“What?” Simon asked, trying hard for innocent. “Why are you still here, anyway?” Simon swung his gaze to JT. “I thought we told her not to come back.”
“I swear, if she has that baby here…” Simon pointed a serious finger. “Do not have that baby here.”
“Thank you, Simon, but I’ll tell you what I told my loving husband. I’m the one walking around like a beached whale and I’ll have this baby any damn place I please.” She finished with one of those scary female smiles meant to silence males.
“Jeez. Hormones,” Simon muttered.
“Dude,” JT warned before Lynn stabbed him with a pen.
Lynn rolled her eyes like they were annoying little brothers, exactly how she thought of them. “Were you two even paying attention?”
“What exactly were we supposed to be paying attention to?” JT asked, which gained him another narrow-eyed look from Lynn.
“Yeah,” Simon agreed. “I thought you loved us. Why should we be tortured?”
“Because I’m feeling crappy and miserable, and I want someone to join me? Where are you on the new arm thingy?”
JT smiled, appreciating that Lynn didn’t do any better with his technical speak than he did with accountant talk. “Farther than we were yesterday but not nearly far enough.” He and his team were currently developing a new and more dexterous finger function for the existing robotic arm. Specifically, a joint that would allow the fingers to move fast enough to keep up with neural impulses.
“I read our German competitor was getting close,” she added.
He nodded. He’d read that too and he felt the pressure. “You can’t rush genius.” Though he had to if he wanted to win the patent race. Of course he understood the importance, so did Simon. Even if the guy liked to goof off, he was sharp. The sale of another patent would fund another year or more of research and allow them to offer free assistance to more people.
“Okay. Obviously I’ll work other funding angles, but this would be huge.” Lynn pushed back in her chair as far as she could. Still not far enough to get her belly past the edge of the table, and JT stood to help. Simon stared like he was watching someone pull the pin out of a grenade.
She rose awkwardly. “Anything else?”
“No.” He turned, reaching for his phone, hating that he needed to look away from her palms gently circling her belly. Lynn was his friend and she was happy, which made him happy, but…He couldn’t stop the memories it brought.
He couldn’t not see his high school girlfriend waiting for him at the bottom of the church steps. Or see her get into his car, the winter trees flying past his window, their bare branches mirroring himself. Angry, raw, bitter. He couldn’t look at Lynn’s pregnant belly and not think, what if?
He snapped back at the sound of Simon’s voice. “Huh?”
“I said, do you want to get some lunch?”
He checked his watch. He should let someone else help Casey. Let someone else spend time with Paige. “Sure. I can do that.”
It was just a few minutes after three when Paige pulled up to the gate of Evolution and gave her name to the guard.
“This is where they make legs?” Casey asked.
“Yes. And other things.”
“Why is it brick? Why is it shaped like a square?”
The guard was a short gentleman in a navy uniform, complete with a cap that had SECURITY printed across the front. He checked his clipboard, then directed her to the visitors’ parking and passed her through with a wave.
“Are we going to see Jake?”
She drove past a hundred cars or more, the enormous square building looming before her, three stories of glass and red brick rising from the ground.
“Are we? Mom! Are we?”
“Are we what?”
“Going to see Jake?”
“I don’t know.” She was trying very, very hard to tamp down her own excitement, but there was something about him. That slightest hesitation, that split second of uncertainty when he’d shown her his leg. A vulnerability in the eyes of a man who looked like he’d be certain about everything. And he’d done it to gain her trust, to offer his help.
They parked near the far left corner, and with Casey in her arms they entered through wide glass doors. An entry stretched at least twenty yards to a long desk straight ahead, and there was a lot to look at in between.
Enormous vertical photographs hung like tapestries on both walls. Action shots of a downhill skier, a dancer, a surfer slipping through a blue-green curl of water. And all amputees. A living embodiment of the motto that hung in bold silver letters above the desk. EVOLUTION, THE FUTURE OF MOTION.