“So are you gonna tell me where we’re going?” Blake’s gaze wandered over to me as he sported his infamous sideways grin. It was the same grin that made my stomach flutter every time I saw it. It was that cocky, confident grin that pulled me in when I first met him eleven months ago.
I bit my lower lip, feeling my cheeks heat up with desire. The moment his tongue darted out to lick his lower lip, I felt my insides tense with need. I had to look away, hearing his deep chuckle break free. The arrogant ass knew just how he affected me.
“It’s a surprise, Kori. I told you I wanted to take one last trip together before our little man arrives.” Blake placed his hand over my pregnant belly, rubbing softly back and forth.
We were both shocked when I found out I was pregnant. It was not planned. A night of drinking led to us not being able to keep our hands to ourselves. Surprise, five weeks later I had my head buried in a garbage can, unable to stop hurling.
Blake never considered walking away, even after his parents tried to convince him it was better for his future if I ‘took care of it.’
Neither of his parents ever accepted me. We came from two different worlds, in their eyes. They dreamed of him marrying someone with a trust fund. After all, his mother came from money, her father being in politics. She married Blake’s dad for those reasons—money, fame, and social standing. Blake’s father worked with the Senator, and someday I thought Blake would be the one running for office. His father also came from money, so together, Blake’s parents were quite the pair of judgmental assholes. The last thing they expected was for him to fall for the country girl from Brooklet, Georgia.
Blake’s relationship with his parents had become pretty tense since they suggested I abort his baby. He would only talk to them when necessary. When they would invite him to any functions, he would always find ways to get out of them. It was their way of making me feel like their world wasn’t meant for people like me. They took every opportunity to flaunt the women they felt were more his style and pushed them in his direction.
We rented a small apartment just off campus after he graduated this last spring. I was finishing up my last year, then we would decide where we wanted to settle. I’d been trying to convince him he would look pretty damn hot in a cowboy hat and boots. He had other ideas, though, and this had left us in a world of the unknown. We would just have to tackle that obstacle when the time came.
Leaving Georgia after high school, going across the country to attend college wasn’t easy. I had gotten a full scholarship to Boston University, and I wanted to experience the city life. I wanted a life outside of farm animals and mud. Just so I could say I experienced the other side, even if it was just for college.
“Just a little hint, please.” I pouted, and he lightly shook his head.
“You can pout all you want. It’s a surprise, so just be patient.”
I shook my head, pointing toward him. “Blake William Harrison, you know patience is not something I’m familiar with. I never wait for anything, but you can blame yourself for that.” His gaze connected with mine. I shrugged in return. “You really shouldn’t spoil me so much. Maybe then I could wait without complaining.” I batted my eyelashes, and once again he smiled that sexy as hell grin.
“Let’s play the name game. Maybe it’ll help you be less impatient. We have less than an hour left before the surprise is revealed.” His fingers stroked gently over my protruding stomach. I allowed my eyes to close as I blissfully thought about how much I loved this man.
After I left home and walked away from Reed, I never thought I would feel the same about another man. Reed was my first love…well, my first everything, and he broke my heart. He was older, by a year. When he decided spending time out with the guys was more important than me, it helped sway my decision to leave for college. The night I walked into his house and found Kimberly Tucker kneeling down before him with her head bobbing in his crotch, it just sealed the deal. I walked away from him and spent the first year and a half of college missing him like crazy. I felt like a part of me was ripped out, and it took so long to move on.
When I met Blake, I knew he was my second chance. He was adorable and funny. He made me feel wanted and so happy. We shared so much laughter, and he brought the light back into my life.
“Fine, the name game starting with A…” I paused and thought deeply. “Andrew?”
He scrunched up his nose and turned toward me. “Axel?”
I laughed and put my head in my hands. The name game always went like this. He would shoot out names for our son that I knew would have my daddy’s head spinning and my momma groaning in protest. “Axel…what are we preparing him for, a life as a rock star?”
“Hell yeah, baby…that little man is gonna burn that shit up. He’s going to be making millions, and hell if he’ll be able to do that with a name like Andrew.”
“Fine…B, Blake Jr.” I smiled sweetly, and he chuckled.
“Nah, no junior. Blake is also my dad’s middle name, and I’m not doing that to my son.” I watched as his face fell just slightly, but he quickly recovered. When the cocky grin reappeared, I knew I was in for it. “Blaze?”
I couldn’t help it. I let the laughter fall freely, holding my stomach. Never in a million years would we be naming our son Blaze.
This name game went on for the next fifteen minutes, and we made no progress. My eyes had begun to feel heavy, and I let my head fall back against the seat, resting my eyes. I began to doze off, but just before I let myself fall into the deep sleep I heard Blake whisper, “I love you, Kori.”
I grinned as my stomach fluttered with a warm feeling. “I love you too.”
I was jarred from my sleep to the sound of screeching tires and crunching metal. It was like the next few minutes passed in slow motion. I felt Blake’s hand brace across my chest holding me back, shielding me. My arms immediately wrapping around my midsection to protect my unborn child. I watched as our car skidded toward the oncoming truck. Blake’s eyes met mine with a pained expression as I watched the truck smash into his side of the vehicle, shoving us off the side of the road.
The pain shot across my shoulder once it slammed against the opposite door, followed by my head cracking the glass just before everything went dark.
I didn’t know how much time passed, but I woke up to sirens and lights flashing all around us. A panicked feeling immediately shot through me. I reached out for Blake who was hunched over against the steering wheel next to me. “Blake? Blake, please wake up.” I shook his shoulder, and a piercing hot pain shot across my stomach. I saw blood pouring from the side of his head, and there was no movement, not even his chest.
The tears fell down my cheeks as fear erupted within me. “Blake, please wake up, I need you. We need you, you can’t leave us.” I began screaming out for help. Frantically trying to gain the attention of someone, anyone. My vision blurred from the tears. There was blood everywhere, and I knew it was coming from Blake, but I refused to accept he was gone. He couldn’t leave me, it was too soon.
“No! Someone please help us…please. Help!” I cried out over and over again. “Help him, please.”
I lay in the hospital bed staring out the window, feeling utterly lost. This day was both one of the worst and the best days of my life. I said goodbye to the man I loved, the father of my child. A man who would forever be within my heart. A man who gave me the greatest gift I could have ever received.
I welcomed to the world our son. Five pounds, four ounces of sweetness, and he looked just like his daddy. It was so hard to look at him without feeling my world crash in around me all over again.
Blake died on the day our son was born, and I felt like I died right there next to him. When the paramedics removed him from the car, I saw his eyes were open, staring ahead with blankness. My heart broke. I became numb and motionless. I didn’t remember much after that, I just knew I would never be able to forget that image. How would I push forward without him? I needed him.
I lay lifeless in the bed, staring off at nothing in particular. My mind wandered randomly over thoughts of Blake and me. The times he made me laugh uncontrollably. The nights we would stay up all night, just talking. The moments we’d shared, how we fell in love.
I allowed a friend of mine to drag me to my first college football game. It was something I had avoided because Reed had also been an avid sports fan. I tried to avoid anything Reed related. My heart still ached when I thought of him, so I tried not to.
She was persistent. She pulled me along by the hand just as a big guy in a freaky dog costume stumbled into me, causing me to trip. I felt a set of strong arms circle my waist to steady me. After I had regained my footing I turned to thank the person who had saved me from face planting against the concrete. The cocky smile belonged to a very good looking guy. A guy who was still holding my waist securely. My stomach tensed and my face grew flush.
“Thanks,” I managed to spit out. He winked and then reluctantly began to release me.
“You gotta watch out for Rhett, he’s got two left feet.” His voice was deep and soothing.
I had no idea who this guy was referring to. He pointed in the direction of the big weird dog costume. “Rhett…the Mascot. You know, the Boston Terriers? You do go to school here, right?” I felt like an idiot.
“Yeah…um I do. I uh, well um, thanks again.”
I knew my cheeks were red with embarrassment. Of course I knew our Mascot. I mean I kind of knew its name was Rhett. Right, who the hell was I kidding? I had no idea what the dog’s name was.
The memories continued to flow as I lay with my back to the hospital room door. I just wanted to block out the world and swim with my memories of Blake. I wanted to remember his face, his touch. I wished I was back in our apartment, cuddled in his arms. I just wanted to go back in time and know he was safe.
I could faintly hear the door being pushed open, as the noises of the hallway outside became more prominent. I turned just enough to see the nurse smile over at me. I gave a weak attempt to return the gesture.
“Hey, sweetie, I think this little guy was missing his mommy. I thought I’d bring him for a visit.” I watched her lift him carefully from his bed. She tucked him tightly within his blanket before extending him out toward me.
The moment I saw his little eyes, my heart felt as if it was in my throat. Tears filling my eyes, I took in a deep, calming breath. How was I supposed to do this? I fought against the doubt forcing to take me over and took my son into my arms. Placing my lips softly against his forehead, I breathed in his innocent scent. A tear dripped to his cheek from mine, and I traced it away. His little cheek twitched from the touch, and he sucked on his lower lip. The sound put me into a trance.
“Have you thought of a name yet?” the nurse questioned me, and all I could do was shake my head in response. I was so afraid to speak. I knew it would break me once I did. I watched my baby’s eyes flutter, and his hand squeezed around my finger, just a little tighter.
The moment my parents entered the room, I caved. I lost everything I had been attempting to hold inside once my eyes met theirs. My momma gently took my son into her arms, while my daddy engulfed me in his. I didn’t know how long I cried, I just knew it felt good to let it all out.
They had caught the first flight they could once they got the phone call from the hospital. Having them here with me allowed me to feel safe.
The days passed, and there was only one thing keeping us from leaving the hospital—I had to name our son.
“Honey, he needs a name, you have to decide.”
I tried not to get angry with my momma. I knew it wasn’t her fault. “I know I do…but I can’t. Not without Blake. We hadn’t decided, and I hate that I have to do this without him. The only thing he made clear was that he didn’t want his last name to be Harrison. Not after what his parents did and how they treated me when they found out. He always teased me and said when we got married he was taking my name.” I smiled thinking back to that conversation with Blake. He was so serious, and the entire thing broke my heart. I was the reason he stepped away from his parents. The thought bothered me, but he always told me things would be okay.
“Is there anything you can think of that signifies the two of you? Something you both shared? The way you met, or a place you both loved?” I let my mind wonder once again to the times we’d shared, things we did together. I kept falling back to the day we met.
The freaky dog from earlier…oh yeah, Rhett. He approached me and smiled. The guy had a dog head tucked under his arm. “Listen, I’m sorry about earlier. I hope I didn’t hurt you.” I caught a glimpse of my rescuer from earlier watching closely as the guy in the mascot suit apologized. “I guess I need to pay attention. I really am sorry.”
“Can I ask you a question?” I waited for his answer, and he just shrugged. “Did that guy over there make you come over and apologize again?”
Mr. Rhett the Boston terrier just smiled and shrugged before turning to walk back to his friends. It was because of that crazy mascot that we met. If he hadn’t stumbled into me, who knows if I would have been given the opportunity to meet such an amazing guy. Blake was sweet with an edge of cockiness that I had a hard time resisting.
It was that night I let him walk me home. It was also that same night I knew Blake was going to be a part of my life. Whether we were friends or something more, I knew I wanted to keep him around.
The thought hit me, and I turned to face my mom. She smiled knowingly. “Did you think of something?”
I lone tear ran down my cheek as I nodded. “Rhett, Momma…I’m gonna name him Rhett Harrison Foster.”
I knew Blake would smile about that one. After all, Rhett could be considered badass. I know that would have made Blake proud.