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The Consequence He Must Claim(7)

By:Dani Collins

“Can’t you see they mixed them up? Look at him,” Octavia said.

“It’s impossible,” Hannah said. “We have very strict protocols. They couldn’t have been switched. You shouldn’t be doing this,” she warned, rolling the tag around on Enrique’s ankle. It read, Ferrante—Boy. “You both have it wrong.”

Now that she was seated and had her baby calmed, Sorcha was shifting from disbelief to outrage. How could the hospital mess up something this important?

“You have it wrong,” Sorcha said firmly, brushing Hannah’s hand from her son. If she thought they were going to switch back, they had another think coming. She was ready to draw blood. Only the fact she was holding a fragile newborn kept her seated and rational. “Test them. You’ll see we’re right.”

Chaos ensued as the nurses tried to convince the mothers they’d made a mistake. Thankfully Octavia was as adamant as Sorcha.

Finally the surgeon, Dr. Reynolds, arrived. She was taken aback and involved the hospital administration at once, all the while assuring them the chance of a mix-up was highly unlikely. She wanted to run DNA tests, and would do a blood test now. “It won’t be conclusive, but it could certainly determine if a baby is not with the right pair of parents.”

A jumble of activity left Sorcha feeling like a dupe in a three-card shuffle, trying to follow what they were doing and maintain some control over the situation. While a technician took a blood sample from the baby she held, no one seemed to make note that she knew—knew—that Cesar’s blood type was A. She had worked for him for three years! She knew everything about him.

Eventually everyone cleared out, the men going to look at security tapes while one nurse stayed behind to give her and Octavia slings to snuggle the babies while they dozed in their rockers. Neither of them was prepared to release the infant they each held.

Sorcha tried to relax, chatted briefly with Octavia, but her mind kept tracking back to the fact she’d put Cesar’s name on her admittance form. It had been an emergency delivery. Her mother was registered as next of kin, but Sorcha had wanted Cesar identified as the baby’s father if the worst had happened.

They wouldn’t contact him without speaking to her first, would they?

Cesar Montero subtly pinched the bridge of his nose, fighting a dull headache and a desire to tell his fiancée that he didn’t give a flying rat’s behind about who sat where at their wedding reception. Social arrangements were his mother’s bailiwick. If he’d still had Sorcha, she would have handled this, freeing him up for more important things.

Actually, he’d bet any money she would challenge him with “What’s more important than your wedding?” She’d always been quick to push a family-first agenda, teasing him for being a scientist wired for logic. She’d known when she could give him a nudge and when to back off, though, along with how to plow through minutiae so he didn’t get bored and lose patience. Most important, she had been able to make decisions on her own.

But Sorcha was gone, damn her. Without any notice or explanation. She’d left while he’d still been in the hospital, barely awake from his coma. According to his father, she’d discussed it with Cesar in the week that was missing from his memory. Given that he’d been unconscious in those first weeks after the accident, and his father had his own assistant, he could imagine she had felt redundant, but she must have known he’d be back to work eventually. His father could have found her a temporary position in the organization or simply offered her paid leave. She’d had enough vacation time stockpiled.

Jumping ship was unacceptable. If his father hadn’t already written her a glowing reference, Cesar would have been reluctant to. He could have used her more than ever in these first months back at work, as he first went into the office on crutches at his own chemical engineering plant, and had more recently begun resuming the takeover from his father on the rest of the family enterprise.

She was just an employee, he reminded himself, irritated that he was letting her absence rile him. Yes, he missed her efficiency, but he wasn’t a sentimental man. Being friendly with a colleague wasn’t the same as being friends. For all the times she’d been more blunt than he appreciated, their relationship had been a professional one. He directed, she delivered. Sulking because she hadn’t played cards with him in the hospital was not something he would stoop to.

At least she had understood simple instructions, he thought as he glanced at the watch that had started pulsing on his wrist. Diega noticed and looked at him as if he’d kicked her Siamese cat. His mother caught on and tsked a noise of disappointment at his rudeness.