Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
He hated this vulnerability. Ever since he’d turned sixteen and had started to earn money, he’d been in control of his world. Nika was the only exception and when she’d aborted their baby before he even knew that the child existed, he’d been devastated. Now, standing in her tiny family room as he waited for her to come back with the results, he felt out of control, as if his life were hanging by a thread and the only thing that could snap it and create devastation was the small test that Gabriella was using.
He almost wished Yuri were here. They’d been through so much and Yuri was the only one who knew about their past, what they’d gone through. He was also the only one who knew what Nika had done and how it had affected Damon. At a time like this, Yuri would put his book down, slide his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose and put a hand to Damon’s back. There would be no words of wisdom or jokes to distract him. Just the connection between brothers and that would be enough. He and Yuri might not have had the same father, had no idea who their fathers were since his mother had trolled the streets, selling her body for whatever drugs she could get, but brothers had a bond. Theirs was stronger than most after living on the streets and fending for themselves after their mother had overdosed. They’d survived then and Damon would survive now. But he just wished Yuri were here to help him through the waiting.
She was in that bathroom for more than ten minutes when he couldn’t take the anticipation any longer. He had to know so he walked over to the door and knocked impatiently. “Gabriella? What’s going on?” he asked. His mind instantly thought about the layout of her bathroom, then relaxed. There weren’t any windows in the room so she hadn’t snuck out and left him without any news.
The painful silence continued and he knocked again. “Gabriella?” he called out once more.
The door opened suddenly and he looked down at her curly, dark head. When she finally lifted her face, there were tears in her eyes and she nodded. “It's positive,” she whispered.
Gabby couldn’t believe it. She was actually pregnant! The joy and fear were warring within her, neither emotion actually able to gain the lead. Thoughts were flying through her head. What was she going to name the baby? Was it a boy or a girl? Would it be healthy? She quickly reviewed her medical history, trying to remember if there were any genetic issues that might harm her baby. Where would the baby sleep? She had a one bedroom cottage! She’d have to figure something out, she told herself. And fast! This baby was coming and she wasn’t prepared. What’s the safest crib? What about clothes? And diapers? Goodness, she didn’t even know how to change a baby’s diapers.
She sat down on her bed, the two test sticks in her hand, both of them showing a bold, blue plus sign indicating a positive pregnancy test.
“I need to see a doctor,” she said softly, thinking of prenatal vitamins and hearing the heartbeat for the first time. She couldn’t wait! This was so exciting and…..so terrifying!
Damon hadn’t realized that she’d moved away from him. He was still standing in front of the bathroom, his heart soaring at the idea that Gabriella was pregnant with his baby! What an incredible miracle! He needed to buy a new house, fix his other residences. The penthouse in New York would have to go, it was too high up and the child wouldn’t know to stay away from the edge of the terrace. He’d protect his child though! He’d have to hire additional body guards, specially trained to take care of children. And a nanny! He’d need to find someone who would genuinely care for his son or daughter while he was away. Whoever it was, they would need to travel. He wanted his child with him when he had to travel on business. He didn’t think that would be a problem since there were so many people out there who wanted to travel the world and see the sights. Especially if he was paying the bills and making things easy and smooth.
The issues were endless, but he was still so thrilled, excited and elated that he couldn’t move for several moments.
When he heard her words about seeing a doctor, he automatically assumed that she meant to get rid of the baby. He spun around, his eyes on fire as he looked down at her, seeming to be completely dejected as she held the two positive test sticks. “I’ll make an appointment for the doctor,” he snapped, his jaw clenching with fury at the idea of her getting rid of his child. “You’re not aborting this baby, Gabriella!”
Gabby’s head spun around and she gasped, horrified by his words. “What are you talking about?” she demanded, her hand covering her stomach protectively. She didn’t even like the word spoken around her child!
His eyebrows were drawn low over his eyes as his fury ruled his mind. And his fear that she would harm his child. “The doctor? You’re seeing my doctor and I’m going to make sure that the baby is healthy!”
She stood up and squared off as she faced him. “I’m seeing my doctor, the same woman I’ve been seeing since I was sixteen years old, and I will be the one to make sure this baby is healthy!”
Damon’s hands were already on his hips and he wondered where this was going, livid that she was fighting him on this issue. “You’re going to see a specialist in London.”
She poked him in the middle of his chest to emphasize her point, refusing to back down now that she knew about this child. All of her protective instincts, feelings she’d never knew existed inside of her, were coming out and overwhelming her. “I’m seeing the doctor I’m comfortable with and can talk about any issues I might have so that she can reassure me that everything is going to be okay!” Gabby wasn’t going to back down on this issue and she refused to be intimidated by his anger or his size. He could be a big, mean brute to anyone he wanted to, but he needed to leave that out of this relationship. Such as it was, she thought sadly. Their relationship was one of the weakest she’d ever heard of. Spending one weekend with the man, getting pregnant, now fighting over the doctor who was going to help them deliver this baby was not a good start to whatever affiliation they might have in the future.
“I need to make sure this baby is going to survive, Gabriella. You’ll see the specialist in London. He’s very good.”
Gabby took a deep breath and shook her head, pushing her curls out of her eyes and trying to calm down. This was crazy. They both obviously were both struggling with new emotions, and a huge amount of fear, at least on her side. She had to help him see reason. “How about if we compromise? I’ll see my doctor for this baby, but if she finds any complications, we’ll go to your specialist in London. Does that work for you?” That actually comforted her as well, knowing that he had the resources to ensure the baby’s health as much as humanly possible. The rest, and the bulk of the baby’s life, rested in God’s hands but she was more than willing to do anything she could to help. She wasn’t going to simply dig her heels in out of spite. If the man knew of someone who could help in a crisis, she’d beg him for the assistance.
Damon wanted to fight her on this, but he knew that there were limits to what he could force her to do. And her compromise on the doctor was probably a good one. He didn’t want to force her to see a medical professional she didn’t feel comfortable talking with. If there was a problem, he wanted her to know she could talk openly and freely with whoever was examining her. Their baby’s life might depend on her ability to be comfortable with her care giver.
With a deep breath, he decided to accept her offer, as long as she didn’t do anything to stop this pregnancy. He could be there for every doctor’s visit and one of his body guards could shadow her all other times to make sure she didn’t visit a clinic that could stop this pregnancy. “I’ll agree to that with a few conditions.”
Her anger dissipated and wariness took its place. “What conditions?” she asked, nervous about anything he might demand. She thought back to the night they’d first met. She’d put conditions on just having a drink together so she was wary of anything he might put out there now when a baby was the issue.
“You move in with me immediately. I want to be a part of this pregnancy and I want to…” he started to tell her that he wanted to make sure she didn’t do anything to harm his child, but he stopped and said, “ensure the health of the child as much as possible. I can do that better if you’re in the same residence.” He watched her face and saw her reaction, knew that she was going to deny him. “Second, we marry next Saturday. I want this child to have my name. I want the legal right to raise this child. And last, I come to every doctor’s appointment. You’re not cutting me out of anything.” The last was to ensure that he could be a part of this baby’s life from the beginning as well as to see it grow and form. He knew he could have his guards follow her around to make sure she didn’t visit a doctor for an abortion, but they wouldn’t be allowed into the examining rooms of any reputable doctor’s office. So he had to stipulate that he had some rights.
Gabby was so stunned by his demands she had trouble processing them in her mind. Her eyes were wide and her jaw slack as she thought through all that he’d said. She walked out of the bedroom, uncaring if he followed her or stayed. She needed tea. And a few moments to think.
Marry him? But he didn’t love her. Did she love him? A marriage without love….well, she’d seen that it didn’t work firsthand.
She filled the kettle with water and put it on a burner to heat, her mind going through thousands of problems with all that he suggested. Oh, not the issue that he wanted to be there for every doctor’s visits. She loved that idea. There were women in the world who had to go through the whole pregnancy by themselves, their men thinking that their job was done once conception was accomplished. The realization that he genuinely wanted to be a witness to the growth of their baby was wonderful news.
While the water heated up, she sat at her small kitchen table and stared at the wall, her mind going through all the pros and cons of his conditions. Not that she would give in on her compromise about the doctor of her choice, but she was willing to listen and hear him out, consider his suggestions with an open mind.
As she sifted through the problems, she came to one absolute realization. No, they couldn’t marry, she told herself. She couldn’t marry a man who didn’t love her. She also accepted that she felt something powerful for this man, but she couldn’t name it love. She barely knew him, had no understanding of who he was as a man and a person, only as a lover. Their one weekend together, not even a whole weekend, had been fun and wonderful, but it had centered around sex with conversations as a side benefit. Sex and love were two completely different animals and she wasn’t a fool to mistake one for the other.
Move in with him? Could she do that? He’d left her once before without any explanation. That had hurt deeply and she’d been so confused, thinking that they’d had something special. How could she live with a man she didn’t trust?
The kettle started boiling and she stood up to turn off the heat, pouring the hot water over her tea bag and taking several deep breaths in an effort to calm her racing heart. While her tea brewed, she stirred in some honey and sat back down at her kitchen table, her mind racing through the issues. As she sipped her tea, her mind slowly calmed down and she was able to think more clearly. There was just something soothing about herbal tea that helped her thinking process. She supposed she should be grateful that it was tea and not wine or beer, or something even worse that she needed to help her think.
She glanced around, surprised to find him standing in her kitchen doorway, his arms crossed over his chest as he waited for her response. She had no idea how long he’d been standing there waiting patiently, but as soon as she saw him she smiled, although the smile might look a bit grim which was understandable based on the subject matter.
“I won’t marry you,” she said firmly, her hands wrapped around her tea cup since she suddenly felt cold and nervous. There was a sharp stab of pain when she saw the hurt look in his eyes at her rejection of his proposal and she hurried to soothe that look. “You don’t love me and, although I feel something very strong for you, it’s probably anger right now and I don’t think that’s a very good basis for a marriage.” She thought she saw a bit of relief in his eyes with her words, but she might have been imagining that, wanting him to be in love with her.
“The fact that you want to be there for all of the doctor’s visits tells me that you really want to be a father, am I right?”
“Absolutely. I’ll protect this child from anything that might harm him.” He said that firmly, letting her know that he’d protect this baby even from her.
She smiled and nodded her head, missing the nuances of his statement because it had never occurred to her to do anything to harm this child. “I like that. It sounds very sweet. I’m guessing you might be one of those over-protective dads, especially if this is a baby girl, but we’ll cross that bridge when we reach it.”
His shoulders visibly relaxed. Damon was elated that she wasn’t going to try and keep him out of the pregnancy which she could easily have done. He didn’t say anything, still waiting to hear what she would say to his last condition. If she wouldn’t marry him, he found that he desperately wanted her where he could see her every day. He’d fought this need over the past month and had finally given up last week which was why he was here now. He couldn’t deny the need to see her, feel her and have her in his life. He’d bought her the house specifically so that he could see her whenever it was possible. This pregnancy would make things even easier. He’d demand that she travel with him wherever he went on business trips. He’d show her the world and lay it at her feet if she’d just let him. She was stubborn, but he was worse. If she’d give him this baby, she would never want for anything ever again.
Wanting her to be with him all the time was a new experience for him. He’d always kept his mistresses at a distance, coming to them when he wanted to see them, but not letting them into his life otherwise. Gabriella was different. Was it because she was pregnant? Was the need to protect his child the only reason he wanted her to be with him while he traveled around the world for his business meetings?