“I’ll get your mother,” Father said as he touched my cheek. “We’ll be in the hospital soon.”
He closed the door, and the moment Dante slipped behind the steering wheel, he revved up the engine and we shot out of the garage and down the driveway. The car with Enzo and Taft waited at the front but shot onto the street when we’d almost reached them.
Dante drove well over the speed limit. Every bump in the street made me wince. The pain wasn’t as strong anymore, now there was only a dull ache, but what if that was a bad sign? “We should have put a towel on the seat. I’m getting it wet,” I said.
Dante glanced my way. “I don’t give a fuck about the seat, or the car, or anything right now. You are all that matters.” He reached out and took my hand, which was resting on my belly. “We’re almost there. Are you in pain?”
“It’s not as bad as before,” I whispered. Then because I just couldn’t let it drop. “It is your baby, Dante. I never cheated and I won’t.”
Dante sucked in his breath. “Is that the reason for this?”
“You think my water broke because I was upset with you?”
“I don’t know.” There was something close to despair on his face. “I’m a fucking bastard, Val. If you lose this child…” He shook his head and focused back on the windshield as we pulled up in front of the hospital entrance. The car with our guards was already there, and so were a doctor and a nurse with a stretcher. Dante jumped out of the car and jogged around the hood to help them get me out of the car. Once I’d lain down on the stretcher, I was rolled into the hospital. Dante never left my side. And he only let go of my hand when he got in the way of the doctors and nurses.
After hours of ultrasounds, blood work and all kinds of other checkups, I was finally rolled into a room. I was tired and scared, though not as badly as before. Dante settled on the edge of the mattress and brushed a few strands of hair from my face. My eyelids were heavy but I didn’t want to sleep. Dante had talked to the doctors, as I didn’t feel like my brain could follow their explanations right now. “What did they say?” I asked.
“He said you had a preterm rupture of membranes. That’s why you lost some of your amniotic fluid.”
“What does it mean? Do they have to deliver our baby early?” Fear felt like a vice around my throat. It would be too soon. What if I lost our child?
Dante settled himself against the pillow and pulled me against his chest. “No, they don’t. It didn’t rupture completely, but of course there’s a higher risk of an infection now, which is why you’ll have to take antibiotics for a while. You didn’t go into labor, so that’s a plus. They hope to delay the birth until week thirty at least. You’ll have to stay in bed as much as possible and aren’t allowed to exert yourself in any way.”
“Okay,” I whispered. “I just want our baby to be safe.”
“It’ll be. We won’t let anything happen to her,” Dante said in his calm, soothing voice.
I startled. “Her?”
Dante nodded. “I asked the doctor. They could see it when they did the ultrasound. It’s a girl.”
I wanted to be happy, and I was. I would love our child no matter if it was a girl or a boy, but I knew what was expected of me. I licked my dry lips, searching Dante’s eyes. “Are you angry because it isn’t a boy? I know you need an heir. Your father—”
Dante cupped my cheek, stopping me from saying more. “I’m happy. I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. And my father will eventually see reason.”
He sounded honest, but I knew the realities of mob life, and the need for a Made Men to have a boy who could follow in his steps, be inducted into the mafia and guarantee the success of the Outfit. A man needed a son to be fully respected by his fellow Made Men. “You don’t have to sugarcoat things for me, Dante. I know how things work in our world.”
Dante pulled back a few inches, eyebrows raised. “I’m not sugarcoating anything. I told you the truth. I’m happy that we’re having a daughter. I’ll be happy about every child we have. I’m not going to lie, many people in the Outfit will see it as something less desirable. They will only really congratulate me once you’re pregnant with a boy, but I don’t care about them. You’re still young, and we have time. We’ll have more children and maybe there’ll be a boy among them. But for now let’s be happy about our daughter.”
“Are you happy?” I asked, already getting teary again. That was the one thing I hated most about being pregnant; my loss of self control when it came to my emotions, especially my tears. “Since I told you I was pregnant you never once asked about the baby. You pretended it wasn’t there. You made me feel horrible for something that should have been cause for joy. Why did you change your mind? Because I almost lost our baby?”
“I didn’t change my mind. I’ve been happy about your pregnancy for a while now.”
I gave him a doubtful look. “That’s not what I saw.”
“I’m good at hiding my thoughts and emotions,” Dante said regretfully. “But I shouldn’t have done it in this case. You are right, I ruined your first pregnancy for you. All because I was too proud to admit I’d been wrong.”
I waited patiently for him to say more. I wasn’t ready to accept his unspoken apology yet.
Dante rested his palm lightly on my stomach. “You were right during our fight after you told me about your pregnancy. I never wanted Carla to see a doctor about her inability to conceive because I didn’t want to find out it was me who was infertile. I’m a proud man, Val. Too proud, and somehow I had convinced myself that I couldn’t become Capo if I found out I was incapable of getting my wife with child. I would have been half a man.”