He wasn’t far off with that look.

She rounded on him, eyes wide and teeth gritted. “By God I will be married before this child comes out of my vagina, Jackson Beckett Matthews!”

Holy shit!

Daisy, Allie’s mom, gasped. “Allison Anne McCormick, don’t you yell at him like that! I don’t care if you are giving birth, you will be nice to the father of your child or you’ll answer to me. Now I may be an old hippie, but girlfriend, I brought you into this world and I WILL take you out!”

Jackson, my mom, and I all gaped at Allie’s mom. Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t there an unwritten rule that you keep the woman in labor happy and let her be a raging bitch? Apparently not according to Daisy…

But instead of getting pissed, Allie grinned at her mom, all traces of anger melting away like they’d never even been there. “Ehhh, I guess giving birth to your child before you’re married is overrated anyway, right Mom?” she asked.

Daisy just grinned back, her eyes sparkling with love and humor. Jackson just looked scared. I didn’t blame him; Allie was switching emotions faster than a hooker drops her panties for a bill.

I spent a few more minutes in the room, watching my family with a sense of pride and satisfaction. Sure, there was an ache deep in my heart that I would never get to be the one in that bed, giving birth to my child. But I’d come to terms with that, for the most part. It was seriously bittersweet, though, to imagine what my child would have been like…

A commotion at the door drew our attention.

“MA’AM! You can’t go in there! Especially not with that!” a strident voice said sternly.

Nanny’s crackly, gravelly voice cut her off, getting louder as she pushed through the door into the room. “Oh, piss off. This is my granddaughter’s room and by God, I can go in if I want. And don’t you pay no mind to my flask, you nosy rosy. It ain’t for my girl. It’s for that pasty-looking thing standing by her bed. Seems like he might be one ‘a those that falls over when it gets down to the dirty stuff in here.”

She cackled and Allie waved off the stout, gray-haired nurse trailing behind her grandma, shooting scandalized looks at Allie. “She’s fine, I promise,” Allie said.

The nurse gave a curt nod and said, primly, “You really should be resting, Ms. McCormick. You’re doctor won’t want all these people in here.”

“Thank you, nurse, but I can speak for myself, and Allie can have as many people in here as she wants, as long as she’s comfortable.”

An imposing woman with striking features stood behind the nurse, her trim figure covered in a white lab coat over bright, cheery scrubs. The nurse turned and stammered, “Dr. Merrick, I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were on the floor already. I was merely-”

The doctor nodded. “I know, Clarice. You’re free to go.”

The nurse scrambled out into the hall, cheeks flaming, but I’m guessing it was more in anger than remorse or embarrassment.

“Well, Allie,” the doctor said, smiling widely at her patient. “Let’s see where we’re at, shall we?”

I excused myself, patting Allie on her shoulder and smiling at everyone else, before heading out into the waiting room with everyone else. More time passed and people started leaving to go home. Jenna went first, but only because she got a phone call from home, something about a Barbie, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and the dishwasher. Then Ben, Emma’s dad left, followed by Calland and Leah. Jan, Emma’s mom, left around midnight, taking Nanny and Poppy with her, but not before making us promise to call them as soon as the baby was born, no matter what the time. Eventually, only my mom, Allie’s parents, Daisy and George, Emma and Luke, and Brandon and I were left.

I curled up on a sofa in the waiting room beside Brandon, listening to Luke try to bribe Emma into going home so she could get some rest. She wasn’t having it though. The last thing I heard was her emphatic, ‘hell no!’ and his long-suffering sigh before my eyes closed and I was out.

“Hey, Auntie Chloe.”

My brother’s voice broke into my dream and I blinked up at him from where I’d been asleep with my head on Brandon’s chest. My brow furrowed in confusion and then the light popped on.

Jackson grinned at me and I grinned back, jumping up and wrapping my arms around him. He hugged me tightly and I could hear the sob break free from him, buried in my hair. We held each other for a moment, crying together, but they were the happiest tears that could be cried.

He pulled back and cradled my face in his hands, wiping away my tears. He then looked around  and spread his arms at all of us. “He’s here!” he hollered, his face jubilant.

Brandon and Luke both crashed into him and they all shared a hearty-back thumping hug before Emma made her way to him and he hugged her carefully, smiling down into her beaming face.

“He’s so beautiful and perfect,” Jackson said. “You guys can come meet him in just a few minutes because they’re cleaning them up and everything, but Allie wanted me to come tell you. I’m going back in, but I’ll send someone out to get you guys in a minute, okay?”

He started to walk away but Emma stopped him. “Jackson…you’re not gonna give us any details?” she said incredulously.

He just smile and walked off.

I bit my cheeks, trying not to laugh at her expression. Poor Luke just shook his head and looked to the sky, probably asking for divine intervention.

Fifteen minutes later, we were introduced to Liam Joel Matthews, born at 4:32 a.m., weighing seven pounds and eleven ounces, twenty-one inches long….

And he was perfect!

Chapter 17

“Why the hell did I agree to this?” I moaned, shoving another snoring dog off my chest.

He grumbled and chuffed before the snoring commenced once more. Two other snores sounded from other parts of my bed and I wanted to cry. I was tangled up in the blankets, unable to move because they were weighted down by sleeping canines, each of which had slept on top of me at one point or another throughout the night.

I had Doug, DJ, and Grady at my house, watching them for a couple of days. I’d offered this because Emma had gone into labor last night, and…I don’t know why I had Grady, too. Glutton for punishment, I guess.

I’d offered to keep the boys for Luke and Emma when they’d called to say she was in labor because no way in hell could Allie do it, and Emma’s going to have crazy amounts of family up at the hospital with her. Allie was upset that she couldn’t be there, but she’d just give birth to Liam barely five days ago. So last night when I went over to get Doug and DJ, Grady had been sitting with them on the front porch and looked so sad when I’d put them in my car that I just took him, too.

I’d stopped over at Allie and Jacks’ house to grab his crate (and see the baby, of course), and really didn’t even ask. I just took their dog.

Now here it was, almost three in the morning, and I couldn’t sleep without getting smothered by labs.

Brandon was at the hospital and so, for the first time in a while now, I was alone. Or, alone as I could be with said smothering dogs.

My cell phone rang from the bedside table and I grappled for it, struggling against the covers and dogs surrounding me so I could answer it. “Hello?” I said breathlessly, hoping I caught it before it stopped.

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