I handed the driver some bills and collected my suitcase from the curb, gazing up at the twelve-storey building that housed my condo. The woman I loved was up there with my daughter. And I was going to get them back.
The doorman approached when I passed through the sliding glass doors. “Can I help you, sir?”
“I own a condo here,” I barked.
“My apologies, sir. What unit do you live in?”
“Very nice to meet you, sir,” he gushed.
Fuck. I hate ass-kissers. And when you’re rich, they’re everywhere you go.
“Your guests are all out at the moment,” he continued. “The Davenports left with their real estate agent, and the woman and the girl went to the beach.”
“You keep tabs on all the tenants?”
“It’s my job,” he bragged. “Not in a creepy way. For security purposes. And fire safety. It’s important to know who’s here and who isn’t. Especially when many of the tenants don’t live here full-time.”
I took my suitcase up to my condo, leaving it in the foyer. Kinley’s grandparents were staying there until they found a place of their own. I felt like a guest in my own home. The condo wasn’t huge. I’d have to get a hotel room. If everything went as planned, we’d want to be alone tonight. Ellie would understand.
I changed into shorts and a t-shirt before heading back downstairs. It was early. The beach wasn’t too busy yet. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have too much trouble finding them. I could always text them. But they were both pissed at me. They might take off when they found out I was there.
I scanned the beach, looking for a sexy redhead. A crowd was gathered by the shore. Several lifeguards were in the water while a couple beach cops yelled through megaphones, ordering everyone to get out immediately.
Probably a rip tide or a shark sighting. Those were common occurrences in Florida. The paramedics ran past me with a stretcher. A girl was screaming from the shore while a lifeguard held her back. My heart plummeted to my stomach, fear ripping through me when I realized it was my daughter.
Where was Kinley?
I broke out in a run, pushing through the crowd to reach Ellie.
“You need to stay back!” the cop ordered.
“That’s my daughter,” I barked.
“Harland!” Ellie cried, running toward me. “Kinley disappeared under the water! She didn’t come back up!”
“Undertow,” the cop explained.
“We’ve got her!”
I watched helplessly as they carried her lifeless body to the shore, holding on tightly to Ellie while they tried to revive her.
I paced the hallway, my anger barely in check as I waited for someone to tell me something. Anything. They wouldn’t let me ride in the ambulance. But they let Ellie. She needed medical attention. Apparently, my daughter almost drowned, and Kinley saved her.
What if Kinley didn’t make it? I reached into my pocket, holding tightly to the ring box. I was going to propose to her on the beach. Tears stung the back of my eyelids.
A firm hand gripped my shoulder. “She’ll pull through,” George said. “My granddaughter is a fighter.”
“How’s Henny holding up?”
“She’s in the chapel, praying. That’s her deal. I’m not religious.”
“I can’t believe this happened.”
“Kinley and Ellie saved three small children.”
“I can’t lose her, George,” I choked out, a sob catching in my throat. “I love Kinley. I wanna marry her. That’s why I’m here. To propose to her.”
I swallowed past the lump in my throat, my heart thundering against my chest wall as the doctor approached. Time stood still in those split seconds before she delivered the news.
“Kinley is going to be fine. They got her out of the water just in time.”
“Oh, thank God,” I gasped, grabbing onto the wall for support when my knees started to buckle.
“Are you Harland?” she inquired.
She gestured for me to follow her to the far corner of the waiting room. “The baby hasn’t shown any signs of distress. But it’s very early in the pregnancy. She could still experience a miscarriage from the trauma. It usually manifests itself within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. We’ll monitor her closely, but there really isn’t anything else we can do.”
“Baby?” The word came out garbled, my brain scrambling to process everything the doctor said. “Kinley is pregnant?”
“You didn’t know?”
“No, I did not. Did Kinley tell you that?”
“No. Ellie told the paramedics in the ambulance. When I asked her if the father of the baby was here, she gave me your name. I assumed you knew. She didn’t give me any indication that you were unaware of Kinley’s condition.”
“I was definitely not aware.”
“Kinley has been asking for you.”
“Can I see her?”
“Of course. Unless her grandparents want to go first.”
“You go ahead, Harland,” George offered when we returned to where he was standing. “I’m gonna go round up Henny and give her the good news.”
I followed the doctor down the corridor to a partially open door. Kinley’s eyes were closed, her face was a pasty white, her gorgeous red hair wet and matted behind her head. But she was still beautiful.
“Hey,” Ellie whispered from a chair in the corner. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around my chest.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Kinley saved my life.”
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
“There’s nowhere else I wanna be. You guys are my family.”
“You mean that?”
“You’re gonna live in Maine with us?”
“Yes.” I gestured for her to step out in the hall. “How long has she known about the baby?”
“A few days. I made her take five tests the day we arrived in Florida.”
“How did you know she was pregnant?”
“She was tired, dizzy and emotional. And remember she vomited the night we left?”
“Yeah. I had no idea she was pregnant though.”
“Neither did she. Fortunately, your kid is a genius.”
“We better make sure our new house is big enough to accommodate your head.”
“Very funny, Dad.”
“I like being called Dad.”
“You better get used to it.”
“I guess so.”
“Kinley loves you. I think she’s going to forgive you.”
“I hope so,” I whispered, glancing in the room. She was still sleeping. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the ring box.
Ellie squealed when she saw the ring.
“Shh!” I hissed.
“Is that Grandma’s ring?”
“Yes. Are you okay with me giving it to Kinley?”
“Of course. I’m never getting married.”
“What if she says no?”
“She won’t,” Ellie declared. “Not a chance.”
“Okay. It looks like she’s waking up. Wish me luck.”
“I’ll go out to the waiting room and keep the grandparents occupied.”
“Thanks, Ellie,” I said. “For everything.”
“No problem, Dad.” She leaned up, planting a kiss on my cheek before she walked away.
Kinley was awake when I stepped back inside her room. “Hey,” she whispered weakly, her voice hoarse.
“What are you doing here, Harland? I thought you had meetings in New York.”
“I sold my business.”
“I didn’t want it anymore.”
“No. Crazy would be walking away from my family. From the woman I love.”
Her chin trembled, slow-moving tears cascading over her cheeks.
I pulled the chair up next to the bed, linking our fingers together. “How are you feeling?”
“Better now that I don’t have the Atlantic Ocean in my lungs.”
“I was so scared when I saw them pull you out of the water.”
“You were at the beach?”
“I wanted to ask you a question.”
“You flew to Florida to ask me a question?”
“It’s an important one.”
“You could’ve called me.”
I reached into my pocket, pulling out the white velvet box.
“Harland,” she gasped. “What are you doing?”
“Kinley Davenport, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
“This is crazy, Harland,” she laughed.
“I don’t know.”
“Say yes,” I whispered.
“Yes! I’ll marry you!”
I slipped the ring on her finger before releasing a huge sigh of relief. “You scared me there for a second. I thought you were gonna say no.”
“I’d have to be pretty stupid to turn you down.”
“You’re the only man on the planet who can give me orgasms.”
“Oh really?” I laughed. “That’s all I’m good for?”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “You’re not bad to look at. But you snore.”
“I hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but you snore.”
“I do not.”
“Can I kiss you now?”
“My breath is probably horrible.”
“I’ll let you away with it this time.” I leaned in, kissing her softly. “It’s not bad. A little salty.”
“Stop it!” she laughed.
“Can I snuggle with you?”
“Sure,” she said, moving over to make room for me.
I kicked off my sandals and settled next to her, wrapping my arm around her shoulders. She rested her head on my chest, fiddling with the edge of the sheet.
“Kinley?” I asked gently, pressing my lips to the top of her head.
She gazed up at me, her enchanting eyes shimmering with a fresh batch of tears. “I need to tell you something.”
“I already know about the baby,” I whispered.
“Who told you?”
“Why would she do that?”
“Ellie told her I was the father, and she assumed I knew. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was going to. I just needed some time. It was a pretty big shock.”
“Not really, if you think about it,” I chuckled. “We were pretty irresponsible.”
“Only the first couple times. And it was early in my cycle. I don’t understand how I got pregnant.”
“I guess I have some powerful sperm.”
“How do you feel about it?”
“About you having my baby?”
“Do you even have to ask?” I whispered, tilting her chin up so I could kiss her.
“I could have a miscarriage,” she whispered. “Because of almost drowning, and the stress and trauma on my body today.”
“That’s not gonna happen.”
“What if it does?”
“Then we’ll get through it together. And we’ll make another baby. We can have ten babies, if that’s what you want. But you need to stay out of the ocean while you’re pregnant.”
“Harland, this isn’t funny,” she said. “I’m really worried I’m gonna lose this baby.”
“I know, sweetheart,” I murmured. “I’m sorry. I’m scared, too. Sometimes, I joke around about serious matters to alleviate my stress.”
“Are you sure you want to give up your company? That seems like a big decision.”
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.”
“Can we come in yet?!” Ellie called from the hall.
“Yes!” I hollered.
My daughter burst into the room with her grandparents in tow, her eyes dropping to Kinley’s finger. “Yes!” she shrieked. “She said yes!”
“Congratulations,” Henny offered, patting me on the back. “On the engagement and the baby.”
“Ellie,” Kinley sighed. “Can’t you keep a secret?”
“Of course,” she huffed.
“You’re not doing a very good job with this one.”
“I only shared with persons holding right to know status. The paramedics, the doctor and Harland all fall into that category.”
“You told Grandma and Grandpa.”
“Fine. I had one slip. Give a kid a break.”
“Oh, now you’re a kid?” I laughed. “How convenient.”
“Whatever,” she scoffed, climbing to the other side of the bed.
“You three make a beautiful family,” Henny said, holding up her phone to snap a photo.
“Soon to be four,” I whispered, rubbing Kinley’s belly.
“I love you, Harland.”
“I love you, too, fire crotch.”
“Really?” she sighed.
“I’m just teasing you, baby. I love you so much, Kinley. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”
I pulled her into my arms, sealing our love with a long, passionate kiss followed by a promise to love her forever.