Unexpected Reality (12 page)

“We have to get an accurate weight. It’s crucial when they are this young to ensure they’re gaining weight. He should gain steadily at each visit. We can’t have the diaper interfering with that number,” Kendall explains.

I nod, biting my lip. I watch as Kendall expertly removes his diaper, gets his weight, and has the diaper back on him. If I had blinked, I would’ve missed it. Knox’s little lip starts to quiver before he lets out a wail.

“Okay, Dad, you can pick him back up.”

Not having to be told twice, I take him back in my arms and cover him with his blanket. He calms instantly. I know it’s just the warmth, but it’s a pretty big ego boost at this point in the game that I can give him what he needs. That being my biggest fear and all.

“All right, guys, the doctor will be right in.”

“Ease up, Daddy.” Reagan grins.

I scowl at her. “Ease up, my ass. She was getting him naked.”

She laughs. “Relax, she’s just doing her job. He’s not in danger, papa bear.”

I can’t help but grin. Even though I’m exhausted and it’s only been three days, I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this.

 

 

Ridge Beckett. He looks better than he did in high school. The ink that covers his skin, the chiseled abs that his too-tight T-shirt proudly displayed. Time has most definitely been good to him.

The whole lot of them—him, Seth, Mark, Tyler, and Kent—were every teenage girl’s dream. The entire school drooled over them. They were the unattainable. Regardless, they were easy on the eyes for sure. Just the chance that you could pass them in the halls was motivation enough to get the girls to come to school. Hell, some of the guys too.

I sit down at the computer and start entering the baby’s weight. When I click over to verify the insurance, I see a chart note. Wanting to make sure it doesn’t pertain to today’s visit, I find myself glued to the computer screen.

Once I’m finished, I just stare at the screen. My heart breaks for Ridge and Baby Knox. Apparently, Mom was in a bad accident and passed away after giving birth. I click over in the chart and verify if Mom has been listed as deceased.
How embarrassing and gut-wrenching would that be for everyone, asking about her?
The chart has not yet been marked, so I flag it and send a ‘before visit’ message to Dr. Harris, advising him to read the chart note prior entering the exam room. Forcing myself to keep going, I finish my charting and move on to the next patient.

Just as I’m leaving the exam room, Dr. Harris steps out of the room beside me. He was in there with Baby Knox.

“Kendall, can you get the dad in room two the first-year baby guide?”

I nod and head back to the medicine closet where we store samples and information packets. Grabbing the first-year guidebook, I see a small black diaper bag, the ones we get from pharmaceutical reps to give to new parents. The Beckett family situation still on my mind, I grab one. It already has formula, the one they’ve been using, and I throw in some baby wash samples and a few others before heading back to the exam room.

“All right, here’s a bag of goodies. We like to give these to first-time parents. Just a few samples. Dr. Harris has signed his note, so you’re good to go. It was nice seeing you both again.” I know I’m rambling and rushing them, but my heart is breaking for them and it’s hard for me to retain my professional demeanor, especially since I know them. It’s been a few years, but that doesn’t make my heart hurt any less for them.

Bending down, I gently run my finger over little Knox’s foot. “I’ll see you next time, handsome,” I coo.

“So, what exactly happens next time? He needs shots, right?” Ridge asks.

Taking a deep breath, I stand up and face him. “Yes, he will receive several vaccinations his first year of life. This packet—” I pull it out of the side of the bag I just gave him “—will address each visit. It also goes through milestones that your baby will reach at each month.”

Ridge takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. “Great. Thank you, Kendall.”

“You’re welcome. In that packet, you will also find our after-hours number. Don’t hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns. That’s what we’re here for,” I say before stepping out of the room.

I leave them to gather their things and wrap my head around the rest of my day. I try to focus, but I keep thinking about what they must be going through, how that adorable little boy will never know his mother. The exam door opens and my eyes dart to them.

“Thanks, Kendall,” Reagan says with a smile and a wave.

“See you soon,” I reply.

“Thank you again,” Ridge says in his deep voice.

“Hey, my knight in shining armor,” Dawn pipes up.

This causes Ridge and Reagan to stop in their tracks. I whip my head around to my co-worker and best friend.
Has she lost her damn mind?

She points at herself. “The flat-tire girl. You stopped to help me last week.” She grins. “Thank you again.”

Ridge visibly stiffens for a second; if my eyes weren’t glued to him, I would’ve missed it. I watch as he quickly paints on a grin. “Anytime. Glad I could help.” He doesn’t stick around for idle chit-chat; he turns and makes his way down the hall, disappearing behind the waiting room door. Reagan drops the clipboard off at the reception desk with the promise that they’ll call to schedule the next appointment.

“What the hell was that?” I hiss at Dawn. I’m mindful of the level of my voice, little ears being everywhere.

“What? He’s the guy I was telling you about. The night I had a flat tire on my way home from work, he stopped in the pouring rain to help me. You know him?”

“Yes. I graduated with his sister. He was two years ahead of me in school.”

“Damn, they didn’t have guys who looked like that at my high school. Please tell me he was a pimply-faced geek back then.”

I think back to Ridge and his band of buddies. None of them would even come close to pimply-faced or geeky then—or now, I’m sure. “Sorry, no can do.”

“You have all the luck,” she whines.

“Listen, he’s going through a lot. Their whole family is, so he doesn’t need you hitting on him right now. Besides, that’s unprofessional,” I scold her.

“I wasn’t flirting. I was simply showing my appreciation for him stopping to help me.”

“Uh-huh.” I laugh then mock-glare at her. “Get back to work.

She mumbles something under her breath about being friends with the boss, and I just smile wider.

Dawn and I met in nursing school, and after graduation we got an apartment together in Mason, a few towns over.

That’s where I met Cal. He was a third-year resident at the hospital Dawn and I worked at. He was charming, educated, and good-looking. On the outside, we had a ton of things in common. On paper, we were the perfect match. On the inside . . . not so much. I fell fast and hard, thought we were in love, until it was obvious that we weren’t. It took me a year to see it, to admit to the signs. By then, it was too late. He lived across the hall, so no matter how many times I tried to break things off with him, he was always there, lurking in the background. When my mom called and said Dr. Harris was looking for a new nursing coordinator, I jumped at the chance to interview. I missed living so close to my parents.’

Dawn began looking too, and I happened to mention that in my interview. To my surprise, Dr. Harris needed a floor nurse as well. The practice has been here since I was a little girl, but the original staff was retiring, including the physicians. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. I needed to get away from Cal, and Dawn was more than willing to tag along for the adventure.

After we were both offered positions, we packed slowly, making weekend trips to my parents’ to move our things. We both had to give two weeks’ notice, and I didn’t want to have to deal with the drama that Cal was sure to cause by us moving. Lucky for us, he went away for the weekend with friends and we were gone by the time he came home. No forwarding address. He knows I’m from Jackson, but we’re not alone here. Dawn and I have my parents’ and grandparents, and that alone helps me sleep at night.

I shake away the memories and try to focus on the task at hand. We’ve got a full day of patients who need my full attention.

 

 

He’s growing, gaining weight like he should be, and all looks good according to Dr. Harris. He’s only been home a few days, but it’s a relief to know I’m doing something right. I’m totally flying by the seat of my pants with this one. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Mom and Reagan. One, if not both of them, has been with me since the moment I brought him home. I appreciate them so much, but at the same time I feel like they’re hovering. I have to learn to do this on my own, as a single father. That’s not a title I ever imagined being associated with, but life is often unexpected.

“Hey, are you even listening to me?” Reagan asks.

I don’t take my eyes off the road—precious cargo and all that. “Sorry, a lot on my mind,” I confess.

“What’s up?”

I laugh. “Everything.”

“Ridge,” she says softly.

“I’m good, really. Just thinking about how much you and Mom have helped me with little man.” I glance at her in the rearview mirror. “I think I need to try it on my own, you know?”

She’s quiet for several minutes. I don’t look at her, afraid of what I’ll see. Maybe she thinks I’m not capable.

“You’re good with him,” she finally says. “We just want you to know that you’re not alone. We’re with you every step of the way.”

I take a minute to let her words sink in. “I know, and I love you both for it, but I have to do this. I have to learn to take care of him. You and Mom can’t be there every day for the rest of his life. I have to learn to be both Mom and Dad to him.”

Silence greets me. I glance in the mirror and see she’s wiping a tear from her eyes.
What the fuck? Tears? I hate tears.

“Reagan?”

“I’m so damn proud of you, big brother. Knox is a lucky little boy to have you for a father. I don’t know many men who would be thrown into your position unexpectedly and handle it like you have. Like you are.”

I nod, choked up a little at her praise. We drive the rest of the way to my place in silence. It’s not until I pull into the drive that I break it.

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