The sheikhs secret love.., p.13
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.13

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  The bus chugged along, and Rosie arrived at her doorstep around a half hour later. She could hear her mother indoors, singing to Zak. Their relationship was quite special, especially lately, since Rosie had been working a great deal more due to staff cuts at the hospital. Sometimes, her heart grew jealous at her mother’s closeness with her grandson. Didn’t Zak only need her?

  Her mother, Clarice, arrived at the door as Rosie opened it, holding baby Zak in her arms.

  “Hello, there!” Rosie said, her face lighting up like the sun. She opened her arms to her baby and her mother made the hand-off.

  Already, Zak’s little fingers were grabbing for her; he was saying her name, over and over. “Momma. Momma. Yes.”

  Zak’s gibberish bred only a few articulate words. But it was true, Rosie remembered, that when he’d first been able to say Momma—deep in the kitchen after a hard day at work—she’d wept. It had felt like an affirmation that she’d done something right in raising him this way, in their tiny apartment in Capitol Hill.

  She and her mother sat on the couch as Zak crawled over the floor, picking at his toys and mumbling to himself.

  “How was your day?” Clarice asked her.

  “Fine, fine,” Rosie said, leaning back and kneading at her forehead. “Last-minute C-section, always a bit panicky on their end. Lots of screaming and crying.”

  “Guess you came home to more of that, didn’t you?” Clarice smiled.

  Rosie and her mother hadn’t been particularly close in the past, not since Rosie had graduated and moved to the big city. Clarice had always been very conservative, and when it became clear that those feelings hadn’t translated to her daughter, they had grown apart considerably.

  Rosie worried, of course, that half of the reason Clarice watched over Zak during her shifts was so that she could impose her own values into her grandson. But she tried not to think about it, hoping instead to restructure her relationship with her mother. So far, it was going okay.

  “I think tomorrow we’ll go to the zoo,” Rosie said. “With Amy. I think he’ll absolutely freak. He’s been watching that animal television show over and over since we bought it for his birthday.”

  “Toddlers love repetition,” Clarice said after a brief pause.

  Rosie could sense that her mother wanted to come to the zoo, as well—that she wanted to be included. But something gave her pause.

  In some ways, even now, Rosie couldn’t shake how her mother had initially reacted to the news of her pregnancy. When she’d called her, about two years before, immediately after she’d had her life-changing conversation with Osman, her mother hadn’t exactly been overjoyed. She’d needed a few weeks to think about it, she’d said, and in the interim, Rosie was left to fend for herself. She’d started her organic diet. She’d started sleeping more. She’d started reading baby books. And she hadn’t been able to look to her mother for comfort.

  Of course, Clarice had arrived at Rosie’s door after she’d taken the time to think and opened her arms to her daughter. She’d said a few Bible verses, and they’d eaten together, a simple grilled cheese sandwich meal, while watching the winter rain outside. It hadn’t cured everything; it had been a kind of band-aid. And years of work would bring them closer, would finally close the scab once and for all.

  Clarice wrung her hands in her lap. “We read a few books today,” she murmured, knowing to keep the conversation directed at Zak. “He just loves to read.”

  “He’s smart. Like his father,” Rosie affirmed, rushing to her son and causing him to fly through the air before landing him squarely on her waist. She turned to her mother and gave her a purposeful smile. “Thanks for today. Seriously.”

  Clarice blinked her eyes chaotically, gazing at her daughter. “You know, you and Zak are beautiful together.”

  And they were. Rosie’s red hair hung in loose curls around her shoulders. Her son tugged at it, his dark eyes gleaming in the lamplight. His skin was deeper than Rosie’s pale complexion, which was to be expected. Clarice hadn’t asked questions about the father’s nationality or name, and Rosie had been grateful.

  Clarice kissed Zak on the nose and tapped from the apartment, ready to walk the three blocks back to her place. The apartment couldn’t have been more different from the farmhouse Rosie had grown up in. Her mother looked so large in it, without that land to care for; without the many rooms and the mounds of laundry. Gosh, that had all been so long ago, Rosie thought.

  She sat on the floor with her son, her legs extended out to both sides, allowing Zak to play in between. He knelt down every few seconds and picked up a block, showing her A, then Q, then D. Rosie said the name of each letter as he held it up to her, and then said a word that went with each letter. “Ah, yes. Apple. Q, like quilt. Can you say that, Zak? Quilt?” Her voice was syrupy, dripping with affection.

  Zak giggled at her, showing his tiny teeth. Rosie wrapped her arms around him and drew his warm body close, blowing a raspberry on his shoulder.

  She imagined, sometimes, that the compassionate man she thought she’d met would have played with him like this. He would have thrown his son up in the air, causing him to squeal. He would have rolled around on the floor with him, not caring about how he looked, so long as his son was laughing. She imagined his strong arms around both of them as they drifted off to sleep on the couch, her chin falling every so often toward her chest as baby Zak cooed beneath them.

  Somehow, despite all that Hakan had put her through, she still had these images in her mind. Despite how cold and callous he had turned out to be, she still daydreamed about the other Hakan, the Hakan she had fallen head over heels for. She knew these false spurts of happiness weren’t doing her any good. They were poisonous, but they helped her get from day to day. And she supposed that was all that mattered.

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