A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
It’s dark outside as I stare at the starry skies above. The sound of water splashing gets my attention. I look down and realize I’m naked, sitting on the steps of the pool. I watch as Edward moves toward me and emerges from the water. He’s so fucking sexy as the droplets of water trickle down his perfectly chiseled body. I’m exhausted and can’t move, but he sits next to me before reaching behind me. I notice there’s something in his hand.
Edward kisses my lips. “Want another peanut butter cup?”
After he feeds it to me, I watch him closely as he unwraps and eats one, then asks, “Good?”
“How about another?”
I shrug and smile. “Okay.”
I’m in a state of complete bliss while he continues unwrapping peanut butter cups. We alternate one for him and one for me as he prompts me to eat more and more.
“Yeah,” I agree eagerly after finishing each mouthful. “You’re eating them too? You never eat sweets.”
Edward nods, easing the delicious treat into my mouth.
“Did you see the report on the news today?” he asks.
“I haven’t seen any news at all,” I say before he unwraps another.
“Researchers found a direct correlation with the number of peanut butter cups a woman eats to the number of children she has,” Edward states.
It takes a minute for me to register what he’s said. “What? That’s ridiculous!”
He holds the sweet bite to my mouth while I start to panic, looking at the hundreds of empty wrappers on the edge of the pool behind us.
I glance around the pool area, noticing huge containers piled high and overflowing with peanut butter cups. They’re everywhere.
“Oh!” I hold my hand over my expanding belly. “Something’s happening.”
“Is it time?” Edward grins, sliding a pool float under my back before tugging me into the shallow water.
“I have no idea.” I panic. “We-we need to call my doctor. We haven’t even taken our childbirth class. Did we miss the ultrasound? I can’t remember going. We’re not ready. The nursery isn’t ready. I have no idea what to do.”
Opening my legs wider, he hooks them over the sides of the float as my knees, breasts, and belly bob above the surface of the water. His hands move between my legs gently and I feel as if I’m about to orgasm from his light touch.
“Edward. This can’t be right. It feels—”
There’s no stopping them as my entire body contracts and I pant through each one, trying to catch my breath.
“Oh my God. This feels incredible.” My eyes close and my head falls backward. “Fuck. This is childbirth?”
“You’re doing so good. I’m so proud of you. I think it’s time to push. You got this, Doc.”
“No. No. What do you mean it’s time? It can’t be. Pumpkin is the size of a raspberry. I-I don’t have this. Oh, my goodness. The pleasure is overwhelming. Oh—something is coming.”
With Edward’s gentle coaxing and encouragement, I drift on the float into deeper water. From between my legs, he proudly removes pumpkin after pumpkin, shows me each one, then sets them along the edge of the pool. They’re getting progressively bigger with every orgasm.
“This can’t be right.” I gasp. “What is going on?”
“Oh, this one’s going to be a biggy. Relax, Doc. Just let it happen; you’re a natural . . .”
Bolting upright, I struggle to catch my breath as I’m drenched in sweat.
“Holy shit.” My mind is a mess, but the rest of me is still very turned on and vibrating with a deep need that’s driving my every thought.
I glance around the dark room, realizing I’m in our bedroom. Scout raises his head from where he’s curled around Shadow, sleeping on the bed at my feet.
That wasn’t real.
It was just a dream.
I look down and notice the sparkle of my wedding rings.
Not a dream.
“Mmmm.” Edward’s hand rests against my belly.
Pumpkin is still there and not an actual pumpkin.
Thank fucking goodness.
After gathering my damp hair, I twist it out of my face and return to my spot with my back against my husband’s front.
Wrapping an arm across my chest, Edward nuzzles my neck, leaving a kiss there, while his other drifts to rub my belly. “Are you awake?”
“I had a dream,” I whisper, still trying to catch my breath.
His roaming hand moves along my body, not unlike in the dream, and I turn in his arms.
“Was it a good dream?”
“It was something.” I struggle to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. “We swam in the pool, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, after the game.”
“Did we . . . have sex in the pool?”
“No.” He leaves a kiss on my forehead.
“Sorry, everything is a little fuzzy between our evening and that dream. Who won the game?”
“Nashville, two-zero.” Edward smirks. “You fell asleep after I gave you a massage.”
“I remember you teasing me with your tongue.”
“I used my hands . . . .mostly.” He winks.
“When was that?”
“The beginning of the second period.”
“I slept through over half of the game?”
“Yeah. I woke you up, but it wasn’t easy.”
“I was exhausted. I barely remember that or I’m mixing it up with my dream. It was so real and made me feel—I was dreaming about childbirth. It was completely different from how I thought it would feel.” Did I have a sleep orgasm? Is that even possible? “Maybe our trip is catching up with me.”
“You were in pain?” His brows furrow with concern.
“No. The opposite. It was extreme pleasure.”
“What I know about childbirth from my sister, that’s definitely not the case. We floated in the pool for a little while. Once you had enough, I carried you to bed.”
I nod, but I don’t remember any of that. “Did you watch the news before we went out to the pool?”
“If by news, you mean SportsCenter or the NHL Network, then yes. I caught up on the other games from the night as you woke up.”
“I know this is probably a weird question, but did I . . . did I eat any peanut butter cups before we went to bed?”
“How-how many did I eat?”
“I think two?”
“Yeah. Why do you look so relieved?”
I chuckle. “You don’t want to know. I may take a break from those for a while. I wonder if eating chocolate before bed causes weird dreams or nightmares.”
“I have no idea.” Edward grins, brushing away the hair from my face. “Let’s try to get some more sleep. You’re going to need it since today will be a long one.”
“Okay.” I snuggle against him, letting his warmth and the comfort of his smell lure me back to sleep.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
Driving into the office on Friday morning, I’m a mix of emotions. A part of me is still on my wonderful Edward high, but I’m also wary from my dream about giving birth. It has me a little on edge and full of apprehension for some reason.
Maybe it’s the thought of handling our schedule on my own for the first time in a while. I did it regularly when working for Sam, but not since Victoria and I began our practice together.
Once I park and make my way inside, I’m surprised Anne is behind the reception desk again and wonder about Rose’s son.
“Good morning, Anne. No Rose today?”
“Good morning, Dr. Swan. She left a message earlier saying that she is taking Austin to a doctor’s appointment this morning. I believe she will be here around noon.”
“And there is someone waiting for you next door,” Anne adds.
“Next door? In the empty offices?”
“That’s a little odd. Who is it?”
“I don’t know, and he didn’t give me his name. He said that you have a meeting this morning, but I couldn’t find anything in our schedule to confirm it.”
I nod. “Okay. What time is our first patient?”
“Let me take care of whoever this is, and I’ll be right back. Make sure you let Corin know I’m here.”
Anne smiles. “Will do.”
After dropping off my purse, messenger bag, and travel mug, I exit our office, walking next door. There’s a man I don’t recognize waiting outside the main door who nods at my approach. He opens the door but doesn’t follow me inside.
Walking into the large waiting area, I notice another man in a perfectly tailored suit with his back to me. The sound of my heels on the tile floor gets his attention. When he turns around, I gasp at his unannounced visit while he smiles warmly.
“Hello, Dr. Swan.”
I nod. “Roy. This is unexpected. I didn’t realize we had a meeting scheduled.”
Appearing to be the epitome of the cat that swallowed the canary, he crosses his arms over his chest and leans against the edge of the reception desk. “I understand congratulations are in order,” he says smoothly.
With a tilt of my head, I ask, “What for?”
Roy’s eyes never stray from me, and he contemplates his response before he pushes off the desk and circles the area, looking around. “This is a nice space. Small but nice.”
It doesn’t escape my notice that he fails to answer my question.
He’s playing some kind of game here.
I’ve got news for him. I can play too.
“Bigger isn’t always better.”
“From your lips to God’s ears, sweetheart. I couldn’t agree more.” He chuckles. “But this space—it has loads of potential—like you. As you may have guessed, I have a problem. You could call it a little . . . trouble.” His eyebrow arches curiously. “Did you like what I did there?”
This is about Caius? Or actually, Victoria?
Roy continues, waving his hand toward our surroundings. “Real estate can be a risky investment, but I think this one was worth every penny. It’s like when you see something, and you know you just have to have it. That’s how I felt the first time I saw this place.”
I’m filled with confusion at the information he’s sharing, and it takes my brain a moment to catch up with the realization that somehow Roy has purchased our building.
“I’m looking forward to seeing your plans come to life,” he promises, but there’s something that feels off about his tone, as if there’s a possibility I won’t be able to realize those.
“My plans,” I repeat, as what he’s saying sinks in a little more.
“How do you think your loan was approved so quickly?” Roy winks, then pats the front of his suit jacket, as if he’s looking for something. After reaching into an inside pocket, he offers me a business card. “I’m a little old school. Are these things still relevant today?”
With a glance at the card in my hand, I’m stunned to find a logo for the bank where I have my business loan. Under Royce King, Sr. is the title “owner.” Fuck. When my eyes meet his dancing with delight at the reveal, it’s clear he’s enjoying this little game of cat and mouse.
I smile politely, refusing to give him whatever reaction he’s hoping to elicit. “What can I do for you, Roy?”
“Ah, there it is—cutting right to the chase. I love it.” His grin widens. “Dr. Swan, I’ve always been quite fond of you from the moment we met. And I love favors. I also love win-win situations, and I believe we’ve found ourselves in one. According to my niece . . .” He pauses before his knowing eyes find mine, as if I need a reminder of who his niece is. “I understand you have some . . . concerns.”
Alice wouldn’t have told him about the details of our conversation. At least, I don’t believe she would. He’s fishing, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a way of finding out we spent time together recently. And if she’s questioning things involving their businesses now when she hasn’t in the past . . . even Roy can do that math.
“Well, I do too.” He nods his agreement. “For example, how long are we going to keep Sam Uley in a stranglehold?”
And what the hell would he know about Sam?
Then it clicks.
It’s that fucking country club and possibly . . . Tanya.
When I asked if she knows anyone to help me take down Sam a few notches, it must be Roy.
I never asked who it was.
At the time, it didn’t matter.
He holds out his arms with his palms up. “I mean, I can go until we break him. Is that the goal? Take away everything he holds dear? Is our angle his wife’s successful divorce, and ultimately, winning their custody battle? I know the most favorable judges in the state, if you’re interested, and I suspect you could be. Or would you prefer Uley groveling at your feet? A better feel for our plan would be helpful.”
I can’t believe he’s helping me with Sam.
And I had no idea.
Roy probably owns that goddamn country club.
And if he knows judges who could help Emily, is he implying that he could help with my lawsuit too? He can’t possibly know about that. Everything between Jason and me is confidential.
“There’s nothing like a woman with a vendetta. Slow and steady. Carving him up like a turkey at Thanksgiving. Bravo. You remind me of Alice’s father. She’s not there yet, but you are.”
“What do you want?” I state once more.
“You know . . . I like to win too, but I hear you don’t appreciate my . . . methods. And that’s confusing when we’re so much alike, especially that dismantle the competition part. I like that.”
His competition for . . . Victoria?
Is he still talking about Caius or is it—?
“Vladdy didn’t deserve what you did,” I accuse, fishing for confirmation of his involvement.
I don’t believe Royce would have made the same decision based on what I know about him and Vladdy’s value to the team. I suspect Roy gave him no choice and Alice had no idea what she was signing with the trade. Roy has been keeping her in the dark for a while, and I doubt it is limited to the operating of the team.
With the trade deadline past, Roy’s next crusade to eliminate Caius as “competition” won’t be so easy, but he waves off my concern. “Oh, the Russian will be fine. I just needed him to be fine elsewhere.”
“You uprooted a family for your own selfish motivations.”
“Don’t be naïve. It happens all the time. People are hired, fired, promoted . . .”
“But you made it personal. And my partner isn’t some prize to be won,” I defend.
“I agree, but he needed to be pointed in another direction. What’s done, is done.” Roy nods. “I was taking my time with her. You know that.”
He ignores my question and continues. “She respects you—admires you. Has undoubtedly confided in you. Your opinion matters to her. So, it matters to me, which is how I’m finding myself overflowing with generosity this morning. What if . . . I gave you this building?”
I shake my head. “Why would you do that?”
He grins. “I’m feeling charitable.”
My eyes lock with his, hoping to leave zero doubt to the seriousness of my next words. “I don’t need anyone’s charity.”
He laughs. “Pride. It’s a good look on you. How about because I can?”
“No? You’re tough. A shrewd negotiator.” Roy points at me. “I respect that. What else could I offer that I’m not already giving you?”
He pretends to ponder the thought before smiling.
“Oh, right.” His voice softens, as if he’s telling me a secret. “What about that hockey player of yours? His contract will expire in a few months. We could negotiate something that would be mutually beneficial.”
It takes everything I have not to react at Roy’s mention of my husband—a fact that he seems to be aware of with his earlier “congratulations” unless that was about Pumpkin. At this point, I wouldn’t consider the contents of my medical records secure. Either way, he knows information he shouldn’t, which means his digging is no longer limited to Victoria. It probably never was. And to speak so casually about the future of Edward’s career—
“Or maybe . . . his father?” Roy offers, redirecting my attention.
“You know where Carlisle is?” I ask curiously.
“Ah, Dr. Swan, you underestimate me. You see, I like having you on my team. You’re so clever and savvy. Book smarts and street smarts all rolled into one gorgeous, fiery package. The ability to think on your feet is admirable, but what you can do with a golf club . . . well, that’s something else.” He chuckles with a smirk.
While I thought Mary or James had something to do with it, I wonder if Roy is the one who had the security footage at Sam’s country club erased. Or maybe he kept a copy for himself.
Roy continues. “I appreciated our time in Montréal. It was then I realized how truly valuable you are to me, which is why I need your assistance with the latest setback.”
“Caius?” I suggest.
I’m not a fan, but Roy doesn’t know that.
Or maybe he means Alice too.
“He’s proving to be a little more challenging than I anticipated, but sobriety is a slippery slope. Eventually, I’m positive he will prove me right.” He grins, sharing his next move.
As much as I find Caius off-putting, I don’t want anyone to mess with what he’s accomplished after going through the player assistance program, which is why I’ll keep the focus on Roy and his behavior.
“You’re not any better for Victoria than he is. You’re probably worse—controlling and manipulative. You blew your chance.”
“Now, Dr. Swan, you know that isn’t true. I shared with her who I am. I was truthful. Not everyone can handle my circle and . . . scope. She needed to know and needed time to . . . process that information. Pacing can be everything in the success of a relationship. She was pushing me for more physically when I knew she wasn’t ready.”
“And only you know better. Yet, she rejected you,” I add. “Victoria doesn’t want your surveillance or digging into her past. You crossed a line that you can’t take back and that’s on you.”
Roy shakes his head. “Lines are subjective. Knowledge is empowering and I utilize every piece of information available to me. You won’t admit it, but you do too. I have to be careful who I keep close, but with time, she will forgive me.”
“If you’re so confident, you don’t need me.”
“I’ll tell you what I don’t need . . . and that is you working against me when I thought we were on the same team. Alice isn’t ready,” he states.
“If she’s questioning your motives, then I disagree. You’re holding her back for your own selfish reasons.”
“Don’t tell me how to conduct my business,” Roy warns.” And Victoria is mine!”
“No, she isn’t.”
“She has been throwing herself at me since we met, and I’ve used immeasurable amounts of restraint where she’s concerned. I didn’t take advantage of her when I could have,” he points out.
I scoff at his reasoning. “What do you want a fucking medal? That’s so fucked up. Clearly, you’re no different from any other man who is only interested in the chase. You’re going after her now simply because she rejected you. She’s no longer interested and has moved on. You should too.”
“She’s still interested. I know it. And deep down, you know it.”
“Help me,” Roy requests.
“You can’t or you won’t?”
“Roy—we’re done here. I have patients to see and no time for your games. Go play in someone else’s sandbox. This meeting is over.” I turn and prepare to depart, walking toward the door.
“Isabella,” he says sternly.
My breath catches as I’m transported instantly to a time over a decade ago, when Isabella believed every sweet loving word she was told, which led to my detriment. While I’m not the young woman I was at twenty-two or twenty-three, I worked hard at banishing those ghosts to a well-crafted memory and rebuilt a new life in Texas on my own.
As I turn back toward Roy slowly; his grin is triumphant.
Oh, he’s been digging deep in areas where he shouldn’t be.
“Don’t ever, ever call me Isabella again,” I warn with a deadly edge to my voice.
“Or what?” Roy taunts, his eyes dancing with delight. When I don’t respond, he chuckles. “That’s what I thought. I can’t believe after everything we’ve discussed, it’s your name that warrants the response I want. You’re not as bulletproof as you pretend to be, are you? Does he know?”
My unwavering stare is the only response I’m willing to give him because that isn’t any of Roy’s business and Edward knows enough not to have a reason for concern.
“Mmm-hmm,” he hums, as if his opinion, passing judgment on me or my past, matters.
I’m not about to bow down and kiss the ring of any man. That ship sailed long ago in every sense of the word.
“Now, we’re going to do this my way. I expect my path to Dr. Sutherland to remain clear of any and all obstacles,” Roy demands.
At this point, I feel myself digging in my heels, knowing he’s currently standing toe-to-toe with his biggest one. I have no intention of moving out of the way for him or anyone, especially if it means protecting Victoria, who is becoming more than my business partner.
“If you find yourself in the company of my niece, keep your questions and concerns to yourself. She will think what I want her to think, when I want her to think it, and not a moment before.”
“Alice isn’t anyone’s puppet,” I state defiantly.
“But that’s where you’re wrong. She is. She’s my puppet, as is that whole Whitlock family she married into. They—work for me. They would be nothing without me, and Alice knows it. While I appreciate her gratitude, it would be wise for you to follow her lead, if you wish to remain in my favorable opinion,” Roy warns before his smile returns.
My head tilts with challenge while my eyes narrow and I refuse to acknowledge his warning.
Still grinning wryly, he continues. “I always love your company, but let’s not have a need for another one of these . . . meetings, shall we? Now that we both know where we stand, I won’t be so generous next time.” He winks. “Have a good day, Dr. Swan. I believe you have patients to see.”
As Roy departs, my patience runs out. I’m fuming as I return to our office, and I make a beeline for my purse, digging for my phone, determined to call Jason immediately.
For all the fire Roy stokes inside of me with our unexpected meeting, it dampens when I see a missed call from Edward, plus a voicemail. I’m filled with a smidge of worry since I left him not long ago. Tapping the screen, I listen to his soothing voice, which puts a smile on my face, remembering every incredible moment we’ve shared over the past few days.
“Hello, my beautiful wife. I’m on my way to Frisco for our morning skate. I just wanted to say hi and let you know that I love you. I’m thinking about you and missing you already. I can’t wait to see you when you get home from work tonight. That’s it. Have a great day.“
It’s nothing urgent, other than sharing his care and concern for me. Fuck, I love him. I listen to his message once more, basking in the warm fuzzies, before calling Jason’s office, determined to get to the bottom of my meeting with Roy.
Blowing out a deep sigh, I wait for the call to connect.
“Good morning, Jason Scott’s office. This is Deidre.”
“Hi, Deidre. It’s Bella.”
“Hello, Dr. Swan.”
“Is Jason available?”
“Unfortunately, he’s in court this morning. I can put you through to his voicemail or you can call his mobile, if it’s important,” she offers.
“His voicemail is fine.”
“He’ll return your call once he’s back in the office later today.”
“Here you go.”
“Hello, this is Jason Scott. I’m unable to take your call. Please leave a message, and I’ll get back to you once I’m available.“
At the beep, I do my best to sort through all the information Roy unloaded on me as concisely as possible.
“Hey, Jason. It’s Bella. I understand you’re in court, and I have a limited window as my patients will be here soon, but I need so many things I’m not sure where to start. Okay. Let’s start by finding out what you can about who owns our building and the details of our lease. Specifically, if I can break it.”
Looking around my office, it’s incredibly unfortunate with all the improvements I’ve already invested into the building, but at this point, it may be necessary to take that loss.
“Also, I want to find out who approved my business loan with Three Rivers Bank and Trust, including everything you can tell me about the owner. Um. Maybe find out if I can get out of that too without taking a hit to my credit because expanding into the rest of the building may no longer be an option for us.
“What’s next? Oh, Sam. I want to know who owns his country club, and this could be a gray area, but who else was there on the morning I . . . resigned. Every employee and club member. I’ll need your advice on how to navigate that situation. It’s getting . . . complicated.” I blow out a breath.
“Finally, I have a favor to ask. This is just between us. It’s more of a personal request and probably goes beyond all the gray areas, but I don’t care. You have connections, and I want to find someone.”
There’s no reason for Roy to have this information and not Edward’s family, which now includes me. Even I would feel better knowing where he is, and at the very least, that he’s physically okay.
“His name is Carlisle Cullen. He’s Edward’s father.” I don’t share that he’s my new father-in-law, but I’ll need to update Jason on my marital status eventually. “He’s been missing or disappeared about two weeks ago. I have no idea where he could be, but I believe that information is out there. I’m just looking for a location right now. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I want it. If you can help me, great. If not, then point me in the right direction, and I’ll take it from there.
“I think that’s it to start. I’ll be in the office all day but call me any time. If I don’t hear from you today, could you at least acknowledge you heard this message with a quick text? Have a great weekend, and I’ll check-in next week. Thanks, Jason. Bye.”
With that call complete, I feel some satisfaction in knowing that I refuse to stand by and do nothing or be bullied into submission by Roy. Victoria isn’t his plaything, and he was the one who pushed her to this point, not me. I know it will take time, but I’m hopeful Jason will find new options for us moving forward or maybe I can figure out how to eliminate my ties to Roy. It could be quite the task when his resources are deep in comparison to mine or anyone for that matter, and his network reaches far beyond the state of Texas.
I should probably make a call to Alice, but I’m not sure what to say that doesn’t sound accusatory at this point or what could be my next move. I’ll need to be careful for both of us since Roy is keeping such close tabs on all of us, which could be equally challenging when I’ll be on my way to Whitlock Ranch again soon.
Alice and Roy are instrumental in my mother’s treatments and care. I don’t regret leaning on either, but what have I given up for it? Roy didn’t bring it up today, but I wouldn’t put it past him to somehow use that against me too.
Maybe I should just call her.
Instead of reaching out to Alice, I return to my voicemail, tapping on Edward’s message again, playing it a couple more times. His voice is enough to lift my mood before Corin is at my door with patients waiting to see me.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
While listening to the latest podcast from the ADA’s website, I pick through my salad, hoping to find more pieces of grilled chicken, but settle for a crouton, spearing it forcefully with my fork. There’s a rapid knock on the door to my office before Rose peeks inside, then closes my door behind her.
I smile at her arrival, pausing the podcast. “Hey, you made it.”
“Hey.” Her eyes move to my left hand, and she nods toward my wedding bands. “You did it.” Rose holds out her arms for a hug, walking toward me.
Abandoning my lunch, I stand, nod, then embrace her in a hug.
“I wish I could have been there,” she whispers. “You said you weren’t eloping.”
I recall our previous conversation. “I know. At the time of my parents’ wedding, that’s what I thought. We were talking about planning something for after I gave birth. Maybe around the holidays or the following summer. I’m sor—”
“No, don’t apologize.” Cutting me off, Rose shakes her head. “It’s what you both wanted and not my decision. It doesn’t matter how or when it happened.” She grins. “We’re sisters now.”
At my nod, I confirm with a smile. “We are.”
“I always wanted one, but I’m curious what changed your mind?”
With a shrug, I return to my chair, pushing my salad to the side. “I don’t know.”
“I doubt that,” she states, sliding into the chair across from me.
“I guess . . . we moved Mom and Dad to the ranch last weekend, and don’t get me wrong, I appreciated having Al and Garrett along. But the whole time we were there, Al just kept going on and on about the engagement party, about the wedding, and about the reception. Colors. Dresses. Suits. Flowers. Venues. Garrett too.
“They wouldn’t shut up. To the point where it was just becoming too much. I know Al probably meant to distract us from our purpose for being there. Every word . . . every suggestion began to make it clear that it was becoming exactly what I didn’t want. I could feel the stress building inside of me.
“Tuesday night, we were finishing dinner, while waiting for the game to begin. I had barely been able to keep anything down all day. I was struggling. I didn’t realize it was Hockey Fights Cancer Night until Edward appeared on the screen for a pre-game interview. He shared the most amazing words, then held up a sign of support for my-my mom.” I’m getting choked up just thinking about it again. “He’s always . . . thinking about us or me, even when he’s not with us. It left me speechless.”
I sniff away the tears threatening to fall. “As if sitting with my mother in that infusion suite the day before wasn’t enough of a reminder of how short and fragile life is, there he was, making crystal clear what’s most important. It was a big picture moment. I didn’t need any of that other stuff. I just needed him. Only him.
“I asked Al and Garrett to bring me back to Dallas immediately. During the ride, I began to consider eloping and wondered if Edward would agree to it. Or if he could even get away with his schedule. As I mentioned earlier, we were going to wait, and I knew he was disappointed with that decision.
“I didn’t want to get married this summer since I would be farther along with my pregnancy, and it would be obvious in our wedding photos. Of course, he didn’t care about that, but I did. The more I thought about getting married now, the more my stress over all the planning began to fade away. It was replaced with excitement once again. After I got home, he agreed to eloping, making it the right move for us.”
She nods. “Trust me. It’s the best decision my brother has ever made.”
“I don’t have any regrets.”
“Good.” Rose smiles. “How has your morning been without me?”
I’m reluctant to share, not clear about her relationship with Alice or the King family. “It was a bit of a bumpy start, but fairly smooth now.”
“What happened? Anne didn’t say anything.”
With a tilt of my head in question, I ask, “How close are you with Alice?”
“Yeah. How often do you talk or see each other?”
“Well, I would say more often in the past, but lately, she’s always busy when I call. Maybe we talk once a month, then grab lunch or coffee for less than that,” Rose shares.
Could Roy be trying to sabotage Alice or bury her under an unnecessarily heavy workload to make it appear as if she can’t handle taking the reins of their companies? Or maybe Rose and Alice are just growing apart. It happens.
“What about her uncle? How much do you know about him?”
“I know what everyone knows. He’s a charismatic man who oversees their family businesses and has more money than anyone could ever spend in a lifetime.”
My eyes shift to hers. With my next question, I watch her closely, already suspecting there’s something more between them from when she introduced me to him at my first hockey game.
“You know his son?” I prompt.
Rose hesitates. “I-I know Royce from when Alice was dating Jasper during college. We went to a lot of parties, but they invited me to join them at an off-campus one and he was there. It was before I met Em. Bella—just between us?”
“My brother doesn’t know. You can’t tell him.”
“We . . . sort of dated back then,” Rose explains.
“Sort of dated?”
She shrugs, then clarifies, “Not really so much dating as hooking up.”
“Were you exclusive?”
“I was. He wasn’t,” Rose reveals.
I wonder if Rose’s previous relationship with Royce had anything to do with Edward moving to Dallas.
“Who ended it?”
“Me. It was a long time ago. As you can probably guess, Royce can be as charming as his father.”
I nod. “Well, my morning began with an unscheduled meeting next door with Roy.”
Her eyes widen with disbelief. “Roy was here?”
“Yes. It was very . . . enlightening. His relationship with Victoria could become an issue for all of us, especially since she no longer believes they have one and he’s still very invested.”
My phone vibrates and the screen lights up letting me know that my patient portal has been updated with another notification.
“Oh, shoot.” I shake my head.
“Who is it?”
“My doctor’s office. They keep sending notifications and I can’t read them. I have been so busy since my last appointment that I forgot I needed to check on this. My login information wasn’t correct the last time I tried to read the updates, but it wouldn’t hurt to reset my password anyway.” As I begin the process of resetting my account information, I ask, “Speaking of doctors’ appointments, how is Austin? Anne said you took him to one this morning.”
Rose sighs. “He has strep throat and mono. His doctor prescribed an antibiotic and said we should keep him home until he’s feeling better. No basketball will be the most difficult part for the next month. I need to call the school and request his classwork from his teachers for next week.”
I nod listening, as I finally regain access to my account. I scan through the notifications and read the latest one from my doctor.
“What is it?” Rose asks.
“My doctor wants to discuss my lab results at my next appointment. I have a negative Rh factor.”
“Oh, I think that’s when you need a shot during your pregnancy, then at Pumpkin’s birth in case your Rh factors are incompatible and your blood mixes,” Rose explains.
After switching to the notification with my lab results, I scan through them. “I . . . I took classes in school where we discussed blood types, but I can’t remember ever completing a test or lab to determine mine. Based on my recollection of my parents’ blood types, I should not be A negative as this is showing. Something isn’t quite right here.”
“Maybe it’s a mix up? That can happen. Labs make mistakes. Your doctor could want to retest to verify the results at your next appointment,” Rose suggests.
“They also need Edward’s blood type. Do you know it?”
“Yeah. He’s A positive, which is why your doctor is concerned if you are A negative. The shot prevents you from forming antibodies that could cause complications for Pumpkin.”
“But how could I be so wrong about my blood type?” I wonder.
Rose shrugs. “I’m sure you’ll get to the bottom of it.”
“Add that to my ever-growing to-do list.” I chuckle. “I guess it doesn’t matter. I just want to keep Pumpkin healthy. That’s the important part. I’ll do whatever is necessary to make that happen.”