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I sensed that the three of us would all be moving on bettered from our conversation today—only I didn’t know which direction Braydon and I would be going.

“You want to go home, and order in?” he asked as we stood facing each other on the sidewalk.

“No thanks. I’m tired and a bubble bath sounds nice.” I just needed some alone time to sort through my feelings, and I thought it might do Braydon some good to do the same. Today had been a lot to take in.

He nodded in understanding. Truthfully, the heaviness of the past hour had affected us both. I could tell he wouldn’t mind being alone with his thoughts for the night.

“I’ll see ya.” I gave him one last hug and left.

I made it only a few steps, though, before the coffee was coming back up into a nearby trash can. Lovely. After I’d gotten sick, I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and ventured a glance over my shoulder. Braydon had seen the entire thing. Shit.

He was at my side, supporting me with an arm around my waist in a matter of seconds. “What’s wrong? Are you still sick?”

I let out a groan and closed my eyes. “I’m sorry. I think it was the coffee. It was too much for my stomach.”

“Don’t be sorry, I’m just worried about you.”

I leaned into his side, thankful for the support. I just wanted to lie down in my bed, safe and warm.

“How long have you been sick? Be honest with me.”

“A month,” I croaked.

“Fuck, sweetheart. I’m taking you to the doctor. No arguments. Come on.”

Taking my hand firmly, he pulled me to his side and led me into a nearby cab. I leaned on him for support, much too weak to argue, and Braydon silently held me as the cab sped away for the hospital.

20

After a battery of questions and tests from the doctor and nurses, Braydon and I waited in the cold, sterile hospital room still no closer to an answer. They wheeled a machine into the space and dimmed the lights to perform an internal ultrasound to see what was going on inside my stomach. The technician probed me with a little wand and stared intently at the image on the screen.

Our relationship changed in an instant with three little words.

“Congratulations. You’re pregnant.”

The floor of my stomach dropped away. I wanted to pull the bitchy ultrasound tech by her ponytail and demand someone else repeat the scan. Someone who could make sense of this alternate universe I must have entered. Braydon wasn’t even my boyfriend. He’d never be okay with a baby. Then why was he looking at the screen like it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen?

“Can you do that again? That heartbeat thingy?” he asked. He laced his fingers between mine and squeezed.

The ultrasound tech used the uncomfortable wand once again. The little black-and-white blob on the screen danced.

“We made that, kitten. You and me,” he whispered, his voice full of awe.

She adjusted a knob on the machine and the thumpity-thump sound kicked up again, insistent and sure. There was no doubting there was a baby in there. Either that or a horse was galloping in the next room. “Based on your last menstrual cycle and the measurements I’ve taken, you’re seven weeks and four days along. Congratulations again.” She removed the wand and handed me a box of tissues. “Go ahead and get cleaned up, and I’ll print some of the pictures for you to take home.”

Once she left the room, my head fell back to the table; I closed my eyes and tried to focus on what I knew I needed to do. I took a deep breath and began. “Braydon, I know you’re probably scared—I am too. But it’ll be okay. I don’t expect anything from you. I have a good job, health insurance, I can support us.” Me and my baby. How I could feel protective over something I’d known about for three minutes, I had no idea. “And there’s day care, and my mom lives nearby in New Jersey. I’ll make it work.” I had to.

His silence dragged on and I finally forced my eyes open and looked at him.

His brows drew together. “No.”

No? I was not giving up my baby no matter what he said. That was out of the question. I’d do fine raising my baby alone, thank you very much. I could already see us—I’d be the cool mom in Central Park with skinny jeans and a chic diaper bag and the world’s most adorable baby on my hip. My mood lifted at the thought.

“This is my baby—our baby—and I will take care of all three of us. I’m not going anywhere. No f**king way.” He pressed a hand over my stomach as if to shield the baby from his curse. “Earmuffs, buddy.” With his hand still resting over my belly, he continued, “My sperm is f**king amazing.” His proud smile confused me. He was happy about this pregnancy?

Braydon helped me off the table and I redressed, then we sat in the chairs and waited for the doctor to return with the photos. I was still too much in shock to do anything more than sit there quietly. But Braydon couldn’t seem to stop touching me, lightly rubbing my knee, holding my hand, or touching my belly. My mind flashed to our unexpected romp in Los Angeles. We’d been too caught up in the moment to use a condom.

“Move in with me,” he said suddenly.

Wow. I laughed.

“What’s funny?”

“I’ve only been to your apartment once—and now I’m being invited to move in?”

“Yes.” He turned to fully face me, gazing deeply into my eyes. “I was too cautious, scared to jump in with you like I really wanted. I could tell you weren’t the type I could have a casual fling with and not fall for. That f**ked up all my plans.” He covered my belly with his hands once again, cringing at his curse word. “But I was being a coward. Love is messy, it’s scary and overwhelming at times, but it’s everything. What my parents had, I know my dad wouldn’t have traded for the world, despite how it all ended. And I’m sick of denying how I feel about you.”

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