The next day Morgan has made plans to go shopping with her mother, Heather. She slips quietly out of the apartment in order not to waken Thane, whose late night gigs at the NY normally result in late mornings on the following day. Thane, however, only feigns sleep. The moment he hears the familiar click of the apartment door's lock, he throws back the covers and heads for the shower. A half hour later he is out the door himself, making a beeline for TEK Hospital.
As luck would have it, he finds Jes's room empty of visitors. He pauses for a moment outside her door, taking in the sight of her crooning to the tiny infant in her arms. Shouldna she look exhausted? I donna think the lass has e'er looked more bonny!
He pushes open the door a crack and says, uncertainly, "Jes?"
Jes looks up from her rapt focus on Cami, startled at Thane's sudden appearance. Instinctively she tightens her grasp on the baby, then inwardly shakes her head in amusement at the reflex and relaxes her grip. No, Thane is not one to abduct a child. He is not Vasquez.
She smiles at Thane and it is as if the sun has broken through the clouds. Her face is so radiant that he is grateful for the sunglasses he affects -- so radiant, in fact, that it stops him in his tracks for a heartbeat. When he remembers to breathe again, he asks, tentatively, "May I come in?"
"Of course, Thane. Would you like to hold your daughter?"
At first he finds the idea so terrifying that he instinctively throws up his hands to indicate his reluctance.
He advances to stand next to the bed and looks down upon the beautiful woman who had once been his lover and the tiny blonde child cradled in her arms.
"She's a bonny lass, aye?"
"Aye." Jessy smiles. "I think she takes after her father. Your hair was blonde when you were a baby, right?"
"Aye, it was. Are you all right, Jes? I mean . . ." Thane is uncomfortable with the question, but his concern for her well-being overrides his feeling of awkwardness.
"Yes, I'm fine. It was an easy delivery. Very quick, or so they tell me. It seemed plenty long to me!"
She smiles again, and his heart nearly stops in his chest.
"I suppose you heard about it from Colleen." Jessy's words aren't exactly a question.
"Nay, in fact it was Darius. I was having a wee bit o' panic when Colleen didna show up on time last night."
"How was the bar last night?" The situation is awkward, and Jes attempts to fill the silence with small talk.
"No' so good, at least not for the band. We've had better nights. Some of us were a wee bit distracted." Thane attempts a smile, but it falls short.
Cami chooses that moment to express her disapproval of the fact that she is not being fed.
"Hungry again, little one? Fortunately, your mama comes equipped to fill that order."
Smiling at the decibel volume produced by those tiny lungs, Jes pulls aside her hospital gown and guides the child's mouth to her breast.
Thane's heart beats so loudly that he fears she surely must be able to hear it. He swallows. He tries to look away, but he is so captivated by the sight that he cannot force himself to avert his eyes. He feels a tightening in his loins at the sight of those all-too-familliar breasts, but his sudden lust is tempered by something he has never felt before. He can't even put a name to it. It is part wonder, part tenderness, part amazement, and part the instinctive love of a parent for his or her child. Had Jes been watching him instead of focused on the babe at her breast, she would have seen a myriad of emotions play across his face. Suddenly weak at the knees, Thane gropes for a chair and abruptly sits.
The movement jolts Jes from her reverie and she is suddenly acutely aware of her near-nakedness.
She blushes. "I'm sorry, Thane. I haven't quite gotten used to this process yet, and it just seemed so natural in front of you . . . ." She pulls up the sheet to cover herself.
Without taking his eyes from hers, Thane slowly rises and reaches out to pull the sheet back down.
Her eyes go wide, but she remains still as a stone, eyes still locked on his. His hand reaches out to touch the baby's head, and in the process grazes her exposed breast.
She starts as if she has received an electric shock, but she does not pull away. Her breath catches in her throat and the moment stretches into an eternity. In this moment Thane wants nothing more than to crawl into bed with this woman and suckle her other breast. That desire is written plain on his face as he slowly reaches out to open her gown.
Suddenly Morgan's face intrudes itself into Thane's consciousness and the spell is broken. He jerks his hand back, blushing crimson, and quickly averts his eyes.
Jessy lets out the breath she didn't realize she had been holding and returns her eyes to the suckling child as she pulls the sheet back up. Thane straightens. A moment of awkward silence ensues before he clears his throat.
"Ummmm . . . I . . . I should be going, aye? If . . . if it's all right, I would like to come back to see the bairn again."
Without raising her eyes, Jes replies, but her voice comes out in a squeak and she finds it necessary to clear her throat and begin again. "Yes. Yes, I would like that, Thane. Come early. It gets crowded in here in the evenings."
For a split second it appears that he is going to reach for her again, but the moment passes.
"Goodbye, then, until tomorrow. And Jes?"
She reluctantly raises her head to meet his eyes.
Thane smiles at her. "Lass, you did well."
Without another word, he crosses to the door and exits the room.
Jes hasn't realized that her body has been as taut as a coiled spring until she relaxes with a sigh when the door silently closes behind him. She looks at her beautiful daughter. "Cami, what the HELL was that all about? Your father . . . . your father has some unresolved issues that had better be worked out before we spend much more time together as a family!"
Cami, completely sated, has fallen asleep at her mother's breast and does not respond. Jes smiles fondly at her sleeping child and lies back to contemplate what just happened . . . or almost happened.
The next morning Thane invents an excuse to leave the apartment and once more appears at Jessy's hospital room door.
This time he is welcomed by a beatific smile. "Come in, Thane! Cami has just had her breakfast and is looking forward to spending some time with her da."
Thane grins as he crosses the room and pulls up a chair next to the bed.
"Why 'Cami', lass?"
Jes looks at him blankly, realizing that she has not shared her daughter's full name with the man who inspired it. She laughs. "I'm sorry, Thane! I thought . . . well, I thought you knew. Her full name is 'Campbell St. Clair'."
Thane blinks once, then a slow smile lights his face. "I like it, lass. It suits her, and I am honored." He rises from the chair and executes a mock bow, making Jes laugh out loud.
Just then the Care Assistant arrives with Jessy's breakfast.
Jessy assesses Thane from behind lowered lashes and makes a sudden decision. She holds out the baby toward Thane. "Thane, I'm starving, and I can't do my breakfast justice with Cami in my arms. Can you take her while I eat?"
At first Thane shrinks back, horrified. He has never before held a newborn infant and is terrified that he will do something wrong. But the confidence in Jessy's face and the warmth he feels toward this child win out and he tentatively reaches out his arms.
The CA stands by, amused, as Jes shows him how to support the baby's head.
The expression on Thane's face as he holds his baby daughter brings tears to Jessy's eyes.
She quickly looks toward the CA and holds out her arms for the breakfast tray, distracting herself from the touching tableau . . . not that Thane notices her expression.
He is completely besotted by the child in his arms and is totally oblivious to the rest of the world.
The CA smiles and winks at Jes as she assists in positioning the tray for her patient's comfort.
As the young woman departs, Jes begins to devour her breakfast.
She watches Thane thoughtfully.
When she has consumed everything on her plate she breaks the silence impulsively. "Thane, I'll be released this afternoon. Gannon is out of town working a case and took Zellie with him, so they can't pick me up. Would you. . . . .?"
Thane looks up from his rapt contemplation of the child who shares his DNA and smiles. "I canna refuse such a generous offer, lass. What time?"
"They'll start the process later this morning, but knowing hospitals it will be early afternoon before I can actually leave. Shall we say one o'clock?"
Something niggles at the back of Thane's mind, but he chooses to ignore it. "Aye. One o'clock. I'll be here."
Later that morning, Thane returns to the apartment to find Morgan dressed and waiting for him.
"All dressed up wi' no place to go, lass?"
Morgan frowns. "Thane, have you forgotten that we're driving to the city to pick up my cousin Piper at the airport today? We need to leave soon or we'll be late!"
Thane slaps his forehead. Crrrap! Now what am I going to do?
He crosses to Morgan. "Ummmm . . . aye. I had forgotten, lass. I'm sorry, but something has come up wi' the band and I willna be able to go wi' you. Are you all right driving to the city by yoursel'?
Morgan's frown deepends. "Aye." she responds, reluctantly. "I'm still no' used to driving on the wrong side, but if you canna go, you canna go. I'll give your regards to Piper."
Her annoyance evident in her demeanor, she brushes past him abruptly and stalks to the door, slamming it behind her.
For a long moment Thane stands looking at the door, torn between his desire to go after her and his relief at so easily dodging that particular bullet.
He sighs and pulls out his cell phone, looking up Ranger's number.
"Ranger, might I be able to borrow your truck? I have something I need to pick up and Morgan has taken my car to the city."
"No problem, man. I'm at the NY working on Darius's punch list. I'll leave my keys in the truck out front."
"I canna thank you enough, brutha. I'll have it back to you by mid-afternoon."
Jes makes no comment as she sees what vehicle Thane has brought to the hospital, but she shoots him a speculative glance. He helps her into the truck and settles a sleeping Cami into the carrier in the back seat.
At the bungalow, Thane assists Jes in carefully climbing out of the truck and carries the still-sleeping infant into the house. He solicitously settles Jes on the couch, placing Cami's infant seat nearby. He covers Jes with a throw, fetches her a bottle of water, and checks his watch.
"Lass, I'm sorry. I canna stay. D'ye need anythin' else?"
Jes smiles up at him. "I can't imagine what it would be, Thane. You've settled us in nicely. Thank you so much for picking us up. We'll see you again soon, I hope?"
Thane returns her smile. "Aye. You canna keep me away from this wee bonny bairn." His smile falters slightly as he thinks . . . And you, lass.
Jes raises a hand in farewell as Thane exits the bungalow.
To be continued . . .