By Kishan Paul
The world turned silent as father and daughter eyed each other. Sugar sucked in a breath and headed to her baby. Sophie was her life. The best thing that had ever happened to her. Everything she did was for that child. Her baby deserved the best, and Jax was the best. Her heart had always known this to be true; it was her pride that refused to listen.
She looked over her shoulder just in time to see him move his foot from Milhouse’s chest. His mouth was open and a smile tugged at the corners as if in awe of what he saw. She followed that gaze to the backseat of the car. To her baby girl. Their baby girl.
Did he notice Sophie’s eyes were the same caramel as his? Or that her cheeks dimpled in exactly the same spot as his? Then there was her stubborn streak. There was no question they were the same blood.
A mix of excitement and nervousness flooded her and her heart pulsed against her ears. By the time she’d made it to the passenger side door of her Momma’s car, Jax was at the other. They both opened their doors and slid in besides Sophie at the same time.
“Hello, Mrs. Dennison,” Jax said with a nod toward the driver’s seat where Sugar’s mother sat.
Momma smiled back at him. “I’m glad you’re home safe, son.”
Doe-like eyes, too big for that tiny face, stared up at the two women and then turned to assess Jax. Sophie slid her tiny hand into Sugar’s, held on tight, and pointed at him. “Momma, who that?”
A flash of pain shot through Jax’s face and it tugged at her heart. She should have never kept this a secret from either of them, and it was time she came clean. She opened her mouth to do just that when he cleared his throat and reached out his hand.
“Hi, my name’s Jax. What’s yours?”
The child leaned toward her and whispered loudly. “Is he a stranger, Momma?”
Sugar fought back the tears and shook her head. “No, baby. He’s family.”
Satisfied with the answer, Sophie smiled at him and offered her tiny hand to him to shake. Jax stared at her palm for a moment and as soon as he wrapped his fingers around her, Sugar knew the child had stolen his heart. His eyes were red with emotion. He blinked and kissed her hand. A lone tear streaked down Sugar’s cheek.
“Why’d you hurt Popo?”
His mouth dropped and he flashed Sugar a questioning look. She chuckled as she nudged her chin in the direction of Milhouse.
“Hands and feet are not for hitting. Right, Mamma?” Sophie’s imitation of her made Sugar blush.
“That’s right, baby.” Her affirmation seemed to give Sophie the encouragement she needed.
She pulled her little fingers out from Sugar’s grasp and waved one at her father. “Popos are our friend. You should never hit Popo.”
Jax grinned and leaned in close. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. You’re right, it wasn’t nice.”
The tiny face turned to the back window and stared at the officer who was now on his feet. “You need to pawlagize.”
He nodded his agreement. “Maybe you could help me do that?”
Sugar’s mouth dropped as she watched him unbuckle Sophie from the car seat. The two walked hand in hand toward a red-faced Milhouse. She had no idea what they said to the officer but his anger visibly faded from his face and shoulders. He even squatted and let Sophie give him a hug. Shortly after the embrace, he picked up his badge and belt from the grass, got in his car, and drove away.
Sugar turned around and looked at the rearview mirror, catching her mother’s gaze. Momma’s lips trembled and her eyes were red with tears. “Don’t let that man go this time, baby.”
She nodded and looked behind her at the man in question. He still had Sophie’s hand in his and listened intently to whatever her baby was saying.
Her chest tightened. What worried her wasn’t if he’d leave. He was already falling hard for the daughter he never knew he had. The million-dollar question was would he ever forgive her for not telling him?
“Jax!” Mrs. Dennison called over to him. “How about we give you and Sugar some time alone to talk?”
Jax looked up and nodded then his gaze returned to the little girl standing beside him. My daughter. His eyes shifted to Sugar. Our daughter.
“Come on, Sophie,” her grandmother urged. “Let’s go by the mini mart and get some ice cream.”
“Oh boy!” she squealed and Jax noticed she had Sugar’s syrupy smile. While she hurried over to climb into the car, he watched the way her silky brown curls bounced with every step. Once she was safely in her car seat, Sophie turned and stared out the window. “Bye,” she said softly.
Not bye. Never again. “How about I drop by and see you later?” he suggested.
“K,” Sophia replied with a wide smile that tugged at something deep inside him.
Standing side-by-side, Jax and Sugar waved as they pulled away. When the car was no longer visible,
Sugar swung around and blurted, “Jax, I’m sor—”
He raised a hand silencing her. Sugar inhaled sharply then her blue eyes locked on his. And Jax had never seen anything more beautiful. Not to mention his body tended to light up like a fireworks display whenever he was within three feet of her. Reaching down, he took her hand and dragged her close until her breasts were pillowed against his chest. “I’ve waited three long years to do this again,” Jax whispered while lowering his lips to hers.
He had spent many nights dreaming about her mouth, trying to remember the way she tasted, and his memory had failed in comparison. Long and deep, he kissed her while their tongues tangled in a fierce dance of desire. Jax felt his world right itself again. The magic he’d dreamed about, for all those years, was back within the arms of the only woman he’d ever loved.
While struggling to breathe, Jax finally broke the kiss and said, “I’m sorry I stopped communicating, Sugar. It sounds stupid now, but back then I thought maybe it was best if you forgot about me.”
“How could I do that when you’re the only man I’ve ever loved?” she confessed breathlessly. “I didn’t tell you I was pregnant because I thought you no longer wanted me, and I didn’t want to complicate your life.”
“Sugar, you are my life. And so is that little girl.” She stared into his eyes, allowing Jax to see everything she was feeling, and his heart thumped frantically. “I’m sorry for keeping her from you. You had a right to know about her regardless of what was happening between us.”
“What’s happening is we’re going to be a family.”
“Jax, I will never keep Sophie away—”
Jax stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “I never stopped loving you Sugar, and Sophie is all the more reason why we need to do this right. We’re going to make it official.” Lips brushing, his heart jolted. “Speaking of official, where did my daughter get such an adamant respect for authority?”
“Did your parents ever tell you why I was arrested?”
“No… WIll you?”
“Exactly one year after you left, I got a little drunk with Honey. It was my first time out since having Sophie and…” she paused, embarrassment staining her cheeks.
“You never could hold your liquor well,” he chuckled.
“Anyway, I passed by the bridal shop on my way home. The most beautiful wedding dress was in the window so I—”
“You broke into the store?” Jax struggled to contain his laughter.
“The police found me in front of the mirrors, on the floor bawling. The charges were dropped later but I had to buy the dress. I guess the lace got a bit soggy…” She paused as he knelt on the gravel in front of her. “Jax, what are you doing?”
He smiled. “Something I should have done a long time ago.” Taking her hand in his, he kissed her knuckles then said, “Sugar Pie Dennison, will you marry me?”
Tears filled her eyes and she shook her head as if she couldn’t believe what was happening. “Yes, Jax, I’ll marry you.”
“Hot damn!” he shouted as he lifted Sugar into his arms and squeezed her tightly. “I never want to be without you again.”
“Neither do I,” Sugar whispered.
Finally, everything was going to be just as it should be. And with that Jax swooped in, sealing their future with a kiss.