Finding Their Son
has a special present with it, Megan,” Char said.
    “Awesome,” Megan exclaimed, sounding older than five. “Look, Daddy, see the little box? Can I open it now?”
    Mac looked at Morgan for guidance. “Cake first, then presents?”
    “Cake.”
    “Cake.”
    The chant caught on in a hurry. Char’s ears rang, but in a good way. She’d have loved to stay and watch all the excitement, but Eli Robideaux was in her car. The chance of that happening was so remote that it simply had to possess some kind of significance. Without getting all woo-woo, as Jenna would say, Char knew he was here for a reason.
    “Meggie,” she said, motioning the child to her. “Give me a hug. I’m sorry I can’t stay for cake and ice cream, but I have to help a friend.”
    Megan pouted for a half a second then brightened. “A boyfriend?” Giggling, she put her fingers to her lips as if she’d given away a secret. “Miss Char’s got a boyfriend.”
    Char felt all eyes turning her way. The last thing she wanted was to answer questions that didn’t have answers. Not yet anyway. “Have fun with your friends, sweetheart. I’ll call you later to see if you liked your present. Bye,” she said, fleeing without a backward glance.
    Libby would text her before the day was over. Jenna andKat would follow up, too. They were her friends. They cared about her. But at the moment, she was more concerned about an old friend.
    Fur-rend? Don’t you be lying to yourself, chickadee. He weren’t never your friend.
    The old black woman was right. Back then Eli was a god, a rock star and Michael Jordan all rolled into one. He and Char shared the same space in the way the sun and an unnamed asteroid both hang out in the sky. He pretty much confirmed this morning that he barely knew she existed. The only reason he’d done the evil deed with her was because…well, because he’d been a hot-blooded, horny boy.
    She stopped halfway to the car. The air was cool, the breeze crisp. It should have helped calm the giddy, ridiculous buzz of expectation swirling inside her head and chest.
    “Focus. Focus,” she softly murmured. “Don’t forget he tried to rob you.”
    A sobering thought. Unfortunately the image of a down-and-out Eli couldn’t quite overshadow the memory she’d secretly nurtured all these years of the young-sex-god Eli. How many first-meet scenarios had she imagined between them? Dozens. Maybe more. None had involved getting robbed, but most had led to the kinds of things she absolutely had no business thinking about. None. At all.
    Uh-huh. Then whatcha doin’ thinkin’ about ’em?
    She shook her head and pretended to search her pockets for her keys, in case any of her friends were watching from the window. This was silly. She was freaking out for nothing. She knew perfectly well it was dumb—no, make that self-destructive—to hope for even a nanosecond that he’d reentered her life with an actual purpose. Whatever force or forces—fate, God, the universe—might have orchestrated this meeting, Eli obviously wasn’t privy to any bigger picture. Not only had he failed to recognize her when she told him her name, he only associated her with that repugnant, misogynistic nickname. What kind of idiot would look for a sign in that?
    Yo’ mama’s kind.
    “I am not my mother,” she muttered with an indignant huff. “What do I have to do to prove that?”
    Unlike her mother, Char wasn’t promiscuous. She didn’t party. She’d earned her own way since high school. She’d never been married let alone tied the knot with the first fairly cute loser who came along, divorced his ass a year or two later and started the whole cycle over again.
    The lone impulsive slipup in Char’s past that even vaguely resembled something her mother would have done involved Eli. And then she’d chosen to act responsibly—not a claim her mother ever could have made.
    Did she regret her choice? Of course, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t been the right thing

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