Strong arms caught me around the waist before I even got halfway up the aisle. I heard a few people groan, some laugh, and more than a few sob as Liam lifted me into his arms and kissed the breath out of me.
“Your leg,” I tried to warn him, but he lowered his head and drowned out all other words and any thought that didn’t have anything to do with Liam Bryant kissing the breath out of me.
“I thought you’d never get here,” Liam muttered against my lips. “The worst things went through my head. I thought I’d lost you again.”
“Idiot,” I said with a laugh and then kissed him back. “Nothing could have kept me from you today. Not even incompetent limo drivers.”
“Thank fuck for that, little Brie.” One more kiss and then he was setting me on my feet. Only then did I notice that he was crying just as hard as I was. I lifted a hand and wiped one of his tears away. “Still want to marry me?”
“More than anything,” I breathed.
“Good,” he said as he pulled me up the aisle toward the priest who was waiting with his mouth gaped open, watching us both as if we had lost our minds.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure we hadn’t. But at least we’d lost it together, and that was all that mattered.
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT
It was raining.
It wasn’t supposed to be raining. The forecast just the day before had said that it was going to be sunny skies and record high temperatures for the middle of May.
I wanted the fucking record high temperatures, damn it.
Frustrated, because now I had to rearrange the entire baby shower—which supposed to have taken place outside—into the venue’s ballroom, I was running around my house like a mad woman. Jagger was into everything and I was about to lose my shit if he got another juice stain on his shirt and I had to change him all over again.
Where the hell was Nik?
“I got Jags. Go get dressed,” my husband called out from the living room.
“You’d better have him. And no more juice. He’s not going to have any shirts left at this rate,” I yelled as I stomped up the stairs to our bedroom. I needed a shower, but there was no time for that. So I pulled my hair back into a stylish ponytail and got dressed, putting on the minimal amount of makeup so I didn’t look washed out in any pictures that were bound to be taken later that day.
I’d worked tirelessly with Dallas’s help to make Harper’s baby shower any pregnant woman’s dream. Harper deserved this more than anyone I knew and was looking forward to it. Having had Shane to deal with over the last few months must have been trying for her nerves, but I understood where he was coming from. They’d had a bad scare, thinking they would lose the one thing they had both been aching for.
Now she was thirty-six weeks and we were going to show her some fun, spoil her rotten, and then hand her safely back over to Shane to take home and tuck into bed once again.
Even though we had to move everything inside, I wasn’t going to let that stop us from making the day special.
I was still pulling on my shoes as I rushed back downstairs, only for the doorbell to ring. Frowning, I pulled my shoe on and opened the door. Seeing Gabriella on the other side with one of her bodyguards holding an umbrella for her had me pausing for a moment. Damn, I didn’t know whether to hug her or slap her face. Hug her was the reaction I had every time I saw her these days, though. Why wouldn’t I want to hug the woman who had risked her own life for my daughter’s? But I wanted to slap her face because she was taking up valuable time I needed to get the baby shower perfect for Harper.
“Can I take Mia with me to get our nails done?” she rushed to ask, probably seeing the harassed look on my face.
I bit the inside of my bottom lip, torn. Mia had been spending a lot of time with ‘Aunt Gabs’ lately. I’d even let her spend a night over at Gabriella and Liam’s house, and Mia had come home happier than I could ever remember seeing her. The two shared a special bond now and Gabriella was encouraging Mia to take dance seriously because we had discovered that Mia had an amazing talent for it.
Gabriella had even gone so far as to mention having some pull at Julliard, but I’d put my foot down after that. No way was I going to let Mia go off to New York without me and her father. She was only six, for the love of gods. Dancing was fine, but she could decide if she wanted to make that a career goal later in life. After she had lived a little.
Blowing out a frustrated breath, I turned back into the house. “Mia?” My daughter came running out of the living room dressed in a pretty purple dress and flip-flops. Her face lit up when she saw Gabriella. “Do you want to go get your nails done?”
“Yes!” She started bouncing up and down and then wrapped her arms around me. “Can I? Please?”
I sighed and hugged her close. “Keep your eye on her. And remember the party starts at two,” I told Gabriella, who was already nodding. “Tell your dad goodbye,” I urged Mia.
“Bye, Daddy!” she called and practically pushed Gabriella out the door.
“Uh, bye?” Nik appeared in the doorway just as I shut the front door behind them. “Where is she going?”
I shrugged. “Nails are apparently more fun than helping me sort out a party.”
My husband laughed. “Yeah. I guess they are.”
I rolled my eyes at him and reached for my keys. “Get our son. I have to get everything put together by two.” I grimaced. “I hope.”
Keeping my pregnancy a secret from everyone at work had become impossible. Sure I’d known that it wasn’t something I could have hidden forever, especially with the way my belly was growing more with each passing week. With dark colors and slim-cut, angled clothing, I’d been able to hide it pretty well up until the miscarriage scare had happened.
I’d messed up royally when I’d practically shouted that I was bleeding to Peterson the day I’d been in pain and bleeding. By the time I’d been admitted to the hospital for observations, Rex had called to see if I was okay.
And to see if the rumors were true.
Was I pregnant?
I’d had to admit to him I was, as well as tell him that I wasn’t going to be able to come to work for the next few months. Rex had been concerned for me and the baby, but had understood why I had to stay at home until the baby was born. He’d been really great about it and I’d promised to invite him to the baby shower Emmie and Dallas had already been planning for me.
Relieved to have work covered, I went home the next day and relaxed, content to know that Violet was going to be okay.
My contentment didn’t last long, though. Between Shane, Linc, and every other man in my life, I was suddenly being smothered with all the babying. I couldn’t even sneeze without someone asking if I was okay. Cecil came and stayed for three weeks with us, and never once let me out of his sight during that time except to sleep. The only reason he left when he did was because work demanded his attention and he was forced to fly back to New York.
Shane was the worst of them all, but then again, I knew he would be. That he wouldn’t make love to me was not helping my emotional state, however. And by emotional I meant pissed off. They were all driving me crazy and I wasn’t getting the sex that I was so used to getting daily—hell, hourly at times—in the past.
Emmie tried to help divert attention from me, and Dallas busted Linc’s and Shane’s balls when she came over for visits, but that didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. Instead it only added more testosterone to the equation by bringing Nik and Axton into my house, and I seriously wanted to crack some heads together with the way they tried to baby me too.
With no sex, and men who were driving me nuts, each day passed agonizingly slowly. One week turned into two and two slowly turned into four. I counted off the weeks, looking forward to each appointment that would get me out of the house and away from everyone if just for an hour. Of course not even then did I get a full reprieve from them. Shane always went to every
visit and I had to snap at him time and time again not to carry me. I could walk, damn it. I wasn’t going to suddenly break, and Violet was growing safe and perfect inside me.
By the time I reached thirty-six weeks, I was ready to beg for a break. Thankfully, there had been no more scares and Dr. Lee had even advised me to add some extra exercise to my daily routine, had even encouraged Shane to ‘do me’—her words, not mine—to help start thinning my cervix. But he still didn’t try to touch me in any sexual way.
If he wasn’t spending every waking moment glued to my side, I would have started wondering if he was getting sex from somewhere else, but that was a ridiculous thought. Even when I was sleeping he was right beside me, as if counting my breaths or something. It was frustrating, but if I were honest with myself, I would admit that I fell a little more in love with my husband because of it.
The big baby shower finally here, I was beyond excited for it. Emmie had gone all out for me and rented out a big venue. Dallas and the other females in my life were helping her and all I had to do was show up—if Shane actually let me out of the house long enough to go.
The morning of the baby shower didn’t start off the way anyone planned, however. Emmie had wanted to have it outside at the same place where Shane and I had gotten married, but because it was raining they had to work quick and get everything set up inside instead. Emmie texted me to let me know that I needed to arrive an hour later because the staff was behind. She wasn’t happy and I pitied the poor people who had to deal with her wrath that day.
Finally, Shane bundled me up and we headed out to the venue where the shower was being held. Theo was off duty, but Peterson drove us. I didn’t understand the need, though. What could happen at a baby shower? Besides, things had still been quiet concerning the stalker and it looked more and more likely that she had just given up or had even killed herself—something that Seller had told me was a likely scenario considering how distraught she had been.
One of the staff was waiting at the front of the Swiss Park Banquet Center with a huge umbrella. Shane got out first and then carefully helped me down as if I didn’t get down just right I would crack and break into a million little pieces. I wanted to be mad at him for driving me so crazy, but I couldn’t. It was too sweet, and I knew that he was just being a good husband—and an overprotective father.
Poor Violet. She didn’t know what was waiting on her when she got out into the world.
Inside I found a baby wonderland. Pink was everywhere, from the streamers to the tablecloths. Napkins were in one shade of light pink, while the balloons alternated between darker shades. In one corner of the room a table sat piled high and groaning with gifts, and there was an entire buffet of food that took up one side of the room. Every single one of the foods I’d been craving during this pregnancy were there and my stomach growled as I smelled all that yumminess.
The place was full of all our family and friends. Rex and his wife were there, since I’d asked Emmie to include them on the guest list, as well as Hannah. Roadies who had been with Demon’s Wings over the years were in attendance, as well as Vadik Petrova who was the band’s newest producer.
Emmie appeared as if out of thin air and kissed my cheek. “Sorry it took so long. There were unforeseen issues.”
I laughed at the irritated look on her beautiful face. “Don’t worry about it. I’m just happy to be out of the house.”
“And I’ll be happy to get you back there,” Shane grumbled. “Let’s hurry this thing along, Em. She needs to be off her feet.”
Emmie and I shared a look full of understanding and we both burst out laughing. “Okay, Mommy. Let’s get you a seat and a plate of your favorite foods.” She looked up at Shane. “Make yourself useful, Daddy. Go fix her a plate.”
“You have an hour, Emmie. Then I’m taking her home,” he threatened before going off to do as she’d commanded.
As soon as he was out of earshot, I blew out a long, frustrated breath. “I’m going to end up killing him. You wait and see. He’s driving me bananas.” Emmie laughed, but my stomach only growled at the mention of one of the fruits I’d come to crave. I stopped and called after Shane. “Hey, are there bananas?”
He looked over the long buffet. “Yup. You want some, beautiful?”
“…With pickle juice and chocolate sauce. I know. It’s here,” he assured me with a wink and returned to piling a plate high for me.
“Yuck. I’m seriously glad that the craziest thing I craved with Mia was bacon, and sweets with Jagger.” Emmie made a sour face at me as she pulled out a chair at the head table and urged me to sit.
Glancing around, I realized that a few people were still missing. “Where is Mia? And I thought Liam was coming with Gabriella?” I frowned, noticing that the rocker was standing around talking with Devlin, but his wife was nowhere in sight.
Emmie grimaced. “Gabriella showed up this morning and took Mia out for a little pampering. They went to get their nails done. Liam told me about twenty minutes ago that they were on their way.”
“Oh.” I wasn’t surprised that Gabriella was out with Mia. The two had gotten close after what had happened the summer before. Emmie didn’t try to keep the two from bonding and even encouraged them to spend time together. Gabriella seemed to be a good influence on Mia.
“Gabriella had her guard with her so I didn’t mind. I just wish they would get here already. I expect Mia to be back when she promises to be back, you know?”
I nodded. “I understand. Maybe they ran into traffic. It’s pouring out there, Em.”
“Yeah, maybe.” She gave me a smile that suddenly looked forced. “I’ll go check on everything. Let the others come and get some Harper-time before Shane locks you away again.”
“Yeah. I guess I’d better live this up. But hey, I only have a little more than three weeks left of this.”
Green eyes narrowed and her smile this time was anything but forced. “Yeah, and then the real fun begins. Poor Violet.”
A laugh bubbled up in my chest. “Yeah. Poor baby.”
Dallas came to sit with me, holding Shaw on her lap while Cannon walked around like he owned the place and chasing after the other kids. Lana and Natalie took the other seats at my table and soon I was lost in the thrill of seeing my family and getting to spend some actual time catching up after being held prisoner in my own home.
I glanced down to find my shadow whenever we were together. I lifted a brow at Luca as he reached out and touched my big belly. “Mine,” he said with a nod, as if it was decided and his word was law. “Pwetty.”
I lifted the little monster into my arms and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. “Sorry, little guy. She’s mine for a little longer. But soon you can have her. Okay?”
His forehead puckered up, as if he was thinking about it hard. Then he let out a sigh and nodded. “K.”
I set him back on his feet and he touched my stomach one more time before running off to play with the rest of the boys.
“Well, that could be interesting later on down the road,” Layla said with a laugh as her amused eyes followed after her two-year-old son.
I grinned. “I’m pretty sure it won’t be boring.”
“Lord help us all,” Lana snickered. “I don’t know who I’m more worried about. Luca or Shane.”
Without me realizing it, the table I was at had filled up with the women I loved and there wasn’t an empty seat for Shane by the time he brought me my plate. Natalie shooed him away quickly, however, when it looked like he was going to drag a chair from a nearby table. “No. No way. She’s ours for the next hour. Go do man stuff with Dev and the others until it’s time for games or something.”
Blue-gray eyes glared at his sister for a full minute before he glanced at Dallas. “Watch her.”
Dallas patted him on the arm with her free hand. “Sure thing.”
Shane stuck his tongue out at her and scooped Shaw up into his arms. “H
ey there, gorgeous.” She kicked her legs happily at him, giving him a toothless smile. Shane kissed the top of her head and glared down at her mother. “I’m taking her so she doesn’t get any bad influences from you chicks.”
“I bet her daddy has her within five minutes,” Dallas said as she watched my husband walk away with the baby who was more or less her clone, from the dimples in her cheeks to her blond little head. “Ax is so twisted around her little finger, she only has to look like she’s gonna pout and he’s at her beck and call.”
“Sounds like Devlin,” Natalie said with a laugh as she glanced across the room to where a group of rockers and roadies were standing around talking. Devlin had Trinity tucked against his shoulder, sound asleep.
I grinned at them but found my eyes following after Shane, watching him with our goddaughter as he took such gentle care of her.
Soon that would be our baby girl in his huge hands.
Soon it would be me telling them that Violet owned her father, heart and soul.
I couldn’t wait.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE
The rain wasn’t cooperating with me today, that was for sure. Stan, one of the three guards I normally had with me every time I left my house, was driving like an old lady. It was mostly because he could barely see through the downpour, but I knew it was also because of Liam. My husband was worse than a new father the way he worried about me.
It was adorable and I loved it.
But today, I wished he would have told the guard to drive like he was Mario Andretti or some shit. Because of his driving, Mia and I showed up ten minutes late for the nail appointment I religiously had every Saturday afternoon. The manicurist knew better than to make me wait, however, and took us back immediately, not even questioning my tardiness or the fact that I’d brought someone with me.
“This is nice,” Mia said with a contented sigh as another manicurist went to work on her hands. “I like this.”