While Harper got comfortable, Shane and I moved closer, watching Dr. Lee as she started rubbing the wand around Harper’s belly. Seconds later the sound of a healthy heartbeat filled the room. “I’m going to look at the heart, spine and a few other little things before we check to see if baby Stevenson wants to cooperate with us. You said you did want to know the gender, right?”
“Yes,” Harper assured her. “We debated it since my last appointment, but I don’t think I can wait another minute to know what’s in there.”
The older woman laughed again and kept moving the wand around. “Heart looks great, spine is good. Two feet, two hands, one nice head and some small shoulders. You’ll do great at delivery, Harper. This baby isn’t going to be taking after Daddy in the size department anytime soon.”
“I don’t care who it takes after as long as it’s healthy,” Shane murmured.
“So are you hoping for anything in particular, Harper?” Dr. Lee asked as she moved the wand again. I was watching the screen and not anyone else, so as soon as the doctor stopped and waited for Harper to answer, I saw exactly what was swimming around inside my sister-in-law.
Like its father, the kid wasn’t shy about spreading its legs and announcing to the world that Shane Stevenson was going to become a madman once his kid got to its teenaged years. I grinned, figuring karma really was a bitch as I saw my precious little niece for the first time.
“I want a boy, but Shane is dying for a girl.” She sighed. “I’d love a little Shane clone, but honestly I just want it to be healthy. I can’t ask for more than that when I’ve already been given this wonderful miracle.”
Dr. Lee caught my eye as I turned to glance at her and we both burst out laughing. “Sorry to disappoint you, Harper. Daddy’s getting his wish.”
Shane stumbled and I watched as he nearly fell at that announcement. “R-really?” Tears filled his eyes and it was only then that I realized how much he really had wanted a girl. “You swear?” He turned those wet, blue-gray eyes on me, seeking the truth, and I quickly nodded. “Gods,” he whispered. “Oh, gods.”
Instead of being disappointed, Harper was laughing happily. “A girl?” Dr. Lee assured her it was and pointed to the picture on the screen, where Baby-Girl Stevenson was wiggling around happily. The happiness on her face lit up the entire room and for the second time that day my heart felt like it could burst with joy and love. “She’s beautiful,” Harper whispered.
Shane fell into his seat and buried his head in his hands. “A girl,” he muttered. “I’m going to have a daughter.”
I moved around the exam table and sat down beside the guy who’d always be my brother by choice. I rubbed a hand up and down his back, not because he needed soothing, but to remind him that he wasn’t dreaming, that his happiness was real. “Congrats, Daddy.” I reached over and caught Harper’s hand, needing to touch her just as I needed to touch Shane. “I’m so happy for you.”
“Babe?” Harper caught his attention and he lifted his head. “You get to name her. Do you have anything picked out?” She shot me a quick glance. “If it was a boy I was going to call him Mason Cecil.”
“I like that,” I told her with a smile. Shane’s middle name was Mason and of course she would want her stepfather’s name in there somewhere. Cecil was a good man.
“Violet,” Shane breathed, turning his full attention to the ultrasound screen. As he looked at it I could actually see him falling in love with his baby girl. “Violet Hope Stevenson.”
“Hope,” Harper whispered and a tear slid down her cheek. “Yes, she definitely is that for us, isn’t she?”
“It’s a beautiful name,” I assured them. “And she’s already taking the world by storm if the way Shane is acting says anything.”
“I’ll print you off some pictures,” Dr. Lee offered as the three of us just sat there, trying to absorb the sheer perfection, the pure beauty of that particular moment.
Harper had gotten her greatest wish, and from the look on Shane’s face I was just realizing that it had been a secret wish of his own. He’d told me repeatedly that he didn’t care if Harper never had a baby. He didn’t care if they adopted or found a surrogate. Nothing had mattered to him as long as he had Harper. Now, seeing him watching his baby dancing around inside her mother, I knew he’d been hiding the truth from himself. He was beyond happy about this baby.
Violet Hope Stevenson was going to own her father just as much as her beautiful mother did.
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
I was still buzzing after the ultrasound I’d had two weeks before.
A girl. I was going to have a girl.
More to the point, I was going to give Shane his daughter. The pride I felt at being able to do such a thing, of giving my husband a child, gave me a natural high that kept my head in the clouds for days. Those who knew me and saw me on a daily basis noticed and started asking me questions.
“Did you cut your hair? Are you doing something different with it?” Hannah had asked me just two days before. “I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s glossier.”
I’d just shrugged. “It must be the new shampoo I’m using,” I’d lied, mentally grinning.
“Wow,” Rex had said the day before. “Your skin is glowing. Did you get new makeup?” He was looking better these days. He’d confided in me that things were getting better with Helena, although he hadn’t told me what their problems had been to begin with. I hadn’t wanted to pry, but was happy to see that he seemed in better spirts and healthier.
I’d shaken my head. “Nope. Just enjoying the spring sunshine. I must have gotten a tan without realizing it.” Another lie, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone in the office that I was pregnant. At least not yet.
Since telling Emmie, we’d slowly been telling others in our family. Cecil and Linc now knew, as did Drake and Lana, Jesse and Layla, Nik and Jenna knew as well. We were making slow progress through the lines and planned on telling Devlin and Natalie that night at dinner when we went for our weekly visit to see Trinity. Liam and Gabriella would be joining us so it was a chance to tell them as well.
I didn’t question the latter two’s loyalty to me. Not because I’d suddenly gotten closer to the woman whom my friends had once dubbed the troll bitch, although we kind of had. A little. But I trusted her to keep my secret because we were both in the same boat. The stalker wanted her gone just as much as she had seemed to want to get rid of me. For different reasons, of course, seeing as she’d nearly killed Gabriella when the little Italian rocker had selflessly saved Mia from being taken. Me, the stalker just wanted as far away from Shane as possible.
If there was still a stalker.
Things had been quiet since my father’s death. Months had passed and there hadn’t been so much as a peep from her. Peterson checked my office and the house periodically to make sure that no cameras mysteriously appeared to spy on my day-to-day life.
Charles Seller and his FBI profiler friends were even more adamant now that the woman had been having a psychotic break during the times she had destroyed our tour bus, hurt Ranger, tried to take Mia and shot Gabriella. Then another one when she’d sent the pictures and finally the letter. For now, since there was no sign of her, they were sure she was either medicating herself or may have even harmed herself.
I knew it was wrong, but I was kind of hoping that she’d offed herself. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have to worry about her delusional ass ever again. If she was medicating, then there was the chance she could go off them and have another break from reality and who knew who would get hurt then? It made keeping my pregnancy a secret from those at the office even more important.
My day was going fine until lunch time. I had Theo go out for sandwiches and then I ate at my desk while I worked. Sean, who was now working down in the customer service division was well and truly out of my hair, making work less stressful. With Hannah now my personal assistant, and things going so smoothly b
etween Rex and I, I actually looked forward to going in to work each morning.
A dull ache started at my tailbone and I grimaced, realizing I’d been at my desk for more than two hours without stretching. Figuring I needed to get up and do a little walking, I decided to go down to marketing to check on a few ads that would be in the next week’s print edition. Getting to my feet, however, only made the pain move from my back to my front and, as I straightened, I felt a sudden rush of hot liquid soak into my panties.
“No,” I whispered as I touched a hand to my stomach. “Don’t you dare, Violet,” I gently scolded her. “Please, baby. Don’t. Not now.”
Hands trembling, I walked as quickly as the new pain would allow across the room and opened the door. Peterson and Theo both turned their heads to greet me, but I didn’t have time to talk to them or anyone else. With tears clouding my vision, I rushed to the ladies’ room and into the first stall I came to.
Pulling down my maternity dress slacks, I saw what I knew would be there but had prayed wouldn’t. Blood, and not just a smear either. My panties were covered in it. My heart started pounding, already breaking for what I feared the most.
I couldn’t lose her. I couldn’t. I would never recover from it.
Unable to keep the tears back a second longer, I cleaned myself up as best I could and hurried back to Peterson and Theo. He must have seen the fear on my face, because Peterson met me halfway there. “What is it?” he whispered. “Are you okay?”
“I-I’m bleeding,” I sobbed, not caring if the entire floor heard me. People turned their heads to stare, practically gawking at what I’d just said, but I didn’t really notice. I felt like I was in a nightmare. This was a living nightmare, that was for sure. I couldn’t lose my baby now. I couldn’t.
I needed help, I needed to get to the hospital. I needed…
I needed to keep Violet safe for sixteen more weeks, damn it.
“Okay.” Peterson didn’t seem fazed by what I’d just said, but then I saw his hands, how they were clenched tight, and realized that he was affected by what I’d just told him. The reticent bodyguard had become like family to me and I knew in that moment that I was probably the same to him. “Can you walk?”
I nodded, but my legs were shaky and he knew I was lying. It had taken a will I didn’t know I had to get from the bathroom to Peterson. He must have realized the truth because he lifted me into his arms like I weighed nothing. Turning with me in his arms, he started tossing orders to Theo. “Get her purse and call Shane.”
Theo jumped into action and was back in time to take the same elevator as us down to the lobby. Neither man wasted time bothering to get my SUV. Theo hailed a taxi and Peterson sat me inside before climbing in with me. Meanwhile Theo was on the phone and even from the back seat of the taxi I could hear Shane’s voice coming from the receiver where Theo sat in the front with the driver.
My heart pounded even harder as I heard the strain in his voice, the near hysteria and the tears. Oh, God. The tears.
More flooded my own eyes and I begged Theo to tell Shane to have Linc drive him. Thank goodness Linc was still staying with us. I didn’t want him to leave, hated that he would be on the East Coast alone, and he was finally giving in and looking for an apartment for himself in West Hollywood. I was happy having him stay with us, but knew he wanted his own space.
Theo ended the call and turned in his seat to look at me, his eyes running over me as if checking for any damage. “Linc is driving, but I don’t know how much help that will be, Harper. Linc sounded just as upset in the background.”
“Linc will keep a cool head,” I assured him and bit my lip as another sharp pain stabbed through my back and moved around to my front. I felt another trickle of blood flowing and grabbed on to Peterson, burying my face in his suit jacket. “Oh, God, I can’t lose her. Please, don’t let me lose her.”
I was surprised to feel Peterson pat my head, but welcomed the small comfort from him. He’d been with me through a lot of ups and downs since he’d come to work for me over two years before. He knew exactly what losing Violet would do to me.
Peterson snapped something at Theo that I was too distraught to comprehend and then Theo was barking out orders to the driver in what sounded like Arabic. Immediately the vehicle started speeding, passing people left and right and blowing the horn when people didn’t move out of the way fast enough.
We reached the nearest hospital within six minutes. Theo tossed the driver some cash as Peterson got out and then reached back in to lift me out. In the next moment he was running into the ER.
“She’s twenty-four weeks pregnant and bleeding,” he raged at the first nurse he came to. “Do something,” the big, scary man commanded.
The nurse, who had been about to speak to another patient, turned around quickly and ran back behind the front desk, calling out for a gurney and the doctor. Less than twenty seconds later—I knew because I had counted each and every agonizingly heart-wrenching one of them—I was being placed on it.
The doctor started asking questions as he and the nurse pushed me back to an exam room, with Peterson right on their heels. “How far along?”
“Tw-twenty-four weeks and three days,” I told him, starting to shiver. I hoped it was just shock and not from blood loss.
Please, God. Please.
“When did the bleeding start? Was it light red or dark? Was there any clotting? Are you in any pain?”
I was shivering so bad I couldn’t even get the answers out. Not wasting a second, the nurse reached for my pants and pulled them down. Vaguely I saw Peterson quickly turn around, offering me some privacy as the woman examined the blood on my panties.
“Get an ultrasound tech in here,” the doctor commanded when he saw the evidence of the blood. “Sir, who is your wife’s doctor? We need to consult with them immediately.”
Peterson shot a glance over his shoulder. “Not her husband, just the bodyguard.” The doctor’s face tightened but the glare the big man gave him must have changed his mind about whatever he’d been about to say. “Dr. Kim Lee,” Peterson supplied for him. “She had trouble getting pregnant. Do whatever you can to save the baby. It will destroy her if she loses it.”
The ER doctor nodded. “I won’t have any details until the ultrasound is done. This could be nothing, or it could be…well, not nothing.”
At those three last words, I started sobbing. “No,” I cried so hard my entire body hurt. This wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening. “No. Save her. Save Violet.”
“Harper…” Peterson was beside my bed, taking my hand and squeezing it. “Calm down, right now. You have to keep your head. Getting hysterical right now will only make things worse and could trigger a miscarriage.”
My tears dried almost instantly. I sucked in one breath after another as I strived to remain calm. He was right. I could hurt the baby worse if I didn’t get hold of myself.
Don’t take Violet.
Linc was doing a hundred and ten on the interstate in my Jaguar. His hands were shaking and he looked like he was about to break down and cry at any second. Still, he was a million miles away from catching up to how destroyed I was right then.
She was bleeding. She was in pain. They were taking her to the closest hospital.
That was all I knew and just those few details were enough to make my heart stop. Fuck. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t. We’d come too far for this to happen now. The baby was healthy, Harper was healthy. Her stress had been cut down and she’d been exercising every day with Linc to make sure she was fit.
My girls had to be okay.
Violet had to be…
Harper had to be.
I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think past getting to my wife and making sure she was okay. I couldn’t lose her. I might survive if Violet didn’t make it, but I would be destroyed if something happened to Ha
Women had miscarriages every day. I’d read the statistics over and over again. Read every baby book I could get my hands on about all the things that could go wrong during a pregnancy. We lived in a time when women dying while giving birth or having a miscarriage was a rare thing.
Rare didn’t mean it didn’t happen, though.
Gods. Please. Don’t take either from me.
I didn’t think to call Emmie. Didn’t have the brain power to remember anything I should be doing to make whatever was going on with Harper easier. All I could think was that I needed to get to her as quickly as possible.
She was bleeding.
She was in pain.
She was losing our precious baby girl.
I prayed to every god whose name I knew and then started making some up to pray to. One of them had to hear my plea, had to answer my prayer.
Keep them safe. Watch over them both. Give me the strength to help her if we lose our baby.
But even as that last prayer flashed through my mind, I knew that I wouldn’t have the strength to help Harper through this if she did lose Violet. I’d be just as distraught, just as broken as she was. In the beginning, I hadn’t cared if we had a baby of our own, or if we had kids, period.
Now that I had seen her, heard her heart beating, watched her wave at me from a monitor, I knew that I couldn’t live without that little girl tucked safely inside her mother.
But she wasn’t safe right then. Her mother was bleeding.
Losing our Violet.
“Cops,” Linc snapped less than a mile from the exit we needed to take in order to reach the hospital that Theo had told me they were taking Harper to.
I glanced out the side window and glared at the flashing lights that were now on our tail. “Fuck ‘em,” I snapped. “Hit the godsdamn hazard lights and floor it.”