I laughed. “Yeah, okay.”
No one else laughed and I suddenly lost all amusement with the little joke. My gaze went from my husband to Axton, who both looked as serious as hell, and then to Dallas who just scooted back against the couch to get more comfortable. “You didn’t.”
She lifted a blond brow. “Wanna bet? I put enough in there to make you sleep for at least twelve hours.”
I stood up, glaring at them all. “How could you?” I cried and then turned wounded eyes on Nik. How could he of all people let them do this to me? I hated pills of any kind. Too many years of watching my mother snort them up her nose was enough to make sure that I never took more than a Tylenol and only then when I absolutely had to. “You let her drug me?” My voice cracked, unable to hide how hurt I was that he would let something like that happen to me, that he would be a part of it.
His jaw clenched. “It’s for your own good, baby. You can’t keep going on like you have.” I wrapped my arms around my middle, knowing he was right, but too hurt to care. “When was the last time you slept, Emmie? It wasn’t last night. You didn’t even come to bed. It wasn’t the night before or the one before that, because you just lay there and stared at the ceiling. You’re skin and bones because you never eat anymore. You look just like you did before we found out you were pregnant with Mia, and that scares the hell out of me, baby girl.”
Angry tears filled my eyes and I turned away from him, from them all. “Bastards,” I whispered. “I’ll never forgive you for this,” I assured him and hurried from the room. I needed to be away from them, especially Nik.
The feeling of betrayal sat hard on my chest and I rushed up the stairs to our bedroom, making sure to lock the door before falling onto the bed. Nik wouldn’t be sharing my bed that night, that was for damn sure.
They should have had my back, supported me through a time in my life when all I needed was the love of my family and friends. Instead they’d tricked me into taking pills I didn’t want. Pills I was terrified of becoming dependent on. Dallas was like my sister, Axton my closest friend on the planet, and Nik…
Nik was the one person in the world I thought I could always rely on. I’d trusted him with everything inside of me.
And he’d betrayed me.
The cabin Shane had taken me to on our first wedding anniversary was miles from civilization. It took two and half hours to reach it with a four-wheel drive vehicle, and sat at the top of one of the smaller mountains in the Swiss Alps. There was no cell service there, no Wi-Fi, so the only way of communication for emergencies was the CB radio that was in the basement of the house.
Some people’s idea of paradise was a tropical island somewhere where they could walk on pink sandy beaches and soak up the sun. Not me. My idea of paradise was to sit in front of a warm fire, cuddling up to my delicious husband and drinking hot chocolate mixed with a little brandy as we watched the flames flicker.
As soon as we got to our cabin—our cabin, damn that still felt strange to say—I wanted to change into the snowsuit that Emmie must have helped Shane pack for me and fall into the snow outside to make a snow angel. Instead I went inside, and sat down on the edge of the bed in the master bedroom to go through my luggage, but my eyes had gotten heavy and the next thing I knew I was tucked under the covers with Shane sleeping soundly behind me. How long I slept, I wasn’t sure, but there was weak sunlight filtering through the blinds.
For a moment I didn’t think about all the bad shit that had been going on in our lives. Forgot about the stalker, forgot about losing my father, forgot that Rex had been more than a little testy when he’d called me after Cecil had told him I now owned controlling stock in Rock America. None of that mattered. I was at peace for that moment, content in a way I hadn’t been in such a long, long time. I’d actually forgotten how good peace felt.
It felt damn good.
Shane shifted restlessly behind me and I turned in his arms to kiss him awake. His arms slid sensually over my body and down to cup my ass, pulling me against the growing evidence of his need for me. My thighs grew wet with arousal and it was only then that I realized neither of us were wearing any clothes.
“You keep wiggling against me like that and I can’t be held responsible for the consequences,” he said with a slight growl in his voice that had me shivering. “You willing to chance that?”
My lips lifted in a smirk. “Are you?” I whispered in that sassy way I knew my husband couldn’t resist.
Blue-gray eyes popped open and I found myself on my back in the next second, my legs spread willingly. I was drenched and more than ready for him, making me moan with excitement with his first deep thrust.
Shane let out a groan that sounded almost pained. “Fuck, you feel so good.”
“So do you.” I arched against him, wanting him deeper. “Will you take me hard?”
“Whatever you want, beautiful.” He pulled back until he was sitting on his heels and gripped my ass, lifting me off the mattress. I whimpered as he went deeper, the tip of his dick hitting a secret place that only he’d ever touched.
My nails sliced into his upper arms as I held on and he fucked me hard enough that I knew I would still feel it days later...
When we could both breathe again and the sweat was starting to dry on our cooling skin, reality finally started to fall on me. I shivered for an entirely different reason and burrowed into Shane’s side, wanting him to protect me from the outside world for as long as he could.
We stayed like that for a long while and eventually I dozed off again. The next time I opened my eyes the light was starting to fade behind the blinds and I was alone in bed. I could hear movement from somewhere in the house and remembered that Shane and I weren’t alone in the cabin. Peterson and Theo were with us.
Pushing my hair back from my face, I realized that it was limp and needed washing. I tossed the covers aside and walked naked into the bathroom. My toiletries were already set out, waiting for me. Smiling at how thoughtful Shane was, I turned on the shower and let the water heat while I brushed my teeth. Thirty minutes later, I had freshly washed hair and clean clothes on.
My stomach grumbled. Unable to remember when I last ate, I combed my fingers through my damp hair and went in search of food. Hearing Shane laugh, I followed the sound to the kitchen where I found him grilling steaks for himself and the two men seated at the kitchen table. Seeing me standing in the doorway, he gave me a welcoming smile.
“She lives,” he murmured and left the stove long enough to press a tender kiss to my lips. “Hungry?”
“Starving,” I assured him.
“Good. Have a seat and I’ll grill you a big juicy steak.” He patted me on the ass, urging me toward the table where Peterson and Theo were pretending not to pay attention to us.
I was used to Peterson’s quietness. He was always on alert, but I’d realized quickly that Theo was the complete opposite. He was more laid back, more approachable almost. Almost. Just because he acted less threatening didn’t mean he was any less deadly than Peterson was. Both men had military backgrounds and then had trained under Charles Seller, one of the most sought-after security experts in the world because of how capable his men were.
“It’s too late today, but do you want to go for a walk tomorrow, beautiful?” Shane asked as he turned the steaks on the griddle.
“I’d love to,” I murmured and accepted the glass of water Theo poured for me from the pitcher at his end of the table. “Let’s build a snowman too.”
“No. No way.” He laughed and moved to the sink where he had veggies ready to wash for a salad. “The last time I built a snowman with you, I got attacked by a surprise snowball fight while you hid behind him.”
“Ah, are you scared?” I teased. “Did I hurt your manly pride by kicking your ass?”
“Well, if you’re so scared we can make a small snowman so I can’t hide behind it.” I smirked at him o
ver the top of my water glass. “Problem solved.”
“You know, for such a beautiful woman, you can sure be mean.” He gave me a wink before he started chopping up the peppers and cucumbers to toss in with the lettuce and tomatoes.
“You still love me though.”
He stopped chopping and lifted his head, turning those blue-gray eyes on me. There was an almost fierce look in them. “Always, beautiful. Always.”
I took a gulp of my water, trying to cool my rapidly heating body after that look had left me nearly sizzling with need for him. After a few seconds he went back to making the salad and then took the steaks off the griddle. Bringing everything to the table, we all started eating.
The first bite of perfectly cooked steak had my stomach rumbling in appreciation and I dived in to it with a hunger I couldn’t remember ever having before. I had finished half of the big steak when Theo offered me the salad dressing to drizzle over my bowl of salad. I took it, still chewing the last piece of steak I’d just cut. As soon as I opened the bottle of dressing, the smell of the creamy ranch had my stomach rumbling for a different reason. I reached for my napkin, spitting the now nauseating taste of red meat into it.
Reaching for my water glass, I took a few sips, hoping it would cause my nausea to ease, but it didn’t help. I tried breathing through my mouth, but Shane lifted a forkful of salad smothered in dressing to his mouth and I was powerless to stop the bile as it rose. With a cry I made a run for the nearest bathroom, which was thankfully on the first floor.
“Beautiful?” Shane called behind me and I thought I heard him rush after me, but I couldn’t take the time to see.
I had barely opened the door before my stomach started heaving. I leaped for the toilet and missed. Vomit landed on the floor and I fell to my knees on a sob as another heave left me emptying what little was left in my stomach.
A cool hand touched my back and a sob left me as my stomach started tossing with a vengeance.
“She okay?” I heard Peterson say.
“She’s had an upset stomach lately,” Shane muttered and in the next instant there was a damp cloth pressed gently to my face. “It’s okay, Harper. I’ve got you.”
“I made a mess,” I murmured when I could speak. “I need to clean it up.”
“Don’t worry about the mess. I’ll take care of it as soon as I get you comfortable. Are you done or do you need a few more minutes?”
I shook my head. “I think I’m done. For now, at least.” My stomach was still protesting and I felt like pure hell.
“Okay, beautiful.” Strong arms lifted me and tucked me against a hard chest. I turned my head into his neck, only to realize I had gotten vomit in my hair.
I needed another shower, but I was feeling so bad I didn’t know if I had the strength to do it myself.
Shane carried me up the stairs and into our room, but instead of setting me on our bed he walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Stripping me and then himself, he stepped into the large shower and started washing us both. Exhausted, I leaned against him, needing him to hold me up because I no longer had the strength to do so.
“How are you feeling now, baby?” Shane murmured as he helped me back into bed. “Stomach still hurting?”
“It’s eased a little,” I assured him and snuggled into the mattress. “I’m sorry.”
Warm lips brushed over my forehead. “Nothing to be sorry about, beautiful. Taking care of you is my privilege.”
If I thought my stomach would be better the next day, I was wrong. I woke up feeling sick. Shane found me dry-heaving in the bathroom and carried me back to bed.
Around noon I felt a little better and was able to keep some dry toast down, but when dinner came around and I smelled the barbeque chicken Peterson was baking, I was back to keeping my head in the toilet. I slept through the night, though, and then woke up to the same exact experience the next morning.
The pattern was set, it seemed, and that was how I spent the next week. Finally, Shane had had enough. He bundled me up despite my weak protests and had Peterson drive the two hours to the closest emergency room. I felt weak, could barely lift my head, and as soon as we entered the small hospital, the nurse had him carry me back to the first empty room they came to.
“She’s dehydrated,” I heard the nurse tell Shane in thickly accented English.
“I’ve tried to keep fluids in her, but she couldn’t keep them down for long. She hasn’t eaten much in the last two weeks,” I heard Shane tell her in a quiet tone. “She’s been under a lot of stress lately. Could this be an ulcer?”
I felt cool, strange fingers on my arm and opened my eyes to see the nurse giving me a strange smile. “Is there any chance you could be pregnant, Mrs. Stevenson?”
Tears burned my eyes and I found the energy to let out a humorless laugh. “Go away,” I commanded weakly, unable to handle this woman asking the one question I already knew the answer to. “Shane, make her go away,” I practically begged, and he spoke quietly to the nurse, who quickly left the room.
A doctor came in shortly after, but his accent was so thick that Shane had to have the nurse come back in and repeat what he said. Normally I would have been able to understand him since he was speaking French, but right then I didn’t have the brain power to follow him. Apparently they were going to do some tests. A needle was stuck in my arm and I opened my eyes to find a different nurse hanging a bag of fluids from a pole above my bed. The first nurse stuck another needle in my free arm, taking three different vials full. I swatted her away, wanting nothing more than to be left alone.
Shane paced the width of my little room, but I tried to ignore him and sleep. It felt good to sleep. I was so tired. So, very tired. I loved sleep, but right then I craved it like a junkie who craved their drug of choice.
“Want me to call Emmie?” Peterson’s deep voice asked Shane and I wanted to tell him to go away too. I didn’t need Emmie, just sleep.
“I don’t know. Let’s just see what they find with the blood tests first.”
Peterson disappeared and Shane went back to pacing. I closed my eyes, welcoming sleep as it overtook me again.
“Harper?” Shane was standing over me now, his hand on my cheek, trying to make me wake up. “Beautiful, open those eyes for me. The doctor has your results back but he wants you to be awake so he doesn’t have to repeat himself.”
Annoyed, I opened my eyes and Shane lifted the head of my bed enough so that I was sitting up. “What is it?” I grumbled, using my thumb to wipe sleep out of my eyes.
The doctor started talking in French again, but I still couldn’t follow him. My head was foggy with sleep and from still feeling bad despite the fluids they were pumping into me. Then the nurse repeated what he said in English and everything inside of me went hot and then cold.
“What did you say?” Shane demanded as he reached for my hand.
“Pregnant,” the nurse repeated, seeming to have the patience of a saint. “Your wife is pregnant, Mr. Stevenson.”
“That’s cruel,” I whispered. “You’re a cruel woman.” This was some joke. It had to be. There was no way I was pregnant. None. I’d been told so many times that I wouldn’t ever be able to get pregnant and now this woman was playing a sick joke on me.
“H-how far along is she?” Shane asked, as if he actually believed her.
“I have no idea, sir. We could do an ultrasound to determine that and her due date, if you wish.”
“I wish,” Shane snapped. “Do it. Now.”
“No,” I cried, unwilling to let this stupid prank go on for a moment longer. “No. Just go away. Leave me alone. I want to go home. Shane, please, just take me home. They’re lying. You know they are.”
Shane tightened his hand around my own. “Let’s do the ultrasound, beautiful. I need to know.”
I jerked my hand from his and turned over, blocking him out. How could he let them do this to me? How could he let them get away with hurting me so deeply
? “I don’t want to know,” I told him, fighting back a sob. “I don’t want to know.”
I stared down at my sobbing wife with a mixture of emotions washing through me. The broken little sounds leaving her were like daggers that stabbed straight through my heart. My head was a mess. I didn’t know what to think right then.
She was pregnant.
It was a wonderful thing—I knew that. She was getting what she had always wanted. The one thing she seemed to have ever wanted. I wanted this for her. For us. But…
It scared the fuck out of me.
Six weeks before, I would have been over the moon in that moment. Six weeks ago I would have been celebrating already. Six-fucking-weeks ago I would have fallen to my knees and thanked every damn one of Emmie’s gods for giving my wife her miracle.
Six weeks ago I hadn’t known that getting Harper pregnant could cost her her life.
Now I did. Charles Seller had told me repeatedly over the last six weeks that Harper getting pregnant could send the stalker over the edge in her fucked-up, deluded mind, and who the hell knew what she was capable of if that happened? If my precious wife’s condition got back to that crazy bitch, would she hurt Harper?
Would she try to take her away from me?
I didn’t know and that made it hard to be happy about finding out I was about to become a father. Made it impossible to feel the joy that I should have had the chance to feel in that instant. It pissed me off that the stalker was taking it away from me, but I had other things to deal with before I could take the time to think about how I would end that bitch for doing that to me.
The doctor and nurse made a quick exit from the exam room with the nurse promising to return with the ultrasound machine. I only nodded as I watched Harper with pained eyes. Her little body was trembling from the sobs that continued to leave her. She thought it was a joke, some fucking prank. Maybe it was, but in my gut I knew it wasn’t.