She pulls the sleeves down, and I do my best to ignore the large rounded breast she flashes me as she pulls it down and then uses the gown to cover her breast again. When she’s situated, I lay our baby on her chest and she seems to take a deep breath, sigh, and then go right on sleeping.
I give Gracie time with her. I stand next to the bed, but I let Gracie count her fingers and toes, touch her hair and cheek. Everything I did when I first met our little miracle.
Gracie looks up at me. “Did I traumatize Lakelyn and Tate?”
I laugh. “Tate definitely looked uneasy about it all, but I’m pretty sure Lakelyn was fine. I thanked them for taking care of you until I got here. They said they’ll stop in and see you when they come see Violet.”
The silence builds as we look at one another. She blinks up at me, tearfully. “I’m sorry for what I did and how I left. I didn’t want to, but I really didn’t have a choice.”
I take a deep breath. I didn’t want to do this now. I wanted her to recover before we get into all of it, but obviously she wants to get it off her chest. “You always have a choice, Gracie.” She rears back suddenly, and the baby starts to cry.
Gracie’s eyes go big, and I know the medicine in her body is still making her groggy and not altogether with it. “She’s probably hungry.”
The screams get louder just as the nurse comes in. “Well, it looks like our little lady is hungry. Do you want the bottle now?”
Gracie instantly shakes her head. “No, I’d like to try and feed her myself.” Her cheeks turn pink.
Gracie lowers the gown and moves our baby to her breast. She instantly starts to root and suck at her. I’m in awe, and I can’t take my eyes off them. I don’t know how long I stand there before Gracie nudges me. “Will you put a shirt on?”
I had forgotten that I was still without my shirt. I look at her questioningly, and she grimaces and nods at the nurse. I look at the nurse and instead of watching mom and baby, she’s watching me. I walk back over to the chair and pull my shirt on. “I think we’re good, right, Gracie? You need anything, baby?”
I can tell she appreciates the endearment. “No, I think I have everything I need.”
I nod, and the nurse leaves in a huff.
I lean down on the bed to watch them. “Have you picked out a name?”
She shakes her head and shrugs. “I had a few but wasn’t dead set on any of them. Now that you’re here, I think we should pick it together.”
I brush the hair off her face and smile at her. “I think that’s a great idea.” I reach for the paperwork they left with me earlier and hold it up for her to see. “I filled out all the information I know.”
“You remembered my birth date?”
“Yeah, I met you on your eighteenth birthday.”
She scans the paperwork. “You put your address in Whiskey Run as my address.”
“I sure did. Because that’s where you and baby Savage are going after here. I know it’s not much.”
“Aiden, don’t say that. I want to stay with you, but there are things you don’t know. Things that may change your mind about me and our baby.”
I pull the chair up to the bed. “Okay, name. We can’t keep calling her baby. Let’s do that first.”
She nods. “What are you thinking?
“How about Jessica?” I ask.
She gasps. “That’s my mother’s name.”
I stroke my hand up and down her arm. “I know. When you left, I did everything to find out everything I could about you and your family. I know you were close to her. But if it’s going to be a bad reminder—"
“No! I love it, thank you Aiden.”
I use my other hand to stroke along Jessica’s back. “So Jessica it is.”
Gracie nods and lifts Jessica higher to softly tap on her back to burp her. I try not to stare at Gracie’s uncovered breast. “Okay, so that’s settled. So I know that you have some kind of secret or something that you think is going to change how I feel about you.”
She nods, but before she can say anything, I hold my hand up. “I’m going to let you tell me what this is so we can take care of it. But I want you to know right now, there’s nothing that you can say that will change how I feel about you. You are mine, Gracie. You were mine nine months. I’m going to take you and Jessica home with me, and I’m going to give you the best life. We are going to buy a house, get married and probably have more babies if you’re up to it.”