Behind her, the kettle switched itself off, the water boiled and ready to pour onto her tea bag, but still she didn’t move. So, this was how it was going to be between them now. A cold politeness that ignored everything except the medical concerns involved in what was happening inside her body, the life they’d created together?
Part of her wanted to march on down the hallway behind him, to confront him, to force him to talk to her. Force him to acknowledge her and what they’d shared before he’d found out about her pregnancy—to find out if there had ever been more between them than just the convenient release of no-strings-attached sex. But that look in his eyes just now, it had chilled her. It had told her far more than words could ever say.
What they’d had, as little as it was—everything they’d shared when they’d shared each other—was over. Gone. Except for getting Ruby out of bed in the morning and putting her down for her sleeps, Raoul stayed well out of the way. The stresses and joys of pregnancy were entirely her own, with no one but herself to marvel over the life growing inside her—or worry over possible problems.
To her huge relief, all the signs of the threatened miscarriage had eased off, just as Dr. Taylor had said they should. Further, slightly obsessive reading on the subject told Alexis that a high percentage of women experienced what she had in their first trimester. Trying to convince herself what she’d been through was normal was easier said than done.
She felt fragile, adrift, and the massive chasm that had opened up between her and Raoul prevented her having anyone to share her fears with. This wasn’t news she was ready to spring on her own family just yet—not when she still hoped against hope for Raoul’s support, even for his love. Still, at least she had a visit from Catherine to look forward to today. When the older woman arrived, though, she clearly knew something was up.
As the two of them watched Ruby playing in the family room Catherine broached what was clearly bothering her.
“Alexis, did you know that Raoul has asked me to look for a new nanny for Ruby until I’m able to take her back full-time again?”
If the other woman had slapped her, Alexis couldn’t have been more shocked.
“He wants me to leave?”
“He didn’t say as much—well, not in as many words—but he requested that I make it clear in the advertising that it’s a live-in position.”
Alexis’s head reeled. “He hasn’t said anything to me. Not at all.”
Catherine fidgeted in her chair. The corners of her mouth pulled into a small frown.
“He told me you were pregnant. Is it true?”
“Yes, it’s true.”
“How far along are you?”
“Nearly nine weeks now,” Alexis answered with a small sigh.
“And you’re okay?”
“Did he tell you about Monday? About taking me down to the clinic? And then to the obstetrician when we left Ruby with you on Wednesday morning?”
“No, but I guessed something had happened. He acted different again. Like he did after Bree died.”
Catherine got up from her chair and joined Alexis on the couch. She put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
“Tell me,” she commanded gently.
So Alexis did. She pushed aside her fears about how Catherine would react to what she had to say—after all, hadn’t Alexis just been sleeping with Catherine’s dead daughter’s husband? It was a relief to off-load to someone, especially someone who had known her as long as Catherine had, someone who had been as much of a mother figure as her own had been. Catherine just listened, her arm tightening around Alexis from time to time, lending her more comfort, more silent strength. When Alexis finished she realized her cheeks were wet. Catherine pressed a freshly laundered handkerchief into her hands.
“You poor dear,” she said after Alexis had blown her nose and wiped her tears away. “You love him, don’t you?”
Alexis nodded, then gathered the threads of her fraying thoughts together. “You—you’re not mad at me?”
“Why would I be?” Catherine asked in astonishment.
“Because of Bree. Because it hasn’t even been a year and here I was throwing myself at him.”
Catherine laughed. “Oh, my dear girl. You? Throw yourself at Raoul? Hardly. Besides, he’s not the kind of man a woman throws herself at without expecting to slide straight off that granite exterior of his.” She patted Alexis on the leg. “Look, I love my son-in-law dearly and I know that he and Bree were ecstatically happy together when they weren’t at complete loggerheads. We’ve all suffered for her loss. But I’m a realist. She is gone. As hard as that has been to bear we’ve all had to go on with living. Raoul...well, he’s just been existing. When you came, something sparked to life in him again. You gave him something to fight against.”