“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” he said.
But neither of them slept.
When Mia came over mid-morning for another business plan session, she dropped her purse on the kitchen counter, peered at Fila’s face and said, “What happened to you?”
“I didn’t sleep well.” Fila busied herself putting on a kettle for tea.
“No.” Fila shrugged and hoped Mia wouldn’t push for details. Now that she looked at her, Mia didn’t look so hot herself. “Are you okay?”
“Not really.” To Fila’s surprise the young woman began to cry.
Comforting other people wasn’t Fila’s strong point—unless they were babies. There had been little tenderness between her and the other women of her village. Most of them couldn’t afford to take the risk of being seen to favor her. She was too different—to apt to make the kind of mistake that brought about the wrath of the Taliban men who called the shots. So she never knew quite what to do when a situation like this presented itself, and now she hovered over Mia for a few moments before tentatively placing a hand on her arm. “What’s the matter?”
“Everything! Luke. He’s such an idiot!”
Fila had noticed a tension between Luke and Mia for weeks. Like Fila, Mia had moved onto the Double-Bar-K just before the beginning of December and though she’d first lived with Ned, that hadn’t worked out and she’d eventually switched places with Fila to move in with Luke. Fila had expected a romance to blossom between the two almost instantly, judging by the way Luke’s gaze never swerved from Mia whenever they were together.
But that hadn’t happened, and she wasn’t sure what the nature of the relationship between the two was. Sometimes they chatted and laughed and shot glances at each other so loaded with intent and desire Fila felt uncomfortable in their presence. Other times they moved stiffly around each other as if they had never even met. Fila couldn’t fathom what was going on.
“What did he do?”
“Nothing! He’s done nothing and it’s almost too late!”
“Too late for what?”
Mia sobbed louder. “I’ve made such a stupid mistake. Such a stupid, stupid mistake. I don’t know what to do! I’m going to lose him!”
“Lose Luke?” How could she lose a man who followed her around like a puppy on a string most of the time? “You’re wrong. Luke worships you.”
Mia dropped her hands and stared at Fila. “Now, maybe. He won’t next month.”
Fila chuckled despite her concern. “What do you plan to do next month? Set his cabin on fire?”
“It’s not what I plan to do. It’s what I’ve already done.” Mia wiped her eyes. Fila didn’t like the hopelessness in her tone. “Can you keep a secret?”
Fila nodded. She was good at that.
“I’m pregnant. And I’ve never been with Luke.”
Understanding flooded Fila, along with a wash of fear that had her gripping the table for support. An unwed mother. What would happen? What would they do to her? Would they—
No. She wasn’t in Afghanistan.
“Fila?” The concern was all too evident in Mia’s voice.
Fila struggled to get a hold of herself, taking calming breaths, holding the table tight until her knuckles went white. “Sorry,” she gasped out. “It’ll pass.”
Mia bit her lip, studying her. “What would they have done to me where you were? Would they have killed me?”
Fila shut her eyes. Possibly.
A tear slid down Mia’s face. “Sometimes I think everyone would be better off if I was dead.”
Fila was on her knees in an instant, her arms around Mia—all her own fears forgotten. “No! Never say that. You are a mother now. Soon you will hold your baby in your arms.”
“I know,” Mia wailed. “And I can’t wait. I want to see my baby so badly, but don’t you see—the minute Luke finds out about it, he’s going to hate me.”
Fila pulled back. Thought that through. Luke was proud—the proudest of the Mathesons, and that was saying a lot. You could tease Jake and Rob. Even Ned had a sense of humor, buried as it was under his gruff exterior. Luke saw things in black and white, right or wrong. He reminded her of the Taliban men that way. He honestly cared for Mia—anyone could see that—but what would he do if he knew she carried another man’s child?
He would leave her. It was that simple.
Should she lie to Mia? Pretend it wasn’t so? That would comfort her more than the truth. But one look at Mia’s face told her it was too late for lies.
“I’m sorry,” Fila said.
“It’s hopeless, isn’t it?” Tears streaked down Mia’s cheeks. “I keep trying to figure out what to do. I hoped he’d fall so in love with me that it wouldn’t matter. But it does. It will. I have to give him up.”
“What will you do?”
“Work for you, I hope. Get an apartment. Do my best for my child. I got myself into this—it’s up to me to figure a way through. I won’t be the first single mother.” But her sigh told Fila that being a single mother was the last thing Mia wanted to be.
“I will help you all I can. I love babies.”
“What will I do after it’s born, though? How do I pay for child care while I work and still have enough to live on?”
“Child care?” Fila reared back, affronted at the thought. “Why would you pay for child care?”
“I can’t keep a baby in the restaurant.”
Fila rolled her eyes. Silly Americans. “Why not?”
“It’s so nice of you to invite me to your family dinner,” Camila exclaimed as Ned helped her off with her coat. They stood in the foyer of his parents’ house on Sunday evening while the rest of the family took their places at the large dining room table.
“Fila will be glad you did,” he said. “I’ve got to warn you, though. My family can be a bit… overwhelming.”
“I have five brothers and two sisters. Don’t tell me about overwhelming.”
Ned led the way into the dining room where the table was set for eleven. Holt already sat in his seat at one end of the table. To his right sat Jake, Hannah, Luke and Mia. To his left, Rob and Morgan were in their chairs. Fila was helping his mother in the kitchen.
“Take your pick. My Mom usually takes the end.” Ned indicated the remaining empty chairs and waited until Camila selected the middle one. He helped push her in and took the seat between her and Morgan.