Authors: Amy Andrews
Evie nodded, grabbing the excuse he had thrown her with glee. ‘Certifiable.’
The fingers squeezed down hard. ‘I could come down there and wait for you,’ he suggested.
Alarm raced along Evie’s nerve endings. ‘No, no,’ she said. ‘I’ll give you a ring when it settles and I can meet you across at Pete’s.’
‘Okay,’ he murmured.
Finn blinked at her hasty hang-up and to torture himself a little further he watched as Marco drew her against his chest and hugged her again before walking her to his rooms, his arm firmly around her waist.
He had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on with those two but he had every intention of finding out! She’d been pretty convincing in her mortification at his inference that she and Marco were
a few days ago but maybe she was protesting too much? Maybe there was more to Marco and Evie than she was letting on?
His heart pounded as bile burned in his chest and acid flowed through his veins. He pushed off the wall and headed in their direction.
‘Finn Kennedy, well, I’ll be. I heard you were back.’
Finn stopped in mid-stride to greet Sister Enid Kenny, nurse in charge of Outpatients for about a hundred years and a true Sydney Harbour Hospital icon. She was large and matronly and no one, not even the great Finn Kennedy, messed with Enid Kenny.
If she wanted to chat, you stopped and chatted.
Unfortunately for him, as he looked over her shoulder at the closed door of Marco’s office, she was in a very chatty mood.
Evie was so relived she’d agreed to the ultrasound as she watched her baby—her baby boy—move around on the screen. Marco had been trying to convince her to have one all week but part of her had wanted to break the news to Finn before having an ultrasound, which she’d been hoping he would want to attend.
But after her scare just listening to the heartbeat wasn’t going to cut it. She needed to see him. To watch him move. To reassure herself fully. To count his fingers and toes, to see the chambers of his heart, the hemispheres of his brain.
To know everything was perfect.
Marco was very thorough doing measurements and pointing out all the things any radiographer would have and Evie felt the gut wrenching worry and the threatening hysteria ease as her little boy did indeed seem perfect.
‘Can I hear the heartbeat one more time?’ Evie asked.
Marco chuckled. ‘But of course.’
He flicked a switch on the ultrasound machine and the room filled with the steady
whop, whop, whop
of a robust heartbeat.
Neither of them expected the door to suddenly crash open or for Finn to be standing there, glowering at them and demanding to know what the devil was going on.
Evie was startled at the loud intrusion. ‘Finn,’ she whispered.
Marco turned calmly in his chair. ‘Welcome, Dr Kennedy. You’re just in time to meet your son,’ he said.
It took Finn a moment or two to compute the scene before his eyes. The lights down low. Evie lying on the examination bed, her scrub top pulled up, a very distinctive bump protruding and covered in goo. Marco’s hand holding an ultrasound probe low down on Evie’s belly. A grainy image of a foetus turning somersaults on the screen.
And the steady thump of a strong heartbeat.
Finn looked at Evie and shoved his hands on his hips. ‘What the hell …?’ he demanded.
Marco looked at Evie as he removed the probe and reached for some wipes. ‘I think I should leave you and Finn to talk, yes?’ he murmured as he methodically removed every trace of the conduction gel.
Evie sat up, dragging her top down as she did so. Finn stood aside as Marco passed him, flipping on the light as he went and shutting the door after him.
‘You’re pregnant?’ he demanded, his own heartbeat roaring through his ears at the stunning turn of events. He’d half expected to barge in and find she and Marco doing the wild thing on the desk. He’d never expected this.
Evie nodded. ‘Yes.’
Her quiet affirmative packed all the power of a sucker punch to his solar plexus. ‘This is what you wanted to talk about?’
He shook his head as all the control he’d fought for over the years started to disintegrate before him, unravelling like a spool of cotton.
His breath felt tight. His jaw clenched. His pulse throbbed through his veins, tapping out
no, no, no
against his temple.
He couldn’t be a father. He just couldn’t. He was selfish and arrogant and egotistical. He was busy. He was dedicated to his job. He hadn’t grown up in any home worth a damn and the one person who’d been entrusted to his care had died in his arms.
He was damaged goods. Seen too much that had hardened him. Made him cynical. Jaded.
Not father material
Most days he didn’t even know how to be a normal, functioning human being—he was just going through the motions.
How on earth could he be a decent father?
He looked at her watching him, wariness in her hazel eyes. But hope as well. And something else. The same thing he always saw there when she looked at him—belief.
She had no idea who he really was
He steeled his heart against the image that seemed to be ingrained on his retinas—his baby on an ultrasound screen.
‘You have to get an abortion.’
Evie flinched at the ice in his tone. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t thought about herself in those days when she’d lived in a space where denying the baby even existed had been preferable to facing the truth. But she’d felt him move now, seen him sucking his thumb on the screen just a few minutes ago, and even if she hadn’t already decided against it and it had been possible at this advanced stage in her pregnancy, she knew she could never do what Finn was asking.
‘I’m twenty-one weeks.’
Finn opened his mouth to dispute it but the evidence of his own eyes started to filter in. The size of her belly and the size of the baby on the screen and then some quick maths in his head all confirmed her gestation.
He groped for Marco’s desk as the import of her words hit home.
There could be no abortion
There would be a baby
He was going to be a father
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
Evie swung her legs over the edge of the couch. ‘Because you went away and I spent a long,
time in denial. And, honestly, I think because part of me knew you’d demand what you just demanded and even though I’d thought about it myself, a part of me wanted to put it beyond reach. For both of us. And then the longer you go …’ she shrugged. ‘… the harder it gets.’
‘You’ve just spent two weeks with me at
. You could have told me then.’
‘I almost did but …’ She looked at him staring at her like she’d just been caught with state secrets instead of a bun in the oven. ‘You’re not very approachable, Finn.’
He looked at her for a long moment. ‘I don’t know how to be a father.’
Evie sucked in a breath at the bleakness in his blue eyes. He suddenly looked middle-aged. ‘You think I know how to be a mother?’ she asked. ‘My mother was an absent alcoholic. Not exactly a stellar role model.’
Finn snorted. She had no idea. Her poor-little-rich-girl upbringing had been a walk in the park compared to his. ‘I think you’ll figure it out.’
‘I think you will, too,’ she said, feeling suddenly desperate to connect with him. To make him understand that she knew it was daunting. But they could do it.
Finn’s pager beeped and he was grateful for the distraction as he absently reached for it and checked the message on the screen. It was Khalid.
‘I have to go,’ he said.
He needed to think. To get away. Life events had robbed him of a lot of choices and now even the choice not to burden some poor child with his emotionally barren existence had been snatched away.
‘Okay.’ She nodded, pushing down the well of emotion that was threatening as she watched him turn away from her.
He needed time and she had to give him that. It had taken
months to adjust and accept and she wasn’t Finn. A man who didn’t express emotion well and never let anyone close.
She had to give him space to come to terms with it.
So she sat there like a dummy as he walked out the door, despite how very, very much she wanted to call him back.
FINN WOKE UP at nine on Saturday morning, his head throbbing from one too many hits of his very expensive malt whisky the previous night.
It had been a good while since he’d overdone the top-shelf stuff. For years he’d used it to dull the physical pain from his injuries but since his recovery and his move to
he’d only ever indulged in the odd beer or two.
He’d forgotten how it could feel like a mule had kicked you in the head the next day. Which might actually be worth it if it had come with some sort of clarity.
Just a thumping headache and the very real feeling that he’d woken up in hell.
He stared at the ceiling as the same three words from last night repeated in his head—
Evie is pregnant
. Each word pounded like a battering ram against the fortified shell surrounding his heart with a resounding boom.
He was going to be a father. Some tiny little defenceless human being with his DNA was going to make its arrival in four short months. He was going to be
Whether he liked it or not.
And it scared the hell out of him. Being a parent—
a good parent
—required things life just hadn’t equipped him with. Like compassion, empathy, love.
There’d been so little love in his life. From the moment his mother had abandoned him and Isaac to a childhood in institutions to his regimented life in the army, ruled by discipline and authority, love had been non-existent. Sure, he’d loved and protected Isaac and Isaac had loved him, but it had been a very lonely island in a vast sea of indifference.
Add to that the slow fossilising of his emotions to deal with the horror and injuries witnessed in far-flung battlefields and the death knell to any errant tendrils of love and tenderness that might still have existed when Isaac had died in his arms and the product was the man he was today.
Ten years since that horrifying day and still he felt numb. Blank. Barren.
He hadn’t loved Lydia, his brother’s widow, with whom he’d had a totally messed up affair and who had needed him to love her no matter how screwed up it had been at the time.
He operated with the cold, clinical precision of a robot. Always seeing the part, never seeing the whole. Totally focussed. Never allowing himself to think about the person whose heart he held in his hands or the love that heart was capable of. Just doing the job. And doing it damn well.
He hadn’t felt anything for any of the women he’d slept with. They had just been pleasant distractions. Something different to take to bed instead of a bottle of Scotch. A momentary diversion.
Apart from Evie. Whom he’d pushed and pushed and pushed away and who knew what he was like but refused to give up anyway. Who could look right past his rubbish and see deep inside to the things he kept hidden.
Evie, who was having his baby.
A baby he didn’t know how to love.
A sudden knock at his door stomped through his head like a herd of stampeding elephants and he groaned out loud. He wanted to yell to whoever it was to go away but was afraid he might have a stroke if he did. If he just lay here, maybe Evie would think he’d already gone out.
Because that knock had the exact cadence of a pissed-off woman.
It came again followed by, ‘Finn? Finn!’
Wrong pissed-off woman.
‘Finn Kennedy, open this bloody door now. Don’t make me get my key out!’
Finn rolled out of bed. It wasn’t the smoothest exit from his bed he’d ever executed but considering he felt like he was about to die, the fact he could walk at all was a miracle.
‘Coming,’ he called as the knock came again, wincing as it drove nails into his brain.
He wrenched open the door just as he heard a metallic scratching from the other side. His brother’s widow, a petite redhead, stood on the doorstep glowering at him, hands on hips.
‘You look like hell,’ she said.
He grunted. ‘I feel like hell.’
‘Right,’ she said, striding past him into his apartment. ‘Coffee first, I think. Then you can tell me what happened to get you into this state.’
Finn was tempted to throw her out. But he really, really needed coffee.
Fifteen minutes later he was inhaling the aroma of the same Peruvian Arabica beans Lydia had brought him the last time she’d come for a flying visit and he hadn’t touched since. Grinding beans was way too much trouble, no matter how good they were. He took a sip of coffee and shut his eyes as his pulse gave a little kick.