CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

Eloise placed the glass on the bedside table quickly and then crossed the room hastily, enveloping Dolly in her arms. She held her as she sobbed, until finally all of the tension appeared to leave her and she sat up, slowly. Eloise reached across and picked up the box of tissues and handed them to her. As Dolly wiped her eyes, Eloise watched her, a slightly curious expression on her face.

"How long?" she asked, perceptively. Dolly gave her a sharp look, but then she sighed.

"You should have been an investigative journalist rather than a PA," she said. Eloise laughed and shrugged.

"Being Kane's PA I'm not sure there's much difference to be honest," she replied, with a grin.

"I guess you're probably right," said Dolly. "I was only really sure last night to be honest. As soon as the wine touched my lips it just felt wrong. I know that sounds ridiculous..."

"Not at all," replied Eloise.

"And then when I woke up feeling so rough this morning I guess I knew."

"Have you done a test?"

Dolly shook her head. Eloise reached into her handbag and withdrew a narrow blue box, as Dolly's eyes widened.

"You wouldn't believe how many kits I got through before I fell pregnant with Luke," she said. "And they came in packs of two."

"I thought it had to be the first pee of the day," said Dolly. Eloise rolled her eyes.

"Quit stalling and get in there," she replied. Dolly got up and then paused.

"Where's Mark?" she asked.

"Downstairs. Don't worry, Luke will be keeping him entertained."

"If I am... I don't want him to know yet," said Dolly. "Not until after the court case is finished. I'd rather we got through one drama at a time."

Eloise grimaced at Dolly's choice of words, but then nodded.

"Fine. I won't say anything anyway. It's your news, not mine."

"There may not be any news," said Dolly, sounding almost hopeful, but Eloise just rolled her eyes again and pointed at the bathroom. Dolly sighed and went in. When she emerged several minutes later, her face was even whiter than before. She simply held the test out to Eloise who looked at it and nodded.

"Thought so," she said, but then fell silent, as Dolly started to sob again. "Oh, sweetheart, come here." She held her arms out and then held Dolly close to her until she was calm again. Dolly got up and went through to the bathroom, wrapping the test in a yard of toilet paper and then shoving it into the pedal bin. She took a few deep breaths, splashed some water one her face and then came out again.

"Are you ok, Dolly? Don't you want a baby?"

Dolly was silent for a moment thinking about the question. Did she want a baby? She had never even thought about having a child of her own. Mind you, before Mark, she had never considered entering into a serious relationship; work had been all that mattered. Now she was living with her fiancé who she would be marrying within the week and in just a few months there would be a baby too. Her face blanched at the thought of it and she sank down onto the bed again as her legs gave way beneath her.

"I... I just need time to get used to the idea," she said, eventually. Eloise smiled.

"Are you happy?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," said Dolly, honestly. "I'm not sure either of us is really ready for this."

"No one is ever ready for it," replied Eloise reassuringly. "But if it's any help, Mark is a wonderful uncle and he will make a wonderful father."

"I guess," she replied. Eloise narrowed her eyes.

"Promise me something, Dolly," she said. Dolly looked up and nodded. "Don't make the mistake I did and run out on him. Kane forgave me... Mark is a different kettle of fish. He loves you and you love him. Get through this together, ok? And at the end of it you will have a beautiful family. In fact, I guarantee you that when your child is put into your arms for the first time nothing else will matter."

Dolly was silent, her eyes wandering down to her stomach, as her hands automatically came to rest there. The miracle that there was a child growing inside of her hit her forcibly and a small smile brightened her face for a moment.

"I'm going to be a mom," she said, softly.

"Yes you are," said Eloise, feeling tears stabbing at her own eyes as she looked at the wonderment on her friend's face. "And I know you and Mark will be great parents."

XXX

"How does the jury find the defendant?" The question eased into her mind, forcing all thoughts of the miracle in her stomach from her head, as she focussed on what the outcome would be.

"Guilty on all charges," said the head juror and Dolly sank against Mark's shoulder, relief surging through her. At her other side, her stepfather stiffened as the sentence was read out; fifteen years imprisonment without parole.

They left the courthouse relieved and happy. Dolly watched as Mark went to phone Kane and glanced across at her stepfather.

"Are you coming to the wedding?" she asked. John gave a tight nod.

"I'll see you at the church," he replied and then turned on his heel and walked away. Dolly watched him go, recognising that he was upset about his sister but had no idea how to verbalise that fact and then Adrian appeared at her side.

"Hey honeybee. Ready for the morning? Still staying at my place tonight?"

"Of course," replied Dolly, with a small smile, her eyes still following John's retreating back. Adrian linked arms with her and grinned excitedly.

"Well Vanessa is arriving at eight to do your hair and nails and then the car is picking us up at twelve so that we can arrive fashionably late at twenty past. Oh I'm so excited!" Dolly let his mindless chatter drift over her as she watched Mark approach them. She forced herself not to place a hand on her stomach as she watched him cross the courtyard and mused again on how this man had changed her life. When he reached them, Dolly impulsively grabbed him and kissed him on the lips.

"Wow, what was that for?" he asked, when she finally let him up for air.

"I love you, Mark Callaway and I never want you to forget that," she replied.

XXX

Mark stood stiffly at the altar. He was desperate to turn round and look at his bride, especially as Kane muttered that she looked beautiful. When she finally reached his side, Mark turned to see Dolly in an a-line cream gown, with sparkling jewels across the bodice. Her veil covered her face, held in place with a diamond tiara and he realised he had never seen her look so feminine. As he lifted the veil that hid her from him, he suddenly found himself hoping that this was the last veil between them; much of their relationship had been clouded in secrecy and even deceit on both parts and he was looking forward to a lifetime of openness and love from this point onwards. As they exchanged their vows, all he could wonder at was how this beautiful woman loved him so much that she was prepared to give up her independence for him.

As the marriage service ended and they kissed, Dolly suddenly grabbed Mark's hand and placed it on her stomach. His eyes flashed open and he drew back a little from her face, staring at her. Dolly nodded with a smile.

"You're going to be a daddy, Mark," she murmured. Stunned, he could only stare for a moment, but then he grabbed her up into his arms and span her around, before turning to the watching congregation.

"I'm going to be a daddy!" he announced. They rose as one body, applauding and Dolly saw tears streaming down Adrian's face. But then her eyes found John. He was still in his seat. With his eyes fixed on her, her stepfather slowly got to his feet and she watched as a smile spread across his face and he began to applaud as rapturously as everyone else.

Feeling tears of joy stinging her eyes, Dolly allowed the last of the walls around her heart to collapse, the last of the veils torn away. It seemed for a moment that a figure stood in the doorway of the church, where the sun streamed in through the stained glass window. Her mother waved once and then faded into the light. Dolly lifted her gaze to meet the adoring eyes of her husband and Mark leaned down to kiss her.

"I love you, Mrs Callaway," he murmured.

"I love you too," she replied.