Right now, I was going to let myself swim in happiness until I drowned in it. We were having a baby, and that baby was healthy.
“Dad, you want one of these?” the doc asked as she lifted our photo booth strip.
“Hell yes, I do.” I grabbed my wallet and opened it. Then I took the black and white picture and placed it next to the only other one I kept in there. Look, Nick, I thought as I glanced at his eighteen-year-old face grinning between Nate’s and mine. You’re going to be an uncle.
I couldn’t wait to tell Nate…after I took Liberty to dinner.
We had a tiny whoosh to celebrate.
Nixon: Coffee or tea?
Me: Tea, normally. But I’ve had to cut way back since you impregnated me.
I laughed as I sent the text and rolled onto my right side, hiking the covers over my shoulder. I shouldn’t be in bed, and with the southern summer, I shouldn’t be this cold. But I’d been a lot of things I shouldn’t be recently—pregnancy had finally taken hold of my body.
Nixon: During the season I try to stay away from all drinks that don’t hydrate properly.
Me: And offseason? I recall you had a taste for bourbon.
Nixon: Definitely. And if it’s offseason I’m known to indulge in a coffee every now and then.
I snorted at the thought of coffee as an indulgence only allowed during certain months of the year. Who could live without at least some caffeine?
Nixon: Cats or dogs?
Me: Both. I like the cuteness factor but since I’m a traveler by nature, I don’t have the heart to own a pet. It wouldn’t be fair to leave it behind once I earn my doctorate, or to cart it off every time I get the urge to fly.
My fingers flew over my phone, and I didn’t bother setting it down after I’d hit send. It had been a week of these texts from Nixon Noble—everything from my taste in music to my favorite place to travel. He’d gotten extremely inquisitive after the ultrasound.
I smoothed my hand over my belly, my heart swelling with the memory. The sound of the heartbeat, the gentle whir and whoosh the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. And Nixon’s reaction to it? God, that man was dangerous. The perfect exterior—all carved muscle and dark eyes—I could mostly ignore. But the genuine heart underneath that hardened front he put on? That was becoming increasingly hard to pretend didn’t exist. Because it would’ve been easy if he’d been some celebrity athlete jerk looking to bury this pregnancy in the quickest way possible, but Nixon had shown up in all the ways I’d never considered. And the way his dark eyes had melted at the sound of our baby’s heartbeat? Lord help me, I’d melted a little bit.
The world around me continued to shift and mold into something new and shiny every time I discovered something new about this baby.
I sent my usual response after his stream of random questions. As much as he wanted to get to know me, I was equally curious about the quarterback.
Nixon: Dogs. I don’t have one but someday I wouldn’t mind adopting one.
Well, that was adorable.
Nixon: Favorite sport?
I bit back a smile. This was most definitely a trick question.
I laughed at my own joke.
How could he not remember? Well, I suppose I didn’t remember much from our trip to Vegas, but me gazing at him with the nervous moon-eyes of a super-fan would be hard to forget, I assumed. I’d been a Raptor fan for years, and I had many a jersey with Nixon Noble’s name sewn across the back.
Me: What? Your brother is epic on the ice.
In truth, I’d only seen old games on YouTube. I’d had to look him up after the Vegas trip. And while I didn’t know a thing about hockey, I’d seen enough of Nathan Noble’s highlight reels to know he was an exceptional athlete. The gene was strong in that family.
Nixon: He’s engaged.
Me: I remember. I loved Harper’s ability to be both welcoming and direct. Have you ever been engaged?
The question tightened the breath in my lungs. These texts the past week had been mostly surface-level stuff or things that just made me laugh. But past relationships? I wasn’t sure if I’d crossed some invisible line between us.
Nixon: That’s complicated.
I scrunched my brow as I read and re-read the text. How could it be complicated? You either put a ring on it, or you didn’t.
Not many men lining up to date someone who traveled as much as I did. Of course, college had kept me grounded for a few years, but my summers were spent traveling the world. Trying to do some good where I could. And once they handed me my doctorate? I couldn’t wait to set sail. Even with a baby on my hip, the kid would be raised like I’d been—with a pack on its back and an eye on the horizon.