Unexpected Reality (9 page)

“It’s fine,” I tell her. “That’s my family, so can they come in?”

“No, but you can bring him to the window. You can either carry him and continue how you are, or we can wrap him back up and wheel him over there.” She points to the bed on wheels. I notice there’s a sign in blue that says ‘Baby Knox’ so the families can tell them apart. His wristband says the same. I feel a pang of sadness for Melissa that she’s missing this. This was her dream to be a mom—
is her dream.

“I’ll just carry him,” I tell her. She nods and steps back, allowing me to stand. I walk ever so slowly, never taking my eyes off him. A tapping sound on the window captures my attention. My family. Mom, Dad, Reagan, and the guys are watching me and my son intently. I smile at them and nod toward the sleeping baby in my arms. Mom and Reagan have tears in their eyes while Dad is grinning from ear to ear. The guys are all wearing looks of disbelief. I know how they feel; this entire night has been surreal to me.

I stand there for I don’t even know how long, holding my son against my bare chest, letting my friends and family take him in. He’s so fucking tiny.

“Mr. Beckett, why don’t I take him so you can go and see your family,” the nurse suggests.

I want to argue with her—I’m not ready to put him down yet—but I know my family has questions. Hell,
have questions. Sure, her letter answered some of them, but really I just need her to wake up.

I nod and slowly transfer him into the nurse’s arms. “We’ll be right here. Why don’t you go talk to them and then maybe check in on Mom, see how’s she doing?” she says.

I grab my shirt and throw it on over my head. On last glance at my son back in his . . . Hell, I don’t know what to call it—his bed, maybe? The sign above his head, ‘Baby Knox,’ lets me know that is indeed him.

My son.



As soon as I walk out of the nursery, Reagan runs to me and throws her arms around my waist. I hug her tight. I try not to let her see how fucking scared and overwhelmed I am, but this is my little sister. She knows me too well.

“You got this, Ridge. Whatever you need,” she says softly, for my ears only.

“How you holding up, son?” Dad asks, causing Reagan to release me from her grip.

I look up at my father and see the man who taught me how to throw a football, talked to me about girls, taught me how to build things, which led to my current career and taking over the family business. I vow to myself that I will be that kind of father.

“I-I don’t really know. I mean, this is just . . . It’s a lot to take in,” I say honestly.

He nods. “He looks like you,” he tells me.

I smile, because I see it too. “Yeah.”

“He’s perfect, Ridge,” Mom adds.

That’s the thing about my family—SO much love and support. They don’t question if he’s really mine. They go with what I have told them, and they’re here for whatever I need.

“He looks tiny when you hold him,” Seth says from beside me.

I turn to look at him. “He is that tiny. It’s crazy, man. I feel like I’m going to break him or something.”

The guys laugh at that. “You need anything from us, brother?” Tyler asks. The others nod, letting me know they’re also here for me, for anything I might need.

“Hell if I know. The Allen job?” I ask them.

“All taken care of. We did the final walk-through, cleaned up the site, and have everything ready to go tomorrow with the Williams job,” Mark explains.

That’s when I notice they’re all wearing their work boots and Beckett Construction T-shirts. They must have come straight here from the job site.

“Thanks. I-I guess I need to go check on Melissa. She should be out of recovery now.”

“We brought you some food.” Mom steps in for a hug.

I wrap my arms around her and fight the emotion threatening to drown me. Once a momma’s boy, always a momma’s boy. Then I think about my son and Melissa. She has to wake up. He needs her.
need her. I can’t do this on my own. We might not be together, but who knows what the future holds?

Dad holds up a bag of food. I take it and nod my thanks.

“We’re going to stay here for a bit.” Mom looks over at my son and smiles.

“We’re going to head out and grab a shower, but we’ll be back,” Kent says, pointing down at his work boots and dirty jeans.

“You guys don’t have to come back. There’s nothing but waiting right now.”

“So we wait.” Seth shrugs.

“Walk us out. Some fresh air for a few minutes might do you some good,” Tyler chimes in.

I say a quick good-bye to my parents’ and sister and follow the guys outside. I take a deep breath, holding it in before slowly releasing it.

“Some crazy-ass shit,” Mark says, breaking the silence.

“Don’t I know it.” It’s like one of those movies my mom and sister like to watch on that Lifetime channel.

“You need anything, man, you let us know,” Kent offers.

“Just take care of the office. I can’t even think about all that right now.”

“We got you. I’ll bring a deck of cards or something when we come back,” Seth says.

“Guys, really, you don’t need to sit here. No point in all five of us sitting and staring at her.”

“Fine, we’ll take shifts. I’ll be back later,” Tyler states. “You guys—” he points to our other three friends “—can take the next one.” Finally, he looks at me. “See you in a bit.”

I concede with a nod. Each of them takes a turn giving me a quick hug and slap on the back.

I stand there on the steps, eyes closed, just taking a minute to reflect on everything when I hear my name being called. Slowly, I open my eyes and see Stephanie.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

Three days. It’s been three days since I told her I was here. I know we didn’t label what was going on with us, but
three days?

“I’m good.” I don’t bother further explanation.

She takes me in, seeing that physically I am indeed okay. “You’ve not returned any of my calls or texts.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“What’s going on, Ridge? You really believe he’s yours?”

I tell her about Melissa, about our night together. I tell her about the night of the gala and end with earlier today when my son was born. I give her the CliffsNotes version, but I don’t hold back.

“So, you’re falling for this girl’s story? Are you sure this kid is even yours? I mean, come on, Ridge. Think about it. How many women try to trap men with ‘I’m pregnant’? I thought you were smarter than that.”

What. The. Fuck.

“He’s mine,” I grit out. Sure, we’re still waiting on the results of the paternity test, but he looks like me and I just know he’s my son.

She stares at me as if trying to see through me. She won’t find what she’s looking for. He’s my son; my gut has never been wrong before.

“So, what, you’re just going to play daddy now?”

I take a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. She’s testing me. “There is no fucking playing about it, Stephanie. I’m a father. I have a son.”

“I can’t believe you’re falling for this shit! You really want to be tied down with a kid from a one-night stand?”

“Yes!” I growl. “He’s mine. I will be in his life, regardless of my relationship with his mother. His mother who, by the way, is currently lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her fucking life!”

Stephanie shakes her head as if my words are the craziest thing she’s ever heard. “Good luck with that. Call me when all this shit blows over and we can get together.”

I’m fucking done. “Not gonna happen.”

“What, you have a kid so now we can’t hook up?”

“My son has nothing to do with it. I don’t want you.”

She steps forward and runs her finger down my chest. “You sure about that? Why is it that I’m the only one you keep coming back to?”

Fuck this! “You were a bet,” I snap. “The guys fucking bet me that I couldn’t stay with one person for three months. Sure, we had a good time, but don’t mistake that for something more. You were their pick.” I shrug, letting her know that she’s of no consequence to me.

“A bet?” she asks, appalled.

“Yep. So you can take you’re ‘better than thou’ bitchy self and move on down the road. Even if it
more, there is no way I could be with someone who doesn’t accept my child.”

“You don’t even know if he’s yours!” she yells.

“Go!” My voice is low and menacing. “I don’t want to see you anymore. He is mine, and you are not. Leave now, and lose my number.”

I turn and stomp my way up the steps, needing to check on Melissa then go visit my son.

“You’ll regret this, Ridge Beckett!” she yells after me. “I won’t be waiting for you when this blows up in your face!”

“Good fucking riddance,” I mumble under my breath. I don’t bother turning around to address her, just keep walking as though I didn’t hear her dumb-ass tirade.

I take the elevator up to Melissa’s floor. Her room is quiet, nothing but the sounds of the beeping machines. Pulling a chair up next to her bed, I gently hold her hand in mine. She has no one, just me and our son. I think about my family, my friends who were all here for me today, who have been the last three days. There’s no one in her corner. How lonely she must be.

“Hey, Melissa,” I say, my voice low. “You did good today. He’s perfect, and so damn tiny.” I chuckle. “When I hold him, he’s so small in my arms. I’m almost afraid I’ll break him, but the nurses assure me that I won’t.” I gently run my thumb over her wrist. “You need to wake up now. I need you to fight to come back to him.”

That’s when it hits me that I need to bring him here. Maybe having him in the same room, or laying him against her chest, might bring her back. Hell, I have no fucking idea what I’m even talking about. I just know they said she could possibly still hear everything. If that’s the case, I want her to know he’s here. Give her a reason, motivation to open her eyes.

“I’m going to go down to the nursery and get our boy. He needs to see his momma, even if she is Sleeping Beauty. I’ll be back.” Standing, I kiss her on the forehead before leaving the room.

Once I reach the nursery, I stop at the window and look for him. It doesn’t take long to spot the ‘Baby Knox’ sign, my son sleeping peacefully beneath it. Although it scares the hell out of me, I can’t wait to hold him again.

I swipe my bracelet, which gives me access to the nursery waiting room. I inform the girl at the desk that I’m here to take my son to see his mother. She doesn’t ask for anything except to see my bracelet. I assume the story of Melissa, her coma, and me not knowing about the baby has rapidly filtered throughout the hospital. Everyone loves a good storyline.

“Hey, Daddy,” a nurse I’ve never seen before greets me, wheeling my son’s bed with her. “It’s time for this little guy to eat. You can do that here, or I can go with you to Mom’s room.”

I have a feeling this is not standard protocol; they must be able to see I have no experience with babies or any clue how to take care of one. They’re taking pity on me, but I’m grateful.

“Can we do it there? I just want him to be close to her. I thought maybe it could help.” I run my fingers through my hair. I know it’s a long shot, but I need for her to wake up.

“Absolutely.” She gives me a sad smile.

I watch as she signs him out and tells the others where she’ll be. As I hold the door open for her, we run into Reagan and Tyler.

“I had to argue with Mom. She wanted to come back first, but Dad helped to convince her that she needs a good night’s sleep because when you bring the baby home, you’ll need all the help you can get.”

Bring him home?
I look over at the nurse. “He’s doing well. As long as he continues to do so, we can release him as early as tomorrow. However, paternity will need to be proven before you can take him. It might take an additional day or two,” she explains.

I nod, hoping those results come back fast.

“Can you keep him here that long? I mean, you won’t send him to foster care or anything, right?” Reagan asks.

Her words cut me like a knife. Melissa’s letter, her words are flashing through my mind. “No, do what you have to do to speed up the test. I don’t care what it costs, but he will not be going into the fucking system,” I growl.

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