Last year I’d let my mother sleep late because she’d been up late sick the night before. I had gotten up and fixed her favorite breakfast, strawberry waffles with whipped cream, and turned on the tree lights. It would be my last Christmas with her and I had known that. I’d made sure everything was perfect.
When she had walked into the living room she had been greeted with a fire in the fireplace, a stocking full of her favorite splurge items, Christmas music playing, and me. She had laughed then cried and hugged me as we sat and ate our breakfast before opening gifts. I had wanted to buy her so much but money had been tight. Using my sparse creative abilities I had made her a scarpbook of Valerie and I growing up. Mom had been buried with it in her hands.
This year I had done everything I could to make my mother proud of me. There were times when her favorite Christmas carol would play and I had to fight the urge to go curl up in the fetal position and weep. But she’d made me promise her something last year. She had known it was her last Christmas too and she’d asked me to do her a favor: that next Christmas I would celebrate enough for both of us. I had tried my hardest.
My eyes had opened before the sunrise this morning and I’d eased out of bed without waking Rush. I needed some time alone. Time to process things. To remember. I knew that if Mom could see me now she would be so happy for me. I was married to the man I loved. I was going to be a mother myself and I had forgiven my dad. I held my coffee close to me and pulled my legs up under me as I sat on the sofa facing the colorfully decorated tree. This picture of my life would have been what Mom wanted for me.
I didn’t wipe away the tears on my face because they weren’t all sad. Some were happy. Some were thankful and some were memories.
I enjoyed the silence and watched the sunrise through the window. Rush would want me in bed when he woke up. I would need to sneak back in after I finished my coffee and brushed my teeth. This year I wanted Christmas to be perfect for him. It was our first one and this was me setting a precedent for years to come.
“Waking up on Christmas without your favorite present in bed sucks bad.” Rush’s sleepy voice startled me and I glanced back to see him walking into the living room. He had pulled on a pair of sweat pants but that was it. His hair was messy from sleep and his eyes were still half closed.
“I’m sorry. I was going to sneak back in bed after I watched the sunrise,” I told him as he sank down on the sofa beside me and pulled me over against his side.
“I would have gotten up and watched it with you if you’d asked,” he said with his chin resting on the top of my head.
I was almost positive that he would do anything I asked of him. That hadn’t been why I’d left him sleeping. “I know,” I replied.
Rush trailed his hand up and down my left arm. “You needed some alone time?” he asked. The understanding in his question told me that he didn’t need details. He knew.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“You need some more?”
“No,” I said, smiling up at him.
“Good ‘cause I wasn’t going to go away easily,”
I laughed and laid my head back against his chest. “It’s a beautiful morning.”
“Yeah, it is,” he agreed and bent his head down to my ear. “Can I give you one of your presents now?” he asked.
“Does it require us being nak*d?” I asked teasingly.
“Uh, no… but if you wanna get nak*d baby, I’m always on board for that,” he replied.
Surprised, I turned around in his arms and looked up at him. “You mean you want to open presents now?” I asked. I’d thought we would make love first.
“Not open exactly. I need to show you,” he said, standing up and pulling me with him.
This was not what I’d expected. I nodded and let him lead me back through the house and to the stairs. Maybe we were going upstairs to have sex after all?
Rush stopped at the room I’d once chosen as my own. I hadn’t been in there since I had shown it to Harlow before the wedding. The door was closed and Rush stood back and motioned for me to open it. I was really confused now.
I stepped forward to turn the knob and let the door open slowly. The first thing I saw was a massive cherry wood baby bed sitting in the middle of the room and an elaborate mobile with exotic sea animals dangling from it.
Rush reached inside and flipped a switch. Instead of the overhead light coming on, the mobile lit up and began to play. But it wasn’t a lullaby. It was the song Rush had sung to me on our wedding day. The entire mobile was lit up all the way to the ceiling. All I could do was cover my mouth in complete awe and shock as I stepped further into the room. Lights danced across the walls as the mobile spun slowly playing our song.
A rocking chair sat in the corner with a beautiful handmade blanket thrown over it. A changing table, an armoire, and even a small day bed also decorated the room. The soft blue paint on the walls was perfect considering one wall was mostly windows that overlooked the now blue sky and ocean.
I finally found my voice but all that came out was a small sob before I threw myself in Rush’s arms and cried. This was perfect and he’d done this. He had chosen the perfect room for our son.
“I really hope those are happy tears because I’m gonna be honest. I was worried you’d be pissed. Bethy mentioned you might want to do this yourself and I hadn’t thought about that,” he said in a tight whisper.
Bethy didn’t know anything. Maybe Bethy would want to do this herself but knowing Rush had taken all the time and thought for the nursery made my heart swell until I thought it was going to burst.
“This is perfect. It’s beautiful. It’s… oh Rush, he’s going to love it. I love it,” I assured him then I grabbed his head and pulled it down to me so I could kiss him. A fabulous magazine worthy nursery makes a pregnant woman horny. Who knew?
Three months later…
I was a southern girl. That much was obvious. While I loved our time in New York I was glad to be back home where I could find sweet iced tea when I wanted it. Rush had missed Rosemary too. I could tell. We had unpacked and then taken all the clothes and toys we’d bought for the baby, who we still had not named, and put them in the nursery. It had been fun to hang up his clothes in the closet and fold his blankets and line up all his little shoes. We had gone a little overboard with the purchasing of clothing.
Grant had stopped by to take Rush away for some guy time on the golf course shortly after our arrival so I decided to go do some visiting. There was nothing to eat here and I was starving. Going to see if Jimmy was at the club working and getting something to eat would kill two birds with one stone. I grabbed my keys and headed outside to my car… or SUV… or whatever it was. I hadn’t driven it yet. Rush had it sitting in the driveway waiting on me when we got home.
All I knew was that it was the Mercedes Benz idea of a utility vehicle. I was just glad he hadn’t gotten me a minivan. Apparently, this one was one of the safest cars on the road. He gave me a very long sales pitch on it then told me if I didn’t like it I could take it back and get what I wanted.
It was a Mercedes, for crying out loud. I wasn’t going to snub my nose at that. Of course I was happy with it. I just needed to figure out how to drive it. I looked down at the key he’d left me. There were directions he’d given me. I was supposed to just stick this thing that was most definitely NOT a key in my purse and carry it with me. When I touched the door handle it would automatically unlock as long as the key was on my body. Then I had to put my foot on the brake and press the “on” button by the steering wheel to crank the car. Everything else should be easy enough. Yeah right.
I did as I was told and climbed into the car which isn’t easy when your stomach is enormous. After buckling, I managed to crank the car without the key which was all kinds of weird. I didn’t even try to touch the stuff on the dash. It looked like something in an airplane. I understood none of it. I opened my purse and took my gun out then slipped it under my seat. I hadn’t been carrying it with me since I was always with Rush. But now that I had my own car again and I would be out by myself, and soon with my baby, I wanted to know there was some protection hidden somewhere. Once the baby was bigger I was going to have to find some other place to keep it. I didn’t want it anywhere he could touch it. That was something I needed to talk to Rush about.
Getting to the club was easy enough. The car turned off with one push of the button and I locked the doors with the thing Rush referred to as a key and headed inside.
Just as I was headed to the dining room, Jimmy walked out of the kitchen and his eyes met mine. A slow smile spread across his face. “Look at you, hot momma. You can even make a pregnant stomach the size of a beach ball look sexy. Go inside that kitchen and wait on me. I’ll be right back,” Jimmy said with a nod of his head. He was only carrying two glasses of water so he just had a quick delivery.
I opened the kitchen door and stepped inside. Several of the cooks called out greetings and I waved to them and tried to remember as many names as I could.
“Please tell me you’re back in Rosemary for good now. No more running around the world. I’ve missed you,” Jimmy whined, pulling me into a hug.
“No plans to go anywhere anytime soon,” I assured him.
“God, Blaire your stomach is huge. When is this baby coming out?” Jimmy asked and started rubbing my stomach. “You can’t stay in there forever, little guy. It’s time you come on out. Your momma isn’t that big; she can’t take much more.”
The kitchen door swung open and I lifted my eyes to see a new face. She had dark brown hair and excellent bone structure. She was watching Jimmy talk to my stomach with a curious smile.
“Hello,” I said and her eyes flicked from my stomach to meet my eyes. She had gorgeous eyes as well. Where had Woods found this one and had he hired her because of her looks? Because knowing Woods he had noticed.
“Hello,” she replied with a thick southern drawl that surprised me. The girl wasn’t from Rosemary.
Jimmy stood back up and beamed at the girl. He liked her. That was a good sign. “Glad you’re back, girl. Yesterday went to shit without you,” he told her then glanced back at me. “Della, this is Blaire. She’s my BFF who ran off and left me for another man. One I can’t blame her for because he is one hot piece of ass. Blaire, this is Della. She may or may not be boinking the boss.”
I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. Yep, Woods had noticed her.
“Jimmy!” I said when her face turned beet red and realized she’d been scolding him too. I liked this girl. I just might have new friend material here.
“Woods right? That boss?” I asked, grinning because I knew there was no way she was messing around with Woods’ dad.
“Of course, Woods. The girl has taste. She ain’t gonna boink the old man,” Jimmy replied with a roll of his eyes.
“Would you stop saying ‘boink’?” she asked, still blushing. I needed to ease her embarrassment because Jimmy was only making it worse.
“Jimmy shouldn’t have told me that but since he did, can I say, Woods is a great guy. If you are in fact… um… boinking him then you picked a good one.”
“Thanks,” she said, biting back a smile. I really hoped Woods had a thing for her. I had a feeling Bethy would love her too.
“If I don’t have this baby this week maybe we can get together and have lunch,” I suggested. I would call Bethy and have her come too. She glanced down at my stomach and I could see that she thought it was highly unlikely that I was going to make it out the door without having this baby, much less until next week. She was probably right.
“Okay. That sounds good,” she replied.
I couldn’t wait to tell Rush. Maybe we should invite her and Woods over for dinner one night. That would be fun.
“Della Sloane.” An angry growl broke into my thoughts and I jerked my gaze from her to the police officer standing in the doorway.
“Yes, sir,” she replied. I watched as her face went white and I glanced around for any sign of Woods. Where was he when you needed him? He had always been barging in at the wrong time when I worked here. Now would be a good time to barge in.
“You need to come with me, Miss Sloane,” the officer barked as he held open the door waiting on Della to walk out of it. “Miss Sloane, if you don’t come willingly I will have to go against Mr. Kerrington’s wishes and arrest you right here on the club’s grounds.”
What did he just say? Arrest? Mr. Kerrington? Woods wouldn’t do this. If he had he would have at least shown up and been a part of it. Besides, I was a good people reader and so was Jimmy. We both liked Della. Something was wrong.
“What are you arresting her for? I sure as hell don’t believe Woods knows about this,” Jimmy demanded as he stood in front of Della as if to protect her. I loved him even more for that. She looked like she was about to faint.
“Mr. Kerrington does know. He is who sent me in here to escort a Della Sloane out of the building and then arrest her once I had her in the parking lot. However, if she doesn’t come willingly I will arrest her and anyone who stands in my way.”
Woods didn’t know. I didn’t believe him. Something was off.
“It’s okay, Jimmy,” she said and stepped around him. I watched helplessly as she walked out the door.
“You gotta find Woods,” Jimmy said, looking back at me. “I don’t believe that. I think there’s more to this and I think all fingers point at the old man.”
I nodded. I agreed. “I don’t have Woods’ number in my phone. It bugged Rush so I took it out,” I admitted, looking up at Jimmy sheepishly.
Jimmy shook his head and grinned then took my phone from my hands and punched in Woods’ number. “Call him. If he doesn’t answer go hunt him down. I can’t help. I now have no help this shift and I gotta get my ass in gear.”
I nodded and headed out the door to watch as Della was put in the cop car with way more force than was necessary.
Woods’ phone went straight to voicemail. I tried it again but again just voicemail. Running down the hall, or more like waddling quickly, I went to his office and knocked but nothing. I tried opening it but it was locked tightly. Crap.
I hurried outside as I dialed Rush’s phone. He would know what to do and Woods could very likely be with him. Just as my foot hit the stone walkway I felt a cramp followed by a gush of water between my legs. I froze.
My water had just broken.