I froze and felt Kacie’s hand on my shoulder. “Did you just hear that, too?” I asked her without turning around.

“I sure did.”

“I don’t know what to say about it.” I started to panic. Matthew had never called Viper his dad before. I knew now that he was going to school he was going to start questioning it and maybe ask me about it one day, but I didn’t picture it like that.

“You say nothing,” Kacie answered. “Viper is his dad.”

I turned back to her. “But not his real—”

Kacie closed her eyes and shook her head quickly, interrupting me. “It doesn’t matter. That’s all he’s really ever known, so just let it happen. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love Mike or that you can’t tell him stories about him as he grows up. It just means he’s a little boy who is very lucky to have two great daddies. One in Heaven, and one down here with him.” Kacie squeezed my hand and I took a shaky breath.

She was right. Matthew was lucky. So was Maura. So was the baby kicking up a storm in my belly.

So was I.

 

 

One Month Later . . .

 

I’d been back on the ice full time for a month. Michelle and I were totally back to normal. We’d just finished decorating the baby’s room—with a hockey theme, of course—and life was about as perfect as it could get.

I should have known . . .

 

I was just pulling into the parking lot for practice when my cell phone rang. It was Michelle.

“Hello?” I said as I pulled into a parking spot.

“Hey,” she said with a heavy sigh.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, really . . . I guess . . . I don’t know. I was at my doctor appointment and everything was fine and we were chatting and I told her that I felt like I was peeing my pants more than usual yesterday and she did this weird napkin test to make sure I wasn’t leaking amniotic fluid and it turned blue.”

My heart started racing around in circles inside my chest. “What does that mean?”

“It means it was amniotic fluid.”

“Okay. Shit. So what now?”

“I don’t really know. She’s sending me over to the hospital for more tests and so they can monitor the baby. I might have to stay overnight.”

I put my car in reverse and backed out of the parking space. “I’m on my way.”

“Viper! No!” she argued. “I didn’t tell you all this so you’d come home. Probably nothing is going to happen anyway, so there’s no point.”

“I don’t care. I’m on my way. I should be there within an hour. I’ll text you when I get close.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, sounding guilty.

“Positive. I love you. Talk to you soon.” My hands gripped the wheel tightly as I made my way to the hospital. Every muscle in my body, especially my shoulders and neck, felt tight.

I hit a button on my phone and called Coach Collins’s office. After a handful of rings, his voicemail picked up. Without leaving a message, I hung up and called Brody instead.

“Hello?” he asked, his voice raised in surprise. I heard lots of voices behind him and figured he was already in the locker room.

“Hey, it’s me. Do me a favor, please. Tell Collins I’m not gonna make practice. Michelle is leaking fluid or something and I’m on the way to the hospital to meet her.”

“Holy shit. Okay. Keep me posted, please.”

“I will. Thanks.” I turned the phone off and tossed it on the passenger seat without waiting for his response.

 

I pulled into the hospital parking lot, found a spot, and grabbed my phone, dialing Michelle’s number as I rushed across the pavement.

It rang and rang. No answer.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

She always answered her phone.

Following the signs in the hospital through the hallways to the Labor and Delivery Unit, I prayed that that’s where they had sent her. It was a total guess between that and the ER, but with her not answering, I did the best I could.

I tried the door to get in but it was locked. There was a small intercom off to the side of the door, so I pushed the silver button.

“How can I help you?” a woman’s voice asked.

“Uh . . . hi. My girlfriend was at the doctor this morning and they said that she was leaking something and so she came to the hospital. I called her, but she didn’t answer, so I’m just trying to find out if she’s here.”

“What is your name, Sir?”

“My name is Vi—Lawrence Finkle.”

“Okay, Mr. Finkle. What is her name?”

“Michelle Asher.”

It was quiet for a minute, then the door made a clicking sound. “Come in, Mr. Finkle. Please stop at the nurse’s station inside.”

I pulled the door open and hurried over to the desk. “Hi. I was just at the door.”

A woman looked over at me and gave me a small smile. “I know. I was the one talking to you. Do you have an ID on you, Mr. Finkle?”

“Yeah.” I reached into my pocket and took out my wallet. “Here.”

She looked down at it, back up at me, and then scanned it into the computer. A little machine next to me printed out a sticker with my information. “Put this on your shirt and this band goes on your wrist.” She snapped a plastic band around my wrist and typed a few more things into the computer. “Okay, I’ll take you to her.”

“Did they decide to admit her?” I asked nervously.

She looked at me with wide eyes as she walked around from behind the desk. “Admit her? Oh, absolutely. She’s in active labor.”

“What?” I exclaimed loudly as panic shot through me. “What the hell is active labor? Our hospital visit isn’t until next week.”

“Next week?” She gave me a sympathetic look. “Mr. Finkle, I have a feeling you’ll be holding this baby before the end of the day.”

“Wait. Seriously?”

She nodded. “Ready to go in?”

I took a deep breath and listened to my body. It wasn’t screaming and shaking and freaking out like I’d expected it to be. I was nervous, but more than anything, I was ready.

“Yep. Let’s do it.”

She pushed the door open and immediately, a loud, slow beeping filled the room. I moved to my left and peeked around her to Michelle who was lying in the hospital bed asleep. Other than the IV in her hand and the blood pressure cuff around her arm, she looked totally peaceful.