Everyone else quickly made their way back to see the new parents and baby Trinity. Then it was just down to me and Harper, Lana and Drake, as well as Dallas and Axton. I offered to watch the three kids while they all went back. I was dying to see my little sister, but knew once I held my newest little niece in my arms that I wasn’t going to want to let go for a while.
I was bouncing Cannon on my knee when my father came back into the room from his visit with Natalie. Clyde Stevenson lifted Arella out of her car seat and held her close as he took the seat beside mine. I tried not to stiffen as he turned to face me. I’d forgiven my father years ago when Jenna and Natalie had come into my life, but it was still hard to look at the man who had basically abandoned me and my brother for a woman who pretty much hated me for existing.
“How was your flight?” I asked to make small talk.
“It was long, but good.” He stroked a finger down Arella’s soft cheek. “Stella decided to stay home.”
“Of course she did.” The bitch had turned her back on Natalie for marrying Devlin. If anyone did anything Stella didn’t approve of, she simply pretended like they didn’t exist to her. She was a real pro at doing that shit.
“She’ll come around,” Clyde said with a shrug, but I wondered who he was trying to convince—me or himself. Didn’t the man understand yet that his wife was a total cunt? But he loved her, so maybe he was just blind to her faults. “As soon as she sees her granddaughter, she’ll change her mind.”
I just nodded, but I didn’t believe him. Stella didn’t have it in her to change her mind once it had been set. But then again, miracles happened every day.
The door to the waiting room opened and Harper appeared there, her face pink with happiness. She crossed the room and took a giggling Cannon from my hands while Axton and Dallas followed her. “Go on back. She wants to see you.”
I gave her a kiss, silently thanked the gods for my own little miracle growing under my beautiful wife’s heart, and went to find my sister’s room. Emmie wasn’t taking any chances with safety and had put one of Seller’s men outside Natalie’s room, so it was easy enough to find. I nodded at the guard as I opened the door to find my brother, sister and sister-in-law gathered around Natalie’s bed. Devlin was sitting in a chair beside the bed with the smallest pink bundle I’d ever seen.
Every eye in the room turned to look at me as I walked in. “There’s Uncle Shane,” Natalie said with a tired but happy smile. “Come meet your newest niece.”
I crossed the room and bent to kiss Natalie on the forehead before finally turning my eyes to my brother-in-law. Almost reluctantly, Devlin stood and let me have the chair before carefully handing his precious bundle over. Like my heart had in the past with Mia, the twins, Jagger, Neveah, Cannon, and more recently Arella, my heart turned to mush when my adorable little niece was first placed in my arms.
Trinity Anne Cutter was one of the most beautiful little creatures I’d ever set eyes on. Already I could see her skin tone was going to be honeyed like her father’s, and she had a pair of dimples that could own a person. Fuck, she was so beautiful. I pitied any man who wanted to date her when she got older. Between her father, brother, and uncles, the poor bastard was going to have to have balls of steel to last long enough to win Trinity’s heart.
As I sat there, gazing down at that precious baby, my heart actually stopped. Would we have a daughter? Would she be as beautiful as Harper? Would she one day have her mother’s killer body and innocent violet eyes?
Fucking hell. Gods, please, for my sanity, let me have a son.
But even as I was silently saying the prayer, I knew that—more than anything—I wanted a little girl. I would love a son, but I desperately wanted Harper to have a girl.
“Dude, why are you crying? I’m the one who’ll have to kill the fuckers who come near my little girl.”
My head shot up and it was only then that I realized I was crying, but I couldn’t tell any of them the truth so I laughed it off. “Sorry, man. I was just thinking how much trouble you were gonna have when she gets older. These are tears of joy, because I know every sin you’ve ever committed will come back to haunt you with this beautiful little girl.”
Drake and Lana burst out laughing, and Natalie let out a small giggle while Devlin paled under his tan. “Shut up, fucker.”
Jenna moved to stand beside me. “Let me have my little goddaughter, Shane. I only get to stay a few days before Dad makes me go home. I won’t get to hold her again until Christmas.”
I handed the baby over to my little sister and stood up. “I can’t wait until you’re on the West Coast permanently, Jen.” She was going to UCLA the next fall and I couldn’t wait to get her closer to us.
She grimaced. Stella was giving her hell about her school choices. I was sure life back in Ohio was miserable for her. “Me either, Shane. Me either.”
Lana leaned over the bed to hug Natalie. “I think we’re going to get out of your hair, honey. You need some time with your little family to enjoy your new addition.”
“Thanks for coming,” Nat told her and then wrapped her arms around Drake when he bent to kiss her too. “I’m so glad you were all here with us today.”
Drake tapped her on the nose with a finger. “You need anything, don’t hesitate to call. Love you, Nat.”
“I love you too, big brother.” Her gaze went to me. “Are you going to leave too?”
I nodded. “You’re tired, sweetheart. I’m going to round Harper and Linc up and get them home. As soon as you and the baby are home, I’ll come over and visit.” I bent, hugged her carefully and then kissed her forehead. “You have my number. Call if you need me.”
I turned to Devlin and offered him my hand. “Take care of them.” He nodded, shaking my hand. “Congrats, man. You have a beautiful daughter.”
I saw his throat bob twice before he nodded his head again and pulled me roughly against him in a tight, manly hug. I pounded him on the back twice before pulling away. “Enjoy this, Dev. You deserve your happily ever after with my sister.” All my anger at Devlin had faded the day he’d told my sister he loved her. If he hadn’t loved her, I would have killed his fucking ass and Drake would have helped me hide the body.
The taller man’s jaw clenched with emotion. “Thanks, brother. That means a lot to me.”
Back in the waiting room, I found the place was nearly deserted. Harper was still holding Cannon, but she was across the room talking to Dallas, Linc and Axton. Everyone else, except for Clyde, had gone home. I tossed up a hand at my father as I crossed the room to my wife. “Hey, beautiful. Are you ready to head home?”
She kissed Cannon’s cheek and handed him back over to his mother. “Night-night, Cannon. Auntie Harper loves you.” Our godson giggled and tried to catch hold of her long hair, but Dallas was quick to pull his greedy little hands away. “Rotten boy.” She blew him a kiss and he pressed his lips together, trying to blow her one back but only succeeded in blowing a raspberry.
“Y’all drive carefully,” Dallas said as she hugged Linc and then stepped back against Axton, who wrapped an arm around her very rounded stomach. She still had a few more weeks to go, but Cannon had surprised them when Dallas had gone into labor at her father’s wedding. We were all hoping she didn’t have to go through that kind of surprise again. “We can do this again in a few weeks, I promise.”
“Do I get to be in the delivery room this time?” Harper asked, excitement brightening her beautiful face. They had talked about it before and Harper was supposed to have been in the delivery room with her best friend. But when Cannon had come early, some major parts of Dallas’s birthing plan had gotten tossed in the trash. The hospital she’d delivered in hadn’t been the one she’d chosen, and they had only allowed one person in the room with the mother during the delivery.
“Of course you do. Axton falls to pieces on me. I need my bitch in there to help me.” Dallas gave her a wink and then smirked up at her husband. “Poor Daddy. He just can’t handle
seeing me in pain.”
“Baby, there isn’t a man alive who can handle seeing the woman he loves hurting like that.” Axton kissed her lips hard and quick, only to pull back almost immediately because Cannon didn’t like to share his mother’s kisses with anyone.
“Call me tomorrow,” Harper told Dallas as we turned to head out.
I waved again at my father, but didn’t stop to tell him goodbye as Linc and Harper left with me. I had no idea where he was staying. Lana would have tossed him a blanket and a pillow and made him sleep in her front yard if he’d asked her—then turned on her sprinkler system—and I wasn’t about to offer either. He might have my forgiveness, but I’d never forget what he’d done, what he’d let happen to me and my brother.
“Are you two as hungry as I am?” Linc asked as we got on the elevator.
“I’m starving,” Harper assured him. “I could really go for some loaded cheese fries and chocolate sauce.”
The big man’s eyes widened. “What the fuck are you on, Harp?”
I hid my grin as I hit the ground-floor button on the elevator control panel. Ah, pregnancy cravings. I had a feeling Harper was going to keep me on my toes for the next several months with them. As long as it wasn’t cravings for bacon on everything, I was sure I could handle them. I still couldn’t look at a slice of bacon without losing my appetite. “Cheese fries and chocolate sauce sound delicious, beautiful.”
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
By the following Monday after Natalie had given birth, I was feeling up to going into the office. I hadn’t been in since my father had died, hadn’t really talked to anyone other than Rex and Hannah a few times. For the first time since I’d taken the job as photography editor, I was actually kind of nervous to go to work.
From what Hannah had told me in the few emails we’d been sending each other, things were going smoothly—mostly—but Rex was in a piss-poor mood. I knew why too. The man who had always had a ready smile for me and nothing but praise for my hard work and dedication was no longer a fan. Now that I owned the majority shares of his business—fifty-one percent to his forty-nine—I could take control of the magazine and run it as I saw fit.
If I wanted to.
I still didn’t know what I wanted to do about it, though. Rex had been doing a great job with the magazine, but really the only time Rock America had really been a big hit was when I’d given them exclusives into my life with Shane. The edition that had been focused on my wedding two years before had sold out in just a few hours with demands for more. Sales had been steady after that, but had started to fall again after the last Christmas. We’d still been operating in the black, but it hadn’t been until Gabriella’s shooting, and my giving firsthand details in the daily online subscriptions, that sales had really taken off again.
Still, I didn’t want to be a total bitch and just barge in and take over—even if I could. I liked how things were at the moment and unless Rex gave me a reason to step in, I wasn’t going to make any life-changing plans until after the baby was born.
Like a parent clinging to their child’s hand on the first day of school, Shane went with me to work that morning. Peterson walked with us into the building while Theo went to park my SUV. As we entered the building, people in the lobby stopped and gaped at the three of us and I wasn’t completely sure if it was because of how scary Peterson looked, or how delicious my husband was.
The elevator was already getting full by the time we boarded. Shane put his hand on my hip and pulled me against his chest, practically plastering me against him as the elevator doors shut on the last person. “Mm, you smell good, beautiful.” His deep voice rasped low at my ear. “Sure you don’t want to go back home with me and work from bed?”
I couldn’t help but giggle like a teenager no more than I could help how damn wet my panties suddenly became. “Be good,” I commanded, but kissed his neck to tease him in the same way his voice had teased me. When I felt his dick twitch against my lower stomach, I gave him a sexy smirk before lowering my gaze. If I looked at him for too long with that hungry look in his blue-gray eyes, I’d end up begging him to fuck me against the wall of the crowded elevator.
As the elevator climbed, it stopped on nearly every floor, letting a few passengers out at time, sometimes adding one or two more to the masses. Once we were at the top floor, however, it was just me with Shane and Peterson. Hannah was the first person I saw when we stepped off.
Her eyes widened with surprise but she was grinning when she came around her desk to greet me. “It’s good to have you back, Harper.”
I smiled at her. “Thanks, Hannah. Do I have any messages? Mail?”
She turned back to her desk and lifted a small stack of message slips. “Your mail has already been dealt with,” she assured me, but her expression had lost some of the brightness from just a moment before. “Sean has been keeping up with that.”
I grimaced at that news. “Great,” I said with a tight smile. “I’ll have to go through it all again.”
The other woman gave me an understanding look. “If you need any help, just let me know. Sean is here if you need him. He and Rex have become great buddies while you were away.”
“I just bet they have,” I grumbled before thanking her and heading down the hall to my office with Peterson and Shane right behind me.
“Is Rex going to be a problem?” Shane asked once we were behind the closed door of my office, leaving Peterson on the other side.
I shrugged and dropped my stack of messages on my surprisingly clean desk. “Maybe, but I can handle him if I need to.”
“I could have a word with him, if you want. Scare the piss out of the fucker.” He crossed to my desk and pulled me against him. “I’ll threaten him with Emmie.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “No, babe. I got this.” I didn’t have to stand on tiptoes to kiss him since I was wearing heels, so I just leaned up ever so slightly and brushed my lips against his own. Soon I wouldn’t be able to wear the heels, so I wanted to wear them as often as possible until I had to give them up for a while. “I love you. Go. I know you missed your run this morning. Have a good time playing with Ranger on the beach.”
He didn’t seem ready to go. “I’ll miss you,” he muttered. “I’ll worry.”
My heart turned into a puddle of goo in my chest. “I’ll miss you more, but there’s no reason to worry. Peterson is right outside and Theo will join him soon. Go home, or go to Emmie’s. But don’t go to Natalie’s yet. I want to go with you.” I pouted up at him. “I want some Trinity time too.”
He grinned at my pout and lowered his head just enough to kiss it away before pressing his forehead to my own. “I want a daughter, Harper.”
My heart stopped at that confession. Honestly, we hadn’t talked that much about my pregnancy. I knew it was because he was scared, knew that he worried about what would happen once the stalker found out—if she found out. Having him tell me he wanted a daughter twisted something in my heart in a way that left me aching in the best kind of way. “Really?”
He nodded. “I’d be happy with a son, sure. But I really want a little girl with her mother’s big violet eyes and sassy mouth.”
“I’m kind of hoping for a boy,” I told him with a grin. “I hope he looks just like you. I want him to have your personality and heart. I’m pretty sure that little boy would own me if he did. Plus,” I said, shrugging, “I think the female population in our family is going to drive all the men crazy. We need a few more boys to help even everything out.”
Shane threw his head back, laughing out loud at that. “True. But I’m still hoping for a girl.” He gave me one last, hard kiss and then stepped back. “I love you, Harper Stevenson.”
“Yeah, I know.” I winked at him before he turned to head for the door. “I love you, too.”
Once he was gone, the room felt oddly bigger and lonely. Sighing, I started to sit down and get to work when I thought better o
f it and crossed the office to the door. Opening it, I looked up at Peterson who was already standing at attention.
I shook my head. “Can you check for more of those cameras? I don’t want to take any chances this time around.”
He nodded. “Of course. Theo, stay here.”
Theo shrugged and stayed where he was as Peterson followed me back into the office. I shut the door behind us and Peterson got to work, checking every nook and cranny. It all took about ten minutes, but he found nothing. Breathing a sigh of relief, I thanked him and finally got down to work.
I was exhausted by lunch time. All I wanted was to go home and crawl into bed with Shane and Ranger, but I had work to do. Lots of work, apparently.
Even though Peterson and Theo made everyone feel uneasy, that didn’t seem to keep them from coming into my office that day. They needed my signature, or my approval, or to tell me that they were so glad I was back so that things would run more smoothly now. I got the story of what had been going on over the few weeks that I’d been gone from at least six different people, and it was basically the same story each time.
Sean and Rex were getting tight and not only were things in my department falling behind, but so was the rest of the magazine since Rex seemed to have his head up his ass. Plus, Rex wasn’t happy with me for some reason, but they assumed it was because I’d missed so much work lately. Not that they could blame me, I was assured each time that it had come up. I’d lost my father, had my life turned upside down by some faceless monster, and I had a lot of personal issues going on. It didn’t take a genius to figure out they were talking about my inability to get pregnant, but I just smiled and nodded my head, and then rubbed a hand over my lower belly when they left.
Apparently Rex and Sean’s new friendship in my absence was causing issues. Rex was letting Sean take over my job without properly monitoring the one person in the building I trusted the least. So I had to go back over all the work Sean had supposedly done, and sure enough there were mistakes and inconsistencies. This kind of shit looked bad not only for the magazine, but me personally. It was my name that was getting dragged through the mud with all these screw-ups, because it was my name on the daily subscriptions under the copyright page.