Ben had spent a lot of time with that tiny word lately. If he hadn’t hired her, if he hadn’t been so drawn to her, if he hadn’t hiked out alone with her that day. If he hadn’t sat next to her and said what should have remained unsaid and if he had resisted the compulsion to taste her, just once, perhaps he would still have his company.
Perhaps he wouldn’t be sitting next to her hospital bed, waiting with suffocating fear for the scan the doctor had ordered.
The baby’s heartbeat was strong and there wasn’t any bleeding, which was very good news, but the bruises across Henriqua’s back were the ugliest, most terrifying thing he’d ever seen.
He closed his eyes, the vision imprinted behind his eyelids for all time. If she hadn’t gone to Vincent’s, hadn’t wanted so badly to prove her innocence…
“Ben,” she said, soft and urgent.
He snapped his eyes open and shot to his feet, leaning over her, hand tenderly brushing the hair back from her pale cheek. “What’s wrong?”
She was on her side and he’d thought she was dozing, but she rolled onto her back with a small wince. She took his hand and pressed it to her middle.
Something moved. Under her gown and under the warmth of her taut belly.
He jerked his hand away on reflex, startled, then immediately felt foolish, but he hadn’t been around a pregnant woman since his youngest cousin had been born twelve years ago.
Henriqua’s smile fell away. “I thought you would want to know the baby is moving.”
“I do.” He gently set his hand back in place. This time he was disconcerted by a rush of emotion. Not just reassurance, but the stunning knowledge that his child was alive and moving and real. So tiny the pressure was nothing more than a coin sitting in his hand yet the weight of responsibility it thrust upon him was a mountain. And the swell of love injected into him was fierce and stinging and all encompassing.
He glanced into Henriqua’s liquid brown eyes and saw exactly what he was feeling. Relief. Excitement. Joy.
If he hadn’t kissed her that day. If she hadn’t moaned with an anguished type of pleasure that exactly matched the hunger digging its claws into him, he might never have made love to her. If he’d had a condom on him...
So many ifs that could have added up to a different reality today. He wouldn’t be standing here, his hand under the warm drape of hers, their baby’s fluttering movements holding both of them rapt with wonder.
He quit trying to rearrange all those ifs into any pattern but the one he had already chosen. They had led him to this moment and it was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened to him.
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