Beat of the Heart

Page 79


I glanced up to see Brayden standing before me. When he realized it really was me, he quickly extinguished the cigarette he'd been smoking. "Sorry about that."

"It's okay."

"What are you doing out here by yourself?"

"I just needed some air."

He dug a pack of gum out of his pockets and offered me a piece. When I declined, he popped three pieces in his mouth. He gave me a sheepish grin. "Would you do me a huge favor and not tell Lily I was out here smoking? You know, considering I allegedly quit three months ago."

I laughed. "I'll make you a deal. I won't tell Lily about the smoking if you won't tell AJ that he was right, and I really shouldn't have tagged along to all the parties tonight. The ceremony was enough."

Brayden crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head suspiciously at me. "What do you mean?"

I sighed. "I'm tired, that's all."

"Mia," he implored.

"Fine. I'm having some…pains."

Brayden knelt at my side-his expression clouded with worry. "What kind of pains?"

"It's nothing. Seriously. It's just my back and feet." When he pursed his lips at me, I caved. "I started cramping out on the dance floor. But I'm sure I just overdid it tonight, and I need some rest. If I sit here a little longer and put my feet up, I'll be fine."

"I'm going to get AJ," Brayden said, popping up from the ground.

I grabbed his sleeve and jerked him back. "No, please don't do that."

"Mia, as a husband, trust me when I say that when your wife is pregnant and in pain, you want to know it. To AJ, you're more than his fiancée-you're already his wife"

"But this is the most amazing night of AJ's life-one he has worked so hard for. He's been on cloud nine all day, and I want him to savor each and every moment. I can't bear to ruin one second of it by causing him unnecessary worry as the nagging fiancée."

"He needs to know, and I'm going to tell him."

"Not if I get to him first!" I countered. When I shot out of my seat, all hell broke loose below my waist. A twisting, wrenching pain ricocheted through me, and I moaned.

"Mia?" Just as Brayden stepped over to me, my water broke with such a force that it splashed down my legs and onto the top of Brayden's shoes before spreading on the floor.

As Brayden and I gazed down at the puddle we stood in, my hand flew to cover my mouth. "Oh God, I can't believe that just happened. All that 'what to expect' crap doesn't quite prepare you for Splash Mountain." When I dared to look up at Brayden, I shook my head. "I'm so, so sorry about your shoes."

He laughed. "Mia, honey, I could give two shits about my shoes right now. I'm a little more concerned about the fact you're in labor."

"Oh damn," I muttered.

"We need to get you to the hospital."

Tears stung my eyes. "Now I'm really going to ruin AJ's night."

As I sniffled, Brayden's hand came to cup my cheek. "Mia, I promise you when it comes down to it, awards and parties won't mean shit when he holds Isabella in his arms for the first time . Nothing will ever compare to that moment when he sees the life he helped create."

My lip trembled at his sweet words. "Thank you."

He smiled. "You're welcome. Now why don't you just sit back down here while I go find AJ, and then we'll get you to the limo."

"Yeah, that should be-" My voice choked off as pain ripped through my abdomen like a steam locomotive charging through it. I doubled over and cried out. Around me, I could hear Brayden talking furiously to someone, but I couldn't make out his words through the agonizing pain. It seemed to go on forever before it finally let up.

"Mia!" AJ cried.

I glanced up to see him tearing down the veranda-his face ashen with worry. When he got to me, he wrapped me in his arms. "Amorcito mio, it's okay. I'm here now."

Before I could stop myself, tears stung my eyes. "Oh AJ, I'm so sorry about going into labor tonight."

His eyes widened. "Don't you dare say that! You and Bella are my world."

Another pain rippled through me, and I cried out. "Come on. We gotta get you to the limo." AJ wrapped one arm around my waist while the other he used to push us through the crowd. Brayden started ahead of us, shoving people out of the way to clear a path. By the time we got outside, Jake, Abby, Lily, and Rhys were pacing beside the limo.

"Oh my God, Mia," Abby cried, rushing up to me.

"I'm okay…I'm just in labor."

"And we're going to get you to the hospital ASAP," Lily replied.

"No, no, you guys need to stay and have fun," I protested.

Jake grinned and shook his head. "I think there's a new party to go to-'Miss Bella's Introduction to the World Party'."

I laughed. "Yeah, it's going to be a rocking one for sure."

"All right, enough talking. You need to get inside the limo. Now," AJ commanded.

"Eesh, so bossy," I muttered before I dipped inside. AJ threw his tux jacket across the seat. Just as I sat down, another pain gripped me. AJ immediately appeared at my side and grabbed hold of my hand.

When I finally came out of my pain haze, I saw that Abby and Jake had ducked inside as well. "That was intense," I croaked.

"I'm so sorry," AJ murmured, kissing my cheek.

I was adjusting myself on the seat when the limo driver appeared at the door.

"Why aren't we moving?" Jake asked.

His face paled. "We seem to be having engine problems."

"Excuse me?" I demanded through gritted teeth.

"It won't start."

"You gotta be fucking kidding me!" AJ exclaimed.

Jake shook his head. "Maybe we can borrow someone else's car or limo?"

The limo driver shook his head. "I just called the paramedics on dispatch. They were right around the corner, and they should be here any minute."

"Shit," I muttered as another terrible contraction ricocheted through me. Looking back, I realized all the pains I'd had yesterday and today weren't just the usual pregnancy pains or Braxton Hicks. Even though I was a Cardiac nurse, how the hell could I not have realized the signs that I was in labor?

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