Chapter 22

Keesha's hands shook uncontrollably. She tried, but regaining her equilibrium became impossible. After settling Maya in her bedroom, Keesha returned to the living room window.

Jason's motorcycle was gone. But that didn't calm her peace of mind. The look in his eyes was dangerous. Pushing him away would only work for so long. Sooner or later, he would come back. He'd make demands or bully his way into her daughter's life. Keesha's family would be shattered. She slumped onto the window seat, hugged a pillow to her chest and cried.

The delicious aroma of a home-cooked meal greeted AJ as he entered through the garage. After the fuss Keesha made over the phone, he expected her and Maya to be waiting for him with bells on. Instead, an eerie silence welcomed his return. He dropped his briefcase near the backdoor and went in search of his wife and daughter.

The sight of Keesha stopped him in his tracks. He hadn't seen her like this since Mary Mae's death. And Jason Morgan's birth. He ignored the unease that tightened his chest and rushed to her.

Crushing her within his arms, he said, "What's wrong, sweetheart? Talk to me."

"I c-can't," she choked out through her sobs. "J-Just hold me, please."

"You know I will."

Minutes passed. Her sobs subsided. She pulled away, smoothing her hair and wiping her eyes. "I look a mess. Dinner's probably ruined."

"It doesn't matter," he said as he gently cupped her face. "Tell me what's wrong. Is it your father? Did he have another heart attack?"

She stared at him. In silence, she shook her head. "No, he's fine." She stood. "Let me check on dinner. Maya's in her room--"

"Keesha." He grabbed her hand. "Don't blow me off. Dinner can wait."

She gave him a tight smile. "No, it can't. I promised you a special dinner and that's what you will have. Give me fifteen minutes and then bring Maya in. Everything will be ready by then."

What a joke, Keesha thought as AJ reluctantly went to Maya. Fifteen minutes wasn't nearly enough time. An eternity wouldn't be long enough.

But somehow, she made it. Maya's constant chatter eased the tension between the adults. She happily told AJ about the perfect score she received on her spelling test. He responded with pride and the child beamed with pleasure.

Keesha's watched the moment as if it were a movie. Frame by frame, she noticed their reactions. AJ's love for Maya was returned one hundred times over. Da-Da was Maya's first word. When the little girl took her first steps, AJ held the video camera and recorded everything. He even made copies for each set of grandparents. When Keesha agreed to marry AJ, she knew that he'd take care of her as a best friend. She had no idea that he'd outshine her dreams as a father to her child. Correction, their child.

God, why did this day have to come?

"Keesha?"

She faked a laugh. "Yes? I was miles away."

"On the other side of the moon," he said, watching her closely.

Maya laughed. "That's funny, Daddy. Mommy can't go to the moon."

But if I could, I'd take you with me. Both of you.

"I was telling Daddy that you have a surprise for us," Maya said, nearly jumping out of her skin in anticipation.

Keesha's mind went blank. A surprise? Jason's confrontation? She frowned. No! Not, that. Then, she remembered. The baby. Her hand closed over her abdomen. AJ's baby. Her fears took a nap. She smiled.

"I do have a surprise, but Maya, I have to tell your Daddy first. I'm sorry, baby."

The little girl pouted. AJ's opened his arms and she climbed onto his lap. He hugged her close. "We'll tell you soon, okay? Now, show me that mega-watt smile."

Maya giggled, and just like that, AJ proved once again what a great father he was. Keesha dreaded telling him the truth.

Later that night after Maya was fast asleep and the house was silent, AJ's patience took a nose dive. He took Keesha's hand and led her downstairs to the den. As she settled on the sofa, he stood over her with his arms folded across his chest.

"I can't take it," he said. "Talk to me."

She patted the empty space beside him. "Sit down."

He inhaled a ragged breath. "Is it that bad or that good?"

Her lips curved in a funny, sad smile. "Both. Please, AJ."

He sat. "Well?"

"What do you want first?" she asked. "The good or the bad?"

"Whatever way you want to tell me." He stared into her warm brown eyes, looking for a clue or a hint. He found neither.

"Okay." She smiled. "I'm pregnant."

Then, a single tear rolled down her cheek. "Jason knows."

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