“What about this one?” Jacqueline Jones-Stevens held up the burnt orange jumper, giving her partner an encouraging smile. “You'd look cute in this.”
Gabriella Jones-Stevens searched Jackie's beautiful blue eyes for signs of teasing. When she saw none, she swallowed a sigh, not having the heart to tell her partner she was looking through the plus-size rack. “Honey, I'd look like a deranged pumpkin in that outfit,” she said gently, and pointed to her expanded middle. Gabby was seven and a half months pregnant, with what seemed like a baby giant. “And as close as it is to Halloween, if I wore something like that in public people might try to carve me into a jack-o-lantern. You wouldn't want that, would you?”
Jackie didn't say a word, but she did let loose a long, loud sigh. She looked down at their twenty-two month old daughter, who was busy beating a stuffed train against her stroller. “Angel agrees that you would look really cute in that jumper.”
“Angel agrees with everything you do and say, so her vote doesn't count.” Gabby moved quickly, considering her size, to remove a hideous orange dress from Jackie's hands. “Why don't you take Angel to that toy store we just passed? It's been almost two days since you bought her anything.”
“But you said I had to wait seven days between gifts.” Jackie sidestepped Gabby and returned her attention to finding a dress for Gabby to wear to the big fundraiser for the women and children's shelter. A hard task when all she had to work with the close-out section. “I wouldn't want you to feel like I don't have any discipline where are girl's concerned. Now what about this?” She held up a simple black dress.
“It would be great if there were three of me. It's a little big, honey.” Gabby stood patiently while Jackie measured the dress against the width of her hips.
“I guess it wouldn't fit anywhere but in the stomach, huh? I'm never going to find a dress for you. That is…” She stopped and gave Gabby a big smile.
“Unh, unh,” Gabby said, shaking her head vehemently. “Don't even try it, Jacqueline. I don't need one of those expensive designer dresses you were looking at last time. Especially one that I'll only wear two times at the most.”
“But what if we want to, you know, have another one?”
Gabby grinned. “Then you can buy any dress you want, cause you'll be the one wearing it.”
“Whoa!” Jackie's eyes grew wide as she rocked back on her heels. “When did we make that decision?”
“When you decided I had to have an expensive maternity dress for the fundraiser.”
“Uh….well…uh, maybe Angel and I should go to that toy store. Looks like you have things under control here, right?”
Gabby nodded, forcing herself not to smile. The pregnancy card worked every time. As much as Jackie was loved children, the thought of physically having them herself sent her over the edge. Gabby had a hard enough time dragging Jackie to Lamaze classes. “Only one toy and it has to cost less than ten dollars.”
“Don't give me that pitiful look, Jack. Her birthday and Christmas are only two months away. You can splurge then.”
Jackie squatted down in front of Angel. “You hear that squirt? Guess who's getting a car for her second birthday?”
“Car!” Angle threw the train to the floor and clapped her hands. She looked at Gabby, grinning. “Me get car, Mama. Mommy get me car.”
Gabby couldn't help returning Angel's infectious grin. “But you have to wait for your birthday, remember?”
Angle's grin morphed to a pout in a heartbeat. “Mommy get car now, pease?”
“A little car.” Gabby showed her the size with her fingers, then nudged Jackie with her foot. “I think your little angel is ready for the toy store now.”
“Thanks, dear,” Jackie muttered, standing up. “You'll find us in the car section, right Angel?”
“Me get car now,” Angel said, all smiles. “Bye bye, Mama. Me get baby car, too.”
Gabby sighed and wondered if at sixteen, Angel would have a garage full of cars. “Have fun you two.” She waved until they were out of sight before she moved to the furniture department. Sinking into a comfortable chair, she smiled thinking of the look that would be on Jackie's face when she saw the dress Gabby had already bought for the fundraiser. At first she had balked at spending that much money on one dress, but then she'd thought about the pleasure Jackie would get from seeing her dressed up. It didn't happen often, and the dress did look good with the gold necklace Jackie had given her for their anniversary. Oh yeah, Jackie was in for a big treat. She leaned back into the chair and gave a contented sigh.
“Ms. Jones? Gabby?”
“Yes.” Gabby jerked upright and looked around, surprised she'd fallen asleep. She immediately recognized the sales associate as the one who had sold her the dress the week before.
“Are you okay, ma'am?”
“I'm fine.” Gabby smiled and patted her stomach. “Don't tell anybody, but this big bruiser is wearing me out. I swear I just sat down for a second.”
Mia Shane laughed, showing even white teeth. “I won't tell a soul because I remember those days too well.”
“I couldn't tell by looking at you.” She looked at the trim figure of the attractive red head standing in front of her. “I hope I look half as well afterwards.”
‘I'm sure you will. I wanted to thank you again for giving me that information about the woman's shelter. I think my cousin will really get help this time.”
“I'm glad I could help. It was the least I could do after all the assistance with picking out my dress. Will I see you at the fundraiser next week?”
“My partner and I will be there with bells on. My mom's keeping the boys overnight. They'll have to throw us out.”
Gabby laughed. “Don't count on me to help you out. My staying up late days are behind me for awhile.”
“I need to get back to my section. Are you sure I can't help you get anywhere?”
“I'm okay.” She checked her watch and was surprised she'd been napping for thirty minutes. Jackie had surely bought out the toy store by now. “Well, maybe you can help me up, so I can go find my family.” As Gabby held out her hand, her cell phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket and looked at the call ID. “The cavalry is tracking me down. I'll see you next week. Bring your money. I hear there will be some great items in the silent auction.”
“I guess I can make the sacrifice for charity's sake,” Mia said with a wink before heading back to the ladies department.
Gabby watched Mia walk away and hoped her butt would look that good after pregnancy. “Hey, you. Come rescue me from this incredibly comfortable recliner in the furniture department. I'll be the fat lady singing.”
“I can't get a peek?” Jackie tried her best to look pitiful as she shrugged on her tuxedo jacket. They were in their bedroom getting ready for the fundraiser. While Jackie was fully dressed, Gabby was lounging on the bed in her slip, trying to get Jackie to leave the room. “You know I'm not good at waiting.”
Gabby held up her hands. “You got ten seconds, Jack. One, two…” she stopped when Jackie left the room. Through sheer luck, she'd been able to keep her dress a secret. Easing off the bed, she walked to the door and locked it. She unearthed the little black dress, which by some miracle didn't make her look like a blimp, and slipped it on.
“Not bad.” Gabby pulled at the hem of the dress and worried momentarily it was too short. Then she smiled, thinking, I know somebody who won't think so.
“What's not bad?” Jackie asked. She'd been standing in the hall with her ear pressed to the door.
“Wouldn't you like to know?” Gabby taunted.
“No fair. You come out right now.” Jackie banged on the door. “Please? With sugar on top.”
Gabby crossed the room and unlocked the door. She smiled when Jackie's eyes widened in appreciation. “You know I'm a sucker for sugar, Jack,” she said, and wound her arms around Jackie's neck, pulling her as close as she could. “Especially yours.” They shared a deep kiss that left them breathless. “Are you ready to go?”
Jackie sighed. “I don't know. The shortness of your dress is giving me ideas.” She motioned her head in the direction of the bed. “I already paid for the tickets, and we could send extra money.” She skimmed her lips along Gabby's long neck and slid a hand up her thigh.
“No.” Gabby stepped away and raised her hands. She knew that look on her lover's face too well. Any other time, she'd be glad to fuel the flames burning bright in Jackie's eyes, but not tonight. “You, me, fundraiser,” she said, backing away as Jackie advanced with the stealth of predator.
“I already did all the work,” Jackie said, her voice husky with desire. “We can be late. No one will notice. Better yet, let's skip it and say we were there.”
Gabby really did try to intercept the hands reaching for her. “We should go,” she said half-heartedly, her resolve weakened by warm hands sliding up under her dress. She hissed as a hand slipped between her legs and reached the juncture of her thighs. Biting her lip, she fought out of the silken haze that threatened to steal all rational thought. “Come on, baby. You worked too hard to miss this event now. And if we don't go, you won't be able to buy me anything.”
Jackie stopped in the middle of a protesting groan. “Buy? You're actually going to let me buy you something tonight?”
Gotcha. She suppressed a smile at the eager expression on Jackie's face. Even after being together for a year and a half, Jackie still loved to lavish money on her little family. It was usually Gabby's job to temper that desire. Tonight she was taking a break. “Yes. So bring your checkbook.”
“You know a lot of the auction items are fairly steep, right?” It had been Jackie's job to procure the goods and services for the auction.
Gabby nodded. “It's for a good cause.” She gave Jackie a quick kiss. “And I want to reward you for still thinking I look sexy in my beached-whale stage.”
“Beached whales have nothing on you, love. The day I don't think you're sexy, is the day you need to check my eyesight.”
The private all-girls school, which had graciously provided use of its main building for the auction, was lit up with strings of lights. Jackie couldn't stop the feeling of pride for her role in the event as she dropped Gabby off at the front door with strict instructions to find the nearest chair and wait for her. The parking lot was rapidly filling and Jackie made a mental not to add valet parking to next year's event. She grabbed her tuxedo jacket from the back seat and hurried to the entrance, sure her earlier instructions to Gabby had been ignored.
The first person she spotted was Gordon Jones, the youngest of Gabby's three brothers, and the biological father of the child they were eagerly awaiting. “Hey, bro. How's it going?” Jackie let herself be pulled into a bone crunching hug. Although she was almost six feet tall, he topped her by five inches and a hundred, well-muscled pounds. With his good looks and charming smile, she was surprised to find him without his usual circle of admirers.
“It's going. If you're looking for Gabby, Shane corralled her as soon as she walked in and they went that away.” He pointed to the rooms at the back of the gym. “I hear you did a lot of work for this. This place looks great.”
“Thanks.” Jackie took in the colorful stations with matching bid sheet themes spread throughout the room. A large group of volunteers, herself included, has spent a large portion of last night and this morning getting everything set up. “You're not looking so bad yourself in that white tux.”
He pulled at his jacket sleeve and puffed out his massive chest. “I am, aren't I? You know with your good looks and mine that kid in Gabby's oven is going to be one fine looking baby.”
She gave his a shot with her elbow, then laughed when he pretended hurt. “You say that every time, Mr. Vain. I just want the baby to be healthy.”
“Yeah, me too. Don't tell anybody, but I'm deeply honored you guys thought of me when you were looking for a donor. And I'll be the best uncle Heshe ever had.”
“Hey, quit calling our baby that.”
“If you'd look at the damn ultrasound and tell me the sex, I wouldn't have to call the poor baby that. It does kind of grow on a dude though. You wouldn't have to worry about everyone else naming their baby that.” He laughed as Jackie shook her head. “Come on, admit you secretly like it. But no matter. Whatever the name, I plan to spoil the kid rotten.”
“You'll have to get in line. Care to do a little shopping while the coast is clear?”
“We can stash everything in my car. She'll never know.”
They exchanged grins, unaware of Gabby's approach. “What are you up to?” she demanded, putting her hands where her hips used to be.
“Nothing,” they said in unison.
“As mama used to say, don't give me that mess.” Gabby tapped her foot. “Spill it.”
“We might have been bragging about how beautiful the baby will look,” Gordon said. “Fueled by my good looks of course.”
Gabby glanced from her brother to her partner and smiled. “I agree. When he hits puberty, I'm shipping him to you, Gordie. I think mom will look down from heaven and have herself a good laugh.”
“He?” Once again Jackie and Gordon spoke in unison.
“That's what Miss Maybelle told me minutes ago. She says she hasn't been wrong yet.”
Jackie grabbed Gabby's hand. “A boy to go with our girl.” Her voice was full of wonder. “Can I buy him a car for his birthday, too?” She rested her cheek against Gabby's.
“No, you big goof. He can have Angel's cast off.” The grin on her face turned to a grimace and she rubbed her back. The pains she'd been having sporadically were coming more frequently now.
Jackie's eyes widened with fear. “What's wrong? Do I need to call a doctor?”
“It's nothing. The baby's just trying to find some room. Tell me again why we chose this giant for the father?”
“For my looks. Listen, maybe you should sit down,” Gordon suggested.
“But I haven't seen all the items yet. How will I know what I want Jackie to buy for me?”
“Catalog,” Jackie said. “You sit, I'll get the catalog and you pick out what you want me to bid on.”
She nodded and bit back another grimace as the pain hit harder this time. Taking shallow breaths, she let the two of them lead her to a thickly cushioned chair that was higher off the ground than the nearby loveseats. By the time she sat down, the pains were gone. “I hear they have lemonade.”
“I hear you, sis. Food?”
“Just something to drink for now.”
“Okay, how do you really feel?” Jackie asked once Gordon was gone.
“I'm fine, Jack. Errant pains.” She looked at her hands. “Now why don't I have a catalog in my hands?”
“Slave driver,” Jackie muttered, but dutifully went in search of a catalog. There were several items she thought Gabby would get a kick out of. And since Gabby was confined to a chair, she would have free reign when it came to bidding. Maybe now was the time to place some high bids.
When she returned, Shane and Michael had joined Gabby and Gordon. “Don't you look spiffy.” As befitting the evening, Shane and Michael were decked out in formal wear. Shane looked dazzling in a sleeveless blue dress that seemed to sparkle when she moved. Michael, in the more traditional black tux, looked nothing like he had the first time Jackie had seen him. Then he'd been dressed as Santa to her Mrs. Clause.
“Right back at you,” Shane said and pulled her close for a hug. “What you've done here is beyond wonderful.”
“Thanks.” Jackie pretended to frown at the catalog in Gabby's hands. “You could have waited.”
“Yes. I could have. But then I wouldn't have been too distracted to consider what might be taking you so long.”
Jackie tried for innocent and failed. “It is getting crowded. I bet we'll pull in a fortune for the shelter at this rate. It's nice to think of women with kids in distress having a place where they can regroup.”
“That's so sweet.” Gabby reached for her hand and her eyes misted. “I'm so proud of the work you put in on this auction. I don't think I've said that enough.”
“You should be proud, too.” Jackie kissed Gabby's knuckles. “If I hadn't met you, I never would have been involved with something like this. I never would have known how fulfilling it is to help those in need.”
Shane nudged Michael. “How come you never say sweet things like that to me?”
“Not true,” Gabby said before Michael could respond. “I remember that time he told you how sex with you rocks his world.” She gave them a sly grin. “Of course, he may have been a little bit intoxicated at the time.”
Michael's face turned bright red. The dirty look he gave Gabby was blown off with a laugh. “I don't recall saying that.”
Shane gave him another elbow shot. “She was paraphrasing. Cleaning it up, I guess because of the baby.” She rolled her eyes. “You never could hold your beer.”
Michael cleared his throat. “Speaking of drinking, does anybody need a refill? I still have a couple of tickets for wine samples.”
Gordon stuck a beefy paw into his pants and pulled out five tickets. “I'm with you, man. And I still have some Christmas shopping to take care of. This place is tons better than a mall in December.”
“I'll come, too.” Shane hooked her arm through Gordon's. “I could point out a few things that would be perfect for me now that you're making the big V. P. bucks.”
“Present slut,” Gabby said fondly.
Shane grinned. “You know it.” She hooked her other arm through Michael's and led them off.
“Are you ready for some food?” Jackie asked. “I worked like a dog to get some of the better restaurants to donate.”
“If that's like slaving in the kitchen, then yes, dear, I would appreciate something to eat.” She wasn't hungry, but maybe nibbling on something would make her feel better. She waited until Jackie was out of sight to rub her aching back. Sitting hadn't helped as much as she thought it would. She glanced at her watch and decided she could stick it out for an hour. After all of Jackie's hard work, it wouldn't be right not to stay.
“You don't look so good. Is that boy bothering you?”
Gabby forced a smile at Miss Maybelle's concern. “Little twinges,” she replied easily. “Have you had a chance to look around? I can tell from the catalog they're auctioning quite a few to-die-for items.'
“A bit pricey for me.” Miss Maybelle lowered her considerable bulk onto the loveseat nearest Gabby. “Why I can't believe the starting price they put on those quilts I donated. They'll never get anyone to bid on them.”
“Look at the crowd. There's plenty of money floating around. People will be elbowing each other out of the way to bid on your quilts. Jackie included.”
“You might be right. She seemed awfully reluctant to include it with the other items.” Miss Maybelle shook her head. “Offered me five hundred for one. Said it would go great with the rest of your bedroom. But that's Jackie for you. It sure has been a pleasure to work with her on this here auction. I says to her, Jackie, you took something small and made it something big. Something that will bring in lots of money to help those poor battered women and their babies. God's smiling down on her for that.”
Gabby nodded her agreement and shifted in her seat, trying to find a comfortable position. The twinges had turned into a steady pain that made sticking around for an hour a near impossibility. “I think Jackie surprised herself.” She took a sip of the watered down lemonade, then let a piece of ice dissolve on her tongue. A sharp pain wrenched a cry. She rubbed her back hoping that and shallow breathing would ease the pain.
“Gabby!” With surprising agility, Miss Maybelle jumped up. “Where's Jackie?”
“She went to get me something to eat.” Sweat beaded on her forehead as she rocked back and forth. “Can you get her please?” Before she could finish, Miss Maybelle was on her way. Gabby closed her eyes and panted as the pressure built in her pelvis. She pushed herself up, intent on finding the bathroom, only to have wetness slide down her legs. “No!” she cried to no one in particular. “I still have six weeks.”
Gordon pushed aside the couple who were staring at Gabby like deer in headlights. “Hang on, sis.”
“Gordon, you have to help me. It's too soon,” she all but cried. “I don't want to lose my baby.”
“Don't think like that. Jackie went to get the car. We'll have you to the hospital in ten minutes. You and the little one can wait that long, right?”
Shane rushed up, looking pale and worried. She was closely followed by Michael. “Jackie should be out front by the time we get there. Michael you help Gordon get her to the front. Then Gordon can drive. Jackie should be in the back with Gabby.”
“Okay, sis, you ready to start?”
She took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then nodded. Even with Gordon and Michael's support, she had to stop a couple of times when the pain became too much to bear.
A frantic looking Jackie met them at the door. She wrapped her arms around Gabby and gave her a gentle squeeze. “Oh, God. I'm sorry I wasn't right there when you needed me.”
“You're here now and that's all that matters. Do you still have that old blanket in the back? My water broke.”
Jackie tightened her grip on Gabby. “Oh, my God, oh my, God, oh my God. It's not time.”
“Maybe we could get in the car,” Gordon suggested, his voice unnaturally high. “I for one would like to get her to the hospital before—” He stopped when lazered with Shane's glare.
They piled into the SVU, men in front, women in back. The muffled groans from Gabby had Gordon turning a ten minute drive into seven. Shane was out of the car and on her way to the emergency room almost before Gordon pulled to a stop. By the time they were able to get a pain-ridden Gabby out of the back seat, Shane was back with a wheelchair.
“We need to get her to maternity,” she huffed. “Fourth level, other side of the hospital.”
“I'll park the car and meet you there,” Gordon said after he'd helped his baby sister into the chair.
“Wait!” Gabby blew out a sharp breath and tried to focus through the pain. “Angel. Monica.”
“I'm on it.” Shane whipped out her cell phone while motioning toward the emergency room entrance. “Let's move it people.”
Even through a haze of unrelenting pain and worry, Gabby was aware of the scents and sounds of the hospital. She heard Jackie's encouraging words as she fought to remember to breathe through the pain. When one particularly sharp pain seemed to split her behind, she couldn't bite back a scream. “I need to like down. Please, I need to lie down.”
“In a minute, sweetie.” Jackie rested an arm on Gabby's shoulders, her face white and clammy in contrast to the calmness in her voice.
They turned a corner and finally maternity was just ahead. Jackie motioned for Michael to take over pushing the wheelchair while she ran ahead, Gabby's medical card on the ready. She hadn't finished her explanation before two nurses rushed from behind the desk and hustled Gabby onto a table in one of the exam rooms.
Gabby was peppered with questions about her symptoms from one nurse while the other examined her.
“What's happening? My baby's not due for six weeks. You have to help me.” She broke off with a strangled scream and lifted her behind off the table.
“Breathe. That's right, shallow breaths. You're doing fine. I'm going to hook you up to a fetal monitor so you can hear your baby's heart beating. Listen. You hear that?”
The strong heartbeat wasn't enough for to dampen her worry. And how could it be when her baby was coming too soon. “I thought I did everything right. What did I do to cause this?” Gabby asked, her eyes filled with tears.
The older of the two nurses, stripped off her gloves. “There now, dearie, you didn't do anything wrong. Having a baby is not yet exact science. I can tell you that your baby is almost ready to make an entrance. You're nine centimeters dilated.”
“No.” Gabby shook her head. The nurse had to be wrong. “You have to stop it. Where's Jackie? She can tell you it's too soon. We still have five more weeks.”
“I need you to settle down,” The nurse said calmly yet firm. “Babies don't know schedules, but you are in the best neonatal ward in the city.”
“The state really.” The younger nurse covered one of Gabby's clenched fists with her hand. “We have the right equipment to deal with preemies.”
Gabby heard the words, but they couldn't untangle the ball of fear lodged in her throat. Fear that told her, her baby was doomed because her own body was fighting against him. A body she'd nourished and took care of just like all the books told her. Why hadn't that been enough?
“Gabby. Baby, are you okay? I'm here now.”
The sound of Jackie's voice and the touch from her hand peeled back the haze of rising hysteria. “Jackie. What if…what if something happens to our baby?”
Jackie brought Gabby's hand to her lips. “Good thoughts, okay? I guess the baby wants to come out for Halloween. Does that mean I need to buy him a costume? What should I get? I'm thinking Superman. Or what about Spiderman?”
“Oh God, I love you.” She managed a weak smile. How like Jackie to say the right thing. “I don't think costumes come that small, honey.”
Jackie arched a brow. “Is that a challenge, Ms. Jones-Stevens?”
Before Gabby could respond another contraction hit. She grabbed her stomach.
“I think it's time to pant,” Jackie said, rubbing her arm. “Where is that damn doctor?”
“Hello to you too, Jackie-O. I got here as soon as I could.” Dr. Miranda, tall, silver-haired and confident walked into the room pulling on gloves. “Good thing I was already on my way to your auction when I got the bat signal. Now Gabby, what are you up to, huh?” she asked in the matter-of-fact way that soothed her patients.
A glance from those warm brown eyes calmed Gabby's nerves. Dr. Miranda would know what to do for her baby. “I think I'm having a baby.”
“Well, let's have a look.”
“Six pounds, one ounce, twenty inches and a set of lungs that won't quit,” Jackie whispered into her cell. “Pretty big for his age…They think he'll have to stay at the least a couple of weeks.” She glanced at Gabby who had fallen into an exhausted sleep. “She's already worried about leaving without him…Angel and I will have to do our best to keep her somewhat distracted, and she can come see Joshua as much as she'd like…No. I'll pick her up in the morning as planned. I want to be the one to explain it to her.”
Jackie made several more calls to relatives and friends, announcing the arrival of one Joshua Tyler Jones-Stevens. And since Gabby was still sleeping, she then made her way to the preemie nursery where her son was being kept. After showing ID, she washed and put on a sterile gown.
Although he was early, Josh looked like a bruiser compared to some of the more fragile babies. His skin looked white, but according to the nurse, based on the color of his testicles, it would darken as he got older. Jackie smiled. What the hell did she know about balls? Thank God Gabby had brothers who were willing to help.
“I love you little man,” she told the sleeping baby and ran her hands along his body, checking once again to ensure everything was where it should be. He had to be the most beautiful baby in the world. She could hardly wait to place him in his big sister's arms. Angel had already sworn to be his protector.
“Would you like to hold him?”
“Huh?” It took a moment for the words to get from Jackie's ears to her brain. She'd been engrossed in Joshua to the exclusion of anything else. “Pick him up? Are you sure that's allowed?”
The nurse's lips twitched, but she didn't smile. “I'm positive. And little baby Jones-Stevens needs all the human contact he can get. You're lucky. The only equipment he has is an apnea monitor, and that's only for precautionary purposes.”
“Apnea monitor?” Jackie took a step back and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her tux pants. “That doesn't sound safe to me.”
“I promise it's perfectly safe. If you'll drag the rocking chair this way, I'll put this sweet little baby in your arms and the two of you can bond.”
Her need to hold her son overcame her reservations. As soon as Joshua was placed in her arms, he stretched and opened one eye. Jackie thought her heart was going to burst. “Remember me? I'm Mommy. Your Mama and I have been looking forward to seeing you, little one. And your big sister, Angel, too.” She dropped the gentlest of kisses on his forehead. “You're early, so we don't have your room all set up. But I promise by the time they spring you, everything will be perfect. Now you have to promise not to tell your Mama about all the neat toys I've been stockpiling for your arrival. She doesn't want me to spoil you right off the bat. But you know what? I bet you're too good to be spoiled.”
She smiled when she noticed he'd fallen asleep and gave a silent prayer for his relatively unscathed arrival. From looking at the other babies, she could see how much worse it could have been for Joshua. Karma, she thought. Maybe all that hard work and sweat she'd put into the fundraiser for the shelter had counted for something. With a contented sigh, she rocked her baby boy.
“You ready?” Jackie turned off the ignition and gave Gabby's thigh a quick squeeze. It had been two weeks to the day of Joshua's birth and it was time to take him home.
“More than ready to be able to walk into the next room and take a peek at our son. More than ready to be able to touch him when I want.” Gabby swiped at her eyes. The fourteen days since she'd had to leave Joshua at the hospital seemed like an eternity. She'd barely slept the night before, eager to bring him home where he belonged. “Ready for the four of us to bond.”
“Sounds ready to me. Angel, you ready to go bust your brother out of this jail?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” She clapped her hands and gave a toothy grin, looking adorable in the gypsy costume she'd insisted on wearing to the hospital. It was Halloween after all. “Bro. We get bro. Break out.”
Gabby pinched Jackie's thigh. “Quit giving her ideas.” She turned to face Angel. “Mommy is teasing about the break out. This is a hospital not a jail, baby girl.”
“Break out, break out, break out,” Angel said, banging her stuffed Tigger against Gabby's seat.
Gabby sighed as she undid her seatbelt. “She is so your child.”
Jackie grinned. “Thanks.” She hurried to the back of the SVU, removed the new double stroller and slung the purple baby bag over her shoulder. In the bag was a tiny Spiderman costume that she'd called all over town to find. She was looking forward to seeing Gabby's expression. “Come on, Angel, time to hop on the Jones-Stevens Express to Babyland.”
Angel shook her head. “No. Me big girl. Me walk. Baby ride.”
“Are you sure you want to pick up another one?” Gabby asked dryly as she dutifully took the hand Angel was holding out for her. “We could probably make a run for it.”
“As if,” Jackie scoffed. “What's one more, but one more to add to our circle of love.”
“I like that. May the circle always expand without breaking.” Gabby smiled and snaked an arm around Jackie's waist. “Okay, let's go get our boy.”
“We kind of have to, you know. I don't think anyone else in the family can fit the Spiderman costume I bought him.”
“Oh, Jackie.” Tears beaded in Gabby's eyes. “You are simply the best.”