I tried to find the right words. Technically I was about to. Thatch and I had at least come to that conclusion on the way back from the restaurant. I was to move into his apartment away from the crazy that was my father as soon as possible.
“Kind of.” I needed to tell her about my parents, but I wasn’t really sure how not to make it sound like a bad soap opera.
If that weren’t bad enough, Braden had been trying to call me all day as if we even had something to talk about. I assumed he got my number from my dad.
And suddenly everything made sense.
My dad had wanted me away from Thatch.
He had been worried about his affair being made public.
And he was so selfish, he was willing to put a psychopath in my way.
I chewed the licorice harder while Avery quietly slid the tub close to me and nodded in encouragement.
I’d been hungry for the last six weeks for junk food—more than my usual, which just meant the stress was getting to me!
It’s probably why I hadn’t started my period.
The piece of licorice got stuck in my throat.
I started coughing.
Lucas slapped me across the back. “You gonna make it?”
“No.” My eyes filled with tears. I’d been emotional too. Really emotional. More than usual. I covered my face with my hands and then started counting backward on my fingers, and when I ran out of my own fingers, I had Avery and Lucas hold up theirs.
Clearly they were good enough friends to just do it and not question my sanity.
My numbers counted back to the day before Thatch and I had broken up for good.
But that would mean . . .
I looked down.
And back up at my friends. Several times. Up, down, up, down.
“Is she having a seizure?” Lucas whispered under his breath.
“I don’t know, check her pulse,” Avery encouraged.
I slapped his hands away. “You guys would literally die in the wild. That’s not how you check for a seizure! And if I was having one, I’d be on the floor.”
Lucas held his hands back. “Whoa, just trying to save your life.”
“If that was you trying . . . I would have been dead. But thanks.” The tears kept coming.
“Honey”—Avery grabbed my hand—“you’re freaking us out on game night.”
Since when did it turn into game night?
“I, uh . . .” I licked my lips. “I think I’m—”
The door opened, Thatch strolled in, looking handsome as sin. His muscles bulged beneath his black button-up, and his gray slacks slid against such thick thighs that I found myself staring like I hadn’t seen him in years.
The final piece clicked together.
I’d been unbelievably horny.
As in, ready to jump his bones for offering me the newspaper and a piece of bacon.
“Turn on the news, now!” Thatch demanded.
I was still in shock while Lucas and Avery ran over to the couch. Lucas found the remote first and flipped to the local news.
“Breaking news out of Seattle. Pictures of the mayor’s wife, Shana Rogers, and her young lover have recently surfaced. The pictures show the two holding hands and talking closely. Mayor Rogers has released a statement asking for privacy at this heartbreaking time.”
The screen switched to a photo.
It was Thatch.
And my mom.
It was bad timing.
And suddenly I wasn’t sure about anything.
With a heave, I placed my hand over my mouth and barely made it to the bathroom before puking up way too much licorice and Mountain Dew.
“Austin?” Thatch was immediately knocking on the door, then jerking it open. And then I was being pulled into his arms. “I’m so sorry. I know it looks bad.” He felt my forehead. “What’s wrong? Is it the news? Do you have the flu? I can prescribe something for nausea, just give me a min—”
“I think I’m pregnant.”
The phone slipped from his fingers and dropped onto the bathroom tile with a clang.
Yeah. So write that, Hollywood.
My dad set up my own mom.
With my boyfriend.
Whose child I was carrying.
Kill me now.
Avery went to the store with me.
I told Thatch to stay with Lucas, plus it wouldn’t be good for him to be seen. His name wasn’t ever given, but it was impossible not to notice the high cheekbones and ever-present blond man bun. Besides, he was on buses, park benches—the guy was well known. And I was pretty sure that within the hour, news would break that Dr. Holloway—you know, my possible baby daddy?—was the home wrecker.
I was so angry at my dad, I wanted to give him a black eye—he wasn’t the best dad, but at least he’d always protected me, kept me safe. Put a roof over my head. Made me believe that no matter what, we’d stick together, even if it was all a front. I never thought he’d actually throw me under the bus—or Thatch for that matter. Not to mention my mom. The woman he supposedly loved enough to marry.
I knew I needed to confront him, but the very idea that he would set up our family like that had me reeling. I wasn’t even sure what I would say, but I hate you was item number one on the list.
“You okay?” Avery rubbed my leg. “I mean, I know this is all a bit much, but it’s going to be fine. Right?”
“Totally fine,” I said through clenched teeth as we made our way through Walgreens and grabbed a few different pregnancy tests. Avery bought them.
For obvious reasons.
All of them pointing toward breaking news. No way was I going to add any fuel to the flame.
When we were back in the car, I started to cry again.
“Why can’t we do anything normal?” I asked the universe. “Remember? White picket fence? One dog? A kid AFTER you get married and have the perfect job? And the perfect family reunions where both sets of parents hang out and aren’t cheating with each other!” I yelled the last part.
“Okay,” Avery said slowly. “First off, it’s just your dad and his mom, it’s not like everyone’s swapped. Second, that’s not real life.” Right, because that made everything better.
“This, this isn’t real life!”
“Actually, it is.” Avery shrugged. “Life is messy. It’s chaotic. And I hardly doubt you’d want perfect. I mean, have you ever even seen a picket fence? You have to paint that shit!”
“Avery.” My eyes welled with hot tears.
“You can’t even watercolor!”
Woman had a point.
“And one dog? Who gets one small, tiny, annoying little dog? You’re more of a big-dog girl, and even then, have you seen Thatch with animals? He tried to pet a turtle once and was so rough, the little thing nearly drowned!”
I burst out laughing as I wiped away a stray tear. “That’s true—he’s only good with people.”
“Not creatures. And I’m sure all pet owners everywhere say a t
hanks to God that he didn’t decide to become a vet.”
“The point is this,” Avery said softly. “It’s not always going to be how you planned it—but is love ever planned? Do you think I wanted to fall for my sister’s ex-fiancé? The one who cheated on her? That sure as hell wasn’t in my life plan!”
“Yeah, but your story is romantic!”
“Right, and so is yours, just in a different way, Austin.” She rolled her eyes as she pulled out of the parking lot. “Sheesh, remember when you guys met? And you were all stumbling over to him and he couldn’t take his eyes off you? And the man was a certified man whore, ask Lucas!”
“I don’t think I like that part of the story,” I admitted.
“Right, but the minute he found you, he changed his ways. Bam!” She slammed the steering wheel, causing me to jump a foot. “And now, look at you guys. Basically cohabitating and ready to have a baby, and—spoiler alert—the baby is going to be so beautiful! And healthy. And have a doctor as a dad!”
“And the story just got better, but we don’t even know if I’m pregnant.”
“You’re over two months late,” Avery said, then just had to add, “If you aren’t pregnant, we really need to talk about your stress levels, or maybe it’s just the Mountain Dew finally going radioactive in your system and changing you into a superhero! If that’s the case”—she winked—“I say wait for Captain America.”
“Good talk.” I gave her a high five before grabbing the Walgreens bag and making the trek back up to Thatch’s apartment.
“What does a nervous breakdown feel like?” I kept checking my watch, and every time I checked, only a minute had gone by. Walgreens was two blocks away.
“What the hell? Did they stop to feed the ducks or something?” I paced in front of Lucas while he devoured half a bag of potato chips. “And why aren’t you saying anything?”
“One.” He held up a finger. “Because you’ll just tell me to shut the hell up.” He crunched down on another chip. “And two, because I’m ninety percent sure if I say something, no matter how helpful, you’ll just take out your pent-up aggression on me and punch me in the face, and I like my nose. I’m attached to it, literally. So I’ve got nothing.”