“If you’ll recall, you told me that you didn’t want to watch Lord of the Rings with me anymore. So what business is it of yours who I watch movies with?”

I vaguely hear Nick’s dad try to ask his mom what the heck is so important about Lord of the Rings, but Victoria wasn’t born yesterday. She’s crafty and she may not know exactly what we’re talking about, but she knows it’s not about a damn movie about hobbits.

I can’t believe I’ve been pining away for Nick for a month, and he already moved on to someone new. The room is spinning and I might be sick, but I’m not leaving before I tell Nick what he can do with his goddamn apology now.

I open my mouth to tell him off, but nothing comes out. Not a single word. I’m too mad. No, I’m too devastated. I am shattering into so many pieces, I can’t recognize what parts of me are still here.

“You planning on stabbing me with that?” Nick nods to my hand gripping my knife.

What? Dear Lord. I relax my grip and set my knife and fork down. “Of course not.” I would never hurt Nick and—” My eyes go wide at where I was going with that thought. He would never hurt me. Not physically and not verbally. He’s nothing like my ex. Even when we’re fighting, he’s done nothing that would hurt me. Well, except tell his mom I’m just a coworker and a neighbor. That hurt, but honestly, I deserve it. And he deserves the truth.

“Nice try, but I know for a fact you’re not watching Lord of the Rings with anyone but me,” I challenge.

“What makes you so sure?” he challenges right back.

“For starters, because you’re nothing like my ex. Not even an atom similar.” A slow smile starts to lift one side of my mouth—just as it does his.

“Oh yeah? You think you know me that well?”

“Yes, I believe I do.” I take a deep breath and pray to every god there is that I don’t mess up what I need to say next. My heart is pounding in my chest as I begin. “You are brave enough to keep giving me another chance, kind enough to help an old lady and an almost-divorced one find happiness again, and you are smart enough to know when to give me space. You love animals or you’d never have adopted that ridiculous dog, Buttercup. You loved Aunt Maggie and took care of her. And most importantly, you think I’m amazing just the way I am.”

“Is that all?” he asks with an expectant look, and I know exactly what he wants to hear me say.

“I can’t believe I was ever worried you might turn out like my ex. Or that I might have terrible judgment in men. My ovaries have excellent taste; I just sometimes don’t listen to them. And they want you to know that they need you. I need you. Not to solve my problems but to just be there. And I’ll be there for you, too.”

Nick leans forward and picks up my hands, a smile twinkling in his eyes. “I told you your ovaries were smart.”

I grin back at him. “They’re my best feature. But to be fair, they really don’t care what happens when the hobbits leave the Shire. It’s sad, really.” I shake my head. “They said they’re having too much fun to give a damn at all.”

Nick is full-on grinning now, and for the first time since we sat down for dinner, a weight is lifting from my chest, my breath coming easier with every minute that passes. He tugs me into his lap.

“What about working at the law firm being the same as falling back into old habits and reliving your old life with Karl?”

I’m going to banish that man’s name from my vocabulary forever. “I was a dumbass for even thinking it.”

His dark gaze is brimming with promise. “So we give this thing a real chance?”

“I’m making no promises,” I feel I have to say, then add, “but yes, I would really, really like to give this a real chance.”

He leans forward and his lips are on mine, moving against them with abandon. When we finally break apart, we’re both gasping for breath.

I smooth his hair behind his ear. “I can’t believe I ever thought you were like my ex. For starters, you’re way better at kissing me—everywhere.”

I blush as he chuckles and pulls me closer.

But before our lips collide, Nick’s dad coughs, reminding us both we’re not alone, and asks, “So, umm, should we all watch Lord of the Rings after dinner?”

Three horrified sets of eyes turn to John as Nick, his mom, and I all say at the same time, “No!”

Then we glance around at each other and bust out laughing.

“I don’t get it,” John says. “I gathered from your discussion it was your favorite movie.”

Victoria leans over and squeezes John’s hand. “Dear, they love it like we love Star Wars.”

“Oh”—his eyes widen—“ohhhh.”

“Mo-om,” Nick groans. And we all break into another fit of laughter.

“I like her,” Victoria says, when we finally catch our breath. “Can we keep her?”

The look Nick gives me sears me right down to my toes with all the good (and good bad) things it promises. “Only if she wants to stay.”

“I do,” I say, meaning it more than anything else I’ve ever said in my whole entire life. “I really, really do.”

And so I do. And we do. And it is wonderful.


   One year later…

The curtains hanging in the bedroom window aren’t hot-pink-and-green-zebra-striped like at my aunt’s house, but they still do an awful job of keeping out the sunlight first thing in the morning. The beams come in at the perfect angle to shine right in my eyes. Unwilling to give up the warmth of my bed, I try to roll over, but I’m stuck.

Nick’s arm is thrown across me and when I move, he tugs me closer so I’m plastered against his muscular form. I would have rolled the other way, but nine-months-pregnant bellies and sleeping facedown on the mattress doesn’t really work. I haven’t seen my toes in months, putting on underwear is its own kind of balancing hell, and I get heartburn after every meal. I’ve never been happier.

Judging by the steady state of my contractions since the sun woke me up this morning, I’m not going to be preggo much longer, either. I’m just lying here processing all that is about to change when Nick’s palm glides from the top of my belly to my breast—not that I’m complaining.

“Go back to sleep,” Nick says, his words tickling the back of my skin.

Yeah. That isn’t gonna happen. A baby is definitely coming. “Have you seen the sun coming in through the window?”

“I’m gonna board that thing up,” he grumbles before delivering a string of kisses up my neck. “How’s Happy doing this morning?”