Kieran stepped out of the car and looked around before turning and helping Lorde out of the limo. Placing a hand on the small of her back, he guided her out of the desert heat and into the cool, shadowy air of the casino.
Once inside, he rolled his eyes at the reporters and raised a hand to shield his eyes from the flashes of their cameras. They were here to visit with Lorde’s grandmother and it had somehow leaked to the media.
“Sorry about this,” he murmured into her ear.
She smiled up at him and took his free hand. “It’s alright, they’re harmless.”
He snorted. Harmless, his ass. The paparazzi were like piranhas, they were fine until they scented blood, then it was a feeding frenzy.
As if to prove his point, one reporter shouted, “Who’s the woman, Alistair? What’s your name, Sweetheart?”
Growling under his breath, Kieran maneuvered around the horde of vipers and up the stairs to the VIP section of the casino. “Goddess, I hate those people!”
Placing a hand on his chest, Lorde said, “Calm down, security is already escorting them out.”
He glanced back and saw that she was right. “Sorry, I don’t want your grandmother’s first impression of me to be of some pompous asshole celebrity.”
Laughing, she said, “I highly doubt that’s what she’ll think.” When he raised an eyebrow, she shrugged. “She’s used to this kind of thing. I doubt she’ll even bat a perfectly curled eyelash.”
Looking over his shoulder, she suddenly smiled wide and squeezed his hand briefly before letting go. Turning around, Kieran saw an older women walking towards them, dressed impeccably in a peach colored skirt with a matching jacket, her blond hair swept back into an elegant updo. She looked to be in her late sixties or early seventies. Her face looked tight and Kieran decided she must not smile very often.
When she reached them, she smiled politely at him before turning to her granddaughter. “Lorde, I am so pleased you managed to come for a visit.”
“Thank you for the invitation, it’s always lovely to see you.” She turned slightly to include Kieran in their conversation. “Grandmother, this is Kieran King, my boyfriend. Kieran, this is my grandmother, Penelope Lawson. Grandmother has come all the way from Setra to meet you.”
“A pleasure to meet you Mrs. Lawson.” Kieran reached out and shook the old woman’s hand, bracing himself. When prepared, he could dim a reading, getting a general sense of a person’s mood without the full download of their emotional grid. The last thing he wanted was to spaz out and look like an idiot in front of Lorde’s family.
When it came, her feelings surprised him. Penelope Lawson was both anxious and annoyed. Not something he expected from a woman meeting her granddaughter’s boyfriend for the first time. He was almost tempted to search for more.
“The pleasure is mine, young man.” Penelope smiled while she studied Kieran closely, just like her granddaughter sometimes did. “Did you have a pleasant trip?”
“We did, thank you. And you; how was your flight from Setra?”
They exchanged a few more pleasantries before she ushered them into an office.
Sitting across from her massive desk, he crossed his legs and sat back. Lorde’s grandmother was trying to impress him, which was odd considering all the dire warnings Lorde had given him. She’d given him the impression that Penelope was cold and calculating. The woman in front of him didn’t mesh with that description but he was starting to get a sense of her character.
“Do the two of you have plans for this trip? You should try to see some of the attractions. I’ve made an itinerary, if you are interested.” She gestured to the computer on her desk. “I’ll send it to you afterward.”
“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Lawson. I don’t know how much of it we’ll be able to do – we’re only here for a couple of days.”
For the first time since they’d been introduced, she turned to her granddaughter. “I was hoping for a longer visit with you.”
That’s when he saw it, the subtle shift in her demeanor. She didn’t hide her feelings very well or maybe she thought he wouldn’t notice but Kieran had spent his whole life reading people, he knew when someone was trying to intimidate another.
“I can’t take too many days off of work, grandmother. I’m very sorry.” Lorde smiled apologetically.
“I see.” She stiffened at the mention of Lorde’s job. So she knew what her granddaughter did for a living and didn’t approve. “Well in that case, I will let the two of you go and freshen up. We can have at least one dinner together while you are here, no?” Penelope directed that question to Kieran, who simply nodded and agreed.
They walked through the casino in silence, up the elevator to the 18th floor and into their room. Kieran closed the door behind them before he sighed. “Wow.”
“I told you,” was all Lorde said.
He dropped down on the soft plush sofa and leaned his head back. He was exhausted and that meet and greet with her grandmother had sapped him of what little energy he’d had left. He realized just how grateful he should be that Lorde was a silent void to him, even though for that same reason, he could forget she was in the room sometimes. He was just too used to relying on his senses. He’d have to adjust if they were going to become long-term.
Lorde stood close to him and he turned his head to see her. She looked worn out and he reached out and snagged her arm. He wanted to kiss her but he was just too tired to do anything but watch her.
“Grandmother can be awful sometimes but this was a good visit,” she began.
“She wants something from me.” Kieran said the words and knew they were true. Penelope Lawson wanted something that she believed he could give her.
Lorde bowed her head and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Kieran.”
“Hey, stop that,” he admonished gently. “There’s nothing to apologize for. She was very nice and polite.”
He pulled her down until she was cradled in his arms. He frowned when he saw tears start to track down her face. “What is it, Doll Face?”
She half-heartedly punched him in the arm and said, “No.”
He smiled a little while he stroked her back, closing his eyes. After their first night together, he’d called her sweetheart and she’d demanded a better nickname. It had become a running joke for them. He had yet to find one she liked.
“Tell me what’s wrong, please?” He really hated to see a woman cry. Growing up with girls had given him a serious aversion to tears. Luckily, Lorde wasn’t the overwrought type. She’d only cried once before and that had been a highly emotional situation.
“Promise me you won’t hate me,” she mumbled into his chest.
“I promise.” He could never hate her.
“P-promise me you’ll stay with me no matter what?” It was more of a request than a demand. Her breathing was growing harder and he could feel puffs of her hot breath through his shirt.
Kieran frowned in concern. “Lorde, what is it? What’s wrong?”
“I’m pregnant.” She said it so softly, it took a minute to register.
His hand stopped moving and leaned back to stare at her. “What?”
She wriggled out of his arms and sat on the far end of the couch, one leg bent so she could face him. “I’m eight weeks pregnant.”
Eight weeks…They’d been dating for only three months – twelve weeks. Were they even having sex a month in? He stopped that train of thought before it could go any further.
As if she could read his mind, she said, “It’s your baby.”
He nodded, what else could he do or say? He had been thinking just that.
“I want to keep it.”
He wondered how she could sit so calmly, talking about a tiny human that was growing inside her body.
She’s had at least a couple of weeks to come to terms with it, that’s how!
He cleared his throat, finally finding his voice. “Okay.” Shit!
She continued as if he hadn’t said a word. “I understand if you need some time to digest this, we haven’t known each other very long.”
“Yeah.” He tried to think of more to say but his brain was slow to process her words and by the time he had a response, she was talking about something else. A baby. We’re going to have a baby.
“I want you to be a part of this, if possible. I don’t want to raise a child by myself. I’m hoping you feel the same way.” She stopped speaking and watched him. He was grateful; he needed some quiet to think. She was pregnant.
His mother was going to kill him.
Kieran glanced around the room and out the window at the bright lights of the city. A solution suddenly came to him. “Let’s get married.” Lorde blinked in surprise and then frowned. Before she could start with her – whatever she was about to say, he plodded on. “We’re in Lucky Palms, I’m sure there’s a chapel around here somewhere. I’d say we could ask your grandmother to be a witness but she doesn’t seem the type.”
“You’d be surprised,” she mumbled.
He took a deep breath, “Lorde, will you marry me? It’s an awful way to do this but we can do the whole thing all over again later.”
He pulled her over to him so he could kiss her. “I’m a decent guy. I can support you and the baby. We’re happy together, right? Marry me.” He kissed her again.
“Kieran, I…” She placed a hand on his cheek and looked into his eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Marry me.” He held his breath and waited for her answer. A baby…
He hugged her tightly before quickly letting go. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt the baby.”
She laughed. “I think it will be some time before the baby will be in any danger of being crushed.”
He got off the sofa, pulling her up with him. “We’re having a baby.”
Lorde seemed unsure again. “Yes, we are. Are you sure you want this?”
He kissed her before picking her up and walking over to the bedroom door. “I’ll prove it to you.”
The first thing they did when they finally left their hotel room was go and find an engagement ring. Lorde was now sporting a nice diamond encrusted ring and it made Kieran inordinately pleased to see it on her finger. She was going to have his son or daughter and she was going to be his wife. It felt almost too easy. Some niggling thought kept trying to intrude on his contentment but he ruthlessly pushed it aside. He didn’t have time to doubt himself or his decisions. She was pregnant and he would not let her go through this alone. The men in his family would collectively disown him if he even thought about deserting her. Even his biological father had planned to marry Eva when she became pregnant. Just because Glasgow had been an overbearing, misogynistic asshole didn’t mean he’d had no morals.
Kieran shook his head; it was bad when he started giving his father redeeming qualities. Not that Glasgow had ever been anything but good to Kieran, it was the way he’d treated Eva that was the problem. Glasgow had been from a wealthy family, was respected in the community, and had had a bright future ahead of him; yet, he’d purposely treated Kieran’s mother like shit. It was mind-boggling that he could have hated her so much but still stayed in the relationship.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Lorde whispered from behind him, snapping him out of his spiraling thoughts.
He broke into a grin. “But I already have you.”
She frowned for a minute before she rolled her eyes. “Do not, under any circumstances, ever call me Penny.”
“But I like it.” He pulled her around so she was leaning on top of him. “You keep shooting down all my nicknames for you. I need to call you something!”
“Lorde will do.” She placed her hand to his, their fingers just touching. Her ring caught the light and she watched it with a small smile on her face.
He entwined their fingers, staring into her eyes. This woman would be his in few hours. “Penny…”
She lifted her nose and said, “That is my grandmother’s nickname. Would you like me to fetch her for you?”
Kieran imagined her prim and proper grandmother in her place and shuddered. “Fine, Penny is out.”
Laughing, she shifted her legs to straddle his and kissed him. “You can still have me though.”
“Lorde?” They were sitting outside one of the many chapels in Lucky Palms, waiting for their turn at the altar. He wouldn’t call what he was feeling cold feet but it wasn’t joy either. He’d never imagined his wedding day would be like this. And he had envisioned that day, marrying the one woman he would spend the rest of his life with, have children with. He’d thought he’d be nervous, anxious even. Eden would be standing next to him as his best man; his family would be there to celebrate with them. “Lorde?”
“Yes?” Lorde turned to look at him, a small frown on her face. She’d sat, playing with her engagement ring, her leg bouncing nervously for the last ten minutes. She’d decided not to ask her grandmother to be a witness, so they were both alone.
Maybe they should slow down a little. “I – never mind.” He looked away from her. He didn’t want her to get the wrong idea. He wanted to do this, he really did. It was just…
“You want your family to be here, don’t you?”
“Yes.” He sighed. “I really do.”
She looked at him, a small smile on her face. “Okay. So we’ll wait and do the whole production.”
He smiled hesitantly back, nervous and afraid to get too excited. “Are you sure? It’s not a big deal…”
“Kieran, it’s important to you so it’s important to me.”
He grinned, a feeling of immense relief washing over him. “Thank you, Lorde.”