I shook my head because I didn’t know what to say.
After a moment, he walked to the door. “I have a teacher’s conference this afternoon at Lily’s school so I’ll be out. If you need anything… leave me a note or send a text. That way you won’t have to talk to me.”
I whirled around hating that I’d hurt him while at the same time, angry at him for making me the bad guy. But he was already out the door.
I sank into my chair, feeling more lost and alone than ever. Since no answers were coming, I did the next best thing, which was to distract myself with my work.
About four in the afternoon, I took a break for some tea knowing the break room would likely be empty.
“Bella!” Lily’s voice rang out through the outer office.
I looked up and saw her rushing to me. The joy in her face brightened my mood. “Lily.” I squatted down to give her a hug. Looking over her shoulder, I saw Blake standing at Dana’s desk.
Lily grinned up at me. “Bonjour. Ça va?”
“Oui, ça va bien. Et tu?” As miserable as I felt, I couldn’t help but smile.
“Bien.” She looked at me with a pleased expression.
“Tu parle très bien français.”
Her brows knitted together as she worked to decipher what I’d said.
“You speak French very well.”
“I’ve been learning. Grandma got me a book.”
“Come on Lily, we need to let Ms. Hanson get to work.” Blake’s voice was more clipped and formal than usual. I supposed I couldn’t blame him.
“I want to stay with Bella.” She turned to look up at me. “Can I? I can help with your calls.”
My heart was full of affection and sadness at the same time. I looked up at Blake. “I can take her.”
His eyes narrowed. “It’s not part of your job, Ms. Hanson.”
I guessed he was doing what I’d been trying to do: detach emotionally. I knew it would be easier for him since he didn’t love me. Me? I wasn’t sure I’d ever get over him.
“It’s okay, really.” I reached for Lily’s hand. “Tu veux faire des tableur? Spreadsheets?”
“I made a spreadsheet with my favorite foods.”
“Oh, I’d like to see that some time.” I looked up at Blake.
He wasn’t happy, but he gave me a nod. “I just need an hour.”
I brought Lily to the break room where I got tea and got her some cookies and milk. We took our treats back to my office.
“Are we going to the special room?”
“Nah, we can work here. This is my office.”
I set her up on the couch and coffee table with her snack while I finished up the last task of the day. Then I joined her. “What’s in your backpack?”
“We went to the library at school today and got books. Wanna see?”
She opened her bag and pulled out books, mostly about animals. “Do you know about the mouse that eats the cookie?”
I nodded. It had been a favorite of mine when I was little.
“This is like that except with a cat and cupcake. Do you have a cat?”
“No. Do you?”
“I want a pet but Daddy says they’re too much work. Maybe when I’m bigger. Can you read this to me?”
I laughed at how quickly she could move from one topic to another and then back. “I’d love to.”
We snuggled together on the couch, and I started to read the book. Lily took my arm and put it around her, leaning in closer to me. When I finished the book, I asked if she enjoyed it. When there was no answer, I realized she was asleep.
She looked so peaceful and serene. Like she didn’t have a care in the world. I envied her for that. Not wanting to move her, I shifted and lay next to her. She curled up, snuggling closer to me. I supposed Blake could fire me for sleeping on the job, but I couldn’t find the strength to care. So, I closed my eyes and joined Lily for a nap.
My work was a small distraction from the chaos of my life. When I was done, I slipped my coat on and made my way to Bella’s office. As usual, she and I were the only two still there. I’d have to talk to her about not working so hard now that she had the baby to think about.
Baby. Christ. The idea of it wasn’t completely unsettling. Joanna and I had wanted three or four children, but of course, that never happened. When she died, I thought the dream of more children died with her. Now because of my negligence and my inability to resist my assistant, I would be a father again. The only problem was, Bella and I weren’t on the same page about what was best for the child. I understood her desire to marry for love, but now she had a child to think about. She’d have to put the baby first.