This Game Called Life (Kingdom Book 4)

 

 

 

Text
copyright © 2014 Theresa L. Henry

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This book is a work of fiction. References may be made
to locations and historical events. However, names, characters, places and
incidents are the products of the author’s imagination and/or used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business events
or locales is either used fictitiously or coincidentally. All trademarks,
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Adult Content: Contains sexually explicit scenes and
adult language. This book is for sale to adults only. Please store your files
responsibly, where they will not be accessible to under-aged readers.

Published by: Theresa L. Henry

 

 

 

 

 

 

To
my friend H P for all her help and support

 

Chapter 1

As Aviva and Jason
exchanged their vows, MacKenzie found it increasingly difficult to ignore Jake.
She felt the pull of his gaze as though it were a powerful magnet luring her
against her will.

If nothing else,
she was stubborn, and by focusing on the beauty of the ceremony through sheer
willpower, MacKenzie fixed her concentration on the words being spoken by Jason
and Aviva. As the minutes passed, it became easier to ignore Jake and his brooding
stare.

Although pleased
for Aviva, MacKenzie envied her happiness. Even if she didn’t look it, she was
nine months pregnant, and she certainly felt every month of her pregnancy. To
cap it all, Carlos was nowhere in sight.

Aviva and Jason’s
wedding ceremony was short and extremely beautiful. Before MacKenzie realized
it, she was crying. She’d never seen two people who loved each other as much as
Jason and Aviva. She was happy for her friend; Aviva deserved someone to love
her the way Jason so obviously did.

The first time
MacKenzie saw Jason and Aviva together, she had instinctively understood how
happy her friend was. Even she, a stranger in their midst, felt welcomed by the
whole Kingdom clan. Revising her thought, MacKenzie omitted, Jake. The man was
obviously emotionally challenged, and his verbal filter was almost non-existent.
Every time she spoke to him, he ended up insulting her. She didn’t like him,
and she was okay with it.

While the rest of
the wedding attendees danced, MacKenzie mainly sat with her legs propped up.
Her body was telling her she was in her third trimester, and she was exhausted.

From her position
on the sofa, MacKenzie looked around the wonderfully decorated room with the
Christmas tree in the corner. The house looked as though an interior decorator
had been at work, but she knew Aviva had probably accomplished the festive look
alone.

MacKenzie watched
Aviva rise from her position on Jason’s lap to collect a gift and deliver it to
Jackson. Jackson’s stunned reaction when he removed the wrapping piqued her
curiosity, and she couldn’t wait to see what pleased him so much.

When Jackson
turned the gift around for viewing, MacKenzie was happy, all the wedding
guests’ attention was directed at the lovely portrait. If that hadn’t been the
case, she was sure someone would have seen her grimace of pain; this was her
sharpest contraction yet.

A surreptitious
glance around the room confirmed that nearly everyone was admiring the portrait.
Jake was the exception, he was watching her with an unreadable expression.
Finally, after moments of scrutiny, he turned away.

There was one other
person aware of her plight. Within minutes Aviva was sitting beside her, and
MacKenzie knew there was no longer any point attempting to hide that she was in
labor. Her contractions were still quite far apart, but they were painful, and
she didn’t know how she would cope once they began in earnest.

“How far apart are
the contractions?” Aviva asked.

“Pretty far, our
girl isn’t ready to make her appearance just yet.”

“So it is a girl,
I knew it!” Even with her excitement, and by silent mutual agreement, Aviva was
careful to keep her voice low; so that no one was alerted to MacKenzie’s
condition.

“I honestly don’t
know if the baby is a girl. I didn’t want to know.”

“Are you crazy?!
How could you go through nine months of carrying a baby and not want to know
the gender?”

“Easy, I wanted it
to be a surprise.” MacKenzie grinned at her friend who still looked as stunning
as she had at the start of the wedding.

“Whatever, when I
get preggers, you better believe I’m going to find out the gender at the first
opportunity.” The look Aviva gave her warned MacKenzie that she had more
questions to ask.

“Can they tell the
gender at the first ultrasound?”

“Yes.”

“That’s what I thought,
I seem to remember something like that from biology class.” Without seeming to
draw in a breath, Aviva changed the direction of the conversation and kept up
her stream of chatter. “Raymond Styles fainted when they showed the birth of
the baby. I thought he was perfect boyfriend material, until he held the back
of his hand to his forehead and fainted. I can’t lie, I was over him.”

“Aviva!” MacKenzie
wasn’t in the mood for her best friend’s incessant chattering.

“What?”

“Shut up!”

Giving Aviva an
annoyed look, MacKenzie only hoped she had injected enough exasperation in her
voice to get her to be quiet.

“Sorry, I was
going for distraction. I can see it didn’t work.”

MacKenzie gave her
a look that obviously meant she agreed. With a shrug, Aviva pressed on.

“How about a bath?
I have vanilla and anise scented bubble bath; you always liked that scent.”

“Yes I do, but
more importantly, if it gets you to shut up...” MacKenzie shook her head,
suddenly fed up with the direction the conversation was going. “Oh, just lead
the way!”

“MacKenzie is
going to take a bath before she gives...” MacKenzie slapped Aviva hard on the
back to suppress the completion of her sentence. “... out her presents,” Aviva
finished lamely. Out of the corner of her mouth, Aviva whispered, “Good save,
right?”

Poor thing,
MacKenzie thought. Everyone was looking at Aviva as though she had lost her
mind, everyone except Jake.

MacKenzie thought,
Jake needed to pay more attention to his family and the Christmas festivities
and less to her. It appeared that every time she looked around he was staring
at her. Just like he was doing now; his gaze seeming to say he knew what she
was thinking and feeling. However, thankfully he said nothing.

Holding his stare,
MacKenzie projected her thoughts:
Stay out of my damn business, Jacob!
He gave her a knowing smile, and before she could think better of it; she poked
her tongue at him. MacKenzie was stunned when he licked his lips in return.

It took her a few
moments, but she finally rolled her eyes at him in dismissal. Throughout their exchange,
both had been totally unaware that they had become the center of attention.
Still blissfully unaware of anyone’s scrutiny, MacKenzie stuck her nose in the
air and allowed Aviva to lead her out of the room.

~~~~~~~~~~

Once they were in
the hallway, Aviva snaked her arm around MacKenzie’s back for support as they
walked toward the sweeping staircase. The broad smile on her face showed that
she was amused by what had just taken place. Aviva was also positive that
MacKenzie was completely unaware that she and Jake had just been the object of
everyone’s curiosity.

“What are you
smiling about?” MacKenzie demanded.

“Nothing,” Aviva
smirked.

“Well, stop it,
you look like a damn fool!”

“Am I to take it
that labor turns one into a prize cow?” Aviva teased.


One
can
take whatever
one
likes and suck on it!” MacKenzie returned tartly.

“Geez, don’t take
it out on me because you can’t keep your eyes off Jakey darling.” Aviva knew
she was perhaps pushing too far, but she couldn’t help herself. The dynamics
between MacKenzie and Jake were just too delicious to bypass an opportunity to
tease her.

“You don’t know
shit. All that man does is irritate the hell out of me. He did it the first
time I met him, and he’s doing it now.”

Aviva’s snort of
derision caused MacKenzie to snap her focus toward her and frown.

As MacKenzie’s
sherry-colored eyes settled on her with genuine irritation, it took all of
Aviva’s willpower to hold back her laughter. She didn’t know what was going on
between MacKenzie and Carlos, but she knew by Carlos’s absence on Christmas
Day, that the situation between them was rocky at best.

She also recognized
that now was not the time to seek answers about the state of MacKenzie’s
relationship. Aviva made a mental note to find out what was going on between
her friends once they got MacKenzie through the birth of her goddaughter. Aviva
had no doubt that the baby was a girl. She already had the baby’s layette ready,
and it contained a lot of pink.

 

Chapter 2

As Aviva steered her
towards the staircase, MacKenzie became worried. She had been having pains on
and off all day. She knew she probably shouldn’t have gotten on an airplane,
but there was no way she was going to miss Aviva’s wedding.

Now that she was
in New York, MacKenzie was worried. On her drive over to the Kingdom residence,
she had been glued to her cell, checking the weather forecast every couple of
minutes, just in case she needed to get to the hospital on short notice. It now
seemed all her concerns were warranted. The contractions were still far apart,
but she knew with certainty that her baby was going to make an appearance very
soon.

Standing at the
foot of the stairs, MacKenzie had an overwhelming urge to confirm the weather
forecast. Pulling away from Aviva, she made her way to the large double front
doors and turned the handle. Nothing, it was stuck. MacKenzie looked over at
Aviva, confusion written across her face; MacKenzie tried again. As she
struggled with the door, Aviva came to her aid, placing herself behind MacKenzie,
they both struggled to open the door. Even between them; the solid wooden doors
remained tightly closed.

Suddenly, in a
complete reversal of suction, the door was released. The sudden force of the
movement pushed the women back with more power than either of them expected.
Aviva staggered backwards, unable to support MacKenzie’s body against the
sudden ferocity of the elements they had unwittingly unleashed into the foyer.

MacKenzie knew
Aviva wouldn’t be able to bear both their weight against the strength of the
wind. Bracing herself, she did her best to support her own weight as another
contraction decided that was the exact moment to make itself known.

As pain shot
through her, MacKenzie winced in awareness; this was the worst one yet. All her
thoughts deviated from her smaller friend and honed in on the pain shooting
through her as her stomach tightened. Aware she was about to cause Aviva,
herself and possibly her baby harm, MacKenzie attempted to focus her mind in
order to protect them all.

One moment she was
bracing herself, and the next she became aware that the warmth of Aviva’s body
had been removed. In its place was a larger frame that held her safe. One hand
gently supporting her while the other pushed against the door that had caused
so many problems. In an instant, the power of the wind was eradicated.

“Don’t worry, I’ve
got you.”

Still overwhelmed
and in the throes of her latest contraction, MacKenzie was unable to respond. Sucking
her bottom lip between her teeth, she maintained eye contact with Jake and blew
through her nose in short sharp breaths.

Seeming to instinctively
know what she was going through, Jake held onto her, his gaze unwavering,
lending her strength as she rode her pain.

Gradually her
discomfort retreated. Relieved the contraction was at an end, she lowered her
eyes. Somehow this man always seemed to be around when she was at her lowest
ebb. MacKenzie didn’t like that Jake was the one to support her, his silent
empathy showed him in a light she had never seen before. As the thought passed
through her mind, MacKenzie knew she was lying to herself. A more honest
thought was that she had deliberately refused to acknowledge Jake for the man
he was.

Following directly
behind that thought, and totally unrelated was the realization that her baby
was coming. She was actually going to have a baby. Terror seized her, even as
she accepted that it was way too late to back out of giving birth.

Gripping both
Jake’s arms, MacKenzie shook him, her eyes reflecting her anxiety. “I’m going to
have a baby!”

“Yes, I know,” was
Jake’s simple reply.

“It’s snowing!”

“Umm... yes, it
is.” Jake agreed, uncertainty the predominant expression on his face.

“You have to get
me out of here. I have to get out, now!” MacKenzie shouted in his face as she
continued to shake him.

“Kenzie, honey,
please try to calm down,” Aviva spoke in a placating voice as she broke away
from Jason, who had come to her rescue.

“Don’t tell me to
calm down, you calm down. Don’t you people get it, I’m going to have a baby,
and this house is holding me captive!”

Giving Jake a
shove for good measure, MacKenzie grew even more annoyed when the big lump
didn’t even budge at her assault.

“MacKenzie,
Aviva’s right, you need to try to–”

“I don’t want to
hear it, Jacob! The only thing I want to hear from you is how you’re going to
get me out of this hostage house, and to the hospital.”

“MacKenzie,
there’s a blizzard going on outside. There is no way to get you to the
hospital.”

“Are you an
obstetrician, Jacob? What about you, Jason, hmm... I’m not even going to ask
you, Miss Aviva because I know for damn sure you don’t know shit about
delivering babies.”

“You’re right; I’m
not an obstetrician, and I also can’t control the elements. That said, we’re
going to have to deal with this situation the best way we can.”

“We, what we? I’m
the one who has to deal with this. This is only the beginning, and it already
hurts like hell! Did someone at least try to call for an ambulance?”

“Yes, I did when I
first noticed you were in pain,” was Jake’s response. “There’s nothing going on
in that department at the moment.”

“I need to get
out, please get me out of here. Jake, do something about this storm, make it
stop!” MacKenzie said, bursting into tears.

“What is going on
out here?” Jackson demanded as he emerged from the sitting room.

It fell on Jason,
who was finding the whole situation more than a little surreal, to satisfy his
father’s curiosity. “It would seem MacKenzie has just realized that she is
going to have a baby.” At Jackson’s raised eyebrow, Jason continued. “Yeah, I
know, I thought the same thing. She also believes the house is holding her
captive, and that Jake should stop the storm so she can get to the hospital. I
think that about sums it up.”

Shaking his head,
Jackson muttered under his breath, “I see it’s going to be a long night.”
Squaring his broad shoulders, he made steady progress towards Jake and
MacKenzie.

“MacKenzie?”
Jackson called.

“What?!” Her
shriek was so loud it even startled her. When she realized who had called her
name, MacKenzie was mortified. She had just snapped at the distinguished
gentleman whose manners always reminded her of how royalty would behave. He
always seemed so in control and well... polite.

“Sorry, Mr.
Kingdom,” MacKenzie said, her tone of voice markedly changed. It was all she
could do to stop herself from dropping a curtsy to add weight to her apology.

“My dear young
lady, please call me, Jackson.”

“Oh, I couldn’t do
that, sorry.” MacKenzie shook her head throughout her reply, aware that she was
contradicting him.

“Of course you
can, but that is a matter for discussion at another time. Right now, Aviva is
going to help you upstairs and ensure your comfort... Aviva.”  Jackson called,
never taking his eyes from MacKenzie.

As though by
magic, Aviva was by their side. How the hell did the man do that? One minute
she wanted nothing more than to get out of his damn house, and the next she was
standing there as calm as could be, waiting for her friend to accompany her
upstairs.

For the first time
since her struggle with the door, MacKenzie became fully aware of her surroundings,
and her audience. Josh, Steve and Hope all stood in the hallway with varying
expressions of amusement plastered on their faces.

Josh seemingly
unable to withhold comment spoke to the women who were ready to depart. “Aviva,
thank you; this has been my best Christmas to date.”

MacKenzie knew,
she just knew in her paranoid state that the family clown was referring to her.
Coming to a complete halt, she spun around and fixed him with a devil stare.

“Don’t mess with
me, Joshey. I’ll eat you for breakfast, and spit out your marrow-less bones for
the twinnies to cry over.”

The snort that
came from Jackson’s direction immediately pulled MacKenzie’s attention as she
realized what she had just said. “Oh, sorry, Mr. Kingdom. Your sons are extremely
lucky they have you as their father. For you, I will retract my previous
statement. But I will hurt him,” MacKenzie said, pointing at the still laughing
Josh. “If he messes with this pregnant lady.” Widening her eyes, she adopted
her most-beguiling look as she turned back to Jackson. “If that’s okay with
you?”

Jackson was
laughing so hard, his words were a little difficult for MacKenzie to
understand. “My dear young lady, I like the way your mind works. Feel free to deal
with Joshey, and the twinnies in any way you deem necessary.”

**********

MacKenzie was
finally relaxing in a warm bubble bath. For some unknown reason her
contractions had stopped. It took a while, but she finally convinced herself
that today wasn’t the day her baby wanted to make its appearance. She was sure
her baby had aspirations of being born in a nice hospital, surrounded by doctors
who had spent countless years perfecting their chosen sector of medicine. With
a smile of contentment, MacKenzie closed her eyes and refused to contemplate
anything to the contrary.

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