She smiled brightly and I felt like I’d said the right thing.
“I just wanted you to know that. Joanna isn’t here. Not between us.”
“Blake…” She sniffed as tears welled in her eyes. Then she laughed. “Stupid hormones.”
“Those are hormonal tears?” I kissed one eye and then the other.
“They’re happy tears. Thank you for saying that.” She kissed me. “I needed that.”
Thank fuck I got something right. “It’s the truth.”
That Sunday afternoon with Patsy and Jim there, I told Lily about Bella and me and the baby.
“I told you she should come here,” was Lily’s response.
“You’ve always been the smartest one in the family.”
The only moment of difficulty was when Lily asked if she could call Bella mommy. Even Patsy and Jim looked a little stricken. It had nothing to do with the fact that Bella and I hadn’t made any plans to get married. I hadn’t even asked her to move in with me yet. No, this was about Joanna.
Fortunately, Bella knew exactly what to say.
“You have a mommy already. But you can call ‘mama’ if you want.” Bella looked at me with an expression that suggested she wasn’t sure that was the right answer.
“That’s French,” Lily said.
“How about milkshakes to celebrate,” Patsy said.
I couldn’t have asked for better in-laws when I was married to Joanna, and they’d proven their worth when I lost her. But they earned their wings when I overhead them telling Bella that they were her family now too. I achieved my goal for Bella to never feel alone or unloved again. And now Joanna’s parents had said they’d be there for her too.
The only thing left to do was to tell the company’s board and the people at work. Bella convinced me to hold off until after the first trimester of the pregnancy. I agreed, and six weeks later, I scheduled two meetings: one with my executive staff and one with the board. Bella helped me prepare reports to show how the company was doing, including the initial numbers for the products exported to France. The goal was to prove my worth to the company, so the board didn’t get the idea that I was a liability by knocking my assistant up.
Still, there was one more thing I could do to soften the blow to for board. More importantly, it would make me extremely happy.
The day before the meeting, I asked Mrs. Douglas to bring Lily to my office at the end of the day. When Lily arrived, she immediately went running to Bella’s office.
Bella emerged holding Lily’s hand. “Look what I found.”
I laughed. “Well, look at that. Since we’re all here, how about we go to dinner?”
“Yay.” Lily jumped up and down. “Where Daddy?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Fifteen minutes later, I walked with Bella and Lily into the French restaurant I’d taken Bella to when she was grieving her mother.
“What’s this place?” Lily asked as we were seated.
“It’s a French restaurant,” I said helping each of my ladies into their seats.
“Do you want the escargot?” Bella asked.
“Is it French food? Yes.”
I laughed feeling certain Lily would change her mind when snails show up on her plate.
Bella smiled at me over her menu. “Is this a special occasion?”
“I figured Lily hasn’t had French food yet.”
“Are there hamburgers, Daddy?”
“How about steak, baby?” That was about as close to a hamburger they had on the menu.
We ordered dinner, and then I sat back, feeling extremely content watching Bella and Lily practice French.
“I know something in French,” I said interrupting them.
“Oh?” Bella quirked a brow.
“What, Daddy? I want to learn it too.”
I took a deep breath as I got out of my chair. I knelt in front of Bella. “Veux-tu m’épouser?” I held up a platinum ring with a French cut diamond I’d been carrying around since just a few days after we’d confessed our love for each other.
“What does that mean, Daddy?”
“It means, will you marry me?” I looked up into Bella’s eyes, hoping beyond hope she believed in my love for her. “It means I love you Bella and want to make a life with you.”
“Yes. Oh, yes, Blake.”
“You’re supposed to say, oui,” Lily said.
“Oui,” Bella said breathlessly as I put the ring on her finger and kissed her. Around us, patrons of the restaurant clapped.
“Does that mean Bella will be our family?” Lily asked, as I sat back in my chair but kept Bella’s hand in mine.
“Yes, it does.”
“And the baby too?”
“And the baby too,” I assured her. “We’re going to live happily ever after.”
Epilogue: One Year Later
“Mama, Bubba is making a mess.”
I looked over to where a six-month-old Liam, aka Bubba, was wiping his sweet potato puree onto his high chair table. He earned the name Bubba by his frequent vocalization of “bu” over the last few months. Occasionally there was a “ma” or a “pa,” but the majority of the time he just said, “bu.”