I replaced the blue cap and laid the stick flat, result window facing up, just like the directions said. Taking a deep breath, I set my phone timer for three minutes.
That’s how long it would take for our lives to change forever.
Not that Hutton knew it yet—he was still at the university. He held office hours until five on Friday evenings, and there were always students who came in needing extra help or just wanting to chat. He was a popular professor (which surprised no one but him), and having the time of his life talking about math every day. He still experienced the occasional panic attack at the start of a new semester, but for the most part, he was managing his anxiety much better than he used to. Natalia was still his therapist, and as much as he hated to admit that his sister had been right about the acceptance and commitment approach, there was no denying it had helped him immeasurably.
I checked the timer, outraged to find it had only been thirty seconds. My gut reaction was to hunt around for some scissors and start giving myself a trim to pass the time, but instead, I took a breath and closed the drawer. Moms needed patience, right? Moms needed to remain calm under pressure. Moms probably should not chop hair when they got anxious.
I left the bathroom and wandered out into our bedroom, taking my phone with me.
My eyes drifted over the room, a beautiful, soothing space with lots of natural light, a king-sized bed covered in a fluffy white comforter, and cool bamboo floors under my bare feet. On the dresser was a family photo taken at the last Cloverleigh Farms holiday party. Grandparents, parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews.
I put a hand over my belly. Maybe next time an extended family photo was taken, there would be another one in the mix. A cute little thing with Hutton’s blue eyes and the MacAllister chin dimple.
I truly hoped so.
One minute down.
Taking a breath, I turned around and looked at our bed—it had been hastily made this morning after a playful romp that had resulted in the comforter hanging off one side, the sheets twisted, and Hutton’s pillow on the floor. Even though we’d been married for two years, we still couldn’t get enough of each other. It still felt like we were making up for lost time.
We’d decided to stop using birth control about three months ago, which had somehow made sex even more fun—there was this added layer of excitement, this huge chance we were taking, this bet we were placing on our future. We were nervous, but a family was something we both wanted.
Another anxious glance at my phone screen. “How can I still have a minute and a half left?” I shrieked. “Is this some sort of time warp?”
Sitting down on the foot of the bed, I flopped onto my back and closed my eyes. Inhaled and exhaled, fighting the jittery urge to run into the bathroom and check the result.
It would be okay—no matter what the result was, it would be okay.
The last couple years had been wonderful, just Hutton and me. We’d built a beautiful home with a dream kitchen. We had a huge garden and lots of land. I still ran The Veggie Vixen—with three employees now!—and I had plans for a little storefront and café downtown. So far, I hadn’t gotten that book deal, but I wasn’t giving up hope. I’d learned that everything meant to be would be—sometimes it took a while, but you had to keep the faith.
I checked the timer. Two minutes down.
My heart began to race as I sat up and meandered toward the bathroom again. I walked slowly, as if I wanted to prove to the universe that it couldn’t get to me. When I reached the sink, I didn’t look at the blue-capped stick. Instead, I focused on my reflection in the mirror. Was I one hundred percent qualified to be a mom? To be wholly responsible for another human being? I wasn’t entirely sure, to be honest. But I was ready to try.
And Hutton would be an awesome dad. Despite the way he’d insisted once upon a time that he wasn’t cut out to be a father, he was a caring uncle, a patient teacher, and the most generous, loving husband anyone could ask for. He spoiled me silly—I was the luckiest girl alive, and I’d never felt happier in my own skin. Felicity French was the best version of me I’d ever been.
The timer went off, and I hit stop. Then I looked at the stick.
I closed my eyes. Opened them again.
Plus sign remained.
I gasped. “Oh my God!”
Blinking a few times, I stared hard at the test, as if the result might change in front of my eyes. When I was certain my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, the little blue plus sign grew blurry. I put my hands on my stomach and smiled, quickly wiping away tears. Then I hurried from the bathroom.
Hutton would be home any minute, and I had a plan.
* * *
At quarter to six, I pulled into the driveway, marveling—as I always did—that I got to come home to this every day.
This beautiful property. This incredible home. My sexy, adorable wife.
I didn’t take one single part of this dream life for granted.
The kitchen smelled amazing when I walked in, like fresh herbs and lemon. I didn’t see Felicity anywhere, but there was sheet of paper on the island folded in thirds. My name was written on it.
Curious, I set down my keys and wallet and unfolded the note.
I smiled. We enjoyed leaving little notes for each other in code. But this message wasn’t one of the usual phrases we exchanged, like I love you or Have a great day or (my personal favorite) Practice tonight? I didn’t immediately recognize the letters, so it took me a moment to puzzle it out. When I did, the smile slid off my face, my jaw dropping open. If my brain wasn’t playing tricks on me, the note said, Welcome Home Daddy.
Since Felicity was not in the habit of referring to me that way, this could only mean one thing.
“Well?” Her voice came from the left, soft and sweet. “What do you think?”
I looked over and saw her standing there, more beautiful than ever. I moved toward her, my throat tight. “Does this mean what I think it means?”
She nodded, her lips curving into a smile. “I’m pregnant.”
“Oh my God.” My voice cracked and I threw my arms around her, lifting her right off her feet. “You are? For sure?”
She laughed as I held her tightly, suspended in the air, our hearts beating wildly against one another’s chest. “I think so. I took three tests, and they were all positive.”
“This is incredible.” I set her down and took her face in my hands. “How do you feel?”
“Good. A little scared, but good.”
“Don’t be scared.” The strength in my tone surprised even me. For someone who could always imagine any number of catastrophic outcomes in a given situation, I felt strangely calm and confident. “Everything is going to be fine.”
“So you think we’re ready for this?” Behind her glasses, her eyes were worried. “I know we’ve talked about it, and we were trying to make it happen, but that blue plus sign was like—whoa. It’s real.”
“I love plus signs.” I kissed her lips, firmly and deeply, my heart swelling with adoration and gratitude. “I love that it’s real. And I love you.”
“I love you too. I just sometimes still feel like a kid myself.”
“I know. But we’re ready for this. You’re going to be an amazing mom, and I can’t wait to be a dad.” I dropped to my knees. “Do you hear that in there?”
Felicity laughed as I lifted her T-shirt, exposing her belly. “I’m not sure she has ears yet.”
I tipped my head up. “You think it’s a girl?”
She blinked. “I don’t know what made me say she—maybe I do think it’s a girl.” Then she laughed. “I bet your mom will have some sort of weird method for predicting the gender, like dangling my wedding ring over my belly and watching which way it swings.”
I groaned. “Probably. Do we have to tell her right away?”
She tousled my hair. “You don’t want to tell our families?”
“I do, I just want to hold this close for a moment, just the two of us.” Bracketing her hips with my hands, I pressed my lips to her warm stomach. “Is that okay?”
“Of course it is.”
“I love you,” I whispered, struggling to get the words out.
“Are you talking to me or the peanut?” she teased.
“Both of you.” I rose to my feet and took her in my arms once more, kissing the top of her head before tucking it beneath my chin. “My life is so much better than I ever thought it would be. You’ve given me everything. I didn’t even know it was possible to feel so much. Thank you.”
She sniffed. “You don’t have to thank me, Hutton. This life is everything I’ve ever wanted.”
“God, I’m so glad you’re mine.” I held her tight. “Having you is even better than having magic powers.”
Tipping her head back, she laughed. “You think so?”
“Definitely.” I kissed her. “You’re beautiful.” I sniffed her neck. “You smell good.” I licked her throat. “And you taste amazing.” Then I rested my forehead on hers. “Plus, you just get me. You always have.”
She smiled. “And I always will.”