June 2, 2015
Braeden paced around the bedroom, flipping a knife in her hand while she walked. She could feel her boyfriend's concerned eyes following her every step and it made the hair on the back of her neck stand to be watched so carefully and blatantly. Being stared at usually meant something had gone wrong and her cover had been blown, so it set off every alarm in her body. Not to mention, it was beginning to drive her crazy.
“Could you stop staring?” She requested impatiently, wincing as her lower abdominal muscles seized and ached as another cramp moved through her. “You're making me antsy.”
“You're making me antsy.” Derek said softly, his eyes never straying from his agitated girlfriend. “Please sit down and rest.”
“No!” Braeden snapped, flipping her knife once more until the handle was clenched tightly in her hand. It was reflexive to defend herself in stressful environments, though she had no intention of harming her boyfriend. “Sitting down won't do anything for me or for our baby.”
“Well, it might make you feel better, even if it can't do a thing for our child.”
“Our third child, Derek. How many times do you expect me to go through this before you call it quits? Maybe if you were the one who had to let our child bleed from you and know what a complete failure you are for being unable to carry our baby for any longer than a month you would understand how I feel, but until then, I won't feel better. Nothing is going to make me feel better. Sitting down won't help, standing up and pacing doesn't help, but it's better than sitting down and focusing on the baby dying.”
Derek was silent long enough for Braeden to rein in her temper, though it was futile as her boyfriend said, “Maybe if we went back to Dr. Mackey...I could schedule another appointment for us and-”
“I don't want to go back to the damn psychologist, Derek. I want to take a break from this baby business. Three miscarriages adds up to our family not being meant for children.”
“What family?” The werewolf demanded in a quiet, bitter-filled voice. “We're barely a couple at this point, Braeden, let alone a family.”
When she didn't respond, he continued, “Maybe if you weren't so set against marrying me, my wolf would be settled enough to accept our childless union for what it is and be fine with it being just us for a little while longer, but as it is, we're not married, and you refuse to be my fiancée. It's been six years, Braeden. And since having kids is the only thing you'll actually agree to as the only thing to solidify the bond between us, I won't apologize for not giving up having them as easily as you'd like.”
Braeden felt tears prick the corners of her eyes as the enraged alpha took deep, heaving breaths before saying, “It's like you don't even want to be together anymore.”
When she remained silent, he scoffed bitterly, “Is that it? You don't want to be my girlfriend anymore? After months of dating, three months courting you, years of planning and building this house, putting up with your insane career and giving you all I have to give to another person and three dead children – that's it? You're just done?” His eyes flashed red before fading back to green as he took deep breaths and regained control of his shift.
Braeden inhaled sharply as another cramp took over, more intense than any she'd experienced within the last couple of days. “Fuck you, Derek.” She tried not to limp as she strode across the room and walked into the attached master bathroom, slamming the door shut loudly behind her and wrenching the lock into place.
She winced as she walked toward the tub and started running the hot water before ripping her clothes from her body. By the time she'd unclothed, the bath was full enough for her to get in and she sank into the welcoming warm water, skimming her hand over the surface as the bath steamed up.
Another intense pain shot through her and clenched her eyes shut and bit her lip to stifle a whimper at the sheer agony. Once the cramp eased and she had regained her breath, she blinked blearily, tears clinging to her eyelashes as she stared down at her lap.
She gasped and couldn't hold back a sob. The water between her thighs was dark red, spreading through the tub as the blood mixed with the rest of the water and faded a few shades until it was light red.
“Braeden? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Derek was pounding at the bathroom door and rattling the doorknob, growling as he became more stressed. “I smell blood. Braeden?”
“Leave me alone!” She shrieked.
She leaned over to pull the stopper out of the tub and stood up, her legs trembling as she watched the red water drain lethargically from the tub. “Leave me alone! I don't want to talk about this. I don't want to go through this anymore. I can't!”
“Braeden, please let me in.”
“No, just leave me alone, Derek!”
Braeden stood in the tub as the water flowed around her ankles and toward the drain. Tears streaked down her cheeks as her chest shook with huge, gasping breaths. She couldn't do this anymore. She couldn't. She'd fall apart if she lost one more baby. And with three miscarriages, the stress on the next pregnancy could condemn the child even if it were otherwise healthy. She just couldn't take the risk.
But not having children would be Derek's last straw and despite not wanting to mate before she'd even established herself in her career, she didn't want to lose him. She loved him too much to not be with him. But he apparently didn't love her without asking for all these sacrifices for him.
Braeden sat at the edge of the couch, staring blankly ahead of her and actively ignored her boyfriend next to her. For the past hour, they'd discussed their options and Derek was trying in vain to get her to quit her job, but she refused.
She wasn't the type to sit at home and keep the house tidy and watch after children day in and day out. She wanted to have a career and she loved being a U.S. Marshall, but another career offer had come up, one she didn't dare inform Derek about because she knew how he'd react and she didn't want to listen to him preach about the fragility of the human body, especially when compared to his werewolf strength. It hadn't mattered to those expressing interest in her; they wanted her despite being human, just for her skill alone. She wanted to consider the offer before she gave her final response. It'd do no good for Derek nor herself if she brought it up, so she kept it to herself for the time being. She had to focus on the current issue instead of bringing up more problems.
“I'm not saying I don't want kids at some point, Derek. Just maybe hold off for awhile? And I need to get away from all of...this.” She gestured toward him with her hand. “It's too much and it's stressing me out. I want to go back to work, go on more missions and prove myself to the team so I can lead my own one day.”
“You know how I feel about you risking your life.”
“Yes, but not needlessly. I'm not lacking self-preservation, I'm just more courageous than most people.”
Derek sighed and scratched his beard as he thought. “What if we use your eggs and get a surrogate? Then she could carry the baby and you could work and the baby would still be ours. It's a win-win situation.” He frowned for a moment, “Not counting that you wouldn't be here very often and that we need a surrogate at all.”
Braeden thought about it, weighing their options. “I don't know, isn't surrogacy expensive? Especially since it'd involve IVF, too. The pregnancy will be high risk, just like this one.”
Derek rolled his eyes, “It's not like we don't have the money.” He sighed, “Plus, this is about our baby. I'm willing to pay whatever it takes for us to have our child.”
Braeden glanced at her boyfriend and noted the determination in his eyes and the way his jaw was clicked into place as if he were waiting for her to shoot down this idea as well.
She considered having a surrogate. She'd be able to do her job, get away from the stress and disappointment that Derek wore like a favorite jacket, and they'd have a child by the end of it. It really was an ideal situation and would give Derek the kid he'd always wanted, as well as strengthen the bond between them so he no longer questioned their relationship.
However, what if the kid caused a rift between them? What if she remained broken and bitter about the babies she'd lost versus the one that survived from another woman's womb? What if the kid was the final straw and split her and Derek up rather than bring them together?
She heaved out a deep sigh as a new thought occurred to her. Derek was pretty picky with who he associated with. Outside of herself, his pack, sister and trusted clients, he really kept to himself. Sending him on a task to find a surrogate would be nearly impossible with his standards.
“Fine, we'll get a surrogate. But you have to find them and pick them, and they have to get pregnant before new years day, or the deal is over and you're letting the kid subject drop.”
Derek's eyes lit up and he moved from his side of the couch to right next to her, cupped her cheek gently as he tilted her head back and brought her lips toward his.
Braeden smiled into the kiss. It'd been so long since they had been romantically involved without striving toward having a child that she'd almost forgotten what kissing for the sake of kissing felt like, especially one as deep and sensual as the one she and Derek were currently sharing.
“Thank you, Braeden.” Derek breathed against her lips as he pulled back, his green eyes shining with gratitude. “Thank you so much.”
“You're welcome,” She returned his smile before narrowing her eyes. “But if you don't find someone or they don't get pregnant before new years, that's it. We're done with kids for awhile.”
“That's fine.” His eyes searched her's, “Are you sure you don't want a say in who our surrogate is?”
Braeden shook her head and glanced toward her stomach as it cramped slightly. “No, I trust your judgment.”
“Thank you, Braeden. I can't tell you what this means to me.”
The woman's heart clenched a little at the raw honesty in the werewolf's voice, but she didn't break down. “It means just as much to me, Derek.”