Just With You

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Three hours later, we’re wiped out.

We opened so many presents; I’m not sure where half of them will go. Gram gave us the pink baby blankets she crocheted. Drew, Garret, and I chugged baby bottles filled with apple juice. Everyone left their guesses on the birth weights and birthday. Stella cried when Mason gave her a baby book that had our maternity photos in a cover collage.

Drew and my dad loaded up the bed of my truck with everything, and most of the guests have left. Stella and I are sitting at one of the tables with Garret, Brody, Lindsey, and Sadie.

“Stella, we never even asked, but did you guys get the tour of the maternity wing yet?” Lindsey asks, taking a sip of wine.

“Yeah, we went last week. It’s beautiful.”

“I got to see it while it was under construction, and my God, did they upgrade it. They were able to use one of the corridors that wasn’t being used and turn it into two more suites. And everyone up there is amazing.”

Lindsey is a nurse in the emergency room at Memorial, and she’s been a great sounding board the last few months. She and Stella have done lunch with Sadie more than once, and I know these ladies are going to be some mom friends for Stella.

“Have you decided what kind of birth you want yet?” Sadie asks, and Stella grimaces.

“The least painful kind? Kidding, but I’m gonna go as long as I can without an epidural. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but I know with twins I’m probably insane for thinking I can do it without some kind of pain meds.”

“Not crazy. Plenty of women have babies with no medication. Plus, you’re a tough chick. You can do it.”

“Jace is gonna take a month off, so I know that will help, but I’m starting to get nervous.” Running her finger around the edge of the glass, Stella gives them a small smile.

“You’ll do great. Will it just be you and Jace in the delivery room?” Lindsey asks.

“Yeah. Jace is so excited. He had these custom signs made for above their cribs. He’s gonna be the best dad,” she gushes, and they both agree. My face heats with their words, and I pull Stella tight against my side.

Lindsey smiles. “I’ve known Jace for going on three years, and I have never been so happy for him. He was the best support for Brody and me when we had Paxton, and he’s so good with the kids.”

“I know, and that’s why I was surprised when he said he was so nervous. Claims he has no idea what to do with babies, and it’s like ‘Hello. Your niece and nephew, Jace?’”

They all laugh, and I look over at them, giving a wave. “Yeah, hi. You know I’m sitting right here, no?”

Brody gets up from the table and comes back a moment later with three beers, handing one each to Garret and me.

“Thanks, man,” I tell him. “At least someone has my back here.”

“Oh chill, Jace. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t give you shit,” Lindsey teases, and Brody laughs.

“My woman’s right, buddy. You should listen to her.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I mutter, taking a pull from my beer.

Long after everyone leaves, the six of us sit and talk, and by the time we separate and Stella and I head home, I know without a doubt that we’ve got this.

We’re gonna be fine.

Stepping into the bullpen, I’m trying to find our sergeant. I’ve been on shift all day, and I need to talk to him before I clock out. When I don’t find him, I settle for leaving a note on his desk to call me before I swing down to the locker rooms. Changing out of my uniform, I’m pulling on a pair of sneakers when my cell phone starts ringing. It’s Stella.

“Hey, baby, what’s going on?” I answer, tucking my phone against my shoulder as I collect my things, tucking them into my duffel.

“Are you on your way home yet?” she asks, and her voice sounds pinched.

“In just a minute. Why?”

“Okay, so I spent most of the day not feeling well, and I didn’t want to make you come home for no reason. But I think I might be in labor.”

Slamming my locker shut, I race for the parking lot as quickly as I can, breaking into a dead sprint when I get outside.

“Are you having contractions?”

“Yeah, my back is killing me. Plus, I’m pretty sure my water broke. That or I pissed all over the damn couch.”

My heart is pounding in my chest as I hop into my truck, cranking the engine and flooring it. I tell Stella I’ll be home in a minute and toss my cell into the cup holder, using two hands to keep my truck on the road.

She’s early. She’s just about to hit thirty-seven weeks, and I’m worried that’s tooearly. Then again, I have no idea what’s too early, so I just focus on getting home in one piece. When I go roaring down the driveway ten minutes later, I leave the truck running and race inside.

I find her standing in the living room with her hands flat against the wall, bent over with her head down. “What’s wrong?” I ask, setting a hand on her back.

“It’s a contraction, crazy man. It hurts like a fucking bitch and a half.”

“Oh. Do we need to go to the hospital? Do I need to call ahead?”

“Jace.” Stella stands up straight, both her hands on her lower back. “My bag has been packed for weeks. The car seats are installed in your truck. I already called the hospital, and they want me to come in now since my water broke. Now, do you need to do some Lamaze breathing, or are you okay?”

Her smile is small but genuine, and I give her a kiss on the forehead.

“Is it okay that they’re coming now? Isn’t it too early?”

“They didn’t seem too worried about it, so let’s just go, and when we get there, you can bombard them with all the questions you need. But if another contraction hits before you get me in the truck, you’re gonna be carrying me out of here.”

“I love you so much, Stell.”

“I love you too. Now let’s go.”

She points to the large bag laying on the floor near the back of the couch, and I toss it over my shoulder, using my other arm to help her walk out to the truck. Getting her safely inside, I toss the bag in the back seat and climb in.

“This is the last time we leave the house as just the two of us,” I say, and she nods.

“Let’s go meet our girls,” she whispers, and a minute later she’s grabbing for my arm, her face twisted in pain. She does deep breathing in and out, and I clench the wheel, getting us to the hospital as fast as possible.

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