Her Pregnancy SecretBy: Ann Major
Had she deliberately remained hidden until he was gone? Was she that afraid of him?
What was her game? How could he stop her and save Will?
Eight weeks later
Will has to be okay. He has to be.
As his heart beat in panic, Michael slammed through the heavy steel emergency-room doors with his dripping briefcase. When Pedro, his assistant who’d notified him about the accident, wasn’t at the entrance, Michael had rushed inside and hurried down a crowded hall that was a blur of nondescript floor tiles and pale green walls, beds, patients and visitors.
Michael had been trying to call Bree from his limo on the drive through thick rain from JFK airport into the city. When all he could get was her voice mail, he’d decided to stop by Chez Z on the way to his office to confront her again. He’d just pulled up at the curb outside the bistro when Pedro had called him to tell him Will had been in an accident.
“Where’s Will North?” Michael demanded of the nurses in dark scrubs at the nurses’ station. “I’m his brother. I got a call a while ago that he was in an accident and that he’d been brought here by EMTs.”
“North?” Nurses looked up from their papers and stilled. When they didn’t answer him, maybe because they had to choose their words carefully, he sensed the gravity of his brother’s condition.
Oh, God. It was bad.
“Where is he?” Michael demanded in a hoarse voice he didn’t recognize as his own. “What happened?”
Ask a tough question....
An older nurse with a kindly face gave him the bare facts.
A head-on collision in the heavy rain. Tony Ferrar, who was apparently his brother’s friend and the driver, died at the scene. The driver of the SUV that struck them, a twenty-four-year-old woman who’d possibly been drunk or texting, had flown across the median of the interstate and collided head-on with Will’s Mercedes. She’d died at the scene. Will had removed his seat belt and thrown himself in front of his wife. As a result he’d suffered back injuries, head injuries and multiple fractures. He needed immediate surgery.
The nurse’s words buzzed in Michael’s head.
Was that what Will had wanted to tell him over lunch today? Had he married his secret girlfriend?
On some level Michael’s numbed brain faced the harsh reality of his brother’s injuries. On another, he refused to accept that his younger brother could be so seriously injured.
Not Will. Michael had called him from Shanghai last night. When Michael had asked him about Bree, Will had refused to discuss her.
“I have some big news. I’ll give you an update over lunch tomorrow,” was all he’d said.
“Can I see my brother...before his surgery?” Michael demanded of the nurse.
“Of course. But don’t say much or you’ll tire him.”
Only when he saw Will’s gray face washed of all color, and Will’s body shrunken and as still as death did the gravity of Will’s injuries finally hit Michael.
“Will. Can you hear me? It’s me. Michael,” he said gently.
Tubes hissed and gurgled. His brother, whose bruised face was swathed in bloodstained bandages, stirred faintly. His mouth quivered, and he seemed to struggle to focus on Michael’s face.
“Don’t talk,” Michael commanded.
“Have to... No time... You know, they’re wrong about your life passing before your eyes.” Will’s voice was so thready Michael had to lean close to his brother’s lips to hear it. “It’s the future you’ll never have...that matters.”
“Don’t waste your strength trying to talk. You’re young. You’re going to be okay. I swear it.”
“Not even you can fix this. But you can do one thing for me....”
“Take care of Bree.”
“Bree... She’s...my wife,” Will gasped.
“Bree? You married Bree?”
“She’s pregnant. No time to explain. We didn’t want to tell you like this. Just promise me...that you’ll take care of her and...the baby.”
“She’s pregnant and hurt. I don’t know how badly. We were in the backseat. Tony was driving. Tony’s dead.... Tried...to save her...for you.”
“You care about her.”
Sweat broke out on Michael’s forehead. His hands opened and closed in fists as fury and concern for her and grief for his brother tore at him.
One thing was very clear. She’d lied about her relationship to Will. They had been involved. After she’d slept with Michael, she’d gone back to Will as easy as you please, gotten herself pregnant by him so he’d marry her. They’d kept it all a secret from Michael until he’d gotten back from Shanghai.
Will had been so dazzled by Bree he’d removed his own seat belt to protect her.
Then Michael remembered that Will would receive a million dollars from the North trust when he married, as well as a sizable increase in his allowance. He would receive even more once the child was born.
Had Will informed Bree about all those benefits? Probably.
Her treachery didn’t matter right now. Only Will mattered.
His brother’s glazed eyes read Michael like a book. “I know you don’t think you like her. And I knew you wouldn’t approve of our marriage, but she’s been through a rough time. She’s a wonderful girl. Not a gold digger like you think.”
Michael swore silently. His brother was so hopelessly naive.
“What you did to her...was all my fault.”
“Whatever I did, I did it for you,” Michael said.
“Understood. So, promise me...you’ll take care of her. If you’ll do this one thing for me, we’ll be square.”
No way could Michael promise that.
“Promise me,” Will insisted.
The room felt stale and airless. His brother looked so pale—Michael couldn’t say no to him. He yanked at his collar and tore at his tie that was damp from the rain. He wanted to run out of the room, to get outside, to breathe fresh air.
Through gritted teeth he said, “I promise I’ll take care of your wife.” Carefully Michael took his brother’s limp hand and pressed it lightly. “I’ll even shake on it.”
“And her restaurant. Help her save it.”
Satisfied, Will’s heavy eyelids drooped shut.
A few seconds later an older male nurse in blue scrubs rushed up to the gurney and flipped through Will’s chart. Without a word, he bent over his patient.
Michael stood in the doorway and watched the man wheel his brother away, watched until they vanished down the long hall. The sounds of people rushing past him died. All he could hear was his own heart. Would he ever see his brother alive again?
Suddenly he felt very cold, and very much alone, as alone as he’d been as a kid. Since he couldn’t stand forever in an empty hall staring at waxed floor tiles and feeling sorry for himself, he turned and headed back to the nurse’s station where he found Pedro, who took Michael to Bree.
Two women, probably family, hovered over Bree. She lay on a narrow bed that had been curtained off from the other beds in the large room.
Michael held out his hand. “I’m Michael North, Will’s brother. Her brother-in-law.”
The older woman took his hand. “I’m Bijou, her mother. Wait! I never forget a face. You’re that handsome rich guy that came to the restaurant looking for her, yes? I thought maybe you gave her some trouble, yes?”
Heat washed through him. “Yes.”
“I’m Marcie,” the pretty blonde beside Bijou said. “I wait tables for Bree and Bijou. Bree’s just the sweetest person in the whole world. So is Will. I can’t believe that two such super people...”
“Marcie! You need to be strong, oui!” Bijou turned to Michael. “We’ll give you a minute with her,” she said. “But only a minute.”
When they left, Michael moved closer to Bree’s bed. Her thick lashes were still against her bloodless cheeks, so she didn’t see him at first. Dark circles ringed her eyes. More than a dozen bruises and livid cuts covered her arms and cheeks. At the sight of her injuries, he choked on a breath.