“What if it comes down to saving Lainie’s life or the baby’s . . . ?”

“It won’t come to that. You hear me? They’re gonna do everything to save them both.”

Hank nodded. But Abe knew he wasn’t convinced. Hank’s cell phone buzzed and he answered, “How’s Lainie? No. I understand. Really? She’s okay? What color? I’ll be damned. Thanks.”

“What?”

“I’m a father. They delivered the baby. It’s a girl.”

Relief rolled over him. “She’s all right?”

“Apparently. She has Lainie’s hair color and she’s screaming like a banshee. Probably wants her mama. Lainie’s still in surgery.”

“You know me’n Celia are gonna spoil that baby girl rotten.” Abe kept talking the rest of the way to Rawlins.

When they turned onto the street leading to the hospital, Hank said, “Thanks for—”

“No need to thank me. Whatever you need, I’m here.”

“I know. You’ve always been the one constant in my life, Abe. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it. I don’t know what I’d do without you, either.” Hank bailed out of the truck and ran in the emergency entrance doors.

Abe parked and considered calling Janie to apologize for his rudeness, but they both needed time to cool off. He just hoped she wouldn’t run off.

For the first hour in the waiting room he read magazines. For the second hour he watched TV. At the start of hour three he closed his eyes rather than watch an older man pace back and forth in front of the windows, muttering to himself.

A tap on his shoulder woke him. At first he didn’t recognize the blue scrubs. Then he looked up into Hank’s face. The frown lines on his forehead had eased somewhat, as had the pinched lines around his mouth. “Lainie?”

“Is fine. She had some kind of placenta rupture. They fixed her up and she’s in recovery. She’s groggy, but she’s fine.” Hank closed his eyes and seemed to have trouble swallowing. When he repeated, “She’s fine,” Abe wondered how many times Hank would say that before he truly believed it.

“Come on. I want you to meet your niece.” They cut down a hallway and stopped in front of a window, but the shades were pulled. Hank said, “Be right back.”

Abe slumped against the wall, wanting to weep with relief that everything had turned out all right. A door opened and Hank, his rough-and-tumble little brother with the enormous hands and body that took punishment from angry bulls, cradled a tiny pink bundle. When Hank tore his gaze away from his newborn daughter and looked at Abe, with such fierce love and awe on his face, damn if Abe didn’t tear up.

“This is Brianna Kate Lawson. Brianna, this is your Uncle Abe. And guess what, baby girl? He’s already promised to buy you a pony.”

That’d teach Abe to babble under duress. He squinted at the face nearly hidden beneath the pink blanket. “Why’s she wearin’ a hat?”

“Keeps her tiny head warm.” Hank gestured with his chin. “Go ahead and slide it up. Check out her hair. Sweetpea’s got a head full of it.”

Abe gently edged the hat up and grinned at the coppery curls identical to Lainie’s. “She’s Lainie’s Mini-Me.”

“Isn’t she beautiful? Just like her mama.” Hank lovingly pressed his lips to the baby’s forehead, then gave Abe a stern look. “Now cover her head back up like it was so she don’t get a chill.”

“Sheesh.” Abe couldn’t help but touch her plump cheek. Marvel at this new addition into all their lives. “Congrats, bro, Miss Brianna is amazing. Has her mama seen her?”

“Briefly. Guess she’s makin’ a pretty big fuss about wanting her baby, so that’s where we’re headed now.” Hank started down the hallway and stopped.

Happy as he was for his brother and sister-in-law, Abe wanted a family of his own. With Janie. And he understood he might have to make some hard decisions about his future to ensure that would happen. Because he wouldn’t live without her ever again.

Abe donned his coat and trudged to the parking lot to his truck. He yawned when he noticed it was one o’clock in the morning.

When he pulled up to the ranch house, Janie’s car was gone.

Chapter Thirty-five

Tierney wasn’t surprised by the summons from her father for a breakfast meeting. Right after Renner unloaded her luggage last night, he’d kissed her, urged her to get a full night’s rest, and left her alone. Sleep had been the last thing on her mind. Especially since Renner hadn’t said a word about anything her father had said.

As usual, her father didn’t make small talk. “I had time to think about what you said last night, and I realized you’re right.”

Sipping her coffee, she watched her father cut up a slice of bacon into perfectly even pieces. “Right about what?”

“About your salary being on the low end.” He popped a bacon chunk in his mouth and chewed. “I’m amending my offer; return to Chicago and I’ll double your salary. I’ll start to train you to take the reins as CFO.”

“When?”

“Training would start immediately. You cannot deny the appeal of becoming CFO of a major company before your fortieth birthday.”

There was a huge difference between his promise of her becoming CFO in five years like he’d hinted at last night, or before her fortieth birthday, which wouldn’t happen for another fourteen years. His vague language always tripped people up, in conversations and with contracts.

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