him to have a blood bond with someone. This is your only chance with him."
Anne. Owen...that was the baby's name right. According to this woman, the baby was his baby. He grasped her by her free elbow and ushered her into the building. Sure, bringing a strange woman to his home wasn't the smartest decision but purchasing a new apartment was easier to deal with than this situation.
She double-timed her stride to keep away from his touch. His hand hovered just below her elbow. The top of her head reached his shoulder. The smell of her shampoo, a flowery soap, that scent reminded him that she was a woman, a beautiful woman. Not that his line of thought shouldn't head in that direction.
This year's Valentine's Day was meant to be a quiet one. No spending three hundreds dollars on roses, no candle-lit dinners, no chocolates or diamonds. The pressure to be romantic wasn't pressing on him. He planned to spend the night as a single man working. The way a businessman loved to spend a work night.
Once inside his apartment, he settled Poppy in the front room. He perched on the armchair across from her and the baby. She began stripping the baby of the thick layers and never darted a look at him. She mustn’t be afraid of him though inside of him, he had an itch that crawled up his flesh like tiny fires in its wakes. Each muscle in his body flex in a bid to fight off the pain when his natural instinct was to jump up and be active. To fight.
She unwrapped the scarf around the baby’s face. Jason’s solar plexus cramped. His chest cramped and buckled. The pointy chin with the cleft still noticed among the baby plump cheeks. She pulled out the wool knit hat. The blonde hairs that stood up straight like he got a scare and the strands as fine as — what was the description—gold filaments. Jason had seen a baby who looked exactly like Owen. Those pictures scattered throughout his mother’s home. His baby pictures. Owen was his son.