Are you okay? I texted.
She’d been working hard lately, but at least the tension between her and Rex was now gone. I’d been surprised when she told me she was going to give him that one extra percent of the magazine and make them both equal partners, but I trusted her to make the right decisions for herself. She knew what she wanted and she was working toward her own goals now, not just those of Rock America. With Rex guiding and tutoring her, she was learning what she needed so that she could branch the magazine out and do her own thing. Focus on things other than the rock world without turning into one of the trashy gossip magazines that were a dime a dozen.
Just busy, babe. Love you. See you soon.
I clenched my hands and tried to calm down. She said she was okay. Peterson and Theo were with her. They would protect her with their lives. I had to chill. Love you too, beautiful.
The drive took over forty-five minutes and my leg was tapping by the time the driver stopped in front of the restaurant I’d asked Emmie to make reservations at. I didn’t wait for the man to open the door for me. Stepping onto the sidewalk, I heard several people calling my name as flashes of lights went off around me. I didn’t pay attention to the swarm of paparazzi. They weren’t worth my time or energy.
Inside I found the place crowded with couples ready to celebrate the most romantic day of the year. I pushed through them and stopped at the hostess’s desk. She was on the phone with someone but when her eyes landed on me she dropped the receiver in the cradle and her smile went from nonexistent to megawatt-bright within a millisecond.
“Mr. Stevenson! How lovely to have you joining us tonight.” She stepped around the large podium piled with table charts and a waiting list. “Right this way, sir.”
I heard several people groaning and muttering curses behind me as the hostess led me away and I couldn’t help but smirk. Thank gods for Emmie. She had made sure that I got top service and I would never be sorry about that.
The chick led me through the crowded dining room and then down a quiet hallway. Several doors were shut on either side, all private dining rooms that had to have been reserved months—if not a year—in advance.
At the end of the hall the hostess stopped and opened the last door for me before stepping back without looking inside. “Enjoy your evening, Mr. Stevenson.”
I gave her a single nod and stepped into the room, shutting the door behind me. The lights were dim and I turned to take it all in, hoping that it was exactly as I’d asked Emmie to arrange for me. Candles in the center of the table. The dinner I’d told Emmie to preorder was already set out under metal covers to keep them warm. A bottle of apple cider was in an ice bucket. Emmie had given me the weirdest look when I’d made that request but hadn’t questioned me.
My nearly naked wife lounged on the sofa…
My mouth fell open, going instantly dry at the exact same time my dick hardened to the point of pain confined in the dress pants of my suit.
Harper was sitting with her back in the corner of the sofa, her long legs stretched out across the length of it. One arm was draped over the back of it while the other was holding a glass of cider in a champagne glass.
Did I mention she was nearly naked?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
She was so fucking beautiful. Her long caramel hair was hanging around her shoulders, her skin glowing in the candlelight. She was wearing her glasses and they were perched halfway down her nose in that naughty teacher kind of way she knew drove me crazy. The black silk with red overlaying lace bra she was wearing pushed her ever-growing tits up and made me ache to bury my face between them. Her matching panties were connected to a garter belt that held up sheer black stockings and she wore five-inch, red heels.
But none of that beauty could compare to the sexy-ass grin she was giving me right then nor the sight of that slight little baby bump that just barely stuck out. My dick pulsed against the zipper of my pants, threatening to burst through the expensive material. I was about to release into my boxers just looking at her.
“You’re late,” she murmured with a sassy grin.
I quickly checked the screen on my phone. I was actually early, but I wasn’t about to argue with her. “I didn’t think you would be here yet.” I was able to find enough saliva to speak, but my voice was weak, shaking with a need that only this beautiful creature could produce in me.
“I’ve been here for nearly an hour.” The sassy grin turned naughty and I couldn’t help the whimper that escaped me at the sight. Thank gods this woman was mine, because I would have killed any other fucker that ever got to see this side of her. “It got boring and a little hot in here. You don’t care if I eat like this, do you, babe?”
A soft giggle escaped those perfect bow-shaped lips and I couldn’t stand the distance that was between us a second longer. I crossed the room and dropped to my knees in front of her. My eyes ate up the sight of her, memorizing every inch of her before I lowered my head and kissed her stomach.
The soft gasp that left her lips was full of emotion and her fingers stroked through my hair as I worshiped her stomach with hungry kisses. When I lifted my head, her violet eyes were bright with tears, her lips trembling, but she was smiling. I groaned and pressed a kiss to them. “Are you happy now, beautiful?”
“So happy, Shane. You have no idea how happy I am right now.” Her voice broke and a tear spilled free. If I didn’t know how happy she really was in that second, I would have put my fist through a wall at the sight of that tear. There had been too many tears down the long, winding road that had finally led us right to this moment.
I pulled the little box from my pocket and held it out for her. She took it but didn’t open it. “You didn’t have to get me anything. I have everything I need. All I’ve ever wanted is right here in this room.”
“Open it,” I softly commanded and kept my eyes locked on her face as she pulled the red ribbon from the small black box.
Her eyes widened when she unveiled the platinum and diamond eternity ring. It probably wasn’t the most expensive ring I’d ever given her, it sure as hell hadn’t cost as much as her engagement ring. Ten grand was nothing for a ring compared to what that thing had cost, but it wasn’t the cost of this ring that made it so damn special. It was the meaning.
It started with a pink diamond. Our past. Halfway around there was another pink diamond. Our present. And ended with one last pink diamond. Our future.
“Shane…” A sob escaped her and she wrapped her arms around my neck, holding on tight. “It’s perfect.”
I stood and kissed the top of her head, a few tears of my own escaping. “Happy Valentine’s Day, beautiful.”
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
“Don’t forget the session with Dr. Rayner this afternoon,” Nik told me as I rushed around the kitchen getting Mia’s things ready so Roger and I could drop her at school before I headed into the office.
I paused long enough to give Nik a kiss, then wished I hadn’t when the urge to blow off work took over and I let him deepen the kiss. By the time he lifted his head I was breathing hard. “I remember,” I assured him when I could find the ability to talk again.
I wouldn’t say that I was thrilled to see Dr. Rayner again, but I had to admit that seeing the quack was actually helping more than hurting me. I was sleeping more, the nightmares becoming fewer and fewer with each passing week without the fucking stalker showing her ugly face again. I had more energy, more drive, and was able to concentrate more. With the doctor’s help, I was extinguishing the monsters of my childhood so I could move on to the ones that had filled my life with Grady and then with Mia’s kidnapping.
This new energy I had was also making things with Nik even better than they had ever been between us. Not just in the bedroom, either. I was learning to lean on him more, learning that just because I could do everything, I didn’t have to do it all. We were equal partn
ers in our marriage and he was showing me just how capable he was. I had to admit that seeing my husband taking charge was a turn-on in the biggest way and I was finding I couldn’t keep my hands off him even for a few minutes.
After another heated kiss, I found Mia and rushed her out the door to the Escalade where Roger was already waiting on us.
“My dance recital is this weekend, Momma. Are you excited to see me?” Mia bounced in her booster seat before I got her buckled in and Roger pulled out of the driveway.
I kissed the top of her head. “I’m more excited than Daddy is.”
Her grin was full of the kind of the innocence that filled my chest with relief. “That’s because Daddy gets to see me dance every week. This is the first time you get to.”
I reached out and tucked a strand of her auburn hair behind her ear. “You have the best daddy in the world.”
Mia nodded her agreement. “The bestest.” She bit her lip almost shyly and then smiled again. “I have the bestest momma, too.”
Unexpectedly, tears burned my eyes and I reached over to kiss her cheek, trying to keep her from seeing them. “That’s because I have the bestest daughter.”
She giggled but quickly turned her attention out the window while I just sat there watching her, the air knocked out of me from what she had said. My daughter had no clue that what she’d just told me had probably made my day—my week—my fucking life. If she never said another word to me, I would be okay with that. Six little words had filled my heart to the point of bursting. Joy and pride and love felt like a super power buzzing through my veins.
Five minutes later, Roger pulled to a stop in the drop-off line and got out to open Mia’s door. I unbuckled her and then pulled her close for a tight hug and one more kiss before handing over her backpack and lunch box. She jumped down with Roger’s help and then turned to blow me a kiss before skipping into school, calling out to her friends as she did.
I felt like I could take on the world after that, and my busy morning at work passed quickly, so I was surprised when Rachel buzzed me just before lunch. “Emmie, you have a visitor.”
I frowned. “I don’t remember having a meeting.” Was I forgetting shit again?
“Could you come out here for a second?” Rachel requested without elaborating.
I rolled my eyes. “Sure. I need to go get some lunch anyway.” I stood, grabbed my bag and headed out of my office. When I opened the door to my office, it was to find Shane and Harper standing there waiting on me.
“Hi,” I greeted them, hugging Harper quickly. I hadn’t seen a whole lot of either of them lately, so this was a nice surprise.
Shane took my hand as soon as I stepped back and started pulling me toward the elevators. I let him, too surprised by his off behavior to question him. My staff stopped and gawked at us as we stepped into the elevator. Only when the doors shut behind the three of us did I speak. “What’s going on?”
Shane didn’t say a word, just stood beside me, holding my hand as if I planned to bolt at any second. I turned my gaze to Harper, who was grinning, her cheeks a pretty pink. “It’s a surprise,” she told me.
“O-kay,” I glanced at Shane again, who was tapping his foot impatiently, and realized he was wanting to pace but couldn’t. “Are you okay? You’re not sick, are you?”
He shook his head and kept his eyes anywhere but on me as the elevator quickly descended. By the time the elevator’s doors opened again I was sure he’d seen every inch of the thing except for the spot where I’d been standing. He was acting seriously weird and I wanted to touch his forehead to see if he was running a fever.
Harper stepped off the elevator and I started to follow but Shane just scooped me up and tossed me over his shoulder as he carried me out of the building and toward the waiting SUV where Peterson and Theo were waiting. “Shane!” I punched him in the back. “This isn’t necessary. I was going with you, damn it. Put me down.”
Still he said nothing and I could hear Harper giggling. Moments later I was sitting in the back seat with her, and Shane pushed me over so he could climb in next to me. I glared up at him. “You’re acting crazy, you know that, right? I’m about to call Dr. Rayner and have your ass committed.”
Harper’s giggles turned into full-on laughing and I was seriously starting to worry about her sanity too. Maybe something was going around. Some kind of bug that warped their mind. Fuck, I hoped not. I had shit to do. There was no time to go insane anytime soon. Or ever.
Theo, behind the wheel, pulled into traffic. No one spoke and the silence was killing me. “I’m hungry. Wherever we’re going, they’d better have good food.”
“We’ll eat after,” Harper promised.
“After what?” I cried, exasperated with them both.
“You’ll see,” was all she said before smiling and turning her gaze out the window.
I leaned my head back against the seat and blew out a frustrated sigh. “If you two are gonna kill me and wear my skin later, can I call Nik first? I want to tell him I love him one last time.”
Shane snorted out a laugh but still remained quiet as he kept his eyes turned out his own window.
I was so frustrated with the silent treatment that I was about to start yanking his hair out by the handfuls just as Theo pulled to a stop in front of a building I knew well. My brows lifted. “So you are sick?” Worry filled me and I reached over to feel Shane’s forehead. He didn’t feel warm, and he didn’t look sick. I reached for Harper next. Nothing. Other than that frigging bright smile on her face, she looked normal as always.
Theo got out to open Harper’s door at the same time Shane stepped out and then reached for me. He took my hand like I was Mia or Neveah and pulled me into the medical center. I bit my lip as we got on the elevator and he pushed the button for Harper’s gynecologist. Less than a minute later the doors opened and I was dragged into Dr. Lee’s office.
A receptionist saw Harper and waved her on back without her so much as signing in. I blew my hair out of my face as Shane pulled on my hand and increased his speed to the point that I practically had to run to keep up with him. Harper walked down the long hall, passing one empty exam room after another, until she reached a dimly light one and walked inside. Shane pulled me into it with them and then pushed me into a chair beside a small exam table.
It took me about thirty seconds to realize what room we were in. My mind was going through all the scenarios about why I was needed at a freaking gyno appointment so it took a few seconds for me to realize there was an ultrasound machine already geared up and ready to go.
“What the fuck is going on?” I finally cried.
Shane took the extra chair while Harper sat down on the exam table and pulled up her shirt. A shirt that had been hiding the most incredibly precious kind of treasure. All the air in my chest felt trapped all of a sudden as tears burned my eyes. I lifted my hands and buried my face in them as a sob escaped me. “Oh, gods. Oh, gods.”
Strong arms wrapped around me and I threw myself against Shane. “I’m so happy for you,” I cried.
Shane’s shoulders shook as he tightened his hold on me. “We had to keep it a secret,” he muttered. “But things have been quiet lately and we thought that since this was the big gender reveal that it would be a fun way to tell you.”
I laughed, sniffing back my tears. “You scared the hell out of me, is what you did. I thought something was wrong with you.”
Shane pulled back and I could see the amusement in his eyes even in the dimly lit room. “If I’d opened my mouth even for a second I would have ruined the surprise. You know I can’t keep shit from you, Em. That’s why I’ve kept away so much lately.”
I slapped his chest. “Well, don’t do it again.” I pushed away from him and stood on jelly-filled legs to wrap my arms around Harper. “I’d noticed you seemed to glow lately, but just put it down to work going so well. Pregnancy suits you a hell of a lot better than it ever did me.”
“Thanks, Em. I’m so glad you’re
here for this. We’ve been dying to tell you and the others.” She sighed. “I’m not sure if I want to tell everyone else yet, though. I’m still nervous.”
I nodded, completely understanding. The waters were calm concerning the stalker; there had been no letters, no pictures, no cameras or any other scary shit happening. I felt like we were stuck in the eye of a hurricane, waiting for the wind to blow us out of our happy oasis.
Without realizing I was doing it, my hand lifted and I skimmed my fingers over the tight skin of Harper’s baby bump. “How far along are you?”
“I’m twenty-two weeks. A little over halfway there,” she said, grinning. “We’ve been putting this ultrasound off for a few extra weeks because we couldn’t decide if we wanted to know what the baby was or not. But I can’t wait that long to know what’s swimming around in here.” She rubbed a loving hand over the bump.
“What are you hoping for?”
“A girl,” Shane said at the same time Harper said, “A boy.”
I laughed at them and shook my head, still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Harper was actually pregnant. “Well, whatever it is, I’m going to spoil it to death.”
“We know you will, Em,” Shane assured me in a voice that was choked up.
“Oh shit.” I reached for my bag and pulled out my phone. “I’ve got to start organizing you a baby shower. This thing is going to be epic.”
Before either of them could object or even say a word, the door opened and in came Dr. Lee. The older woman saw me and grinned. “Hello, Emmie. How are you?”
I lifted my head at her. “I’m good. Not as good as Harper, but still good.” I put my phone away with a mental note to start planning the best fucking shower any pregnant woman had ever seen.
The doctor turned to Harper. “Is your bladder full?”
Harper made a face at her. “Any fuller and I’ll wet my pants.”
“Good,” the doctor said with a laugh. “That’s exactly what we need. It helps us see the baby better.” She turned to the machine and started messing with buttons and then turned off the light and produced a white towel. “Okay, Mommy, lean back. Pull your shirt up and your pants down a little more.”