Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 40

DECLAN

Izzy: We’re having another niece or nephew, guys!

Dimitri: What? Lilah, you knocked up again?

Cade: She’s not. My wife has no self-control and is hacking medical records.

Dom: That’s illegal, Izzy.

Izzy: My life’s illegal at this point. And you’re all a part of it. So, get over it.

Lilah: Focus. Who is having a baby?

Izzy: Declan and Evie!

Me: Do you have no self-control, Izzy?

Izzy: Literally none. You’ll see how it is once her hormones kick in.

Me: She’s sick. So leave me the fuck alone.

DOM CALLED. Then Dimitri. Then Izzy, who I picked up to yell at.

“The whole family’s calling me. You’d better handle it,” I growled.

“I will. I will. Jeez. Can’t you be nice? I’m carrying the next gen here,” she pouted before changing subjects. “I can’t hold Mom and Dad off much longer though. They don’t even care I’m having twins. They think you’re avoiding them.”

“I am.” I shrugged as I stared at my sleeping wife.

“What for? They have to meet her sooner or later.”

“I needed to know this was real first, Izzy.” I sighed and played with the string of black around my ring finger. It was worn down now from how much I rubbed my fingers over it. She’d have to make me a new one sooner or later.

“And is it real?” my sister sneered, like she knew the answer.

“So real that I’m making sure her fucking abusive ex has no leg to stand on when I expose him for all he’s done to women over the years.”

She cackled and told me I was the best brother from this very reason. “Here, talk to my husband so you can figure that out. I’m going to go read.”

Cade rustled onto the phone and said, “I don’t want to talk.”

“Great. Me neither. I just want to make sure that prick’s family’s money won’t buy him out of any press we release about him in the next few weeks.”

“Andy Baldeck’s family has no money left. You essentially bankrupted every company they had that you invested in, which was idiotic if you ask me.”

“What would you have done?” I rolled my eyes.

“I would have killed him.” Cade didn’t hesitate.

“Right. Well, I’m not an Armanelli.”

“No. You’re a Hardy, but I have a feeling you’ll be a lot like an Armanelli soon enough.” He chuckled. “Anyway, congrats on the kid.”

“Am I going to be godfather to the twins?”

“If I’m godfather to yours.” Fucker had to always have something in return.

“Fine,” I ground out.

“How’s that will treating you? Carl finished fucking you over?”

I nodded. Mrs. Johnson had given me the news that very morning that StoneArm wouldn’t be getting any shares of the company now that Everly was pregnant. “I guess so. Not that it matters at this point.”

“Did it ever matter? You still would have gotten the shares.” He was confident in that statement. He definitely knew something I didn’t. “I own half of StoneArm. The Stonewoods own the other half. I would have just given them to you had you asked.”

“You motherfucker—”

“You’re welcome for the baby and wife, dumbass.” With that, the connection clicked off in my ear. There was no point in calling him back. I wasn’t really mad because I’d gotten her from it.

She rolled over and cracked an eye open. “Who are you talking to?”

“Outrageous family members,” I grumbled and pulled her close to me.

She pushed away and got out of bed quickly, running to the bathroom to vomit. I jumped out from under the comforter and stumbled in behind her as fast as I could. “This flu is insane. I’m calling the doctors again,” I murmured as I came over to her to pull her hair back and let her heave.

“No. No. It’s just morning sickness.” She took a shaky breath. “I think.”

“I’m calling them.”

She sighed and sat down by the toilet while I dialed more numbers and rubbed her back. The doctor returned and took vitals again. She was twelve weeks along and morning sickness had started with a vengeance. Her fever had broken, but it hadn’t provided me any reassurance. I wanted her in bed, wrapped in a cloud of blankets, sipping shakes full of nutrients and watching her favorite shows. I made sure that’s what happened for the next three days.

On the fourth day, she glared at me. “I’m going to work, Declan, and so are you.”

“Not an option. You’re sick,” I countered.

“We’ve both been MIA for almost a week.”

“Half a week.”

“So what? That’s still a long time. My body needs to move. I’m not even sick anymore.”

“You threw up this morning,” I shot back.

“I throw up every day. That’s part of being pregnant.” She darted past me, and I would give that to her. She definitely was more agile than she’d been a few days ago. “Where’s the suitcase of my stuff?”

I’d been laying her clothes out every day and had already put her toothbrush in our bathroom. I pointed her to the closet where I’d organized some of her clothes while she’d been sleeping. “I put them away.”

“When?”

“When you were sleeping.”

“You’re moving me in here when we haven’t even discussed if I should be staying here. I should be at the guesthouse or—”

“The guesthouse is gone.”

“Because you’re foolish.”

“Because I can’t worry about you down there every fucking day. I take care of what’s mine, Everly. You’re mine. The baby is mine. And what’s mine stays in my bed next to me where I know they’re safe.”

“That’s ridiculous. We haven’t even properly dated.”

“Fine.” I grabbed her hand and stomped into the kitchen. “First date. Breakfast. What would you like me to make you?”

Her face paled. “I’m not very hungry.”

I scooped her up and carried her back to bed. “See. You’re sick.”

“I just need to munch on a few crackers, and then it gets better. And for some reason, all I want is french fries and ice cream. There used to be this little diner in my hometown …”

I smiled at the randomness of that. “Okay. How about this? You sleep, I get you fries and ice cream. We talk about the gym tomorrow.”

She narrowed her blue eyes at me like she wasn’t sure she should agree. “One more day, Declan.”

I was going to make it a day to last. Within minutes, she was back asleep, and I’d found a diner similar to the one I found on the web in her hometown. I had food delivered immediately and smiled as she woke to the smell of french fries around her.

“Declan, you’ve lost it,” she said, but she was smiling and reaching for the damn food. I had to get the mother of my child to eat, and I’d do it any way I could.

I got one more day out of her before she insisted she was ready to go back to work, that the kids missed her, and she missed them. I couldn’t argue with that.

She flew into work with her damn yoga pants that were too tight and a sports bra like it was any other day. She nodded and hugged Dom when he approached her, probably to say congrats, but other than that, the day was the same.

She didn’t want anyone to know. It was early in the pregnancy, and I understood her need to wait. I tried to not hover. I had meetings to attend and phone calls to make anyway.

For three days we went back to work.

For three days, everyone got along like nothing was different.

Until Anastasia came to my office crying and then tried to beeline into Everly’s yoga class. My wife walked out before she could get into the room and folded her arms in front of her. “Yes, Anastasia?”

“You stole him from me.” She poked Evie in the shoulder.

“I’m sorry?”

“You stole him, and now you’re trying to steal everything.”

What Anastasia must have hated about Everly was Everly wouldn’t give in and get on her level. Everly had dealt with something so much worse, a whole town against her calling her a liar, and hadn’t broken. Anastasia wasn’t going to break her either.

“I think I recall telling you I’d object if you tried to marry my husband. I wasn’t lying. Even so, if we do have a wedding or a renewal of our vows, I’ll invite you. I do want both of you as sisters in my life.”

“You’re not my sister,” Anastasia spat. “I’m … you … If Carl were here, he’d—”

“He’d have made sure your membership was revoked for the way you’re talking, Anastasia.” I walked around the corner from where I’d been listening. “You’re talking to an owner of this empire now. Did Carl ever give you or Melinda the right to do that or give you any type of ownership like that?”

“Owner? She’s in a marriage of convenience. She won’t get shares—”

“I dissolved the prenup this week. Half of everything I own is Everly’s.”

“You what?” Everly gasped.

Anastasia did the same, but it was full of menace.

“Everly owns just as much as me now. Do you think it’s wise to talk to a HEAT owner the way you are?”

She stuttered out her next sentence. “No … I … You can’t be serious.”

“I am. And sooner or later, Everly Belafonte will be Everly Hardy if she’ll have my last name. And I expect every Hardy to get the same respect I do. Now, I’ll leave you with my wife to see if she revokes your membership. At this point, I definitely would.”

I knew she wouldn’t. Everly’s heart was too big, but I still gave her the option.

She bickered with me the whole way home about it that night. But I quieted her by making love to her all night and we went to work again the next day.

Our life was falling into place. My heart had settled into the damn happily ever I wanted too. I was seeing that this was what Carl always wanted and I had to thank the man for meddling even if he’d put me through hell to do it.

I was smiling to myself about it when Leo rushed in.

“Evie just left work.”

“What?” He couldn’t be right. “Explain yourself.”

“She was down at the front desk with some guy she told she’d give a session to even though he didn’t have an appointment. Dude’s not from around here, doesn’t have a membership or anything. Evie said it was fine. But then he asked to talk to her some place private. She just went. Looked at me and murmured on the way out that I should cover for her for kids’ yoga.”

Everly would have never missed yoga with the kids. “My wife, my Evie, said that?”

And my blood ran cold because I’d let her ex fall off my radar after I’d ruined his family’s company, hadn’t been checking up on where he was located because I was enjoying my wife too much. I jolted up from the conference room table and ran out on the meeting I was in.

Something was very wrong.

And I knew exactly what.


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