OK, trying to get my ass in gear. Sorry this is short but I owe you something! Consider this just a little more I should have added to the last chapter.


Chapter 79

Hector opened my car door and helped me inside. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me long and hard. "Estephania," he whispered. "You are never coming to the doctor alone again."

I touched his teardrops and said, "I know."

I took a deep, shaky breath and smiled at him and swallowed hard. I was really trying hard not to break down in a hot mess.

Once Hector made sure I was safely buckled in, he got into the driver side of my car. He reached for my hand and kissed the back of it. "Ready to go, querida?"

"I was ready an hour ago," I grumbled. "And I'm hungry!"

"Of course," he chuckled. He turned my Explorer around to exit the parking lot. There were still police cars everywhere. Fire trucks were leaving the scene as well as several ambulances. And smack dab in the middle of it all was Harold, complete with the camera crew following his every move.

"Oh, no, no, no, no!" I groaned. "We need to get out of here! Go the other way!"

Hector glanced toward Harold and the approaching crew. "Who is that?"

I slunk down in my seat and hissed, "That's Harold, a reporter with some TV station. He's the one we were watching on the nurse's cell phone. We can't be seen! If my mother sees us or even a glimpse of me, I'll never hear the end of it. She will blame me for everything!"

Hector grinned. "Your mother does not know you got your hair cut, does she?"

I glared at him and wisely he just said, "Hold on."

Seconds later we out of the parking lot, took a couple of back roads and were on our way back to the Burg. He picked up my hand again, "So what did the doctor say? Is everything OK?"

I leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Yes, I'm fine. Not a lot she can tell this early, but she said we are doing fine. She gave me a bunch of reading stuff and I need to get vitamins from Bobby. Junior is about six weeks old so I think we made him during the time I was off when I got shot. That's kinda what Bobby said too."

Before he could ask anything else, my cell phone rang. I checked the caller ID. Mom. Holy crap. Had she seen the TV footage? Someone, somewhere in the Burg saw it and called her? I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

"It's…my mom," I said to Hector. Emphasis on my mom. "I don't want to talk to her."

"I do not want her to upset you. You do what you want," he replied.

Shit. I rolled my eyes and hit connect. "Hi, mom."

"Stephanie Michelle Plum, this is your mother! I have been trying to call you for an hour! Where are you?"

I took another deep breath and waited a couple of beats before I answered her. I put the phone on speaker. "My name is Stephanie Aguila, mom. And I'm working. What do you need?"

"Well, your sister is in labor at St. Francis! Whatever you are doing is not important! You need to come here right now!" She was screeching. Typical.

I gritted my teeth and squeezed my eyes shut. I was getting a headache and my eye was starting to twitch. I shook my head. Un-fucking-believable.

"I'm sorry, mom. I am busy. I'm sure Valerie can pop out this kid without me being there." I answered her.

I could hear her sputtering and gasping through the phone. "Stephanie! You have to be here! It's your sister! She's having a baby!"

"Mom," I calmly replied. "She's always having a baby. I've been there. Every time. There is no reason I need to be there for this one. She will have to do this without me. I am working. Gotta go." I disconnected the call.

I turned my phone off and looked at Hector. "I'm going to hell for that, aren't I?"

He burst out laughing. "I am sure God will overlook that one. Where would you like to get lunch?"

Have I mentioned I love this man?

"Shorty's? I could really use some pizza."

Apparently most of RangeMan was up for pizza, too. We pulled into the parking lot and I swear the only vehicles there were big and black. Hector helped me out of our kind of big and gray vehicle and opened the door of Shorty's for me.

The first thing I heard was Lester. Of course. He whistled loud and yelled, "Beautiful! What took you so long?"

I walked over and punched him in the shoulder. We locked eyes and then I threw my arms around him and whispered, "Thank you for being there." I may have gotten something in my eyes about then. I sniffed and kissed his cheek.

"No problem, Steph. I got your back. And my baby nephew. Just like every man here," he whispered back.

OK. There definitely was something in my eyes that made huge tears roll down my cheeks. Lester held me for a few minutes and released me into Bobby's arms. Where, of course, I cried all over him. And Tank, and Manny, and Zip and Woody, Binky and Vince and Junior, Hal, Ram and Cal. Even Shorty!

There is no mascara made that can hold up to this Jersey girl crying all over my Merry Men. It took a lot of napkins to get me and them dried off. I excused myself to the bathroom and splashed water on my face, blew my nose for the fiftieth time, used the toilet and tried to stroll back out to the tables with dignity. I may as well been naked.

Thankfully the tables were being covered with pizza and beer. A whole bunch of beer which I couldn't have! Dammit. I accepted the iced tea from Shorty and took my place next to Hector. He held out the chair for me and gave me a quick kiss.

"Feel better now, querida?" he asked.

I grinned at him and started to sit down. "Yes, thank you. I needed this. I think we all needed this."

"Damn skippy, white girl!"


Lula burst through the sea of black, followed by Connie, Gina and Bridget, and mama! Oh, hell, here come the tears again. I wasn't the only one crying at this point. More napkins, please. Lots and lots of napkins. I don't know who was behind this impromptu party, but I took a wild guess.

Mama pulled me into her arms, kissed my cheek and practically squeezed the air out of me. "Mi hija! My precious daughter! I was so terrified when Hector called me and told me the danger you were in. He was so scared, Estephania!" She stood back and looked me up and down, checking for injuries. "Dios mio! You are OK? My baby grandson is OK?"

I kissed her cheek and hugged her. "Yes, mama, I am OK." I touched my belly. "And he is OK." I decided right then and there this kid better be a boy. I did not want to let mama down. It was still so amazing and humbling that this woman accepted me, loved me, as her daughter. I sent a quick, little silent prayer to God, 'Thank you for giving me this mother. She says it's a boy. Don't piss her off. Please.'