In order for Derek to keep her in the dark, his life had to be at risk. As soon as she’d realized that, she’d been unable to think of anything else. So she’d dropped her scissors into the pile of magazine scraps and lain down, her hand resting on her belly protectively. She didn’t move a muscle for fear she’d break apart and cease to exist. As the morning light illuminated the apartment, she wished fervently for the darkness to return. Everywhere the sunlight touched was another memory sent to haunt her. Ginger could practically hear his deep voice echoing through the apartment.

“Baby, you’re making us late again.”

Ginger smiled behind their bedroom door. They’d been on their way to a department ceremony in which Derek would be honored by the commissioner for his role in a drug sting earlier that year. “I’m always worth the wait, though, darlin’.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

She’d yelped when the bedroom door swung open, royal-blue dress halfway down her body. “Derek, knock it off. I’m almost ready. You’re just going to distract me.”

He’d run his hands up her thighs, over her bottom. “The hell with it. Let’s stay here.”

“No.” Her protest had been breathless. “You deserve this ceremony. You worked hard and earned it. We’re going.”

Derek had picked her up and plunked her down on the dresser. His mouth moved over hers sweetly, long enough to turn her bones to jelly, before he’d pulled back. “We’ll go. But only so I can see you smiling up at me from the front row. Proud of me.” Fingers brushing over her cheek. “If I didn’t have you sitting there in the audience, the honor wouldn’t mean a damn thing.”

“I’m always proud of you,” she’d whispered back, shaken by his words. “So proud.”

He’d cleared his throat and looked away, still getting used to his own feelings, she’d mused. She’d understood the sentiment too well. “Good. Then move that beautiful ass.” She’d laughed and let him carry her out of the bedroom over his shoulder without a single word of protest.

The memory faded just as she heard the sound of a key turning in the lock. Ginger slowly moved into a sitting position, positive her imagination was playing tricks on her. Then Derek walked in, looking filthy and exhausted, yet wonderful at the same time. His gaze found her and warmed. A loud sob tore from her throat. Sweet, cleansing relief cocooned her, chasing away the last of her worry. Yet on its heels came palpable frustration. It had been numbed by the fear until now, but the anger bred through helplessness wouldn’t be held back any longer. She’d been left in agony for a week, unprepared because he’d wanted to be noble. A part of her knew the frustration was just anxiety leaving her body in a rush, but she couldn’t help it. She needed to let it out. Make damn sure he never did this to her again.

“I’ve got something to say, Lieutenant, so you listen real well.” She rose to her feet, went toward him, finger pointed squarely at his chest. “I doubted you, us, this week and I’m damn sorry about it. I’m still learning. I might keep on learning forever.” Ginger dragged in a shuddering breath. “But you doubted us, too. You doubted me. You didn’t give me enough credit to understand your job. How much it means to you. I know. I know everything about you, Derek Tyler. So, I’m sorry I messed up and lost sight of what’s between us, but you messed up, too.”

“You’re right,” he said abruptly, bringing her up short. “I didn’t give you the chance to be strong enough for us both when you’re the strongest person I know. I’m sorry.”

Her heart thundered in her ears. His words were so unexpected, she couldn’t process them. “Help me understand.”

“It was bad, Ginger. I knew it would bad be going in.” He released a pent-up breath, shifted on his feet. An action unlike her usually stoic Derek. “I couldn’t say it out loud. I couldn’t look at you and tell you I was putting myself in a high-risk situation. Not after I demanded you never do the same again.” His gaze penetrated hers. “This was something I had to do. Something important. I’m sorry as hell I didn’t share it with you. If something happens to one of us, the other suffers. I forgot it goes both ways. Until the last second.”

Tears threatened to fall, but she determinedly held them back. “What happened?”

“We got Lazio. Crippled Modesto. Everyone is alive, but it was f**king close.”

Relief, coupled with pride in Derek, blurred her vision. She looked up at him, hiding nothing, seconds from throwing herself into his arms and never letting go, but he’d become distracted by something behind her. An odd expression crossed his face. One she’d never seen before. With a frown, Ginger turned and looked at the furniture scattered around the living room, as though seeing it for the first time.

Pink. Baby. Shit. Everywhere. Chairs, nightstands, even lampshades were covered in carefully pasted and lacquered collages of rattles, pictures of babies, storks, smiling parents, bottles.

Ginger whirled back around to find Derek watching her, the intensity of his expression robbing her of any lingering frustration. She hadn’t even needed to tell him. Without her saying a word, he’d known, known her habits enough to figure her secret out on his own. Still, she couldn’t decipher how he felt about the news. His face gave nothing away.

“You’re pregnant.”

She placed a hand over her belly and nodded.

Derek inhaled shakily. “How long have you known?”

“Just this week.”

Pain slashed across his features. “Oh, baby.” He dropped to his knees in front of her, encircling her waist with his arms and pulling her close. His mouth moved over her belly, muttering gruff apologies that sent tears cascading down her cheeks. Throat tight, emotions rubbed raw, Ginger could only stroke his hair comfortingly. Every excruciating moment she’d experienced overnight fell away until all she cared about was taking away his pain. The guilt she knew he now harbored for shutting her out when she needed him most. It’s what they did for each other. What she would always do, as long as he’d let her.

“You tried to tell me, didn’t you? And I just walked out.”

She reacted to the self-loathing in his voice by kneeling in front of him on the floor. “Derek, it’s okay. You’re here now.”

Face paling of color, he sat back on his heels. “Last night at the party, I…did I hurt anything? God, I didn’t know—”

“No.” She shook her head for emphasis. “That’s the one good thing about having so much time on my hands this week. Lots of late nights Googling embarrassing-ass questions. Nothing we do together will ever hurt me. Or…the baby.”

“The baby.” Finally, he took her in his arms. She burrowed her face in his neck and breathed deeply. His chest rose and fell steadily beneath her. “Our baby.”

Hope permeated her chest. “You’re happy?”

His incredulous expression was like a healing balm. He sobered when he saw her drastic relief, appearing to realize just how worried she’d been over his reaction. Before she could blink, he’d scooped her off the floor and set her down on the dining room table. “Ginger, happy is a pitiful, inadequate word to describe what I’m feeling right now. This happened in Miami, correct?” Copyright 2016 - 2024