“No shit,” I deadpan, causing her to let loose with a fit of laughter. I think we both needed the comic relief.
“Are you disappointed it’s not a boy?” she asks as she looks down at her hands.
Taken aback by her question, I stare at her bent head for a moment before leaning across the console and putting one hand on the nape of her neck and the other on the swell of her stomach. “Not at all, baby. I was surprised because I don’t think I had let myself believe one way or the other. You and this baby are my miracles and the only thing I feel is utterly and completely blessed.”
“Luc?” she says lovingly.
“What, baby?” I answer, expecting at the least a declaration of her love.
“I’m so hungry. Could you stop at McDonald’s and buy a couple of cheeseburgers to tide me over until we meet Debra and Ray for dinner?”
I give a snort of surprise before patting her thigh. She’s eating for two now and our baby must have quite an appetite because a small meal before the main one has gotten to be the norm for her. “Of course, babe. Just hold tight. I also need to swing by Aidan’s to pick up the Kenson contracts. He was supposed to leave them out for me before leaving for the weekend.” When she gives me a worried look, I quickly add, “I’ll pick up your food first and you can eat it there, okay?”
Lia gives me a dazzling smile that lets me know I’m her hero or, in this case, her Ronald McDonald. “Thank you, honey.”
Thankfully, McDonald’s isn’t crowded and within twenty minutes, Lia is munching on a cheeseburger in Aidan’s kitchen while I flip through the signed contract. It’s taken months and a lot of negotiations, but Kenson will soon be a part of Quinn Software. Aidan worked his ass off on the deal and he’ll be well rewarded for it.
Lia gives a groan of bliss as she finishes her food and takes a sip of her drink. “Feeling better?” I smirk as she lets out a delicate burp.
Her cheeks bloom pink as she mumbles, “Excuse me. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
“It’s quite all right, sweetheart. Sam does it all the time.” She sticks her tongue out at me before picking up her trash and putting it away. I look at my watch. “We’d better get going before we’re late.” We’re just steps away from the front door when I hear keys turning in the lock. I’m momentarily surprised because I thought Aidan would be long gone by now since he’d taken today off. Maybe he’d forgotten something and had to come back.
I see his familiar face as the door opens. He steps to the side and ushers someone ahead of him. I brace myself for an awkward run-in with Monique or some other one-night stand. When the woman turns toward me, my world screeches abruptly to a halt. “Oh my God,” I hiss, feeling like I’m in the middle of a bad dream.
Aidan looks up at the sound of my voice, blanching when he sees me gaping at him. “Luc. What’re you doing here?” I am incapable of answering him as I continue to stare at the woman beside him. Her hair is pulled tightly away from her face in a ponytail. She’s pale and doesn’t appear to be wearing any makeup. She’s also thinner than usual—almost waif-like.
When Lia takes my hand, I give her a helpless look, not even knowing what to do or say at this point. I can tell she’s curious. She gives Aidan a warm smile saying, “Hi, Aidan. Lucian came by for some papers and we stayed long enough for me to have a snack. We were just on our way to meet some friends for dinner.”
Aidan’s voice is strained as he says, “Um…hi, Lia. Good to see you again.” This whole moment in time is so fucking strange to me that I can hardly believe it’s happening. Aidan looks like he’s been hit by a bus, so I have to believe he’s feeling the same way. Lia keeps shooting quick glances my way as if trying to figure out what to do next—and Cassie, dammit to hell—she’s standing before me looking completely and utterly blank.
Lia suddenly extends a hand toward Cassie with a shy smile, and alarmed, I try to pull her back. She places a hand on my chest to stop me before turning back to the other woman. “It looks as if everyone has forgotten their manners around here. I’m Lia, and you are?”
Cassie looks from Lia’s face to her hand and back again. Then she does something that stops my heart. She steps toward Lia and places a hand on either side of her swollen stomach. “My baby,” she says in a childlike voice that chills my blood. Both Aidan and I freeze while Lia looks at me uncertainly.
“Why do you have my baby?”
Horror floods Lia’s face as she steps back quickly. Her actions shake me from my stupor and I jerk forward, taking her arm and pulling her through the partially open door. I pass within inches of Cassie and I think I will shatter if she lays one hand on me. Thankfully, though, Aidan has reached over and pulled her farther inside the apartment and away from us. I hear him speaking softly but shakily to her as I hurry Lia toward the elevator. When the door closes behind us, I collapse back against the wood panel, unable to comprehend what just occurred. The elevator continues to sit in place as neither of us has pushed a button yet. “Lucian. What just happened in there?” Lia asks in a tight voice.
“Fuck if I know, baby.” I shudder, trying to recover enough to function. I’d never expected to see Cassie again and I damn sure hadn’t imagined running into her in some random way. I could only assume that Aidan had followed through with the doctor’s suggestion to bring her for a visit. Why in the hell hadn’t he told me—warned me that he was doing just that? I wouldn’t have been anywhere near his apartment if I’d known and I sure wouldn’t have put Lia right in her path. I’d felt physically sick when she’d touched Lia’s stomach as if it were her own. Fucking hell!