‘Now I know you’re hiding something.’
Despite his smile there was grit in his voice that ground into her.
‘You’re right.’ Being honest was the only way to go—pain or no pain. They’d agreed to share everything, to trust each other, to trust them. ‘I might be pregnant.’
Michael jerked, swerving the car into the far lane before he straightened it and got his thinking sorted. ‘How late are you?’
‘Only six days, but I’m never late—not even a day.’
No, this wasn’t possible.
‘It has to be a result of all the excitement of our wedding, and Christmas and New Year. My body has forgotten what it’s meant to be doing.’ Damn, this was going to hurt. ‘I will not get excited. It’s a false alarm.’
‘Only one way to find out—and the sooner the better.’
Deliberately changing lanes for the next exit, he sped up. His mouth was grim, his eyes filled with worry when he flicked her a glance.
‘Don’t overthink it. Please, sweetheart.’
‘It’s all right. I’ll be fine. I’ve known for a long time I can’t get pregnant, so I’m not going to fall to pieces over a negative result.’
Huh? Where was the honesty in that?
At Albany, Michael pulled up outside the first pharmacy he saw and was out of the vehicle and around to Steph’s door before she’d unclipped her seat belt.
Hand in hand, they raced inside. ‘Where are the pregnancy test kits?’ Michael called out.
All conversations stopped as staff and customers turned towards them.
‘Second aisle, halfway down on the left,’ a woman in a smart navy smock answered as she made her way out from behind the counter. ‘Here, let me show you. We have a few choices.’
‘Just want one that shows positive!’ Steph smiled, despite the fear cranking up in her tummy.
‘This one is the most popular.’ The woman handed her an oblong box.
Steph’s hand shook as she stared at it. This was the instrument of truth. In her hand was a stick that would decide their future.
Believe in good things. Your life’s turned around since you came home to Michael.
Her mouth tilted upward. ‘We’ll take it.’
Michael was ahead of her, his wallet in his hand, withdrawing crisp twenty-dollar notes. ‘Don’t worry about the change—buy as many coffees as you can.’
And then he was taking Steph’s hand again and racing for the door.
‘Come on, sweetheart. We’re wasting time.’
The shop assistant called, ‘Good luck!’ which was followed by the pharmacist and the customers adding their best wishes and clapping.
The fear fell away as Steph went with the good wishes and excitement wrapping around them. The drive home took ten minutes—so much for speed limits—and felt like for ever.
But the moment they were inside the house she paused, her heart thumping. ‘What if—?’
Michael’s lips kissed her forehead, then her mouth. ‘Let’s find out.’
As the thin blue line appeared Steph shrieked and leapt in the air, before throwing herself at Michael to wrap her arms around him and kiss that grinning mouth.
‘Thank you, thank you. You made me pregnant.’ Unbelievable.
His voice was filled with awe. Nothing but love shone out at her from those gorgeous eyes she fell into regularly.
‘I’m going to take a photo. It can be the first thing to go into our baby album.’
She stared at the stick. Was this real? Suddenly the fear was back, turning her blood cold and lifting her skin.
‘What if...?’ No way could she finish the sentence.
Michael’s eyes locked on hers as his warm arms wrapped around her. ‘It’s real, Stephanie. Real. We are having a baby.’
‘But I couldn’t get pregnant—not even with—’
A lump blocked her throat. She couldn’t face waking up one morning to find the unmistakable evidence that this was all false, that she wasn’t pregnant. She couldn’t. Not this time.
‘Shh,’ he murmured against her hair. ‘There’s no understanding nature, darling. You and Freddy couldn’t conceive together, but no cause was established. You and I, however, we’re good to go.’
There was no hesitation—not a hint of doubt to mar his words.
Steph melted into him. ‘Thank you for believing in this. There will be days I’ll be crippled with doubt, but with you at my side I know we’ll make it.’
‘Trust us, remember?’ He smiled softly before kissing her thoroughly, wiping away any trace of that fear.
THOUGH SHE NEVER admitted it out loud, the fear did taunt her and haunt her at times, forcing her to mark off every day—until day two of week thirty-eight arrived and she began cleaning the bathroom as if her life depended on it. Once every surface gleamed she headed to the kitchen, armed with rags and a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner.
‘You’re exhausting me.’ Michael grinned and filled the kettle. ‘Sit down and I’ll you make a cup of tea.’
‘I don’t want to sit down,’ she snapped with unexpected shortness. ‘The pantry needs a tidy—all that stuff in packets should be in containers—and the—Ahhh!’ She sank against the bench, her hands gripping her belly.
‘Steph? Oh, no. Really? It’s happening? We’re on our way?’
The pain was receding. She pulled in a deep lungful of air, wiped her hand across her forehead. ‘Make that tea. This is only round one.’
No sooner had she closed her mouth than her stomach tightened painfully.
Michael’s warm, reassuring hand settled on her back. ‘Easy. Breathe slowly. That’s it.’
‘Take it easy? When my tummy feels like it’s being split in half? I don’t think so.’
Michael swiped the keys from the bench. ‘Those two contractions were quite close. I’ll phone the midwife and tell her we’ll meet her at the maternity unit as soon as possible.’
‘Don’t pull the doctor rank,?
?? Steph warned.
Okay, you can, but do it nicely.
‘Ahhh!’ Was she even going to make it to the hospital? Right now she’d swear her baby was going to make an appearance on the kitchen floor.
They made it to the maternity wing of Auckland Central with minutes to spare. Having been warned, the midwife was waiting when Michael wheeled Steph into the room, having commandeered a wheelchair from a young man who thought a sprained ankle deserved him being pushed to the ED.
The midwife examined Steph and gave her a big smile. ‘This isn’t going to take long. And everything’s looking good.’
Don’t tempt fate. Nothing’s good until it’s over.
‘Well, you’re in no position to cross your legs,’ Michael quipped, even while the gravity of the moment darkened his gaze. ‘We’re going to be fine.’
He laced his fingers through hers, wincing when the next contraction struck.
And then within minutes they really were fine.
The midwife placed the most precious gift imaginable on Steph’s breast. ‘Welcome to motherhood.’
She stared in awe at her baby. Tears streamed down her cheeks. ‘Beautiful...’
Nine pounds. Ouch.
‘We did it.’
Michael sat on the edge of the bed, just as absorbed with their son. ‘We sure did, sweetheart.’ He lightly ran the back of his finger over the tiny fist pressed into Steph’s breast. ‘Welcome to the world, James Samuel Laing.’
Steph snuggled into the thick pillows behind her and leaned her head on Michael’s shoulder, drinking in the sight of her wee boy. A perfect bundle of joy already gripping her heart and dominating her world.
She’d just ticked the last box on her list. Okay, so she’d cheated, having added that box on the day she’d married Michael. But their love for each other had given her more hope than she’d known for a long time—enough to make her take a chance.
Enough to trust them to get it right. Together.
* * * * *
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