Cate’s eyes widened and her lips parted in quiet gasp of surprise.
She couldn't speak.
Cate stared at Jon’s handsome face, the shock of his words numbing her ability to respond. He had asked her the one question she had been avoiding throughout her melancholy bout of self-examination. Cate hadn’t dared to let herself think about having a child with Jon, refusing to allow herself to wish for the unattainable. She was having a difficult enough time dealing with the reality of their family dynamic.
“Cate.” Jon’s gentle voice drew her attention back to him. “Is that what this is about?”
“I… Uh…” Cate stammered, then took a deep breath. She had to answer him truthfully; Jon deserved to know how she really felt. If only she knew, herself.
“I.. I don’t know.” Cate felt another tear slip down her cheek with the admission.
Jon smiled tenderly and brushed away her tear. “You know, you can talk to me about this.”
Cate sighed and turned her face to kiss Jon’s palm. “I… I know. I just don’t… I honestly don’t know why this is bothering me so much. Nothing’s changed, nothing’s different than it’s ever been. I love your kids, I think Dorothea’s great. I just…”
“C’mere.” Jon dropped his hand from Cate’s face and gave her shoulder a little squeeze, encouraging her to lean back against him. With another little sigh she submitted, settling against his chest and letting Jon enfold her in his embrace. “Now, you just…?” Jon repeated Cate’s unfinished sentence, gently prodding her to continue.
Cate took a deep breath, her emotions calming as she felt Jon’s rhythmic breathing against her back. She always felt so secure, so safe in the protective circle of his arms. Especially when her fears were in her own heart. She blinked away the moisture from her eyes before speaking.
“I just… I guess lately I’ve just been feeling… feeling like a little bit of an outsider. I know you don’t want to hear that, Jon, but it’s true.” Cate’s soft voice wavered a bit.
Jon bit back his urge to contradict her, to tell Cate she was wrong, that she was a member of his family in every sense of the word. But now that she was finally talking he didn’t want to shut her down. Jon reminded himself that though Cate’s words made his heart ache he had no right to deny how she was feeling. Instead he encouraged her to go on.
“Why, Baby? Why do you feel like that?”
Cate was quiet for a minute, searching her heart for an answer. “I guess I’ve always felt like that, a little. Everybody close to you has been important in your life for a long time – years, decades. I’m the new kid on the block, so to speak.”
Jon smiled at her choice of words. “That’s true, but you’re the one with the most important title, Mrs. Bongiovi.” He chuckled softly and kissed her cheek, then rested his chin on her shoulder. “Cate, you’re the one person I choose to spend my life with, to share every part of me with. The good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Cate chortled softly at his gentle tease. “I know. But you also chose Dorothea, a long time ago. And that didn’t work out. But you still love her, you have an honest relationship with her. As a friend, not just as the mother of your children.”
“True. But Cate, we’ve talked about this before. I’ll always love Dorothea. We shared a lot. But we’re not the same people we once were. She doesn’t own my heart… she hasn’t for a long time.” Jon paused, waiting for Cate’s response. He knew she wasn’t insecure about his relationship with his ex-wife; she was working up to something else.
“I know. It’s just that…” Cate sighed, a note of exasperation in the breathy exhalation. “I guess I’m just a little jealous. I’ll never have with you what she does.” Cate let out a little snort of self-disgust. “God, listen to me. I sound like a pathetic, needy, weak woman, obsessing over my husband’s ex.”
“Hey. Stop that.” Jon’s rebuke was gentle but firm. He hated to hear Cate berating herself over her honest emotions. “You’re not weak. Far from it.” Jon paused for a moment to let his assurance sink in.
He took a deep breath before continuing, not sure how his next question would be received. “Baby, what Dorothea said to you, about being too selfish to sacrifice your career for a child… Did that hit a little too close to home?”
Cate felt a stab of guilt at Jon’s words, mingled with a strange sense of relief. She sat silent, searching her heart for the truth. “Yes,” she finally whispered. “I guess so.”
Jon closed his eyes, willing himself to remain calm as his heart broke a little at Cate’s sad admission. He hated that she was beating herself up like this, that Dorothea’s words had caused her such turmoil. But he had to urge her to continue, to unburden herself to him. He would do anything to help erase the sadness from her heart.
“You never wanted kids?” Jon kept his voice soft and even, trying to hide his own emotion.
Cate shook her head. “No. Honestly, I didn’t.” She snorted softly. “You know, when you’re young and going mach ten with your hair on fire and doing all those exciting things with your life, all you want is success. You don’t want to be burdened, you can’t imagine having time for anything like a family.” She paused and Jon saw an ironic smile ghost her lips. “I guess that is selfish, huh?”
“No. I get it. I was like that too. Biggest rock star in the damned world, anything and everything I ever could dream of offered up to me on a silver platter. Back in the middle of the craziness, when it all broke open, the last thing I wanted was to be tied down. I just wanted to work my ass off to stay on top.”
“Yeah, but you realized what you really wanted, what you needed, was balance. Something normal to hold on to.” Cate sighed wearily. “And you had it. You had Dorothea. You realized you needed her, before it was too late.”
Jon was silent, his lips pursing lightly as he considered the bitter subtext of Cate’s words. After a moment he continued, more gently.
“You thought you found what you needed with Kevin. But you didn’t.” Jon couldn’t keep the tinge of disgust from his voice as he named Cate’s ex-husband.
“Yeah.” Cate snorted derisively. “But neither of us wanted kids. We knew that going in. And even if I had… well, considering how quickly our marriage went south, it wouldn’t have happened.”
They were silent for a long minute. Jon hugged Cate to him and dropped his lips to her shoulder, dotting it with gentle kisses. He felt guilty for bringing up the painful topic of Cate’s failed marriage but he knew Cate was thinking about it anyway. And they needed to get everything out in the open.
Finally Cate sighed, her body slumping against his. She tipped her head to the side, resting her cheek on Jon’s shoulder. “I just don’t know anymore,” she breathed sadly. “Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it all over again, make different choices.”
Jon smiled gently at her lament. “Yeah, me too. I think we all do. But if we did, we wouldn’t be who we are today.” He paused, unconsciously sliding his hands gently over her middle. “Cate, do you regret not having a child?”
“I didn’t used to.” Her honest answer came on a strangled breath. “I never dreamed I’d find someone I’d love so much that I’d want to make a child with him. Someone who would love me back.” She swallowed hard, and when she spoke again her voice was barely above a whisper. “My regret is that I found you too late.”
Tears welled in Jon’s eyes as his heart clenched at her words. He hugged her and buried his nose in her hair, nuzzling at her neck as he blinked rapidly. Suddenly he realized what he wanted, maybe even more than she did.
“Baby, it’s not too late.”
“What?” Jon felt Cate tense in his arms, her surprise betrayed by her body.
“It’s not too late. For us to have a child.” Jon raised his head and waited. Slowly Cate turned her head, leaning back so she could look at him. He smiled as he saw a little spark in her swirling sapphire gaze. “If that’s what you want.”
Cate stared at Jon for a long moment, her heart racing as her mind struggled to comprehend his words. "But… Jon… I’m not sure….” Cate drew in a deep breath and blew it slowly out, counting to ten. Jon felt her relax in his arms. When she reached the number, she gave him a little half-smile. “I’m not exactly young anymore.”
“Cate, you’re only forty-two. That’s not that old. Women older than you have babies all the time. Practically every day you see something in the press about another mid-forties mother.”
Cate chuckled softly, her lips curving a bit more. “Yeah, you hear about rich people and celebrities having babies in their forties. Usually with help.”
Jon grinned. “Rich people and celebrities? Well, we got both of those covered.” His heart warmed at Cate’s quiet laugh in response. “Baby, we have the means to make it work, if you want to.
Cate sighed, reaching up to stroke Jon’s smooth cheek. She gave him a bittersweet smile. “That’s a nice fantasy, Baby. But it’s a moot point anyway. You had a vasectomy.”
“That’s easy to fix. I’ll have it reversed.”
Again Cate gasped softly at Jon’s matter-of-fact declaration. Her eyes sparkled as her heart swelled with emotion.
“You… you’d do that?”
Jon leaned forward to brush his lips over Cate’s in a sweet caress. “If that’s what you want… yes.” He pulled back and gazed at Cate, watching her consider his words.
“I… Oh, Jon…” Cate didn’t know what to say. Suddenly she was nervous. She stared back at Jon, her heart pounding and butterfly wings fluttering madly in her stomach. A child… with Jon… It was almost too much for her to comprehend. She slowly shook her head, as if to deny the possibility. Her emotions paralyzed, Cate’s rational mind took over.
“Baby, I… thank you. But it’s been a long time since you had that done.”
“Cut the wires, you mean?” Jon gave Cate a little grin, trying to coax a smile. He could see the shock in her expression, and he knew she was struggling with herself again. He didn’t want to push too hard, to overwhelm her so much that she retreated into herself. But he couldn’t help his growing excitement at the possibility of another child.
Again an amused smile crept to Cate’s lips. “Umm… yeah.” She took another calming breath. “Baby, vasectomy is a reversible surgery, but it doesn’t necessarily mean… I mean, it could be a long shot… in terms of actual fertility…” Though her pulse was evening out Cate’s mind was still racing. She couldn’t seem to form a coherent sentence.
Jon chuckled and ducked his head forward to rub the tip of his nose against Cate’s. “I know it’s not a guarantee. But let me just tell you – I got strong swimmers. They’re just like me – stubborn, strong-willed, used to getting what they want, don't take no for an answer…”
He grinned broadly as his boast brought a girlish giggle from Cate’s lips. “When we decided to have Steph and Jess, it only took one shot each. I could knock Dorothea up at will.” Jon chuckled, encouraged by Cate’s soft laugh. “And now that I have all that experience… Shit, Baby. I would hardly even have to try.”
Jon’s heart melted as he watched Cate’s lips curve into a gentle smile. She chuckled softly and looked down at Jon’s arms, crossed over her abdomen as he held her cradled against him. In response to her gaze Jon rubbed his hand gently over her belly.
“Jon… I don’t know. I need to think about this.”
“Of course you do.” Jon kissed Cate’s cheek, slipping his arm back across her middle and squeezing gently. He smiled as she purred softly and snuggled back against him, finally relaxing. “It’s a big decision.”
“Jon, tell me honestly… do you want another child? I mean, you’d be starting all over again. You already have such a wonderful family….”
“And Christ, there are so MANY of them!” Jon cut her off with a gentle tease, smiling again as she giggled softly. His voice softened with emotion. “In all seriousness, Cate… I would love to have more children. It’s an amazing thing, being a father. I miss my kids being little. And this time…” he paused, feeling a lump rising in his throat. Clearing it with a soft growl, he continued. “This time I’d do it right. I’d be there for it all, the hard stuff and the good stuff.”
Jon felt Cate draw in and exhale another deep breath. He knew her mind must be reeling, trying to sort through her hopes, her fears, and her emotions. He hoped he hadn’t overwhelmed her with his answer, but it was the truth. At this moment he wanted nothing more than to give Cate a child.
“Jon… I just don’t know.” Cate’s words were quiet but gentle. The undertone of sadness was gone from her voice. “There’s so much to consider… medically, professionally, financially, emotionally…” She turned her face to his. “It might take me awhile to sort this out. I mean… I just feel so stupid about being all emotional. I need to really search inside myself, to be sure it’s what I truly want, that I’m not just overreacting to how hard the past few months have been.”
“I understand. Baby, I want you to think about it, to be sure. But whatever you decide…” Jon reached forward to place a gentle kiss on Cate’s trembling lips before whispering against her mouth. “Whatever you want, I want too.”
Cate smiled and shifted in Jon’s arms, her eyes sparkling with happy tears and her heart full. She turned on her hip to face him, swinging her legs over his thigh and slipping her arms around Jon’s waist. She leaned up so her lips were next to his. “What I want right now is you.”
Jon sighed happily as Cate’s mouth slid over his in a gentle caress. Cradling the back of her neck with his hand, Jon leaned sideways, gently lowering Cate’s body to the ground and stretching out beside her. Pulling away from the kiss, he smiled down at Cate. She looked so beautiful in the fire’s glow, her eyes shining like sapphires and her lips full and moist, curved with contentment.
Jon’s heart filled to bursting as he gazed at his wife. He became aware of the soft crackle of the fire and of the soothing rush of the waves against the beach. There was something magical about this place, this tiny island where their love story began. Tonight the enchantment was in the moonlight again, inspiring him and Cate to dream of their future as a family.
He reached up to draw a gentle finger along her cheek. “I love you so much, Baby. I give thanks every day that fate brought us together here, that you were brave enough to give me a chance.” Jon’s blue eyes glittered with affection. “My life began again here, with you. I wouldn’t give up a second of our time together, and I promise you I won’t waste a minute of what we have left. Whatever our future may bring.” Jon’s gaze followed his hand as it moved to rest gently on Cate’s stomach.
Cate smiled and moved her hand to cover Jon’s, over her womb. “Whatever comes... No regrets,” she whispered.