She nodded, put up her hand to stop him and sneezed again. This time, for some reason, it gave her a short pain at her lower belly. She quickly put her hand there. Unfortunately, she couldn''t help wincing.
Mason noticed. Of course he did: he always had. He frowned.
"Julia," he said. "Are you all right?"
"Quite," she assured him.
"Yes, I am."
"Does it hurt?"
"No it does not."
"I saw your grimace."
"Mason. It''s okay, really. It''s normal."
"How do you know?"
Julia smiled. He did not smile back. He was concerned, and she enjoyed it more than she''d thought she could.
"It''s perfectly normal," she said.
Mason knew how much the baby meant to this woman. This courageous, proud woman who had decided to learn to live with her loneliness, but still refused to live an empty life.
The fact that he was the one to give her this baby gave him a thrill. Not quite unfamiliar, for he already had a son; but still very new and - very genuine. To Mason the baby meant almost as much.
Julia was independent and self-sufficient; too self-sufficient for her own good. Well, he was here to take care of that.
The ward door opened. "Julia," the man greeted her.
Bill, must be that Bill Merrick, her doctor.
"You''re all right," he said.
"And the baby?" she asked hurriedly.
"It''s all right. Your blood pressure dropped, it happens with pregnant women. The organism is adapting to the hormone changes, - and there must have been a stress recently--"
''Oh yes,'' Mason and Julia thought in unison.
"Probably you''ve just been overexhausting yourself at work," Bill went on. "You know you shouldn''t."
"I''ll see to it," Mason spoke up.
Bill looked surprised: he hadn''t noticed him before. Mason stepped forward.
"I''m Mason Capwell," he shook Bill''s hand. "The father of Julia''s baby."
Julia''s lower jaw dropped.
"Dr Merrick," Bill said.
He must have known that other friend of Julia''s, Mason thought; but Bill did not voice any surprise or puzzlement. Probably the good doctor decided Julia had found another sperm donor. Mason was determined to prove he was more than that.
So much more.
Mason asked Dr Merrick out, as Julia figured, to ask him some questions concerning Mary''s problems and her own perspectives. She did not know how long it took him; she must have dozed off. When she woke up Mason was standing there, watching her; his lips were set, his face dark.
Julia understood how complicated the situation was for him. She was grateful Mason did not seem aghast when he learnt about her pregnancy; but really, she could not expect him to jump for joy, either. They were not as intimate as to plan a baby together - but if they could handle the situation with dignity, probably they still had a chance.
"Are you ready to take me home?" Julia said as cheerfully as she could.
Mason gave a start. He seemed to have woken up, too.
"Can I go home, Mason?"
"No, not today. You''re staying here tonight, tomorrow I''ll come for you. - Speaking of home. Will you move in with me, Julia?"
Julia was amazed, and for a moment speechless.
"No," she said when she recovered.
Mason came closer and sat onto the side of her bed. "Why not?" he inquired.
She sighed. "Because - why don''t you move in with me."
"I don''t because in your pretty house there''s nothing Matt might need. Why don''t you move in with me - with us, I mean?"
Julia knew Mason and Mary had not planned their baby either, but also she knew he had been happy when Mary told him she was pregnant. Well, that was not possible for him any more, was it? What Julia could do for him now was to let him see only the bright side of her pregnancy (if there was any).
"Because," she said patiently. "Because in the morning I''m sick, and sometimes during the day, too. I feel dizzy at times, and worried all the time, and usually hungry but I am sick and can''t eat. And panicky, too. Those hormone changes make me so - weepy and whiney. And at night, I''m always rolling and rolling, and getting up, and running to the lavatory, and - I''m not moving in with you."
Mason seemed to give it some thought. "Okay," he said then, "whatever works best for you." He leant and kissed her tenderly. "Try to get some rest. See you in the morning."
"Thank you, Mason." She squeezed his hand, and he got up.
Next week, when Mason and Julia were back to work, a catastrophe broke out.
Mr Smith announced Counsellor Wainwright was to fly to Eureka to meet a client. Of course Mr Smith did not know Julia was to go to Dr Merrick for an examination, and he had no idea pregnant women were not recommended to travel by air. To be honest, he did not know Julia was pregnant.
Julia tried to explain she could settle all the question very well staying in Santa Barbara. Mason was keeping silent. He interfered only when he saw Julia was losing it.
"Let me do that, Mr Smith," Mason said in his feline manner. "We''ve been working on the case together with Julia, and--"
It was all a pack of lies and nothing more, for it was the first time Mason''d ever heard of the case and the client. But bluffing was one of the pastimes Mason was best at; so he quickly persuaded Mr Smith that he could see to the matter much more successfully than Julia herself.
"Thank you, Mason," she said again when Smith left. There were tears in her eyes as she spoke, and Mason looked up with suspicion.
"Have I done anything wrong?"
"No, I''m just so grateful--"
"Oh okay, then stop it please," he grumbled. He felt uneasy which was quite evident. "We don''t have much time: you must tell me all I need to know about the case."
Julia made an effort and fought back the tears. "Of course."
Before going to Eureka, even for two days or so, Mason had to make lots of arrangements: Matt, his own cases, his siblings, his mother... He knew it was his duty, but it''s easy to imagine what Mason felt when, entering the hotel hall in Eureka, he saw Julia rising to greet him!
"You!" Mason hissed.
Julia nodded guiltily. "I tried--"
"You said you needed to see Dr Merrick," he reminded her. "You said it was not advisable for you to travel; you''re pregnant!"
"I am; there is no need to shout so loud," she glared. "Let''s get upstairs, I''ve taken a room. You''ll have plenty of opportunity to yell at me there."
"I''m not yelling, Julia," he said in a lower voice. "I''m just stunned. I put off all of my own cases, quite urgent, and Matt, all because you''re pregnant--"
"I was told the client insisted on consulting me and no one else," Julia explained. "He made it quite clear he''d tear up the contract if I did not show up. He threatened Smith, and Smith told me the firm--"
"The firm," Mason repeated angrily. "What about our baby?"
Julia pulled his hand. "Mason," she pleaded. "Let''s get upstairs."
"Where''s your suitcase?" he grumbled, took her bag and followed her.
The room was not too big, with one broader bed and a couch. Mason threw the bags down.
"So?" he said.
"So," Julia inhaled. "I left you messages - at home, and at the airport, and--"
"I took the Capwell jet."
"Ohhh I am sorry," she said sarcastically.
"Okay. Well, so the first thing tomorrow--"
Julia hid her eyes. "We''re going home."
"The client cannot meet us tomorrow. He postponed the meeting."
Mason stared at her and burst out laughing. "Well, if this is not ironic I don''t know what is," he said.
"I''m glad you see it this way." She unclasped her bag. "A nightcup, maybe?"
"Oh." He took the tiny bottle out of her hands.
"They gave them out in the business class."
"The business class. Didn''t know you were such a spendthrift, Counsellor."
Julia laughed. "Of course, taking a private jet is much thriftier?"
Mason laughed with her, fixing himself a drink.
"How did CC let you take it?" Julia wondered. "I thought he hasn''t been too happy with you since you took Pamela''s side."
Mason sighed. "I did not ask him. It''s not necessary. I''m a Capwell, and I give orders. It''s simple. Much simpler than what is going on with me and dad, and Pamela, too."
He sat down on the couch. "I''m sorry," Julia said. She sat next to him and put her hand on his sleeve: he looked just too weary and unhappy.
"It''s ok," he said and sipped his drink. "It''s a long story, and as old as hills, Julia. At least now I have something to cling to when I am being tossed around. But, for some reason," he paused. "For some reason sometimes it feels as painful as it was when I was five, or seven."
Julia nodded, tears in her eyes.
"Parents," Mason said with deep emotion she''d not dare define. There was hurt, and disgust, disappointment and love, maybe more. "Everyone must have a loving mother and a father who''d be proud of you. You need them so much, and well, it''s hard to realize none of them cares for you, and whatever they do is dictated by the wish to hurt the other one - and both are using ME as a weapon."
"No," Julia said shaking her head. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, and without realizing it she put her hand on her belly.
Mason turned to see that. He smiled at her trying to shake off his mood. "Yes, Julia," he argued. "But - it shouldn''t bother you. I''ll never, ever be like this - or do the same to Matt and - our baby."
The hard, cold look in his eyes had disappeared, and instead he gave Julia the kind of smile that always made her catch her breath: kindly, warm and full of love; the love so very few people knew Mason to be capable of.
"May I?" he said reaching out. She nodded, and Mason placed his hand over hers on her belly. "I promise."
to be continued