“I did manage to talk to her for a minute before she called the nurse to have security remove me from her room.”

“What did she say?”

“That the two of you decided there’d be no one in the delivery room with you. Period. She says she’s sticking to that and waiting for you. When I asked what time you were expected to get to the hospital, she said after your big meeting ended in Arizona. At that point I realized she hadn’t even called you yet so I thought I’d better.” AJ blew out a frustrated breath. “Look. When does your flight leave?”

“At two. I get into Denver at four...and shit, that won’t work. I’ll still have to drive another four hours...” He paced, but his mind was not operating on all cylinders. Keely would never forgive him if he wasn’t there for the birth. Never. And he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself either.

“Jack!” AJ said sharply.

“What?”

“What are you gonna do?”

“I’ll charter a plane,” he said offhandedly. “Now let me talk to my wife.”

“I’m not kiddin’ when I say she won’t let anyone in the room. Just the nurse. Just Doc Monroe and she’s gone to the clinic.”

“Then tell her I’m on the phone.”

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AJ groaned. “Carolyn tried that. As soon as Keely found out you weren’t on the phone, she threw the phone at the wall and told her mom to get out or else she’d have Cam arrest her for trespassing.”

“Why the fuck would you guys lie to her? Why didn’t Carolyn call me?”

“I don’t know. I’m just the messenger. So my message is to hurry up and get home.” AJ hung up.

Jack called Gavin Daniels, Keely’s cousin he’d done business with. “Gavin? Jack. Do you have any private aviation contacts in Tucson? Keely’s in labor and I need to get home ASAP. Uh-huh. Rapid or Spearfish—preferably Spearfish. That’ll be fine. Cost is not an issue. Thanks. I owe you one. I’m on my way to the airport now.”

He arrived in Spearfish five hours later. Gavin picked him up and didn’t make idle chitchat on the way to the hospital, which Jack appreciated.

Jack nearly ran inside the ER doors. At the receptionist’s desk, he said, “Keely Donohue. She’s in labor.”

“And you are?”

“Her husband, Jack Donohue.”

The receptionist clicked the keys. “Looks like you’re cleared to go in—wow, looks like you’re the only one cleared to go in. Down the hallway, and take the first right. They’ll clear you through from there.”

Jack didn’t make it past the first reception area before he was surrounded by McKays, who all talked at once. He let loose an ear-piercing whistle—a trick his wife had taught him.

Silence.

“I appreciate you all being here when I couldn’t be. But go home. I promise we’ll call when we have news.”

“Go home?” Carolyn repeated.

“No way,” Carson snapped.

The arguing started immediately.

Jack didn’t have time for this. He walked to the next receptionist’s desk. “I’m Jack—”

“We know who you are. Your wife had been calling from the room every fifteen minutes to ask if you’re here yet. It stopped in the last hour, like she’d given up on you.”

His stomach knotted.

“She’s in room two. The nurse will fill you in.”

Jack scrubbed his hands over his face and inhaled a deep breath before he opened the door.

Keely was lying on her side, curled into a ball with her back toward him. The fetal monitoring device positioned at the head of the bed.

He rounded the opposite side of the bed so not to startle her. Her eyes were closed and her face was pinched with pain. “Hey, cowgirl. How you holding up?”

Keely didn’t acknowledge him at all.

Was she really that sound asleep?

Jack ran his hand up her arm. “Keely?”

Her eyes opened. “Jack? Is that really you?”

He kissed her forehead. “Yes. I got here as soon as I could.”

“I thought maybe you’d changed your mind.”

“About what? Being in the delivery room with you?”

“No. About us havin’ a baby.”

What the hell? “It’s a little late to worry about that now, don’t you think?”

“No. I can’t believe...” She sat up and started to cry. Blubbering so he couldn’t understand anything she said.

Then she flopped back into the mattress. Tears flowed down her face and she cried quietly. She wouldn’t even look at him.

Fuck. He could handle anything but her tears. He handed her a wad of tissues but she just balled them in her fist and didn’t attempt to mop up the waterworks.

Jack stood by the side of her bed, hands in his pockets, absolutely at a loss. He’d never seen Keely listless and weepy. Might make him masochistic, but he wished she’d take a swing at him. Or yell at him. Hell, he’d even be happy if she threw the pitcher of water at his head. “Buttercup. What can I do?”

“Take me home,” she whispered. “I don’t wanna be here.”

“As soon as we have this baby and everyone is all right, I promise I’ll take you home.”

Keely shook her head. “Can’t we just go home and we’ll come back and try again tomorrow? The baby isn’t supposed to be here for two more weeks. I’m not ready.”

“We’ve got a few hours to get ready.”

“I can’t do this.”

She really was in shock. He’d never seen that before. “You can. You have to.”

“You can’t make me.” She sniffled. “And if you’re gonna be like this then I want you out of my room.”

“Like hell.”

Keely tried to turn away from him and tune him out.

Jack hated to poke the bear, but pissing her off was the fastest way to snap her out of it. He got right in her face. “So how’d you end up breaking your water?”

She blinked at him. “What?”

“I’ve been gone for a week. What did you do during that time? Were you tearing around on the ATV or out joyriding your horse, trying to get this baby here faster?”

“No!”

“How’d it happen?”

“I was just sitting on the bed and it felt like I kept peeing my pants. Then it just gushed out—”

“So you just...what? Grabbed your keys, left the house barefoot, in your pajamas, without your damn cell phone—again—and just drove yourself to the hospital? Why didn’t you at least call your mom? Or AJ? Or one of the two thousand other McKays who always seem to be underfoot—except when you need them.”

“I don’t know why...” More tears flooded her eyes. “I just wanted you. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Damn right you weren’t. When did you intend to call me? Right, how could you have called me without your cell phone? I swear I’m tethering that thing to your wrist from here on out.”

A spark of defiance flashed in her eyes. “Try it.”

“I live for a challenge. Maybe I’ll take your car keys away too, so you’ll have to call someone when you need help because you won’t be able to go anywhere by yourself.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“I’d do it in a fucking heartbeat. Sometimes your independent streak drives me insane.”

That got her back up.

Good. He kept hammering at her. “This is our first baby. I know you’re freaked out. I am too. Childbirth has come a long way, but there are still dangers—”

“For your information, buster, women have been havin’ babies all over the place since the beginning of time. I don’t need you to goddamn lecture me on what it takes to have a baby since I’m the one pregnant! You cannot just show up here and take over like you know what’s goin’ on when you—”

“So I’m just supposed to stand by and watch you fall to pieces? The baby is coming, whether you’re ready or not, whether or not you like it. So suck it up and deal with it.”

“Why are you bein’ such an asshole?”

“Me?” he asked innocently. “I’m never an asshole to you.”

She snorted. “That’ll be the day. But you have been less assholish the last few weeks. In fact, you’ve been downright mushy gushy with me lately…” Her eyes narrowed. “Hey. That was a trick, Mr. Know-it-all, storming in here, saying all that bullshit so I’d get mad.”

“Listening to you rant is a damn sight better than watching you cry.”

Her bottom lip quivered but she firmed it. “I hate you.”

“No, buttercup, you love me.”

“So? I still wanna punch your smarmy face, jerkwad.”

“I know.” Jack watched her settle and inhale a deep breath. He fought a grin seeing her hand was still balled into a fist. “But can we get back to the business at hand first?”

“Always business with you, GQ.” She eyed his clothing. “I hope you get baby birth junk and goo all over your snappy suit.”

“Now that was just plain mean.”

“I can start crying again, if you’d rather.”

“God no.” He reached for her hand. “Are you having contractions?”

“Yes.”

“And...?”

“And they’re random and they hurt like a motherfucker.”

“What can I do?”

“Tell Doc Monroe to get back here and give me a C-section because I don’t think I can do this the normal way.”

“We can do this the normal way.”

“There is no we. You don’t have amniotic fluid gushing out of your dick nor do you have to push something that weighs six pounds through the small hole at the end of your—”

Jack covered her mouth with his. Then he eased back to stare into her wild eyes. “Yes, we. Always we, Keely. Always.”