Eden was in jail. Kieran paced. Twelve steps to the piano.
They’d charged him with grand theft, breaking and entering, and destruction of property. Kieran paced. Six steps to the door.
If found guilty, Eden would be facing twenty years… His steps faltered.
Goddess. Twenty years! All because he’d done a job alone. His fingerprints were all over the scene.
His phone rang and he fished it out of his pocket. Frowning, he said, “Is everything okay?”
“I’ve been ringing!”
“I’m sorry. I’m coming up now.” He headed out into the hall. He hadn’t heard her, he was so preoccupied thinking about Eden, about how much he’d let his friend down.
“Well hurry. My water just broke.”
Kieran’s steps faltered again. “What?”
But she’d already hung up.
He took the stairs two at a time.
“It’s going to be okay.” He winced when she squeezed his hand but held on.
Lorde had been in labor for twelve hours and she was wilting. He was glad that she had enough strength to even hold his hand.
“It’s going to be okay, love.”
She let out a soft moan before her whole body relaxed and she eased off his hand. “Kieran, there’s something… I have to tell you.”
He leaned down to hear her better. “What is it?”
“The baby. There’s… something wrong… Something’s not right with -” she inhaled sharply and her head fell back. She screamed and his entire body flooded with agony. He had to stop himself from pressing down on her hand. Was this coming from her? Dear Goddess!
Kieran felt a growing sense of panic rise in his chest and he turned to one of the nurse. “What the hell is taking so long? Do something!”
He was so pissed. He would sue the damn hospital if something happened to his wife. She’d been in so much pain…
He looked up to find Matt walking towards him. A question formed in his head and he responded out loud. “She’s in surgery. It’s been an hour but it feels like days.”
Matt nodded and pulled him into a hug. His body sagged into the older man’s arms. “I’m so scared. What if she dies? What if the baby…”
Matt’s deep voice reverberated through Kieran, just like when he was a kid and would run to Matt for comfort. “It’s going to be okay, son. She’ll be fine.”
Kieran nodded, wanting desperately to believe him. But she was already so weak. What if…
“Stop thinking like that. She needs you now more than ever. Positive vibes only, alright?”
Kieran took one last inhale of his father’s scent and let go, moving away to sit down on one of the couches strewn around the room. Matt was right. He needed to calm down. Panic would not help Lorde pull through.
Matt sat down next to him. “Dragon Valley. She’s taking the first flight out but won’t be here for a while.”
Kieran didn’t have to ask how they’d known. Ever since his stint in the drunk tank and Eden’s subsequent arrest, the paparazzi had been like piranhas ready to pounce on any bit of news. Everyone knew that Lorde had gone into labor. Even now, they were camped outside the hospital, waiting like the savages that they were.
“She was in so much pain…” He heard the words leave his mouth, heard the frustration and hopelessness in his own voice.
“She’s strong. She’ll pull through.”
He turned to look at Matt. “No. I felt it. It’s like she’s built this wall inside her head where she locks up all her emotions – I don’t know how to explain it. But she was in so much pain earlier that without even trying, I picked up on it. And it was strong, Matt. Like maybe she’s been holding all that in for longer than just this past day.” He scrubbed at his hair. “And I had no idea! How could I have failed so completely as her husband?”
“You have not failed her. You’ve supported her as best you can. All you can do is pick her back up when she stumbles. That’s what it means to be a husband. But she’s got to learn to let you. Give it time, the two of you will learn to trust each other.”
Matt patted him behind his neck and left his hand there. Kieran felt the warmth seep through his skin and knew that Matt was using magic to try to calm him down. Before Matt had figured out the whole step-dad thing, he would try to comfort Kieran by patting him on the head. It had been an awkward phase for the both of them. It always brought a smile to Kieran’s face to remember those days. Not today though. Today he had nothing to smile about but he was glad for the comfort. He leaned against Matt and said, “Thanks dad.”
They sat in the waiting room for another half an hour before someone approached them.
Both Matt and Kieran stood up. “Is she alright?”
The doctor smiled. “Yes. She and your son are doing fine. They are resting but you can go in, if you’d like.”
Kieran nodded before turning to Matt. “I have a son.”
“Yeah, you do. Go on. I’ll wait here for your mom.”
Kieran rushed back over to Matt and gave him another hug. He squeezed tighter when he felt the relief that was flushing through the older man’s body. Matt was great at blocking his emotions and Kieran realized just how traumatic this must all be for him.
Matt’s son hadn’t made it.
“I’ll be right back, dad.”
“No, take your time. I’m fine, I promise. Go be with your family.”
“Here, take him.” Lorde handed over the infant and Kieran took him, cradling his son in his arms. He was so tiny, and soft, and perfect. He was perfect. They were naming him Colin, Colin Hayes King. He wasn’t sure what the significance of the name was but Lorde had whispered his name right after surgery. He hadn’t had the heart or the balls to argue with her, not after she’d spent so many hours in labor.
He turned around with the baby in his arms, smiling when he saw the look of excitement on Gracie’s face. “Would you like to hold him?”
“Oh, can I?” She was literally hopping around.
Laughing, Kieran handed the infant over to his cousin. She, Emma and her dads had come to visit. He was glad to see them, especially since he hadn’t visited with Gracie since Lorde was put on bed rest. He’d felt uncomfortable leaving her alone and had decided that he and Gracie would just have to video chat for a while.
But then Maya had come back and he went to visit again. They’d been waiting so long for her! It was a good trip but he’d only stayed for a couple of days. Lorde had been further along by then and he’d needed to be there for her. Any progress they’d made had been lost with that trip. She had not wanted to be alone. Getting arrested had just put the final nail on the coffin.
He watched Gracie with the baby and talked to Emma for a while.
“Do you think he’ll be like Alistair?” Gracie walked over to her parents with the baby. Riley picked her up and sat her down on his lap, securing the newborn with his arm.
“What do you mean?” Tony smiled down at Colin.
“Like, special. Like you and poppa and me. Or like Aunt Eva and Uncle Matt.”
Kieran tensed up, glancing at Lorde to see if she was paying attention. She was dozing, thank the Goddess!
He watched Riley place a hand on Gracie’s neck – the same gesture of comfort Matt had offered to him the other day. “I don’t know, sweetheart, but we can talk about it when we get home. For now, let’s just enjoy our visit with Colin, okay?”
Gracie nodded then giggled. “He makes such funny faces! Can I have one?”
“A baby. Can I have a baby?”
Tony’s smile grew sad. “They don’t stay babies forever, you know. They eventually grow up into big little people. Like you!” He reached out to smooth away a strand of his daughter’s hair.
“I know, but still…” She placed a hand against her own stomach. “Girls have babies.”
“Boys have babies too. Your poppa and I had you and Emma.”
Gracie smiled and nodded. “Yeah, you did. Can we have a brother now?”
Tony laughed. “I don’t know about that. We couldn’t possibly…” He glanced at Riley.
Riley leaned over to give him a kiss. “Why not?”
Tony’s smile grew wider. “I love you.”
“I love you too, babe.”
“Eww.” Gracie admonished. “Don’t make out in front of the innocent baby!”
Kieran looked back at his sleeping wife, a small smile on his lips. Would they ever get to a place like that? Where just saying, “I love you,” could brighten the other person’s entire day?
He hoped so.
Kieran walked into his home to the sound of his wife yelling at their toddler. The crying that followed led him into the living room where he scooped up his son and made hushing sounds until the boy quieted down. He gave his wife an apologetic smile and a quick kiss hello.
“Dadda!” There were still some sniffles but Colin was now smiling.
“Hey big boy! What have you and mommy been up to today, you little imp?” He tickled his son, grinning at the sound of laughter.
Colin was a very active little boy and Lorde was always running after him. He smiled over at his wife again who was picking up toys. She was always picking after Colin. If left up to Kieran, he would just leave the toys where they were. Why bother when they would just end up back on the floor?
“Kieran we need to talk.”
He looked at his son and said, “Uh-oh…”
Colin grinned back at him. “Uh-oh. Dadda in trouble!”
“I think so buddy.”
He placed Colin in his playpen and walked into the kitchen. Lorde was sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee. Sighing, Kieran sat across from her. “Hey,” he said softly.
Okay, so she wasn’t upset. “Is everything alright?”
She took a deep breath and said, “I want to go back to work.”
Kieran sat there, stunned. Wait, what? “Back where, exactly?”
Sitting back, she crossed her arms. “I want to go back to the club. To my job.”
“But why?” Who in their right mind would want to go back to stripping? “Is it because you’re here with the baby all day? I can cut back on my hours. You could maybe find a group or something for play dates…”
She didn’t say anything, just watched him.
“I hate when you do that. Why must you always do that?”
“Do what? You clearly don’t like what I have to say, so what exactly am I supposed to do?”
“It’s like you don’t even care, Lorde. Like you can do or say whatever you want and I’m supposed to just fall in line. We’re married. I care about your wellbeing and I want you to be happy and safe. I don’t want you stripping. I don’t think it’s an appropriate occupation for the mother of a small child. Maybe if you were a single parent and needed the money, sure. But you aren’t and you don’t. So why? Why go back to that place with those people?”
Lorde stood up and walked to the sink with her coffee mug. He watched as she washed and dried the cup. Still she said nothing. The longer she stayed quiet the angrier he became. She wouldn’t even talk to him! How were they supposed to discuss anything when she wouldn’t even talk to him?
“Fuck this,” he began.
She whirled around. “Don’t you dare! You do not get to speak that way to me. I am the mother of your child, as you love to remind me. You will never speak to me like that. You will never treat me like that. As for everything else, I wasn’t asking for your opinion and I sure as hell wasn’t asking for your permission. I am going back to work. It’s been three years, Kieran! I like what I do. I’m good at what I do. People like you frequent my workplace. I am liked and appreciated there and I want – no – I am going back.”
“Do you remember the night we met, Lorde? Do you know why I paid for you that night and every night after that?” He saw her visibly recoil at his words. “Some asshole was scrounging for money so he could buy some of your time. He and his idiot friends couldn’t afford you for more than an hour. So I paid for the whole night. And I kept coming back and I kept paying. Those are the kinds of people who frequent your workplace!”
He was shouting now. Something he swore he’d never do. An image of his father, of Glasgow, popped into his head. Goddess, what was happening to him? When had he become his father, dictating to his wife what she could and could not do? He could practically hear him.
“You are nothing more than a whore I picked up because I needed a wife with a pedigree. So don’t for one second think you have any standing to tell me what I can and cannot do in my own home with my own children. You’re lucky the girl looks like me.”
Colin started to cry, snapping him out of the hateful memory he was currently swimming in. “Oh Goddess! I’m so…” He shook his head. “I’ll go get the baby.”
“No, you stay right where you are, I’ll get him. That is, after all, all I’m good for nowadays.”