“Has Dad explained what he’s doing yet?”
“No, but did you see the house? It’s as cute as a bug. Going up fast, too. They’ll have it done in no time.”
“You don’t know who it’s for?”
“Not a clue. I guess he’ll explain in his own sweet time. How about you and Mia? You two seem to be getting along now. Do you think there’s a chance things will work out?”
Luke leaned against the kitchen counter. “Yeah, I do. But not until after the baby is born.” He tried to keep his disappointment out of his voice, but didn’t think he was successful.
His mother confirmed it when she said, “I’m sorry, honey. But I still think you’ll make a good father for that baby girl.”
“I wanted her to have my name.” There. He’d said it aloud.
“She still can. You’ll see. Mia can’t be with a man as solid and steady as you and not grow to see how lucky she is.”
Her praise made him uncomfortable. “I’d better get back to work.”
“Okay. Just remember—you’re a fine catch for any girl.”
He escaped while he could.
“Of course I’ll go with you,” Luke said when Mia explained the situation with Fred Warner that night.
“You don’t sound surprised.”
“I heard a little about what happened,” he admitted. “Rose told me a little. Dad told me more.”
“Your dad knew about Warner?” Mia was surprised.
“Turns out he helped run him out of town six years ago.”
“Really?” Holt always surprised her. “Good for him.”
“He didn’t run him far enough away.” Luke took her hand. “I hope you won’t have to see him again.”
“I might at the trial if I’m called to testify, but someone has to stop him. Who knows how many other girls he’s molested.”
“I wish I could put him out of business for good.”
“But you can’t.” Mia was firm. “Not like that. We have to live within the law.”
“I’ll do what you want me to do.” He pulled her close and kissed her head. “And I’ll be there every moment. You will never be alone with him, I promise.”
She nodded and snuggled into his arms. She could get used to this kind of support.
“How’s Morgan doing?” Mia called out several days later, as she rushed into the waiting room at the Chance Creek Hospital. She’d gotten the call from Rose that Morgan had gone into labor and come as fast as she could. She had to work in a couple of hours, but she’d stay as long as possible to offer support.
“She’s doing great,” Rose said. “Her contractions are really close now—barely a minute apart. Rob says the doctor thinks she’ll be pushing any minute.”
“When did her labor start?”
“Just after midnight,” Hannah said. “No crazy thirty minute deliveries for her.” She grinned at Autumn, who was nursing Arianna in one of the fabric-covered waiting room chairs.
Autumn smiled back. “Arianna can’t help it that she was excited to see me.”
Mia settled into the chair next to her, her toe tapping with excitement. In just four weeks it would be her in one of these rooms, getting ready to meet her own little one. She couldn’t wait.
They conversed in fits and starts, all of them too anxious about Morgan to be distracted for too long from the reason they were there. A bustle in the hallway had them all on their feet, as Rob burst into the room.
“It’s a boy! We have a boy! Seven pounds, six ounces!”
“How’s Morgan?” Rose cried.
“She’s doing great. Just great. She was amazing!”
Mia sent up a prayer of thanks that Morgan and her baby were both fine. The pride in Rob’s voice made her heart squeeze with love for both her friends. She wanted Luke to be proud of her like that.
She wanted Luke, period.
As the women rushed to hug Rob and offer their congratulations, Mia hung back knowing clearly for the first time she didn’t want to face her baby’s birth alone. She didn’t want to go another day without telling Luke how much she loved him—and needed him, too.
And she knew what she had to do. Let Luke know she was ready to throw all in with him.
To let him know she was ready to say yes.
Six hours later, Mia pushed the door open and entered the diner, spotting Carl immediately. She slowed down when she saw the cupcake with a lit birthday candle sticking out of it at her place.
As she slid awkwardly into her seat, she asked, “What’s this for?”
“Graduation from what?”
“Business school. You’ve learned all you need to know.”
“I’m no millionaire,” she grumbled as she began to peel the paper away from the bottom of the cupcake.
“No, but you have a successful business with customers clamoring for your service. Everyone’s talking about your events. You have a unique set of skills that you’ve put to use to create your brand. You’ve made connections all over town that will help build your business for you. You’ve set goals and you achieved them.” He put out his hand and shook hers. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you.” Mia beamed back at him. She straightened her shoulders. “I feel good about what I’ve done.”
“You should. Next, you’ll have to figure out how to balance your work with raising that baby.”
“I’m beginning to feel good about that too,” she said. “I’ve made my mind up about something.”
“What’s that?” Carl signaled for more coffee. A new waitress brought it over for him—a young woman Mia didn’t recognize.
“No more Tracey,” Mia said. “And I’m going to follow her example. I’m going to get married, too.”
“Does Luke know?”
“Not yet. I’m trying to give him subtle hints. I told him a while ago I didn’t want to marry until after the baby’s born, but I’ve changed my mind.”
“Hmm. I said I was done teaching you things, but would you mind one more lesson?” Carl lifted his coffee cup. Took a sip. “Don’t ever try to give a man a subtle hint. Not if you want it to work. Just do the poor schmuck a favor and whack him over the head with it, whatever it is.”
“Really?” Mia nibbled the cupcake.