“Oh, look at that. She’s out for the count,” Alexis said softly.
“Must have bored her to sleep,” he commented, thankful he could at least stop reciting the story line, now committed to memory, over again.
“Actually, no. She obviously feels very secure with you. At her age she can be a bit off with some people. A baby’s stranger awareness is honed around this age. Some kids start even earlier. I think it’s lovely that she knows she’s okay with you.”
Raoul felt outrageously proud but hastened to downplay the situation.
“It’s just because she’s used to being here now. That’ll all change when she goes back to Catherine and you go back home.”
“You’re still sending her back to Catherine?” Alexis sounded shocked.
“Of course, that was the plan all along. Here, take her and put her to bed.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
There was something about the tone of Alexis’s voice that set his teeth on edge.
“Alexis, just because I read her a story doesn’t mean we’re going to play happy family.”
“No, of course not. That would take far more heart than you’re prepared to admit to.”
With that, she deftly scooped the sleeping baby off his lap and disappeared out the room. Her comment rankled. It shouldn’t, but it did. He hadn’t asked for her to leave him alone with Ruby and he certainly hadn’t asked for her opinion about his plans for Ruby’s long-term care. Yet why had he experienced that absurd sense of pride that the baby had settled with him, and why did his arms feel ridiculously empty now that she was gone?
* * *
It was almost ten weeks since Catherine’s surgery. Ten weeks since Alexis had come to look after Ruby. Catherine was walking steadily on her own now and, with regular physiotherapy sessions, was regaining her strength and independence day by day. She’d asked Alexis if she could have Ruby to visit for a couple of hours and Alexis took the opportunity to make an appointment to visit the doctor and get official confirmation about her condition.
She’d done the math, by her reckoning she was just over six weeks pregnant, thankfully still far too early to show. Luckily, so far, her only symptoms were that she felt queasy every now and then only if she was overtired.
Even if her symptoms had been more drastic, it was unlikely anyone would have noticed. Raoul was still incredibly busy conducting his one-man band of business in the winery. Alexis was in two minds about it. Half of her was hugely relieved he spent so many hours out of her sphere right now, especially as she struggled to deal with the mental ramifications of her pregnancy. The other half, well, that just saw the time he wasn’t there as missed opportunities to keep building up the tenuously fragile link that was starting to develop between Ruby and her father.
Still, she reminded herself, progress was progress, even if the steps were tiny.
What scared her most was, what on earth would happen when her pregnancy started to be more obvious? She and Raoul shared a bed, shared one another’s bodies, every night. He knew her body so well, eventually he’d feel the changes that she had begun to notice herself. Already her breasts were more tender and responsive than before and, as she’d noticed when she’d fastened her bra this morning, they were already slightly fuller, too.
Somehow she had to find the courage to tell him before he picked up on the physical cues that she had no control over. Picking the right time was going to be the challenging part.
The visit to the doctor went smoothly. The doctor congratulated her on her pregnancy and she tried her hardest to show the appropriate enthusiasm. Even though she knew everything was okay, that she was strong and healthy and that the pregnancy should continue to develop normally, she still felt an underlying anxiety. While termination was out of the question, how on earth would she cope with all this?
She’d already put her working life on hold to be there for Ruby and yes, granted, she was paid for her role here, but that was nothing compared to what she could potentially earn as her fashion clientele continued to grow. Having Tamsyn keep things running smoothly in her absence was one thing, but would she be able to continue to expand her business if she was busy with a new baby, as well?
Making the decision to come here had come from a position of guilt—from the fact that she’d owed Bree’s daughter the support and love she’d failed to give the child’s mother. When she’d started to withdraw from Bree, after meeting Raoul, she’d felt her friend’s confusion, the hint of hurt in the background of her initial emails.