“Hello,” I said as I tried to sound as if I wasn’t crying.
“Hi, baby. Why is Julia screaming like that?”
I couldn’t hold it together anymore as I broke down. “I don’t know. She just won’t stop and I don’t know what to do for her,” I cried.
“Is anyone else there with you?” he asked.
“No, I’m here by myself. Connor, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She just won’t stop crying.”
“I’m on my way, Ellery,” he said as he hung up the phone.
I tried to tell him not to come home, but he had already hung up. I held Julia up over my shoulder and patted her back. She screamed. I bounced her as I walked up and down the stairs. She screamed. I sat in the rocking chair and tried to rock her. She screamed. I literally was going to lose it. As I walked back down the stairs with her, Connor stepped out of the elevator. He walked over to me and took Julia. As he looked at me, he wiped the tears from my eyes.
“Maybe I should call the doctor,” I said.
“How long as she been like this?” he asked.
“About an hour and a half. All she’s been doing is screaming.” I started to cry again.
Connor walked around the penthouse with her. He tried the same things as I had done and nothing was working. When I grabbed my phone and started to dial the doctor, the doorbell rang. I put my phone down and opened the door. I was shocked when I saw who was standing in front of me.
“Girl, what the hell is wrong? Why are you crying?” he interrupted as he walked through the door.
Before I could answer, Connor came back into the room with a screaming Julia.
“Oh my God, give me that baby!” Mason said as he walked over and took her from Connor.
The minute Mason held her over his arm, Julia stopped crying.
“What the hell!” Connor said as he looked at me.
“Hi to you too, Connor.” Mason smiled.
“Mason, how did you—she has been—”
“She’s gassy. You couldn’t tell that?” he asked.
Connor and I stood there and just looked at him as he rubbed Julia’s back.
“Elle, I love you, but you’re a hot mess right now. You need to go clean yourself up.” Mason smiled.
“I’ve missed you so much.” I said as I walked over and hugged him.
“Go on. We’ll talk when you come back down,” he said as he kissed my cheek.
I went upstairs and into the bathroom. Mason was right; I looked like a hot mess. As I was standing in front of the mirror, wiping the mascara stains from my face, Connor walked in.
“You should see him with her. He’s a natural,” Connor whispered.
“I saw that the minute he took her and she stopped crying.”
“Come here, baby,” he said as he turned me around and wrapped his arms around me.
I stood there, wrapped safely in his arms, when suddenly, something dawned on me. “Connor, the meeting with Lou!” I exclaimed.
“It’s okay. I rescheduled for later this afternoon.”
“I’m sorry. I’m a bad mother and wife.” I began to cry.
“Aw, baby. You’re not a bad mother or wife. Don’t ever say that again. You’re overwhelmed. Henry thinks that maybe you’re going through post-partum depression.”
I pushed back and looked at him in anger. “I’m not depressed, Connor.”
“I didn’t say you were depressed.”
“Yes, you did! You just said you think I have post-partum depression. Do you hear the word depression, Connor? Depressed, depression; same thing, you idiot.”
Connor rolled his eyes and walked away. I followed behind him down the stairs. When I reached the living room, Mason was sitting on the couch talking to Julia and she was cooing. Connor and I looked at each other.
“Hey, she’s happy.” I smiled as I sat down next to them.
“Of course she is. She’s with her Uncle Mason.” He smiled.
Connor sat down next me and kissed me on the head. “A kiss from an idiot,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you later.” I smiled as I kissed the tip of his nose.
Mason looked at us and smiled. “It’s so good to see both of you again.”
“It’s good to see you too. What are you doing in New York, and why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” I asked.
“Landon got a job with a top modeling agency, and they wanted him to move here. So, here we are!”
“Where is Landon?” Connor asked.
“He had a meeting with his agent, so I decided that I’d take my chances and see if you were home.”
“Where are you and Landon living?” I asked as I reached over and took Julia from him.
“I was hoping you’d ask that!” he exclaimed. “We’ve rented a loft over on the next block.”
“That’s wonderful. That means we can see you whenever we want.” I smiled.
“We can take this little princess shopping, and we can hang out at Starbucks! He smiled as he touched Julia’s hand. God, Elle, I’m so excited!”
Connor looked at his watch. “Lou’s going to be at my office in thirty minutes. We better get going. I’ll grab the diaper bag,” Connor said.
I nodded my head and got up from the couch. “Mason, we have a meeting with Connor’s lawyer, so we have to get going. Why don’t we get together for dinner tonight?”
“That sounds great. I’ll ask Landon if we have plans. You’re not taking Julia with you, are you?” he asked.
“Yes, we are, why?”
“Leave her here with me. Please, Ellery, let me watch her,” he begged.
Connor walked up behind me. “I can’t find the diaper bag.”
“It’s over there,” Mason said as he pointed by the door.
“Ellery, hand Julia over to Mason so we can leave,” Connor said.
A wide smile spread across Mason’s face. “Give me the little princess, Ellery.”
I suddenly became nervous. I didn’t want to leave her again, but then the thought of her screaming her head off during the meeting frightened me. I kissed her on the head and handed her over to Mason, who was standing there with his arms out.
“Don’t worry, Momma; she’ll be safe with me,” Mason said.
I smiled and followed Connor to the elevator. I stopped, turned around, and looked at Mason.
“How did you get Julia to stop fussing?” I asked.
“The gas drops in the diaper bag, Elle.”
“Ah, so that’s what that little white bottle was for,” I said as I stepped in and the doors closed.
Denny was on the other side of town, so Connor drove the Range Rover to the office. Before we reached the building, he called his secretary, Valerie, to send someone down to park it. He pulled up to the curb, walked around, and opened my door. He grabbed my hand as we walked into the building and took the elevator up to the top floor where Connor’s office was. As we stepped off the elevator, I could see the women looking up from behind their cubicles at my husband. I could see the look and hunger in their eyes when he walked by. I proudly held my head up and smiled as I said, “Good afternoon, ladies.” Connor looked over at me and smiled.
When we reached his office, Lou and another gentleman were already sitting down and waiting. Phil came in behind us.
“Lou, thanks for meeting me,” Connor said as he shook his hand.
“Connor, I want you to meet Ben. He just joined the firm.”
As Connor shook Ben’s hand, Lou leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.
“It’s good to see you, Ellery.” He smiled.
I took a seat in between Lou and Ben as Connor walked around and sat behind his desk. Lou folded his hands.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Connor. This could get very ugly. I’ve decided we’re going after her personally for the Chicago fire. I know you didn’t want to do it, but if she wants to claim that she was temporarily insane because of the mental stress you put her through, then we’ll fight back. I’ve already alerted the district attorney’s office that we’re proceeding with this.”
“Damn it, Lou. That’s not even an option,” Connor snapped.
“We have no choice, Connor. Ashlyn is forcing your hand on this. She’s going to make sure you go down with her.”
Connor stood up, put his hands in his pockets, and turned towards the window. “This is bullshit, Lou. I need you to make this go away,” he said.
I sat there in silence as I listened to the conversation between Connor and Lou. I could tell Connor was worried, although he’d never admit it. My phone chimed and, as I pulled it from my purse, I noticed a text message from Mason.
“I’m in love with your little princess.”
I smiled, and Connor asked me if everything was okay. I nodded my head and then watched him glare at Ben. I noticed he did that quite a bit since we sat down. Lou got up from his seat and told Connor that he’d get back with him in a couple of days. As Phil walked Lou and Ben out of the office, Connor called Ben back. He turned around and started walking towards Connor. I stood up from my chair because I didn’t like the look on Connor’s face.
“Do you find my wife attractive?” he asked.
I gasped as my eyes widened. “Connor!” I exclaimed.
“Well, do you? Answer the damn question,” he said firmly.
“Um, yes, Mr. Black,” Ben answered nervously.
“Then that explains why you’ve been staring at her.”
“Connor, that’s enough!” I snapped at him.
Ben looked at me and apologized. “I’m really sorry for staring, but I feel like we’ve met before.” Suddenly, it must have hit him. “I know; you were Kyle’s girlfriend back in college.”
I looked at him, trying to figure out who he was, and then it came to me. “Ben? As in Ben Winston, Debate Club President and tech geek extraordinaire?”
“Yep, that’s me!” He laughed. “I knew you looked familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.”
Just as I gave him a hug and Connor gave me a dirty look, Cassidy walked in.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were alone, Connor,” she said.
“It’s okay, Cassidy. Come on in,” he said.
Cassidy walked over to me and gave me a hug. “Where’s my niece?”
“She’s at home with Mason. I would like you to meet Ben Winston. Ben, this is my sister-in-law, Cassidy.”
They lightly shook hands as I turned and looked at Connor. “You owe Ben an apology.”
“For what?” he asked.
“You know for what, Connor. That was rude and uncalled for.”
Connor took in a sharp breath and shook his head. “Ben, I apologize for being rude.”
“It’s okay, Mr. Black. If some dude was staring at my beautiful wife or girlfriend, I’d be upset too. Well, it was nice seeing you again, Ellery, and nice to meet you, Cassidy. Mr. Black, we’ll be in touch in a couple of days,” Ben said as he started to walk out of the office.