Authors: Rhonda Marks
I just got a little choked up, that’s all.” Nitika’s features softened as she looked his way. If it was anyway possible for her to look more beautiful, it was happening now. Before he could say anything to her, the oncologist stepped into the room.
“Morning, folks,” he said with a smile in his voice, his gaze zeroed
in on Tesia. “And how’s the princess today?” He proceeded to check her medication and pulled back the sheet covering her.
“Okay, I guess,” she whispered. Her eyes closed slightly as the doctor examined her.
Once he finished, he patted her on the shoulder and dipped his head in the direction of the hallway.
“We’ll be right back, baby,” Nitika said. She planted a kiss on Tesia’s head and stepped out the room. Javier did the same and gave her a little wave.
The doctor had his hands stuffed into his coat pockets as he waited for them to arrive. “Well, it looks like Tesia’s ready for the transplant.” He turned to look at Javier. “Are you available to go tomorrow morning?”
Javier turned to face a shaken Nitika. He took her hands in his and waited until she looked up. “I’ll be here whenever you need me.”
“Good to know. My staff will let you know the details.” With that, he strode away, leaving them in the hall.
Javier pulled her into his arms and felt her whole body tremble. “It’ll be alright, Nitika. I promise.”
woke with a start and quickly tossed aside the blanket covering her. Tesia lay quietly in her bed despite all the beeping machines attached to her tiny body. The transplant took place the day before and all seemed well. The oncologist checked on her a couple hours ago and was pleased with her progress, especially the increase in the white blood cell count. She did have a slight fever, but they’d given her medication to reduce it. Nitika let out a small sigh and continued to gaze at her baby.
Once the doctor determined Tesia was ready for the transplant, things moved quickly. Javier was admitted to the hospital and within three hours, he was in surgery having his
stem cell extracted. Tesia was in a nearby operating room, awaiting the life sustaining gift from her father. All the while, Nitika huddled in the surgical waiting room with Elise, praying for a positive outcome.
“How’s our girl doing?”
Javier’s deep voice caused her to jump and place her hand over her heart. “Goodness, you scared me.” She looked to find him in street clothes and leaning against the door jamb. For someone who had just undergone a painful procedure, he sure looked yummy.
He strolled over to the bed and bent over to place a kiss on top of Tesia’s head. She swore she saw his lower lip tremble before he straightened. “She’s looking good. Her coloring is better than a few hours ago.”
“How would you know? This the first time you’ve been by here since the procedure.”
“I stopped by a while ago. You were sound asleep.” He stopped for a beat and allowed his gaze to wander over her face. “I didn’t want to bother you since I know you’re getting next to no rest.”
She opened her mouth to dispute his claim, but a yawn escaped instead causing both of them to laugh. “I guess you’re right.”
“I most certainly do not!” she responded indignantly.
“Yes, you do. It’s a cute snore, but a snore nonetheless.” He stepped around the bed and approached her chair, his eyes never leaving hers.
Nitika shot a quick glance in Tesia’s direction and saw that she hadn’t stirred. What was stirring was her blood though. “Javier, I don’t think—”
“Stop thinking and feel.” When he reached her side, he lowered his head and captured her lips with his. He pressed softly at first, then immediately began to deepen the kiss.
As if they had a mind of their own, her lips parted and his hot tongue plunged inside, sweeping the inside as if he had every right to do so. And right now he certainly did. Her arms encircled his neck and drew him closer, while he pulled her to her feet. His hands somehow found themselves cupping her behind and drawing her flush with his hard body.
Caught up in the kiss, Nitika tried to ignore the light tapping on the window, but it suddenly became louder and louder. Not wanting to wake up Tesia, she broke off the kiss, peeked around Javier and glared at the person. An older couple stood at the window with enormous grins on their faces.
They looked familiar and one peek at Javier when he turned around confirmed her suspicions. His parents were here!
“What’s going on?” she demanded, stepping out of his embrace. “Why are your parents here? They are your parents, right?”
With a stunned look on his face, Javier stared down at her and slowly nodded his head. “I didn’t tell them about Tesia, I swear!”
“Then why are they here? I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to you telling Tesia you were her father.” With that, she plopped into the chair she’d been sitting in and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Nitika, I did not tell them about our daughter. The only person who knows about her is my brother, Antonio, and I swore him to secrecy.”
“Well, we know how that turned out, don’t we?” She concentrated on the tops of her shoes, trying her best to reign in her rising anger.
“Listen, let me go outside and see what’s going on, okay?” She gave a curt nod of her head and watched him step out the door. The last thing she and Tesia needed at this point was more drama.
“What are you two doing here?” Javier tossed his gloves into the bin and confronted his parents. This was the last place he expected to see Maria and Angelo Crespo.
“Nice to see you too, son,” Angelo said with a bit of irritation in his voice.
“Not here, okay,” his mother whispered, ever the peacemaker. “Is there someplace we can go that’s more private?”
“Come on.” Not bother
ing to see if they were following him, Javier strode down the hall and back to his hospital room. He waved his mother over to the one chair before flopping onto the bed. “Why are you here? And how’d you find out about me being here?”
“We wanted to surprise you, honey,” his mother began. “We haven’t seen you in a while so we drove up for a visit. When we got to your apartment, your landlord said you were in the hospital.”
His father scowled and shook his finger in Javier’s direction. “Scared your poor mother to death. It’s a wonder I didn’t get pulled over rushing here.”
Javier blew out a
heavy sigh and allowed his head to roll forward. “I’m sorry, okay. But I’m fine as you can see.”
“Why are you here then? And who was that woman you were kissing?” His mother rose and placed a hand on his shoulder, patting him as if he were a five year old again.
For a second, he debated whether he should give them a bare bones explanation or just tell them everything. Knowing they’d interrogate him until they got the whole story, he decided to put it all out there. “I’m not ill, so let’s get that out of the way. The reason I’m here is because I was a stem cell donor for. . . for my daughter.”
The proverbial pin would have been heard loud and clear if it had been dropped at that moment. Javier’s gaze shifted back and forth between his parents, neither one of them able to speak. He braced himself knowing all hell was about to break loose.
His father was the first to speak. “Stem cell donor and daughter?”
His mother simply broke into tears and both men rushed to her side. “Don’t cry,
Mama,” Javier pleaded. This only made her sob louder, causing people passing by the open door to pause and look inside the room. Javier waved them on and turned his attention to calming her down.
It took several minutes, a glass of water and a handful of tissues before his mother settled. “Tell me everything, Javier, and don’t leave anything out.”
Resigned to telling them the whole truth, Javier leaned back in the bed and began to speak. He told them about being a sperm donor, how the clinic director contacted him regarding Tesia and her medical condition.
“And you couldn’t have told this to your family?” his father ranted. This caused another torrent of tears from his mother.
“No, I couldn’t. I did tell Antonio, but only because I needed some legal advice.”
“I see there’s another son I’ll have to talk with,” his mother said with a touch of sadness in her voice. “Keeping things from your mama is not good.”
Javier didn’t reply because he knew whatever he said wouldn’t be acceptable. In the Crespo household, when mama was upset, papa was upset. And when Angelo was upset, he and his brothers learned to make themselves scarce real fast.
“So, what is wrong with my granddaughter?” Angelo asked, all the while holding his wife’s shaking hands.
“Leukemia,” Javier replied. “Chemo alone wasn’t working, so that’s why they tracked me down. Her mother was not a match and they couldn’t locate a suitable match.”
“The woman, son.
The one you were kissing. Who is she?”
Her name is Nitika.”
“And she went to the sperm bank to conceive a child, is that right?”
“Yes. She’s raised her on her own all these years. Did a hell of a job too.”
“Looks like you two have grown close.”
Javier simply closed his eyes and all the sensations he experienced sprung up. This was not what either of them needed now. Their focus should be on Tesia and not their carnal desires. But he couldn’t help himself. Nitika drew out a part of him he long thought was dead. “Dealing with Tesia’s illness is very stressful for both of us.”
“Which means what?” his father inquired. “Kissing and groping makes it better?”
“No, I mean, I don’t know what I mean, Papa.” And he truly didn’t. The woman was driving him out of his mind and making him a walking erection most of the time.
“Can we go and meet our granddaughter?” his mother asked quietly. Suddenly her eyes widened and she placed her hand over her mouth. “Angelo! We have a granddaughter!”
His father simply nodded and pinned him with a hard stare. “Is that possible, Javier? Is she able to have visitors?”
“She’s still recovering from the procedure, so the hospital is limiting visitors for now.” Plus he had a feeling Nitika would not be very happy about this whole situation. He needed time to get her used to the idea. “But we can go back to the window and you can see her.”
He held out his arm for his mother and they headed back to Tesia’s room. When they arrived, Nitika was in her usual position, seated on the right side of their daughter’s bed. She looked tired, really tired. But trying to get her to take a break would be a waste of his breath.
As if she sensed his presence, Nitika’s head rose and their gazes collided. Her brown eyes darkened then shifted to his left to look at his parents. She watched them for a second before resuming her sentry over Tesia.
“Excuse me for a minute,” he said while donning another surgical mask. “I’ll be right back.” He left them focused on the little girl in the big hospital bed, their only grandchild. A wave of guilt washed over him, but he quickly squashed it.
When he stepped into the room, Nitika failed to acknowledge his presence. So she was not going to make this easy, huh? “Um, Nitika, can I talk with you?”
With a look on her face he could only describe as beyond pissed, she turned to face him. “Did you ask your parents to come here?”
“No, I had no idea they were in town. They went to my place and my landlord told them I was in the hospital.” He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “They want to meet Tesia.”
A look of panic spread over her face. “No! Not now, not yet.”
“That’s what I told them, but
this is their only grandchild—”
“I get that,” she snapped. “But I don’t want to get her used to people who may not stick around.”
“Hold up! Like I told you, I will always be here for my little girl. And I can guarantee you my parents and my whole family feel the same. We may not have been around for the first five years, but that’s not our fault.”
Nitika swiped a hand down the side of her face. “I’m sorry for saying what I did, but you have to understand that’s all I’ve known in my life. People come and go without explanation. I won’t allow that to happen to my baby.”
“I get it, Nitika. But you can be assured that Tesia will be loved and treasured by my family. My folks will have her so spoiled, we won’t know what to do with her.”
She glanced over to the window and bit her lower lip. “I guess it would be a good idea to meet them.”
“If you’d like.”
She glanced at Tesia to make sure she was resting comfortably and stood. “I’d like that very much.”
Javier let out a breath he’d been holding and took her by the hand. Little by little, he was making inroads.
Nitika popped her head into Tesia’s room and allowed a rare smile to spread across her face. Her girl was sitting up in the bed and playing with her dolls, something she hadn’t been able to do in quite a while. Hopefully, she’d be able to go back to school and around her little friends soon. Things were definitely looking up.
Since her release from the hospital three weeks ago, Tesia had made steady progress, amazing not only her parents
, but the doctors, too. Javier visited daily, staying for hours on end. Nitika appreciated his help and Tesia delighted in having her daddy in her life, but she also found his presence irritating. How dare he do what he said he’d do, be there for both of them and worm himself into their lives? A tremor of fear zipped through her body. What if he was the real deal? How was she going to handle this man in her life?
Every man she’d ever known, except for Elise’s father, failed her in one way or the other. Beginning with her father, the one person she thought she could count on to be there for her, failed her by abandoning her when her mother died. Then the series of men she allowed into her life as she veered from one relationship to another, disappointed her in a myriad of ways.
Could she trust him to continue being there for her and Tesia?
But despite all her efforts not to be influenced by his charm and affection for their daughter, she had to admit that she was falling for Javier Crespo.
Hard. They continued to share kisses, but nothing more despite growing feelings on her part. He always seemed to pull away when it looked like they were about to take the next step. She knew it was for the best, but still she craved to know his body.
The peal of the doorbell signaled Javier’s arrival and her heart did a little flip. Calm down girl. She purposely took her time walking to the door and gulped down a deep breath before swinging the door open. But all that preparation was for naught when he greeted her with that dazzling smile of his.