Gabby scoffed. “Oh, please, he hooked up with Candace the first time because he gave her a tattoo. I’ll remind him of that little fact if I need to. But Ian’s worried what Brian will think about…all this. Yeah. That’s a problem.”
“I don’t even know what to say. What are you going to do?”
“What is there to do? I’m having a baby. I’ve thought of all my options. This is the only one I can live with.”
“What will you do about school?”
“I’ll just…I’ll deal with it. I’ll take a leave of absence when the time comes.” She remembered her and Ian’s conversation the night they conceived. “Take life as it comes at me.”
“Did you say the father’s name is Ian? What does he think about it?”
“I think he’s in shock. We’ve talked about it. He wants to be involved, but…I don’t know. We were only supposed to be together for one night. Now he’s someone I’ll have to deal with for the next eighteen years.”
“Oh, at least,” Kelsey said, not being helpful at all. “Do you like the guy?”
“Luckily, yes. I like him a lot. He’s…he really seems like a great person, from what I know.” She chuckled. “Damn, he’s hot. He’s literally wanna-have-his-baby hot. I think back, and it’s like, no wonder I got pregnant.”
Kelsey’s laughter rang out. “Well, it’s good you feel that way, I guess, considering you are having his baby.” There was a long silence after their humor died away. “God. I don’t know what to say. You have to tell your mom.”
She didn’t want to think about it. “I realize that.”
“You shouldn’t worry too much about it, you know. It doesn’t matter if you’re not married. She might freak at first, but the woman thirsts for grandchildren, and she’ll take them any way she can get them. She’s going to be overjoyed.”
“I hope so.”
“And you have to tell Evan.”
“Then let me.”
“Kelsey, no. Not yet, please. He’ll tell Mom. He won’t be able to resist.”
“The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be.”
“But I don’t have many answers right now, and I’m only going to be met with a million questions.” Even worse than the thought of telling her mom was telling her dad. She’d have to let her mother do it. “I’m not ready for that.”
“So you’re going to burden me with being the only other person who knows.”
“Please understand. I had to tell someone. Except for Ian, I kinda feel all alone.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way. We’d all be there for you.”
“For now, it does have to be that way.”
“I’m so worried about you.”
She wanted to seethe over that. She wasn’t sixteen. Problem was, at this very moment, she was as helpless and dependent as a sixteen-year-old. She had money that was her own, but certainly not enough to sustain herself and a kid for very long. Being reliant on her parents while she went to school was one thing; they were fine with it because they were so proud of her following her dreams. Being reliant on them for raising her extramarital child, though? They might not be so thrilled about that.
She could fix it, though the option wasn’t one she liked to consider. What if it they refused to support her now? What if the dream of medical school had to trade places with the dream of having children? One of them attainable, one of them all but gone. She could always go back to nursing, they might say. Pay for her mistakes. Nursing would support her and her baby, but she would have to kiss med school good-bye.
“I’m sorry you’re worried. But I’m trying to remain focused on the joy of the situation,” Gabby said a tad more icily than she intended. “Because if I don’t, I might go off the deep end.”
“I understand,” Kelsey said. “I don’t mean to make you upset. But please promise me you’ll tell your parents soon. You need emotional support. You hate me saying I’m worried about you, but I can’t help it. I’m a worrier. Have you been to a doctor yet?”
“No. I got three positive tests three days ago, and that’s where we are.”
Kelsey chuckled. “I think it was three for me too. I was in total shock.”
At least Evan had already proposed and their wedding plans had already been underway. Gabby managed to refrain from sharing Brian and Candace’s little secret. Apparently, they didn’t want to spread the word yet either, or Kelsey would be crowing about it. Gabby made a mental note to call Brian and check on them.
“Are you okay? Like, right this minute? You’re good?”
Gabby had to laugh. “Am I standing on a stool with a noose around my neck? No. I’m good. Promise.”
“I hate being so far away! Dammit. We need to get together. You and I, we’ll figure this whole thing out.”
“Can you come up for a few days?”
“Possibly. Though I might have a better idea. Girls’ weekend in Destin before you go back.”
If she went back, given the darker turn her thoughts had taken. But ohhh, the beach sounded heavenly. The Rosses owned a condo in Destin, Florida, right on the white sands of the Emerald Coast. Though her parents used it frequently, she hadn’t been in a few years. She could so do with some sunshine and waves. An abundance of salty Gulf air to clear her head. “I would love that.”
“Let me see what I can get worked out, okay?”
“I love ya, girl. Talk to you soon.”
Gabby ended the call and sat staring at her phone without seeing it. It was probably true this would get harder the longer she waited. Hell, she could march downstairs right now and blurt out her news to her mother and get it over with. While her mom might be overjoyed to have another grandchild, Gabby didn’t think for a second she wouldn’t be disappointed in her eldest.
She’d always been the good child. Brian had been the rebellious one, often getting in serious trouble. Evan had been the player, leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake. Gabby had often scolded them both for their choices right alongside her mother. Now? Ugh. She could imagine all of them lining up to shake their fingers at her—her younger brothers no doubt with malicious glee in payback for all those times she’d done it to them.
It was okay. She wasn’t ashamed. They might be ashamed of her, but none of that would matter five years from now—her standard approach to dealing with stress. The uncertainty, though, was terrible. The thought of meeting all their many questions with I don’t know or I guess we’ll see. She’d never lived that way. She didn’t know how.
For a terrible moment, she longed so hard for her old life that her chest ached. Her home with Mark. Her friends. School. Mark himself. Steady, level-headed Mark, who’d apparently put on such a façade of contentment that he deserved an Academy Award. Again she thought about everything she was supposed to be enjoying right now, everything that had been snatched so cruelly away from her at the last possible moment.
She’d told Ian she didn’t want contentment and that she should’ve run out on her own wedding. She wanted much more than that in her life. Joy, happiness, excitement, love. But stability was also high on her list. Way high. Right now, she felt so unstable she might topple over. That surely didn’t mean she had to trade in everything else to have it, though, right?
Weakness engulfed her, and for yet another even more terrible moment, she toyed with the idea of calling Mark. What would she say? What was the point? If there had been even the slightest, tiniest, most miniscule chance of going back, it was gone now. She was pregnant with another man’s child. For all she knew, Mark had moved on too. Maybe to a fake-chested trophy-wife type who was sleeping in the very bed the two of them had shared.
She picked up her phone again. Instead of dialing her ex-fiancé, though, she dialed Brian’s cell. He answered just as she thought it might go to voice mail.
“Are you guys okay?” she asked.
“We’re good.” There was no mistaking the weariness in his voice.
“How is Candace feeling?”
“She was really sick this morning. Laid around with a cold rag on her head until almost noon. I think she’s better now.”
“Poor thing. Tell her to keep some crackers and a Coke by the bed. She needs to eat and drink first thing when she wakes up.” That was what she’d begun to do as of yesterday morning, and it seemed to help stave off the nausea.
“Oh yeah? I’ll tell her. Thanks for the tip.” He probably accepted it as medical advice and not something she had experience with.
“Have you told anyone yet?”
“No. She wants to wait.” There was a lot of that going around. “You haven’t said anything to Mom, have you?”
“Of course not. I wouldn’t do that to ya.”
She’d taken some time to assess his mood and determined that he was more than tired; he seemed rather down. “You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m worried about her.”
“Is she still not taking it well?”
“It’s not that. She seems happier about it. I’m the one freaking out now, you know? Just…a lot to take on.”
“You’ll be a really cool dad, Brian.”
“I keep thinking I’ll be a total fuck-up.”
“Nope. Your fuck-up days are behind you. You might not want to say ‘fuck’ in front of the kid so much, though.”
He laughed at that. “I’ll keep that in mind. Wouldn’t want it to be his first word.”
“His?” she teased.
“Well, yeah. I can’t have a girl.”
“I think that’s just what you need, a sweet little girl to put you through the same hell you put Candace’s parents through one day. The only thing I think would be better for you than a girl is twin girls.”
“Shut your mouth! Fuck!”
Oh yeah, she’d pay for that one, but she hadn’t been able to resist. Once she had him thoroughly panicked, she let him go, glad that she wasn’t the only one in turmoil. Hearing about his had made her feel more in control of her own, which had sort of been the goal. Poor Brian.
Like he’d said, though, everything was going to be okay.
Ian was going to end up losing his beloved new job if he kept blowing it off. He’d promised everything but his firstborn to Ghost to get him to cover for him, and now he was heading toward Dallas with nothing but his motorcycle and the clothes on his back. He didn’t plan on staying long.
The wind in his face and the roar of the motor didn’t cleanse his thoughts as they normally did. No, Gabriella Ross had taken up permanent residence there, and she was a stubborn tenant. He’d wanted to call her and ask her to come with him but hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. She probably would’ve said no.