Wife by Design(2)

By: Tara Taylor Quinn

And…Brandon was struggling. Of course she had to listen. Just like he always listened to her. Every time.

She was waiting. He still wasn’t talking. She drew strength from the baby in her arms. Those sweet little lips. The eyelids that were closed to a world that could be so confusing at times. Flushed cheeks and little hands clenched into fists, even in rest. “Do you still love me, Bran?”

His gaze shot to hers. Finally. “You know I do.”

He looked away immediately, but that depth of emotion was there in his voice again. His words trembled with it.

He wasn’t a macho man’s man, like her little sister Katie’s ex-husband had been. But Brandon had never lifted a hand to her, either, or attempted to control her, as Katie’s ex had done to Katie.

Taking Brandon’s hand in hers, she held it between them on the bed, focusing wholly on him while the baby lay sleeping against her breast. “And you know I love you,” she told her husband of eight years. “We’ll be fine, Bran, just please tell me what’s bothering you.”

As she said the words, fear struck anew. The one thing that had always made her and Brandon so good together was their ability to talk things out. They’d always been able to tell each other anything. And everything. Until then.

“We aren’t going to be fine, Lynn.” It was the tears in his eyes, when he finally held her gaze, that cut through her, far more than the death knell in his words. Words could change.

His sandy-blond hair, short and pristine, just as he’d always liked it, made him seem vulnerable to her in that moment. Exposed. The rest of him—his tight, in-shape, average-height body—just seemed dear.

Laying the baby in the basinet beside the bed, she moved over on the mattress to sit directly facing her husband. “Are you sick, Brandon?” Had someone given him a frightening prognosis? Just now, when they were embarking on the challenge of a lifetime with their new offspring to raise? “You know doctors aren’t always right, hon. Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. Get second opinions and treatment…” If she just kept talking everything would be all right. She was a nurse. She’d nurse him.

With a finger against her lips, Brandon shook his head. “You can’t fix this one, babe.”

Babe. He hadn’t called her that in a while. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed it.

“You’re scaring me.”

“I’m scaring me, too.”

“Is it cancer?”

Whatever was wrong, it was so awful that her husband didn’t know how to tell her about. So she’d help him. Guess all night if she had to. She’d said they’d get through it together and they would. She’d show him. She had enough faith for both of them. They just had to—

“No, it’s not cancer,” Brandon said, shifting so that no part of him was touching any part of her. The movement was subtle. Moving a knee. But she noticed. “I’m not sick,” he added.

“Then what?” His expression, no matter how hard she studied it, told her nothing. Except that he was hurting.

She racked her brain, trying to think of anything that had happened, anything she might have missed. Tried to figure out when the problem had started. And still drew blanks.

It had to have something to do with Kara. Everything had been fine…normal…until shortly before the baby was born.

The baby was fine. Not only had all the doctors said so, but as a nurse, Lynn would know if something was wrong with her infant daughter. Kara had a healthy appetite. Slept well. And, as her father had just pointed out, didn’t cry much at all.

She was fine. Kara was fine. Which, in her mind, only left one other possibility. “There’s another woman.” While she’d been fat and pregnant, and uncomfortable and unable to have sex, he’d met someone else….

“No! Whatever else happens, Lynnie, you always have been and always will be the only woman I ever wanted or had sex with.”

There was no mistaking the truth in those words. They spoke straight to her heart. Breathing a little easier, Lynn reached for his hand again. “Just tell me, hon.” They were a team. Partners. For better or worse. “Things always seem worse until you get them out.”

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