Love Rides a Chestnut Horse Ch. 14bytigrlily320©
Fall passed in a blur of preparations and planning. The pair had dinner with Doc and Sarah often, and Sarah doted on Bella even more the more pregnant she got. Every night as they lay in bed, James would talk to her belly, telling stories about his childhood, passing on fairy tales and old myths. Anything he could think of to talk about. He told Bella he wanted the baby to know his voice before he arrived.
They had a quiet Christmas, just the two of them. James gave Bella a lovely diamond pendant to match her engagement ring and wedding band. Bella gave James a stunning pair of cufflinks that had been her father's. They laid on the rug in front of the fire for hours, watching it snow and making love to one another. It was a beautiful holiday, one they would always remember as their first and finest.
On a cold January morning, James walked up on the porch, shaking off the snow before walking into the house. He pulled off the big coat that kept him warm each day and hung it on the coat rack along with his hat and a scarf.
"Man, it's coming down out there," he shivered as Cappy trotted up to him. "Not that you'd know, you big wimp," he laughed.
Bella waddled into the kitchen from the living room and smiled up at him. "Cappy doesn't like to be cold and wet."
"Hi baby," he smiled.
She looked up at him. "Your baby says hello, and that he's ready to come out because he's driving mommy crazy!"
"Aw," he smiled, walking up behind her as she stood in front of the sink and hugging her from behind.
She gasped as his ice cold hands made contact with her warm body. "Cold hands!!!" She jumped away with a shiver.
"Oops," he laughed. "Sorry, Belle. Are you ok?"
"Wow," she shuddered once again. "It is cold out there!"
He reached down and grabbed her backside. "Yes," he grinned as she jumped, "it sure is." As he finished, he spun her around and kissed her lips deeply. He sucked her tongue lightly and then groaned, resting his forehead against hers. "Damn it, I want you so bad."
She released an almost musical giggle. "Sorry, love. Nothing goes until something comes out."
He nodded, "I know. It's just been a very long time," he stuck out his lower lip in a pout, looking down into her eyes. He moved his head and began nibbling gently along her ear.
"Well," she smiled. "You can tell him to hurry up, then."
He reached down and carefully poked her stomach. "Hey little man, let's get a move on." As he finished, the baby kicked hard and Bella winced.
"Sorry, love." He grinned down at her. "So what's for lunch?"
"Hmm," she furrowed her brow. "I'm not sure," she spoke as she crossed the kitchen to the icebox.
"I can fix something, honey," he hurried over to her. "You should sit down. Please."
She waved him off. "I'm fine, don't worry. Let's see," she bent to look inside and see what she could fix for James. But as she bent, she gasped loudly.
"Baby?!" James hurried up to her as she looked down. "Are you ok?" he questioned as he followed her gaze, seeing water on the floor.
She glanced up at him with wide eyes. "I think he heard you," she groaned.
"Oh, hell," he muttered. "Baby sit down," he guided her to a chair. "I'll get the wagon."
Bella nodded as she sat with her hands on the sides of her massive belly. James flew out the door to hitch Leo to the wagon, leaving his coat and gloves behind in his haste. Bella closed her eyes in pain and cried out as the first contraction hit. As he pulled the wagon up to the house, he could hear her cries. He grabbed the blankets that he'd had ready for week and then ran into the house to find Bella curled in a ball on the floor, screaming in pain. Cappy whined next to her, licking her face and her tears.
James wrapped her up in the blankets, making sure that she was warm. He whispered soothing words to her as he carried her out and laid her in the back of the wagon. Despite the freezing cold, she was sweating and panting heavily as he nested her in the straw.
"We'll be at Doc's as soon as possible, baby. Just hang on, please," he pleaded as he took in her shaking form.
Just as he jumped into the seat and cracked the whip for Leo to move, Bella's scream pierced the night as the next contraction began. Leo seemed to sense the need for haste and sped up even more, flying down the drive. They hit the corner and turn sharply onto the road, skidding the wagon and flying for town. James drove, shaking the reins and looking back at Bella every few moments.
"Just hang on, love," he called.
Bella curled up in the blankets, sobbing as her body was wracked with pain. They arrived in town in record time, skidding to a stop in front of Doc's. He picked her up from the back and carried her into the house, booting the door open and calling for Doc and Sarah as he entered. Sarah appeared at the top of the stairs and then came running down, screaming for Doc to hurry. He followed close behind.
"Her water broke," he gasped. His face was a mix of calm and panic all at once. Just then, Bella screamed into his shoulder as another contraction begins. "Please, Doc, help her," he cried, shaking his head.
Doc nodded, "bring her in here, James." He opens the door to the exam room and James runs inside with Bella in his arms. "Lay her here, son."
James gently laid her on the table, stroking her face. He murmured soft words of comfort and support to her, all the while wishing there were something he could do to stop the pain.
Doc laid a gentle hand on James' shoulder, making him look up. "Now wait outside, James," he spoke firmly but soft.
"I can't stay with her??" his eyes were wide as he stared back at the older man.
"No, James," he shook head. "But I promise you I'll take care of her."
He nodded, "I know you will. Do you mind if I put Leo in your barn, then?"
"No, son," he shook his head. "Not at all."
James nodded, standing slowly and walking away. His hands were shaking slowly with both excitement and fear. He heard Belle scream his name as another contraction overtook her. "Baby," he whispered. He looked at Doc pleadingly, but the old man simply shook his head. He ushered James out the door and closed it behind him. As the nurse hurried past him and closed the door, he recalled that Leo was standing outside in the freezing weather and that he was already sopping wet from his run.
He walked outside and unhitched him, leading him around to the back of the house, walking him into the barn waiting there. He stood shaking from the cold while James rubbed him down, trying not to worry about what was happening inside. He could still hear Belle's cries coming from inside the house. His arms tensed every time she cried out. Feeling him tense, Leo turned and nuzzled him for comfort. "Thanks, old man," he smiled. He covered the horse with a thick blanket and gave him some hay and water. He then took a deep breath and walked back around and into the house.
As he walked through the door, he heard a baby's wail joining in with Bella's. He looked up, his eyes lighting up. Sarah walked over and hugged him tight whispering congratulations in his ear. A few moments later, Doc's nurse came out with a tiny bundle wrapped in a blue blanket. He met her as she approached him.
"May I?" he smiled, his eyes filling with tears. At her nod, he reached out his arms tentatively. He slowly took the tiny baby from her. "It's a boy?" he asked softly, not looking away from the tiny face. She nodded and stepped back into the exam room hurriedly.
"Hi there," he whispered. "How's my boy?" He stroked the tiny face with his fingertip, watching as he turned his mouth toward the touch. His smile widened and he glanced back up to where the nurse had been, surprised to see her gone. He looked to Sarah instead.
"How is she?" he asked somewhat frantically.
"I'm not sure, James," she shook her head. "Just wait for Doc."
He sighed, "I need to see her. We both do," he looked back down at the tiny face of his son.
"Did you two talk about names?" she asked as the baby took hold of James' finger.
He nodded, "we did a little. She wanted to wait till he was here."
The exam room door opened and Doc came out, drying his hands on a towel. James looked up at him with wide eyes.
"Is she ok?" he asked as he hurried to meet him.
Doc nodded, "she will be, James. She lost a lot of blood, and we'll have to wait and just give her some time. But odds are that she'll be fine."
James felt his face go pale. It was as if all the blood was leaving his body and at the same time the sound of it moving through his body was deafening in his ears. "You're sure? I mean, she will be?"
"She just needs rest, James. It's a lot of work, pushing one of those out," he smiled, relaxing for the first time since James had pushed open their door earlier that evening.
"Can I see her?" he asks with a pleading gaze.
Doc nodded, stepping back and opening the door. "Go on in," he spoke softly.
"Thank you, sir," he held out his left hand while supporting the baby with his right. "For everything."
Doc shook his hand. "It has absolutely been my pleasure. Now, go see your wife."
James made his way into the room, seeing Bella asleep on the bed. Her skin was pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes, but he could see the gentle rise and fall of her chest. At that moment, that was all that mattered. He pulled a chair over and sat next to her, not wanting to bother her. He held the baby, talking to him softly as he rocked in the chair.
Hearing his voice, Belle began to awaken. He saw her eyelids flutter and leaned forward.
"Hi, baby doll," his voice was a low murmur. He reached out his hand to hers, feeling her weakly wrap her fingers around his. Her eyes opened slowly, and he smiled down at her. "It's ok. Doc said you'd be weak. He said you lost a lot of blood, but that you'll be ok." He stroked her arm gently as he spoke.
She blinked her eyes dazedly, but gathered strength as if she were preparing to speak.
"Shh," he murmured. "Just rest, love."
She shook her head. "The baby?" she managed to whisper.
He turned the small bundle toward her so that she could see him. A soft smile covered her face, and then she looked back up at him.
James got on his knees next to the bed so that she could touch him. She reached out her hand, brushing it over the baby's soft face. Letting her hand slide down and touch his tiny fingers, her smile widened. He leaned in and kissed her forehead.
"I did it?" she smiled.
"You sure did, my love," he grinned wide.
"Good," her eyes drifted close again and she fell asleep against the soft pillows.
He smiled, moving back to the chair and sitting back, rocking the baby gently. He watched the two of them as they slept and leaned back in the rocker. He suddenly felt very weary himself and yawned.
Doc walked into the room and saw James struggling to stay awake in the rocker, the baby clutched to his chest. "James," he spoke softly so as not to wake either Bella or the baby. "Why don't you get some sleep?"
He shook his head, "I'll be ok." As exhausted as he was, he couldn't keep the smile from taking over his face.
"You're going to need your strength, son."
"I know, sir," he nodded. "Just let me stay up a little longer. I don't want to put him down. I want to enjoy this just a little bit longer."
Doc smiled, "ok, James." He rolled a bassinet over next to him and James carefully leaned down and placed the baby into it. As he sat back in the rocker and reached a finger out for the baby to grasp, he saw Belle's eyelids flutter again.
"Baby?" she whispered.
"He's asleep, Belle," he spoke softly back to her as he moved closer. "Want me to pick him back up for you?"
She shook her head. "No honey, you don't have to."
He reached out with his free hand and set it on the bed. She took it and held it gently as he ran her thumb back and forth over the back of her hand.
"He needs a name," she spoke so softly he had to strain to hear.
"How about John Patrick?" he looked into her eyes as he spoke. "After my dad and yours, I thought that would be nice."
She nodded with a small smile. "John Patrick, that's perfect. Can I hold him?"
He nodded, getting up and grabbing the pillows from the next bed. He propped her up carefully; mindful of the painful winces she tried to hide from him. He then reached into the bassinet and lifted the tiny baby, placing him in her arms.
Her face took on a beautiful glow as she looked down into his face with a huge smile. James settled on the edge of the bed and watched his beautiful wife and son.
"Hi John," she whispered as she gently brushed her fingers over his face.
He watched her, captivated by the sight of his wife and their son. His face beamed with pride which grew only greater as Bella smiled up at him. He reached out and ran his fingers gently down her cheek. "I love you so much," he sighed. "Both of you – more than I ever thought I could love anyone."
"I love you, too," she smiled softly up at him. "Thanks for coming home with me that day. Thanks for making my life worth living again."
James lay down on the bed next to her, wrapping his arms around both her and John. As they all settled in together, each drifted off to sleep. And hours later, when Doc came to check in on the new little family, that was how he found them.