Dr. Greyson sighs. He’s not been a sigher with me. The man is a pillar of control, but as he squirms in his chair, fighting all three of his favorite positions, I see his demeanor has shifted to a little off-kilter.
“Hypothetically it’s possible.”
That’s all I need to know right now. The only way I can keep a shred of my own sanity is by believing Nate’s mental health might be impaired.
Rachael answers the door with Morgan in a carrier strapped to her chest. A smile settles on my face as I fight the urge to lift an eyebrow in question. Since last night’s confrontation with Nate, I half expected to get a phone call that my over-holding baby services were no longer needed. Yet, here she is, holding Morgan.
“No need to knock. You’re welcome to come inside when you get here each day.”
“Thanks.” I slip off my shoes inside the door and follow her to the main room. My eyes go straight to the camera in the corner.
“Ignore them.” Rachael grins, sliding Morgan out of the carrier.
I turn my back to the camera. “It’s weird,” I whisper. “Yesterday we were talking about your family, Nathaniel, and losing your sister …” I sneak a quick glance back at the camera. “And he was watching and listening to us the whole time.”
She chuckles, kissing Morgan on her peach-fuzz covered head. “We weren’t saying anything about him that we wouldn’t say in front of him.” Rachael winks at the camera and lowers her voice. “But I’ll show you the safe spots in the house to talk behind his back.”
My muscles relax a fraction. “Oh, good to know.”
Rachael hands Morgan to me and drapes the carrier over the back of the sofa. “I’ll leave it here in case you want to use it.”
“To hold her?” I can’t resist questioning the sudden baby-holding policy change.
“Yes. Apparently Nathaniel has decided the self-soothing method might not be the right fit for Morgan. I’m not sure what brought about this epiphany, but I love holding her, so …” She smirks in the direction of the camera.
“Lucky Morgan.” I rest my cheek against the top of her head, warm and soft. Gloating is one of Nate’s pet peeves, so I won’t gloat over being right. Closing my eyes, I try to shake off that thought because I shouldn’t know that about him. These memories feel like a cancer gnawing at my sanity.
“Bye, baby girl.” She rubs Morgan’s back. “You know where to reach me if you have any questions or issues.”
Rachael retrieves a few items from the fridge and sets them in a black canvas bag. “She had a bottle about an hour ago, and I just changed her diaper before you showed up. See you tomorrow.”
“Bye.” Tiny grunts accompany jerky hands as I reposition Morgan and sit in the rocking chair. “Hey, Professor Hunt.” I offer the camera a smile after I hear the door click shut behind Rachael. “This is so weird,” I murmur to myself without moving my lips.
The next four hours pass without incident. And by incident I mean no nose-picking or butt-scratching on my part.
“Good evening, Swayze.” My ginger-haired ghost from the past fills the doorway to the nursery, looking handsome in his blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
“Professor.” I finish dressing Morgan.
“Nathaniel.” He chuckles. It’s familiar. Too fucking familiar.
His last name isn’t Hawthorne. I cannot call him Nathaniel. “She had a blowout clear up her back. But I’m sure you saw that on the spy cam. So I bathed her and now she’s in her jams.” I lift her off the table. “All nice and clean, Little Daisy.” I give her a gentle hug before passing her off to Nate.
His brows knit together as he takes her in his burly hands while looking at me with confusion lining his forehead. I’ve avoided staring at him too long until now. For the first time I sense a flicker of recognition behind his questioning gaze.
This is it. He’s piecing everything together. The anticipated ah-ha moment dangles on the horizon. Finally, we’re going to connect the dots together.
“It’s odd that you call her that.”
“What?” I reel in my anticipation before it bubbles over into a joyous “Finally! You recognize me.”
“Daisy. That’s not a common pet name for a baby. Are daisies your favorite flower or something?” He cradles Morgan to his broad chest and bounces her gently.
My shoulders lift into an exaggerated shrug. “No, but daisies are nice. I find them to be one of the happier flowers. Lilies and carnations have a real funeral feel to them, and roses are just risky. There are too many meanings behind the colors. But honeysuckle is my favorite scent.”
Flowers. Really? He baits me with that look and then asks me about my favorite flower. Yes, daisies are nice. I think I just convinced both of us that they are the perfect flower, a topic I hadn’t given much thought to until now. But if he wants to talk about flowers, then maybe we should discuss the lilac bush he stole from a neighbor and transplanted behind his parents’ green house on Gable Street as a Mother’s Day gift—all between the hours of midnight and two in the morning.
“Are you feeling okay?”
I blink a few times. “Uh, yeah. Why?”
“The color has drained from your face, and you look like you’re a million miles away.”
I flip off the light switch, forcing him to retreat down the hall in front of me as I pinch my cheeks to regain some color. “Deep in thought. I had a session with Dr. Greyson today.”
That’s it? Oh? It would seem I lack the baiting skills of a good fisherman. Yes, Nate. I saw our psychiatrist today. We discussed my memories of you. What do you discuss with him? Your missing memories of me? Your PTSD?
“Did you eat dinner?” He adjusts Morgan so she’s nestled in one arm like a football while he uses his other hand to flip open the pizza box on the kitchen counter.
Pineapple and jalapeños. I knew it before he opened the box.
“Have some.” He folds a flimsy slice in half and engulfs it. “I haven’t eaten all day.” His words mumble past his mouthful of pizza.
I take a piece and tear off a corner of the crust and pop it in my mouth. “Interesting choice of toppings.”
Morgan’s fists jerk in front of her face as her eyes cross trying to focus on them. Nate’s gaze affixes to her while he finishes chewing. “I used to love jalapeño and sausage pizza.” His forehead wrinkles a bit. “My best friend liked pineapple and mushroom pizza. She didn’t like sausage. I didn’t like mushrooms. We decided to try pineapple and jalapeño. It was stupid really. We could have just ordered half and half, but we both ended up loving the pineapple and jalapeño.”
I pick off both of the oddly-paired toppings and drop them back in the box.
Nate’s chewing slows while his lips turn up into a slight grin. “Not your thing?”
“Plain cheese. I’m sure that makes me boring, but I’m good with boring. Too many years of high expectations and unwanted attention can do that to you.” I shrug and take a bite.
“I can relate to high expectations.”
I chuckle. “You have a doctorate degree. Surely you’ve met or exceeded all expectations.”
“Except my own.” He tosses the end of the crust into the box next to my discarded toppings and grabs another piece.
He still doesn’t eat the crust. It’s the best part.
“You’ve always been an over-achiever.”
Jesus! Knock that shit off, Swayze.
Before his questioning look settles into an irreversible frown, I make a quick save. “I don’t mean you. I mean people like you are always over-achievers.” I nibble at my pizza like a rabbit grazing in a yard of clover. Some people chew their fingernails or twirl their hair to release nervous energy. I’m a nibbler. As if my awesome name isn’t enough, I have unique habits like nibbling food and knowing personal things about complete strangers.
“People like me?” Nate inhales another piece of pizza and bounces Morgan as she begins to fuss a bit.
“Success breeds greed.”
Nate’s stony posture softens a bit because I’m wrong. Where most people would be offended by my statement, he’s not. It’s not just me battling a case of the crazies. He’s fighting it too. I see it every time his gaze lingers on me like it did in the nursery. Something about me is familiar to him too.
“I’m not greedy.” He tosses a second pizza bone into the box and grabs a glass from the cupboard.
Nate isn’t greedy. I know that. Kids who grow up with very little don’t turn into greedy adults, but that doesn’t mean they’re not driven. He doesn’t need the house, the car, and the expensive security cameras; knowing he could have them is enough.
“Don’t be fooled by the house. I’m not rich and snobby.” He fills the glass with water as my heart rate doubles.
I need him to say that he knows me too, because this strange familiarity is like an out-of-body experience. Of course he’s not rich and snobby; he simply swore he’d never have to add water to milk or ketchup to make it last longer or duct tape on the sole of his shoe to mend a worn hole until he could get a new pair.