I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t even work my mouth closed and open to produce words. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t mean for this to happen. Tell him what the doctor told me. Tell him that even though it was a shock, I was excited about this baby. Our baby. Anything to make him stop looking at me like I was evil incarnate. Unfortunately, I knew Preston, I knew how terrible his thoughts could be and now they were aimed at me.
The sickness I’d felt over the last several weeks was nothing compared to the present churning in my gut. It didn’t matter what my defense was. Reality, love—I shook my head. I’d been naïve. Jumping straight to blame and horror was a clear expression of exactly how he really felt about me. His reaction was more than enough. And it was too much to bear.
“You may think you’re getting away with something, but you won’t get a thing from me.”
“I don’t want anything from you,” I whispered.
He scoffed, obviously not believing me.
I stood up, my legs shaky and all my will gone. I was tired. So unbelievingly tired I could barely see. Tears danced on the rim of my eyes. The only thing that came to mind was the truth.
“I love you, Preston.”
And my heart broke because it didn’t matter. The look on his face made that clear. “It’s true,” I said. “But I don’t think I’ve ever hated someone this much in my life.”
I bit my lip because the tears came down hard. I couldn’t look at him anymore. My chest was caving in and my lungs were burning. There wasn’t enough oxygen in the world at the moment. I turned and walked to the door.
“I thought you were different,” he growled.
I looked over my shoulder and opened the door. “So did I.”
“We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry, Meg.”
I sat on Kate’s bed while she hugged and rocked me. I would have gone back to my apartment but didn’t think I could make it. Once the penthouse door shut behind me, I’d broken down. Kate and Adam’s suite was only an elevator ride away.
I sniffled. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to barge in on you.”
Kate shook her head. “Don’t you be sorry. You just worry about you right now, Meg. I’m here. Everything will be okay.”
I had cried all night and the words I so desperately needed to hear came from my best friend instead of the man I was in love with…the man whose child I was carrying.
“It hurts,” I breathed.
It was the same thing I told my mother with a smile a month ago. I loved him so much it hurt. She told me it was the best kind. But right then, I didn’t see how that was possible. Gravity was pushing against me and my bones were slowly cracking under the pressure and digging into my muscles. I was suffocating and my body caving in around itself. Pain. Total and utter pain.
“I know it does,” she whispered.
It was well past four in the morning and Kate had cried with me all night. Adam was pacing by the bedroom doorway, occasionally stopping to glower. At first I thought he was mad at me, but soon realized he was upset with Preston.
“Here you go,” Adam said, and set two cups of tea on the nightstand.
He nodded and before he left said, “Men can be really stupid.”
His blue eyes landed on Kate and I knew what he was talking about. Several months ago he had almost lost her and the look on his face showed he still hadn’t forgiven himself.
“Why didn’t you tell Preston what the doctor said?” Kate asked softly. “That when you took the antibiotics for your ear, it messed with your birth control. Why did you just let him blame you?”
“It doesn’t matter. His first reaction was hate and denial.” Holding desperately to my control, I forced myself to keep the sobbing at bay. “I honestly thought he loved me.”
“He does!” Kate hugged me tight. “He wouldn’t have proposed if he didn’t.”
I looked at her and all the control on the planet couldn’t keep the tears from starting up again. “It wasn’t real.”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“It was fake, all of it. I needed the money and he needed a wife,” I began and over the next hour I told Kate every humiliating detail—from the first night, to the contract, to the money, to my parents’ losing everything. It didn’t matter anymore. Preston had said that pregnancy voids everything. The contract wasn’t valid anymore.
“It’s stupid, I know.”
“No, no it’s not. You’re a good person, an amazing daughter and what happened in Chicago with Tim was not your fault. You have to stop blaming yourself for that.”
I shook my head. I was so lost. So far beyond lost. Sadness drowned me like frozen lake water and I couldn’t catch my breath. Bone-chilling cold seeped from every pore and I didn’t think I’d ever feel true warmth again.
“I just…I thought Preston was different. I know he has some issues but I’ve been honest with him.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.” I wiped my eyes and put a palm to my stomach. “But I want this baby.”
I wouldn’t go after Preston for anything. Not a dime, not his name, not anything. But this little thing inside me was mine. Something innocent and good, and I wouldn’t take that for granted.
Kate’s phone buzzed on the bedside table. She reached for it.
“Hello?” Kate frowned at me. “Hi, Judy. Yeah she’s right here.”
My heart stilled and I took the phone. “Mom?”
“I tried calling your p-phone but it went straight to voicemail and I know K-Kate was visiting...”
My mother was on crying and on the brink of hysteria. Damn it! I’d left my phone at the penthouse along with everything else. “Mom, it’s okay. What’s going on?”
“Your dad is m-missing.”
Dread and terror wrecked into me like a one-ton anvil. It was everything I could do to pull myself together and not vomit.
“I don’t know. I woke up because I heard a banging sound. The front door was wide open and your father was g-gone.”
“It’s okay, mom,” I whispered, not sure at all if it really was.
“If he’s confused and wandering around lost—” a sob broke my mother’s voice and I clamped a hand around my own mouth to keep from doing the same thing.