Authors: Amy Andrews
‘In fact …’ Evie stood, gently reaching out and stroking Isaac’s closest arm, the warm fuzz covering it tickling her finger ‘… I’m going to go and express then I’m going to come back here and stay until Marco’s round at eleven for my discharge and then I’m coming straight back. So I want you to go and catch up on some sleep.’
Finn looked at the determined set to Evie’s chin and felt that protective part of him that had refused to let him leave Isaac’s side relax as it recognised the strength of Evie’s protective instinct. ‘Okay. I’ll go to my office and have a couple of hours.’
Evie shook her head. ‘Finn, you need a shower, a decent meal and a proper bed. Go home. Rest properly.’
He shook his head. ‘I can’t leave you sitting here all day. Not so soon after your discharge. You need the rest more than I do.’
Yeah, yeah. The milk
. But she let it go, refusing to dwell on something that was fact anyway.
‘It’s okay. Bella and Lexi will be in and out fussing around all day, making me go for walks and feeding me well. And seeing as your theatre cases have been reassigned this week, I’ll let you take the night shift again.’
Finn laughed. ‘Why, thank you.’
He hesitated. The offer was tempting. He’d been in the same clothes for almost thirty-six hours. And they hadn’t been clean to begin with. If it hadn’t been for Ava persuading Gladys to let her into his apartment, he probably still wouldn’t have shoes. He’d used the toothpaste and toothbrush from the care pack he’d been given by one of the NICU nurses.
A shower and his own bed did sound mighty tempting.
He looked down at Isaac and felt torn. What if something went wrong while he was away? He’d been rock-steady stable but Isaac was in NICU for a reason.
‘I promise I’ll call immediately if anything happens,’ Evie murmured, sensing his conflict and knowing it intimately. How much had she fretted during the hours she’d spent away from him?
‘Okay,’ he said, giving in to the dictates of his utterly drained body. ‘Thanks.’
Finn was back at three o’clock. He’d eaten, showered, slept like a log for two hours longer than he’d planned and zipped quickly into town to do something he should have done weeks ago. Then he’d left his car back at Kirribilli Views and walked to the hospital. It was a nice day and it gave him a chance to think things through, to plan. He stopped in at the canteen on his way to the unit and bought two coffees and some snack supplies for later tonight.
‘Hi, there,’ he said, striding into Evie’s room.
She looked up from changing Isaac’s nappy. It was the first time she’d touched him properly and even though it was a thick, black, meconium bowel motion, she was vibrating with excitement. Perfectly functioning bowels were another cause for celebration.
‘Poo!’ she announced to Finn. ‘Who’d have ever thought you could be so happy about a dirty nappy!’
Finn caught his breath. Her eyes were sparkling and she looked deliriously happy. He didn’t understand why it had taken him so long to figure out he loved her when just thinking about her now made his heart grow bigger in his chest.
He laughed, understanding an excitement that might seem bizarre to others. ‘That’s our boy,’ he said.
Lexi, who was also in the room, shook her head and pronounced them nuts.
Evie finished up and Finn hovered nearby, talking to his son, whose eyes fluttered open from time to time indignantly as his sleep was disturbed. When she was done he passed her the coffee, gave his to Lexi and they filled him in on the day, including the news that the oxygen had been reduced even further.
‘He’s a little marvel!’ Lexi exclaimed.
Finn couldn’t have agreed more and to see Evie with her eyes glittering and her skin glowing was a sight for sore eyes.
‘You’re just in time,’ Evie said. ‘I was about to go and express. You can entertain Lexi.’
Finn glanced up. ‘Actually, would you mind going solo for a bit, Lex? I wouldn’t mind having a chat with your sister.’ He looked at Evie. ‘If that’s okay with you?’
Evie felt her breath catch a little at the intensity in his blue, blue gaze. She’d forgotten with all the madness of the last couple of days and a side whammy of maternal hormones how it could reach right inside her and stroke her.
Was she okay with him watching her express? It should have been an easy answer—it wasn’t like he hadn’t seen her naked before. They’d made Isaac together, for crying out loud. But she hesitated anyway. It was pretty damn obvious he’d already relegated her to mother status—surely that would only enhance his opinion more?
Lexi noticed her hesitation. ‘Why don’t you let the poor woman and her leaking breasts be, Finn Kennedy? I won’t bite and after she’s done I’ll stick around so you can take Evie outside and talk without the slurp and suck of a breast pump serenading you.’
Finn looked at Evie. He could tell she was relived at her sister’s intervention and he didn’t know what that meant exactly. He’d felt on the same page with her during their getting to know each other weeks but due to the rather dramatic interruption of Isaac’s early arrival he wasn’t sure about anything any more.
He was, however, grateful for a little bit of sanity from Lexi. What had he been thinking? Breast-pump music was not the ambience he was after.
‘Of course.’ He smiled. ‘Good plan.’
Forty-five minutes later Finn and Evie were ensconced in a booth at Pete’s. He’d chosen it over the canteen for its relative quietness at this time of the day. Weekday hospital staff didn’t tend to arrive until after six o’clock so they had plenty of time to be uninterrupted. Unlike the canteen, where they’d have been swamped with well-wishers, their conversation stifled.
And he could do without their private life being aired on the grapevine—for once.
‘So I was thinking,’ Finn said as he placed a sparkling water in a wine glass in front of her and a Coke in front of him, ‘that you should move into the penthouse with me while we’re getting the Lavender Bay house set up.’
Evie, who had chosen that moment to take a sip of her drink, almost choked as she half-inhaled it in shock. She coughed and spluttered for a while, trying to rid the irritation of sparkling water from her trachea.
‘Is it that shocking?’ Finn joked as he waited for her to settle.
‘Yes,’ she rasped, clearing her throat and taking another sip of water.
Finn reached across the table and covered Evie’s hands with his. ‘It makes sense to me. We’ll be getting married as soon as Isaac is home and as we both live in the same building anyway, it seems silly to keep two places going.’
Evie looked down at their joined hands as the very practical reasons for her moving in with him sank in. ‘Right,’ she murmured. She had to admit he made good sense even if it had been thought about in that logical way of Finn’s.
But … where was the emotion?
I can’t live without you one more day
I love you, never leave my side
She drew her hands out from under his. ‘Finn … I don’t think this is something we should be worrying about at the moment. I just want to focus on Isaac. On what he needs.’
Finn felt her withdrawal reach deep inside him. He knew she was right, that Isaac had to come first, but they also had to look after themselves. There was no point being run down from stress and lack of sleep when Isaac finally came home.
The word resonated inside him and settled easily, warming him from the inside out instead of echoing around all the lonely places as it always had.
He had a home. And a family to share it with.
‘You still need a base, Evie. A place to have a quick shower and change your clothes, lay your head for a few hours maybe, collect your mail … that kind of thing.’
She nodded. ‘Fleeting visits, yes. But I plan to spend as much time on the unit with Isaac as I can without totally exhausting myself. I can’t bear to think of him there all by himself, Finn.’ She took a sip of water as she felt a thickening in her throat. ‘There certainly won’t be any time to be shifting apartments.’
Finn nodded. There was no point reminding her that Isaac wasn’t alone because he knew exactly how she felt. It felt wrong being away from him, leaving him in the care of strangers—no matter how excellent or vital it was.
He nodded. ‘Okay, fine, but …’ He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a burgundy velvet box. ‘I want you to have this.’
He opened it to reveal the one-carat princess-cut diamond—a princess for a princess. It sparkled in Pete’s downlights as he pushed it across the table to her. ‘I realised that I hadn’t given you one yet and that was remiss of me. I want you to have it, to wear, so everyone knows we’re going to be a family.’
Evie was rather pleased she wasn’t drinking anything when he put the box on the table or she might well have choked to death this time. Her pulse thundered through her ears as she picked it up. The ring was exquisite in a platinum antique setting.
‘It’s beautiful,’ she whispered. It was the kind of ring she would have picked out herself and just for a moment she wanted to hold it and look at it and marvel. ‘It must have cost you a fortune.’
Finn shook his head. ‘No price is too high for the mother of my child.’
Evie felt a hysterical sob rising in her throat and swallowed it down hard. Everything she had inside her wanted to take the exquisite piece of jewellery and put it on her finger and never take it off.
To be Finn’s wife.
But she knew if she did, if she compromised what she needed from him, she’d lose herself for ever. With more self-control than she’d known she possessed, she snapped the lid shut and passed it back to him, keeping her gaze firmly fixed on the bead of moisture running down her glass. ‘I’m not going to marry you, Finn.’
Finn frowned as a prickle of unease scratched at his hopes and dreams and he was reminded of how she hadn’t been able to look at him yesterday. ‘What?’
Evie fiddled with the straw in her glass. ‘I know I told you I would but … that was before all of this.’
Finn put his hand over top of hers, stilling its swishing of the straw. ‘Look at me, Evie,’ he said.
Evie fleetingly thought of telling him to go to hell but this was a conversation that they might be better having now so Finn knew she couldn’t be waited out, persuaded or bullied. So she looked at him and tried to keep the hurt from her gaze.
‘What’s really going on here?’ he asked.
Evie sighed at the brilliant, clueless man in front of her. What would Lexi or Bella say to him? ‘You suck at proposing, Finn.’
Finn snorted. She was having some kind of female hissy fit because he hadn’t gone down on bended knee? ‘I’m sorry I’ve been a little busy to organise a flash mob and a blimp.’
Evie felt tears well in her eyes and for an awful second she thought she was going to cry. Right here in the middle of Pete’s. Wouldn’t that be great for the gossips? ‘I don’t need grand gestures, Finn,’ she said quietly. ‘Not a flash mob or a blimp or even a bloody house. But I
need to hear three little words.’ She paused and cleared her throat of its wobble. ‘I’m not marrying you because you don’t love me.’
Finn frowned. That was the most preposterous thing he’d ever heard. ‘Yes, I do. Of course I do. I’ve told you that.’ He had, hadn’t he? More than once.
‘Sure,’ Evie said bitterly. ‘Suddenly the love is flooding in for Isaac so much it radiates out of you and you’re dragging everything nearby with you like some bloody comet, and I’ve been swept up in it too.’
He shook his head. ‘No, Evie, that’s not right.’
‘Isn’t it?’ she demanded in a loud, angry whisper, sitting forward in her chair. ‘I’m the mother of your child—of course you love me, you have to. You’ve got me all set me up as this esteemed mother figure. As this revered nurturer. The provider of milk and changer of nappies.’
If Finn could have kicked his own butt he would have. ‘Of course you mean more to me than that. I love
Evie felt as if he’d struck her with the words, so obviously an afterthought. ‘Then why in hell do I get a ring pushed across the table accompanied by a
This was remiss of me
. If you loved me, really loved me, as a woman, not just as the mother of your child, then you would have told me that. That’s what men who love the women they propose to do. But you didn’t. And do you know why?’ she snarled, uncaring who might be overhearing their conversation, ‘Because it never occurred to you. Because it’s not the way you feel. Well, I’m sorry, Finn,’ she said, standing up, not able to bear the look of total bewilderment on his face. ‘I need more than that. I know that you had a terrible upbringing and you need a home and a family and you’ve got this whole fantasy going on around that, and I thought I could live with just that. But I can’t. I won’t.’
She sidestepped until she was out of the booth. ‘Do me a favour, give me an hour with Isaac before you come back.’
And she whirled out of the pub before the first tear fell.
Lexi was alarmed when Evie arrived back with puffy eyes and insisted she’d ring her babysitter to stay longer, but Evie sent her on her way, assuring her she was fine, just Finn being Finn on top of the worry and stress over Isaac.
By the time Finn arrived back she had herself under control and was determined to stay that way. He looked at her tentatively and despite how he kept breaking her heart, she felt sorry for him. Finn was a man who’d shut himself down emotionally to deal with a crappy life. Opening up like this couldn’t be easy for him.