Shocking Sapphires - Ann Omasta



I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched my older brother walking toward us after summiting the hill. He was carrying a swaddled baby. Dani stiffened by my side as she processed what we were seeing. If this was Max’s idea of a joke, it wasn’t funny.

Dani and I kept our elbows locked together in a sign of solidarity as we bridged the gap between us and Max. It quickly became obvious that what he was holding in his arms was indeed a real baby, not a doll. Questions flooded my brain, but Dani was the first to regain her senses enough to utter a word.

Her voice sounded croaky and stunned when she asked him with wide eyes, “Is it yours?”

Max gave her a surprised look, then his gaze softened as he realized what she must be thinking. “No, of course not.”

His calm reassurance did nothing to answer the multitude of questions that were swirling around my brain, but I felt the pent-up tension immediately release from Dani’s shoulders. A baby from some random hookup would not have made for the ideal start to their blossoming relationship.

While the two of them gazed lovingly at each other like they were the only two people in the world, I grew frustrated by the lack of information. Max couldn’t just show up holding a baby and not spill some details. After huffing out a breath of impatience, I asked, “Well, whose is it?”

Reluctantly pulling his eyes from Dani, Max turned to me and said, “I don’t have any idea. Someone dumped him at the fire station’s safe haven drop-off box.”

My mouth fell open at this news as I rushed forward to gaze at the tiny, helpless bundle being cradled in my brother’s arms.

“Come here, you sweet little guy,” I cooed as I eased the soft blanket out of my brother’s grasp.

I’d never been much of a baby person, but some ingrained instinct seemed to take over as I lightly bounced and swayed with the tiny cherub. He had the most perfect little button nose, and his soft, pudgy cheeks were bright red.

“He’s cold,” I snapped at Max as I pulled the blanket tighter around the infant’s face.

Softening my tone to a baby voice that I hadn’t been aware I had, I said, “You’re a cold little man, aren’t you? Yes, you are.”

I could feel Dani and Max’s surprised gazes on me. Glaring up at them, I asked, “What? Max didn’t have him bundled up tight enough. It’s freezing out here.”

Dani asked, “Don’t we need to take him to child protective services, so they can find him a home that’s prepared to deal with him?”

Stunned by her heartless reaction, I gaped at the woman I’d thought I was getting to know. “You want to dump this innocent child into the system? He’s already been abandoned by his parents, and now you want to let some agency deal with him? What kind of monster are you?”

I could immediately tell that I’d gone too far when Max took a step forward and said, “Hey, now.”

Dani’s eyes registered hurt feelings before she justified her previous statement. “There are policies and procedures in place to ensure what’s in the best interest of the child. We can’t just take him home with us.”

I could have kissed my brother’s cheek when he said, “Actually, I already reached out to the proper authorities. They are still swamped from dealing with the recent ice storm. The shelter is located on the outskirts of town, so their electricity hasn’t yet been restored. They aren’t equipped to handle an extra infant right now, so they asked me to either find someone to watch him or to drive him to the social services office in Bangor.”

Dani looked uncertain when she asked, “Are the highways clear enough to be safe to drive between here and Bangor?”

The road crews had done a decent job on our local streets, but rumor had it that areas surrounding us had been hit much harder than we were with ice, and they were still dealing with the fallout.

Max shook his head, “I doubt it.”

I couldn’t believe the two of them were standing there discussing this. “What is wrong with you two? We are not taking this little angel to Bangor. Who knows what kind of dreadful living situations might exist in a shelter orphanage.”

I practically shivered at that last word. It was surprising how protective I already felt of the little guy, but the thought of sending him off to some