Authors: Babe Hayes
“Oh, honey, don’t cry. I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you.” Paeton felt guilty again. Guilt appeared to be the emotion “au jour.” She picked up the child, cuddling him to her shoulder. He quieted immediately. “I’m sorry. You don’t even know who I am, do you? And you’ve been so good.” She couldn’t repress an inner smile. “And your daddy has been so bad!”
She was appalled at her reflexive response to the incident. But, hard as she might try, there was no way she could deny the pleasure she had recently shared with “daddy.”
Where is this high-school-girl reaction coming from?
She felt she was acting like the love-struck teenager who must have scrawled that purple magic-marker heart she noticed on a seat near where she and too-tight-vest collided.
she repeated to herself.
This whole mess is the result of your getting taken in by a pair of amazing—no, magnificent—there you go again!
She felt her face flush. She knew she had never relinquished those incredible eyes as she flailed around to pick up what she thought to be Kelsey in her seat. Let’s face it, she could have paid more attention to picking up her child.
Her eyes gently meandered over the child’s face again. Paeton’s heart bumped wonderfully! His eyes!
Good god—his eyes are his daddy’s eyes!
Her thoughts gamboled to that sweet moment once more. Her body felt immediately delicious again!
She felt a frown forming as she finished changing the diaper. This was not the Paeton McPhilomy she thought she knew—to respond so totally to a random look from a strange male. “There you go, you little imp.” Was she referring to the tiny boy or to his father? She was baffled by her irrepressible, adolescent response to too-tight-vest.
But no matter how strictly she tried to manage her mind, she found herself unable to deny how that gaze had overpowered her—in spite of the accompanying guilt and anger!
Suddenly, her eyes clouded.
Kelsey! My precious baby! Can you forgive me? You are safe, aren’t you?
Adrenaline surged. Her heartbeat escalated again. Her arms, which were fine a moment ago, began to lose feeling
. Please! No!
But she had to face the fact that she would not be able to relax until she had Kelsey safely in her arms! Until both babies were where they belonged!
She had to call the authorities. Maybe the media would find out; maybe they wouldn’t. It didn’t matter. She had to have Kelsey back—and as soon as possible!
A tear of frustration ran down her cheek. Her clamped jaws were aching. Paeton detested feeling helpless! She had spent her life becoming an “in-charge woman.” She had always created and followed her own program. Flying to California with someone else’s baby and feeling like a crush-crazed schoolgirl was most definitely not her program!
She picked up the infant rather abruptly, and the little tot whimpered slightly. “Oh, baby, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be taking out my frustrations on you. I could wring your father’s neck though.” She returned to her seat, the baby at her side.
As she fastened their seatbelts, she had every intention of asking the flight attendant for a skyphone so she could call the police. Paeton turned to locate her. She had to call. She would call now that she had the whole incident clearly in her mind. The two collided. Both childseats identical and covered with identical Bloomingdale’s Zoo Kingdom blankets that reached the ground. In the confusion of the collision, and the rush to board her flight she was already late for, she picked up the wrong baby. They both did. The plane took off, the baby still covered. She heard it cry after take-off and took it to the restroom to change it. She attributed the foreign cry to jet noise and pressurized ears. Yes. Anyone could make the same mistake. It wasn’t that she didn’t know her own baby—
“Mommy, where’s Kelsey? Who is this baby?”
“What do you mean, Maddy?”
Oh, my god, Maddy knows the difference! But of course, she does! It’s her sister! She knows and feels everything about her.
How in the world was she going to explain this to Maddy without everyone around becoming alerted to the situation?
How do I deal with this?
“Uh, let’s all go the restroom, Maddy.”
“But I don’t have to—“
Paeton undid Middy’s seatbelt and gently moved her into the aisle. “Just come with me, please.”
Inside the restroom, Paeton sat Maddy on the toilet lid. “Honey, there’s been a mistake.”
“Yes. Uh, Kelsey is with that man I bumped into at the airport. He had his little boy in a seat just like ours. Somehow we mixed up the seats, and now he has Kelsey, and we have his baby.”
“So when do we get her back?”
How do you explain all this to a six-year-old?
Well, that’s the problem. We have to be careful—“
“We can call someone. They have telephones on the plane. We can call the man and tell him to give Kelsey back. And we can give him his baby at the same time.”
“Yes, that would be something we could do. But it’s not as simple as that. You see, a lot of people wouldn’t understand.”
“What wouldn’t they understand? Seems simple to me.”
“Yes, I know, honey. But, you see, I am a famous and—you have to trust me, Maddy. I will figure it out. Kelsey is safe. The man is a lot like us. He shops at Bloomingdale’s like we do. So he will take care of Kelsey like we will take care of—“
“What’s his name?”
“We don’t know that yet, honey. We will have to—
what will we have to do? Fred! That’s it! We have to talk to Fred. He’ll know whether a simple phone call to the police or whoever will solve this. He’ll know if we have to worry about what the public might think
. “We’ll have to call Fred, Maddy. He’ll help us. He’ll know what to do. And Maddy, look at me. This is important! This is a very big secret! Do you understand? Very big! Nobody can know we have the wrong baby!”
“A very big secret. Okay. I can keep a very big secret.”
Paeton gave Maddy a kiss. “Thank you, honey. You are the best girl a mommy could have. We’ll get Kelsey back very soon. But she is safe. I promise you that.”
“Okay, mommy. Can I go play my game now?”
“Yes, honey. We can go back to our seats now.”
As Paeton fastened her seatbelt, she wondered how long it would be until too-tight-vest reported the mix-up. What did he have to worry about? He wasn’t famous. He wasn’t being nominated for Single Mother of the Year as Paeton was. Thank heavens we’re in the air and won’t be getting any news of what’s going on down there. Maybe there’s already a bulletin out looking for this child. An Amber alert! She shuddered at the thought.
Well, no calling the authorities now. Better call Fred to see what we do after the whole country knows I have someone else’s baby.
“Mommy, are we almost there?”
Paeton checked her watch. She had lost all track of time. It was eleven twenty-five! They had been in the air only fifteen minutes! She had more than four hours left! She felt as if she had been flying for eons! “No, Madison. We have quite a while yet. Don’t ask me that for the rest of the flight, please. Play your video game.”
sighed heavily. “Oh-kaay,” she drawled.
“Where is that flight attendant?” Paeton heard herself saying out loud. “I’ve to get hold of Fred.”
“May I help you, ma’am?” Suddenly there she was.
“May I please make a phone call?”
Paeton had scheduled a million things to do the Saturday before she left for her meeting with her producer in Los Angeles. One of those things was to get Kelsey, her three-month-old daughter, a childseat and traveling paraphernalia for their trip.
Bloomingdale’s buzzed with its normal Saturday morning flurry of customers as Paeton spun through the revolving door and headed for the children’s section. She was the kind of woman who caused men to stop whatever they were doing and follow her with their eyes. First, she had a confident mien to her gait. She stood five ten in three-inch heels, which she always wore. Paeton was the sort of woman high heels were made for. Her full, rich, natural auburn hair fell past her shoulders and ended with a slightly natural curl. She had high cheekbones, tiny ears that laid flat against her head, and wide-set, deep green eyes framed by flawlessly arched eyebrows. But the most impressive feature about Paeton was her mouth. It was full, wide, and inviting. And when she smiled or spoke, a precious crookedness could play havoc with the right man’s soul.
“May I help you?” asked the retail clerk behind the Bloomingdale’s counter. Paeton noticed her name badge read “Yvonne.”
“Yes, Yvonne.” Paeton liked to talk to salespeople using their first name. “I would like the best in the most current childseat for air travel.”
“Yes, that would be Zoo Kingdom’s new seat.”
Paeton caught Yvonne looking at her as if she wanted to ask her something. “Is something wrong?”
Yvonne laughed lightly. “Oh, no. It’s I think you’re Paeton McPhilomy, the romance writer.”
This was the first time anyone had recognized her after her several recent television show guest appearances. “Why, yes, I am.”
“I just wanted to say I loved
The Sky Streaks of Black.”
“Why, thank you, Yvonne.” Paeton didn’t know exactly what to do. She didn’t have a copy of the book with her to autograph.
It appeared however, that Yvonne was satisfied simply complimenting Paeton because the clerk continued her sales pitch. “This travelseat has all the latest features for safety and comfort.” Yvonne put one on the counter. “Isn’t it cute with all those tiny zoo animals? And safe. It exceeds all the latest FAA safety regulation requirements.”
“Safe, good. Oh, and it’s tons of fun.” Paeton’s enthusiasm was mounting about her trip to the other coast.
“And here’s a matching blanket. Do you think this is what you want?” Yvonne went for the sale.
“Perfect. Ring them up. I’m on my way to Los Angeles.”
“Well, they say the weather is great all the way to L.A. Shouldn’t be bumpy at all.”
“Bumpy?” And then Paeton said something she would
forget saying for the rest of her life: “Oh, not a chance. I don’t look forward to any
in my life for some time.”
Paeton dialed Fred’s cell phone. “This is Fred Hollister. I’m not available. Please leave a message, and I will get back as soon as I can.”
“Fred, this is Paeton. Please call me back as soon as possible. You need to call the plane skyphone. My cell is dead. We’re on Global flight seven forty six. I need you to meet me at the airport. It’s important. Thank you. I know it’s an imposition, but I really need you to be there. Love you. Paeton.”
A few minutes later, the ringing of a skyphone spun Paeton’s head around toward the flight attendant fixing meals at the rear of the first-class cabin. Paeton brushed her hand across her eyes. She watched the attendant pick it up. Her heart hammered in anticipation.
“Yes, this is Global flight seven forty-six to Los Angeles.” The attendant took out a clipboard and ran her eyes down it. “Yes, Paeton McPhilomy is on board. Hold on, please.”
The attendant held out the skyphone. “Ms. McPhilomy. It’s for you.”
Paeton gingerly took the phone. She looked up at the flight attendant, waiting for some privacy. The attendant finally turned and walked to the rear of the cabin.