In Name Only
While he hadn’t been an ‘active’ father for very long, Kevin had gotten lots of parenting experience from watching his niece and nephews. So he was not surprised when Chris fell asleep in mid-sentence on their way back to the hotel. Bryleigh could wear out the best of people, and he was sure that Brian was dealing with as exhausted a child as he was. Chris and Bry had taken one look at each other, and it was as if they had never been apart. They’d taken over the backyard, yelling and screaming, only calming down when they went into the house so that Chris could meet Tom. Bry had tried to instruct Chris on how to hold a baby, but Chris had told her sharply that he knew what to do, and then demonstrated that fact very well.
What had been going on in the last two years that made Chris so good with babies?
ARGH! Trust the kid to be asleep when that question suddenly occurred to him!
Brian had been as shocked and surprised by them showing up on his doorstep as, well, as he’d expected him to be. More so, because Kevin had been certain that Brian would have known by now; if not through Nick then through Kat herself. But she hadn’t called him yet, and Brian was obviously more than a little miffed about it. Kevin had a sneaking suspicion that there was a not-so-happy message waiting for her at the hotel. Ha, that’d teach her.
He took a deep breath. Things had gone well today, except for the situation with her. When he’d shown up this morning… Well, to call it “tense” didn’t cover it. He just didn’t know what to do; he had so much to say and no way to say it. When he ran it through in his head, which he’d done over and over again all day, it all came out perfectly. He said his bit, and she said hers, and then it was all okay.
But then all the conversations that he’d run through his head all night had turned to dust as soon as she opened the door this morning. He couldn’t figure out how to start, and even when he did get the conversation moving a bit, she hadn’t said the things that he’d needed to hear in order to go forward…
“Should have given her a script,” he muttered. Yep, he’d obviously been hanging out in Hollywood too long. His ability to deal with real people had been whittled away. He didn’t know how to keep a conversation on track anymore.
Did he ever know how to talk to her?
He wasn’t sure. They’d started out fighting and even when things were good between them they’d still argued. Maybe that was their problem. Maybe they were never meant to be together. Maybe what happened between Howie and her that night was what should have happened a long time ago and he’d just gotten in the way…
So why did the thought of Howie touching her always make him almost blind with rage?
He’d been okay with it when they were married, jealous yes, but he’d understood and accepted it. Hadn’t liked it much when they’d done the old kissy-kissy thing for the cameras, and especially all the snuggling they had to do once Chris was born. But he’d lived with it.
Then the one thing he’d always been afraid of had happened and he’d been the idiot who’d caused it.
And beating himself up like this was going to make talking to Kat soooo much easier, he chuckled ruefully.
Well, at least Kat and Howie were getting along as well as he and Kat were. He hadn’t missed the frigid tones that Kat had used on the other man this morning, and she sure hadn’t been overly thrilled to see him the night before. That’ll teach Howie to….
Kevin swerved suddenly, causing the car behind him to honk angrily. He corrected his driving then looked for the first available place to pulled over to the side of the road. He glanced at Chris, who hadn’t woken at all during the unexpected moves, then leaned back into his chair.
My God! Could that be it? Could that be why Chris was so good with babies? Was that why she hadn’t come back? Was that why she was so angry with Howie?
Had she had his baby?
Kevin tried to remember everything Howie’d said about that night. It was hard – he’d spent all of his time and energy trying to block it out. And any time Howie’d brought it up he’d usually gotten him to stop talking with his fists…
But try though he did, he couldn’t remember Howie ever mentioning that they’d used protection. Of course, he did expect Howie to go into that much detail anyway.
If that was it, where was the baby? Had she left it at home? Why would she do that? Why hadn’t Chris let it slip? Had something happened to it and that is why no one had said anything? What was going on?
He had to try and think this one through. He had to know the answer before he said anything about how he felt to Kat. Or did he? If she had had a child with Howie, how did he feel about it? Did he really care? Wasn’t being with her again more important? Howie’d accepted his child without question… could he do the same for Howie’s?
He slowly started the car moving forward again, his mind reeling. God, he needed a drink. This was all too much more than he could handle. He needed a drink and he needed it as soon as possible. Before he said anything, so he could help sort it out in his mind.
He pulled up in a parking spot close to the hotel door, then slipped out of the car and around to Chris’s door.
“Momma?” Chris asked when Kevin shook him, then smiled sleepily and said, “hi, Daddy.”
Two little words and Kevin felt like bursting into tears. “Hi Chris,” he replied huskily. “We’re here. We gotta go in and find your mom.”
Chris stretched, almost cat-like, and Kevin had to repress a chuckle. Gee, wonder where he got that from?
“Okay, lemme down, please.”
Kevin helped him out of the car and then took his hand firmly as they crossed to the door. “Do you remember what room you are in?”
“Uh-huh. Momma made me say it over and over again, just in case I got lost. She says I wander off, but I don’t. I’m just looking around, and I never go where I can’t see her,” Chris replied seriously. “I’m in room 364. It’s easy to remember ‘cos that’s how many days there are in a year. ‘Cept a leap one.”
Kevin smiled. His son was a strange one – so full of fun and childlike one minute and serious and intelligent the next. It would take some getting used to.
“But we don’t have to go up. See? There’s Momma over there?” Chris pointed across the lobby, then let go of Kevin’s hand and went charging across the room.
Yep. There was Kat. Standing there. With Howie’s arms around her, talking quietly with him. Yep.
She disengaged from him and turned quickly as Chris launched himself at her and pulled him into her arms. “Toffee Man! There you are! I was beginning to wonder where you were.”
“You said to be back by 5. We are a little early,” Kevin replied. “Hi, Howie.”
Howie ducked his head nervously, “Kev.”
Kat ignored Kevin’s subtle reprimand. “So did you have a good day, Chris?”
“I got to see my other uncle and my aunt and I got a cousin. She’s called Bryleigh, which is a funny name but I think it’s ‘cos of her mom. And I got to hold a baby! A real one. Just like John. He kind of smelt funny though. I think he had to go to the bathroom. And we played on the swings and the….” Chris finally ran out of breath and had to stop.
Kat chuckled. “Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I thought you were going to go to Disney though.”
“We decided that we wanted to take it easier today. Just get to know each other a little,” Kevin said quietly.
Chris grinned at him and shook his head vigorously.
“Well, it sure didn’t sound like you took it that easy.” Kat smiled as Chris sounded yawned widely. “Someone looks tired out. Chris, what did I tell you about wearing your father out?”
“You said I was to be a good boy and not go nuts all over and to only talk a little and not say everything all at once.” He turned to Kevin. “I didn’t say everything, did I?”
“Nope. You were great.” If anything you raised more questions than you answered though.
“See? I was good! Can I have pizza now?”
Kat laughed. “Sure thing, Toffee. A large cheese pizza, with lots of mushrooms.”
“I was a GOOD boy!”
“Okay, so anchovies then.”
Chris curled his lip back in a sneer. “That’s not even funny.” He wriggled in her arms and she put him back down. He immediately ran over to the window and started looking at the pool.
"It sounds like you two had a good day,” Kat said.
“Looks like you two did as well,” he replied blandly. Actually it didn’t. Both of them had red-rimmed eyes, and Howie was even more silent than usual. Kat’s cheeks were a little puffy – a sure sign that she’d been crying.
Howie twisted his hands nervously. “We talked a little. AJ came over.”
“He mentioned that you were at Brian’s,” Kat added.
“Are you going to call Brian?”
Kat looked at him surprised. “Of course. I was going to do that today, but we were talking and when AJ said that you two were at Brian’s…” She trailed off. “I am going to call him as soon as I get back up to the room,” she finally said with a decisive nod.
“I think he would like that.” Kevin glanced at Howie, who gave no indication that he was going to leave. Damn him. How the hell was he supposed to talk alone with Kat with her damned ex-husband standing right there. “I guess…”
Kat’s sudden movement through him off. She’d quickly ran over and scooped Chris up before he could sneak out to the pool deck by himself. “You are so not going out there, mister.”
“But Momma, I was just going to look…” Chris whined.
“We’ll go for a swim in a little while, but you are not going out there by yourself,” Kat replied firmly.
Howie suddenly chuckled and looked at Kevin. “She’s a parent – she has eyes in the back of her head.”
Kevin smiled back. “Never could pull one over on my mother either.”
They stood in silent approval as they watched Kat gently coax Chris out of his sulk and back into perfect agreement with what she wanted. She swung the child around and pulled him up, giving him a piggy back ride back to where the two of them were standing.
“I think I better get this menace back up to the room,” she said as she drew up to the two men.
“I could stay…” Howie started, hope shining in his eyes, which died quickly as Kat shook her head.
“No, Howie. You and I have a long way to go before I’m going to feel comfortable around you and you know it.”
Howie hung his head, and Kevin had to work hard to keep a wicked grin of his face.
“And I haven’t spend any time with my favourite man all day.”
Kevin perked up, then realized she was talking about Chris. Kat had obviously figured out what he’d thought and was looking at him with a raised eyebrow, but eyes that revealed nothing of what she was thinking.
“I guess we will see you two later, right Chris?”
Chris nodded. “Night Unca Howie. Night Daddy.”
They had been defeated. Neither was going to see anymore of Kat or Chris that night. Damn. Kevin smiled at Chris, nodded at Kat, and then glared at Howie as he turned away. Howie did pretty much the same thing – each blaming the other for their lack of success.
At the sound of Kat’s voice they both turned. She came hurrying up to them, turning to Kevin. “You’ll need this.” She held out a keycard, which he stared at it stupidly. “It’s the key to our room. You’ll need it to pick up or drop off Chris.”
“I…” He just stood there and stammered.
“I took him away from you for a long time, Kevin. He wants his father, and I want to make sure that the two of you spend as much time together as possible.”
“Do I…” Howie started then stopped.
“I can’t think why you would need one,” Kat replied and Howie nodded.
Kevin could. And he already had the keycard in his pocket so he might as well put his neck in the noose now if he was going to.
“Just one question... Who is John? Why is Chris so good with babies? Is there something you haven’t told us? Did you get pregnant that night with Howie?”