He hummed, blowing over the surface of his hot tea as his eyes returned to the paper. “Maybe.”
Sara looked at us with a sweetly quizzical grin before leaving again.
“So.” I brought my coffee to my lips.
He smiled without looking up. “Hmm?”
“Good to have you visit.”
My brother nodded, sipping his tea. “Been too long.”
Shrugging, he said, “Same, I suppose? There’s a chance I’ll be back in a few weeks’ time for a summit here.”
“Yeah?” I said, a little more eagerly than I’d intended.
He nodded. “I’ll be around a bit more, you see. So you might as well just bring up whatever it is you’re working up to.”
“Oh, you mean the thing about how you’re watching the child tonight while I take my woman out for some fun?”
He brought his toast to his mouth and smiled around it, “Yes, that thing.”
“I certainly hope so.” He maintained eye contact, eyes wry and knowing as he chewed, swallowed.
“I’m not going to tell you what we’re doing, if that’s what you think.”
He laughed, shaking his head as he poured some more tea. “Well, until you said that, I assumed it was just dinner. Now I think maybe I’d rather not know.”
Sara brought Anna out into the kitchen, making her way over to me, but Niall wiped his mouth and his hands with a napkin before he reached for the baby. “Come here, love. Guess who gets to watch you tonight?”
Sara folded the baby in his arms and turned to the fridge, pulling out a bottle of milk. “Are you sure?”
He nodded. “Might kick you out myself.”
She smiled at him gratefully. “Well, I’m leaving around six, but there’s plenty of bottles in here for the rest of the night,” she said, looking at him over her shoulder. “We use this bottle warmer. See?” She put the bottle in, pushed the button, and we all watched as it began to steam, and then beeped when it was done. “Easy.”
“We’ll manage fine,” he said, taking the bottle and expertly shaking it to warm the milk evenly as he looked down at Anna again. “Won’t we, princess?”
Watching him like this, I realized how much more experience he had with babies than I did: between our eight siblings there were seventeen nieces and nephews, and Niall was the favorite uncle to them all.
Sara put her hand on his shoulder. “Thanks for doing this.”
He waved her off, making one of his stiff, dismissive grunts.
“That’s awkward Brit for ‘you’re welcome,’ ” I said, laughing as I waited for Anna to push the bottle away and cry for Sara.
Niall gazed down at her as he offered her the milk. “That’s a girl. Who’s a good baby?” He bent and kissed her forehead. “Ah, but she’s a hungry one, isn’t she?”
I gaped at him, at her tiny hand clutching his thumb as she drank happily.
If my daughter had one superpower it would be the ability to locate her mum from several rooms away. If Sara were anywhere in the house, Anna wouldn’t dare take a bottle from me.
I scowled at Niall. “You must smell like a woman.”
“Piss off,” he said to me, still using his baby-soothing voice. “Why is your daddy such a wanker, hmm? I’ve got a hundred nieces and nephews and he expects I can’t give this tiny miss a bottle?”
“Baby girl knows which uncle’s gonna spoil her rotten,” Niall whispered just loud enough for me to hear. “Who wants a pony? Is it you? You do? I’ll make sure you get a pony.”
I groaned, smacking the back of his head as I walked past him to go find Sara.
I found Sara in the bathroom, putting on the pair of diamond earrings her father sent after Anna was born.
Bending to kiss her neck, I said, “I’ll have Scott come for us here at eight—”
“No.” She turned to face me, running her hands up my dress shirt and straightening my collar. “Don’t.”
I blinked, tilting my head as my stomach dropped. Had she changed her mind? “You don’t want to go?”
Her smile was a sweet reassurance. “Of course I do. But I want to meet there. Scott can bring me. You come separately.”
She wanted to leave for the club separately? “But we’ve always gone together.”
“I don’t want to drag anything behind us when we leave. If he picks us both up here, we’ll fuss over the details of leaving Anna, we’ll talk about her in the car. I think I’m going to take her out and do some back-to-work shopping then head to your mom’s. I’ll coordinate with Niall. Scott can get me there and I’ll see you at Johnny’s. We can just be us tonight.”
She pulled her lip between her teeth and smiled around it before whispering, “Yeah, I’m sure.”
Innocence, anticipation, lust, and something sweeter than pure sugar. It was everything I loved about Sara distilled into a single expression.
“Right then. I’ll meet you there at nine.”
I left for work, expecting to see Sara at lunch, or even get a call from her as I usually did during the day, but knowing I might not. I suspected Sara might want a little distance today to help put her in the right mind-set, and I was right. A text came just as the office was clearing out, to let me know Niall was picking Annabel up at Mum’s flat and she would meet me at the club, as planned.