I remember a certain moment from my childhood like it was yesterday. I was ten years old and I had just watched Cincinnati, the team I grew up rooting for, win the league championship. I was sitting in front of the television wearing my jersey that was two-sizes too big for me while holding my football like a doll.
My eyes were glued to the television as I watched their quarterback receive the Most Valuable Player trophy. He was celebrating as confetti rained around him. Then, like it was as natural as anything, he looked into the camera and told the world that he was now going to Disney World because he had won the championship.
I vowed to myself that one day I’d be just like him. I might have even practiced how I would say it a few times. Though I haven’t done that since Brenna walked in on me practicing it in front of the mirror. She didn’t let me live that down for a month.
I didn’t get to say it tonight. I had to leave before I could. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with that. Because tonight I’m becoming a father. And saying those words are a million times better than saying I’m going to see a mouse.
“You are never fucking touching me again! Ahhhhhh!”
Now those words? The ones that just came from my currently-in-labor wife as she squeezes my hand so hard that I think a few fingers might break? Well, I could go forever without hearing those again.
“You’re doing great Lulu,” I say, doing the best I can to reassure her. It’s been four hours since her water broke minutes after we won the championship. I stifle a yawn, because yes, I might have played a football game tonight and had my body knocked around six ways from Sunday, but my wife is pushing out a person right now. I feel like saying that I’m tired might not go over well right now.
Lucy falls back into the pillows after another round of pushing. I take a cold cloth and wipe her brow.
“I hate that I can’t do more for you right now,” I say as I help her sit back up, knowing another round of pushing is coming soon.
“I hate you.”
I can’t help but laugh. “No you don’t. Just like the nickname, you don’t hate me at all.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” she grits out as another contraction comes along.
“Okay, how about this,” I say, trying to think of anything to help distract her mind.
“Let’s do math.”
“Math! After all these years now you want to do math? How about this equation? You plus your hand for the rest of your life equals. . .”
“I’m choosing to ignore those kinds of comments.” I say as our nurse can’t help but laugh. “Give me the math stats on babies being born?”
I know she knows them. She randomly drops them on me, usually when she’s in the midst of reading some new baby or mom blog she finds online. She and Celine send them back and forth to each other every day. Brenna is even in on it and she’s not pregnant. Well, not yet. I’m sure that day is coming soon.
Though I’d rather not think about that.
“No math today,” our doctor says as he repositions himself. “One more push Lucy and your son is going to be here.”
Her head falls back, her eyes filled with fright. “I don’t know if I can.”
I see a tear coming from her eye and I know the joking is over. For years, this woman was, and has been, my rock. What started as just calming words and a keen sense of knowing what I needed before I did has transformed into being the best wife and partner a man could ask for. She has helped me start my charity for high school athletes. She has created a home for us in Nashville. She is about to give me a child.
“Lucy Donald. You listen to me. You are the strongest woman I know. You have never let anything get the best of you. It’s the final seconds of the game and we need one more big play. You can do it.”
She takes a deep breath as I help her sit back up. “Leave it to you to give me a football analogy in labor.”
“Did you expect anything else?”
“Absolutely not. Okay, let’s do this. If he doesn’t come out now, I’m going to start weighing the pros and cons to just leaving him in there forever.”
This gets her another round of laughter from the delivery staff.
“No need Lucy. I see the head. One big push.”
She looks up at me, a mixture of fear and determination in her eyes.
“Ready?” I ask.
She nods. “Ready.”
* * *
“There he is!”
My mother drops the arm full of stuffed animals she was carrying and races over to the bassinet where her grandson is peacefully sleeping. All my dad can do is shake his head as he bends over to pick them up.
“Nice to see you too, Mom.”
“Oh Lucia!” She stops and turns at my hospital bed to give me a chaste kiss on the cheek. “How are you feeling? How is he?”
I laugh, because I know she is just excited. She has been wanting a grandchild since . . . well, since before my ill-fated engagement to Luciano. The woman has waited long enough.
“No, he’s perfect,” Bryce says, standing up from his spot on the couch in my delivery suite to stand next to where our son is sleeping.
“Damn right he’s perfect. He’s my nephew.” Brenna walks in the room, followed by Pamela and Cole.
“Language Brenna,” Pamela scolds as she walks over and stands on the other side of the baby.
“Oh he doesn’t know what I’m saying,” she says, taking a seat on the couch. “Plus, from what I’ve been told by my brother, the first word this little guy heard was—”
I shoot a look over to Brenna, begging her to stop talking. The last thing I need to hear right now from my mother is my use of profanities. Especially after the whirlwind last two days we’ve had. I don’t even feel like I’ve slept, though I have dozed in and out every time there is even a remote amount of silence. Then there’s Bryce, who I know is a walking zombie right now. But the man is determined to stay awake as long as I am.
“How was the celebration after the game?” Bryce asks Cole, who looks adorably out of place holding a baby balloon and a stuffed duck.
“Wouldn’t know,” he says. “Had my own celebration to go to.”
“Yeah you did.”
Brenna’s words cause Bryce to fake gag, which makes us all laugh. “Don’t want to hear about it,” Bryce says, shaking his head. I can't help but laugh. Mainly because I called this all along. My husband just wouldn’t believe me.
“Enough you guys,” my mom chimes in. “You’ve held out long enough. Tell us the name of my grandchild.”
Bryce comes over to my bed, sitting next to me and immediately reaching for my hand. We never intended to keep the name a secret when we found out we were pregnant. However, during one Sunday night dinner when the topic of baby names came up, everyone seemed to have an opinion on what we should name our son, as well as what Luciano and Celine should name their daughter. It was quickly decided that to make sure no one was disappointed, that we weren’t going to tell anyone. Not even Brenna and Cole.
They were pissed.
“Gabriel Nicholas Donald. We’re going to call him Gabe.”
A chorus of oohs and aahs fill the room. Thankfully, no one states an objection. Which the answer would have been too damn bad. I love the name and I’m too tired to argue with anyone.
Our little man was born at three twenty-one in the morning, five hours after Bryce won the biggest game of his career.
Much to Bryce’s chagrin he was not holding a football when he was born.
Much to my pleasure I can tell he already has his father’s eyes.
“I love it,” Mom says, leaning down and placing a kiss on Gabe’s head. The sight brings a tear to my eye. Though I’m not sure if that’s the emotion of the day or if I’m just so tired that anything is going to make me cry. “Oh I can’t wait to tell Guiliana!”
“Speaking of,” I turn to Bryce. “Where are Luciano and Celine? I thought they would have at least called?”
All Bryce does is smile. “Well, if I tell you that, it will ruin the surprise.”
Before he can get another word out, Luciano comes walking into the room, pushing Celine, and a tiny baby wrapped in pink in her arms, in a wheelchair.
“No way!” I yell. “How? When?”
“After the game. Apparently a few hours after you,” Celine says, handing the baby to Luciano.
Luciano clears his throat, though I feel like it’s more out of emotion than anything. “Donald family, I’d like to introduce you to Gabriella Marie Tripoli.”
A silence hits the room before everyone, well everyone except Luciano and Celine, start hysterically laughing.
This is what we get for not telling anyone our names.
“Gabriel and Gabriella,” Bryce says, taking our son out of his bassinet to stand next to Luciano. “Oh you two, are we going to have stories to tell you when you grow up.”
I can’t contain my tears as I look at the sight in front of me. But who can blame me? Seeing Bryce and Luciano, holding our children, is too much to handle. Now I know where my mom was coming from all those years ago. I can already see the wedding. But before that, I see years of birthday parties and playdates and friendships developing. I take a quick glance over to Celine and I can tell she’s thinking the same thing.
Let’s just hope that when the time comes, and they make their decisions about who they love and how they want to live their lives, it will not end up going down in family history as an event that could have been sold on Pay-Per-View.
“Why the thinking face?” Bryce asks as he sits back down on the bed with me, Gabe still cradled in his arms.
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe how we ended up here.”
He places a kiss on my temple. One I can’t help but lean into. “It wasn’t easy was it?”
I shake my head. It hasn’t. Even since we got married, things haven’t always been smooth sailing. But the difference now is we know life with and without each other. And we know a life together is worth fighting for.
“Would you do it again?” he asks. “Would you put up with me being a complete dipshit for years knowing we’d end up here?”
I don’t even have to think as I reach for my son, bringing him into me.
“Every time.” I say, “Without question.”
Thank you so much for reading Bryce and Lucy! Bryce was a complicated hero, and this was a complicated book. But I love how it turned out and I hope you did too!
Ready for the next installment of the Fury? Then make sure you grab Cole & Brenna in Off Limits! Free with Kindle Unlimited.