Around noon, Faith realized that her parents weren't there. She unleashed a wail that made Sonny's heart ache. Any thought of conducting business was brought to an abrupt end. He told Johnny that no visitors—except for Dara—were to be allowed inside the penthouse. Then, he picked up the crying baby and tried everything he could to soothe her.
Sonny walked the floor. He sang songs. He rocked her, swung her around and tickled her. Nothing worked. When he set her on the floor to see if she wanted to walk, she crawled a few feet, looked around and when she didn't see Jason or Dawn, rolled onto her back and sobbed harder and louder.
He couldn't bear it. Sonny got on the floor with her and pulled her onto his lap. Humming the song from Dawn's CD, he rocked the sad baby until she finally fell asleep. After he placed her inside her crib, he glanced at his watch. Most of the day was gone, and he was exhausted. He stumbled to the rocking chair. The next thing he knew, familiar hands kneaded his shoulders.
"Dara," he murmured, slowly awakening. He turned his head to look at her. "How long have you been here?"
"Not too long. I called first. Johnny answered and told me what you've been going through," she said, coming around to claim his lap. "I'm sorry. You should have called me."
Sonny's hand rested on her denim-clad thighs and squeezed. He smiled. "It wasn't that bad. Johnny exaggerates."
"You were snoring," she said, running her finger down his cheek. "You don't normally do that."
He shrugged. "I figured Faith would like it. Look at her. She's out like a light. It must have worked."
His hand curved around the back of her head and drew her in for a kiss. Their mouths molded together. Sonny moaned as Dara's tongue traced the outline of his mouth. The kiss deepened.
"I feel a second wind coming on," he murmured against her ear. "Care to indulge me?"
Sonny's rumbling stomach answered before Dara could. She pulled back and frowned. "When was the last time you ate?"
Dara nodded toward the crib. "What about Faith? Would she take her bottle?"
"This morning, she would, but later all she wanted to do was cry," he answered.
"It's time for you both to eat," she declared. Dara rose from his lap and went to the crib. Faith was beginning to wake up. Dara picked the baby up and kissed her soundly on both cheeks.
Sonny looked at aunt and niece and smiled. "You look good together."
Dara blew him a kiss and left the nursery. Sonny followed at a slower pace. The delicious aroma of hot food drifted to him. His stomach released another hearty growl. He rubbed his abdomen and headed for the dinner table. A nice spread was laid out. Turnip greens, smothered chicken, rolls, salad and…red velvet cake? Dara baked a cake?!
He glanced from the table to Dara. "You didn't make all this."
"No, silly," she said. Sonny pulled out a chair for her. She sat and settled Faith on her lap. A bottle of milk was within reach and the baby grabbed it. Dara helped Faith feed herself while she answered Sonny. "I stopped by Doll Baby's and picked up some takeout for us. There's enough for Keesha, too, if she's here. Johnny is saving his for later."
"Doll Baby's?" he repeated, sitting at the head of the table. "Is that the soul food restaurant on Eighth?"
"Yeah," she said, surprise in her voice. "You know about it? And here I thought I was introducing you to new cuisine."
He unfolded his napkin and placed it over his lap. "New cuisine? Dara, I'm a well-traveled man. I've been to Doll Baby's on several occasions. In fact, I liked it so much that I'm a co-owner."
Her mouth dropped open. "You are not!"
Sonny laughed. "I am. Jesse and Bea are excellent chefs, but they needed some capitol. I helped them out a little. No big deal."
He began to fill their plates with food, making sure to get an extra roll for himself. His stomach got antsy and unleashed another mighty roar. Sonny ignored it and asked Dara, "Can you eat with her on your lap? I can hold her if you want…"
Dara shook her head. "I have it covered. I used to babysit Dawn. I'm a little out of practice, but I think I can manage."
She raised her roll to her mouth and Faith's little hand shot out. She reached for the roll and Dara laughed. "Would you like some?" She broke off a piece and placed it inside the baby's mouth. Faith made a face, but she didn't spit the bread out.
"Jason said she's not eating solid food, yet."
"I saw those strained peas and beets in her diaper bag," Dara commented. "If I were her, I wouldn't eat that either. A few pieces of bread will be good for her."
As Sonny consumed his delicious meal, he watched Dara and Faith. A strange sensation came over him. A longing for more. He lowered his fork to the plate and leaned back. "You're a natural with her, Dara."
"It's just instinct," she said. "Besides, who couldn't fall in love with this face? This little person?"
"I don't know. I'm hooked already," he said honestly.
Their gazes locked. "Even after what she put you through this afternoon?"
"Maybe because of it," he said. "She wanted her parents. It's unconditional love. Who wouldn't want that?"
Faith reached for Dara's plate. As Dara moved it out of Faith's reach, she said, "It sounds like your biological clock is ticking."
"Does it? Do you have a problem with that?" Sonny asked. He silently cursed himself for the latter question, but there it was. She could take it any way she wanted. Meanwhile, he found it hard to breathe as he waited for her response.
The sudden ring of his cell phone drowned out the rest of her response. Sonny fished the phone from his pants pocket and answered. "Yeah."
"I'm here," Jason said. The faint hum of static echoed in the background.
"Is everything okay?" Sonny asked, rising from the chair. He moved toward the living room as he listened to his friend. "When do you make your move?"
"It won't be okay until I get her back," Jason stated. "We move tonight. How is Faith? She hasn't given you any problems has she?"
"Of course not," Sonny replied. "She's a little angel. Dara's here. They're getting acquainted."
"Good. Dawn would like that." There was a slight pause before Jason added, "Tell Faith we love her. I have to go. Thanks, Sonny."
"Don't mention it."
Their call ended. Faith giggled and Sonny turned to look at his lover and the baby. The picture of them together was beautiful. He burned for something that went deeper than sex. And she said 'no' his ticking biological clock didn't bother her. But did Dara mean what he hoped she meant?
Dara and Faith came to him. In the short time they'd been together, aunt and niece had connected. Sonny smiled. He was happy to see it.
"Was that Jason?" Dara asked.
"Yeah. They're making their move soon."
Faith wriggled in Dara's arms. Sonny touched Dara's shoulder. "Faith wants to get on the floor."
"Oh," she said, somewhat distracted. She squatted and set the baby on the floor. She then sat on the sofa and Sonny joined her. Her hand fell to his knee as she leaned against him. Both of them watching Faith as she pulled herself up and 'walked' around the coffee table.
"Jason has to bring my sister back."
Sonny covered her hand with his. "He will."
"What you asked me before…about a baby," she said quietly. "Was that an invitation or just idle conversation?"
"I can't say if it was an invitation," he said, "but it wasn't idle conversation. I want to be a father some day."
"I want to be a mother," she answered, "but I'm not sure if I could be a mother to your children. But I can't think of anyone else whose child I'd want to bear. Does that make sense?"
Sighing, he shook his head. "No, it doesn't, but nothing about us does. Would I be asking for too much if I asked you to think about it?"
"No." She tilted her head and kissed his cheek. "No, that's not asking for too much."
Then, Faith came to them and the rest of the time was spent tending to her.