Chapter 15:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 169

They stood up on the top of one of Catalina Island's tallest mountains and looked over at the beauty of the ocean spilling over into the distant horizon. Tiny boats bobbled on its surface and the waves curled before breaking on the beaches below them.

Earlier, they had packed up a simple lunch, a blanket and had begun their hike up a well worn trail that snaked around the mountain to its very top. Austin had wondered if she would be up to such arduous exercise and she rolled her eyes at him, good-naturedly.

"Austin, you are not carrying me up the entire way," she said, "I'm pregnant…"

He smiled back innocently enough.

"I'm aware of that."

Her cheeks flushed a bit but she wasn't about to be deterred.

"I'm not sick…well not most of the day and I can handle a simple hike," she said, "Donna said it's important for pregnant woman to get enough exercise."

"We've been doing that."

She wanted to hit him.

"I mean outside the bedroom."

He winked.

"We've been doing that too."

Oh, she just wanted to throw up her arms at that point. But he didn't say anything more as they gathered up their supplies which he carried and they headed off. The walk hadn't been difficult at all because the trail inclined gracefully up the several thousand feet and they stopped to rest near some trees. The sunlight sparkled over the mountains and they both felt its warmth the further they hiked. When they had to step over a huge branch or cross a shallow brook, he took her hand and helped her across.

And occasionally they stopped to look at a patch of colorful wildflowers, which knitted each other into a tapestry that truly looked gorgeous.

"Oh the flowers…"

Austin tilted his head.

"So you'd like to live somewhere with plenty of flowers," he guessed.

She nodded.

"I like the wildest ones best," she said, "the way they grow even where they're not really wanted."

They had looked at how delicate little purple flowers had poked their way seemingly out of cracks in the rocky hillside. The sunlight nourished them as did the occasional rain and still they grew and they bloomed.

Austin wasn't all that into flowers really but he enjoyed watching the way Shayna's face lit up while she looked at them. The quiet beauty of watching her sitting down to examine some of the smaller buds that soon would open to add to the plethora of colors caught his breath. He knew what he wanted in his life which was to spend it with his best friend but he sensed a resistance within her whenever he broached the subject.

She just seemed so caught up in this idea of them being friends and nothing more even though it would definitely be clear in a few months that there had been much more that they had shared. She had appeared much more relaxed than she had when she had left him…well not really him but the hectic lifestyle which constantly surrounded them back in L.A.

Hans hadn't called and his next hearing date was still a while off. None of his exes had called him or showed up looking for him. The time that he had shared with Shayna here on the island had been special, one of the few times lately they had spent together. Annie had given them their space, because she knew that they still had things to figure out, what steps to take next and how to move together towards their future.

"Austin…"

His eyes followed where she pointed down into a valley where a flock of bison grazed, descendents of animals that had been brought to the island for a movie production and then left there to save on costs.

"They look like they belong here now," he said.

She looked at him and smiled.

"I've really enjoyed the time we've spent together."

That went double for him.

"I'm in no hurry to go back," he said, "I think we both needed time away from L.A."

She sighed thoughtfully.

"Sometimes I wish I didn't have to go back."

He caught that tone in her voice again, the wistfulness, mixed in with her general contentment. She valued her career and the businesses they had built together, he knew that, but he realized she wanted to build something more than that like a family. He just needed her to understand that he wanted that too and he wanted that with her. Hard though with the parade of exes that had shown up lately, he thought ruefully not to mention all this drama and intrigue over the missing painting which still hadn't surfaced in all this time.

Austin had a feeling that Hans knew more about that not that he really cared anymore. How could any of that compare to the reality of his own child being born in a matter of months? The child that his father hadn't lived to see just like his mother hadn't lived to know her own son for long.

"I didn't mean I never want to go back…"

He put his arm around her shoulders.

"I know that sweetheart," he said, "I know exactly what you mean."

She looked at him.

"Do you," she said, "I mean I know that both of us are in this together but sometimes…well this baby, this new life is inside me…wherever I go it's there, there's no escaping that not that I want to do that…"

He rubbed her back.

"I'm going to be right there with you," he said, "The whole nine yards."

She smiled at his use of football vernacular, a reminder that he had once been a champion player of that sport while in college but had eschewed a professional career to enlist in the military with his cousin, Will who had finally returned to them after so many years in a prison camp.

"I know you will…"

"I mean it Shayna," he said, "I've never wanted anything more in my whole life than a family of my own and a woman to share that with me. I just never realized she was in front of me the whole time."

Shayna shrugged.

"Well you were always a bit slow to pick up on things," she teased.

He waggled his brows.

"Do you want me to speed things up?"

She shook her head.

"Oh no way," she said, "There's a lot to be said for slowness and you did finally figure it out. We both did."

He listened to her and he wondered if it would be the right time…but something in her eyes made him put that thought away, though he tightened his hold on her as they both looked out into the sparkling sea below and in front of them in endless splendor.

Annie tooled over the stove, humming some country ballad to herself that Shayna remembered in terms of its haunting melody if not the words. Austin had gone to Avalon to pick up some paperwork sent by plane from Dennis to sign and then send right back. Shayna had taken a nap and then gone to do some reading in Annie's living room in front of the fire.

Days had been quite warm but the evenings had started to cool, turning the outside nippy by the time darkness had settled over the valley.

"That view is just gorgeous," Annie said, as Shayna walked in to help her with a salad.

"Thanks for suggesting it," she said, "Austin wasn't going to let me walk it at first but I felt so good at the top."

"Exercise is great for expectant mothers," Annie said, "and you have the good sense to know the right dose."

"Austin knows that," Shayna said, "That's just his way. He doesn't want me to feel like I'm alone with this pregnancy. I guess it's hard for the father to experience it except through the mother."

Annie chuckled.

"Oh Austin's always wanted to be hands on person," she said, "but he'll be a great father."

Shayna nodded, as she sliced the tomatoes to put in the salad mix.

"I know he will be," she said, "he just doesn't have to worry all the time."

"That's common especially for first time fathers," Annie said, "It'll be okay…at least by the time your child's grown up."

Shayna tried but she couldn't even imagine that, what it would be like to raise a son or a daughter together, from the time of its birth to the inevitable day when he or she left home to go to college. She sighed, there was still so much they both had to figure out about parenthood not to mention their own complicated relationship which had grown even more so.

"I'm a bit nervous too," she confessed.

Annie reached over to pat her shoulder.

"That's common too," she said, "I remember I certainly was for a long time but you learn to roll with the punches and to just make do the best that you can do. Children are resilient and can handle a lot even inexperienced parents who love them."

Shayna thought that made sense and she still had time to prepare, would she be able to do so by the time her baby was born?

Still excitement filled her too, whenever she thought about being a mother. Something she had always wanted to be a part of her life…maybe not this soon…but still she wanted her baby more than anything she had ever wanted…well right up there with wanting its father.

But in L.A. which they would have to return to soon enough, awaited Austin's exes. Not that she felt threatened by them but the drama that they had brought for Austin to sort out had just gotten to be a bit too much. What they needed to do was to go somewhere far away and fix their own problems, and not rely on Austin to do it for them.

Austin walked into the kitchen and took her in his embrace and kissed her.

"Missed you…"

She smiled up at those simple words that said so much.

"I was right here working on this salad," she said, "It's not my strongpoint but I'm learning."

He left his arm around her waist as he inspected her medley of vegetables in the bowl, and she reached for the Italian dressing to sprinkle liberally over it.

"So you got the paperwork back to Dennis?"

He nodded, and he rubbed his forehead with his free hand.

"I sent a note back that I'll let him know when we're ready to go back."

She arched a brow at him.

"Oh so you did," she said, "and when will that be?"

He smiled back at her.

"Whenever the lady says so…"

Later after dinner, they settled in front of the fireplace of their cabin, watching the flames dance over the wood. She had made them some hot chocolate and mixed in some milk. Austin had been worried about her getting all of her vitamins and minerals and so she added some extra calcium to her drink.

She cuddled in his embrace after finishing the soothing drink which they had shared on many an occasion since they were kids on camping trips with his father, uncle and cousin. He smelled the lilac in her hair, the cinnamon spice in her cologne.

"So what's on for tomorrow?"

She shrugged in his arms.

"I think I might do some knitting…"

He threw her an odd look.

"Knitting?"

She gave him a knowing look.

"Yes knitting and drop that incredulous look…"

He did but he still remained perplexed.

"But I never knew you to be interested in needlecraft."

"Why can't I take up a new hobby," she said, "and then after that, I was thinking of doing some fishing."

Now that sounded more like the woman he knew and loved most of his whole life.

"Okay, that sounds like a plan…"

She sighed.

"Except I need someone to carry the fishing gear," she said, "It's kind of heavy…"

He bit back a chuckle at that request, because he knew that the woman in his arms would have told him where to put it if he'd asked to carry her tackle box and pole.

"I think I can handle that," he said, "if just to keep your energy up for other things later on when we get back."

She chuckled.

"Who said anything about waiting until we get back," she said, "The one thing about pregnancy is that it increases all kinds of appetites."

Okay, well he had noticed that too, especially lately. But fishing was a serious matter and had always been between them in between the laughter and fish stories of course.

"I can see that…"

She nodded against his chest.

"We'll see who proves to be the best at it…the fishing part anyway."

He sighed as they relaxed on the couch, as he pulled her closer thinking of the interesting day that awaited them tomorrow.

And that nothing felt better than the way he did right now.

Shayna sat in the waiting room of her doctor's office. The lobby had been filled with other women in various stages of pregnancy, some with men sitting beside them, others by themselves or with other women.

She had an appointment for her first ultrasound and she had been excited to see her baby for the first, well at least in its earlier stages. After spending a morning arguing a motion in court on behalf of Hans, she had gotten into her car and sped over to the doctor's office because she had about an hour until she had to get back to the office to meet with him and his wife. In the past couple of months, Hans had been cooperating with her more in his defense and Shayna had a feeling that Whitney had something to do with that.

But still she couldn't wait until this case reached its conclusion. At least she could take a breather from it for a little while.

She liked her doctor a lot, the one that Donna had recommended and everything had been progressing along nicely, now that the morning sickness had abated, which made her days go much easier though she still felt tired by their end.

Austin rushed into the waiting room and Shayna smiled when she looked up and saw him there.

"Great to see you," she said, "We've still got a few minutes."

He sat down beside her and took her hand in his own.

"The meeting with Tony ended a lot better than it started," Austin said, "Max's handling the logistics while I'm here."

"Austin…"

"I wouldn't miss this for anything," he said, "Our first look at our baby."

Her eyes stung a bit but then she had become more emotional these days.

"Yeah…"

"How do you feel?"

She smiled at him and squeezed his hand.

"Great…what about you?"

"Better now," Austin said, "You have plans tonight?"

She shrugged.

"Just some briefs to review," she said, "then I thought I would curl up on the couch with some popcorn and watch a movie."

"That sounds promising…"

She chuckled.

"It is if it's with the right company."

He brought her hand up to his lips.

"I'll be there…right after the stakeout at the marina."

She nodded and then the nurse called them over to see the doctor.

Austin sat in the car with Max, as they both watched the action taking place in front of them at the crowded marina. Max looked through his binoculars at two men who were sitting at a table next to a yacht.

"I think I can get in closer…"

Max looked over at Austin.

"The vehicle over there might provide some cover."

Austin nodded.

"How long have we been sitting here?"

Max looked at his watch.

"About six hours…"

"I'll give it another 45 minutes and I'm out of here if nothing changes," Austin said.

Max smiled.

"I've got a dinner date with my wife," he said, "I think we can wrap this up."

They both looked at the two men in front of them.

"They don't look too eager right now," Max noted, "Hard to believe they've been moving the stolen merchandise."

"Looks can be deceiving," Austin said, looking through the binoculars.

"Indeed," Max said, "How did the doctor's appointment go?"

Austin looked over at his uncle.

"Doctor took the ultrasound and everything looks just fine."

Actually it had been one of the most amazing experiences in his life to wait with Shayna while the doctor explained to both of them about the test. To actually see the movement on the monitor, as the doctor outlined the features of their developing baby, right down to its beating heart. He had reached out to touch the screen with his fingers, unable to help himself.

Shayna had just watched the screen and him, in wonder. Not able to speak. The doctor had turned to them and smiled.

"Everything's progressing as it should," she said, "and the fetus has a strong and healthy heartbeat."

Austin and Shayna looked at each other and both breathed a little easier. The doctor smiled and patted Shayna 's shoulder, clearly used to it.

Max suddenly sat up in his seat.

"It looks like they're getting ready to move…"

Austin nodded and made sure he had his gun ready before leaving the car.

Shayna sat on her couch at her home, the one that she still lived in as she and Austin split the time they spent together at each other's houses. She had Hans' case discovery spread out in front of her and she had been sifting through the police reports to see if she had missed anything critical. But everything seemed to be exactly as it had always looked.

She sighed flipping through the papers again and then picking up her glass of juice, sipping it. Dinner had been some salad and chicken after Austin had phoned her and said he might be running a little late. She hadn't minded because she knew his work was important to him and he had always made efforts to make sure they had enough time to spend together.

Besides she had been falling back into her busy work habits since they had returned from Catalina Island. Her caseload had climbed between handling cases for Austin's firm and also handling some stray legal business Dennis dropped in her lap when she wasn't looking and additional cases as well. But she really had to think about cutting back, because she had been thinking about reducing her workload in her last couple of months of pregnancy and then taking off some time after her child was born to spend with him or her in the earliest months of life.

Then that led to her thinking about how much work she had to do to prepare for the baby's arrival. She and Austin had been looking at several properties outside the city with some acreage and nice family style houses. But they hadn't decided on a particular one and when they did…escrow and then remodeling and creating a nursery for their baby.

She knew she had to think about finishing up her work so that when Austin did arrive, they could put their busy day aside and focus on each other. To relax and unwind after another hectic day, watch a movie and eat some popcorn. To forget about the world and everyone one else in it for just a little while, nothing could be more perfect.

And that's when the phone rang.

The ambulance had rushed to the hospital as fast as the city streets would allow and paramedics worked on him while he fought to remain conscious.

" Shayna …"

The man looked at him, patting his shoulder.

"We're almost there," he said, "Think you can remain awake for us Mr. Austin?"

Austin tried to get up but the paramedic stopped him.

"Relax, you're going to have to remain still so we can work on you," the man said, "Then it will be up to the doctors to decide what to do next but you've been shot and you're losing blood."

The pain that had shaken his body, the burning sensation in his chest where the bullet had pierced flesh and apparently a bodily organ or two as well from the way it felt. It had begun to recede when they had put him on the stretcher and into the ambulance.

Austin sank back on the stretcher while they hooked him up to those familiar looking monitors that would provide information on his physical condition but his mind wandered to friendlier places. It hadn't taken him that long before he had reached the two men before they had gotten into an argument and one had tried to shoot the other before Austin had placed himself in their path. That had been his first instinct even though they had been strangers to him.

He hadn't been the intended target of the bullet clearly but the heated missile hadn't cared about that and had struck the first object in its trajectory obeying the laws of physics. He had fallen suddenly, as his body registered the hit and the two men looking at him had split in opposite directions, fleeing before the anticipated arrival of the police.

Even the man whose life he had saved.

Max had rushed up to help him and had reached for his cell phone to call 911 as a small throng of onlookers congregated.

"Call Shayna but don't say anything that will worry her…"

Max just smiled although his eyes remained serious and remained with his nephew until the medics arrived.

Now, doctors and nurses greeted the arrival of their patient in the ER. Austin looked up at all the activity and saw that a familiar looking face had just shaken his head at him.

" Austin, long time no see…"

Austin smiled grimly as the pain began to hit him again as they moved him down the hallway into the pre-op room to prepare him for the necessary surgery to remove yet another bullet from his body.

Max had called Shayna after the medics had arrived and she had just put everything aside, gotten a coat and had driven to the hospital, being totally familiar with this drill. She couldn't really judge him harshly because he had done the same for her and she was too worried anyway. Max had said he had been shot on the surveillance operation and that it was serious.

She hadn't needed his words to tell her that because his voice did.

She parked the car in the lot and rushed to the ER, to where she saw Max sitting there drinking some coffee. Kylie had come to the hospital as well and looked up when Shayna arrived.

"Come and sit down," Kylie said, "We've both been here a short while and the doctor said it might take a while until they're finished fixing him up."

So Shayna sat and looked Max in the eye.

"How bad is it?"

Max sighed.

"He was hit point blank in the chest," he said, "It missed the heart…barely but nicked the liver and the spleen."

Shayna closed her eyes, breathing deeply.

"Then he'll be taking it easy for a while."

Max nodded.

"He's not going to die from this," he said, "but not by much."

Shayna knew what he meant, another millimeter in several different directions and…she didn't want to think about that. She just wanted to see him.

"He told me to tell you not to worry…"

Shayna sighed.

"Then why does he do this," she said, "Why did he get himself shot?"

"He saved a man's life today," Max said, "but the man he took the bullet for didn't stick around to thank him."

Shayna nodded, knowing that was just like him. He would risk his life even for strangers and she loved him for that but right now, it just scared her. Because if he had died…then his baby, the one they created together, would never know his or her father, except through photographs which had been pretty much the way that Shayna had known her own father. Sometimes she had her own memories to draw on but they were fragmented, mostly bits and pieces, words that he had said, the scent of his cologne and the smile on his face the last time she had seen him.

"I'll be back later to tuck you into bed…"

One last smile before he left home for the last time.

She wanted much better for her own child, for him or her or even them to grow up knowing their own father, to create their own memories of his love for them. But she couldn't think about that, she had to focus on the here and now.

And that was that her child's father would survive another bullet wound. All that remained was waiting for the surgeon to brief them and then the days that Austin would require to heal up from his injury. And oh, if he thought he would trim off his recovery time and return back to work, he would be mistaken. She would make sure he knew that right off the bat…after she reminded him that she loved him when he woke up.

Max asked her if she needed anything and she shook her head. Because what she needed, he couldn't give her.

"Leo's coming by to bring some food if you haven't eaten…"

Shayna looked at Kylie.

"I'm fine," she said, "I had dinner earlier."

She didn't want to add that even the thought of eating made her nauseous, not because of her pregnancy but because her heart was being squeezed in her throat. Then she heard some voices followed by footstep, and look up to see both Whitney and Krystal just standing there, expressions of dismay on their faces.

And she just closed her eyes. Oh please could they just go away…then she remembered that they both cared for Austin despite their broken relationships with him. Max looked over at Shayna and she shrugged slightly then she forced a smile on her face.

"It's nice to see you," she said, "Why don't you come sit with us?"

Whitney and Krystal looked at each other and then they sat down in nearby chairs.

"How is he," Whitney asked, "The nurse wouldn't tell us anything because we're not family but I was almost…"

Mercifully her tact caught up in time to stop her from finishing her statement.

"He's in surgery and will be for some time," Max said, "But he's expected to survive."

Whitney clasped her hands.

"Thank God…"

Krystal just looked at her.

"I never had any doubt," she said, "I mean Austin can survive anything thrown at him."

Shayna thought that might be true but there might come a day that not even he could survive.

"Oh this is why I just couldn't go through with the wedding," Whitney said, "I loved him…but really who could sit home at night and worry that he's never coming through the front door again."

Shayna fought to remain silent.

"With us, we were just too different," Krystal said, "I mean we both traveled so much and hardly saw each other…and we just had different tastes."

Then they both looked at Shayna.

"So when are you two hitching up," Krystal said, "I mean are you going to wait until you're too big to fit in a wedding dress?"

Shayna just stared at her. Of all the places to say something like that, but she wouldn't take the bait. She knew that Krystal had never liked her anyway.

"Actually that's none of your business," she said, "and I'm focusing on what's going on right now."

Krystal nodded, folding her arms.

"Probably a good choice," she said, "He'll marry you when he wants to, because you could never force himinto anything."

Shayna raised a brow, not being able to help yourself.

"No you can't," she agreed, "but if you could, maybe you two would still be together…"

Krystal's mouth dropped open and Shayna looked at Max.

"I'm going to go take a walk," she said, "Get some fresh air."

Kylie eyed the two other women steely.

"I'll go too," she said, "It's getting awfully stuffy in here."

The two of them left, with Kylie putting her arm around Shayna 's shoulder.

"I just want to…"

Kylie smiled.

"So did I," she said, "But I think the hospital staff would frown on women brawling in their waiting room."

The two of them chuckled as they headed out of the waiting room.

Later, Shayna watched over Austin while he lay on the hospital bed hooked up to monitors but resting comfortably and breathing on his own. She stroked his face and watched the lines disappear beneath her touch. After the surgeon had given them the news about the success of the operation, Shayna had asked to see him and the surgeon knew her well enough to not say no. So he said for a minute and led her to his room.

She had talked to him softly for a little while about everything and really not much at all, because she knew that somehow he heard her words.

And that's how they spent the night together.

 


Submitted: April 08, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Marzy Dotes. All rights reserved.

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