Henriqua woke with a start to find Ben sitting next to her. The freshly showered scent of him engulfed her, sending a rush of sensual awareness through her.
Her sharp reaction, inescapable and undisguisable, caused a domino effect of panic and insecurity. Confusion. She had been longing for him to come back to New York. She’d been bereft and uncertain, desperate to know what was going on. Part of her thrilled to see him, but a fresh anguish accosted her—because she understood now that it didn’t matter what had happened with Vincent.
She still had nothing, still had to give up her baby. Ben still didn’t love her.
“I didn’t mean to wake you.” He drew the blanket higher on her shoulder. “How are you? How is baby?”
“Fine. I had a checkup this morning. I was really tired when I got ho—back.” She swallowed. “Vincent?”
“In jail. Staying there. Forget about him.”
Small comfort, but she murmured, “Thank you.”
“Did he hurt your mother?” he asked in a dour voice.
“I’ve been wondering that myself, thinking I should have tried harder to see her. He got in the way. Then she got sick and—” She threw her arm over her eyes, sniffed back tears. “Can we not talk about that?”
“Another time.” His hand settled on her thickened middle. “I’m glad the baby is okay.”
“Me, too.” She tentatively let her hand settle over his while still hiding behind her other arm.
His hand shifted away, slid beneath her. He gathered her, drew her into his lap and held her against his bare chest.
She turned her face into his skin, the feel of him too acutely sweet to bear. Tears slid out of her clenched eyes.
“I’m sorry, Ben. I didn’t know he was capable of all that. I’m so sorry.”
“Shh. It’s done. Behind us.”
“No, it isn’t and never will be. You had to pay those fines and lost your business.”
“I’ll recover. We’ll be fine.”
She drew back and wiped her cheeks, tried to think a clear thought, but kept welling up, unable to bear giving up her baby. What choice did she have, though?
“Will you let me see her sometimes?”
“At the scan today they said she’s a girl.”
The breath rushed out of him and his arms crushed her gently. “How are your ribs?” he asked, suddenly loosening his grip.
He nearly crushed the life out of her. “A girl? It didn’t matter to me either way, so I don’t know why I feel like I won the lottery. We’re having a little girl, Ricki.”
She hadn’t heard that nickname since their last night together in Indonesia. She smiled sadly and forced him to release her, not wanting to believe this meant anything more than a moment of forgetfulness on his part.
She moved onto the bed beside him. “Just promise me that if she wants to go into science, you’ll support her.”
“You’ll be setting an example for her. Henriqua.” He caught her elbow, keeping her sitting even as she convulsively tried to stand and put distance between them. “We’re getting married and raising her together.”
“No, Ben. I told you the other night. I won’t marry a man just to support me. More than ever, I realize what a mistake that can become.”
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