One minute Aurora Price was speaking to three of her colleagues, the next the beige tile floor was coming at her far too fast.
It took her a nanosecond to realize she was the one headed down and not the floor on its way up to greet her.
Her coworkers gasped, cried out.
Only Haldyn was close enough to help.
Unfortunately, Haldyn wasn’t exactly big and brawny. She reached out to catch Rory—and they both went down. Haldyn had slowed her down just enough—Rory didn’t splatter her brains everywhere, at least.
It was just the iodine she’d been uncapping that had splattered.
She was aware of everything going on around her in a weirdly disjointed kind of way. Madison and Charlotte reached for them both, helping them untangle themselves. The two were squawking like baby chickens the entire time.
“Rory, what’s wrong?” Charlotte asked, her hands wrapping around Rory’s.
Haldyn, the one actually in charge, ordered Madison to call 911.
“I’m good. I don’t think I need that,” Rory said, embarrassment tangling with the fear. “I just got dizzy for a moment.”
Really dizzy. She didn’t know what had happened at all.
“Understatement. We could practically see your eyeballs rolling,” Charlotte stared at her from scared green eyes. Charlotte had become a bit of a worrywart, lately.
“Sorry, Rory, standard procedure. You faint on top of me, you go to the emergency department. And liability means… ambulance.” Haldyn had that stubborn look, too. One that Rory just couldn’t argue with.
All three were horribly stubborn women.
Rory carefully scooted off Haldyn, as the three redheaded women came closer. Peered at her like she was a bug. They were annoying as gnats sometimes.
Rory absolutely hated being the center of attention—for anything. Even with these three.
Haldyn insisted on the ambulance. The paramedics strapped her down and wheeled her out of the Finley Creek TSP Forensics Department.
With half the TSP shift watching.
This was the last thing she needed now. If Keaton heard about this, he’d flip out and make an even bigger spectacle out of them both.
Her ex-husband could be a bit of a doofus.
He was becoming a bit problematic, that man.
She wished he’d taken half as much care—and notice—of her while they’d been married as he tried to take of her now. If he had, they might still be married.
Actually, they probably would still be married, except for that one thing.
That faithfulness thing…it was a doozy. Rory wanted a man she could trust. Completely.
An honest man was so hard to find, after all.
A wave of dizziness had her raising one hand to her forehead and closing her eyes as the world turned sideways. Maybe…she’d just lay here and wait for the world to right itself again.
“Rory?” a harsh male voice demanded from right next to her left shoulder, when the paramedics paused to load her into the ambulance itself. “What happened, sweetheart?”
Could her day get any worse?
Rory’s eyes flew open, and she looked into blue eyes so beautiful she almost swore they belonged to the devil.
She knew he was a devil. He certainly knew enough wicked things to have a woman screaming his name. Multiple times.
Rory should know. She’d screamed it like an idiot. Pitiful.
She should have had some pride.
It had just been so long. Years. Literally.
Her besties had both been falling in love with wonderful, extremely hot, blue-eyed, red-haired men. Then this extremely hot, blue-eyed red-haired man had wandered right into her path. Tempting her. She’d always had a thing for blue-eyed, red-haired men with broad shoulders and strong arms and…
“Just none of your business. See you around. I’m kind of busy here, you know?” She closed her eyes again.
The last thing she needed was him seeing her like this. Just not…him. She’d spent the last eleven weeks trying not to be seen by her Second Greatest Mistake at all.
Rory had gotten pretty good at it, too. Until today.
“What’s wrong?” His hand wrapped around hers, all warm and slightly calloused. “Was there an accident in the lab? Where’s Charlotte? Is she ok?”
Charlotte. Perfect. “She’s inside. Go away. Go find her. Take her to dinner. Do some bonding. I think the two of you need it. Leave me alone now, ok?”
Charlotte could deal with the man. It was the other woman’s job, after all. Even if the two snapped and snarled at each other all the time. Rabid beasts, those two.
He frowned at her. He always frowned at her—with one night of exceptions, when that previous screaming had occurred—and the two of them would never get along for more than five minutes. She’d long accepted that.
Except for that exceptional night, of course.
She just wanted him out of her face right now. She was old enough and confident enough to tell him that, too. So she did.
Irritation warred with the concern in his blue eyes. “I—hell, Rory, if you need anything, all you have to do is call me.”
“That wasn’t the deal, remember?”
She just blinked at him. She wanted to wrap her fingers around his and just hold on. Not be alone now.
That wasn’t going to happen.
Charlie had gotten what he wanted from her that night. She’d been putty in his hands, naïve. Fell for it, hook line and sinker. Just like she had with Keaton during that whirlwind romance years ago.
She should have learned her lesson.
She’d just been lonely eleven weeks ago. Lonely and stupid and remembering how she’d once had dreams, too. Grieving what she had lost.
It had been her ex-wedding anniversary.
That was what had triggered her stupidity. She’d been feeling the sting of broken promises and facing the fact that she’d be hitting her forties in sixteen months—alone.
She’d discussed that with her friends after it had happened. Laid it all out there—even named names.
Talk about a tough moment or two.
Her friends had agreed—she’d been weak, but it was understandable. She’d felt alone. That would make a woman do something entirely stupid. And he had been conveniently right there to be stupid with.
Madison had pointed out that if she was going to do the second stupidest thing with a man she had ever done—eloping with Keaton six weeks after meeting him had been her first—while hundreds of miles from home, at least it was with someone she’d known for a decade.
That was far less dangerous for a woman, after all.
Madison was the most practical of the younger trio.
Charlotte had hugged her tightly after her confession, reminding her that even though her two closest friends in the world had moved far away—Rory had Charlotte, Madison, and Haldyn who cared about her now.
And that mattered so much.
She’d been seriously worried about Charlotte hating her.
Rory had slept with her friend’s father, after all.
Talk about compounding the stupid.
She wouldn’t ever do anything to hurt Charlotte. The woman needed people in her life to care about her far more than that.
“Just go away, Fields. Go. Your daughter’s waiting inside.”
His eyes tightened and his mouth pinched when she said it.
Nope. He still hadn’t forgiven Charlotte for being born.
Damn him. He didn’t deserve the daughter he’d been given. Not for one moment.
The woman had always eaten a hole right through his gut. It was the big blue eyes, the mischievous pixyish face, the wild blonde hair, and the fire that she turned in his direction in an instant. They’d squabbled on the job for more than ten years now.
She was good at her job—extremely good, actually—fiercely loyal to her friends, and thought he was the scum of the earth. Second only to the scum of the earth that was her asshole ex-husband.
Except for that one night.
Well, until he’d told her it wasn’t going any further than that one night.
He didn’t want her having expectations. Not of him.
Charlie wouldn’t ever be able to measure up to a woman like her.
Rory had looked at him with real hurt in her eyes, thrown her head back and told him not to worry. She’d gotten what she’d wanted out of him and had had way better, anyway. All the while she’d been naked and clutching a hotel blanket to her chest.
Hell, she’d said…even her ex-husband was better in bed than him. Far better than Charlie.
Her ex—a bastard Charlie had despised for years. Still did. The guy was probably inside the TSP building right now. Strutting around like the arrogant cock that he was.
Charlie had wanted her again, instantly. So much it had almost had him on his knees pleading with her to forget everything he’d just said and give him another chance.
Probably because of the fire. He’d not been with a more passionate lover.
It had been best for them both that he’d ended that one night in Masterson County with Rory using a blunt, “thanks, but no thanks.”
It hadn’t been easy to put that hurt in her eyes. But he’d done it.
She’d find a better guy soon enough. There were guys at the Texas State Police who already wanted Rory. Rodriguez in Homicide had a thing for her, Tillis in the gang unit, Miles in Forensics, and there were a few others he knew of.
Charlie reached out and squeezed her hand gently before he could stop himself. She looked so pale and scared and defenseless, strapped down to the gurney.
Fear for her slammed through him once again, just like it had the first moment he’d realized who it was the EMTs were wheeling out of the forensics lab.
He’d had to push through the gawkers and get to her.
He’d just had to.
He hurried inside. Charlie headed straight for forensics. He’d check on Charlotte—and find out exactly what was going on with Rory.
He wouldn’t admit it aloud, but he was worried about his daughter, too.
Rumor had it she and that doctor she had been dating had broken it off last week. It had been serious this time. Charlie had thought she had really liked him. He’d hoped she’d marry the guy, have a half dozen children, and be…happy.
Then he’d thought about what those half dozen children would deserve in a grandfather, and that had just made him angry.
He couldn’t be that grandfather.
But he wanted his daughter happy. More than anything else in the world. He was her father, after all. Even if the two of them barely acknowledged that.
He’d practically denied her existence for two damned years. Now…he was afraid it was far too late for him to even try to fix that.
He was a crap father. Now he wanted to make that up to her.
Charlotte had changed the night she’d been shot.
She now barely acknowledged Charlie existed. Their relationship had been strained from the very beginning. The only time she spoke to him was when it was work-related, and even then, it was stilted and formal.
Charlie didn’t know how to fix that.
His daughter was in the forensics lab when he walked in. He studied her quickly, making certain she was ok. He always got a start whenever he saw her.
She was beautiful. Other than the hair, she didn’t look like him at all. She didn’t look like her own mother, either.
Charlotte was such a tiny thing—just like his own mother—far smaller than his six-four frame. Charlotte’s mother had been nearly five-ten and sturdy. She’d passed away eight years ago.
Leaving one lasting legacy.
Charlotte had shown up on his doorstep three years ago.
A tiny elf of a girl with big green eyes, dark burnished copper hair the same color as his own, and a delicate face that just hinted at trouble.
Her resemblance to his own mother was enough to completely disconcert him sometimes.
“Great. Charlie.” She never called him dad.
Not since that fateful day. Hi. I think you may be my dad. Can we talk?
Just twenty-three years old, small and alone, a stranger in a city ten times the size of the little place she’d grown up in. Right there in front of him, a vulnerable look on her beautiful face. Be my dad.
Hell, no. He hadn’t been ready to be her dad that day. Far from it. The very idea had terrified him, still terrified him in so many ways.
He’d vehemently denied being anyone’s dad right then and there. He’d pointed out that he didn’t want to be hers. Would never want to be hers. Repeatedly, harshly. Far crueler than he ever should have been.
That was the last time she’d ever called him dad.
She’d been just a kid.
He’d never forgotten the hurt on her face that day. He had been drunk and trying to wash away the grief for his son—and there was this girl looking just like his mother, claiming he was her dad, too.
He would never forget the first time she met him he had…hurt her. Scared her away.
That had set the tone for their entire relationship.
He’d never forget how she had backed away, slowly at first. Then faster, with a look of real fear in those big green eyes of hers.
Turning and running to her rental car so fast she’d tripped, even when he’d called for her to wait. He’d terrified his daughter the first time he’d ever met her. That stain would be on his soul for eternity.
She’d never let him apologize.
A formal letter had come to him at the TSP a week later, requesting a paternity test, outlining a DNA connection she’d found through his sister’s family tree on one of those stupid ancestry sites.
That’s how she’d found him.
He could have refused. But…he’d wanted to know. But he’d known—with one look at her…he’d known.
Sperm donor had been a particular favorite nickname for him of hers those first six months. She’d introduced him to Rory like that—as the sperm donor who’d gotten her mother pregnant and then taken a hike.
Charlotte had liked the awkwardness that had caused.
So had Rory, who had known Charlie for years, for that matter.
Rory had taken on an almost motherly role where Charlotte was concerned over the last three years. Helping Charlotte adjust, showing her around the city, just being there for her when Charlotte had needed her.
He owed Rory one for that.
This girl who wanted nothing to do with him was his world now. He’d already screwed up so much. With Rory and Charlotte.
Charlotte was mopping up reddish brown liquid. His stomach lurched, imagining it was blood. Hers. He never wanted to even think about the day of the shooting again. All the blood. “What happened to Rory?”
Normally Rory was in the lab when he walked by every morning, laughing with the rest of her team—usually Haldyn, Madison, and Charlotte.
Rory was one of those people who greeted each day with joy for the gift that day was. She always had been, in the decade he’d known her. Bright, beautiful, drawing light and people to her everywhere she went. He’d watched her sometimes, when their paths would cross, over the last ten years. She was so…happy.
Unlike him. He was a dark grumpy old troll compared to her. And he’d known that from the beginning.
Rory had fascinated him for years. He had admitted that to himself during the drive back from Wyoming after he’d pushed her away. Charlie had had a lot of time to think on the sixteen hour drive. He’d been married until five years ago—but he had noticed Rory. From the day she’d hired on, young and sweet and gorgeous, with an engaging grin that drew people to her, male and female.
She’d drawn him. He’d finally admitted that to himself.
He’d just never acted on it. Charlie had taken his vows seriously. They’d both been married, anything else hadn’t mattered. Now they weren’t with other people. He’d had his chance with her. And completely screwed it up.
After the most incredible night with a woman in his life. No woman had ever made him feel the way Rory Price had, their one night together.
Not even the woman he’d married.
Charlie had looked for Rory every single morning in the two and a half months since Masterson. Just to see her smile.
He’d never forget when that smile was all she had been wearing.
For one beautiful night, she had been all his.
How was a man supposed to forget that?
“She passed out,” Madison said, quietly, as Charlotte continued pretending he wasn’t there. “We’re not sure why.”
“I’m going to head over there after my shift ends, Mads,” Charlotte added, real worry in her tone. “She didn’t look good at all.”
Charlie tried to think of the various reasons a thirty-eight-year-old woman would pass out. Nothing he came up with was good. “What did the paramedics say?”
“What do you care?” his daughter asked, pausing in her task. “She knows the deal between you. She’s more than willing to keep to it. Leave her alone, Pops. Rory doesn’t need you.”
Charlotte knew about that night, apparently.
He just kept making everything worse where his daughter was concerned. Sleeping with one of her closest friends hadn’t helped matters at all.
She’d been at the emergency department getting all the vital things checked for forty-five minutes… and waiting, worrying… panicking… when a familiar face came into her exam room.
Dr. Lacy Deane was someone she’d met several times before—their paths had crossed at the local women’s charity across the road where her bestie Glenna had once worked. “Hey, Rory, I have someone out here who wants to come keep you company while you wait. I need permission first before I let Charlotte back here.”
“Send her in. I hate sitting here alone, you know. Too many ways I can get into trouble.” Too many ways she could work herself into a panic, anyway. Rory had always hated hospitals, since the month she’d watched her father die from cancer when she’d been fourteen.
“I get it. It’ll be a few more minutes before the tests are back. How do you feel?”
“Nauseated. And tired. Extremely tired. Seems like all I’ve wanted to do lately is sleep. At least for the last month.”
“She hasn’t been eating much, either,” Charlotte said from the door. “I think she’s lost weight, too.”
“My appetite has been off lately. I just thought it was stress. I’m buying a few more rental houses this month. Usually I do one at a time, but these are next door to each other and in the same listing. And my mom had to have surgery on her foot. She stayed with me for a few weeks—that was an event. I was planning to take a week off and head back to Masterson. Relax with my godkids and things.”
“We’re going to check a few other things, ok? I’m getting ready to clock out for the night, but Dr. Kaur’s taking over for me. She’ll be in with your results, shortly,” Lacy patted her on the hand. “I hope you get feeling better soon.”
“Thanks. I think…I’m just going to sit here and nap a bit, ok?” Rory turned toward Charlotte. “I don’t mean to be rude or anything. I’m just really tired.”
“Don’t be silly. I’m here as long as you need me.”
Rory was going to take her up on that; she’d never had to deal with anything medical without her mother—or Robin and Glenna—to stay by her side.
Or Keaton. Someone had always been there with her.
Like they’d been the last time she’d nearly died in this very hospital.
She was seriously trying not to panic here. Trying not to remember.
Charlotte’s hand wrapped around hers. Rory resisted the urge to cling. Rory was the strong one of their little clique, after all.
Fifteen minutes later, a dark-haired woman stepped in, wearing a white coat. And a pretty, comforting smile. “Hello, Rory. I’m Dr. Kaur.”
“Nice to meet you? I mean, I wish it was anywhere but here, but…”
“No kidding.” She turned toward Charlotte. “Char, good to see you again.”
“I’m here as an emotional support Charlotte.”
Yeah, Rory doubted she’d be able to shake this girl even if she was so inclined. Charlotte was fiercely loyal.
“Is it ok with you if information is shared with Charlotte?” the doctor asked.
“Yes. I signed the necessary forms. I put her and my sister as next-of-kin. Just in case.”
“I have a few questions. First, date of your last period?”
Rory told her. And gave her relevant gynecological history. She read the woman’s name tag quickly. Yikes.
Why was an ob/gyn taking over here?
Rory never had had the best of luck where the female parts were concerned. Far from it. Wild possibilities started running right through her head—none of them good.
The doctor looked up as an emergency department nurse stepped in.
The doctor reviewed the results. Then turned back to Rory. “When you had your tubal ligation six years ago, did they cut and burn? It doesn’t say in your chart. Your OB at the time didn’t make a note of what procedure was used. And we’ve found a few inconsistencies that we need to clear up with Dr. Eastman. He’s retired now, but still on the board here.”
“Clamped. Why? What’s going on? I’m starting to get some seriously bad vibes here, doc.”
The doctor sent her a level look. “Rory, early results are indicating that you’re pregnant. But we’ll need to do an ultrasound for sure. We need to check to see if it is possibly ectopic. That occasionally happens with patients who’ve had tubal ligations. If it is, that will need immediate attention. But first…I’m going to have Cashlyn here take you up to radiology for an ultrasound so we can get an idea of what’s going on, ok?”
Rory just looked at her, as pure terror set in. She could not be pregnant. She just couldn’t.
The last time that had happened, she’d nearly died.
And had lost her whole world instead.
Good old Charlie struck again.
If Rory was pregnant, that was Charlotte’s baby sister or brother hanging around in there. Charlotte bit back every curse she had ever learned at the sheer panic that hit Rory’s face the instant the doctor mentioned pregnancy.
Every plan Charlotte had been half making to go home permanently and build her life in Masterson again just…stopped.
Charlotte wasn’t going anywhere.
She couldn’t leave Rory alone right now. And she definitely wasn’t leaving a little sister or brother behind. That kid would need her.
Rory would need her. Rory’s two closest friends in the world had moved to Masterson recently. Rory’s mother was a lunatic. Rory’s younger sister was busy building her own home renovation company. Rory didn’t have anyone else—except a super-annoying ex-husband.
Charlie wouldn’t step up and be a father—she was walking proof of that.
As Rory continued to talk to the doctor, Charlotte’s own stomach tightened. With concern.
Charlotte hadn’t known her friend had gone through that hell.
No wonder Rory looked ready to panic.
Rory was terrified. And with good reason.
Charlotte stayed with her. Rory even wanted her to go into radiology with her. And then…twenty minutes later, Charlotte saw the proof with her very own eyes.
It was the coolest thing she had ever seen up to this point in her life. She could hear the little heartbeat, too. That was her baby sister or brother right there.
It was when the radiology tech said the word twins that Charlotte realized just exactly what Rory was facing now.
No, Charlotte wasn’t going anywhere.
Charlotte wasn’t going to abandon Rory now when she needed her most. She just wasn’t.
Charlotte wasn’t like her own father at all. She’d made a promise to herself years ago that she would be there for the people who mattered most. No matter what.
Panic. Her only thought was panic. Rory barely kept herself together as they wheeled her back downstairs to the emergency department. All she could think was what Dr. Henedy had told her almost seven years ago.
The odds that she’d survive weren’t good. The baby most likely would live, but Rory…probably wouldn’t. Dr. Henedy had made that clear.
He hadn’t been the obstetrician who’d performed the surgery, but he’d done her post-op care while Dr. Eastman was out of town the next day. He’d told her bluntly another pregnancy wasn’t in her future after the damage her first had done.
She’d never forgotten that.
Her hand covered her stomach, remembering what it had felt like years ago to have her baby girl inside her.
They were in there now. Babies. Two of them. Twins.
Charlotte walked right next to her wheelchair. Rory looked at her as they entered the exam room.
Her babies might look like their big sister. Rory wasn’t going to entertain the possibility that they’d look like Charlie.
Oh, holy hell boogers.
Dr. Kaur came in behind them as the nurse was helping her get back on the exam table. “Rory, we’ve got some more results back, and they concern me a bit.”
“You’re extremely dehydrated, and are showing some signs of infection that I don’t like. We’re going to admit you. Just to do a round of antibiotics and run a few more tests. Just as a precaution.”
Rory just closed her eyes, as terror hit her. “Dr. Henedy told me not to get pregnant again. He said another infection just might kill me.”
“Well, I’m going to see what’s going on and take a look at your records from before. Technology has changed since your last pregnancy. And we know what to watch for now. The odds of it being a successful pregnancy are still extremely good, ok?”
Rory just nodded, her hand over her stomach. Where they were. Counting on her. “I…really want these babies, Dr. Kaur. I’ll do anything to have them. To make sure they are ok. Anything. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. No matter what.”
When the doctor was gone, Rory looked at the woman next to her bed. Her babies’ big sister stared back at her.
She needed one thing.
Before she could ever breathe again. “If something happens to me when I have them, will you take care of them for me? I…don’t know that I can do this part if I have to worry about that part after, too. Promise me you’ll take care of them, Charlotte. If I can’t.”
Charlotte hugged her, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I promise I will always take care of my little brothers and/or sisters. I’ll be their family, Rory. You have my word. And…nothing is going to happen to you. I’m not ever going to let it.”
Charlie was trying not to panic.
Charlotte had called him, demanded he get his butt to her immediately.
He was just supposed to get to the hospital right now.
He didn’t know what else to do—and he wanted to know what was going on with Rory.
That had him complying, even though he wasn’t too thrilled at taking orders from his kid. He was the parent—he was supposed to be in charge.
Rory was in room 403. The same room Charlotte had been in months ago. Didn’t they have any other damned room in the hospital?
Charlie was starting to wonder.
He knocked on the door frame and waited for her to tell him to go in. Charlotte wasn’t there, but Haldyn Harris was. She stood and nodded at Charlie, a concerned look on her classically beautiful face that had his gut tightening. “I’ll be back soon, Rory. I promise. Then Madison is coming, once she’s on her own dinner break.”
“Thanks. I know I’m being a big wimp, but…I really hate hospitals.”
Rory sat up in the bed, looking at him. She had eyes that could see straight through to a man’s soul. Then they were staring at each other. Rory just blinked at him, chewing on her bottom lip in a completely uncharacteristic sign of nerves.
Rory wasn’t afraid of anything. He’d known that for years.
Charlie tensed. “What’s going on? What’s happened? Are you ok?”
“Best to just get it out there so we can move on. I have plans to make. I need to know if you want to be included in them.” She leveled a look at him. Her eyes were wide and frightened…and panicked. “I had a tubal ligation six years ago.”
“You told me that…after the last time we were together.”
“When you forgot to wear a condom,” she said, bluntly. “I told you it wouldn’t be a problem, because I didn’t think it ever could be a problem. Well, surprise. Sorry, Charlie. It sort of became a problem today.”
Charlie sank into the chair next to the bed. He wasn’t stupid here. Not by a long-shot. “You’re pregnant.”
“Yes. Eleven weeks.”
“I want a paternity test.” The words slipped out before he thought about how harsh they sounded.
“Why? I have no intention of seeking child support. I don’t want it and I don’t need it.” Her arms crossed over her stomach. Protectively. Rory was pregnant. Hell. “The twins and I don’t need you. We can just…keep everything between us quiet. If anyone asks, I’ll just tell them the baby daddy is someone I met in Masterson, and leave it at that. Loads of redheaded blue-eyed men up there. You’ll totally be in the clear.”
“How do you know they are mine?” Twins? Charlie shoved down the panic. He couldn’t have two babies. He didn’t want kids. Never wanted to even think about it again. He couldn’t be someone’s dad ever again.
The thought…was terrifying.
She glared at him, out of those gorgeous blue eyes. Eyes that held panic and hurt. Charlie winced as what he’d asked sank in.
“Because I’ve slept with one man in the four years since I divorced Keaton. Guess who? Yep. You’re the winner.. You…were my second worst mistake, Chuck. This is not what I intended, but these babies…I’m going to take care of them. Protect them.” A determined look crossed her face as her arms tightened. She pulled her knees up to her chest, beneath the generic hospital blanket. “I’ll give them the absolute best life I can, so no worries for you there. We don’t need you.”
“It was one time. And I’ve only slept with two women besides you in the last six years. One of those was my wife. I don’t exactly sleep around.” He glared at her. He knew her opinion of him. “That lack of a condom was an accident.”
And had happened long after they’d had ‘the talk’ and she told him she couldn’t get pregnant.
He’d woken up next to the most beautiful woman he had ever touched. A woman he had wanted for years. He’d not been fully awake, and they’d shared a bottle of wine the night before. He hadn’t been thinking beyond the fact that she was there. Rory had been next to him—and his, if just for that night. And he’d acted.
It wasn’t an excuse for his carelessness, but it was an explanation. He’d missed having a woman to hold. A woman who he’d mattered to. And Rory had been there.
Rory—the woman he’d been fascinated by for years.
He’d only forgotten a condom three times in his life. Charlotte was the first time. He’d thought Jaden was the second.
And now…Rory. And twins.
Charlie hadn’t really been thinking of birth control at that moment. He’d done something stupid. Now he was facing the results of that night.
Across a damned hospital bed.
They didn’t keep women in hospital beds without there being problems. Even pregnant ones. Terror for her cut into his panic. “Why are they keeping you tonight?”
She shrugged, sending the material of the hospital gown shifting a bit. She seemed thinner, more fragile than she’d been before. Had she lost weight? He was almost certain she had.
Pregnant women were supposed to gain weight, not lose it. Especially those pregnant with two babies instead of one, right?
Panic shot through him again.
He didn’t want anything to happen to this woman.
Seeing Rory each morning was the only real bright spot he had in his day. He’d told himself he passed by Forensics to see Charlotte when he could, but that wasn’t the full story. He’d needed to know Rory was at the TSP building, safe and secure, while he was out there hunting monsters.
This woman consumed him. And she didn’t have a clue. Now she was sitting there, panicking, telling him she was pregnant with his children. His.
“Signs of infection and dehydration. It’s going to be a high-risk pregnancy, Charlie. No sense in lying about it. I’m a bit too close to forty, the fact that there are two babies…what happened to me before. It’s really that, more than anything. The doctor is being cautious, and I get to have another one of these IVs in the morning. You’d best get out of here. Charlotte headed out to pick up my mother while my sister is in Austin. My mother’s going to…be a bit freaked out by all of this. She just about had a heart attack when I divorced Keaton. My being a single mother is going to destroy her.” She shrugged again. He wasn’t fooled by her nonchalant attitude. There was terror in those eyes right now. Hehad been the one to forget the condom—and to initiate the entire night. Responsibility was a noose around his neck. His…soul. Rory…and two innocent babies…and him. What was he supposed to do, think, now? “And Charlotte…well…what else can I say? Good-bye, Detective Fields. Thank you for the sperm donation. I’ll do the rest from here. For the next…eighteen years and thirty weeks to start. Then…for the rest of my life. And just so you know…I’ve decided I’m adopting Charlotte. You don’t deserve her, so I’m keeping her.”
Charlie just stared at her, not quite believing what he heard.
Hello, Charlie, I’m pregnant with two of your babies, get lost, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, by the way I’m keeping your daughter, too. Have a nice life.
This…this was insane.
Life just didn’t happen this way. At least…not to him.
Not twice, anyway.
But apparently it had.
He bit back a round of curses as he hauled ass out of the hospital.
What was he supposed to do or think now?