I shook my head, chewing on my bottom lip.
“Talk to me,” he said.
“How could you want to raise a child in all of that?” I whispered.
Nixon tensed but didn’t take his arm from around my shoulders. “I can’t help the life that comes hand-in-hand with my career, Liberty.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m not faulting you, I promise. I just…they’re insatiable. And have little regard for your well-being—physical, mental, or otherwise.”
“Are you saying you’re worried about me?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “And for the baby.”
Nixon slid his hand over my stomach, the gentle touch enough to empty my head of thought and sound.
“I’ll take care of you both,” he said. “In whatever way I need to.” The truth in his words slayed me. “And I’ll talk to my team,” he continued. “Find a better way to handle them, avoid them. We have time,” he said. “To prepare.”
I nodded, tilting my head up to his. “Thank you,” I said.
“For being willing to do that. For not pushing me away due to my lack of experience with all of this.”
He trailed the tip of his nose over mine, his lips brushing against mine so lightly I barely felt it, and yet, my entire body tightened from the touch. He cradled my head, angling it so he could kiss me deeper, his tongue grazing the edges of my teeth with expert flicks and rubs. I trembled against him, my body coiling with want, need.
“I won’t run from you,” he repeated our earlier words against my lips.
I nipped at his bottom lip, relishing the growl the move drew from him. “And I won’t run from you.”
And as he continued to wind me up on the ride home, I realized how much I wanted our words to be true. How badly I wanted to keep taking the next step with Nixon and see where we landed in the end.
I could only hope we’d be on the same page, but it was hard to see that future when we were from completely different worlds.
“Is she always this late?” I sent a glare toward the clock as I paced in the tiny exam room like it could make our doctor appear faster. It was already forty-five minutes past our scheduled time.
For the thousandth time, I wished Liberty had agreed to move her care over to the better-rated OB clinic. Not only did they have a lower complication rate for delivery, but I bet their doctors were on time, too.
“Contract negotiations not going well?” Liberty calmly flipped through an issue of Parenting Magazine as she sat on the edge of the exam table.
“What?” I paused.
“You’ve been grumpy since you got off the phone with your agent, which leaves me to assume that contract negotiations aren’t going well.” She turned another page.
“Contract negotiations are…whatever they are. I’ve got a franchise tag on me, which means it’s not like I can walk out, and I want a ten-year deal, not a five. And I haven’t been grumpy since I got off the phone with Jim. My rise in irritation directly correlates to every single minute the doctor continues to not show up. She’s forty-five minutes late!”
“I told you not to come.” She said it gently, but it hit me like a battering ram.
What the fuck?
“Of course, I came,” I said slowly. “I’ve been at every appointment since that first ultrasound.” Last month’s appointment had been worth the fine I’d incurred for missing practice, but it wasn’t like Liberty knew I’d gotten slapped with one, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to make her feel guilty for it.
The magazine hit her lap, and her expression softened. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I just know that you have a flight to catch.”
“You have an appointment.” It was simple in my mind: our baby trumped the flight. If worse came to worst, I’d charter something to Pittsburgh in order to make it there eighteen hours in advance of kick-off.
“And you need to be on that flight.”
“Then stop making appointments on Fridays. Do you think she realizes how late she is? How far behind can you possibly get by nine-thirty in the morning?” How was this a normal thing?
“All Fridays?” Her eyebrows knit. “I can’t make any appointments on Friday?”
“You can make appointments whenever you want.” I loosened my tie. “But if you’d like to make it a little easier for me to attend, then steering clear of Fridays—and sometimes Thursdays—before away games would be pretty helpful.” I walked over and took her hand, running my thumb across her knuckles and pausing on her ring finger.
What do you mean you haven’t proposed? Mom’s voice bulldozed through my brain, just like it had when she’d nearly shrieked the words at me over the phone last week.
“So, I’m supposed to carry around a copy of your schedule?” She arched an eyebrow.