Freya surreptitiously slipped the packet from her locker and into her uniform pocket, hiding it under her notepad. The lack of her period and the increasing nausea she was experiencing each morning seemed obvious signs enough, but Freya wanted proof. Scientific proof.
Night shift it might be, but to her this was morning, and walking into the staff room and smelling the strong coffee that had been put on to brew had almost made her share with everyone the ginger biscuits she had forced down for breakfast. It had taken a gargantuan effort to control her stomach, and a sheen of sweat had prickled her brow and top lip as she’d fumbled with her locker. Her fingers had almost tripped over themselves in her haste.
Heading to the ladies’ loo, she told Mona she’d just be five minutes and that she’d catch up to her at the staff briefing in a moment.
‘Okay, hun, see you in five.’ Mona smiled and headed off, her hand clutched around a mug of that nausea-inducing coffee.
The toilets were right next door to the hub, so Freya slipped in and locked the door behind her, leaning back against it, letting out a long, slow breath of relief. She took a moment to stand there and see if her stomach settled.
There didn’t seem any doubt about what was happening to her, but she needed to do this just the same. She pulled the pregnancy test from her pocket and stared hard at it, not quite believing that she was actually going to.
She’d always hoped that one day she would become a mother. But the actual chances of that ever happening to her had—she believed—become very slim the day she had been scarred for life. Because who would want her now?
‘Come on, Freya…you’re better than this,’ she whispered to herself, trying to drum up the courage to get herself through the next few minutes.
Freya loved the nightshift, working on Maternity here at Queen’s Hospital. There was something extra-special about working nights. The quiet. The solitude. The intimate joy of bringing a new life into the world and being with that family as they watched their first sunrise together. A new day. A new family. Life changing. Getting better. New hopes. New dreams. There weren’t the distractions of daytime—telephones constantly ringing, visiting families all over the place. It was secluded. Fewer busybodies.
It was the perfect hiding place for her, the hospital at night time, and those nights afforded Freya the anonymity that she craved. Lights were kept low. There were shadows to stay in, no harsh fluorescent lighting to reveal to her patients the true extent of her scarring.
It was better now than it had been. She had some smooth skin now, over her cheeks and forehead, where just two years before she’d had angry red pits and lines, her face constantly set and immovable, like a horrific Halloween mask.
Not now. Not now she’d had her many, many reconstructive surgeries. Thirty-three times under the skilled scalpel of her plastic surgeon.
And yet she was still hiding—even more so—in a bathroom. Her hands sweating and fidgety as she kept glancing down at the testing kit.
‘Only one thing to do, really,’ she told herself aloud, shaking her head at the absolute silliness of giving herself a pep talk.
She peed on the stick and laid it on the back of the sink as she washed her hands and then took a step back. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, refusing to look down and see the result. She saw the fear in her eyes, but she also recognised something she hadn’t seen for years—hope.
‘This is what you’ve always wanted,’ she whispered.
But wanting something and actually achieving it, when you believed it to be impossible, was another thing altogether. If it were possible then she’d finally get her childhood dream. To hold her own child in her arms and not just other people’s. To have her own baby and be a mum. Even if that meant she’d have to revert back to living in sunlight. With all those other people.
Even if they didn’t stare at her, or do that second glance thing, she still felt that they were looking. It was human nature to look at someone different and pretend that you weren’t. And your face was the hardest thing to hide.
Still…this wasn’t exactly how she’d imagined it happening. As a little girl she’d dreamt of marrying a handsome man, having his babies and being in a settled relationship.
She had no one. Even ‘the guy’ had been a mad, terrific impulse, when her body had been thrumming with joy about the fact that she was out amongst people, having fun, enjoying a party behind the veil of her fancy dress costume.
It had been so long since she’d last been to a social event. Too long. Years since she’d stood in a room full of people, chatting, laughing at poor jokes, being normal.
Mike had taken that away from her. That joy and freedom. His jealous actions had imprisoned her in a world of night and pain, surgeries and hiding. Feeling unable to show her face to the world without fearing people’s reactions. A frightened child turning away as if to clutch her mother’s skirts when a stranger did a double-take and tried not to look appalled or disgusted or worse.
The veil she’d worn that night had hidden everything. The high-necked Victorian steam punk outfit had hidden the scars on her neck that had not yet been tackled, and the veil had added a note of mystery.
That night people had looked at her with intrigue and with delight. They’d smiled…they’d complimented her on how wonderful she looked. Their words had made her giddy with happiness. She’d been normal there. Like them.
And then he’d been there. The guy. The pirate. He’d seemed uncomfortable. Had appeared to be waiting for enough time to pass so he could make his escape.
She knew how that felt. She’d felt a kind of companionship with him, despite their not having exchanged a word.
It had helped, of course, that he had seductively dark eyes and a wickedly tempting mouth, and she’d almost stopped herself. She’d taken a moment to register the fact that she was attracted to a man when the very idea of that had been anathema to her for so many years.
But not that night. The costume, the veil, had given her a sense of bravery she hadn’t felt for a long time.
‘I’m Freya. Pleased to meet you.’
‘I saw you eyeing up the exit. Getting ready to make a break for it?’
‘I’ve been thinking about it.’
‘Please don’t. Stay for a little while longer. Let me get you a drink.’
It had been crazy how emboldened she’d felt. Her entire body had been thrumming with adrenaline and serotonin, her heart pounding like a revved-up engine. She’d felt alive, happy, normal again—having a conversation with an attractive man, feeling the thrill of first attraction.
Silly. Childish, maybe, when she really ought to have known better, but it had just felt so good!
He had made her feel that way. The way he’d looked at her, his eyes sparkling with inky delight, his full lips curved in a wicked smile. He’d laughed with joy at her anecdotes, had genuinely seemed happy to stay.
She’d felt warm and wanted again. Desire had filled her the second he’d let go of the stem of his glass and let his fingers trail delicately over the back of her hand. She’d focused on that movement, watched his fingertips on her skin—her very sensitive skin. She’d looked up and met his eyes, and the most extraordinary question had left her lips.
‘Are you married?’
‘Do you want to be?’
She’d startled herself with the sheer audacity of her question. That wasn’t her! Freya MacFadden did not proposition strange men!
She’d pulled her hand away then, retreating into the shell she was so accustomed to being inside. But then he’d reached for her hand again. Not to stop her from running away. Not to try and possess her or control her. But just to get her to make eye contact with him.
‘I’m guessing you didn’t mean to say that?’
‘Then we can both forget it. Don’t worry.’
‘Don’t ever be.’
He’d been so kind. So understanding. So she hadn’t bolted and neither had he.
They’d continued to sit with each other and talk about what the other guests were wearing and why the charity they were there to support was so important. They’d laughed and had a good time, enjoying each other’s company.
He’d offered to walk her out at the end, and she’d let him, intending to say goodbye at the door. To fetch her coat and leave. For ever to remain an enigmatic stranger at a party that he would remember with fondness. Like Cinderella leaving the ball at midnight, only without the glass slipper.
Freya let out a deep breath. She couldn’t stay here in the bathroom for too long. There was a hand-over from the day shift.
Freya loved her daytime colleagues, and they her, but she was happy when they went home. Because then she could begin to craft the intimacy that the night shift brought. Lowering the lights. Softening the voices.
It was time.
She couldn’t wait any longer.
It was now or never.
She looked down.
And sucked in a breath.
Pregnant With His Royal Twins is available from :
(Kindle, Amazon UK) January 2018
(Paperback, Amazon US) December 19th, 2017!
(Paperback, Barnes and Noble US) December 19th, 2017!
(Ebook, Nook US) January 1, 2018