Hot for a Cop by Whitley Cox

 

1

Soaked to the bone,pissed right the fuck off, and sweating like she was tap dancing on the surface of sun—even though it was a wet and windy December night— Lauren Green grunted at the same time the driver’s seat of her Nissan Pathfinder squealed. She was attempting to wedge herself behind the steering wheel and was doing a shit job accomplishing it.

Her phone started to ring, and she let out a loud “MOTHER FUCKER” at the same time she wrestled with the wind to shut her door.

She finally managed to slam it closed, snatched her phone from her purse, put it on speaker on the cellphone holder attached to her dash and yelled, “What the fuck do you want?” as she attempted to fasten her seatbelt around her enormous baby-filled belly.

“To see if you wanted me to brew you some raspberry leaf tea,” Bianca said quietly. “Get that Booty Call Baby moving on out of that belly.”

“Fuck,” Lauren muttered, immediately feeling like shit for speaking to one of her best friends like she was a telemarketer trying to sell her diet pills. “Sorry.”

“How was your doctor’s appointment?” Celeste asked. They were on a three-way call, as they often were. Her two best friends. Her fellow single moms. Well, Lauren wasn’t a single mom yet, but she would be soon. She needed to be soon. Otherwise, she was going to lose her fucking mind.

Besides hearing that steady heartbeat and being reassured that the baby was healthy and in the right position, she found her doctor’s appointment rather unpleasant.

“Did they do a stretch and sweep?” Bianca asked. “I always hated those. Painful as hell.”

Lauren shifted in her seat. She was told after the invasive, sometimes painful and definitely uncomfortable procedure used by doctors to induce labor she might have cramping, bleeding and be a little sore. She was. More than a little.

Grimacing, she buckled her seatbelt under her belly. “Yep. Not my preferred way to have a man’s fingers inside me, but at this point in the game, the doctor could have stuck his dick in me if it induced labor.”

Both her friends snorted in laughter.

It also sucked that it hadn’t been her doctor. Dr. Finton, her regular OB-GYN was on call at the hospital delivering other lucky women’s babies while Lauren got stuck with a locum, a man old enough to be judging her for her “condition” because it was unseemly for Lauren to be having a child out of wedlock with no father in sight. Clearly, she was a harlot. Not that he said these things to her, of course, but she could feel Dr. Judgy McJudgerson judging the shit out of her as he pushed two fingers into her cooch and scissored them around like her cervix had challenged him to a game of rock, paper, scissors, and kept throwing out rock.

She turned on the ignition, flipped on the defrost and let her vehicle warm up for a moment. The rain was coming in sideways because of the wind and hitting her windshield with a disturbing amount of force.

Starved, because she was always hungry these days, being forty weeks pregnant plus five days, she opened up a bag of dill-pickle-flavored mini rice cakes and started shoving them into her mouth three at a time.

“Did the doctor mention your dilation or anything?” Celeste asked.

The rice cakes had formed a gelatinous glob in the back of her throat, and Lauren struggled to swallow it down. She chugged water from her bottle before answering. “Yeah, still tight as fuck. Like two centimeters maybe. Cervix was hard as a raw carrot too.”

“Damn it,” Celeste said. “I’ll bring over some spicy chicken wings.”

“I’ll bring raspberry leaf tea and dates.”

Lauren wrinkled her nose. “Why dates?”

“Because they help ripen the cervix and decrease the need for Pitocin during labor. I ate dates like a fiend my last week of pregnancy with Charlie, and he came so quickly, with no need for drugs or anything. Barely made it to the hospital.”

“And that wasn’t because you had twins before him and they stretched the door as wide as a combine so he could just slide on out?” Lauren said, flipping on her windshield wipers and pulling out of the clinic parking lot. It was already dark out because, well, duh, it was five o’clock on a Saturday (thank God her doctor’s office was open on the weekends). Add in the storm that had come in off the Pacific earlier that day, and she struggled to see ten feet in front of her headlights.

“Har-har,” Bianca laughed forcibly. “Orgasms also help. You could just stay home and masturbate all night and not bring your crappy attitude over to my house.”

Lauren turned off the side road and onto the ramp for the interstate. “Sorry. You know I’m not usually this big of a bitch. I just want this baby out of me so damn bad.”

“I know, sweetie,” Bianca said. “I’m just teasing you. Bring that crappy attitude over and we’ll pour raspberry leaf down your throat and force-feed you spicy chicken wings. That baby will be out in no time.”

She was just about to accelerate to the cruising interstate speed when a blur of red brake lights in front of her had her slamming on her own brakes hard enough to engage the locking mechanism of her seat belt and make her lurch forward. “What the hell?”

“You okay?” Celeste and Bianca asked at the same time.

“Traffic jam,” she muttered. She tried to see around the vehicle in front of her, but it was a futile endeavor. They were in four lanes of traffic, and it was gridlock. Not to mention the sideways rain.

“I just brought up Google maps on my phone and yeah, major traffic jam on the I-5,” Celeste said. “Any way you can take an off-ramp and do the side roads?”

“We’re at a complete standstill.”

Warm liquid pooled between her legs. What the fuck? She unbuckled her belt and shoved her hand down her pants.

Please don’t let it be blood. Please don’t be blood.

It wasn’t blood.

She brought her fingers to her nose to make sure it wasn’t urine. She’d started peeing herself a little at the slightest sudden movement. A lurch forward like she’d done when she slammed on the brakes easily could have made her empty her bladder.

It wasn’t pee.

“Guys …”

“You okay?” Celeste asked, panic in her voice.

“I think my water just broke.”

“Fuck,” both of her friends said at the same time.

“What do I do?” Lauren asked, craning around awkwardly into the back seat of her Pathfinder to reach for a towel.

“Don’t panic.” Celeste’s voice wobbled. “Sabrina didn’t come for another twelve hours after my water broke. So this may not mean anything more than the start of labor. And that’s what you went to the doctor for, right? To start labor. So at least we know it worked.”

“They had to break my water with the girls,” Bianca added. “First babies usually take a long time to come. Hannah and Hayley were like thirty hours.”

“Jesus fuck,” Lauren muttered.

Attempting to breathe deep and stay calm, she put her vehicle in park and went to push her seat back farther when the mother of all cramps pierced through her abdomen and lower back like she’d just run belly-first into a hot poker.

She sucked in a deep breath. She rode out the pain, gritting her teeth and white-knuckling the steering wheel. “I think that was a contraction.”

“I’m going to time them,” Bianca said. “Let me know when the next one comes.”

Lauren nodded. “Guys, I can’t have my baby in my car in the middle of a traffic jam in the middle of a storm. I just can’t.”

“It’ll be okay,” Celeste said, her voice not the least reassuring.

“If you can talk through the contractions, they’re not that strong. The baby isn’t coming just yet,” Bianca said soothingly. “Remember the breathing from your prenatal class.”

“You mean the one I went to alone because I’m about to be a single mother?” Lauren blurted out, half laughing, half crying. “Because the guy I was seeing for three months, the guy who knocked me up, ran the moment I told him I was pregnant.”

“We offered to come to the classes with you,” Celeste said softly.

“You both have kids and lives. I need to be able to do things on my own. I’m on my own with this ki—” She squeezed her eyes shut and arched her back in her seat as another wave of nauseating pain hit her harder than the last. “Another—”

Fuck, she wasn’t able to speak through it. Did that mean the baby was coming now?

“They’re five minutes apart,” Bianca said, sounding worried.

Lauren slumped back in her seat, panting. “What’s the protocol?”

“Four-one-one,” Celeste said quietly. “Four minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for one hour.”

“That lasted just shy of a minute,” Bianca added.

“Yeah, but they need to last an hour at that length and interval,” Celeste said. “Her water just broke. Her contractions just started. She has time.”

Lauren didn’t feel like she had time. She’d been itching for this baby to make its debut for the last three weeks, and now that it was finally gearing up to do so, she didn’t feel prepared at all.

“Do you have the car seat installed?” Bianca asked.

Lauren nodded. “Yeah. Took it to the fire station and one of the firefighters did it for me.” And that man had fueled her rampant fantasies for a good two weeks afterward. Not that she could see her crotch anymore or get her fingers or a vibrator there. She’d resorted to showerhead, and it wasn’t nearly as effective as some of her toys.

“What about your hospital bag?” Celeste asked.

“In the back.”

“And towels or a blanket?”

“A few, yeah.” She always had at least one blanket in the back of her car and usually kept one or two towels in case she got caught in a rainstorm or decided to go for a swim in some random river or lake when she was out for a Sunday drive.

Having grown up in Nebraska and Utah, now that she lived on the west coast in gorgeous Seattle, she loved going for Sunday drives through the mountains. All the twists and turns to the road. The beauty of nature and the sound of birds chirping and water burbling. She loved her family back home in Utah, but she’d never move back, not when she had the Pacific Northwest to call home.

About to open her mouth and ask if she needed to find boiling water—obviously a joke—another contraction ripped through her. Each one was worse than the last. Each one lasted longer and seemed to be hitting her harder and more concentrated in her back and between her legs.

“Was that another one?” Bianca asked.

“Uh-huh.” She reached for her water bottle and took a long sip. Wasn’t she supposed to be chewing ice chips or something? Wasn’t that what women in labor on TV were always chomping on?

“Has traffic moved at all?” Celeste asked.

Not a fucking inch. “No,” she whined.

“I think you need to move into the back seat,” Bianca suggested. “Recline the seat to give yourself some space. You’ll be more comfortable that way too.”

“I … I can’t give birth in my car. I just can’t.” She’d always considered herself a strong person, an independent person, and yet right now, she felt helpless and weak and terrified of being alone.

“You might have to, honey,” Bianca whispered. “I’m really sorry. But those contractions are strong, close and long. That baby is coming.”

Tears sprang into Lauren’s eyes, and she shook her head violently. “No! No! No!” She poked her stomach. “You stay the fuck in there, you hear me? You are not coming into this world in the back of a Pathfinder in the middle of a storm. That’s not your story. That’s not our story.”

“Get into the back seat,” Celeste said gently. “You’ll be more comfortable there.”

With tears of fear, pain and utter frustration burning tracks down her cheeks, Lauren braced herself for the onslaught of rain, wind and another contraction.

She opened her door, but the wind caught it, flung it open and took Lauren with it.

* * *

Every fucking year.The closer to Christmas it got, the crazier people started to act. The more desperate they started to behave. Isaac Fox squeezed his eyes shut as he sat in his truck in the middle of the gridlocked bumper-to-bumper traffic in the plummeting rain and window-rattling wind. He was glad he’d decided to drive his truck today and not his motorcycle.

Even though his father had drilled into his brain since the day he was born that any other bike besides a Harley was for pussies, he loved his Ducati Enduro Pro and rode it to work whenever he could.

Fuck his old man.

Isaac was nothing like him and determined to keep it that way.

Right down to what rumbled between his legs.

Only now that winter had officially hooked her frigid claws into each and every day, he was grateful he had a vehicle to tuck into. He couldn’t even imagine being trapped in this fucking mess of a traffic jam on his bike.

Goodbye nuts and any chance of having children.

And because he was a cop—but off duty for the next two days—he couldn’t very well weave in between the cars on his bike. That was setting a bad example and showing his privilege. Though he knew countless other motorcycle-riding cops who would have swerved between the vehicles or ridden the shoulder to bypass the chaos.

But Isaac liked to stay aboveboard. He went into law enforcement for a reason. So he could uphold the law, not break it when it suited him.

Opening his eyes again, he checked to see if the traffic in front of him had moved.

Nope. Not a fucking inch.

Good thing he didn’t have a wife and kids to get home to.

Not even a damn cat.

Normally, he liked his life. He had nobody to answer to, nobody to give him grief or a hard time for working late or staying three hours at the gym and then going out for a beer with his buddy. Nobody to pick up after. He could leave the toilet seat up without having to worry about being bitched out for it or some kid throwing his keys and watch into the bowl.

Yeah, he liked his life.

Except sometimes.

Like Christmas.

Like now.

He hadn’t been home in … fuck, nearly ten years. Because there wasn’t really anything for him there anymore. He wasn’t sure he had a home, per se. Certainly not a childhood home he could return to with memories carved out in every corner. A treehouse in the backyard and height measurements in the doorjamb. He’d never had a home like that. The only reason he knew those homes existed was because of television.

Originally from Nebraska, he, his mom and sister fled his abusive father and moved to Phoenix when Isaac was eight and his sister, Natalie, only five. But now that he and Natalie were grown, neither of them lived in Arizona. His mother married a man from Ecuador two years ago and moved down there to be with him. Natalie was studying abroad in Germany, getting her PhD in some very specific kind of genetics, and even though six feet under would be ideal, he knew his father was back in prison. He’d been out on parole for a year, but then was put away again for money laundering, racketeering and possession of illegal firearms.

So Isaac really had no one.

Sure, he had friends. And he would call his mother and sister on Christmas, and he ordered them gifts online to be delivered directly, gift-wrapped and everything. But he didn’t have anybody he could turn to in Seattle whom he could call family.

Which was why he volunteered to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He took the long, ugly shifts because he could. So other cops with families and children could be with those they loved while Isaac raked in the overtime and kept the crazies from looting empty houses like those two crooks from Home Alone.

His stomach grumbled, and he went to reach for a granola bar from his bag on the passenger side of his truck when he noticed the person in the SUV next to him had opened their door.

What the hell? It was windy as fuck and raining like he’d never seen in his ten years living in Seattle. Who would leave their door just wide open? The wind was going to whip it clean off its hinges. That’s when he saw the hand gripping the handle.

White knuckles.

The hand slipped, then scrambled to grab the handle again before finally failing and disappearing completely.

What the …

Abandoning his granola bar, he unbuckled his belt and leaned over his bench seat to see what was going on. That’s when he saw the woman on the ground, her face a mask of pure agony as she held one hand protectively over an enormous belly and struggled to make purchase somewhere on her vehicle with the other hand.

Holy fuck.

Before he could think twice about what he was doing, he was out of his truck and in the rain, running to the woman.

“I gotcha, I gotcha,” he said, though he wasn’t sure she heard him. The wind had probably carried his voice down to Oregon by now. With his hands beneath her arms, he helped her up. “Back in you go.”

He made to place her back behind the wheel, but she screamed out, “No! I’m in labor. The baby is coming now. I need to get into the back seat.”

What the fuck?

“Now?”

She nodded, her whole body soaked, blonde hair plastered to the side of her face. With cornflower-blue eyes, full of more fear than he’d ever seen in his life and brimming with tears, she dug her nails into his arm. “Help me, please.”

He was a cop, not a paramedic. He didn’t know how to deliver a baby. He knew basic first aid. That was it. He’d hardly even held a baby, let alone caught one shooting out of a person like a football.

But he was a first responder. And this woman needed his help. He would do what he could, even if it wasn’t much.

“Okay, okay,” he said gently, shutting the door to the driver’s side and opening up the back passenger door. He folded the seat down so she could lie down through to the back hatch. The other seat already had a car seat installed. “You need me to call your husband or something?”

She climbed into the back on all fours, groaning and pausing as what was obviously another contraction hit her. He waited in the rain and wind until the contraction subsided and she climbed in the rest of the way.

“No husband. Doing this … alone.” She grunted as she flopped to her back.

Isaac climbed in, folded the driver’s seat forward and sat on it. “What do you need from me?”

“Who’s there?” came a female voice from inside the truck.

“Lauren, did you find a doctor?” asked another woman.

Isaac wasn’t an idiot. There was no other person in the vehicle, so those voices had to be coming from her phone. “I’m not a doctor. I’m a cop,” he said. “Who am I speaking to?”

“A cop? Well, it’s better than nothing. We’re Lauren’s friends. Celeste and Bianca. Have you ever delivered a baby before?”

“No.”

“Do you have your own kids?”

“No.”

“A lot of good he’s going to be,” one woman muttered.

“Well, at least she’s not alone now,” the other replied.

“You need to help her get her pants off and place some towels beneath her. There is going to be a lot of blood. Her water already broke in the front seat.”

“I should call 911. They can talk me through delivering the baby,” he said, dreading the idea of being the first person a baby saw when he or she entered the world.

“You’re not catching this baby,” she said to him, her eyes wide in panic. “He’s not catching this baby,” Lauren cried out to her friends, her face twisting in more pain. “He’s too hot to see me, to see it in such a godawful state. I watched those birthing videos. Everything swells and goes flat and nasty. No fucking way. I’ll catch this baby myself. I think I’ve got a mirror on the compact in my purse.”

“She’s being ridiculous,” one of the women murmured. He had no clue who was Celeste and who was Bianca, and at this point in the chaos, he didn’t care.

“What’s your name, officer?” the other woman asked.

“Isaac,” he replied.

“Okay, Isaac, call 911. Let them know a woman is in labor on the interstate, then maybe go knock on some car windows to see if there is a nurse or doctor or paramedic in the jam. Somebody to help you.”

“Should I leave her, though?” He was a cop. He should have known to call 911 first. This pregnant woman in such pain was making him forget all his training.

Lauren’s face was once again scrunched up as she braved her way through another contraction. Her eyes were shut. Her teeth gnashed and bared as she squirmed where she lay. “Go!” she finally yelled. “Go find me someone who can catch this baby. But then you come back.” Her eyes flashed open. “Please, don’t leave me.”

He nodded and opened the door again. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Isaac had been through war. He’d been through shootouts and armed robberies, hostage negotiations and talking people off bridges. But none of that compared to the helplessness he felt right now as he wandered up and down the rows of vehicles knocking on windows.

After graduating college, he enlisted in the marines and was deployed to Iraq, where he served two back-to-back tours before returning to the U.S. and enrolling in the police academy. He’d never been to Seattle before, but a buddy in the marines had grown up in the Pacific Northwest and said there wasn’t a better place to live. Stuart died before he was able to return home, but Isaac took his words to heart and decided to see what all the hype was about. Stuart had not led him astray.

The moment Isaac saw the sunset, the mountains and the trees, the ocean and the ferry boats, he knew he’d found his forever home. He found an apartment within a week and enrolled in the police academy a day later. And he hadn’t looked back since.

Fighting the wind and rain, he attempted to shield his eyes and the droplets that felt more like shards of glass. It was to little avail. He should have grabbed his jacket from his truck, but he wasn’t thinking about anything besides helping Lauren. Now, a ways away from her Pathfinder, he worried she and the baby would be in distress if he didn’t return. He needed to get back to her, but he hadn’t found anybody that could help her yet. And he needed to help her.

A woman in a blue Corolla saw him approach her vehicle, and she rolled down her window slightly. “Is someone hurt?” she asked.

“A woman is in labor. She needs help delivering the baby. It’s coming now. Are you a doctor?”

She shook her head. “Midwife. I can help.”

“Oh thank fuck. This way.”

Nodding, she shut the lights off for her vehicle, reached for a bag from the back seat of her car and followed him through the cars, the wind and rain now at their backs, propelling them forward.

“Here, here,” he said, pointing to her gray Nissan. “She’s in the back seat.”

The midwife nodded. “Is she alone?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you comfortable staying to support her?”

No. But he’d do it anyway.

She didn’t wait for him to respond and opened the door. “Hi there. I’m a midwife, and I hear you’re having a baby in this storm.”

“Where’s Isaac?” Lauren shouted.

“I’m here, I’m here,” he said, poking his head around the midwife to see her.

“Can you climb into the back seat through the hatch and go support her?” the midwife asked. “Maybe let her sit up between your legs. Rub her shoulders and hips. Let her squeeze your hand.”

He nodded as the midwife climbed into the truck and shut the door.

Soaked through to his marrow and freezing, he knew he needed to get out of the rain, but he knocked back on the door before opening it. “I need to pull her vehicle off to the berm. Put her hazards on. Do the same for my truck. It’s not safe the way we are now.” Thank fuck his cop-sense was coming back. He was beginning to worry it might be gone for good.

Nodding, the midwife dropped the passenger seat the same way the driver’s seat was and Isaac shut the door, popped the driver’s seat back up and climbed behind the wheel.

“Might as well gimme your keys so I can pull your car off to the berm, too,” he said, turning over the ignition. “Not safe where it is now.”

The midwife made a “mhmm” sound in agreement and handed him her keys.

It took some finesse to pull over, as all vehicles were bumper to bumper, but eventually he managed, tossed on the hazard lights and shut off the Pathfinder. Then he went to do the same to his truck and the midwife’s car, finally calling 911 as he did so. They were dispatching an ambulance to the scene, but given the gridlock, they would be severely delayed.

It felt like forever until he was climbing into Lauren’s vehicle through the back. He was glad to finally be out of the rain but terrified about what was going to happen next. Closing the hatch door behind him, he helped Lauren up to a sitting position and scooted in behind her.

She was wet too, but that was probably from rain and sweat. Her forehead felt warm, and she was limp like a noodle as he maneuvered his body around hers.

The midwife perched on the folded-down driver’s seat and dug around in her bag. “All right, those were some big contractions. Do you think you can talk now?”

Lauren nodded.

“Good. My name is Nicki. What’s yours?” She snapped on some purple latex gloves.

“Lauren.”

“Hi, Lauren, nice to meet you. Now, while we’re between contractions, I’m going to ask you a few questions. Are you okay answering them?”

Lauren nodded.

“Great. How old are you, Lauren?”

“Thirty-two.”

“And how far along are you?”

“Forty weeks, five days.”

“Oh, so this little one is overdue. Your first?”

Lauren nodded again.

“And the father?”

“A guy I dated for a few months. He ran when I told him I was pregnant.”

“That fucker,” Isaac blurted out.

Nicki’s gentle gray eyes turned sad. “I’m sorry about that.”

Lauren opened her mouth to say something, but another contraction came on first, and she wailed and groaned in Isaac’s arms, her body twisting, face contorting in pain. The midwife was staring at her watch.

When Lauren finally relaxed, Nicki lifted her gaze. “And they’ve been like that for a while now?”

Lauren nodded. “My water only just broke like thirty minutes ago. Contractions started right after that. But they’ve been long and intense.”

“We’ve been timing them,” said either Bianca or Celeste from the phone. “They’re three minutes apart and lasting for a minute.”

Nicki put a stethoscope into her ears and placed it on Lauren’s belly. “Friends?”

Lauren nodded.

“How has your pregnancy been? Any concerns throughout?”

Lauren shook her head. “No. Doctors say I’m healthy. Baby is healthy. I was GBS negative.”

What the fuck was GBS? Was it a good thing she was negative?

“Good. No need for penicillin.” Nicki went quiet and stoic for a moment as she listened to the baby in Lauren’s belly. “Heartbeat sounds good. I have my doppler too if this didn’t work, but I can hear the heartbeat just fine.”

Nicki pulled a blood pressure cuff from her bag, wrapped it around Lauren’s arm, inflated it, pressed the stethoscope to the inside of Lauren’s elbow and stared at her watch again as the cuff deflated.

Nodding, the midwife removed the cuff and stowed it back in her bag. “Blood pressure is normal. That’s good.”

“I had a stretch and sweep earlier today,” Lauren said, her hands rubbing over the top of her belly. “Doctor said I was only two centimeters and hard as a carrot.”

“Yes, well, that can change at the drop of a hat. And since you had the procedure, that probably got things moving.”

What the fuck was a stretch and sweep? Hard as a carrot? Did he want to know what that meant? Probably not. He could only imagine, and that image did not sit well in his brain.

“We need to remove your pants so I can take a look,” the midwife said. “Are you okay with that?”

Lauren nodded. “Whatever. I …” But just like before, she couldn’t get the words out before the contraction hit her hard.

Isaac had no clue what to do. He placed his hands on her shoulders and massaged, but like hell if he knew if he was doing any good.

When the contraction ended, Nicki helped Lauren remove her pants and underwear. She was wearing a long gray tunic dress thing, so at least she was able to keep her modesty.

Not bothering to look between Lauren’s legs, Nicki put her hand beneath her dress.

“You’re nine centimeters, Lauren. I can feel the head. This baby is coming now. How do you feel?”

“Like my body is going to be split in two,” Lauren whimpered, her head slumping to the side and against Isaac’s shoulder. “I’m already so tired.”

Removing his hand from her shoulder, he wiped the hair off her face. “You’ve got this, Lauren. You can do this.” His encouragement sounded hollow to his own ears, but he had no idea what else to say. “What a story for you and this baby. Born in a storm.”

God, had he really just said that? Fuck, he was lame.

“Do you feel like you need to push?” Nicki asked.

Lauren barely nodded, but she did.

Nicki smiled. “All right. Let’s bend your knees, and when that feeling comes again, let me know and we’ll go for it, okay?”

“Okay.”

Nicki glanced up at Isaac. “You ready?”

No. But he hadn’t been ready for very much in his life, and that hadn’t stopped him.

* * *

“One last push, Lauren,”Nicki said. “The shoulders are out now. One more big push, and then you’ll have your baby.”

Gritting her teeth and holding on as tight as she possibly could to Isaac’s hand, Lauren bore down, squeezed her eyes shut and pushed as hard as she could.

She felt the baby slide out of her.

The pressure was gone.

The pain a distant memory.

The relief was instantaneous.

Well, not quite. She needed to hear that cry.

Please, cry. Please. Oh God, just let me hear it cry.

And then she heard it. A beautiful lamb’s bleat. She glanced down the length of her body, her belly already a fraction of the size it was a minute ago, to see Nicki with a soft green blanket. Little pink arms with five fingers on each hand flailed from the center of the quilt.

“He’s perfect,” Nicki said, bundling the baby more before passing him up to Lauren.

“It’s a boy?” Tears stung her eyes as she accepted her son from the midwife and held him against her chest.

He was perfect.

Soft, light blond hair. Dark eyes that blinked unfocused but never not at her. His lips were puffy, his face round, and he was covered in goo, but he was magnificent. True and utter perfection.

“A boy!” Celeste and Bianca cheered over the phone.

“Oh my God, a baby boy!” Celeste was blubbering. “I’m so proud of you, Lauren.”

Bianca sniffed. “We both are. I can’t wait to meet him. Is she okay? Is Mom okay? Midwife? Nicki? Officer? Is Lauren all right?”

“She seems to be,” Nicki said. “Mom, Lauren, good job. You were a trooper.”

“Damn straight she was,” Celeste said. “A fucking warrior.”

“We’ll let you go,” Bianca said. “Call us once you get to the hospital. Let us know if you need anything. Anything. We mean it. We’re so happy for you, honey. You did amazing.”

“Bye guys. Sorry I couldn’t make wine night,” Lauren said.

“Yeah, but next wine night you actually get to have wine again,” Bianca said before she and Celeste both said goodbye and hung up.

She loved those two women like they were her sisters. And she had a sister—a half sister, but she and Fiona had never been close. Not that she didn’t love Fiona, but their age gap of ten years was big enough to make any significant level of bonding a challenge.

But Bianca and Celeste were her people, her bitches, and she knew that she could lean on them, count on them for anything. And even when she didn’t ask, they would be there for her—and this baby.

“You’re still attached via the umbilical cord,” Nicki said. “I’ll cut it in a moment, but I’m going to get you to push once more. Pretend to cough. It shouldn’t hurt.”

Staring at her son and the pure perfection that he was, Lauren did as she was told. She felt the placenta slip out.

“Do you have a name picked out?” Isaac asked behind her, his solid wall of muscle comforting, along with his warmth and that spicy, manly smell. She’d only just met the man, but she was damn glad it was him who had been behind her during this whole ordeal.

She shook her head. She’d gone through countless baby books and websites, and she just hadn’t been able to find anything she could settle on. Because she didn’t want to find out the baby’s sex, it’d been twice as hard. She wanted to meet her child before she named it. Wanted to see his or her personality and features before she made that all-important decision of what they should be called.

She’d struggled the most with boys’ names. She liked a lot of girls’ names. But boys’ names were tough. It didn’t help that she’d had a fair number of boyfriends over the years, and all those assholes had sullied the baby name list for her astronomically. She liked Nate, but she’d dated a Nathan in high school, and he’d been a tool. She also liked Marshall, but her college boyfriend had been named Marshall, and he’d cheated on her. She liked Luke, but that was her half brother’s name. She also liked Dereck, but that was her stepfather’s name. Seriously, all the good names were taken by friends and family or sullied by some asshole she’d dated or who’d done her wrong in some way.

Gazing down at her unnamed son, she leaned back against Isaac. “I wanted to meet my baby first, but now that I have, I still don’t know.” Tucking her finger into her son’s fist, she waited until he opened his palm and reached for her. His grip was strong. “Who are you, little man? What’s your name?”

Nicki angled over Lauren’s body and pried the blanket off the baby just over his belly. She snipped the cord and tied it off with a clamp half an inch from his stomach. “It’ll fall off in a couple of weeks.”

“Thank you.”

“You also have time to name him. There isn’t a rush. I think they give you thirty days.” Nicki grinned and turned to grab a flashlight from her bag. She turned the powerful beam on and shone it between Lauren’s legs. The woman’s bag was like Mary Poppins’s purse; it had everything in it. A baby blanket, garbage bags, you name it. The woman traveled prepared to deliver babies wherever and whenever. “A see a minor tear here. It can happen with such fast deliveries. I’m going to do a quick stitch with some local anesthetic. If we wait to do it at the hospital it won’t heal properly. Are you okay with that?”

Lauren nodded. “Sure, whatever, just do what you gotta do.”

Nicki’s smile was warm and reassuring. “I’ll do my best to minimize the pain.”

Not wanting to take her eyes off her son but knowing she should, at least for a moment, Lauren glanced up at Isaac, with his thick red hair, blue eyes and strong chin. “Thank you. I don’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t found us.” She tried to bite her lip to keep it from trembling, to keep the tears at bay, but she couldn’t. The tears came, and they came on hard. “I was so scared. You saved us.”

“Shhh,” Isaac cooed, shaking his head and using his thumb to wipe away her tears. “You would have done the same for me, I’m sure of it.”

Through the tears and blubbering, she laughed. “I would have helped you give birth?”

His smile was like a bolt of lighting in the sky. “Well, maybe not give birth, but … you know what I mean.”

And at that moment she knew the name of her son. Smiling up at the stranger, at the cop, at the man who had saved her and her child, she blinked through the tears. “I’m going to name him Isaac.”