He may forgive me for keeping it from him. But I never will. In this moment, seeing and feeling with every piece of me how much he loves me, I can’t believe for a moment I ever dared to not tell him. To hide this from him.
A second passes and a thump in my chest feels raw and painful as pain and betrayal flash in his eyes.
“Pregnant?” he questions and I can only nod.
In the seconds that tick by without a response from him, without knowing what he’s thinking, the pain trickles into my veins and I creep closer to Carter, needing him to give me something.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper the words, feeling the remorse consume me. I was going to run away, and take his child with me. Tears fall freely down my cheeks. If he hated me, I would understand; there’s no way I would ever forgive him had he dared to do the same to me.
There’s a moment when someone looks directly into your soul, and you feel what they feel. The loss, the insignificance, the agony of being alone. I can feel it from him as he looks up at me and I can’t stand seeing it. My hand finds his and I squeeze it with both of mine, needing him to know I’m here now. “I don’t want to leave, and I regret it. I regret ever walking out that door,” I plead with him. And he squeezes my hand back before bringing my wrist to his lips and leaving a slow, tender kiss there. A kiss that feels like goodbye.
Finally, he speaks and it’s nothing that I ever expected. “I promise I’ll be a good father. I swear to you I will.”
I can’t speak.
“Give me a chance. Just one chance,” he begs me, as if I’d ever leave his side again. “I’ll be good to you, I’ll be a good father, I promise.” He swallows thickly.
“I’m ashamed at what I did and who I was. Please, Aria, we don’t have to tell him.”
“What?” I question him as I struggle to keep up with whatever he’s thinking. I know he’s not well now, he’s still in pain and on meds. He’s only just woken up. “Tell who?” I ask him, my heart racing.
“Our baby,” he says as he looks up at me and brings his hand to my cheek, his thumb running under my eye to brush away the tears gathered there. “We don’t have to tell them what a monster I was,” he whispers the strained words and I lose all composure, covering my mouth with my hand and falling into him. I’m mindful of my weight and make sure to keep it off of him, but my God do I need him to hold me. And I need to hold him.
In this moment and forever.
“I love you, Carter,” is all I can manage when I finally look up to him.
My breath and words leave me as a heat flows over me, taking every bit of the bitter cold and banishing it from me. I crash my lips to Carter’s and he’s quick to cradle my head with his hand, pinning me to him and deepening the kiss. His tongue slips between my lips and I grant him entry. Our tongues mingle and he massages mine with swift, possessive strokes.
I don’t breathe until he breaks away.
“I would do anything for you.” He says the words as if they’re a confession. “I swear, you are the only thing that matters to me. Nothing else matters. Only you and our baby.” As he speaks, his hand slips to my waist. He gazes at my midsection as if he can already see me swollen with our child. The very vision is what caused me to run in the first place.
“I’m scared.” The wretched confession makes me feel that much weaker.
“Don’t be.” Carter’s words are simple, but impossible.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” I tell him, feeling the raw truth of fear lingering in the statement.
Carter’s eyes search mine as I climb into the small bed with him, needing to be closer to him and not giving a shit if there’s barely any room. I need my body pressed to his. I need to feel him breathing. The second he embraces me, my worries slip away, lost in the haze of knowing I’m where I’m supposed to be. Beside Carter Cross. Our present and our future tied together.
“We will rule. That’s what’s going to happen, my songbird.”
I can feel my heart twist in my chest, praying I’ll be the woman he wants me to be. Praying our lives can’t pull us apart anymore. And as my mind whirls with every possible outcome of what could be, I realize there’s not a damn thing that could tear me away from him. Not one fucking thing.