“Okay,” said Amber, letting the subject drop for now. “It’s your choice.”
“Damn right it’s my choice.”
“Yours and the father’s.”
“There is no father.”
“You just said Kirk wanted to give the baby up for adoption.”
“Kirk’s not the father. That’s why he wanted to give the baby away. It’s not his.”
The revelation took Amber aback. Kirk dropped back down in her esteem. “I don’t understand.”
“I was pregnant when I met Kirk. He said he didn’t mind. He said he loved kids. But then...” Jade gave another shrug.
“Who’s the father?” asked Amber. Maybe there was some hope for financial support. Heaven knew Jade was going to need it.
“It was a one-night thing.”
“You didn’t get his name.” Amber shouldn’t have been surprised.
“Only his first name. Pete.”
Amber tried not to judge, but it was hard.
“He was a sailor.”
“You mean in the navy?”
“Well, did you try to find him?”
“It was weeks before I knew I was pregnant.”
“What about DNA? After the baby’s born. The navy must have a database.”
“He was Australian.”
“Still, did you contact—”
“Amber, I am not going to track down some Australian sailor and ruin his life over a one-night stand.”
“Why not? He ruined—”
“Don’t you dare say he ruined mine. He seemed like a really nice guy. But I went into it with my eyes wide-open, and it was my choice to carry on with the pregnancy. I’m having a baby, my son or daughter, your nephew or niece, and I’m going to take care of it, and I’m not going to drag some poor man kicking and screaming into an obligation he didn’t sign up for.”
Jade’s words and attitude were surprising but in some ways admirable. Amber wasn’t used to her taking such personal responsibility.
“Okay,” she told her sister. “You can come and stay with me.”
Jade was silent for a moment. “Thank you.”
“We’ll figure this out together.”
But Jade was shaking her head. “I’m not looking for you to take over my life.”
Who’d said anything about taking over?
“It’s only temporary,” Jade continued. “I’m studying. I’m going to write my GED. Then I’m going to get a proper job.”
Amber could barely believe what she was hearing. “You’re working on your GED?”
“I’ve been working on it for months now.”
The surprises just kept on coming. “Seriously?”
“Why would I joke about that?”
“That’s fantastic.” Amber was beyond impressed. “I’ll help you. We can—”
“Whoa. You need to dial it down.”
“I didn’t mean to dial it up.”
“Giving me a place to stay is great, really great. But that’s all I need right now.”
Amber forcibly curbed her excitement. But it was the first time Jade had shown an interest in anything but partying, and Amber’s hopes were running away with her. A baby was an enormous responsibility. But other single mothers had pulled it off. If Jade could keep up this new attitude, she might have a fighting chance.
Amber couldn’t help but smile at the possibilities, even as Jade came back with a warning frown.
* * *
“I thought we’d have him back by now,” Tuck said to Jackson.
It was late-afternoon Tuesday, a week after the New York trip, and the rain was streaming in sheets down the picture window overlooking the river. The two men lounged in the armchair group in the corner of Tuck’s office. Tuck’s desk was piled with paper and his email in-box was approaching the breaking point. Most of it was bad news, and he was anxious for Dixon’s return.
“I thought so, too,” said Jackson. He had one ankle over the opposite knee, his legs clad in black jeans topped with a steel-gray T-shirt. “Your brother’s wreaking havoc with my reputation.”
“I know I’m losing faith in you,” said Tuck. “And I’m beginning to consider the wild rumors.”
“That he’s a spy?”
“That there’s at least something going on that I don’t know about.” Tuck didn’t believe Dixon had a secret life. But he was all out of reasonable explanations. It had been nearly a month since his brother had disappeared.