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Every Time We Fall in Love 5


  One where he could think more clearly about Molly and Amelia and what the future was going to look like from here on out.

  As soon as he opened his laptop, an instant message from Alec popped up at the top of his screen. Harry should have guessed his family would be waiting to hear from him. And maybe that was the real reason he'd gone online. Not to escape in his work, but to be able to turn to someone he loved the way they'd always turned to him whenever their lives went sideways.

  Alec: Molly show up yet?

  Harry: About an hour ago. She honestly didn't know Amelia was mine.

  But she had confessed that she'd wished Amelia was his daughter. Hearing that had meant so much to him. It wouldn't make up for the years they'd lost, but at the very least, he was glad to know Molly thought he would have been a good father.

  Alec: How the hell could she not think that?

  Harry: It's complicated, but I believe her. So will you, once I explain. It's too late tonight to go into it all, so you'll have to trust me on it for now.

  Harry wasn't planning to give his family all the nitty-gritty details, but he would tell them enough to understand why Molly wasn't to blame for Amelia only just now appearing in their lives.

  Alec: From what I remember about Molly, it was hard to believe she would have kept you and Amelia apart. In a strange way, this actually makes more sense.

  Clearly, Alec losing his business partner, falling in love with Cordelia, and abandoning his career as an aviation mogul to become a chef had changed his brother deeply. Enough that Alec was willing to see there could be more to the situation than what lay on the surface.

  Harry: We're going to do another DNA test tomorrow to make absolutely sure she's mine.

  Alec: She is. I have a medical friend who can help.

  Harry smiled. Alec wanted Amelia in the family just as badly as the rest of them. If there was even the slightest chance that she wasn't...

  No, he couldn't let himself think that. Couldn't find his daughter one night and lose her the next.

  Harry: Thanks for checking in.

  Alec: You looked after me more times than I can count. Now it's my turn. Whatever you need, I'm here.

  Harry didn't need his brother to thank him for anything he'd done. They were family. No other reasons were needed. And yet, after Molly had yanked the lid off such a huge box of memories tonight, it helped to hear it.

  Especially when Harry had made some pretty big confessions of his own. Not only that she'd been the love of his life, but also that losing her had broken him.

  Alec: Go get some sleep so that you're fresh for your first full day with your daughter. She's one hell of a kid, by the way.

  His brother signed off, and Harry took Alec's advice, closing the laptop and getting under the covers.

  And despite the nearly inconceivable stress of the day, thinking of Amelia had him smiling as he fell asleep.

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  The next morning, when Molly rolled over and looked at the bedside clock, she was shocked to see that it was nine a.m.

  Since the day she'd given birth to Amelia, she hadn't slept past six thirty. Her daughter was a naturally early riser, so Molly had to adapt her night-owl tendencies to hers.

  Could there be a worse morning to sleep in? She should have been there when Amelia woke up in a strange bed, should have been beside her for every second of her first morning with Harry. Not snoring away in his ridiculously comfortable guest bed.

  Molly leaped out of the bed, threw on her clothes from the night before, and ran out of the room and down the hall, taking the stairs two at a time.

  Only to skid to a halt when she saw them.

  Amelia and Harry were sitting at the kitchen island laughing together, their heads thrown back, looking like two peas in a pod. Aldwin leaned against Amelia's legs while she stroked his ruff. The kitchen was a mess of pots and pans, and their plates looked as though they'd licked them clean.

  It made Molly's heart swell to watch them. Though they'd met only yesterday, she could see that Harry already cared deeply for Amelia and wanted to make this transition as easy as possible for her. It was a huge relief to know that he wouldn't keep her at the same distance that he had kept Molly.

  That was, she had to remind herself, if it turned out that Harry was definitely Amelia's father.

  Molly realized she had never wanted anything so much in all her life.

  That wasn't all she wanted, though. She wanted to be laughing with them, wanted to be part of the bond they were building. Instead, she made herself go back to her room to take a shower and change. She didn't plan on trying to impress Harry. But that didn't mean she needed to walk around looking like the bride of Frankenstein either, especially on such an important day.

  Thankfully, she'd had a good night's sleep. As soon as she'd lain down, Harry's voice had started playing in a loop inside her head. Don't you know it broke me to lose you? The love of my life. But amazingly, his voice had finally lulled her to sleep.

  She couldn't let herself focus on what he'd said about her. She needed to keep every ounce of her focus on making sure Amelia was okay with all these huge changes. Maybe one day in the future, once everything had been worked out...

  No. Letting her head, her heart, go down that road was utter madness.

  The guest bathroom was as luxurious as the rest of Harry's house, top of the line without being cold or cookie-cutter. After so many years of squeezing into her little corner shower, with barely enough room to lift her legs to shave them, it was such a pleasure to stand beneath the dual sprays. As she toweled off a few minutes later, she was surprised to look in the mirror and see that instead of looking like she'd just been run over by an emotional train, her eyes were bright, her skin was flushed, and even her lips seemed fuller.

  This was what being around Harry did to her. Made normal and simple seem extraordinary and special. She'd always felt prettier, smarter, more adventurous when they were together.

  Deliberately, she turned away from the mirror. The very last thing she needed was to go all gooey and breathless over Harry again. What they'd shared had been a long time ago. They were both different people now.

  She, for one, was stronger. As a single mother completely on her own, she'd had to be.

  As for Harry? Well, she wasn't sure yet how he'd changed. Except to become hugely successful...and even better looking.

  Seriously, she thought as she reached into her bag for clean clothes, then dressed and finger-combed her wet hair, she needed to get over her reaction to him--the sparks that exploded through her every time he got close--before she went downstairs. Once they confirmed that he was Amelia's father, he was going to be her co-parent. Nothing more.

  Even if he'd said it had broken him to lose her...then called her the love of his life. All after she had confessed that she'd longed for Amelia to be his all along.

  "Mom!" Amelia spotted her first as she walked into the kitchen a few minutes later.

  "Oh, honey." Molly threw her arms around the person who meant absolutely everything to her. "I'm so glad you're okay. I love you so much." She didn't ever want to let go, but when Amelia made a sound as though Molly was squashing all the oxygen out of her, she pulled back a little bit. "Don't you ever do something like that again."

  "I won't." But the truth was that her daughter didn't look all that apologetic. "How could you not tell me about him, Mom?" Two spots of color bloomed on Amelia's cheeks. She was clearly upset as she said, "I always figured my dad must be a horrible person. But Harry is the best!"

  Though Molly hated it when Amelia was mad at her, she was glad she'd immediately asked the difficult question--always so brave, even now, when everything had gone completely topsy-turvy.

  Molly sent a quick questioning glance at Harry, and he nodded to let her know he was on board with getting right to it.

  Without letting go of Amelia's hands, though Harry's dog was doing his best to claim her all for himself again, Molly said, "I kn
ow you must be furious with me for keeping Harry from you for your whole life--and I don't blame you for feeling that way--but I swear I had no idea that he was actually your father."

  "What do you mean?" Amelia frowned. "How could you not know? Harry was your boyfriend."

  "He was, but we broke up toward the end of our freshman year. And then..." God, this was hard. "After we broke up, there was someone else." Molly licked her lips, as uncomfortable as she'd ever been, though she'd always tried to speak frankly with Amelia about sex and boys. "I was only with the other guy once, and I broke the one big rule. I had unprotected sex with him. When I found out I was pregnant, based on lots of factors, I was sure you had to be his, not Harry's. And I'm afraid you were right--that other guy wasn't a nice person, honey. Not at all."

  Amelia didn't look particularly shocked by her mother's one-night-stand confession. At fifteen, she'd surely heard a million times worse on the Internet. But she did look confused--and more than a little panicked. "So if everything happened just like you said, then how could I have a DNA test that says I'm Harry's?"

  "That's what I was wondering when he called yesterday. I didn't see how it could be possible. Until Harry told me his aunt had gotten her period in the first month of one of her pregnancies, and she didn't realize she was pregnant. I never knew that could happen, and my obstetrician never mentioned it as a possibility. But I found a bunch of articles about it on my phone last night before I went to bed--so now I know it's definitely possible. If you want to read any of them, I can show them to you."

  "All I want is to know for sure that Harry is my dad."

  "We all want that," Harry agreed.

  Molly appreciated that he had let her explain things to Amelia by herself before stepping into the conversation, but she also understood that from here on out, they needed to be equal partners with her, which was why she let him take over from there.

  "We're going to get another DNA test," he said. "And then none of us will ever have to doubt again that you're my daughter."

  "Can we go right now?" Amelia asked, intent on putting any uncertainty behind her.

  "The doctor said to come by as soon as we're ready." Harry turned to Molly. "Do you want some breakfast first?"

  She shook her head. "Let's go."

  *

  The friendly and efficient doctor, who was a friend of Alec's, had said he'd be happy to expedite the test. Within a matter of minutes, Amelia's and Harry's blood had been taken and sent off to the lab. They were told to expect the results within the hour, and soon the three of them were out standing on the sidewalk.

  Though Molly was riddled with anxiety over the test results, the nerves on Amelia's face made her want to do whatever she could to make the waiting go faster. "Do you remember that carousel we rode on one of our dates, Harry?" Her chest ached at the bittersweet memory. She wasn't sure that reenacting something from their past was a good idea. But being a mother was about putting her child first, no matter what. "Isn't it just around the corner?"

  At first, Harry looked at her like she was crazy to bring up one of their old dates now. But she soon saw understanding dawn.

  "Sure is." His voice sounded a little too hearty and overly excited about a carousel ride they'd taken in college, but at least he was trying.

  "What do you say the three of us ride it while we wait?" Molly put her arm around her daughter's waist. "It's this way. And if I'm remembering correctly, we went to an ice cream shop afterward." She made herself smile at Harry, even as she was suddenly hit with an extremely potent memory of him licking a drop of her strawberry ice cream from her lips.

  It was amazing how quickly the memories came flooding back when she wasn't shoving them all away, the way she'd been doing ever since their breakup.

  *

  If Harry had been asked to predict the likelihood of ever riding Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn with Molly again, he would have said there was a greater chance of aliens landing in the middle of Central Park. Much greater.

  "I can't believe you guys went on a date here," Amelia said. "It's like stepping back in time."

  "It wasn't that long ago," Molly said.

  "You probably wore bell bottoms and flowers in your hair," Amelia teased.

  When Molly laughed with Amelia, Harry's heart swelled inside his chest. So big that he was surprised his lungs could contain it. It was nearly killing him, waiting to hear from the doctor, but Molly was a genius for having them come here to take their minds off the ticking clock. Especially now that Amelia had found her smile again.

  "The only thing missing is Aldwin," Amelia said. "I miss him already."

  The dog had whined so loudly when Amelia walked out the front door that morning that she'd run back inside to pet him and promise him they wouldn't be long.

  "He'll be okay for a couple of hours," Harry assured her, "although I'm thinking he's probably going to stick to you like glue the next time you try to leave."

  "I wish he could go back to A Bay with me," Amelia said.

  Harry's heart hurt at the thought of Amelia being five hours away. There were so many things they were going to need to figure out once the DNA test came back positive. It damn well better come back positive! But it was hard to think clearly about the details of their daily lives when he was still just trying to take in the basics.

  During the drive to the doctor's office, Harry had learned Amelia's favorite color--teal. Her favorite food--Thai summer rolls. Her favorite book--Wonder. Her favorite TV show--Friends. He'd been surprised that she was familiar with an old show, but evidently she and Molly had binge-watched all ten seasons together.

  Harry had never been much for TV, but now he desperately wanted to binge-watch something with his daughter. Just spend hour upon hour sitting together on the couch eating summer rolls beneath a teal blanket. He almost had to laugh at himself, the vision was so clear.

  "I read some stuff about you on the Internet when I was on the bus here," Amelia said as the carousel went 'round and 'round. "Did you really discover all that new stuff about medieval battles?"

  "I didn't exactly discover it. I just took the data and put it together in a different way than anyone else had so far."

  "Harry is being modest," Molly said. "He's the smartest person I've ever met, apart from you, honey."

  If I'm so smart, he wanted to ask, then how could I have gotten everything so wrong with you?

  Even now, he couldn't keep from staring at her while she rode her giraffe, her hair blowing in the breeze, her skin flushed. Nothing had changed since the first time he'd set eyes on her in the library--she was still the only woman who made him feel something way down deep inside. Something young, and wild, and oh so sweet.

  "Are you working on another groundbreaking project now?" Amelia asked.

  "I'm halfway through my new book, but I'm not sure when it's going to be done. I've been blocked on it for a while."

  "Sometimes I get blocked while I'm working on a paper," Amelia commiserated. "Mom is really good at helping me through it. Maybe she can help you too."

  "You know what, I think you're on to something." He looked at Molly. Maybe she would be wary about helping with his book, but if the test was positive, then they were going to be seeing a lot of each other in the future. "Any chance I could interest you in reading a really rough draft of my book? The half that's done, anyway."

  Molly's cheeks were more flushed than ever as she said, "I'm sure there's someone with better qualifications who could help. Besides, I don't have my degree yet."

  He was on the verge of asking why, when he realized he already knew. Molly had been a single mother, responsible for absolutely everything when it came to Amelia. And she'd told him that she always put her daughter first. Even, it seemed, when it meant taking nearly two decades to earn her degree.

  "Now that I'm in high school, Mom is really cruising on it," Amelia said, proud of her mother. "She's always studying. And sometimes she even asks for my help with her homework."

>  "That's because you always see the things I don't," Molly said with a smile.

  Harry turned to Amelia. "It sounds like I should ask you to read my book too."

  "Really?" Amelia looked as though he'd just asked her to go to a music festival, as opposed to slogging through a painfully rough draft of his book.

  "Really."

  "Cool, I'd love to tell you what I think."

  The two of them grinned at each other, and even with the test results still hanging over them, Harry couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this happy.

  But that wasn't true. He knew exactly when he'd last felt this way: Whenever he and Molly had been together, talking or studying or laughing or making love. Every moment he'd been able to steal away with her had been precious.

  Just then, the teenager managing the carousel announced that their turn was ending and they'd have to disembark.

  "Now we go get ice cream, right?" Amelia said once they were back outside. "Mom, I'll bet you got strawberry on your date, didn't you?" When Molly nodded, Amelia turned to Harry. "What flavor did you get?"

  He couldn't remember, only that he'd licked the strawberry ice cream from Molly's lips.

  Into the silence, Molly said, barely above a whisper, "Rocky Road."

  "I love that flavor too!" Amelia exclaimed.

  Harry relished Amelia's easy affection, her bright spirit. She was so much like his sister and his female cousins. Though she hadn't been raised around them, she would fit right in with the rest of the family.

  "We're so much alike," she continued. "I knew we would be."

  She hooked one of her arms through his, the other through Molly's, and as they walked down the street, he caught sight of the three of them in a store window. They looked like a happy family, out enjoying a sunny day in Brooklyn.

  A family that had taken fifteen years to come together.

  A family still waiting to find out if they really were a family.

  "How cute is this place?" Amelia said. They got in line at the end of a good two dozen people waiting to order, and that was when Harry's phone rang.