Thank you so much for reading IMPERFECT MATCH. We can’t even explain how much we enjoyed writing Reid and Willow. Their friendship was amazing, but their love became epic to us. If you weren’t ready to let them go, we have a little more just for you.
“I’m a hippopotamus,” I moan, staring at my 41 weeks pregnant self in the full-length mirror in our bedroom. I’m wearing one of Reid’s white T-shirts, the only thing that’s comfortable to sleep in these days, and even that is stretched to within an inch of its life. I turn to the side. “My belly looks like a watermelon under this shirt. Not even a regular-sized watermelon. A watermelon with a pituitary problem.”
“Come to bed,” Reid says. He’s already stretched out beneath the sheets. “I’ll make you feel all better. I love your body, melons and all.”
“You can’t love this body. There is no way.” Shaking my head, I face myself straight on again and put my hands on my belly. “Why won’t he come out already? Why does he have to be late? I’m a punctual person. I’m never tardy.” I give Reid a dirty look over my shoulder. “He must get it from you.”
Reid laughs. “Give the kid a break. He’s just waiting to make an entrance.”
“Also you.” I look down at my belly and speak softly, trying to cajole our son into vacating my belly already. “Hi there, peanut. We can’t wait to meet you. Don’t you want to come out and play with us? See the sunshine? Breathe the oxygen? Get off my bladder?”
Behind me, Reid laughs. “I can’t imagine that being too comfortable.”
“It’s not.” Turning away from the mirror, I waddle over to the side of the bed. “Anything you’ve imagined, add on twenty-five more layers of misery—swollen feet, not that I can even see them anymore, exhaustion, aching back, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, Braxton Hicks, a thousand weird cravings …”
“You haven’t had that many weird cravings,” Reid says in my defense.
I regard him with disdain. “Really. You didn’t think it was weird when I sent you out at one in the morning to get me some Easy Cheese and powdered doughnuts?”
“How about the pulled pork on top of vanilla ice cream?”
“That one was good, actually.”
“And the Twinkies dipped in ketchup?”
Reid winces. “Yeah, that one was a little strange.”
“And I didn’t even tell you about the time I was tempted to spoon dirt onto my Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I was too embarrassed.”
“Dirt is a very common pregnancy craving, Willow. You don’t need to feel shame about it, and you certainly don’t have to be embarrassed in front of me. I’d love you even if you’d eaten the dirt.”
“You would?” My heart melts a little bit. I really do have the best husband ever.
He nods. “Definitely.”
I smile and gesture toward the spot next to him. “Got room for a Willowpotamus over there?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” he says, turning down the blankets.
I get on the bed and crawl past him to my side of the bed, slipping my legs beneath the sheet. Reid props up the pillows behind me the way I like and covers me to the waist—or at least where my waist used to be.
Then he scoots down, lifts the T-shirt I’m wearing, and kisses my belly. “Hello in there,” he croons.”Why don’t you come out now and give your hot mama a break?”
“Reid!” I scold. “Don’t call me a hot mama in front of him.”
“Why not? It’s true, and it will always be true, and I’m not going to pretend my wife isn’t the hottest woman in the world just because my kid is in the room.”
I sigh and play with his hair. “You’re hopeless. But I love you.”
“I love you too.” He palms my tummy with one hand, fingers splayed, and puts his lips right next to my skin. “And I love you, little dude. I can’t wait to meet you.”
The baby responded with a few digs of his heel. Lately he couldn’t even kick anymore, because there was absolutely no more room. I groan, trying to shift my weight into a more comfortable position, but it’s hopeless. Everything hurts. “He hears you,” I tell Reid. “Keep talking to him. Maybe he’ll listen.”
“Maybe it’s because we don’t have a name for him yet,” Reid says, looking up at me. “I think we should decide.”
“I thought we agreed to wait and see what he looks like,” I protest. Reid and I did not agree on names.
“He’s going to look like a baby. Don’t they all look alike?”
“They do to me.”
I sigh, shifting my weight again. My hip joints are killing me, and it feels like pain is radiating from my tailbone. “Okay, what are your current top three?”
“Bruce Wayne, Thor Odinson, and Oswald Cobblepot.”
I roll my eyes. “Be serious.”
“I am being serious. The comic book universe is a treasure trove of baby names.”
“Well, so is English Literature.”
Reid wrinkles his nose. “Those names are boring.”
I smack his shoulder. “They are not! They’re classic. And I like the idea of using a last name as a first name—it makes it more modern. Jane Austen has plenty of potential options.”
“Well, like Darcy.”
“No fucking way.” He looks at my belly. “Sorry about the f-bomb, Bruce.”
“How about Churchill?”
He shakes his head.
“That’s even meaner than Oswald Cobblepot.”
“Pemberley? Fairfax? Knightley?”
Reid closes his eyes and snores.
Reid picks his head up. “I like that. Spiderman’s real last name was Parker.”
“I know. And it’s got that classic sound too.”
“Parker what? Like what would his middle name be?”
I shrug. “I’ll give a little on that if you want to go more comic book. But not Cobblepot!”
“Lee? For Stan Lee?”
“Parker Lee Fortino,” I say, trying it out. “I kind of like it.”
“Parker Lee Fortino,” echoes Reid.
And right at that moment, my water broke.
“Oh my God.” I grab my belly. “Oh. My. God.”
“What?” Reid says, lifting himself onto one hip and looking at me with concern. “Are you okay?”
I stare at him in disbelief. “I think I’m in labor. Or I wet the bed. But I think it was my water breaking!”
Reid goes white as a sheet, and for a moment I’m scared he might panic or even pass out, and I need him to be my rock through this. I’m prepared—I think—but I’m scared too.
But then he jumps out of bed and starts racing around the room, tearing off his pajamas and throwing on random clothes. “Okay. I’m ready. This is good. I’m good. Got pants on. Got socks. Got a bag all packed and ready to go.” He pauses to look in the mirror and smooth his hair back before grabbing the small suitcase in the corner of our room. He’s halfway to the door when I yell, “Reid!”
He looks over at me in surprise.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I pant as a contraction hits me.
“Oh my God!” He drops the suitcase and rushes to my side. “I’m so sorry, Willow. I don’t know where my head is. I’m all flustered.”
“It’s fine,” I tell him, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. “Just help me to the bathroom and bring me a change of clothes, okay? And my phone.”
Twenty minutes later, we’re in a cab on our way to the hospital.
“Well,” I say, laughing a little now that I’m in a lull between contractions. “Guess you were right about the name.”
Reid kisses my hand. “Do you really like it?”
“Yes. And I think he does too. Don’t you, Parker?”
Our son responded by moving even lower in my body.
“Oh God,” I groan. “I hope we don’t hit any traffic. This boy knows what he wants, and he wants out.”
“Don’t worry, baby. We’ll get there fast.” Reid knocks on the partition. “Hurry, please. We’re in labor back here.”
“He knows, Reid. We told him like five times already.” I pat his leg. “But thank you.”
At the hospital, I’m checked in quickly and given a private birthing suite. The nurses get me undressed and settled in bed, and soon afterward the doctor comes in.
“Finally, huh?” she says with a grin. “Let’s see how you’re coming along.”
After the exam, she tells me she thinks it will be another six to eight hours, but this baby is definitely on his way. I’m terrified at the thought of another eight hours of this pain, but one look at Reid and he immediately comes over to take my hand.
“You’ve got this,” he says quietly, his expression loving and determined. All traces of his earlier nerves are gone.
“Don’t leave me,” I beg.
“Never.” He squeezes my hand. “I will be with you every step of the way.”
And he is—through the awkward exams and the intense contractions and the unimaginable pressure and almost unbearable pain of bringing our son into the world. He holds my hand and speaks softly. He wipes sweat from my brow and cheers loudly. He tells me I am strong and beautiful. And when he holds our baby in his arms for the first time, he cries tears of pure love and happiness.
“Hi, Parker,” he croaks, his voice cracking. “Hello, little man.”
I’m crying too—from the overwhelming joy and pain of giving birth, from the sight of Reid cradling a child with such tenderness, from the knowledge that I’m actually a mom now, from exhaustion, from relief, from a heart overflowing with love and gratitude.
He looks up at me. “You did it,” he says softly, his eyes filling again.
“We did it,” I tell him. “Bring him closer. Let me see.”
Reid moves tighter to my side and holds Parker so I can look at his pinched, mottled little face and sparse tufts of dark hair. “He’s perfect.”
I smile. “Spoken like a proud dad.”
“I am proud.” Reid leans over and kisses my lips. “Of both of you.”
“I think he looks like you,” I tell him. “He’s got your eyes.”
“But he has your little nose,” says Reid. “And that dimple in your chin.”
I laugh a little. “You’re right, he does.”
“God, Willow. I didn’t think it was possible to love anything this much.” He looks down at our son in awe, and his expression is almost fearful. “I had no idea.”
“You’re going to be a great dad, Reid.”
He nods. “I’m going to try.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” He kisses me again, and his smile lights up my world. “And this is only the beginning.”