“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“You know what’s wrong.”
“Don’t Luke me. We belong together. You know that.”
“I know that I’m not interested in being told what to do.”
A knock sounded on the door before he could answer her, and Mia called, “Come in.” A doctor entered and smiled at the two of them.
“Good morning, Mia. Good morning…”
“Luke. Luke Matheson. Nice to meet you.” He stood up and shook the doctor’s hand.
“Nice to meet you too, Luke. I’m Marion Fitzpatrick. Are you the father?”
“Yes,” Luke said at the same time Mia said, “No.” Dr. Fitzpatrick raised an eyebrow.
“I’m going to be.” Luke stared Mia down.
“Hmm. Let me put it this way,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. “Are you going to be present for the birth?”
“No,” Mia said quickly.
“Yes, I am.”
If Dr. Fitzpatrick’s eyebrows rose any higher, they would disappear under the fringe of her bangs, Luke thought. But he wouldn’t back down. He was going to be Mia’s partner in all of this, whether she wanted him to be or not.
“Well, if you two work this out, there’s a birthing class starting up in a couple of weeks. I think you should attend, Mia. And if Luke here is going to be involved in your baby’s life, I think he should attend, too.” She handed Mia a brochure. After Mia skimmed through it, Luke took it from her and tucked it into his pocket. The corner of Dr. Fitzpatrick’s mouth curved into a smile. “Let’s take a look at your baby, shall we?”
Luke had seen ultrasound machines in movies, of course, and had an idea what the image would look like when the doctor squirted clear goo on Mia’s belly and pressed the rounded tip of the ultrasound wand against her skin. At first the screen stayed grainy, with odd, rounded shapes appearing and disappearing as she moved the wand around. Then something came into focus and Luke’s heart lurched.
“Is that the baby?”
“That’s the baby,” Dr. Fitzpatrick confirmed. “Can you hear its heartbeat?”
Luke realized the strange sound he was hearing was the fast-paced whomp-whomp-whomp of the baby’s heartbeat.
“Is it a boy or girl?” he asked the doctor.
“Do you want to know the sex, Mia?”
“Yes.” Mia’s gaze was held by the shifting images on the screen. Luke realized he’d taken her hand and she was squeezing it tight—holding on for dear life. He knew exactly how she felt.
“Let’s see.” Dr. Fitzpatrick moved the wand around again, angling it this way and that until she froze. “There.”
“There what?” Luke asked.
“No—I don’t see anything,” Mia said.
“Exactly. You’re having a girl. Congratulations.” Dr. Fitzpatrick beamed at both of them.
“Did you hear that, Luke? We’re having a girl!”
Luke pulled her into an awkward embrace, reclined as she was on the examining table. He kissed her neck, her ear and finally her mouth. “We’re having a girl,” he echoed.
A moment later, Mia shifted away. “I mean…I’m having a girl.”
Luke decided to let it slide. Her initial comment told him a lot. She still cared for him, for one thing. She still thought of him as partner material, whatever she said. And it made her happy to share her news with him.
Sooner or later, Mia would be his.
“Are you ready for this?” Mia asked Fila two days later. They stood behind the counter of Fila’s Familia, where Mia would soon take orders and run the till. The restaurant was due to open in twenty minutes and already a line of their friends and family snaked down the block.
“I think so,” Fila said, but she didn’t sound too certain. “I’d better get back in the kitchen. I can’t believe how many people are waiting. What if they don’t like the food?”
“Are you kidding? They’ll love it! Don’t you remember our test run?” Mia gave her friend a tight hug then spun her around toward the kitchen. “Get back to cooking—I have a feeling we’ll go through everything we have available tonight.”
“Don’t say that,” Camila cried from the kitchen where she was busily prepping enchilada fixings. “I don’t know what we’ll do if we run out of food!”
“Close down, silly.” Mia laughed at Camila’s horrified expression and moved back to her place behind the till. Twenty minutes later, her hands were damp with sweat, though, when she unlocked the doors and ushered the first customers in. What if she messed up the till? Or couldn’t keep up with orders? What if she ran out of change?
She took a deep breath, smiled at Morgan and Rob and said, “Welcome to Fila’s Familia! What can I get you?”
Four hours later, she thought her feet would fall off they ached so badly. She hadn’t sat down once, nor had she had a chance to take so much as a bite of food. The restaurant was still packed because some of the guests who’d eaten early and gone home had come back to celebrate the end of the first night. Starting tomorrow, the restaurant would be open from eleven in the morning to nine at night. Mia was glad they’d only started with dinner today. She didn’t know how she’d last through a full shift tomorrow.
“How are you holding up?”
She hadn’t noticed Luke standing in line, but then she could barely keep up with the whirlwind of orders the customers ahead of him had thrown at her. A large party of cowboys had just come through the line, back from some event somewhere. They had each ordered multiple entrees, as if they were cramming in calories before a fast.
“I’m doing okay. Tired.”
“You shouldn’t work so hard.”
Mia laughed. “This is nothing. I’ve got longer days ahead of me—but that’s all right. I’m strong.”
“Here. I got this for you.” He handed her a green striped gift bag with yellow tissue paper poking out the top.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to stop working.”
“It’ll just take a minute. Open it up.”
She did, and found a small, plush teddy bear inside. A green ribbon around its neck held a card. When she opened it, she found an invitation to a private viewing. The address listed was Luke’s cabin on the Double-Bar-K.