“But I betrayed you, too. I betrayed your trust, your faith in me that I could be a better man and I betrayed your love. I’m so sorry, Alexis. More sorry than you could ever understand. You offered me a gift, a lifeline, and I threw it back in your face. I can see why you hesitated to tell me about our baby, but at the time I only saw it as history repeating itself, with you keeping a secret from me that involved me at its basest level.”
“I would have told you, in my own time,” she hastened to assure him.
“And, I’m ashamed to admit, I probably wouldn’t have reacted any differently. I’ve been an absolute fool. I tried to ignore what you mean to me and I drove you away. Can you ever forgive me for that? Could you ever begin to want to give us another chance?”
Alexis drew in a deep breath. Could she?
“Raoul, you really hurt me. Making me leave you, leave Ruby—I...I don’t know if I could put myself through that again. I could barely function for days afterward. I couldn’t even drive any further than Christchurch the day you sent me away. I had to have help to get home. The first week I was back here I was like a zombie, barely functioning, barely speaking. It frightened the people who love me and it terrified me.
“I’ve only just started to put myself back together. To plan for the future. I know you said you’d always provide support for me before and after this pregnancy but I need to stand on my own two feet, too. There’ve been times recently when I needed to talk to you, needed to share something with you that’s vitally important, but I’ve been too afraid because I couldn’t be certain what your reaction would be. Will you hurt me again? Reject me? Reject what it is that I have to tell you?” She shook her head. “I just don’t know and I don’t know if I can trust you to be there.”
* * *
Raoul felt his whole body quake at her words. All his old fears threatened to choke him. His throat seized and he couldn’t find words to push past the obstruction. What was she saying? Was there some problem, some abnormality with the baby? Or with her—was she all right? Was the pregnancy putting her at risk, as it had with Bree? If she didn’t tell him, how could he move heaven and earth to make things right for her? How could he keep her, and their baby, safe? Was he doomed to failure yet again?
Blood pounded in his ears and he fought to clear his mind from the daze of dread that had so quickly risen to consume him. He could do this. He was being given another chance, which was more than most people had in their lifetimes. He had to prove to Alexis he could be that man she needed, the man he believed that deep down, at the core of his heart, he still really was.
“I’m sorry I made you feel that way,” he said, his voice sounding strained. “I want you to trust me. I want you to know you need never hide anything from me, ever again. I love you, Alexis, so much that it hurts to know that I’ve damaged what we started to have together, that I’ve risked your love and the right to be in your life and by your side. I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to be worthy of you. Please, give me another chance. Let me love you like you deserve to be loved. Let me show you how much you mean to me, how much our baby means to me.”
“Babies,” Alexis said quietly.
His breath caught in his throat. Had he heard her right?
“Two of them, to be exact,” she continued, her eyes watching him carefully, almost as if she expected him to get to his feet and run to the door and keep running.
He had to admit, she’d floored him. Panic threatened to overwhelm him. Pregnancy in itself carried risk, ergo a multiple pregnancy had to carry more. Could he do this? He reached beyond the panic and the shock at her words and let the idea play around in his mind.
His heart swelled with hope and he reached for her hands, his own brushing against her swollen belly as he did so. His babies. A rush of pride and anticipation built up inside and he felt a smile spread widely across his face.
“Two of them,” he repeated. “My God, are you okay? I thought you looked bigger than I’d expected but, wow, twins?”
“I’m doing fine. We’re doing fine,” she amended.
“How long have you known?”
“Since that first appointment with Dr. Taylor. His equipment was more accurate than that at the clinic.”
He was stricken with remorse. He’d made her life so difficult, made the situation between them so uncomfortable that she hadn’t felt able to reveal that news to him. News like that should have been a delight to be shared, not a burden to be borne alone.