A low beeping emitted from the machine beside her and Lilly stared blankly at the monitor unable to summon the energy it took to view the still image upon it. She longed to reach her fingers out and stroke the image with the happiness that swelled in her the last time she had seen this image but she knew before they even said a word that it would be pointless for she would never feel that happiness again.
“I’m sorry, Mrs Wentworth but there’s nothing more we can do,” the doctor said confirming her suspicions and Lilly didn’t even blink in his direction as she continued to stare at the monitor even long after they had turned off the perfect little image.
How could her day have ended like this? Especially considering how perfectly it had started out that morning.
She had awoken to the glorious smell of bacon and French toast, her two favourite foods. Her stomach had both grumbled at the idea and rebelled against the smell making her swallow the sick feeling as her husband appeared in the doorway holding a tray of food complete with a vase of lilies.
“We beat the odds,” he commented as he placed the tray carefully beside her before laying his well-built form next to her.
“A month,” she acknowledged almost laughing at his infectious smile as he leaned closer to place a gentle kiss upon her soft lips.
“And they thought we wouldn’t make it to your birthday but here we are. A month in to marriage with many more to come,” he boasted making her laugh aloud.
“I’m sorry sweetie, but I don’t think I can eat this,” Lilly said regretfully as the feeling of nausea strengthened making her wince.
“I got you these,” he offered instead and Lilly gave him a genuine smile as she accepted the saltine crackers and herbal tea.
“Where did you get these?” she asked suspiciously as she nibbled on the crackers, for she knew that their cupboards didn’t hold either of them.
“Mom said they were a godsend when she was pregnant with Jaz,” Connor said and Lilly glared at him as she finished the last cracker.
“You told your mother? I thought we agreed we weren’t telling anyone yet,” Lilly berated and Connor lowered his head in mock shame until she lightly punched his arm.
“I didn’t tell her, she guessed,” he explained and Lilly raised her brows at him.
“It’s not like we can keep it a secret for long Lil, You’re already three months and soon you’ll be showing. Do you really mind that mom knows?” he asked with his little boy pout and Lilly fought not to laugh.
Kaycee had practically been a mom to Lilly and she didn’t really mind that the older woman knew about her pregnancy but she had wanted it to remain just their secret for a little bit longer.
“I don’t mind,” she finally said with a sigh and burst out laughing when Connor moved the sheet back so he could bury his head against her still slim stomach.
“I’m sorry baby, but I promise that your grandmother will keep you secret. What’s that? You think mummy’s overreacting? I don’t think you should tell her that,” he said in hushed tones and Lilly couldn’t help the giggles as she lifted his head and placed a gentle kiss on his lips.
“Idiot,” she said teasingly and he smiled as he picked up a single Lilly and tucked it behind her ear.
“Happy birthday,” he offered quietly and she frowned as he handed her an expensive looking box.
“I thought I said no presents,” she admonished and his cheeky grin made her heart flip in her chest.
“So you did,” he acknowledged as he pushed the box closer and with a gracious sigh and a roll of her eyes Lilly opened the box only to gasp in delight at the contents.
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed in wonder as she ran her fingers gently over the gold locket that must have cost him a fortune. It even had an engraving round the outside reading live, love and laugh. Lilies comprised the centre of the locket and she ran her finger over it.
“Look inside,” he offered and she did then tried not to cry at the sight of her and Connor in one side taken from their first date nearly three years ago and on the other side was a picture of their first scan. She was closing the locket when she noticed another engraving on the back that made her want to weep at the thoughtful gift. It read “Lilly, my love, my wife, light of my life.”
She couldn’t believe that he had given her this amazing gift and she pulled him close to give him a proper thank you.
“It’s the most beautiful thing anyone has ever given me,” she told him with tears in her eyes and he smiled down at her as he placed a tender kiss on her temple.
“And you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met,” he said in complete seriousness making her break in to a beaming smile that was so big it felt like it might actually split her face in two.
“And you are the most incredible man that I have ever met,” she said with a laugh.
“You should eat your breakfast before it goes cold,” Connor suggested and Lilly was amazed to realise that the crackers seemed to have worked for she was famished and the sickness had completely disappeared.
“It’s delicious,” she offered in thanks as she did justice to the spread before her and she gave a mock growl as he filched a piece of bacon and popped it in to his mouth laughing at her empty threats.
Their light-hearted banter became something more charged and Connor took the initiative. Moving the tray aside he showed her one of the benefits to being his wife and what a benefit it was! Afterwards she lay curled in to the crook of his arm as she ran her fingers lightly over his chest and reflected on the day they had met.
She had been just seventeen and trying to assert her independence by getting a job as a waitress, something her father deeply disapproved of despite it being one of the best restaurants in town. To him it was unthinkable that his daughter should demean herself in this way and worse was the thought that people they knew might see her.
Although he put across his opinion every time he saw her, he was also going through a messy divorce with her mother that was taking its toll on him.
Lilly hadn’t forgiven her mother for walking out on them so she could play happy families with another man and his children. It was one of the reasons that she needed the getaway the job provided. Better to lose herself in the job and deal with other people’s problems than focus on her own.
It was during one of her first shifts that she first met Connor. He had been dining with his mother and Lilly couldn’t help but overhear their conversation as she cleared a table nearby.
“This is ridiculous mother. I’ve had plenty of girlfriends,” Connor had said furiously and his mother had laughed.
“Is that what you call those Barbie dolls that barely last more than a few weeks? You haven’t had a single long-term girlfriend,” his mother accused and Connor gave a weary sigh.
“I’m only just twenty-two and not exactly ready to settle down,” he said but his mother shook her head.
“I’m not asking you to get married and have kids,” she denied though she looked hopeful at the thought of grandchildren.
“Then what exactly is it you’re asking?” he questioned as his mother became teary eyed.
“I just want you to find someone to love. Someone who loves you for who you are and not how much you have,” she explained making him feel guilty for she was right that the girls he tended to go for were more interested in his wallet than his personality.
“What if I told you I was seeing someone?” he asked wanting to make his mother happy and she frowned at him.
“Oh? And who would this mystery girl be? Another bimbo?” his mother asked in disbelief. Connor meanwhile fought not to show the guilt of his lie on his face as he surveyed the crowded restaurant trying to think of an answer until suddenly his eyes collided with Lilly’s and a slow smile spread across his face.
She was petite with jet-black hair that was tied back in a plait but could not be contained and several tendrils had fallen down to frame her heart shaped face. She smiled at him with her adorable pouty lips that begged to be kissed and revealed a row of brilliantly white teeth. Her green eyes sparkled with amusement as he continued to survey her and he had visions of placing his hands either side of her tiny waist then moving them up to cup her…
He was jerked out of his reverie by his mother who was scowling at him like it wasn’t the first time she had called his name.
“What?” he asked automatically and his mother shook her head at him.
“I raised you and your brother to be honourable men and yet when I ask you about your supposed girlfriend I don’t even get an answer but just a blank stare,” his mother complained and Connor fought the urge to roll his eyes. Despite his age his mother wouldn’t tolerate backchat and he was very careful to be on his best behaviour around her.
“That’s because I just saw her,” he offered as an explanation and his mother’s eyes narrowed as though sensing a lie.
“Well? Introduce me to the girl,” his mother demanded and Connor hesitated before he slid from his seat and followed the path the girl had taken until he tracked her down at the back of the restaurant.
“Hi,” he said and the girl looked startled at the sound of his voice.
“Hi,” she offered shyly and he grinned down at her making her knees go weak.
“I have a proposition for you,” he suggested and she frowned.
“A proposition?” she asked nervously and he gave her a dazzling smile that did strange things to her equilibrium.
“I need a girlfriend, well a pretend girlfriend to make my mother happy. I was wondering if you would do the honours,” he said and Lilly frowned at him as he named a huge sum of money that he would pay her for this little favour. She didn’t need the money but there were several people who did and she was a generous person.
“I don’t know. I mean I don’t even know you,” she said and that wolfish grin was back.
“My name is Connor. And you are?” he asked making her laugh.
“Lilly,” she told him and a twinkle appeared in his eyes.
“A pleasure Lilly,” he offered as he raised her hand to his lips and brushed a kiss against her knuckles.
“The pleasure will be all mine,” she told him with a smile and he beamed at her as he began to lead her back to the table before hesitating as something popped in to his mind.
“How old are you?” he asked suddenly as he realised that looks could be deceiving and for all he knew this pretty young thing could be fourteen.
“Eighteen,” she blurted out, her heart pounding at the lie for she was only seventeen.
“Eighteen,” he repeated with a relaxed smile. Only four years difference in age, that wasn’t too bad. Most of the women he bedded were in their twenties but he supposed an eighteen year old wasn’t too young.
Lilly winced inwardly as he led her towards his mother. She didn’t know why she had lied only that she really liked him and she didn’t want to change his mind and use some other girl. God knew there were any number who were prettier and smarter than her who would be only too happy to help him.
“Mother this is Lilly. Lilly, my mother,” he introduced and watched as his mother’s eyes travelled over Lilly silently judging whether she was good enough for her son.
“Pleasure to meet you,” Lilly said with a smile as she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and waited for the hammer to fall.
“The pleasure my dear is most definitely all mine. It makes me proud to see my son settling down for a change with a lovely young woman such as yourself. But if I may say so, you do look awfully young,” Kaycee offered and Lilly tried not to look guilty.
“She’s eighteen,” Connor said stiffly and his mother smiled at the girl as she stood to her feet.
“It was lovely meeting you Lilly. I hope you can join us for dinner sometime,” Kaycee suggested before she kissed her son’s cheek and left the restaurant with a smile on her face. She didn’t believe that the girl was eighteen though she did believe that she acted more grown up than most of the women who threw themselves at her son. She didn’t know why but she had the feeling that Lilly would change her son and she smiled to herself as visions of grandchildren danced in her head. Well in the future of course!
Lilly could remember it as if it were yesterday. His mother had swept out of the restaurant and as he had handed her the money he had promised he had looked her in the eye and said,
“What about it?”
“What about what?” she had asked in confusion.
“My mother wants you to come for dinner,” he reminded her and she stared at him unable to believe that he was asking what she thought he was asking.
“Only because she believes we’re dating,” Lilly pointed out and Connor laughed as he grasped her wrist.
“So, how about it? Would you like to go on a real date with me?”
There had been something boyishly charming about him and Lilly hadn’t been able to resist accepting. It had been several weeks before she had gathered up the courage to reveal her true age to him and she had been terrified that he wouldn’t want her anymore.
“You sweet fool,” he had murmured instead as he had dragged her closer and kissed her deeply although he waited until she really was eighteen before he had taken her in to his bed.
Her father had not been happy about the relationship and still wasn’t. He had refused to go to the wedding and despised Connor with a passion though Lilly had no idea why.
Connor was even more handsome now than the day she had met him and he had been stunning even then. With his dark hair that ran wild and though he cut it often it always seemed to curl at his nape and was always tousled. His cool grey eyes were always changing. One moment they were sparkling with humour, or stormy when they rowed, or cool like ice when he was mad at something or heated when they were in the throes of passion. He was clean-shaven and had a body any man would envy. Not too muscly but with just the right sized six-pack he looked incredible. He had a light scattering of dark hairs across his chest and a goodie trail that she loved to follow. He was perfect in every way to her and she loved this man with all her heart.
Which was why the events of that day were so heart-breaking!
Midmorning Connor had told her he had to go to work for a few hours and she pouted at him wishing he could spend the day with her but knowing that he had commitments.
At a loss as to what to do with the rest of her day Lilly had jumped at the chance of visiting her father when he had called asking to see her.
If she’d known then what she knew now she would never have gone, Lilly acknowledged bleakly as she continued to stare at the silent, blank monitor as her hand pressed lightly over her flat stomach.
She had visited her father, had even been excited to see him. He didn’t seem too excited to see her though and the only birthday gift he gave her was pain and heartbreak.
He hadn’t even tried acting like a good father. Instead he had begun doling out accusations almost immediately.
He claimed that Connor had only married her to expand his hotel business. He had provided all sorts of documentation showing that Connor had known who she was all along and had purposefully set out to catch her. There was even a background check that he had done on her. There were also documents that proved he had only married her to distract her father and take over his business. But worst of all were the photos her father provided of him in another woman’s arms and dated after they were married.
She had stared at the photos and documents stunned that the sweet, caring man she knew and loved could be such a callous beast.
“He’s with her right now. Call him if you don’t believe me,” was her father’s parting shot as Lilly had run from the house like the hounds of hell were nipping at her heels.
“It couldn’t be possible!
And yet as she tried his phone it went repeatedly to voicemail and when she finally relented and rang his office they informed her that they hadn’t seen him.
Reality finally descended and with it her heart broke and suddenly there was so much pain. And not all of it from her broken heart, she realised as she doubled over in complete agony and slowly collapsed to the cold cement pavement. She was dimly aware that she was bleeding and that someone dropped beside her and tried to assure her that everything would be alright but she couldn’t believe that and it was almost a blessing when everything went black and she slipped in to blissful oblivion.
She had awoken here in this hospital room, hooked up to the damn machine with doctors confirming what she had already known. That her baby was dead!
It just didn’t seem possible that this morning she had been twenty-one and happy. She had been looking forward to the future with her loving husband and adorable baby. Only now that dream had crumbled and she realised she had no loving husband just a cheating louse and the only being who had ever truly loved her was dead before it had even been given the chance to live.
She was completely alone!
Lilly must have slept for she awoke to find Connor beside her his expression grim as he reached for her hand only to have his eyes widen when she snatched it firmly away.
“Are you alright?” he asked in concern knowing that there was no possible way that she could be.
“I’m fine,” she said tightly and he frowned.
“Lilly…” that was as far as he got before she interrupted him hate spearing from her eyes and making him feel unwelcome in her presence.
“I’m fine Connor. I just want you to leave,”
“Lilly, I know you’re hurting and you need time but…”
“Then just go. Leave me to grieve my baby in peace,” she flung at him and Connor hesitated as he got to his feet. He didn’t want to leave his wife alone to deal with this but he didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was. There was something more going on her than he understood but he wanted to make things as easy as possible for her. So, with a sigh he stroked her hair lightly, hurt stabbing him when she turned deliberately away from him.
“ I love you,” were his final words as he strode away leaving her to stare blankly in to space as she made plans to leave him and start a new life without him.