Bound by Their Babies

By: Caroline Anderson

PROLOGUE

June

‘HI, EM. I’VE just come out of Theatre and found two missed calls, and I tried the house phone and got no reply. Where are you? Are you OK?’

Jake heard a soft laugh, then a little gasp, and his pulse shifted a notch.

‘Em? Talk to me!’

‘I’m in labour, but I can’t do this. I need you, Jake…’ Another little gasp. ‘I’m in Maternity Reception—’

She broke off breathlessly, the contraction obviously peaking, and his heart went into overdrive.

‘I’ll be right there,’ he promised, and sliding his phone back into his pocket, he told a colleague to page the registrar to take over from him and headed for the lift at a run, his heart hammering.

Crazy. There was no reason for him to react like this. He was an obstetrician, for heaven’s sake! He spent his life surrounded by women in labour, but this was different. This was Emily, his dearest, oldest, closest friend, and he’d promised he’d be there for her. Not as an obstetrician but as her birth partner, and that was much harder because it wasn’t his place to be there, it was Pete’s.

But Pete, her husband of eleven years, the father of her baby, couldn’t be here with her today or any other day. The man who’d had everything any man could want—everything he himself wanted—had lost it all for ever in a cruel twist of fate, and now all Emily had was Jake.

How could he possibly take Pete’s place?

The lift was on a go-slow, and he drummed his fingers on the door, wishing he’d taken the stairs. Come on, come on…

The doors finally hissed open, and there she was, leaning against the window opposite and breathing with soft, light huffs.

‘I’m here, Em, I’ve got you,’ he murmured, and laid his hand on the small of her back and rubbed firmly, and she moaned softly and leant into him, rocking from foot to foot as he stared out into the darkness and waited for the contraction to ease.

The first hint of dawn was just appearing on the horizon, a thin sliver of grey pushing back the night. New day, new life…

‘How are you doing?’ he asked, when the huffing stopped and she straightened up.

‘Awful.’ She turned and met his eyes, her own pinched with fear as she took his hands and hung on. ‘It’s not due for two weeks, how can I be in labour? I’m just not ready, Jake.’

Which made two of them. ‘Yes, you are. You know babies, Em. They come when they come, but at least you’re here now and I didn’t have a thirty-mile drive in the middle of the night to get to you.’

‘Oh, don’t! I thought you were being silly making me move in with you this week. I so nearly didn’t come. I didn’t think there was any need yet, and now I just can’t believe it’s happening.’

‘I can, so I’m really glad you finally listened to me—and you’ll be fine,’ he promised rashly. ‘You’re fit and well—’

‘Don’t give me that. I’m an obstetrician too, I know all the things that can go wrong, and fit and well’s got nothing to do with it.’

‘And you also know the odds, which are slim,’ he said calmly, even though his heart was still pounding. ‘You’ll be fine, Emily. I’m not going to let anything happen to you or the baby.’

‘You can’t say that.’

‘I can. I have,’ he told her, mentally crossing his fingers, because this baby was her last link with Pete, and absolutely nothing could be allowed to break that link. ‘Come on, let’s get you upstairs and admit you. Can you walk, or do you want a wheelchair?’

‘Walk. It’s easier.’

‘OK.’ He led her to the lift, and somebody was holding the doors. Liv, one of their most trusted midwives, and he felt a surge of relief as he flashed her a smile.

‘Hi, Liv. This is Emily—the friend I told you about? Em, Liv’s a senior midwife and she’s amazing.’

‘And you’re a smooth talker,’ Liv said with a laugh. ‘Hi, Emily, it’s good to meet you. I’ll come up with you, get you settled in. Want me to stay for the delivery?’ she added to Jake, and he nodded.

‘That would be great if you can,’ he said, as Emily turned into his arms, gripped his shoulders and moaned softly. ‘It’s OK, Em. Just breathe, in and out, nice and light,’ he coaxed gently, and felt the soft huff of her breath drift against the open V of his scrubs. ‘That’s it, well done, you’re doing really well.’

‘Two minutes forty,’ Liv murmured, and he nodded. They were coming thick and fast. No wonder she was struggling.

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