Love Realized (The Real Love Series)
Author:Melanie Codina

chapter TWENTY-SIX

Jake was overwhelmed by all of the thoughts and emotions that were bombarding him. Some of them were so intense they made his chest tighten, and his throat felt like it was going to close up at any moment. Breathing was becoming a chore, as it seemed to require more effort with each inhalation. He knew that he was panicking, and he knew that the only thing that could fix this was Gillian. So he had to pull himself together … for her.

The only thing preventing him from sprinting through the hospital halls screaming her name was the fact that the doctor said she was going to be fine … and they didn’t tell him what room she was in. Jake also heard the doctor tell him that the baby appeared to be fine. That bit of information was hard for him to swallow because it was difficult to be worried about something that he didn’t know existed thirty minutes ago. Was it even considered a baby yet … was he even supposed to refer to it as that? He wasn’t discounting the pregnancy, it was just that none of it mattered if Gillian wasn’t okay, so that was his first priority.

The need to see her with his own eyes, to touch her and feel her, was mounting with each step they took down the hall. It was becoming a painful need, a need for reassurance that would only dissipate when he felt her in his arms.

Lost in thought as he blindly followed the nurse leading him to Gillian, he almost tripped over her when she stopped abruptly and turned to face him. She was blocking a door that he could only assume had Gillian behind it, and she was in his way. He was seriously considering lifting her out of his way, and was assessing exactly how to do so, when she put her hand out to poke a finger in his chest. Shocked at the contact, he looked down at her hand and then back up to her face.

The older nurse, who he had never met, had a stern expression plastered on her face as she glared at him. What the hell? Finally, Nurse Ratchet spoke, “Don’t upset her,” she snapped at Jake. “We all love Gillian around here, so don’t think I won’t hesitate to throw your ass out if necessary. She needs to rest and stay calm … for both her and the sake of the pregnancy.” Jake’s first thought was to be annoyed at this woman he didn’t know, and who didn’t know him. He wondered who she thought she was to talk to him like that. All of his annoyance quickly vanished when he realized that the woman was only looking out for Gillian, and that was perfectly fine with him.

He nodded and smiled at her to show his understanding and said, “I love her. My only intention when I get in that room is to comfort her and make her feel safe. I would never hurt her.” She continued her stern look at him as she absorbed what he said. Appearing satisfied with his answer, she nodded before turning to open the door.

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

The door to her room slowly opened, catching Gillian’s immediate and undivided attention. When she saw her friend and fellow co-worker, Jan, pop her head in, she didn’t know if she was temporarily relieved or completely disappointed. She resolved that it was a strong tie on both counts. Through the door that still remained mostly closed, Jan smiled at her and said, “Hey sweetie, you up for a visitor yet?” Jan was a staple to her nursing profession and was pushing three decades here at the hospital. She was like a mother figure to some of the younger staff, and Gillian could tell that she was blocking the potential visitor from entering. It was heartwarming and appreciated. But the fact was that Gillian really wanted to see Jake, regardless of her cowardly thoughts a few moments ago. So she nodded her head at her protector before she could chicken out.

Gillian knew that seeing Jake would instantly resolve some of her anxiety and lessen her discomfort. Just his touch would ease her, although she was concerned about what he thought about her being pregnant. But honestly, she wasn’t even sure if it was Jake standing there or not; she hoped it was, though. She assumed he was there, in the hospital, but maybe her brother or parents were coming back first. He technically wasn’t family, per hospital standards, but everyone here knew him so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Since she wasn’t sure who it was coming in, she made her best attempt at looking like nothing was wrong. She didn’t want to compound the worry her family was probably already feeling over what happened. Jan pushed the door all the way open, and Jake walked in looking like he was on a mission. He paused just at the end of her bed, took in a deep breath, and then he visibly relaxed. He looked as if he was struggling to do it, but Jake gave her one of his heart melting smiles and said, “Hey beautiful. How’s my girl doing?”

Just hearing his voice dissolved whatever façade she had put in place to look strong. She felt instant relief, both physically and mentally. The tears that began welling up in her eyes started to fall full force down her face as she gave a slight smile and reached out for him. She could only touch him with her right arm, since her left was secured down against her body still, and that really bothered her. She wanted to fully embrace him so she could hold on and not let go—he would make her feel better.

There was no hesitation as he quickly responded to her request for him. Rushing toward her, he took her hand in his, pulled it against his chest, and held it there. The warmth from his contact made her hand tingle, and she couldn’t help her smile at him. She was certain she looked like a train wreck, but she didn’t care because she needed him. Standing at the side of her bed, he leaned down and cupped her cheek with one hand and stroked at the tears streaming down her face. They didn’t say anything; they just looked into each other’s eyes, before he leaned in closer and pressed his lips against her forehead.

Still holding her hand against his chest, she could feel the hard pounding of his heart, and the trembling of his lips. She knew that she needed him to make her feel better, but she had almost forgotten that he needed reassurance, too. Giving his hand a squeeze, she whispered, “I'm okay, Jake. I'm okay.”

Jake took in a deep breath and then pulled back to look at her. The anguish on his face was unmistakable, and she once again cursed the fact that she couldn’t crush him against her and hold him. His eyes were glistening as he looked away from her, took in another deep breath, and let it out slowly. When he turned back toward her, he gave her a shaky smile and said, “I can see that now, beautiful. But you’ve got to do me a favor …” She gave him an answering nod, but his long pause was a little unsettling. “Never leave my sight again.”

She snorted a little laugh at his comment and said, “Okay, sweetheart, never.”

“You think I'm joking with you darling, but I'm not. You will never leave my sight again,” he said with righteous determination as he brought his lips down to hers and kissed her sweetly. “And maybe I’ll just have to carry you around all the time—satisfy all of my weird needs. My need to see and hold you constantly will be nullified if we can do both things at the same time.” He paused again to consider something then added, “I can see how it might get awkward when I have to drive or go to work, but I'm almost certain you will adjust to it.”

A small laughed bubbled up and out of her, jostling her immobilized shoulder. She winced a little and laid her head back against the elevated bed. Jake’s calm face got tight with anxiety again as he tried to sooth her by stroking down her good arm and smoothing her hair back from her face. When she felt the pain subside, she composed her face again and looked at him. “I'm okay, just probably shouldn’t laugh for a little while. Please change my order to giggles only.”

Jake relaxed again and smiled. “You got it, beautiful, giggles only.” Then his face got serious again as he asked, “Tell me how bad is your pain? On a scale of one to ten, give me a number.”

“Don’t you pull a pain scale out on me, Jake Michaels. I'm not your patient.”

“Technically you are, beautiful. I was the first person to treat you, so tell me. And I want to know what they are giving you for the pain, and if you need more, you better ask for it.”

Bringing up her pain and the medication she was taking reminded her of what she couldn’t take and why. She was surprised that she had forgotten her anxiety over the pregnancy, but then again, Jake always calmed her so well that it shouldn’t surprise her. She gave him another smile and said, “I'm sorry.”

He was taken aback by her apology and asked in a voice laced with confusion, “What on Earth do you have to apologize for?”

“That I didn’t tell you that I thought I was pregnant.” Her voice came out low, but he heard it.

Letting go of her hand, he took two steps away from her and grabbed a chair. Pulling it toward the side of her bed, he sat down and then picked her hand up again, holding it between both of his before leveling his gaze at her. “And why is that, beautiful? Did you think I would be upset? Because you have to know that I wouldn’t be … I'm not.”

Feeling a little foolish at her apprehension to tell him, she confessed, “No, I didn’t think that. It’s just that I didn’t want to say something until I knew for sure. I mean, it’s not even supposed to be possible. Yet, it is.” She paused for a second as she absorbed the fact that she was, regardless of the trauma she just experienced, pregnant … for now.

“Yet, it is.” He repeated her words with a kiss to her hand and a smile that radiated his happiness at the fact that she was pregnant.

“You’re not upset with me?” she asked because it was a legitimate concern for her. Not only had she told him that she couldn’t get pregnant, but then she didn’t tell him when she did, in fact, get pregnant. She felt he had a right to be upset at her, regardless of the fact that she had be shot by a crazy man. She wasn’t trying to gain sympathy votes here.

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

Jake didn’t like that she thought he was upset with her. For what? Getting shot? She had lowered her eyes to stare at his hands holding hers so he lifted her chin back up. When he captured her gaze and saw the concern in her eyes, which was partnered with a little bit of fear, he was even more bothered. Still processing what she was asking him, he realized he needed to answer her before she got the wrong idea. So, with just a hint of agitation and a lot of incredulity, he asked, “For getting shot? Why on Earth would I be upset at you for that?” If he hadn’t heard it from the doctor already that she was on minimal meds he would’ve dismissed it as being doped up, but this didn’t make sense.

Then it dawned on him that she was referring to the fact that she was pregnant. The caveman in him puffed up his chest, and wanted to pound on it like an animal over his excitement for his baby in her body. It was primal, it was all male, and it so wasn’t the time for it. Well, if she felt bad for not telling him, he was just going to have to let her off the hook for that one.

She shook her head at him, and when she attempted to speak further, he placed his finger over her lips. “Shh, baby. Let me start by saying that I have a lot of emotions flowing through my body at this very moment. I’ve been so scared for the past few hours over the thought of losing you.” He paused, not wanting her to see exactly how afraid he was, and tried to control the emotions that were surfacing because of that fear “I am angry, but it’s not at you, baby, it’s at myself for not being there to protect you from that bastard.” She once again tried to speak up, but he stopped her so he could get it all out.

“I feel relieved. I know what you did to protect the boys, and I'm so proud that you were able to figure out how to do that given the situation you were in.” Gillian’s body instantly went rigid when he mentioned the boys, so he quickly reassured her, “The boys are fine, Gillian. They are one hundred percent safe and sound with the family. Everyone was here when I left the waiting room, and they were safely cuddled up next to Morgan.”

Jake shook his head as he remembered Dylan’s concerns for his mother. “Although Dylan was worried about whether or not you were going to get in trouble for pulling the fire alarm when there wasn’t actually a fire. Of course he asked this before we concluded that you were in serious trouble.” Pausing, he clenched and unclenched his jaw for just a few seconds before he shook it off.

“Now, where was I? Oh yeah. I'm also feeling very anxious about my need to make sure you’re okay,” he said this as he stood up, leaned forward, and kissed her forehead. “I was so scared when we found you behind that door,” he said against her forehead before kissing her on one eye and then the other, ever so gently. Then he pulled back and looked her straight in the eyes and said, “But most of all, I feel an overwhelming sense of love for you, Gillian. I love you so much, and I completely adore the fact that you are carrying my child. Our child.” Tentatively he placed his hand on her still flat stomach, marveling at the thought that she was pregnant.

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

And there they were, the very words she wanted to hear. The words that she longed to hear since Allie muttered, “Are you pregnant or something?” Her eyes that had paused in their attempt to drain her of ever body fluid she possessed began to fill and overflow again. She placed her hand over his, which remained on her stomach and smiled up at him and repeated his words back to him. “Our child.” Then Jake melted her heart even more when he moved their hands out of the way as he leaned over and pressed a kiss against her stomach. She wasn’t sure how she managed to get pregnant when she had her tubes tied, but she wasn’t going to question it. Her focus now was going to be on praying that the events from the last few hours didn’t take that little miracle from her.

When Jake lifted his head, his gaze met hers, and she couldn’t help but fall under the spell he was weaving. He cupped both of her cheeks and held her there as he pressed his lips against hers. Tenderly kissing her, once, twice, before pulling back and meeting her gaze again and whispering the same words again. “Our child.”

She couldn’t help but smile at the warmth she heard in his words and the sincerity so clear on his face. “Gillian, I need to hold you. Can I try and sit next to you, or would that cause you pain?”

Gillian couldn’t think of anything she wanted more at that very moment than to be held by this man, so she nodded. Jake carefully helped her scoot over, which didn’t cause her any pain since they had her shoulder and arm strapped to her body. Once there was enough room, he cautiously set his big body in the space next to her. When he moved a pillow behind her injured shoulder, she leaned forward allowing his arm to slip behind her, which not only provided support, but gave her the ability to lean into him. She sighed and relaxed into his embrace as he rested his other hand across her stomach, kissed her on top of the head, and said, “Rest, beautiful. You need to rest.”

And rest she did. Gillian wasn’t sure how long she lay there in Jake’s embrace, but she knew she must have nodded off for a little while. It could’ve been five minutes or even five hours later, she had no clue. All she knew was that she was safe and sound, and secure in his arms … exactly where she belonged. She figured it must be a slightly uncomfortable position he was in, perched on the side of a bed like that, but she didn’t want to move. She took in a deep breath of his scent, to replace that of the hospital type smells that were all around her, before lifting her head to look at him. He smiled down at her, “Do you know how much I love that you were able to relax against me and rest? Especially since you needed it so badly.”

She answered his smile with one of her own, saying, “Do you know how much I love resting against you? It’s my home; it’s like my drug. Who needs Valium when I have Jake?”

“I feel the same way about you, beautiful. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.” He kissed her lips again before he let out a sigh and said, “And as much as I would like to keep you all to myself, I fear the rest of the family will be barging down that door anytime now to see you. It’s really all your fault, though. If you would just be mean or nasty to them every once in a while, maybe you wouldn’t have to put up with them all the time.”

She snorted a small laugh at that and was about to deliver her own snarky comment when a knock sounded on the door. Jake gave her a knowing look and said, “Told you so. Any bets on who’s coming through that door first? My money’s on Allie.”

Gillian smiled because Jake was probably correct. If it was anyone other than Allie she would be shocked. “I don’t take bets I know I'm going to lose, Jake Michaels. What kind of fool do you take me for?” she said to him as another knock sounded against the door. She laughed and said, “Oh yeah, it’s definitely Allie. Better go let her in before she gets really worked up.”

Jake laughed and said, “She can open the door with her own two hands. I'm not getting up from this position ‘til you’re strong enough to push me out of this bed.” He smiled and then told whoever was behind the door to come in. Sure enough, it swung open with determination, and in came Allie saying, “Jeez, Jake. Hog Gillian much? I have a new superhero name for you now, but I'm just going to get the shirt made instead of telling you.”

Jake huffed out a laugh next to Gillian at Allie, “Bring it on, Al.”

Gillian smiled at the banter between the two of them, but she was surprised to see Madison had followed Allie in. The smile fell from her lips when she could see that her daughter had been crying. Not that her daughter wasn’t a sensitive person—it had just been a while since her daughter showed her any emotion other than a nasty attitude. Once again cursing the fact that she couldn’t rush to the person she loved, she took her good arm and nudged Jake off the bed.

Jake didn’t question her; she knew he figured it out. He gently got up, and Gillian raised her hand to beckon her daughter closer. After a moment of hesitation, Madison started crying and moved toward her. Gillian felt like she was coaxing a scared animal, afraid it would run off and disappear when all she wanted to do was touch it. When Madison was standing next to the bed, Gillian was dying inside at the sight of her tears, so she just patted the open space next to her. Madison, still quiet, carefully sat down and laid her head in her mother’s lap. All Gillian could do was console her daughter by stroking her hands through the long, dark, wavy strands so similar to her own and say, “I'm okay, sweetie. I'm fine, I promise.”

Madison just stayed there and wrapped her arms around Gillian’s legs and relaxed. It was almost surreal to her to see her daughter like this, and she knew this was probably as close to an apology as she going to get. Well, it was good enough for her. She looked up to Allie and Jake, as they watched the exchange with a look of awe on their faces. Apparently, Gillian wasn’t the only one who was aware of her daughter’s animosity toward her.

She smiled at them and said, “Well, this one isn’t going anywhere, so see if you can sneak in another one for me to see.” With a nod, Allie went to retrieve another, and Jake took up the seat next to her bed. The rest of her family came through and left, all while Madison stayed curled up with her head in Gillian’s lap. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.