He wasn’t prepared to lose another.
Oh, my God, he thought, I love her. I love Alexis.
Hard on the realization came fear. With love came loss, he knew that to his cost. Already Alexis’s pregnancy was putting her at risk. If the worst should happen and Bree’s experience be repeated, he knew he wouldn’t survive that again. He had to put away those feelings for good. He thought he had achieved that already but Alexis’s steady and constant undermining of his stance with Ruby had undone that.
Her gentle ways, her care and support, all of it had left him wide-open to hurt all over again. He hadn’t wanted to love her—hadn’t even wanted to want her the way he did. Even now he felt the urge to race back to her room, to make sure she was okay, but he couldn’t trust himself around her. Couldn’t trust her.
He needed to pull himself together, to shore up his defenses all over again. Only this time he needed to make them impenetrable. Nothing and no one would get past them ever again.
Feeling stronger, more in control, Raoul dragged his cell phone from his pocket and thumbed through his contacts list. There it was, the number for Bree’s obstetrician. He hit Dial before he could change his mind. For all that had happened to Bree, the guy was one of the best in the country and Alexis deserved that. And he himself needed to know exactly what they were dealing with.
A few minutes later, an appointment made—thanks to a cancellation—for in a couple of days’ time, he shoved his phone back in his pocket. Until then he had to keep his mind busy and his heart firmly locked down back where it belonged, where nothing and no one could reach it.
* * *
“I don’t see why you weren’t prepared to let me wait until my appointment came through from the hospital,” Alexis grumbled as he drove her to Christchurch two days later. “I’ve stopped bleeding anyway.”
“Don’t you want to know why you started bleeding in the first place?”
“Raoul, sometimes these things happen. There might not be a why, sometimes things simply are.”
He shook his head, dissatisfied with her answer. “No, there’s always a reason and always a solution. There has to be.”
He heard Alexis sigh and out the corner of his eye he saw her turn her head and look out the side window.
“Are you feeling okay?” he asked, the same question he asked of her several times each day.
“I’m fine, a bit queasy but that’s normal. Unless I’m driving I often get a bit of motion sickness.”
“Do you want to drive?” he offered.
“No, it’s okay, I’ll be all right.”
“Let me know if you need me to stop.”
“Sure.” She sighed again. “Do you think Ruby will be okay with Catherine? She was pretty upset when we left.”
“She’ll settle. Call Catherine if you’re worried.”
“No, I’m sure she’ll settle, like you say.”
They traveled the rest of the hour-and-a-quarter journey in silence. When they reached the specialist’s rooms, Raoul parked the Range Rover, assailed again by the awful reminder that he’d been through this before. Maybe coming to the appointment with her wasn’t such a great idea after all, he thought, his stomach tying in knots as they got out the car and he guided Alexis toward the building and through to reception.
Alexis gave her name to the receptionist and joined Raoul in the waiting room. He could feel her nervousness wash over him in waves. If theirs had been a normal relationship, he’d be holding her hand right now, infusing her with his strength and lending her his support. Instead, she perched on the chair next to him, as tightly wound as a bale of grapevine trellis wire.
“I’m okay, you can stop looking at me,” she said through tightly clenched teeth. “I’m not about to break apart.”
“That’s good to know,” he said, and leaned back into his chair, feigning nonchalance by picking up a discarded magazine off the chair next to him.
“Ms. Fabrini?” a man’s voice called.
“That’s me,” she said, getting to her feet.
Raoul got to his feet as well and started to move forward with her.
“Hi, I’m Peter Taylor, nice to meet you,” the doctor said to Alexis, extending his hand.
As he did so, he looked over her shoulder and spied Raoul standing there.
“Raoul, good to see you. How’s Ruby doing?”
“She’s growing and getting into everything.”