Hell. She had no idea what it was they were doing exactly, except spending a lot of time making each other moan the other’s name. In any case, she needed to see him, needed to make sure he knew it really wasn’t her. Unfortunately, Maddie appeared to be half an inch from meltdown so Tara pulled a chair up in front of her.
“Jax wants to get married,” Maddie whispered without prompting, then let out a shuddering breath, as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
“And?” Chloe asked.
“And I think that’s just the pregnancy scare talking.” Maddie lifted huge eyes to her sisters. “I don’t want to get married just because of that.”
“It’s more,” Tara said. “He loves you.”
“And I love him. But I don’t need the piece of paper.”
“How about the diamond?” Chloe asked. “Don’t you need the diamond?”
“No. Well, maybe.” Maddie let out a watery laugh. “But we haven’t been together all that long, really.”
“Six months,” Tara said.
“Yes, and we’re committed,” Maddie agreed. “And that’s enough for me. Shouldn’t that be enough?”
“Are you trying to convince you, or us?” Chloe asked. “Because I’m still on the diamond thing. It’d be pretty hard to turn down a big, fat diamond. And then you get a big party, a cool trip, and use of his credit card.” At Tara’s slight shake of her head, Chloe rolled her eyes. “And fine. More importantly, you’re wild about him. I know you are. He makes you smile. And he thinks your OCD is cute.” She smirked at Tara, like see? I can so be supportive.
“I’m not OCD,” Maddie said. “Exactly. And I am crazy wild about him. Maybe if I had been pregnant…”
“You’re just lucky the pregnancy scare happened now,” Tara said, extremely aware of Mia soaking up this sisterly exchange. “At a good age with a guy who loves you as much as Jax does.” She met Chloe’s sharp gaze. “What?”
“You say that like you don’t have one of the greatest guys we know wanting you.”
“Want is not love,” Tara said.
Chloe rolled her eyes again.
“If you don’t stop doing that,” Tara said. “I’m going to pop them in a jar and roll them for you.”
“And here I always thought that you were the brightest crayon in the box.”
Tara felt her eyes narrow. “And what does that mean?”
“Hey,” Chloe said, lifting her hands. “If you don’t get it, I’m not going to explain it to you. But his name starts with an F and ends with an O-R-D, and hello, he’s as head over heels for you as Jax is for Maddie.”
Tara stared uncomfortably at Mia, who was nodding. “Okay,” Tara said. “It’s true, we might have married all those years ago, but seventeen-year-olds shouldn’t marry.”
“Maybe not,” Chloe said. “But Ford’s all grown up now, and a pretty damn fine man if you ask me. He’s financially stable, hot as hell—sorry, Mia—and would probably die before he hurt you. So what’s the hold-up?”
“I’ve asked the same thing,” Mia said. “Minus the hot part, because ew.”
Tara sagged. “Me. Okay? The hold-up is me. The last time I was with him…” She glanced at Mia. “I didn’t handle things well.”
“You were a kid,” Maddie said and smiled at Mia. “No offense.”
“None taken,” Mia said politely.
“What a cynic you turned out to be,” Chloe chided Tara. “Not believing in the power of love.”
“Says the woman who can’t even say I love you,” Tara shot back.
Chloe clammed up, face closed now. “This isn’t about me.”
Mia looked outside as Carlos pulled in, her entire demeanor perking right up. “I gotta go,” she said, and vanished out the door.
Tara sighed, then turned to Maddie. “Back to you.”
“I’d rather not get back to me.”
“Tough,” Tara said. “Because I’ve had enough of me. Are we happy or sad the test was negative?”
“Aw,” Maddie murmured, her eyes going suspiciously damp. “You said we.”
“Hey, you said we were a we,” Tara reminded her. “About six months ago, when you pretty much demanded we all stick together and act like sisters, remember?”
“Yeah,” Chloe said, adding her two cents. “That’s true, Mad. You were all about the we. Hardcore we, actually.”
“Since when do either of you listen to me?” Maddie asked.
“Since you made us all hug and kiss and take the blood oath,” Tara said, then found herself being squeezed nearly to death by Maddie, who’d pulled her and Chloe in close.
“I love you guys,” Maddie whispered.
Tara sighed. “I love you too.”
Chloe merely endured the hug and the sentiment.
Maddie pulled back and, still holding their hands, sniffed. “I’m sorry about this. When I didn’t get my period on time, I panicked. It’s silly. I love Jax so much. And we’ve talked about getting married, about doing the whole wedding and dress and cake—”
“And dancing,” Chloe added. “If you’re going to make a production out of it, let’s have dancing.”
Maddie laughed. “Yeah. And dancing.”
“So… panic over?” Tara asked her.
“Yeah.” Maddie rubbed her chest. “I mean none of us exactly had the typical childhood. And Jax didn’t either. I couldn’t picture—I just couldn’t imagine being a parent, I don’t know how. We don’t know how.”
“You’re the warmest, sweetest, kindest person I know,” Tara said. “And Jax is smart and sharp as hell. What you don’t know, you’ll figure out. You’ll make great parents.”
“Oh,” Maddie said, “that’s so sweet.” And she sniffed again. “But I really just want to be alone with him for a while first. Is that selfish?”
“Hell, no,” Chloe said. “If I was going out with Jax, I’d want to be alone with him all the time. Day and night. Naked—”
Tara slid an arm around Chloe and covered her mouth. Chloe freed herself with a laugh. “So if you’re done panicking now,” she said to Maddie, “maybe you can explain how it is you might have gotten pregnant. Thought you were on the pill.”
Maddie winced. “Yes, but apparently they’re not effective when you’re on antibiotics. Remember last month when I got bronchitis?”
“You were having sex with bronchitis?” Chloe asked. “You weren’t supposed to tax yourself.”
Maddie bit her lower lip and blushed. “I didn’t tax myself. Jax did all the work.”
Chloe sighed in jealousy. “Bitch.”
“So,” Tara said, squeezing Maddie’s hand. “Let’s recap. Panic is over, and we’ve established you’re madly in love.” Which would mean she could go talk to Ford now…
“I’ll be better when I get my period,” Maddie said. “I’ve been so distracted. I mean, I ordered full sheets instead of queen-sized for the guests’ rooms. I tried to put diesel in my car instead of regular gas. And let’s not forget not checking the bilge pump on the houseboat and nearly killing Logan.”
“Eh,” Chloe said with a playful shrug. “He’s an ex. Not such a loss.”
“Chloe!” Tara exclaimed.
Maddie laughed, then clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry. But admit it; that was a little funny. And we need to get breakfast going.”
“Yes,” Tara agreed. “But first I have to go face a man about a pregnancy scare, thank you very much.” She sent Chloe a long look.
“My fault,” Chloe said, raising her hand. “I’ll make breakfast.”
“No,” Maddie and Tara said at the same time.
“Hey, I can totally do this. I want to do this.”
Tara stared at her, then nodded. “Okay, but I’ll be back if you need me.” With that, she went searching for Ford, but though his car was out front, he wasn’t anywhere in the inn.
Or the marina building.
And then she discovered that his Finn was gone. He’d headed out on the water. She boarded his Beneteau and sat on the hull, stretching her long legs out in front of her to catch the rays of the early sun, hoping it would warm her while she waited. Dropping her head back, she closed her eyes and tried to relax. Between the near sinking of the houseboat, the emotional talk with Mia the night before, getting even more emotional—and naked—with Ford, then Maddie’s pregnancy scare, she was plum done in, all before eight in the morning.
She must have drifted off because the next thing she knew, the boat was shifting as someone stepped onboard. She didn’t look. She didn’t need to. She recognized the buzz along her nerves.
Ford didn’t speak, and neither did she. Not when he motored them out of the marina, and not when he took them out of the bay as well, to a secluded area offshore. He dropped anchor and sat beside her, mirroring her pose so that he was sprawled out, face tipped up, the sun gilding his features.
Because she needed to see him for this, she sat up, reached over and pulled off his sunglasses.
He lifted his head and looked at her.
“The pregnancy test really wasn’t mine,” she said. “I’d have come to you.”
His eyes met hers. “Or Logan.”
“You really think I’d sleep with both of you?”
He hesitated. “If it were any other guy, I’d say hell no. But there’s this little voice inside my head that keeps reminding me that you have strong ties to him. And you were married. I really hate that little fucking voice.”
“Logan and I have been apart nearly two years now.”
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