Jason was headed for the kitchen when Keesha's outcry stopped him in his tracks.
"Oh, my!" Keesha's eyes widened. Her hand rested on the side of her swollen abdomen. With the other hand, she reached for AJ. "Feel this."
Pure joy radiated from AJ. His mouth dropped open. "Baby strong."
A foreign emotion seized Jason as he watched the scene. He wanted to be AJ, sharing this moment with Keesha. His mouth tightened in disappointment. A small seed of resentment took root inside him. He tried to push the feeling away. A part of him reasoned he deserved to be only a witness. His coldness prevented Keesha from coming to him during her pregnancy with Maya. Now, she carried AJ's child. Jason could only stand in the background now, helping wherever and whenever she allowed.
Moving quietly so as not to disturb them, he continued to the kitchen. He found the drill bit and extra nails he needed and returned upstairs to the nursery.
At first, Keesha objected to his current project. Jason found the makings for a crib in the garage when he was repairing the lawn mower. He guessed AJ started the baby bed as a surprise for her, but in his present condition, was unable to complete it. After discussing the matter with AJ, Jason brought the materials inside the house to finish the crib.
Keesha's argument fell on deaf ears with AJ backing him. AJ's stubbornness battled her reservations. Something in AJ's stance convinced her to back off. Jason ignored the loss of time at his shop. It wasn't like he needed the money. Besides, being here with her and Maya rewarded him in ways that cash never could.
Jason nodded at AJ, who stood in the doorway. The words were mixed up, but the meaning was clear. "Yeah, you chose good materials. It shouldn't take me long to finish."
A sudden yawn overpowered the other man. AJ rubbed his eyes. "Me help later."
Jason nodded again. AJ often offered assistance. He tried hard and sometimes saw things from another perspective. Since the accident, their relationship improved. Jason found himself growing fond of the brother he disowned. Whether or not AJ remembered their conversation soon after the accident, Jason didn't know. But he held himself to that promise. He'd help in whatever capacity he could.
A short while later, he had another interruption. He turned off the power drill and set it aside. Without looking, he knew Keesha was there. Her presence affected him more with each passing day. Logic predicted impending disaster. She was married and would soon bear her husband's child. It didn’t matter that he wanted her. That didn't matter at all.
"AJ thinks you're doing a great job," she said. "He wanted to help, but the physical therapy takes a lot out of him."
He knelt to unplug the drill. When he rose to his full height, she had mysteriously managed to come to stand within inches of him. Ache flooded his senses. The smell of her perfume, the sight of her glowing and beautiful nearly did him in. He tightened his jaw to prevent from crying out.
"I wasn't sure about you doing this." Her hand moved along the length of the crib. "Beautiful workmanship. Where did you learn how to do it?"
"Right here," he ground out. "I read the instructions."
She laughed. "Most men wouldn't admit to that."
"I'm not like most men."
Keesha met his stare then. He knew the exact moment she understood him and what he was going through. Water suddenly brimmed her eyes. Her bottom lip trembled. She stepped away from him.
"This wasn't a good idea after all."
"Don't," he said. "Don't condemn and convict me. Don't make me leave."
She gasped. "How did you know?"
"Isn't that always the first choice? To run away? Deny by closing your eyes." He began to put the tools away in a chest. "It's mine to handle. Not yours. I won't dishonor his trust in me any more than you will."
"Letting you stay is wrong--"
"For you, him or me?" He hooked the pad lock on quickly and moved to face her.
"If you're concerned for me, don't be. I missed watching Maya grow inside you and hearing her newborn cries."
Her arms closed protectively around her. "This baby is AJ's."
"I know that," he said more harshly than intended. "It's not something I can easily forget."
"Fine! AJ likes having you here. Maya…" She inhaled a harsh breath. "As long as you don't forget, you can stay…for just a little while longer."
"Thanks." And he meant it.