Anxiety churned in my stomach, making me just as nauseated as Harper had been over that last week. I wanted to put my head in a trashcan and empty out everything in my stomach, but I didn’t have that option right then. Harper needed me to stay strong and only for her was I able to find the strength not to fall off the deep end.
The nurse returned with the machine and with the doctor right behind her. The lights were turned off and the nurse tried to ask Harper questions that she mutinously didn’t respond to. My wife turned her head away and cried harder into her limp little pillow. Grimacing, the woman looked to me for the answers.
When was Harper’s last period? Fuck, I couldn’t remember. It hadn’t been on my mind lately. With the new hormone therapy, she hadn’t been taking her birth control and it had taken two months before she had regulated. She hadn’t had a heavy period in several months now, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember when her last period had been.
With an exasperated sigh, the nurse started punching information into the machine and then she pulled out a wand. “I need you to roll onto your back, Mrs. Stevenson.”
Harper glared up at the woman through her tears. “Leave me the fuck alone,” she snarled at the woman, her pain bringing out a side of her I’d rarely seen. “Your sick joke has gone on long enough. Ha-fucking-ha, you’re so funny. Now leave me alone, bitch.”
The nurse only smiled down at her in the dim lighting coming from the machine. “I promise you I’m not playing a joke on you, dear. I realize that this is a shock for you, but why not let me prove to you that it isn’t a joke? There is no hiding the evidence of a baby growing in your belly with the ultrasound. Come, turn over and let me prove it to you.”
With a curse, Harper finally gave in and turned onto her back. I reached for her hand and held on to it tightly as the woman pulled up Harper’s shirt and tucked a small white towel into the waistband of her pants. Putting a little gel on Harper’s stomach, the nurse started moving the wand around.
“Hey,” Harper muttered. “That’s tender.”
“Of course it is,” the nurse said with a nod. “You have a thickened uterus. Have you noticed a change with your breasts? Are they more tender?”
Harper started to say something but then stopped, as if thinking about the question. I gritted my teeth when she finally nodded her head, her tears starting to dry on her beautiful face. “They are more tender, but I didn’t pay much attention. My…father died.”
“My condolences,” the nurse told her in a soft voice. “Tender breasts are an early sign and sometimes can be mistaken as a symptom of an oncoming period. What about any discharge?”
Harper shook her head. “I hadn’t really paid any attention.”
“There,” the doctor said, speaking up for the first time since entering the room. He said something to the nurse in French and then pointed to the screen. I moved closer, needing to see what he was looking at. The two medical professionals spoke for a moment and then the nurse nodded and looked down at Harper. “You are right at eight weeks, putting your due date at June twenty-ninth.” She moved so that she could turn the machine enough to let Harper see the screen. “This here—that little bean-looking thing? That is your baby, Mrs. Stevenson.”
“No,” Harper muttered, but her eyes were glued to the screen, violet orbs full of so much hope that I physically hurt. “It’s not possible. It can’t be.” Her hand gripped mine tightly. “Shane… This isn’t real…is it?”
I couldn’t find words, couldn’t make my mouth move even if I had been able to. My eyes, like Harper’s, were glued to that damn screen. Holy hell, that little thing was…
In that moment, all my fear for Harper evaporated for a brief second while the wonder and hope and joy of seeing that little jellybean on a small black-and-white monitor blew me away. My knees felt weak as I held on to Harper and took it all in. It was real. It was very real.
I was going to be a father.
The nurse was messing with buttons on the machine again while the doctor spoke in quiet French. Seconds later a strange noise filled the room that I remembered all too well from when Emmie had been pregnant and I’d gone with my bandbrothers to one of her doctor appointments.
It was the oddest noise, kind of like galloping horses, but it was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard. My already weak knees turned to jelly and I fell into the chair beside Harper’s little hospital bed. “Gods,” I breathed, not sure if it was a plea or a prayer.
Harper’s hand began to shake. Concerned, I forced my gaze back to her to find her crying again, but this time it was silent tears and she was actually smiling. Our eyes locked and even with the lights dimmed, her face was bright with a happiness I hadn’t seen from her in what felt like an eternity.
“That’s our baby, Shane.” Her voice was full of awe.
“Yeah, beautiful.” I found the strength to stand and bent to brush a kiss over her forehead. “Yeah.”
The nurse printed off something from the machine and handed it over to Harper who grasped it and held it to her chest like it was the most precious thing in the world. Some of the shock was starting to fade and I realized I had things that needed to be done. Immediately. The slightest hesitation could cost me so fucking much. I moved across the room and turned on the lights. The doctor and nurse frowned at me, but I couldn’t waste another second.
Doctors and nurses weren’t supposed to discuss anything about their patients but after what had happened in Bambach’s office, I wasn’t going to take any chances. This was too important, too dangerous for Harper if the paps got hold of the story. “If you breathe a word of my wife’s pregnancy to anyone, I will make sure you regret it to your dying day.”
“I assure you, Mr. Stevenson, we will not say a word to anyone,” the nurse was quick to assure me. “We are just a small hospital. We wouldn’t even know what to do if we shared news of your wife’s current condition. Our peace would be broken if we had cameras flashing everywhere.”
“I meant what I said.” I wasn’t going to back off and I didn’t care who the fuck I offended. “Now, get her discharge papers ready. I have to get my wife home.”
“I’m taking her home. Back to the states where she can see her doctor. Now, please, get her things ready.” I stood by the door, my arms crossed over my chest as I gave them both hard glares until they left the room, taking the ultrasound machine with them.
Once they were gone, I stuck my head out the door and nodded at Peterson and Theo who were leaning against the wall outside the room. I didn’t have to say a word, since everything I was feeling was probably showing on my face. The two men straightened and followed me back into the exam room. I waited until they were inside before closing and locking the door.
“Is she okay?” Peterson asked in his quiet yet commanding tone.
I thrust my hands into my jeans pockets. “She doesn’t have anything life-threatening,” I told him and then shook my head. Of course she did. Her being pregnant was definitely life-threatening. Or it would be if anyone found out. “At least, I’m going to make sure it doesn’t threaten her life.”
“I’m not following,” Peterson said and I was sure that was a first for the man.
“I’m pregnant,” Harper told them, her smile still shining brightly.
The two bodyguards froze and I knew that their expression matched the same one I was wearing. Theo stepped toward her as if he needed to be closer, as if he had the urge to protect her as deeply as I did.
“This complicates things,” Peterson gritted out.
I nodded. “I know. Which is why no one breathes a word to anyone. You tell no one, not even Emmie.”
“But Shane…” Harper shook her head, a small fraction of the glowing happiness fading from her eyes. “I want to share this with our family. It’s a miracle. We’re actually having a baby.” Her hands went to her stomach and she rubbed her palms over her lower abdomen
lovingly. “A baby,” she murmured to herself, smiling so damn brightly it actually hurt to look at her.
“We can’t take that risk, beautiful.” Her head snapped up and her face lost some of that brightness. “I know we can trust our family, I do. But…” I shook my head. “I’m not willing to risk it. The less people who know, the easier it will be to keep this a secret from the outside world. Right now the only people who know are us four and the two medical staff who just left. Other than your doctor back home, I don’t want you to tell anyone.”
Her eyes widened. “Not even Emmie?”
“No, not even Emmie. I have to keep you safe, baby. I’m not willing to risk your life. You’re too precious to me.” I’d be lost without her. When she got that stubborn look in her eyes, I changed tactics. “Think about the baby, Harper. We don’t want to risk the baby, do we?”
With a sigh she finally nodded. “You’re right. I won’t tell anyone.” The letdown of not getting to share our news was quickly forgotten as she looked down at the glossy little picture the nurse had given her of the baby. Tears filled her eyes as she smiled down at the little jellybean. “I’ve wanted you for so long,” she whispered.
A lump filled my throat and I turned away from the beauty on my wife’s face, needing to block out everything but what mattered in that moment: keeping Harper safe. Peterson stepped closer. “What’s your plan?”
Plans were not something I excelled at. That was all Emmie. Right then I couldn’t call her for help, though, so I was on my own this time around. “Let’s get her home and then take it from there.”
Maybe I could lock her in our house in Santa Monica and never have to let her leave.
I didn’t want to get out of bed.
It had taken a while, but Arella was finally sleeping through the night. She wasn’t crying the house down twenty-four/seven. I wished I could say I was the reason, or even that Drake was the reason, but we weren’t. Neveah was why. She was a wonderful big sister and Arella loved her so much. I could already see the bond between the two and was so happy for it that I found myself crying every time I saw Neveah kiss her baby sister. Their relationship reminded me of the ones I had with both my sisters and I prayed that they would always know that kind of love and sisterly devotion.
With Arella now getting the rest she needed, I was too. My anemia was starting to get under control and I was beginning to feel more human.
My eyes opened before the alarm went off that morning, but I didn’t move to turn it off. Instead I just lay there, in the security of my husband’s arms wrapped around me, the feel of his breath on my neck and his hot chest pressed into my back. If given the choice, I would have stayed there all day—fuck, for the rest of my life. This was my favorite place in the world and I never wanted to move.
It was going to be a busy day, however, and I knew I would have to get out of bed soon.
At least Drake would be with me. Drake and Cole would be beside me through the entire day, or so my father had promised me. He’d come through on all his other promises and I didn’t doubt him for a second about that day, but I still couldn’t help feeling anxious about the whole thing.
We—no, me…I had to face Garon Steel and his mother later. Sure I’d seen Garon before, but not his sister. And never more than as acquaintances who saw one another at award shows, movie premieres, and the occasional party. As for his mother, Claudia Steel, I had never come face to face with her. It was her I dreaded seeing the most.
All my life I knew she had blamed me for what my mother had done—slept with her husband, broken up her marriage, gave birth to me. Cole had told me not to worry about Claudia, but I couldn’t keep from doing just that. He’d said that I’d given his ex the life she’d always wanted: a life where she had the majority of his money to blow through without having to put up with him. That hadn’t made me feel any better.
The alarm went off and Drake jerked, his arms automatically tightening around me. He lifted his head and pressed his lips to my cheek before reaching out to turn off the alarm. Seeing that my eyes were already wide open, he grimaced. “Did you sleep at all, Angel?”
“A little,” I assured him and turned over so that I was lying with my head on his chest. The sound of his steady heartbeat in my ear calmed some of my nerves and I buried my face against him. “I just want this day to be over, Dray.”
His arms tightened around me. “I know, Angel. I know.”
We lay there like that for several more minutes before I finally forced myself to get up. Drake followed, helping me to get the girls ready before taking them downstairs for breakfast so I could take a shower and dress. We were all ready by the time the doorbell rang.
Drake, dressed in a suit for the day, lifted Neveah into one arm and lifted the car seat in the other and then headed for the door as I opened it. Cole, dressed in a suit as well, stood on our doorstep, dark glasses hiding his brown eyes. He gave me a smile and pulled me into a tight hug. “You ready for this, Lana?”
I shrugged. “I guess I have to be.”
“Pop-Pop,” Neveah said when she spotted her grandfather, and the look on my father’s face changed. It never failed to melt me when I saw the way Cole was with his granddaughters. His bond with Neveah was more than I could have ever asked for. He’d been there when we’d brought her into the world. She was his favorite person in the world.
The smile on my father’s face right then could have melted the polar cap it was so bright. Drake handed her off to the older rocker and he pulled her close, kissing her face. “Hey there, pretty girl. Miss me?”
Neveah held on to his neck and buried her face in his chest, breathing him in. “Always, Pop-Pop.”
“Good, ‘cause I missed you.” He kissed the top of her head and then turned to look at the limo waiting for us at the end of the driveway. “Ready to take a ride?”
The ride to the office building in downtown L.A. took nearly an hour, but Neveah kept the tension down by telling her grandfather all about what she and her sister had been up to since they had last seen Cole, which had only been a few days.
After getting served with a civil lawsuit by Garon, Cole had been back in California within two days. He’d gotten me the best lawyer in the country and had fielded all the press to make sure my name wasn’t in the papers. The meeting we were headed to at that moment was unavoidable, however.
My lawyer, Ursula Feinstein, was meeting us at Garon’s lawyer’s office so that we could have our first sit-down. The first of many, I was sure. Cole was determined to make sure that this didn’t see a judge. I was determined not to pay a single penny to the vulture who was my brother and his hag of a mother.
Ursula had told me that legally, Garon didn’t have a leg to stand on, but that he would attempt to make us all so miserable that we’d end up paying any price he wanted to make him leave me alone. If I didn’t have my girls to worry about, I wouldn’t have cared what he did, but I couldn’t let them be dragged into what I knew would turn into a public battlefield, with the paps eating it up like candy. They didn’t deserve to have the sins of their mother—or rather the sins of my mother—falling on their heads.
Maybe I shouldn’t have brought the girls with us, but there had been no one I could call to watch them. Not without having to answer a million questions. We hadn’t told anyone in our family about what was going on with Garon, and I wanted to keep it as quiet as possible for as long as possible. Emmie had enough on her plate with not only work but stress over the stalker as well. Layla and Jesse were happier than I’d ever seen them now that things had calmed down on the ‘let’s have another baby’ fight they had been at a standstill on for so long about. Lucy had school so it wasn’t like I could call her and ask her to babysit for me, and I didn’t like the thought of someone I didn’t know watching my girls.
Drake took the car seat when we finally reached our destination and Cole lifted Neveah into his arms as we walked into the office o
f one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. The receptionist greeted us with a professional smile and moments later the two lawyers appeared. Ursula had said she would meet us there and it looked like she’d already been working her magic as she smiled almost coyly up at the man representing my brother.
“Lana Stevenson, meet Brenton Goldman. He and I were at Yale together a million years ago.”
I forced a smile for the man and shook his hand. “Mr. Goldman.” I glanced down at the diamond-encrusted watch Drake had given me for my last birthday. “We aren’t late, are we?”
“No, not at all.” Ursula glanced behind me at Cole and Drake, each with their arms full of baby or toddler. Her eyes flashed appreciatively over Cole and then even more so over Drake and I had to squash the need to scratch up the older woman’s pretty face. “Let’s go down to the conference room, shall we, Brent?”
The man nodded and turned to go back down the hall he’d just come from. “Can I get anyone something to drink? Coffee? Water?”
“No,” I told him.
“Coffee would be good. Black, no sugar,” Cole told him as we entered the huge conference room where a gigantic table took up most of the room. He pulled out a chair and sat Neveah on it before taking his own chair. “And some water for the pretty girl.”
“Yay. Thanks, Pop-Pop.” She gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek.
Drake sat the car seat down on one of the many other chairs and uncovered Arella’s sleeping face. Of course she was still sucking on the binky Neveah had passed down to her. If anything happened to that damn pacifier, I knew my life would become a nightmare where my precious little baby was concerned.
Brenton Goldman left with a nod and a promise to return with the drinks while Ursula took a seat beside me at the table. She turned to me and grasped my hand. “Garon and Claudia are already here,” she murmured in a quiet voice so Neveah wouldn’t hear her. “When Brent returns he’s going to have them both with him. Claudia is going to sit down without brothering to look at you. She will have that haughty, superior look on her still-beautiful face and pretend you aren’t even in the room.” She nodded her head toward where my girls were seated. “Bringing the kids might push a few buttons. Be prepared for her to run her mouth. From the few times I’ve seen her, she’s been rather dramatic.”