I did. He was my dad.
He would always be my dad.
But sometimes he was just too much. And ever since the shit had hit the fan, I noticed how that love between us had always been one-sided. I did things for him, and if I did them well, he gave me love.
If I did them poorly?
I was ignored.
Ugh, no wonder I dealt with so much insecurity where Thatch was concerned.
“He’d be a great senator. Aren’t they known for cheating?”
Braden smirked over at me. “Someone’s still bitter. Look, from what your dad said, they’ve been hooking up for a few months.”
I thought about Thatch’s dad. About the smell of whiskey, the way he leered at me, the language Thatch said he used in reference to what was happening.
And his mom.
The woman I had yet to meet.
Sighing, I stood. “Thanks, Braden. You still need a date for that fund-raiser?”
It was an olive branch.
I didn’t want to go with him.
But I also wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him when my dad discovered that he was the source.
“You punched me in the face last time we talked,” he said drily. “And don’t take this the wrong way, but you really are putting on weight. Maybe up the cardio, huh?”
My fingers itched to hit him again.
Instead, my anger was quickly replaced by happiness. “I have noticed. And I’m okay with it.” Baby’s gotta eat! “Good-bye.”
“Wait!” He stood. “That’s it? I thought you wanted to hook up or something?”
Hah. No. Just no.
“Sorry.” I shrugged. “I’m feeling a bit sick now.”
I smiled the entire way out the door.
“If we didn’t need that bastard, I would have punched him in the face,” I said through clenched teeth as we slowly got ready for bed. The bathroom was large enough for both of us to move around each other, and I kind of hated it, because I liked feeling her warmth around me, knowing that if I reached for her, she’d be there.
I’d turned into a complete sap.
And I’d never seen it coming.
Austin put her hands on her hips and shook her head at me. “You’ve said that . . . at least five times.”
“It was true the first time, true this time too.” I looked down at my shaking hands and clenched them into fists. “The fact that he ever kissed you, touched you—”
“Whoa there, cowboy.” Austin was suddenly in front of me, tugging me by my hair in a way that drove me wild, pulling me into her arms and kissing my mouth, her delicious tongue sweet on my lips. “I’m yours. Plus . . .” We both looked down as she placed my hand on her stomach. “Now we’re going to be a family. Every time you touch me or kiss me, it feels like I’m ready to jump out of my own skin. I love you. This, what we have, it’s worth fighting for, even if it means we fight our own blood.”
My entire body trembled.
I wasn’t really sure what that looked like.
The only model my parents had set up for me was “cheat or be cheated on.”
And although I knew a part of them did love me, they just chose to love me from afar.
While I rarely saw my dad, the few times our paths crossed publicly, he said he was proud of me in front of others. But in private? That was a completely different story. He was constantly upset that I didn’t follow in his footsteps and painfully vocal about my field of choice.
And my mom stopped answering my calls the minute she discovered good old Dad had moved across the hall from me and blurted out her dirty secrets. Even though I had distanced myself from my mother, I still called her on holidays. I called when I got a job. I called and thanked her for at least showing up to my college graduation. But because my dad moved across the hall, I’d apparently “picked a side.” And now she cut me out of her life. Completely.
The point? I felt abandoned by her, yet again, and it wasn’t fair. The entire situation with my parents was ridiculous. And I was finally over it.
Sighing, I kissed Austin softly across the mouth, my hands spreading across her flat stomach. I wondered if the baby could sense me, feel me, know that even now I loved it more than anything in this world.
Tears pricked the back of my eyes.
I’d never been an overly emotional guy, especially considering that I thought emotions showed weakness, and both of my parents were emotional terrorists in their own right, throwing atom bombs at each other without caring who was caught in the crossfire—or that the person getting injured the most was their only son.
“Thatch?” Austin said softly.
We pulled apart.
“I want to talk to my dad before everything happens.”
Everything in me wanted to shout, No!, to tell her that he’d try to manipulate her like he did everything else—like he had her entire life—but I was at a loss. He was her father, and I didn’t have a leg to stand on other than being her boyfriend, and a protective one at that. Besides, Austin was tough.
I nodded once. “If that’s what you need to do.”
“I just—” Tears filled her eyes. “I want him to come clean. Maybe if he admits the affair and says he’ll fix the media shit storm, we won’t have to go to all of this trouble, you know? I just feel like I’m handing down a life sentence without actually seeing if he’d be willing to plead guilty.”
She was right, damn it. It wasn’t fair to blame him for everything without even talking to the man. I knew firsthand where a fucked-up family got you.
Lonely needed to be said twice for obvious reasons. I’d almost lost her and would have been living in my own personal hell right now if she hadn’t kicked me in the ass and made me see reason.
“You know, I hate admitting when you’re right, but . . .” I grimaced. “You probably are.”
She grinned. “I love hearing that from your mouth.”
“Don’t get so used to it,” I muttered. “Want me to go with you?”
“Maybe just, I don’t know . . .” She shrugged. “Hang out in the car? Just in case he freaks out and we need a getaway vehicle.” If the man touched a hair on her head, I was going to have a hell of a time staying out of prison.
“Man the vehicle.” I nodded. “Got it.”
I had no idea what her dad was going to do, though I was pretty positive that there would be yelling and hurt feelings—but I couldn’t go and ruin the man’s life, even if he was trying to ruin mine, without giving him a shot at redemption.
Right? It was only fair that Austin give him a chance. One I never gave my own parents.
“Hey.” Austin wrapped her arms around my body. “I don’t like that look. Want a Mountain Dew?”
“Seriously? Is that how I’m going to feel better?”
She nodded emphatically. “Or a MoonPie, I have a stash of those too.”
“Pickles!” she shouted directly in front of my face, then whispered, “Oops. I mean, pickles, I heard they’re good and um—”
“Is this your way of asking me to go get you pickles and MoonPies, because you know we don’t have any of those in the house, right?”
She grinned. “Good doctors take care of their patients.”
“You realize I’m not that kind of doctor, right? I don’t fluff pillows and give you junk food. Furthermore, you should know that, since you spent the last three weeks shadowing me. Just what was in all those notes you were taking for those blog posts?”
“Really accurate pictures of your ass.” She winked. “And oftentimes, I’d doodle ‘Austin loves Thatch’ and then write little hearts around our names. When things didn’t go my way, I finally just danced around your apartment naked when you weren’t home and cast a love spell on you.”
I fought an eye-roll. “Not weird at all.”
“I’m so glad you agree.” She started kissing my neck, making it impossible to think straight, and then my shirt was over my head, my pants were hanging from the door, and I was getting completely seduced and assaulted by a pregnant lady with a one-track mind and a really wicked grip.
“Austin.” I jerked against her.
“I’ll take care of that.” She bent down.
“No, you’re pregnant and—”
All conscious thought left my system at the feel of her mouth, my body, her heat, her tongue.
I gripped the sink with one hand while she continued torturing me, and when I didn’t think I could take it anymore, I pulled her to her feet and pressed her body against the door, taking her mouth over and over again until she whimpered beneath me.
“My turn,” I whispered hoarsely across her neck as I shoved her shorts to the floor and found her center.
Hips bucking, she smacked my hand and let out a soft laugh. “You’re killing me.”
“All’s fair.” My answer before opening the bathroom door and carrying her to the bed, sinking into her the minute her back kissed the mattress and staring down at the gorgeous girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.