Authors: Kaylee Ryan
Reagan lays a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“It’s fine. Usually, we would involve Child Services and the child would be placed in foster care. However, this is extenuating circumstances. The physician’s already ordered for stat results on the paternity, and with Mom being here still, that buys this little guy a few extra days,” she assures me.
“See?” Tyler says. “It’s all good, my man. Where you headed?”
I know he’s trying to get my mind off the fact that my son could go into the system. Even a few days is too damn long when he has family who wants him. Me, his father—I want him.
“Uh . . . We’re taking the baby to see Melissa,” I tell them.
“She’s awake?” Reagan’s eyes light up.
“No, but they say that even in a coma they can hear what’s going on, so I thought maybe. . . .”
“Good plan. We’re coming with. Tyler and I stopped off at the store and bought some outfits, blankets, diaper bag, diapers—things like that.” She holds up the bag that’s hanging off her shoulder.
“Can we all be in there?” I ask the nurse.
She winks, grinning. “I only see two people, don’t you? Two people who are going to be calm and quiet and not disturb the patient. I know nothing.”
“You’re too kind.” Tyler winks back at her. Any other time, I would find this amusing.
The baby starts to fuss. “He needs to eat. Let’s get him to Mom, shall we?” the nurse asks politely.
I nod, and the three of us follow her to the elevator.
The nurse sticks around long enough for me to feed him and then leaves us alone. I fight back the panic that threatens to break free. I’ve never taken care of a baby. My only saving grace is that my sister and Tyler are here with me; Reagan used to babysit for the neighbors’ kids all the time.
“Can I hold him now?” she asks me.
I nod, and she jumps from her seat and comes toward me. Like she’s done it a million times, she leans down and takes him from my arms. “Watch his head,” I remind her.
“Chill, Daddy. I got this.”
Tyler chuckles. “That just hit you, didn’t it?” he asks.
“I guess so. I mean, it’s just weird, I guess. The nurses have called me that, but with Reagan saying it, it’s . . . Wow.”
“He’s so sweet.” Reagan brings him to her lips and kisses his little cheek.
I lean over, resting my elbows on my knees, my eyes never leaving my sister and my son.
“Kid’s going to be a stud,” Tyler jokes. I know he’s trying to lighten the mood.
“Care to elaborate?” I ask him.
He shrugs. “You’re his dad, and he has four cool-as-hell uncles. How can he not be?”
“Oh, yeah. This little guy is going to have the ladies eating out of the palm of his hand. But he’ll be a gentleman; I’ll make sure of it. And I’m sure your mommy will too,” Reagan coos to him.
“Wh-what ab-bout m-m-mom-my?” a croaked voice asks.
I fly to my feet. “Hey,” I say softly, reaching for her hand.
“R-Ridge?” she forces out.
“Shhh, it’s okay,” I soothe her.
“I’ll go get the nurse.” Tyler is on his feet and out the door in a flash.
“It’s okay. You were in an accident on your way to see me. They found your letter and gave it to me,” I tell her.
She nods. Our son makes a grunting noise and her eyes, panicked, search him out.
“He’s here, healthy and perfect,” I reassure her. “Reagan.”
She stands and goes to the other side of the bed. “Hi, Melissa. I’m Reagan, Ridge’s sister. I think this little guy would like to meet you.” She holds my son out so Melissa can see him. One arm is in a cast while the other has an IV running to it.
Tears fall from Melissa’s eyes, and a smile tilts her lips.
“Look at you,” a nurse says, entering the room. “Glad to have you with us. I’ll need everyone to step out while I examine her.”
Melissa looks panicked again.
“It’s okay. We’re just going to step outside. They need to take a look at you,” I murmur.
She closes her eyes, blinking back tears. When she opens them again, she appears to be calmer.
“I promise we’ll be right back.” I give her hand a gentle squeeze and follow my sister and Tyler out to the waiting room.
“Good news, yeah?” Tyler asks.
“Yeah,” I agree, looking down at my son.
“I’m going to call Mom and Dad, tell them she’s awake.” Reagan skips off down the hallway.
“I already texted the guys, letting them know. You good?” Tyler questions.
“I’m good. Relieved. I don’t know how to raise a kid, let alone on my own. She and I have a lot of shit to figure out.”
“You can come back in,” the nurse informs us.
“Listen, man. I’ll give the three of you some time. I’ll be in the waiting room if you need me. I’m going to see if Reagan wants to go down to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. You want anything?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks, man.”
I find Melissa sitting up in bed. “Hey,” I say, keeping my voice low.
“Hi,” she replies, her voice raspy.
“How you feeling?”
“Like I missed a lot.” She eyes our son.
“I think someone wants to meet you.” I gently lift him from his bed and carry him to her. Tears are streaming down her face when I place him in her arms. “Here you go, little man. This is your mommy.”
A sob escapes her throat. I admit I have to blink hard several times to keep my emotions in check.
“Hi, handsome,” she coos. “I love you so much.”
He’s sleeping, not a care in the world. I can see the love in her eyes, and any anger I had about her not telling me sooner fades away. She was coming to me, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that she is going to be the best mother to our son.
Melissa leans down and kisses his forehead, letting her lips linger. The image is one I know she and my son will cherish forever. I slip my phone out of my pocket and snap a picture, the flash catching her attention. She doesn’t chide me about her hair being a mess or that she’s not picture-ready. No, Melissa gives me a bright-as-the-sun smile, tears in her eyes.
“Can I see?” she asks.
I take my seat beside her bed and show her my phone. “I’ve taken a few today.” I slowly scroll through the pictures so she can see.
“When was he born?”
“Today at 12:01 p.m. He’s six pounds, eight ounces, and nineteen inches long. They say he’s perfectly healthy.”
“Yeah, the doctors gave you something through your IV to make his lungs stronger. His heart rate started to drop, so they delivered him cesarean. You’ve been here for three days.”
“I’m so sorry, Ridge. I was coming to tell you. I wanted you to know, but I was just scared . . . you would reject him, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t know how you would react.”
I take a minute to process what she said. “I’m not mad anymore. How can I be when you gave me him? He’s a shock, sure, but he’s my flesh and blood. I know we have a lot to figure out, but I want to be in his life.” I stop and wait for her reaction. She nods, more tears falling from her eyes. “I want him to have my name,” I confess.
“Okay,” she agrees, looking down at our son. “He’s perfect, Ridge. I’ve never had family. He’s my family.” Her voice cracks.
“Hey, how about another picture? This time of the three of us?”
She smiles through her tears, nodding.
I step out of the room and grab a nurse. “Can you take a picture of the three of us?” I ask her.
I hand her my phone and gingerly sit on the side of the bed. Placing my arm around Melissa’s shoulders, we smile for the camera.
“Thank you,” I tell the nurse, taking my phone back.
“You’re welcome,” she says, then quietly leaves us once more.
“Did you have any names in mind?” I ask Melissa.
“No, I wanted to meet him first, get to know his personality a little. Any ideas?”
“As long as it ends in Beckett, I’m good with it.”
A soft laugh escapes her lips. “Thank you, Ridge. I know you should hate me right now. You could be making this so much more difficult, but you’re not.”
“No need. He’s mine, and I want to be a part of his life. Nothing difficult about it. Do I wish I would have known sooner? Yeah, but at the end of the day, it’s the same result. We have a child to raise.”
She yawns, and I watch as she battles to keep her eyes open.
“Hey, why don’t I take him back to the nursery so you can rest? We don’t have to figure anything out today. You need rest to get out of this joint.”
“Yeah, I have a little bit of a headache too. Will you stay with him?”
“Nowhere else I’d rather be,” I tell her honestly, taking him from her arms and placing him back in his bed. “Get some rest. We’ll be here when you wake up.” Leaning down, I kiss her forehead.
“Thank you, Ridge. Thank you for our son,” she whispers as she closes her eyes.
As quietly as I can, I leave the room and take little man back to the nursery. After I’ve checked him back in, I decide to head to the cafeteria to join Reagan and Tyler.
“Everything okay?” Reagan asks when I approach their table.
“Yeah, Melissa is resting. I took little man back to the nursery.”
“Sit, I’ll grab you something to eat.” She stands, hugs me, then leaves to do as she said.
“How’s she doing?” Tyler asks.
I run my fingers though my hair. “Good. I mean, as far as I can tell, anyway. She was emotional, but happy. She’s been through a lot and we have a lot to work out, but nothing has to be decided today.”
“True. I told the guys to just stay home. They can come by tomorrow after work.”
“Yeah, thanks, man.”
“So, did you pick out a name?” Reagan asks, setting a tray with a cheeseburger and French fries in front of me.
“Nope, she said she wanted to get to know him first. I told her I didn’t care either way as long as he has my last name.”
“What did she say to that?” she asks.
“Nothing, what can she say? He’s mine. She seemed fine with it. Almost . . . relieved.”
“Good. Now eat up so I can go love on my nephew again before I have to get home. I can’t get to him without you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say and do as I’m told.
After I practically inhale my food, we head back up to the nursery. The nurse from earlier, along with another and what looks like Melissa’s doctor, is standing outside the waiting room door. When one of the nurses sees us coming, her face pales.
My heart begins to beat furiously against my chest. I quicken my stride and stop beside them. “What is it? What’s wrong? Is he okay?” I barely register a hand on each of my shoulders; at this point, I’m not sure if they’re for support or to hold me back. I look through the nursery window and I don’t see him. “Where is my son? Somebody better start talking now,” I demand.
“Mr. Beckett, let’s step inside.” The doctor points to the waiting room.
“Tell me now! Where is my son?”
“Ridge.” Reagan grabs my arm. “Let’s go in and sit down. I’m sure as soon as we do, this fine doctor here will tell us what’s going on.”
The doctor nods his agreement.
Once we’re in the waiting room, a nurse wheels my son out to us. I don’t hesitate this time, lifting him into my arms and holding him close. “Talk! Is he okay? What the hell is going on?”
“Mr. Beckett, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Melissa . . . Well, she’s gone.”
“Gone? What do you mean gone? I was just with her not twenty minutes ago. She’s sleeping.”
“No, I mean she’s passed. We tried everything we could,” he tells me.
“Ridge, you need to sit.” Tyler lays a heavy hand on my shoulder and pushes me into a chair.
“We think it was a brain aneurysm. When there’s trauma to the head, you sometimes don’t know until it’s too late. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
loss? What about my son? That’s his mother.”
Reagan tries to take him from me, but I hold tighter. “Ridge, let me hold him, please. You’re upset, and he can sense that. I’ll be right here, I promise.”
“Let her take him,” Tyler encourages me.
Reluctantly, I hand over my son. “How is this happening? I was just with her. If I would’ve stayed, she would still be here.”