“Oh my god, if you people don’t leave me alone, I’m going to . . . I don’t know, but it’ll be bad.”
Ella looked at Erin, saw the annoyance first and then the worry just beneath it. Elise turned, worry on her face too.
“Hey, why don’t you go call your mom?” Ella touched Cope’s hand. He’d been tight and stressed-out since the call came in from Ben that Erin was in the hospital. “I’ll come get you if anything happens. You know she’d want to know.”
He let out a long breath. “I don’t want to leave just in case they need me.”
“You want me to call for you?”
“No. Fuck. She can wait. It can wait.”
“Okay then.” She took a step back, knowing being hurt was silly. He was worried about the baby. They all were.
“Ella, make them all go.” Erin reached a hand out, and Ella stepped forward to take it.
“Baby, you need to stay still and let them fuss.” Ella squeezed the hand not hooked up to the BP cuff.
“Elise. Come on, tell them it’s okay.”
Elise stepped closer, putting her chin on Ella’s shoulder. “They know. But they love you and the baby, and they worry.”
“There are too many people in here.” A nurse bustled in and glared. “All but the mom and her two men. Y’all need to go. There’s a waiting room if you wish. But she’s going to drink this and then rest for a while before we release her tomorrow. Best thing is to go home and wait.”
Ben’s shoulders slumped, and Ella turned, hugging him. Just needing him to know she cared. He sniffled and hugged her back. “Can I get you guys anything? How about some blankets and pillows? I know you’ll both be staying here with her overnight.”
“Could you?” Ben looked down at her, so much worry on his face that her heart ached for him.
“Of course. I’ll run to your place right now.” She turned to Erin. “Do you want me to bring anything specific?”
She got a list and directions to where everything was and kissed Erin’s cheek. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’ll bring you back some Red Mill too. For you, O Pregnant One, I’ll make you something healthy instead.”
“Pffft. Healthy. Healthy sucks.” Erin pouted, and Todd kissed the top of her head.
“I know, doll. But once the wee one is out, you can go back to your normal diet.” Ella patted her hand. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’ll have my phone if you think of anything else you need.” She kissed Erin’s cheek, followed by big hugs from Todd and Ben.
“Thank you for this,” Todd murmured.
She touched his cheek. “Of course. That’s what friends are for, right?”
He nodded, and she grabbed her bag, moving toward the door. Adrian looked lost, so she stopped for a moment. “Hey, she’s going to be fine. The doctor said she just needed to be off her feet. She’s here being watched by the best.”
“I’m scared,” he said softly, his voice nearly breaking.
“I know. She is too. Ben and Todd are too. Brody is. Cope is. I am. Elise is. We all are. Thing is, this is reversible with rest. That’s what the doctor told us, remember? Just blood pressure and water retention. It’s not full blown preeclampsia yet. And if they need to, they can deliver the baby immediately. This is the floor where they deliver babies, remember. These are all health professionals trained specifically for this situation. Now, listen.” She paused. “Hear that?”
The little patter of the heart monitor they’d put on Erin’s belly sounded clearly in the room. “He or she is so much like her. Can you hear it? That’s a bold heartbeat. Bold and strong. Just like his or her momma.”
He hugged her again. “Thank you, Ella.”
“You know where I am if you need anything, okay? I’ll bring back food for you guys too.”
Adrian looked to Cope. “You’re a lucky man.”
“Let me run you over.” Elise smiled and then laughed. “You know what I mean.”
“I do. Thanks. I rode in with Cope, and I know he wants to stay here.”
Andrew had been looking at her as she’d been comforting Adrian. She could see the worry all over him. “I brought you; I can take you back.”
She sighed at his tone, feeling horrible in general. For her friends and for Andrew more specifically. She knew more than most that he wanted to fix things, and this was something he could not fix.
Ella took his hands, drawing them to her mouth. His expression softened, and he pulled her into a hug, kissing her temple. “I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“You’re worried. You get a free pass today. Shall I bring you back anything?”
“I’m going to take you. I know where everything is anyway. And then I can be sure you get home safely before I come back.” He looked toward Elise. “I got this. Be here for Brody.”
“Hey, do you have a place for Rennie to be tonight? Would you like me to take her back to my house? I can get her to school in the morning.”
Elise walked her out into the hallway as everyone said their good-byes to Erin under the stink eye the nurse sent.
“My dad took her to their place tonight. Thank you for offering, sweetie. I’ll go home to get her later. Brody won’t want to leave Erin, but I can’t do much for either of them. I’ll get her to school in the morning and then come here to check on everyone.”
“I’ll take the morning shift at the café tomorrow, so I’ll be around if you need me to grab her after school or whatever. Call me.” She hugged Elise, who hugged her back tightly.
Cope worried the whole drive over to Ben’s place. He knew it was silly, knew Erin was in good hands. But it scared him shitless to think about what his brother would go through should they lose the baby or Erin.
Ella left him to his thoughts. Another thing he appreciated about her, she seemed to understand when he needed to think and be left alone. She didn’t try to guilt him into paying attention to her or pout like so many other women he knew did.
She took his hand as they got out and made their way to the elevator.
“I’m sorry I was short with you earlier. I’m an asshole.”
“You’re not an asshole. You’re worried about your brother and Erin and the baby. It’s okay you know, to be human. Also, I’m not made of glass.”
She forged ahead when the elevator arrived on Erin’s floor. He unlocked the door and turned off the entry alarm.
“I didn’t say you were made of glass,” he said as he led the way to the master bedroom.
“Erin says she’s got a bag there already. Her labor bag. We’ll need an overnight bag of some sort with a change of clothing for Ben and Todd. If you know where one is, I’ll get some bedding from the linen closet in the hall.”
She moved efficiently, gathering things and putting them in a central place. He didn’t know why he worried about her; she didn’t seem upset or angry or even hurt.
“All right.” He hefted the bag he’d tossed clothes into for Ben and Todd along with toothbrushes and some deodorant.
“Ben just called my cell and said to not bother with pillows or blankets. The hospital brought them stuff for that. I got the book he’s reading and Todd’s e-book reader.” She held up a tote. “Tossed in some magazines and a notepad and pen for Erin. I called in the order for Red Mill too. I ordered some for you as well. I’m going to cab back to your house to grab my car once we get back to the hospital. That way you don’t have to worry about getting me home, and you can focus on Erin.”
“Like I’m going to be all right with that? We’ll drop everything off, and I’ll take you back.” He grabbed the tote she’d been carrying and kissed her quickly. “Don’t argue. There’s no reason for you to take a cab when I love being with you and can take you.”
She looked at him sideways with a smile. “Whatever you say, Andrew.”
“If only it was that easy,” he muttered, and she laughed.
“You had easy, Andrew. You profess some sort of dislike for that in a woman now.” She smirked.
“I like it in you. A lot. Just for future reference and all.”
“You should call your mother. Or I can. But she should know.”
“Why you gotta ruin all that sexy back-and-forth by bringing my mother into it? Anyway, I’m driving; I can’t call anyone.”
She heaved a sigh. “You’re very difficult when you don’t want to do something. You know that? Though the way you stick out your bottom lip, daring me to reach over and give it a nip, is quite adorable.” She dug around in her bag and pulled the phone out. “Number? I’ll call.”
“Just don’t, Ella. Seriously, I don’t want you to be in the middle of this mess. You don’t deserve that.”
She touched his arm. “Andrew, that’s her grandchild. She’s making the baby a blanket. I’ve spoken with her about the nursery and the baby dozens of times. No matter what your dad has done, Annalee loves that baby already. She’s going to want to be there for Ben too. Let me make the call. Then your father isn’t even part of it. Todd already called his mom, she and Annalee are friends. Can you imagine how she’ll feel if you don’t call? Plus, if I may be so bold, she’s your mom, and it’s totally her job to comfort you, and you need it.”
“Damn, you have that guilt thing down.” He gave her the number as he was lucky enough to find a space in the tiny lot adjacent to Red Mill.
“I’ll call, you go get the food. It’s under your name.”
He gave her a dirty look as she went for her wallet. “Please don’t insult me by trying to pay.”
“You’re easily insulted if that’s what gets you all het up.” She primly said this and then began to dial the phone before he could reply. Knowing he had it better if he left, he did, grinning at her as he did.
Thank heavens Annalee answered and not Billy. Ella didn’t want to deal with that jerk right then.
“Mrs. Copeland? It’s Ella Tipton. From the café?”
“Of course, honey. Is everything all right?”
“It should be. I wanted to let you know that Erin’s spending the night in the hospital. They’re observing her because her blood pressure is very high and she’s retaining water. They’ll watch her carefully, but they think she’ll be fine to go home tomorrow and be on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy.”
Ella gave her the information and Erin’s room number, reassuring her that Erin would be all right and her sons wanted her to know. In truth, Ella thought Cope and Ben would be comforted by her presence, but she left that unsaid. It was scary territory, getting to know Andrew’s mother in an entirely new way.
Cope came back shortly, arms laden with bags of food. The smell of it made her mouth water, even though they’d eaten some hours before.
“I added rings for you.”
She smiled. “You’re good to me.” Meaning it.
He turned to her. “I love you, Ella. I want to make you happy. I want to make you half as happy as you make me. Thank you. Thank you for being here for me today. It means a lot.”
She swallowed hard, trying very much not to cry. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
“I know. Thank God for it.”