“Raquel, open this damn door!” Teri yelled as she knocked on the door. She’d been knocking for five minutes and her best friend still hadn’t opened the door. Now she was pissed because she was taking this too far. Where is her extra key? She wondered. Just as she was about to start looking, the door finally opened. Teri opened her mouth to yell at Raquel but quickly closed it when she saw how pale she looked.
“You’re going to wake up the whole neighborhood, Teri.” She said weakly.
She went to help her friend stand. “Rae, what’s wrong?”
“I’m okay. The nausea has been coming in waves today is all. What brings you by?”
“Never mind me. Let’s get you lying on the couch and under a blanket. Have you eaten?” Teri asked as she laid Raquel on her couch. She found a blanket shortly afterwards and covered her.”
Teri, I can’t stomach anything and almost everything smells.” She laid back and closed her eyes.
“Do you have crackers?” Teri asked as she search through the cupboards.
She popped open one eye. ” Yeah. Far left cupboard near the sink.”
Teri retrieved them then poured her a tall glass of water. “Prenatal vitamins?”
Teri took the bottle and retrieved two. She walked over to Rae. “Here. Take those.” She watched as Rae downed them with water. “Eat the saltine crackers. They will help.”
Rae took them. “Thanks. So explain.” Rae said as she ate a cracker.
Teri sighed. “Don’t be mad, okay? We have been dating for four months.”
“Teri, four months? I can’t believe you kept that from me. I thought we told each other everything.” Raquel knew she sounded whiny but she couldn’t help it.
Teri groaned. “I know. I just…” Her voice trailed off
Rae laid a hand on her shoulder. “Just what?”
“I didn’t know if he was serious about a relationship or just trying to get me into bed. I was being overly cautious and I treated him awful.”
“Teri, my brother would not date you for four months if he wasn’t serious about you. Besides he has always had a thing for you.” She let that little secret slip.
Teri jumped up from where she was sitting. “What!”
Raquel grinned. “He didn’t tell you huh? About a year or so he has had a crush on you. I’m glad you two are an item now. And to think you despise him.” Raquel teased.
Teri gawked then laughed. “Go ahead and tease all you want.”
She winked. “If you insist. But seriously, Trevor cares for you.”
Teri sighed. “Last night he told me he loved me more than I loved him. Do you know what that did to my heart?” She was still reeling from his words and their lovemaking. Her body still hadn’t recovered fully. She doubted if it ever would.
“I know. Same thing your cousin’s words did to mine. It overflowed and made me take a risk on us and our friendship.” She said softly
Teri nodded, understanding completely. “Exactly. I don’t know if I’m ready.”
Raquel pulled her back down to sit beside her. “Teri, stop panicking. He loves you and you love him. Trust in that. He won’t hurt you. I promise. Trevor has always been someone you can count on and he’d protect you with his life. He’s not like any of the other idiots you got involved with. You’ve got yourself a keeper, honey.”
“You’re right. I just need to breathe and relax.” She let out a deep breath and reclined back on the couch.
“Um, Teri. There is one thing I need to tell you. You don’t need to plan my wedding anymore.”
She frowned. “Why not? Did you guys break up?”
Raquel shook her head and her auburn curls swished around her face. “No. We are going to the Bahamas to get married next week. We want you and Trevor to come of course and a few family members and friends. We don’t want to wait for another six months.”
“I have a lot of work to do between now and next week before we go. I can’t believe you are eloping.”
Raquel smiled. “I don’t need a big wedding, Teri. I just want Derrick and our child.”
Teri squeezed her hand. “Whatever you want, I’m game. We can go find our dresses tomorrow and bouquets.”
“Thanks girl for working with me.”
“No prob. By the way, have you told your mom that you’re getting married?”
Rae frowned.”Why? She isn’t going to come. It’s a waste of time.”
“You don’t know that, sweetie.”
Rae reared back in surprise. “Yes the hell I do. She hasn’t come to any other milestones in my life: prom, graduation, awards ceremonies…where was she then? Look let’s just let this go. I’m not calling her. Period.”
Teri sighed, knowing that Rae was not going to budge. “Okay. Has Derrick told his family that he doesn’t want a big wedding?”
“He went over there to tell his mom and dad today. I’m not sure how his mom will react.”
Teri chuckled. She knew exactly how she would react and was glad she wouldn’t be there to see it.
“You want to what?!!! Derrick, please tell me you’re kidding.” Addison said loudly
“Addie, please stop yelling at the boy. It’s his life. He can do what he wants.” Joshua said softly
Derrick was glad that had Joshua stepped in because he’d felt like he was going to have to go toe to toe with his mother over this. She was overreacting as usual.
His mother folded her arms over her chest and huffed. “But I’ve already told everyone.” She whined
“No one told you to do that. That’s what invitations are for.”
“Joshua” She said, her tone held a hint of a warning
Joshua stood to his full height and walked over to his wife. He was trying his damnedest not to smile at her pout. Even mad, she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes on. “Addison, do you want your son to be happy?” He knew she did but he had to talk to her like this or she wouldn’t fully understand the repercussions of her outburst.
She narrowed her eyes. “Of course I do Joshua.”
He trailed his finger down her cheek. “Good. Does it matter what others think when it comes to his happiness?” She titled her chin up in that stubborn gesture he knew so well.
“Of course it doesn’t. I just wanted more for him and Raquel.” She said, her voice softened.
He smiled. “I’m sure he knows that, darling but we have to let go and let him make his choices. Keep in mind that we will be getting a vacation out of this and he’s paying for the flight.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Addison knew what her husband was doing. He’d done it for years. Reverse psychology. She didn’t mind though. She laughed heartily. “Okay, okay. Fine.” She turned her gaze to Derrick. “I’m sorry for yelling, baby. Of course, we will go with you. We wouldn’t miss it.”
Derrick felt the tension seep out of his body. Thank God for Joshua and his quick thinking. “Good. We will be leaving Thursday morning. Please tell your sons so they can go. And maybe we will have a reception when we come back from our honeymoon.”
Addison beamed. “That would be great. I will tell your brothers. Be sure to send over the flight itinerary.”
“I will. Let me get back to Rae. The nausea has been bothering her all day.” He walked to the door and as he stepped out he heard Joshua saying “Nausea? Addie,what’s going on?” He chuckled. Apparently his mother forgot to tell him something. He whistled as he returned to his car. He couldn’t wait to see his soon to be bride.
Raquel watched as Teri’s car pulled off. She’d turned to go inside when another car pulled up…a black mustang. It seemed out-of-place here, she thought. When the car door opened and a shiny black shoe stepped out, she knew instantly who it was. Caleb Montgomery . He’d always reeked of money and he spent far too much of it for her. The tan sports jacket he wore was tailored and fit his six foot six inch frame very well and the slacks he wore screamed “rich”. He smiled and made his way over to her.
“Caleb, what the hell are you doing here?” She snapped.
“Raquel, it’s so good to see you. You look radiant.”
“I can’t say it’s good to see you. What are you doing here?” She asked again.
He grinned. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m here to see you. You didn’t return my call so I decided to drop by.” His hand reached up to cup her cheek but she evaded his touch.
“There is a reason I didn’t return the call. I don’t want to see you. I’ve moved on, Caleb and you should too.”
He chuckled. “Raquel, come on. You know you will always love me and I will always love you.”
“Wrong again, Caleb. I’m getting married. You see this engagement ring here?” She held her hand up to his face so he could get a good look at it.
He clenched his jaw. “You really shouldn’t joke about something like that. It’s not funny.”
She folded her arms over chest. “Well at least we agree on something, I wouldn’t joke about something like that.” She saw his hands curl into fists and then uncurl. Tentatively, she moved back a few steps.
“I thought giving you space and getting a divorce would make you come back to me. I did all that for you. I still love you. Don’t you understand that?”
She did,but it didn’t change anything. He was still a liar and a manipulator. It didn’t matter though, she had the man she wanted. “I get it but it doesn’t change what happened. I think it’s best that you go, Caleb.” Before she knew it, Caleb closed the distance between them and hauled her to his chest. She gasped.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He sneered in her face.
“I suggest you let her go, Caleb or we will have a problem.” Derrick said, his tone cold and brooking no argument. He watched as the man looked his way and the surprise that lit his face. He hadn’t expected him to arrive which was good. The man must have gathered some sense because he let her go and backed away. Good boy, Derrick thought. The last thing he wanted was to pummel this fool but he would for Rae. He’d gotten there just in time to see the man grab her by arms. For a moment, he’d seen red but then quickly composed himself and quickly walked over to diffuse the situation. He reached for Raquel and she quickly scurried over to him.
“Caleb, you should leave. Now.” Derrick ordered
Caleb narrowed his eyes, wondering how he knew him. “Raquel and I need to talk.” He said stiffly
“That won’t be happening. Next time I won’t be so nice when I say this. Now leave.” Caleb still didn’t move and just when he thought he was going to have to forcefully remove him from the property, his brother Rafe pulled up. Rafe, being the methodical man that he was, slowly walked over to the altercation. Derrick wasn’t fooled by his leisurely stroll. His brother served in the army and had a black belt in karate. No doubt he was thinking of the best way to take Caleb down.
“Problem here, bro?” Rafe asked while looking at Caleb.
“I don’t know. Is there a problem, Caleb?” Derrick asked calmly
Caleb swallowed hard. “Um, no. I will just be leaving like you told me to.” He slowly backed away to his car and then jumped in and sped off.
Derrick felt Rae relax against him. He titled her face up to him to meet his eyes. “You okay, baby?”
She nodded, unsure if she could speak at the moment.
He caressed her cheek. “Its okay. I won’t let him hurt you.” He looked over his shoulder at his brother. “Thanks Rafe for showing up when you did.”
Rafe clapped his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “No prob, bro.” He noticed Derrick was barely paying attention to him and had turned his attention back to Rae. He left them quietly and went inside Derrick’s house.
“Rae, are you sure you’re okay?”
She nodded. “A little rattled but it will pass.” She laid her head on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thank you for showing up. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t.”
He pulled her closer to him. He didn’t even want to entertain the thought of losing her. Just the idea forming in his head, gripped his heart. He exhaled a shaky breath. “I’m thankful I made it here in time too. I love you so much. You have no idea how much you mean to me.” His voice rasped.
She lifted her head to look at him and he took the opportunity to kiss her. He gave her a soft and gentle kiss, teasing her lips with his own. She sighed and he slipped the tip of his tongue between her parted lips. She gently touched her tongue to his and tugged him closer. His mouth seemed to devour hers as he deepened the kiss more and more. Her mouth was so soft and sweet beneath his that he often had a hard time pulling away. With sheer force, he pulled away slowly. He looked at her wet lips and had the overwhelming urge to finish what he started. He groaned inwardly and put some distance between them.
Instead of staying where she was, she came closer and nibbled on the side of his neck. “You shouldn’t have started this, Derrick.” She said huskily
His eyes rolled into the back of his head when she licked him. “Rafe is waiting for me.”
“He can wait, can’t he?”
“It might be important. Trust me, we will finish this later. But for now you are coming with me to my house because I am concerned about your safety.”
She pouted. “Fine.”
He chuckled. She was such a handful but he didn’t mind. He loved all of her.
Rae woke up to Derrick tracing small circles on her back. It was only mid-afternoon and she’d slept like she was exhausted. She smiled inwardly. Technically she was after their continuous lovemaking. She turned her head to meet his eyes. Her heart did a little pitter patter when he smiled at her. God, I love this man so much, she thought.
She returned the smile. “Hey.”
He kissed her lips softly. “Hey gorgeous. How was your nap?”
She stretched. “It was really good. Thanks.”
He chuckled. “I know. You snored a little.”
She scrunched her nose. “No, I didn’t.”
He shrugged, as if he had some little secret. “Okay.”
He’s serious. She groaned and covered her face. “Oh my God. I am so embarrassed.”
“Why? It’s not the first time. I just never said anything.”
Her mouth dropped open. “What?!?”
He chuckled. “Rae, come on. It doesn’t matter. I love you. Besides, it’s a soft snore. Nothing major at all.”
She snorted. “Yeah, nothing major to you.”
“Come here.” He reached for her and pulled her to his chest. “I love you and I don’t care. Do you hear me loud and clear?”
“Yes, I hear you.”
“Good.” He laid her head on his chest and caressed her hair. He was content just being near her.
“Derrick?” She said softly.
She swallowed hard. “About what you said downstairs…when you said you wanted us to be together for a long time…what did you mean?”
He sighed. He should have known that she would bring it back up. He decided to tell her what was in his heart. “Raquel, I can see myself with you forever. This isn’t just a fling for me. I want you to know that. Forever does include marriage but I know you are not ready for that. I can wait as long as you want me to, baby.”
Her heart was pounding so hard she was certain he could hear it. He wanted to marry her. She fought back the tears that threatened to spill over. “How do you know I’m not ready, Derrick?”
His hand stilled in her hair and his pulse hammered. “Rae, what are you saying?”
She lifted her head to look into his eyes. “Answer my question first, Derrick.”
“I just figured since we are just starting out that you would want to take it slow.”
An arched eyebrow rose. “Did you ask me if I wanted to take it slow?”
Now that he thought about, he hadn’t. He just assumed. “I guess I didn’t.”
She stared at him for a long moment then spoke. “Ask me, Derrick.” She said softly
His mouth was suddenly dry. He had never asked a woman to marry him. Rae would be the first and only woman he ever proposed to. “Just wait one second.” He lifted her gently so he could get out of the bed. He went to his armoire and pulled out a box that he had for the last couple of weeks. When he saw this ring in Jared’s, he thought it would fit Rae perfectly. He had it sized for her and engraved. He took a deep breath and walked back over to her. He pulled her to a standing position.
He got down on one knee. “Raquel, I bought this in hopes that you would want to marry me someday. Now I know I’m not the perfect guy but I promise that you will always be loved and cherished. I promise that you will be the only woman I ever love and be in love with. Would you Raquel Simone Williams do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
She smiled through her tears. “Derrick. I can’t believe you. She took a deep breath to calm the butterflies in her stomach. “Yes, yes, yes, I will marry you!” She held out her left hand so that he could slide the ring onto her finger. Her breath hitched when she saw how beautiful it was….A princess cut diamond with a ting of green in the center…her favorite color.
He stood. “What do you think? Do you like it?”
She shook her head. “No. I love it.”
He smiled. “I’m glad that you are taken with it.”
“How long have you had it?”
He shrugged. “About two weeks.”
She smiled. “So you’d already planned to propose?”
“Yeah, eventually. Since you insisted, I did it tonight. Naked might I add.”
She chuckled. “Hey, I like you naked.” She teased and wrapped her arms around his waist. She stood on tiptoe and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I can’t wait to have forever with you.”
His eyes twinkled. “Oh yeah? When do you want to start planning the wedding?”
“As soon as possible.” She purred in his ear.
He groaned. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.” He said and pulled her into a mind-blowing kiss.
Four glorious weeks had passed since Derrick had proposed to her. Ever since then she’d been caught up in their wedding plans. She loved it but at the same time she was completely exhausted. She wished she hadn’t called Teri, her best girlfriend and Derrick’s first cousin to tell her she was engaged. She’d told almost the whole family and ever since then things had been super busy. She barely had time to see Derrick between work, exercise, and making more plans for her wedding. She sighed heavily. She just wanted a tiny itty bitty break. As of right now she had turned all her phones off and the drapes closed. She couldn’t make herself move this morning. Derrick had called but she didn’t feel like talking just yet.
Her mind was in a whirlwind and to top it off, her head hurt and her bladder was unsettled. For the last week, she had felt the need to vomit but nothing ever happened so she just shrugged it off. Thinking it was just exhaustion. But now…she wasn’t certain at all. Her stomach began to heave and this time she was sure she was about to vomit. Oh no, she thought. Somehow she pushed herself out of bed and scrambled to her bathroom. She’d barely made it to the toilet before everything she’d eaten the night before poured out of her mouth. What the hell is going on? She wondered. When she was done, she tried to get up but failed. Her head felt funny….almost lightheaded… She tried again and managed to stand on shaky legs. Her vision became less clear as she tried to walk and she tried to hold onto something to keep her balance but everything seemed out of reach. Tripping over something, she fell to the tiled floor and hit her head hard….She moaned in anguish “Derrick” She whispered then blackness engulfed her vision.
For the umpteenth time, Derrick called his fiancée. He really wanted to see her but he knew she might be tired from all the wedding planning. So, he decided to settle on hearing her rich, sultry voice this morning. She should have answered by now. Something just wasn’t right, he thought. Sirens pulled him out if his thoughts. They were close by. God, please no. He ran to his door and yanked it open. He flew down the steps to Raquel’s house. He saw his cousin outside of Rae’s house crying hysterically.
He grabbed her by her arms. “Teri, what’s happened? Where is Rae?”
“Derrick, I couldn’t wake her up. She wasn’t answering her phone so I came over to see about her and found her on the floor of her bathroom. She wouldn’t wake up! I called for an ambulance.” She cried
His heart thundered in his chest. All the blood drained from his face. No, no, no, his mind screamed. He couldn’t lose her. He ran into the house and into Rae’s bathroom. “Raquel!” He shouted. He went to her side. “Baby, please, you have to wake up. You can’t leave me. Not now. Please.” He pleaded but it was useless. She couldn’t hear him. When she still didn’t move, he lifted her into her arms. He held her tightly to him and noticed she was still breathing. He hadn’t bothered to check if she was breathing before. He had never been so happy to see the rise and fall of her chest. Kissing her forehead lightly, he carried her through the living room and outside. The ambulance pulled up just as he stepped off the porch. He didn’t want to let her go…to let her slip away from him but he had to let the EMT’s do their job.
“Do you know what happened to her sir?”
“No. She was on the floor of her bathroom so she may have hurt her head but I can’t be sure.” He said softly
The man nodded. “Okay. We will take care of her. Can I get a name?”
“Yeah. Raquel Whitfield.”
“Sir, we can take her.”
He gently handed her over to the EMT and walked behind him to the ambulance. He looked over his shoulder to talk to his cousin. “Teri, you can follow us to the hospital.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
He nodded and hurriedly climbed into the ambulance.
Rae moaned softly. God, my head hurts, she thought. Where the hell am I? She slowly opened her eyes. She was in a bed and at least three machines were beeping around her. A hospital? What am I doing here? She wondered. Then it hit her. The vomiting…The fall she’d taken…Someone must’ve found her unconscious. She groaned loudly. Dammit. She must have fallen pretty hard to be in a hospital. She surveyed her room and noticed someone sleeping in the chair next to her bed….Derrick. He was sleeping so peacefully and she hated to wake him. Before she could get the chance, someone knocked on the door and stuck their head inside.
“Is it safe to come in?” Stephen asked with a grin
She smiled. “Sure. Come in.” Before she knew it all of Derrick’s brothers burst through the door waking Derrick. Stephen, James, Rafe, and Zane were all a piece of work. Stephen was the youngest of the five, James the second eldest, and Rafe was the middle child. She loved them all like they were her blood brothers.
“So, are you doing okay? You gave us all a scare.” Stephen said
She blew out a breath. “I hope so, Stephen.” She let her gaze travel to Derrick. His dark eyes studied her and a frowned marred his features. She let out a tremulous breath that she hadn’t been aware she was holding.
Stephen glanced at Derrick and then back at Rae. He cleared his throat. “Um, maybe we should let you two have a moment.”
“Why?” Zane asked
Rafe elbowed him in the side. “Zane now is not the time for your rude candor. Let’s go.”
Raquel watched as they all filed out of the room together. She and Derrick were alone. Her gaze traveled back to his. “Derrick, I—
He held up his hand. “Just stop, please. Rae, you scared the hell out of me today.” He stood up from his chair and walked over to stand beside her.
“Derrick, I’m sorry. I had no idea this would happen. I— He cut her off with a kiss. She moaned when his tongue slid over hers. All too quickly, the kiss was over.
“I love you so much, Rae. I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I saw you lying there. I’m just so grateful that you’re alive and well. Imagining life without you is not something I want to contemplate on.”
Before she could speak, someone else knocked on her door. Dammit, she was trying to talk here. He kissed her softly. “Come in.”
“Raquel, I’m Doctor Stevens. It’s nice to finally see you awake.”
“Thank you. Is everything alright?”
“Well, Raquel, you hit your head pretty hard so you have a concussion. However, within the next day or so you should be much better. The next thing I’m about to tell you is serious.
Rae’s eyes widened. “What? Please tell me.”
Dr. Stevens cleared his throat. “Raquel, we took some blood while you were unconscious. We wanted to make sure there weren’t any complications in your bloodstream. We found out what may have caused you to faint. You’re going to be a mother, Raquel.”
She shook her head. She must be hearing things. “Come again, doc?”
Dr. Stevens chuckled. “You’re pregnant, Raquel.”
“I’m what?! Pregnant?!” She shouted. How could this be? She wondered. She was on birth control.
“How far a long is she Doctor Stevens?” Derrick suddenly asked.
“About two weeks, give or take.” He responded.
Derrick nodded. “Thanks Doctor.”
“I’m going to leave you two alone. Raquel we should have you out of here in an hour or so.”
Once they were alone, Derrick sat beside her. “Rae, talk to me, baby.”
She felt like she couldn’t breathe. “Derrick, I’m freaking out. I don’t know how to be a mother. We are not even married yet. I mean, what are we supposed to do!”
Derrick pulled her into his arms and held her close to his heart. “Rae, slow down. It’s fine. Things just happened sooner than we anticipated.”
“But how, Derrick? I don’t even remember not taking my birth control pill. I—“She stopped abruptly as a memory surfaced. The day they had fallen asleep on his patio. She’d forgotten to take it that day. She’d been so embarrassed about his mother catching them that she dressed quickly and went running.
Derrick caressed her cheek. “Rae, what is it?”
“I didn’t take my pill the day your mother caught us you know—. I forgot.” She looked down at her hands.
He tilted her face up to meet his eyes. “I’m happy that you’re having my baby. Don’t you know that?”
She could tell that he was happy. This had just thrown her a little. She would love nothing more than to have his children. “I know you are. I am too. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m not. I just didn’t expect this.”
He smiled. “I didn’t either. I love you. Have I told you that?” He whispered
She smiled. “Yeah, once or twice.” She teased.
His gaze turned serious for a moment. “Please don’t scare me like that again. You have to get some rest and eat, baby. I need you and my baby around. Understood?”
She gave him a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”
He laughed heartily. “Rae, you are not like anyone else I know. You’re unique and I love that about you.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Hmm, what else do you love?”
“Cut it out. We’re in a hospital.” He protested, although his body was betraying him.
“That never stopped you before.” She purred in his ear
True, but they needed to control themselves. At least for now. “I’ll make you a deal. If you can behave yourself until we get out of here then when we get home, I’ll give you whatever you want.”
She looked down at his erection for a long time before speaking. “You’re on mister. It’s a deal.”
Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to get the hell up out of this hospital.