They were walking home when it happened: strolling down the street, swinging Molly between them and grinning like a pair of fools at the sound of her delighted laughter. It was a brilliant, cloudless day, and for once the world felt safe. It should have been perfect.
The thought hit her out of nowhere like a mack truck traveling at 88 miles per hour: What the hell is a hottie like that doing with that fat bitch?
Matt stopped cold in the middle of the street, struggling to breathe and barely noticing that she’d inadvertently forced Molly and Mohinder to stop as well. She found herself searching the faces that moved around them like water: why, she couldn’t tell. It wasn’t like she really *wanted* to know who had voiced the secret fear she’d been hiding ever since this unexpected family had fallen into her lap three months ago.
“Madeline?” Mohinder asked softly. “Are you all right?”
She shivered. All her life, Matt had hated her given name, but somehow Mohinder made it sound like a caress. The first time he’d used it instead of calling her “Officer Parkman”…that was the moment she’d known she was in trouble: that she’d fallen for him.
Hell, who wouldn’t fall for him? The man was beautiful, smart – most of the time, anyway – and every bit as much in love with the little girl they’d saved as Matt was.
Mohinder was studying Matt’s face now with a thoughtful frown. Then, letting go of Molly’s hand, he stepped closer and reached out to touch her shoulder. “What did you hear?”
Matt shook him off, still afraid of the way his slightest touch lingered on her skin like a kiss of fire. “Nothing. It’s not important.”
I bet she told him the brat was his and he was just too dumb to notice she’s too vanilla to be even half cinnamon. Hmm…gorgeous and stupid, I can work with this.
Matt spun, her eyes finally locking onto the source of the thought: a size-two bleach blonde with a salon tan and silicone cleavage, sitting at a bus stop a block away. Their eyes locked and the other woman’s widened in shock. Fuck, the bitch heard me! But I didn’t say anything out loud…did I? Then her chin lifted in defiance. So what if I did? Serves her right.
Mohinder’s eyes followed Matt’s, a grimace forming on his lips as he took in the silent showdown taking place.
That’s it, hot stuff, the blonde purred silently. Take a good long look at what you’re missing, then come over here and do something about it.
Matt stiffened and Mohinder’s hand tightened on her arm. He couldn’t have heard the thought, but there was no way he could miss that the blonde was shamelessly checking him out. “I see,” he said softly.
“Did she think something bad about you?” Molly demanded, her hackles visibly rising. “That bitch!”
“Molly!” Matt and Mohinder exclaimed simultaneously, matching expressions of shock on their faces as they glanced down at the little girl.
She crossed her arms and stuck her chin out. “Well, she is! She doesn’t even know you!”
Mohinder’s eyes softened. “No, she doesn’t. Anyone who knew our Madeline couldn’t help but love her as much as we do.”
If her circulatory system was a roller coaster, then those words would have been the upside-down triple loop for Matt’s heart. She pivoted again to stare in disbelief at the man beside her. “Did you just say – ?”
Mohinder stepped closer to her, taking her face in both his hands and leaning in to give her a tender, lingering kiss on the lips. Does that answer your question? he directed the thought fiercely towards her.
When they parted, Matt’s first words were a breathless, “It does. But why? Why me?” Why her when he could have any woman he wanted?
“I may not be able to hear your thoughts,” he answered with a wry smile, still cupping the side of her face with one hand. “But I’ve seen your heart and your heart is beautiful. As are you. Which you would have known had you only…paid a bit more attention.”
“Yeah,” Molly chimed in. “Seriously, what took you two so long?”
Matt chuckled, lacing her fingers through Mohinder’s and holding out her other hand to a grinning Molly. She cast one last smug glance at the blonde at the bus stop – who was staring after them with a mixture of fury, disgust and horror on her face – then turned back to her family. “What do I look like, a mind reader?”