The Marriage He Must Keep(9)

By: Dani Collins

Now she showed an inclination toward love, but to whose child?

Was he as unhinged as she was that he thought he saw a resemblance in that baby’s features to the various scrunched faces he’d seen on his infant nephews? He’d always thought all babies looked alike at that age, but...

Octavia’s frenetic pace on the rocker had slowed. She looked far more at peace, much more like the composed woman he knew her to be. It was finally quiet enough in here that he could think, but he simply couldn’t wrap his brain around what had just happened. Had she somehow conspired with that other woman to switch his own son with a stranger’s? Or had the hospital genuinely mixed up something as important as two babies?

“It’s impossible,” one of the nurses said, echoing his thoughts. “We have very strict protocols. They couldn’t have been switched. You shouldn’t be doing this. You both have it wrong.”

“You have it wrong,” the other mother, Sorcha, said. “Test them. You’ll see we’re right.”

Alessandro was trying to afford that woman some privacy, but he could see Octavia staring over at Sorcha with solidarity in her expression that was so fervent, it gave him pause. She had welcomed this second infant so tenderly. What if she was right?

“This is beyond anything I’ve ever encountered,” he pronounced, cutting into a discussion between the nurses about how completely impossible a mix-up could be. “Run the tests. Immediately.”

“Of course, sir, but the doctor will have to order it. I’ll phone straightaway,” she assured him.

“Didn’t I suggest tests?” Sorcha murmured dryly to Octavia.

“Women’s voices are so high only dogs hear them,” Octavia retorted, revealing the sense of humor she’d kept hidden from Alessandro since the first weeks after their honeymoon.

As soon as she realized he’d heard her, she sobered, expression ironing into the passive mask he was beginning to realize was a special look she adopted just for him. It shot an arrow of discomfort into his chest, lodging there and vibrating, but he dismissed it, determined to get to the bottom of the babies’ identities. That was paramount.

Her expression softened as she looked down at the baby. Lorenzo, if that was indeed their son, had fallen asleep. Carefully pulling him off her nipple and adjusting her gown so her breast was covered, Octavia brought him to her shoulder and rubbed his back, looking so natural and content, eyes closed and the most loving of smiles on her lips, that Alessandro had to swallow a lump of emotion.

“Maybe you should stick with the bottle, Mrs. Ferrante, until things are made clear,” her nurse said.

“Things are very clear,” Octavia said, lifting heavy eyelids, but sounding surprisingly fierce. “This baby is mine and I’m not letting him out of my arms until you’ve all accepted that.”

Her gaze shifted to slam into Alessandro’s with banked animosity, including him in her statement. More than just a mother bear, she was a jungle cat capable of clawing him to pieces and eating him alive if he crossed her.

Even more unexpectedly, her revelation of such pure aggressive emotion turned him on.

* * *

Lorenzo was surprisingly heavy. Octavia wished they could all go back to her room where she could lie down with her baby and rest.

She wanted to ask Alessandro if he wanted to hold his son. He should have demanded the opportunity by now, she thought, but he was too busy conducting a razor-sharp interview of the nurses on their newborn-tagging procedures.

Even she had to admit, given the precautions in place, the chance of a mix-up was very low. Still, it had happened. She couldn’t prove it, but she knew it.

A rush of tears threatened to overwhelm her as she faced the challenge of substantiating what was merely an instinct.

Fortunately Dr. Reynolds arrived and involved the hospital administration immediately. “DNA tests take time. We’ll do one, of course, but we’ll do a quick blood test right now,” Dr. Reynolds said. “It won’t be conclusive, but it could certainly determine if a baby is not with the right pair of parents.”

“Excellent.” Alessandro began rolling up his sleeve, so used to having people jump the minute a decision was made, he expected nothing less than to have a needle plunged into his arm right this second. “I believe I’m a B, but test to confirm it.”

It all took time, however. A technician from the lab had to come up. The hospital administrator wanted to witness and sign off on the labeling, and interview both mothers. The night staff was being called in for questioning. Security was reviewing records of comings and goings to see if there’d been interference.

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