“I’m scared too,” Chance admitted after a moment. God, if he let himself think, he’d outright panic. They were fixing to become parents, and while he’d had time to prepare for it, well, nothing could really prepare you for it, he was discovering.
“She’s been in labor forever,” Rory whined. “Oh my God, how can she stand it? We watched that TV show about giving birth…”Rory shuddered in time with Chance.
“That was maybe a mistake,” Chance muttered. He looked out the window. Portland, Oregon, was sure different from south Texas. They’d made the trip up here several times over the past year and a half, but this time…Well, they wouldn’t be going home alone.
“No, no it wasn’t,” Rory said, looking him in the eyes. “I think we needed to know what she’s going through. I think we need to, to…to appreciate all she’s doing for us.”
“Maybe, but it ain’t like we aren’t doing for her.” Chance bit back any more grumbling. Surrogacy was expensive, and it was a damned good thing the ranch was doing well finally, else they’d not be where they were. “I don’t mean that bad, stop glaring at me like that. I just mean she ain’t getting screwed over.” Shit, he needed to shut up. He was just so fucking nervous.
Rory gave him a little nod. “We’re both tense. This is a big—it’s a huge thing. We’re going to have us a baby.”
Chance nodded back. “Yeah, we are.” They didn’t know if they were having a boy or girl. He’d kind of wanted to know, but Rory wanted to wait. Well, they’d waited, through every damned one’s nagging them to find out. That right there had made Chance dig in his heels and jut his jaw. Nagging just made him want to do the opposite, so he’d ended up being happy to wait and find out the baby’s gender. He hoped the kid liked the rainbow nursery.
Chance couldn’t hold back a smile at that. He’d have never thought there’d be a room done up in the colors of the rainbow in their house. And the wall art? Hell, he’d not known Josh was so handy or talented. Even Annabelle had had a domestic moment or three and made the baby a blanket. It was kinda crooked, but Rory loved that thing. Chance might have liked it, too, not that he’d fawn over it or anything.
And not that he’d tell anyone, but damn, damn, he was nervous, and excited. He’d been telling himself this whole deal was something he wanted for Rory, but there wasn’t any more lying to himself. Chance wanted a child, too. He just hadn’t realized—not with putting Rory first and worrying over the man. He had thought he was all happy and working towards this for Rory.
But Chance wanted for himself, too, and maybe that shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did, like a kick in the head from a horse he’d trusted.
Chance and Rory separated, a little at least, but Chance kept an arm around Rory’s shoulders, kept the man right up close to him as they turned to face a nurse who was smiling fit to blind the Cheshire cat.
“Sirs, if you’d both please follow me, I’ll take you to your son.”
“Son.” Chance barely got the word out. Rory sniffled, and damn it all, Chance’s eyes filled and tears escaped. “We have a son.”
“We do,” Rory rasped, then he sobbed and they were moving, walking, trying to hug and it was a mess but somehow they made it into a room.
“Mama is doing fine. She’s waved her right to see him. Sharon’s a great surrogate. We’ve delivered her other three pregnancies for other couples. Now, the baby. He’s perfectly healthy, so far as we can tell,” the nurse was saying. “There’s the standard blood tests, those results will be back in a day or two, but I expect him to be fine. He’s 21 inches long, 8 pounds, 2 ounces. A big boy.”
There was a soft, snuffling sound, then she was holding out a bundle to them. Chance had to wipe at his eyes and cheeks, and he nudged Rory. “You first.”
He ached to hold that baby from the second he saw the serene face, the round cheeks and full lips smacking together. There was a thin bit of white blond hair peeking out of a blue and pink striped cap on the baby’s head. “He’s so tiny.”
Rory nodded, cradling the child close, bending to start cooing softly at him. Chance didn’t expect the feelings that were welling up inside of him. How was it possible to love someone instantly, love them so strongly you’d kill to protect them, give everything to make them happy?
Oh, God. He was sunk. He reached out a shaking finger, needing to touch that round cheek, but stopped and glanced at Rory. “Can I?”
Rory made an odd sound, like he couldn’t quite speak, but he also bobbed his head. Chance stroked the softest skin he’d ever touched. “Oh.” He sucked in a sharp breath as those eyes opened.
Dark as midnight, just like Rory’s. “Rory, honey…he’s got your eyes.” Chance was going to cry like a fool all over the place.
“He’s going to need feeding,” the nurse said just as the baby opened his mouth out to let out a warble. “Good lungs on him.”
Chance cocked a brow. “Uh. That’s good, right?”
“You sure won’t have a problem hearing him,” the nurse said, chuckling as she got a bottle from under the hospital crib. “Here you go, Daddy.” She handed it to Chance.
Chance took it and was going to hand it to Rory, but he found himself instead trying not to freak out as he was handed their son. “Are you sure? I thought you’d want to be the first one—“
“He’s our son,” Rory said, settling the child down in Chance’s arms. The nurse waited until Chance had the bottle in place and the babe was feeding. She gave them a few pointers, and left them alone, promising to return soon.
Chance couldn’t look away from those blue, blue eyes as they began to drift shut. “I didn’t know…”
Rory rubbed his back and cupped their son’s cheek. “I know you didn’t. I know you thought this was all for me, but Chance, I also know you. You have this huge heart, and so much love, but you’re afraid to let on about it. You’re forgetting, I’m in here,” he touched Chance’s chest. “I’m a part of you, so while you were worrying over me, I was waiting for this, knowing you’d be the best Daddy ever.”
Chance tried to shake his head, but he didn’t want to do anything to disturb their son. “You will be, Rory. I’m not sweet and patient like you are.”
Rory snorted softly. “Right. Who was the one who studied every parenting book he could get his hands on? Who took all those detailed notes in the parenting classes? And who beat me in the diaper changing contests, huh?”
“Just means I’m more competitive,” Chance mumbled, his cheeks warming up. “I just wanted to make sure I knew how to be a parent. Mine weren’t bad ones, but it’s been ages, ya know. And this is too important to mess up. He’s too important, and so are you.”
“Parents mess up,” Rory said. “The thing is to love your kids and do your best.”
“I can do that.” He glanced at Rory. “He’s already got me, you know.”
Rory smiled that beatific smile that had melted Chance’s defenses years ago. “I know he does, love. I know. We’re going to have to have more, because I think between us? We’ve got lots of love to give.”
Right then, Chance couldn’t imagine having more, loving another kid like he already loved this one, but he wasn’t going to argue. Rory was a smart man, and he was right—he knew Chance better than Chance knew himself.
“So, names,” Rory said after another minute. “You’re still good with what we agreed on?”
“Oh yeah. Yeah, I am.” Chance lifted the bottle from the now-sleeping babe’s lips. “Wanna burp him?”
Rory grinned. “You just don’t want to risk spit-up, but yeah. Yeah, I want to hold him.”
“It’s not the spit-up,” Chance began, then he saw that Rory was teasing him and he grinned right back. “There’s towels under that crib-thing.”
Rory got one and slapped it over his shoulder. “Gimme.”
They got their son settled on Rory’s shoulder and in short order a louder than expected burp spilled from that tiny body.
“Takes after you,” Rory said. “Sheesh.”
Chance huffed but he wasn’t offended at all. “We should call Annabelle before she comes up here and skins us. Let her know little Ethan Anthony Calhoun-Galloway is here. Better take pictures too, or she’s gonna cuss me a blue streak.”
Rory sniffed. “She’s not supposed to cuss. Her rules, and she said for anyone catching her doing it to make her pay them ten bucks. She better not cuss.”
Chance grimaced at that. “You know, the whole ranch is going to have to have a cuss jar.”
“Call it a college fund jar,” Rory suggested. He turned those big eyes on Chance. “Thank you. I love you, so much, Chance. Never thought I’d have someone, much less someone as wonderful as you, and a family.”
Oh, Rory’s eyes filled again and Chance’s burned and he couldn’t stand to just stand there. He had to hold his family. Chance pulled them into his arms, gently, reverently. “I love you, too. Both of you.” And he was going to treasure them, and the other children they were going to have. It was time to live in the present, maybe plan for the future some, but he was done worrying about dying.
It was more important to live, and love, and enjoy every moment he had with his family and friends.
Rory's nerves were plumb shot by the time they pulled up at the ranch. Ethan had not liked being on the airplane at all and Rory suddenly found himself one of those parents that everybody else glared at. Well, him and Chance. Chance glared right back, which had made most people go back to their own business. Rory had been afraid someone would complain and get them arrested or something. There was no telling with today’s flight laws and TSA.
Fortunately, Chance had gotten Ethan to stop crying eventually. Rory was fairly certain Chance had charmed everyone who heard him singing in that low, sweet voice. Ethan stopped mid-bellow and watched Chance as he sung about buying Ethan every darned thing in the world, it sounded like.
Then Ethan had spat up all over Chance, and Rory, and…yeah, it’d been the flight from hell. Rory was worn out, even with Chance helping out for the night feedings. He wouldn’t trade it for the world, but he wondered how people did it. He could sleep a week …
“Come on, we’re almost home,” Chance whispered, tucking Ethan up to his chest. The baby was sound asleep, looking like an angel, and Rory’s exhaustion kind of melted away a little as that warm, effervescent feeling of joy bubbled up.
“Want me to hold him?” Rory offered. Chance shook his head.
“Nah, won’t either of us be holding him in a few minutes.” Chance stopped walking. “Well, on second thought, if you want to hold Ethan, now’s your chance. I don’t think either of us will get to again for hours unless he has a dirty diaper.”
Rory sighed. He wanted to get home and cuddle up with Chance and Ethan, but… “I’d like to carry him for a few.” He took Ethan from Chance and nuzzled one plump cheek. “He looks so sweet. He is sweet, I mean, but yeah, what a set of lungs.”
Chance snickered. “He’s amazing, honey. Sweet and bossy, and I love him. Love you, too.”
Rory wished they could kiss right there in the San Antonio airport, but he wasn’t stupid. He had to settle for a wink and a silent promise to himself that he’d be all over Chance the first opportunity he got…after they slept. And showered.
“I know Annabelle is gonna be here, with—“ Chance began, then he grunted as they headed down the stairs to baggage. “Yup. There’s Justin, Evan, Annabelle, the twins, Max, Bo…Holy shi—shoot, who’s working the ranch? There’s got to be every person we know down there!”
Rory goggled at the group of people. There was Josh and Nick, Les and Adam, Xav and Chase and… “My God, half the town is here!”
And they were holding up signs and banners congratulating them…
“Hand me that beautiful baby boy,” Annabelle said before they were even halfway down the steps. A security guard looked at her but Annabelle was an unstoppable force. She was up the steps and taking Ethan from Rory in a split-second.
“Oh my,” Annabelle said quietly, her voice breaking even then. “Oh. Oh, I just…” She looked at Rory, then at Chance. “Thank you. He’s precious. He’s the most beautiful nephew ever. He’s—“
“He’s got other people wanting to see him,” someone hollered. Rory thought it was Charlene, the only person possibly in the entire world that Annabelle wouldn’t snap at. Charlene would snap right back, and harder.
“Hold your horses,” Annabelle muttered. She pinned Rory with a stare. “You two will need a break. Sleep. Time to have sex. I have dibs on babysitting Ethan. Me. Not Charlene.”
Rory was too wigged out by his sister mentioning them having sex to even speak. Annabelle turned and slowly went down the steps in front of them. Soon they were surrounded by family and friends, and thought Rory was tired, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The people who had taken the time to come to the airport and greet them, to meet their new son, these were the people who would be there for Ethan and them. They would love Ethan too, and help him learn what it meant to be a good person, learn to trust and love. They were the finest of folks, and blessings in Rory’s life, each and every one of them.
He took Chance’s hand. They were with their loved ones, surrounded, safe. Chance’s eyes reflected back the love Rory could feel radiating out from him. Rory leaned his head on Chance’s shoulder.
This was their family, their home. They had each other, and Ethan. If it was meant to be, they’d add to their family in time. He’d never had such peace. There were plenty of things to worry about—that was life.
But there were even more things to appreciate and enjoy.