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Chapter Seventeen

Shelby and Brenna came over towards the end of the day and Addy asked them to stay for dinner. Shel put in a call to Mason and then helped Addy clean up the kitchen. I spent the late afternoon leading Brenna around on 'Bandit,' the black horse I had bonded without throughout the day.

"His name is Bandit cause daddy and papa K like the movie Smokey and da Bandit," Brenna warbled as she bounced up and down in the saddle. "And da Bandit drives a black car and it goes really fast!"

"Uh-huh," I said distractedly. Kevin, Dan, and Joe were working off to the side. Every now and then Kevin would glance my way, look at Brenna, and smile.

For the second day in a row, Mason was able to get back in time for dinner. I was cutting up tomatoes as he walked through the door. He slapped his dad on the back, flicked the cowlick in Dan's hair, and did a weird handshake thing with Joe. After giving Shelby a kiss, Brenna demanded his full attention.

It was only after dinner when Brenna was occupied within view of the large picture window and playing with with a big pool of bubble solution that we all sat down in the living room. Kevin hadn't said anything until dessert when he announced that he needed to have a family meeting.

Joe and I started outside, but Kevin stopped us. It was sweet that he thought of us as family. Either that or he didn't want Joe causing chaos or destruction. Or both.

"Addy and I thought it was best to get everyone together to share some tough news," Kevin said. Mason and Shelby exchanged a look. Dan looked worried. Joe began to bite a rough patch on his hand. "But first, I think you should know what's been going on since the beginning."

He cleared his throat. Addy looked pale, sweaty, and exhausted. "Last year, Addy and I decided that we wanted to adopt a baby," Kevin said calmly. Addy shook her head. She put her glass of iced tea down and I noticed her hand shaking slightly.

"I wanted to adopt," she said. They shared a look. Kevin seemed to want to argue the point, but he thought better of it.

"Anyhow," he said, his voice breaking slightly. "We were paired with a young woman, we followed the pregnancy through, and we were all ready to bring him home when--"

"When she decided that she had changed her mind," Addy whispered. Tears poured from her eyes and she turned and lowered her head.

"She changed her mind," Kevin repeated.

I saw Shel's eyes go towards the window. Brenna was waving the huge wand above her head and beating her chest. Mason leaned towards his dad.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Mason asked. To my right, Dan leaned over, rocking slightly. He didn't have to say anything; I had a hunch that he already knew this part of the story.

"We just thought it would have been a nice surprise," Kevin said. "But it didn't turn out like we expected."

"You can always try again," Shel said, returning her attention to the matter. "There's millions of girls out there that need to find homes for their babies. I mean, Baylee and his wife just adopted Kayleigh's little boy."

"I know," Kevin said. "After we got over the disappointment, that's what we thought too."

"But I had to be the hero," Addy broke in. Kevin shook his head. "Don't--"

"It's true, isn't it? You didn't want to do this."

"I had my concerns, but--"

"And they came true, didn't they?"

Kevin winced as if her words had physically hurt him. His jaw tensed and he looked down at the floor. Addy looked at us, her lips trembling.

"I decided I didn't want to go through the whole ordeal with another flaky girl and get hurt again. I convinced Kevin that we could have our own baby."

Mason looked at Kevin. "But dad couldn't. That injury you got when you went to help with Brooke..."

"You're right. We couldn't. Not naturally," Kevin agreed.

Joe made a noise as if he was being subjected to torture. He went to stand up, but I grabbed the skin on his wrist and pinched. He hissed, but he leaned back in the chair.

"Years ago your mother and I," Kevin said, addressing Mason. "thought we had some problems before we had you. We were going to try IVF as our last resort. I did what I needed to do and the month your mother was ready, we found out she was pregnant with you."

"And come to find out, the clinic keeps deposits a very long time," Addy said.

"Deposits," Joe muttered. Dan leaned forward and shot him a dirty look. I was suddenly glad (and a little nervous) that I was separating the two of them.

"So," Mason said. "You did IVF? I didn't think doctors did that for," he paused, looking uncomfortable.

"Someone my age?" Addy finished, her voice unnaturally high. Mason nodded sheepishly.

"Addy shopped around until she found someone that would," Kevin said. I thought I detected a note of resentment in his voice even as he reached for her hand.

"It worked on the first try," Addy said. "But--"

Here she seemed on the verge of breaking down again. Kevin leaned over and kissed the side of her head. I felt a lump rise in my throat. Even Shelby looked like she was about to cry.

"They recommended I get some testing done," Addy said thickly. "Just as a precaution. A couple days ago I got the results and...and there's a problem with the baby."

"What type of problem?" Mason asked. His forehead was creased in concentration; the doctor in him was coming out full force.

"An extra chromosome," Kevin said. At the words, Addy fell into him, her sobs almost smothering his next words.

"Down Syndrome?" Mason guessed. Kevin nodded. He pressed his lips into Addy's hair.

Suddenly, Addy's reaction earlier in the day made sense. Actually, all of Addy's mannerisms now made sense. Her sore back, her sudden uncontrollable emotions...

"How far along are you?" Mason asked.

It took several minutes before Addy found her speech. She looked over at Mason. "Fourteen weeks."

Of all the times for Joe to speak, it had to have been then. "Can't you just flush it?"

I expected Kevin or Mason to fly at him. I really did. I wasn't prepared for the long body that flew over me and tackled my shorter brother right out of the chair.

For almost a whole minute, Kevin and Mason didn't do anything. Dan's fist connected with the side of Joe's face several times. I heard a few curses, but I wasn't sure if they were coming from Joe or Dan. Finally, Mason stood up and got a hold of Dan under his arms. He yanked him up. Dan was still flailing.

"You are the biggest piece of shit I have ever met in my entire life," he spat. Joe sat up, holding his jaw.

"We're having this baby," Kevin said, ignoring his young son who was continuing to try to break away from his eldest. "We just wanted to make you all aware of the challenges that lay ahead."

"We'll do anything we can to help," Shelby said.

A look came across Mason's face that I had never seen before. Frustration? Selfishness? I couldn't tell. Dan finally pulled away from him and whirled around.

"Did I hear you sigh?" he snapped. Mason looked startled. I had never seen Dan act so irrational before. "Afraid that you still won't be able to get time with your wife if you have to help take care of your brother or sister somewhere down the line?"

"Daniel," Kevin said, his voice lowering in warning. Dan looked at him, his eyes alive with fire.

"What? We all know you two aren't going to live forever. You'll be seventy-five when this one's eighteen, dad. I wasn't totally happy about you guys adopting, but at least that one could have taken care of itself."

Addy burst into a fresh round of tears. Kevin opened his mouth, apparently to argue, but Dan held up his hands and left the room. I heard his feet pounding on the stairs. Mason sat down, his gaze falling to the floor. Kevin looked at me; I hoped I didn't look condescending.

"Well," he said softly. "That went well."