by Clara Zane
Hannah watched Kayla run up to the potted plant where the green plastic egg lay and snatch it. A little boy, probably no more than three years old, two years younger than Kayla, reached for it seconds too late. He and Kayla looked at each other, and Kayla handed him the egg. The boy beamed at her, and they raced off in different directions, on the hunt for more. In that moment, she couldn't have been more proud of her daughter.
A few seconds later, a man came up to her. A man, she had to admit, who had ruggedly handsome down pat. Short brown hair, smoldering brown eyes, and what looked to be a chiseled chest and shoulders under a neatly pressed blue dress shirt. No doubt a six-pack also hid under there. She couldn't help but peek at his left hand and see no wedding ring.
"Hi," he said. "Is that your little girl that gave the boy the egg?"
"Yeah, that's Kayla."
He gave her a smile that had her biting her bottom lip. "I figured by the way you're watching her. That's my son, Chase. This is his first Easter without his mom, and he wanted to find as many eggs for her as he could."
Hannah let out a gasp. "I'm so sorry. It must be so hard on you both."
"Oh, no, no," he said, holding up his hands. "She's not dead. We're divorced. Chase usually spends holidays with her, but she couldn't take him this year, and asked him to get as many as he could and send her a picture."
"Oh, that's good. I mean, not that you're divorced, but that … that she's not dead."
He laughed, a magical sound. "Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you. I'm Rick, by the way."
"Hannah." They shook hands. She couldn't help but notice how his was that nice mix of rough but gentle. Like he not only worked with his hands, but knew what he was doing. Despite trying her best to not let men get to her since Dan left, she couldn't help but wonder how gentle but rough Rick's hands could be on her. She felt a blush rise to her cheeks, and hoped he didn't notice.
They watched their kids for another minute or so before he asked. "So, is Kayla's dad somewhere getting this on video?"
"Is that your clumsy way of asking if I'm single? I am, by the way." She nudged him lightly with her shoulder, which he gave her another of his breathtaking smiles.
"I didn't think it was all that clumsy."
"It was." They laughed, and she watched Kayla outrace another girl her age for an egg on a low branch of a tree. She didn't hand that one over.
"Do you and Kayla have big plans for the rest of your day? A family party?"
"No. Family is on the other side of the country. This is our big shindig today. How about you and Chase?"
He gave her an eyebrow wiggle, which was beyond corny, but he actually pulled it off. "I'm taking him to Blueberry's Waffle House for brunch. How's that for fancy?"
She laughed. "For a kid that age? Believe me, I know what a biggie Blueberry's is."
"What do you say you two lovely ladies join us? I'm sure Chase will be all for it." They looked over and found Kayla giving him a boost to reach an egg just out of his reach.
How could she say no? The kids had basically made the choice for her, right? He then leaned in close, and said, "In fact, the egg hunt will go on for a few more minutes. Are you interested in sneaking off somewhere a bit more private while they finish?"
"Yes" rushed to her lips and escaped before she knew what she was doing. How in the world had that happened? She wasn't like this. Sure, she wanted to go to breakfast with him and see where that led, but she couldn't do anything else so soon. Before she could come to her senses, he had her hand and led her towards the nearby restrooms. She knew there was a family restroom built in, so they could have some real privacy.
Once the door closed, and he locked it, she reached for him to kiss those magical-looking lips, but he instead grabbed her by the throat and pushed her hard against the wall. Her head hit the concrete with enough force to daze her. Before she knew what was happening, he put a plastic bag over her head and punched her in the stomach so hard that she couldn't scream out. He slammed her head against the wall again, and she didn't know much else. As Rick, or whatever his real name was, ripped off her dress, her last conscious thought before she ran out of air was of what would happen to Kayla.
Someone blew a whistle, signifying the end of the Easter Egg Hunt. The little boy ran over to her and gave her a hug. "Thank you for helping me."
She smiled down at him and said, "You're welcome."
He then turned and ran towards two adults who could only be his parents, getting picked up high into the air by his dad, while his mom kissed his cheek. Kayla smiled, clutched her Easter basket filled with 22 plastic eggs - she'd counted - and looked for Mom.