Unexpected fate, p.23
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       Unexpected Fate, p.23
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         Part #1 of Hope Town series by Harper Sloan
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  We make it to the hospital in record time and have our son discharged and strapped to his car seat as soon as the last form is signed. I hug all the nurses we had gotten to know over the last month, and we make quick work of leaving the hospital behind on our way back to our house.

  It is past time to get our family home.

  Owen—meaning little fighter—James Cage. Our gorgeous son. I smile to myself and look over at his sleeping face from my spot in the back seat.

  Just like Cohen said, Owen looks just like him. His dark hair, tan skin, and perfectly handsome face.

  But those lips are all mine.

  IT’S BEEN TWO WEEKS SINCE we brought Owen home from the hospital, and leaving him today for my six-week checkup was harder than I ever imagined. Cohen and I had agreed that, since the visit would be a short one and I could pump any milk Cohen would need to feed him while I was gone, I would use this as a dry run to leave the baby.

  In the last two weeks, I’ve struggled to do something as mundane as take a shower. The fear I’ve had over letting him out of my sight is unexplainable. I know Cohen is worried about me, so I agreed with him more or less to placate his concerns.

  But sitting here, with the paper sheet over my naked bottom half while my ass sits on the cold chair, isn’t making me feel like I’ve hit some big milestone. It makes me feel like I need to have my baby in my arms.

  “I think it’s time to stop freaking out, Dani. ”

  I look up, meet my mom’s eyes, and give her a small smile. I don’t even try to hide my mild embarrassment.

  “I understand how you feel, my darling girl, but leaving your son for a few hours isn’t the end of the world. It’s good for him to bond with his father alone—or his grandparents. I’m not saying you should start planning vacations, but sitting at home day in and day out while never letting him out of your sight isn’t healthy. ”

  I sigh. “I know. ” And I do. I know it isn’t normal, but I can’t seem to get my body to get with the program and physically leave him.

  “If it would make you feel better, we can call Cohen. He can give you the reassurance that you need. ”

  I shake my head, knowing that, if I call home thirty minutes after leaving to check on Owen, all it will do is make Cohen worry about me more. “No. I trust Cohen, and I know he won’t let anything happen to Owen. I just need to get over my issues that something bad is going to happen. Ever since the whole . . . Mark thing, I keep thinking that something else is going to come and take away my happiness. ”

  Mom sighs and walks over to me, grabbing my hand and looking me in the eyes. “There isn’t one thing in this life that’s a guarantee, Dani. Nothing. I’ve lived a life that I can say that with clarity. But if you continue to have yourself stuck in the past of worry and fear, there is no way you’re going to be able to enjoy the life and future you hold in your hands. ”

  I study her face, finding love in her eyes and the hope that I understand what she’s saying.

  “I need to get out of my head,” I respond.

  “Yeah, sweetheart. You need to get out of your head,” she says with another big smile.

  I felt a little better after my doctor’s visit. The two hours I had been gone from the house didn’t feel as stifling by the time Mom pulled us back up to the house and I rushed through the door, eager to see my boys.

  I smile when I hear Cohen muttering to the television at whatever sports show he’s watching. When I round the corner and see him sitting in our big, overstuffed chair with Owen laying on his naked chest, my heart swells. He has his thick hand resting under the baby’s diaper-padded bum, and I smile when I see Owen’s big, round—blue for the moment—eyes looking off at nothing. His fist is pulled up to his thick, Cupid-bowed lips, and he’s sucking away while his father explains to him the finer points of football.

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  “You look cozy,” I hum. Walking around the couch, I slide onto Cohen’s lap and run my fingers over Owen’s silky-smooth skin. “How was he?”

  “Fine, Dani-girl. Just like I told you he would be. You’re looking at the extent of our day of fun. ”

  “Oh, a little party animal, huh?” I joke.

  “What did the doctor say?” Cohen asks, shifting his weight so that I can crawl into the chair next to him.

  I place my head against his shoulder and look into Owen’s eyes. I lay my hand against his back, and Cohen’s rests over mine.

  “Everything looks good on the healing end. He still wants me to wait a few more weeks before we resume any sexual activities or exercising. I think that, with everything that happened, he just wants to make sure my body has time to heal. Especially since I explained that our workouts tend to be a little . . . vigorous. ”

  “Vigorous, huh?” Cohen laughs. “Everything else looked okay though?”

  “Yeah. ” I pause and look up at him. “I talked to him about my separation anxiety, and he’s given me some antidepressant medication to take for a while. Given everything we’ve been through, I think it’s a good call. But I feel a lot better abut not being around Owen all of the time. Leaving today helped a lot. ”

  “I’m glad, baby. I was worried. ”

  “I know you were and I’m sorry. ”

  “Don’t be sorry. I love that you love our boy so much that you don’t want to be without him, but you have to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself too. I can’t stand the thought of something happening to you, Dani-girl. ”

  “I’m not going anywhere,” I tell him—not for the first time.

  “Yeah, baby, and neither is our boy. ”

  I look up at him, and I think for the first time that I really get what he’s trying to tell me and has been trying to impress upon me since we got home with Owen.

  I nod my head and give him a smile before returning my head to his shoulder so that I can look into our boy’s eyes. I let the love I feel for both of these people wrap around me, and I fall asleep while Cohen holds us both safe within his arms.

  OWEN’S TAKEN TO THE CHANGE from hospital to home like a champ. Though I’m not shocked that my son is perfect. He’s a calm baby who only fusses when he wants to eat. Or when he wants his mother’s attention, but I can’t fault him there. When I want his mother’s attention, I get fussy too. The first month home was a slight challenge. Between Dani’s not wanting and not feeling like she couldn’t leave our son and our getting used to having a little human to care for, we were slow in adjusting to our new life. Now, though? Now, we’re freaking pros.

  Dani has gotten so much better about leaving Owen. It started small. The doctor visit, then a quick run to the store, and eventually, she was able to leave without thought. Of course, I think a lot of that had to do with her finally realizing that, by letting her fear consume her, she wasn’t able to enjoy the life we had.

  I walk down the hall in search of my woman. She took Owen to his room to get him dressed for the day out, and I haven’t seen her in almost thirty minutes. Which usually means she’s breastfeeding.

  Not shockingly, the sight of her breastfeeding my son has been a major turn-on for me. Since she isn’t clear for sex yet, the fact that I almost come in my pants when she pulls her swollen tits out and I see them leaking with milk . . . Yeah, she started leaving the room when Owen needed to eat after that. I have no clue why I find it so fucking hot, but when I see her tits leak, all I can think about is pushing them together and fucking her tits while her milk works as lube.

  Goddamn, I need to go jerk off again. I press my hand against my cock—which is now standing at full attention—and continue my search for her. It’s been eight weeks; if I don’t have my wife soon, I might die. Literally die. From blue balls.

  “Our mothers are on the way, Dani,” I say when I find her rocking in the glider in Owen’s nursery. I bend to kiss her before placing a kiss on Owen’s soft head. “And from what my dad said, they have every bridal magazine known to m
an. I told you—the court house is just a second away, baby. ”

  “I didn’t get my proposal. I’m getting my wedding,” she smarts.

  “So I’ve been told. How much longer until you’re done planning this damn thing, Dani? I need you to be mine. ”

  She smiles but doesn’t answer. I give her another kiss before standing and walking out of Owen’s nursery. I’ve been summoned to the CS offices today, and it’s been a request I’ve put off for the month since we brought home Owen. Time to suck it up and leave my house—even if the thought of leaving Dani and Owen has my stomach in knots.

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  Yeah. Hey, pot. Meet kettle. I harp on Dani about getting over her fears, but I’m just as bad.

  I run down the stairs and into the kitchen to get breakfast ready for Dani. She’s been running on fumes lately since Owen has been going through some growth spurt and feeding more than usual. Even though it isn’t much, at least it’s something I can do to help.

  “Hey, baby?” Dani says, walking into the kitchen a short while later. “Mmm, that smells good. ” She walks by, Owen in her arms, and snags a piece of bacon off the plate. “My mom texted and asked if you could bring me over to her place on your way to the office. It would be easier since all of the wedding planning stuff they’ve been collecting is over there anyway. ”

  I wave her off when she goes to nab another piece. “Yeah, baby. ”

  “I can drive us over if you need to get down to CS,” she offers, her head tilting slightly.

  “No, Dani-girl. It’s never a problem if I’m a little late because I’m taking care of my family. ” And it isn’t. They are and forever will be my number-one priority.

  “So,” she starts, and something in her tone has me looking away from the eggs and waiting for her to finish. “My mom mentioned keeping Owen tonight. I think we should take advantage, baby. I can pump enough so that she has all the milk she needs and we can celebrate my eight-week mark. ”

  I feel my brows pull in as I try to understand what she’s saying. “I’m a little lost here?” I try to play it off, but the fact that she’s talking about leaving him overnight is a huge milestone here.

  “I noticed. Had you realized what I was talking about, I’m pretty sure breakfast would be forgotten and we would have Owen dropped off already. It’s been two weeks since my appointment with the doctor, baby. He said eight weeks until all activities could return as normal. It’s time to make love to your woman. ”

  And then I switch off the burner, eggs forgotten, and rush up the stairs to pack Owen’s bag.

  Tonight, I fuck my woman.

  “I thought you wouldn’t ever get over here,” Lyn complains and reaches out to take Owen from my arms. She doesn’t even pay me any attention as she walks over to the couch and starts to make baby sounds in Owen’s face.

  Lila rolls her eyes and takes Owen’s bag from me. “Come on. The makeup guru is waiting for you. ”

  Following her lead, I walk into a kitchen full of insanity. My mom is running around with her hair in rollers, Melissa is barking at a Mexican man who looks terrified, and Maddi is standing with her hands on her hips, clearly not happy that I’m late.

  “Sorry,” I grumble and sit in the chair she’s pointing to.

  “How hard was it to stay on track, Dani? How hard, huh?” she snaps and starts to apply my makeup. I wisely decide to keep my mouth shut and let her do what she does best.

  I feel my hair move, and I open my eyes.

  Sway pops his head around and gives me a big smile. “Almost show time, little mama. ” He reaches over my shoulder, and I slap his hand away when I feel him trying to pop my top button.

  “You crazy man!”

  He laughs, straightens, and starts to work on my hair.

  Almost an hour later, my hair is pulled back in a loose chignon and my makeup is done flawlessly in a natural way that highlights all of my features. My eyes are lined heavily to showcase my eyes, and Maddi decided to paint my lips a bright red.

  I walk into my parents’ bedroom, and with the help of Melissa, I step into my dress. She gives me a huge hug and quickly walks from the room, but not before I see the first tear fall from her eyes.

  “Mom!” I call as I walk through the insanity.

  Lyn is trying to step into her dress without letting her sister hold Owen. Maddi is finishing up Stella’s makeup while doing hers as well. Sway’s decided that Owen’s little baby hair needs to be styled into some type of baby mohawk. Megan and Molly are laughing from the sidelines as Sway starts to make blowfish faces at the baby.

  “Out here, baby. ”

  I follow the sound of her voice out the back door and onto the back deck.

  When my eyes take in the transformation their backyard has taken, I take a deep breath and will myself to believe that this moment is happening.

  Today, I’m surprising the man of my dreams with the wedding he’s been begging for. He’s waited this long, and I know he would have waited longer, but I’m ready to be Dani Cage. For our family to become whole.

  With our fathers’ help, I had them enlist him in some case they needed help with at CS, and I got a promise from both of them that they wouldn’t return him home until later that evening.

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  They have one job: get my man to the end of the dock before the sun sets on the lake. Well, I should say that Greg has one job since, as I look down at the backyard, I meet the very emotional eyes of Axel Reid, and I smile as my daddy visibly struggles to get a hold of his emotions.

  “You look like a little princess,” his awestruck voice whispers hoarsely. “I can’t believe this day has come. My baby is getting married. ”

  “Do you need a tissue, Daddy?” I joke.

  “Very funny. ” He reaches over and carefully pulls me against his body.

  I dust a piece of lint off of his tux-covered chest.

  “No matter where you are in the world, you will always be my little princess, Dani. Married or not, you were my girl first. I love you, baby. I know I don’t say it often, because we wouldn’t want him to get a big head, but I’m thrilled with the man who won your heart. ”

  I struggle with the lump in my throat and, in the end, settle for a nod of my head.

  “I knew you would grow into a beautiful woman, and I’m damn proud of who you’ve become. I know, with Cohen by your side and Owen in your arms, that beauty is just going to blossom even further. ” He leans down and kisses my head before walking away.

  I let him go, knowing that he needs the same moment with his thoughts that I do.

  I keep my eyes on the family as they move around the tables set up on the back lawn and smile when I see the lights strung out along the railing on the deck. They light the way that will bring Cohen to me in just one short hour.

  Fucking pointless afternoon. My dad and Maddox kept me up to my elbows in old case files. Anything from the last ten years that had gone cold was suddenly something I needed to help them with right that second.

  I finally had enough when I realized it was getting closer to dinnertime and the only thing I had on my mind was getting to my girl and getting her back home.

  “I’m done. We can pick this up another day? Right now, I’m going to Axel’s house and I’m taking my girl home for our first night alone. ”

  “Alone?” Dad questions.

  “Her parents offered to keep Owen tonight so we can have some alone time. ”

  He gives me a knowing look. “Ah. It’s all-clear time. ” He throws his head back and gives a booming laugh. “I completely understand, son. ”

  “I hear you,” Maddox adds in. “One of the best nights with Emmy was when the doctor finally cleared her after having our girls. I swear she turned into an animal. ”

  My dad goes to open his mouth, but I stop him with my hand. “Don’t even think about adding to that. I don’t want to know about it and I damn sure don
t want to think about it. ”

  They laugh, and I narrow my eyes.

  When I stand from the conference room table, Dad reaches his hand out and grabs my arm. “Go into the back bathroom There’s something in there for you. ”

  “What the hell?” I ask his back, and he and Maddox walk out of the room. “Crazy old man. ”

  I walk toward the back bathroom, and when I walk in to see a perfectly pressed tux, I feel my eyes narrow in confusion. Seeing the note that’s attached to the hanger, I snatch it off and read the words that bring a rush of overwhelming love through my body.

  I turn the paper over and feel the lump in my throat grow when I look at the picture Dani wrote her message on. The picture she’d had blown up and placed over her bed when I was overseas.

  The one of her in my arms at the end of her parents’ dock when we were just children.

  It takes me no time to shed my clothes and don the tux. The promise of marrying my girl is all I need to get to the Reids’ house as quickly as possible.

  Today, I’m marrying my girl.

  I’M NOT SURE WHAT I expected to happen when I got to Axel and Izzy’s house. I was prepared for anything. I think one part of me expected Axel to jump my ass the second I stepped foot on his property.

  However, what I am met with almost brings me to my knees. My mom opens their door with tears streaming down her smiling face, and without a word, she hands me my son. I watch her walk away, her light-blue dress flowing behind her, before I look down at my wiggling boy.

  Owen is dressed similarly to me, a little tux looking as out of place on my little baby’s body as I feel like it does on mine.

  “Hey, little man,” I say softly and notice the piece of paper sticking out of his mini jacket. “What do you have for Daddy, baby boy?”

  He looks me in the eye, his mouth puckering up with the cutest little pout. He’s content to be held in his father’s arms. He’s filled out so much in the last two months that he’s started to get the most adorable chubby cheeks.

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  God, my son is perfect.

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