It took me the rest of the day to get them all sorted, which meant that the work I should have taken care of that day had to be put off until the next morning or be taken home with me. Thankfully, Rex didn’t seek me out that day. I didn’t know if it was because he was pissed at me or just busy, but I was going to make sure I saw him the next day no matter how busy we both might be.
Deciding to take some of the workload home with me that night, I left with Peterson while Theo went to get the SUV. On the ride home I called Cecil to see how he was and to ask his opinion on the whole Rex thing.
“Ah, Harpie, I know what you should do, but I don’t know if it’s what you’ll want to do,” my beloved stepfather told me.
“Right now, I’m open to anything, Cece.”
“Honey, I love you more than life itself, but I don’t think you’re up to running the magazine yet. You don’t know the ins and outs of it like Rex does. Give me a few days, Harp, and I’ll finish up here in New York and I’ll head back out there to help you,” Cecil promised. “I’ll spend a few weeks teaching you what you need to know and I’ll deal with that Rex guy.”
“I adore you, Cece,” I told him with a relieved laugh. Every day I was thankful for the man who had stepped up and become the father I’d always needed. I’d never wondered if he loved me, never had to agonize if I was disappointing him or if I came first with him. Unlike what life with Todd Jones had been like, Cecil had told me every day from the moment he’d become my stepfather, shown me, and simply loved me.
“Ah, Harpie, you know you’re the most important person in my life. Now, you relax and I’ll be out there soon. Okay?”
I felt tears sting my eyes and I nodded, knowing that he couldn’t see me but too emotional to care. “Okay, Cece. I love you. Don’t work too hard, and have a safe trip.”
“I love you too, Harp.”
As Cecil had suggested, I didn’t confront Rex about what was going on with the magazine, but I did barge into his office the next day to tell him exactly what I thought about him letting Sean take over my job while I’d been away. When I first saw him, I nearly stopped and turned back around. The paleness of his skin, the dark shadows under his eyes, even the day-old scruff on his jaw told their own story. Something was going on with Rex besides work, because I didn’t think he would let himself go this bad over the new discord between the two of us.
But then I remembered he’d let that weasel Sean try to dirty my name and I pushed all my feelings of empathy for my boss—err, business partner—aside and let my anger boil again. “How dare you let that little weasel sully my name like that, Rex. He did nothing right, and I’m surprised we even sold one magazine in the last few weeks that I’ve been away. The weekly editions have been trashy and we aren’t trashy.”
Rex lifted his eyes from the work on his desk and lifted one brow at me, showing me how bloodshot the whites of his eyes were. Had he been sleeping? Or were they so bloodshot because he was drinking? What the hell was going on with him? He was normally so put together. Rock America was his baby and he always gave it one hundred and fifty percent. “What did you expect me to do, Harper?” he asked in a cool voice that he’d never used with me until recently. “You were gone. Someone had to do your job and there was no one else but Sean. If you don’t want him to fill in and do the work you can’t, then I suggest you stop missing so much work.”
My hands balled into fists at my sides, and I actually debated how much jail time I would get for attacking the man who was technically my boss, even if I did own most of his company. “You’re right,” I said after a few moments of tense silence where neither of us had broken eye contact. “Of course you’re right. I’ll make every attempt to not miss any more work, Rex.”
Something that resembled triumph but could have just as easily been sheer relief filled his eyes. I leaned forward, putting my hands on his desk and getting in his face. It was time to start showing that I wasn’t someone who could be pushed around. No matter what happened in the near future with the magazine, Rex needed to know that I had a backbone and I wasn’t going to take shit off of him or anyone else. “One of the first things I’m going to change around here is Sean’s job description. I think he would love to be part of the nightly janitorial service team, don’t you?”
“You can’t do that,” he snapped, his face suddenly looking twice as drawn and a shade paler. “He’s a valued part of my team. I won’t let you do that. This is still my magazine, Harper. You can’t just come in here and start tossing out orders.”
I only grinned and straightened. “Watch me,” I told him in my sweetest voice and gave him a sassy wink before turning and leaving his office.
The grin was gone by the time I returned to my own office, however, replaced with a sharp pain through my head. Damn it, I’d let my blood pressure get too high and now I was paying the consequences for it. Grimacing, I took two Tylenol and then called Shane.
“Hey, beautiful. I should be there in about half an hour,” he told me. I could hear air from a lowered window and realized he was already on his way.
“Okay. I’ll be ready,” I assured him.
I had an appointment with my doctor, and Dr. Bambach was also going to be there. Now that I was pregnant, he wanted to do a few tests and I would also be getting another ultrasound. I think Shane was just as excited as I was about getting to see our baby again.
Saying goodbye to my husband, I quickly turned my attention back to work so I could get as much done as possible. I was going to miss half a day, but I didn’t even care. Let Rex bitch and toss it back in my face. Once Cecil arrived, I had big plans. Maybe it was time to cash in on the big inheritance my father had given me when I’d gotten married. I hadn’t ever planned on touching that money, but now I wanted to spend every penny of it.
The second we walked into the doctor’s office, the receptionist motioned me back. I stepped through the door that led to the exam rooms with Shane at my side. She didn’t even blink up at me as she told me to go on back to the doctor’s office. For now, and as long as we could possibly keep it to ourselves, only my doctor and Bambach would know the real reason I was there. Until I couldn’t hide my pregnant belly, we weren’t taking any chances.
Shane linked our fingers together and pulled me down the hall to the office we both knew well.
Dr. Bambach was already seated in front of Dr. Lee’s desk. When we entered, both doctors stood, both beaming. Bambach stepped forward and offered Shane his hand. “Congratulations.” He released Shane’s hand to hug me, but stepped back quickly, sensing Shane’s irritation at someone else touching me.
Dr. Lee came around her desk and offered me her hand. “I honestly never thought this day would come, Harper, but I’m so glad to be wrong. Congratulations, dear. I’m truly happy for you.”
Tears burned my eyes. “Thank you,” I whispered emotionally. “I seriously doubted it would happen too, but now that it has I feel like I’m walking on a cloud.”
“Here, sit,” Dr. Lee urged and I took the seat Bambach had recently vacated. “How have you been feeling?”
“The nausea has gotten better. I don’t spend all day with my head in a bucket now. I’ve had to pee more often, and I’ve started wanting the weirdest food combinations,” I explained.
She nodded. “I’m glad the morning sickness is easing. Hopefully with the nearing of the end of the first trimester it will go away completely. The urge to urinate will ease during the second trimester, but come back with a vengeance during the third. As for the cravings, those will most likely continue and become more bizarre as each week passes.”
“I’ve been having a headache off and on this past week,” I told her. After what Natalie had gone through with her blood pressure I was scared the same would happen to me. Hell, after seeing what all my sisters-in-law had been through with their pregnancies, I was terrified of what could happen to my poor little baby.
“I’m sure that it’s nothing. Probably just all that extra blood you?
?re producing. As long as they are infrequent and don’t last for long periods of time, or don’t become debilitating, you shouldn’t worry about them.” She leaned forward, catching my gaze. There was a soft smile on her face. “Harper, you’ve been given a miracle. Don’t waste this time with worrying. Relax and enjoy being pregnant. You deserve this happiness.”
A tear spilled free from my eye and I quickly dashed it away, but I was smiling. “I know. I plan on enjoying every single second of this time.” Just because I’d been offered this one miracle didn’t mean I’d get another one, and I was okay with that. One was enough for me. For us. I would love the precious baby growing inside of me, spoil it, and make sure it always knew how much I loved and wanted it.
“Okay,” Dr. Bambach said, rubbing his hands together in excitement. “Let’s get you down the hall to get you some more pictures of this baby.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I stood slowly because I’d learned quickly over the last few weeks that standing too fast was never a good thing, and Shane took my hand. He’d been quiet since we’d entered the room, but I could tell by the expression on his face that it was because he was still in awe that we were there to actually see our baby again.
“Ready, Daddy?” I asked as Bambach opened the door for us.
He swallowed hard, but there was a beaming smile on his face as he nodded. “Ready.”
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
Work back in New York took Cecil longer to deal with than anticipated, so it was a week before Christmas before I sat down in the conference room with my stepfather, the lawyers I’d seemed to have inherited from my father along with all the aggravation of so many other companies, and Rex.
I’d had a bad episode of morning sickness that morning, but I was feeling better by the time I walked into the office. Thankfully the nausea spells were few and far between and I’d put it down as the baby being upset with me for being so nervous rather than anything else.
Having avoided Rex as much as possible before this sit-down, I was surprised when I caught the first glance of him. His skin looked ashen, his eyes puffy and more bloodshot than the last time I’d seen him. The dark circles under his eyes made him look like he’d gone a few rounds with Peterson. From the way his dress shirt hung off of him, I could tell he’d lost weight.
The animosity that had been growing between us was pushed away as I took my seat beside Cecil and really looked at Rex. Biting the inside of my bottom lip, I looked at the two lawyers at the end of the conference table. “Gentlemen, could you give us a few minutes?”
With a curt nod, the two men in practically matching suits stood and left the conference room. I didn’t look at Rex again until the door clicked shut behind them. “You look sick, Rex. In all the years I’ve know you, I’ve never seen you look like this. Surely it’s not because of this thing between us?”
Rex sat in his chair, looking at something behind me, seemingly lost in his own personal hell. I glanced at Cecil, who shrugged. I shook my head and snapped my fingers in front of Rex’s face. The man jerked and seemed to come out of his daze. “Rex? What the hell is going on with you?”
The man whom I’d considered a friend as well as a boss put his head in his hands and sucked in several deep breaths. “I’m sorry, Harper. I’ve been a damn mess lately. Things at home are…” He broke off, shaking his head. “Helena and I are going through a rough patch.” He lifted his red, puffy eyes and finally met my gaze. “I’m sorry. I’ve let the things going on at home roll over into what I’ve been feeling here at work. I apologize for all the crap I’ve been doing. You know me. You know I wouldn’t normally let things get out of hand here. This place is my baby. Without it I’d be nothing.”
I couldn’t help but blink at him. I’d met Rex’s wife repeatedly over the last four years. She was a knockout, and more than a little snobby. She’d reminded me a lot of Ariana, but I hadn’t let my experience with my stepsister affect how I treated a woman who reminded me of her. That Rex and Helena were having marital issues knocked me sideways. Rex adored his wife, doted on her and gave her everything most women could only dream of getting from their husbands. As for Helena, even if I had felt like she was more often fake than anything else, I hadn’t ever questioned her love and affection for Rex.
“I’m sorry you and Helena are having problems, Rex. And if that is why you’re letting the magazine turn into just another trash magazine maybe it’s time for you to let me try to step in and turn things around.” I glanced at Cecil again and he gave me an encouraging nod with a smile. “I don’t like this discord that has popped up between us. It was never my intention for that to happen. In fact, I would’ve never wanted to change our work relationship, but fate has stepped in and knocked us all around.”
Rex raked a hand through his hair and I noticed he needed to get it trimmed—and probably wash it too. Was he not going home? “Todd Jones bailed me out five years ago, Harper. I was just looking for a quick infusion to keep the magazine floating until I could get everything sorted again after the stock market crashed. He gave me more than that, and for that I will always be grateful.” He grimaced. “When I got a call from Emmie to give your work a look over, I’d already gotten one from Todd as well. So I gave you a chance, but I was determined not to let nepotism from my silent partner influence me. I want you to know that me giving you a job in the first place was because I saw some raw talent in you. When the editor position opened up, I knew that I wanted you for it. So please, whatever else you might think, don’t assume that I did it because of your father.”
I nibbled on the inside of my lip, but kept quiet as he spoke. Honestly, I had been wondering about all of that. It had been driving me nuts and had even made me a little more irritated with Rex because I’d been second-guessing myself and my abilities. I’d wondered constantly if I’d gotten to the position I was in because my father had owned the magazine.
“I never thought about what would happen if Jones died,” Rex went on, shaking his head. “Not once had it crossed my mind, but I know it should have. I was lost in the paradise I’d created, and I know that I have you to thank for that. Not just because of the inside stories you’ve gotten us, but because you have a vision that has caught our customers’ eyes and keeps them coming back for more.”
“Thank you,” I murmured, stunned by his compliment.
“You hold all the cards here, Harper. Whatever you decide to do with the magazine, I don’t really have much say in it.” He clenched his jaw and lowered his gaze to the cherry finish on the table that separated us. “All I ask is that you treat the magazine like your baby, as I’ve done.”
“Rex…” I blew out a long sigh and set my hands on the table. “Over the last few weeks I’ve wanted to slap you so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve changed my mind about what I want to do even more times. But we both know that I would run the magazine into the ground within a year. I don’t know the ins and outs like you do. So, I put the personal dislike I’d come to feel for you recently aside.” I stood and walked across the room to the door. Opening it, I waved the two lawyers in while Rex watched me with apprehension.
Retaking my seat, I leaned back and crossed my legs. “Gentlemen, if you could pass out the contracts, we can begin.”
Two separate contracts were passed to Rex and then to myself. I already knew what it said, so I kept my eyes on Rex as he skimmed his gaze over them. Almost immediately his head shot up, bloodshot eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
I shrugged. “It’s the smart thing to do, don’t you think? Cecil suggested it and at first I didn’t want to agree to it. You said a few things that were stick pricking at my pride and I was thinking of ways to decapitate you.” I grinned when he grunted and then smiled. It was the first sign of humor I’d seen in him in months. “So what do you say, Rex? Shall we share this equally?”
“But you’re just giving it to me,” he protested. “I can’t let you do that.”
I lifted a
brow. “Why not? It was given to me. I paid nothing for it. Besides it’s only one percent. I’m not up for doing the math on what one little percent will cost you.” I pulled the second contract toward me and flipped to the last page. “Now this one, this contract is the fun one. I’m going to branch Rock America out and start my own little magazine. You know, once I’ve learned everything from you.”
Rex sat back, looking winded and more than a little shocked. “I don’t know what to say, Harper. If I didn’t think Shane Stevenson would kill me, I’d probably kiss you right now.”
That had Cecil laughing, the first show of any real emotion from my stepfather since we’d gotten there. My stepfather had schooled me on what was going to happen that day, but he’d let me take the lead. This was my show and he was only there to back me up and help if I ran into any roadblocks. I’d been thankful for his presence, grateful for his continued love and acceptance of anything I did.
“I’ll pretend you didn’t say that,” Cecil told Rex as he chuckled. “Now, let’s start going over these contracts, children. I need to be back in New York tonight.”
I was in a deep sleep when the phones started going off. My cell first, then Harper’s, and then the house phone. I groaned, reluctantly letting go of my wife as I blindly reached for my phone. Without opening my eyes, I lifted the phone to my face. “Yeah?”
Harper was fumbling around for her own phone, trying to move around Ranger who was hogging her side of the bed and had forced her into the middle. The dog wasn’t happy to have the late night interruption and whined pitifully when Harper finally grabbed her phone. “Dallas?”