Authors: R. L. Griffin
Copyright © 2013 by R.L. Griffin
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. Contents and/or cover may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without the express written consent of the Publisher.
Table of Contents
This is for you. If you are reading this, know that I appreciate you so much. I have no words for those of you that read and loved Stella and her crew. You have a special place in my cold, cold heart.
Defying the Odds
Oh. My. Shit.
Oh. My. Shit.
She was going to have a baby. She couldn’t have a baby. They’d told her she couldn't have a baby
. A baby
. She didn't want a baby.
. The bathroom in her office building swirled around her and she stuffed the five different unused pregnancy tests into her oversized purse. Stella threw the two used ones into the trash and tossed at least ten paper towels in to cover the evidence.
. This had to be some sort of mistake. Stella strode into her office in a fog of uncertainty—she couldn’t possibly be pregnant. Her phone rang and she answered without even looking to see who it was calling.
"Stella Murphy," she said softly into the phone.
"Hey, Stella. You okay?" Jesse’s boisterous voice came through the line and made her smile despite her baffling situation.
Stella tucked her hair behind her ear and sighed. "Pretty fucking far from okay. Where should I start?” She put her purse on her file cabinet and sat in her chair in a huff. She didn’t need a baby; she’d be the worst mother ever. She couldn’t even do a relationship, let alone guide someone else through life.
"You coming to Atlanta for Christmas?" he asked, shaking her out of her thoughts.
"Yes," she answered automatically because she couldn't imagine being alone for Christmas this year. With George refusing to talk to her about anything significant and Patrick straight up sending her to voicemail, she was by herself. Millie was going home for the entire week, so she didn’t even have staying “home” as an option.
"Good. I'm staying because of the playoffs, so let's get a massage together, ok?" He laughed a big, hearty laugh and Stella was reminded of the last time they got a massage together. Jesse had been a really good friend to her, she didn’t think she deserved it.
"You're silly, but I can clearly be seen going into the spa with you now since George won't even talk to me."
"He'll come around," Jesse comforted. "If he doesn't, you can come down to Atlanta and make me one happy, happy man."
"Don't athletes stop having sex in order to perform at their peak?" She chuckled.
"I'll make an exception for you," he joked.
"George won't even talk to me, J. I know he still loves me. I love him. I just needed to…"
"Collect yourself? Fuck Patrick?"
The haze she been functioning in lifted immediately. "Oh shit! You know?" Stella rubbed her hand over her face. Of course Patrick had told Jesse. Billy probably knew too. “Is he okay?”
“Nope,” Jesse answered.
She needed to make a doctor's appointment to figure out what the fuck was going on with those defective pregnancy tests. She couldn’t focus on her mistakes now, especially since one of them had taken her best friend from her. She needed Patrick now, more than ever and he was gone because of her.
She did this. “I don’t even…”
"I know," his voice was low. "Stella. What do you want?"
"I want to wake up and find that the last five years of my life was a huge fucking nightmare. Like on Dallas. I want to wake up and this is just…"
"Reality, Stella, reality," Jesse chastised.
She sighed. "I try not to think in those terms because it seems like what I want usually doesn’t matter.” She sighed again, louder this time. “I want George to know that I need him. I ran because I was trying to protect him, but I'm weak, J. I need him. I can't see my life without him."
"Try again," Jesse directed. “What about Patrick?”
“Patrick is my person, J. I love him, but we’re not it for each other. I’m not sure what we were thinking.”
“From what I heard, I’m not sure a lot of thinking was happening,” Jesse commented.
Stella felt a blush sweep across her face and down her neck. She’d slept with five people in her life and two of them were comparing notes and living together in Atlanta. Heat rose like water to a boil and she threw her phone down and threw up in her trash can. “I gotta go,” she mumbled into the phone and hung up.
Why was Patrick being careless and mean? That wasn’t like him. He’d been her rock in the past, but maybe she needed to be the rock for him, to give him what he needed from her for once. Stella’s life was about to get even more insane than the past few years. As much as she wanted to ignore what was coming, she couldn’t. She would step up. She was alive, which was more than what she expected and due solely to Patrick. She
make it up to him.
She mindlessly doodled on a legal pad that had the press statement that she would be giving this afternoon. Stella sighed and looked out the window. She inhaled deeply and picked up her phone.
"Dr. Baxter, this is Stella Murphy. I'd leave you my birthdate, but I’m pretty sure you remember me. So, I just took a pregnancy test and it’s positive. That can't be right, right?"
She called her OBGYN next and made an emergency appointment. Thank goodness they could fit her into this afternoon. With those painful things done, she turned on Ben Harper and lost herself in the music and her job.
Traveling to Atlanta for Christmas was painful. She threw up at National airport, on the airplane, and when she landed in Atlanta. Every smell was magnified and it made her sick to her stomach to walk through the airport with all the body odor. When she finally walked past the baggage claim area, she deeply inhaled the brisk Atlanta air. She didn't know how she was going to get through this trip without her parents knowing something was up. She checked her phone, hoping that George cared to see what she was doing for Christmas. He didn’t. She'd left him a present with Owen at Finnegan's earlier. Stella wanted to get him something meaningful; she knew he could buy himself anything he wanted.
She'd had a picture of them, from the wedding at Mt. Vernon a few months back, framed. The look in her eyes showed she adored him. Under their picture, it read, "I'll be here, patiently waiting." It was from the song she’d told him was written just for him, “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. In the box with the frame she'd included a silver heart that looked broken, but had been pieced back together. He’d done that for her; she would wait for him. She’d only left him the frame, no note. He’d know what she meant by it.
She was being honest when she’d told Diane Sawyer that George was it for her. She may have fucked up, but her heart was his. She'd wait until he was ready to take her back.
"Stella." Her mother's voice broke her out of her thoughts. Stella's mother ran around the back of the car and hugged her so hard Stella thought she’d vomit again. Her mother leaned back and looked at Stella's face. "You look horrible."
"Thanks, Mom." Stella smiled weakly and took in her mother's Tory Burch riding boots, grey cashmere cowl neck sweater and skinny jeans. She looked perfect as usual.
"You sleeping okay at Millie's?" her mother asked as she gave her the once over.
"Yes, I'm fine," she lied.
"Who's keeping Coop?"
"I had to board him."
"Why?" Her mother’s eyebrows rose in alarm. Stella had never boarded Cooper before.
"Everyone’s going home for Christmas," she answered, ignoring the real question—why isn't Cooper with George or Patrick?
Her mother looked like she was about to say something else, then looked down at Stella's missing engagement ring. "Let me get your bag."
Stella gave her mother her suitcase and got in the passenger seat. She was glad to be home. Her heart was broken, her mind still reeling from her appointment with her OBGYN, then her specialist. Dr. Baxter had been with her since she was shot and was completely baffled at her pregnancy; she told her flat out that she’d definitely lose the baby. She'd told her it was impossible for her to bring this baby to "full term" with her injuries. Her OBGYN had told her it would be touch and go with a comforting smile and a pat to her hand like she’d tripped and stubbed her toe, not that she would be carrying a baby that would never take a breath; a baby that she would never be able to hold, to kiss, to love… It was then, when they told her she would lose the baby that her inner fighter took over. Stella’s body reacted physically to this news too, like it knew she had to be stronger than she ever imagined. This would be her toughest fight yet. She would do everything she possibly could to have this baby even though she was a walking impossibility. Her heart already loved the little heartbeat that she’d heard, and while she didn’t know anything about kids, she knew she was changed. Everything changed, what she cared about, what she worried about…all of her problems could wait. This little Fucker would be her priority.
Now she had to add another doctor to her list, Dr. Hicks was a specialist in all high risk pregnancies. Her pregnancy, not even ten weeks old, was "high risk."
"Stella?" her mother asked.
"Oh, sorry. I was thinking," Stella admitted as her mother passed Turner Field in downtown Atlanta on their way home.
"I was just saying everyone’s very excited for you being home for the holidays. It's been a while. We need to cook a bunch of dishes tonight, then get up early and get the rest finished."
"Okay, Mom," Stella agreed. She didn't know if she'd be able to cook anything since food smells seem to bother her the most, but she guessed she’d help as much as she could.
As soon as she thought the cuss word, she wondered how long she would still be able to swear. She wouldn't want to cuss around the baby. She felt a bit nauseated and dug into her purse for a tiny SweeTart. They'd helped a little with the vomiting, so she had them stashed everywhere.
"You seem stressed. Are you really okay?"
Stella shook her head fervently. "No, Mom, I'm not."
"Talk to me, baby." Her mother looked at her with concern and Stella was sure she was probably thinking this had to do with Jamie and him being shot in front of her.
"I'm…" her voice broke and she burst into tears.
Her mother was silent and let her cry. She was surprised when they pulled into her parents’ driveway already; she’d cried half the way home. There were two photographers milling around in the street who immediately started taking pictures.
"They were here when I left too." Her mother shook her head in disgust. "I don't understand why everyone revels in your misery."
"It's not just me, Mom, it’s anybody in misery. At least, that's what I tell myself." She shrugged and stuck her middle finger up at the photographers.
Stella nodded as they pulled into the garage. She got her suitcase out of the trunk and went through the garage door into the kitchen. The scent of some sort of meat cooking made her toes curl and sent a spike of heat through her body. She dropped her bags and ran to the bathroom, where she threw up the Cheez-Its she'd eaten on the plane. She started sweating and she stripped her sweater off so she was down to her black camisole underneath. She immediately got chilled.
God, I can’t fucking win.