“You haven’t exactly acted like you wanted me to.”
She wanted to tell him to beat it down. Beat it with all his might, beat it down until she broke and confessed everything she was trying to keep locked away from him. “I don’t know what to do,” she said at last.
“Day by day,” he reminded her.
“What if days turn into weeks and then into months, and I still don’t know?”
“Then maybe I will.”
Shit, she couldn’t do this anymore. Couldn’t lie here in the dark with the distant sound of the waves and listen to his voice. The yearning for him was like a physical ache. “I’ll see you when I get back.”
“All right,” he said, a note of dejection in his tone. “You sure you’re okay?”
“Gabby…” She waited for his next words, her entire being on hold during that torturous pause that seemed to be filled with more than words could say right now. Finally, he sighed. “Good night.”
And he was gone. Loneliness crept in. She rolled over and let her hand trail down to her belly as her eyes leaked silent tears onto her pillow. “No matter what, I’ll always have you, huh?” Her little peanut.
Boy or girl? What would she name him or her? Would he have her eyes? Or would she have Ian’s smile? If it was a boy and he looked too much like his father, that would be the worst form of torment…unless she could see his father every day of her life.
Gabby had gone to bed early enough that surely Kelsey would still be awake, but she didn’t want to bother her with more of her emotional, hormonal bullshit. Bad enough that she’d bothered Ian and proven what a psycho she was becoming.
She would lie low for a while. Most likely, even though Kelsey had vowed to tell on her, she’d head back to Dallas before she told her parents or anyone else about her pregnancy. Then she could deal with them from afar. That wasn’t so difficult. Maybe dealing with Ian from afar was the best answer too. After time, the ache would fade. The memory of him wouldn’t be so acute that she sucked in a breath when she recalled his touch.
“Keep doing what you’re doing.”
It was unthinkable, but maybe it was the only answer.
She didn’t know if coming to that decision could actually be considered progress, but it felt like it. Somewhat. Gabby slept much of the way home as Kelsey drove, compensating for the little sleep she’d gotten the entire time they were at the condo. She’d wanted to offer her own driving services, but she probably would’ve gotten them in an accident.
Many long hours later, Kelsey steered into the Rosses’ driveway, and Gabby sighed at the sight of the ostentatious house coming into view. Kelsey apparently found meaning in that sound as she braked in the circular drive and killed the engine. “You have to tell them. Soon.”
“I will.” After I’m gone. “Sorry to be such a downer on this trip. We’ll have to go back again once the craziness settles down.”
“You weren’t a downer. And we’ll definitely go back again, but if we wait for the craziness to stop, it’ll never happen.”
Wasn’t that the truth?
Kelsey was staying an extra night with her in-laws before she made the drive back to Austin in the morning, so Gabby enjoyed one more night with her, although it was under her parents’ noses. They loved Kelsey to pieces, so they hogged most of her time. Gabby managed to get up early enough the next morning to see her sister-in-law off, then went back to bed as the nausea began to work its evil magic on her. Thankfully, it had been giving her a bit of a reprieve, but not today. Her parents must’ve thought she stayed out partying the entire time she was in Destin, because she slept until early afternoon.
Waking up, she felt…better. Usually upon first opening her eyes, dread hit her hard right in the chest like a sledgehammer. For one blissful moment, she wouldn’t remember everything that was happening to her, and then…boom. Instant terror and OhmyGod, ohmyGod, what am I going to do? Today, though… Maybe the getaway had done her some good after all. She’d gotten some sun, some salty sea air—she actually felt pretty competent at dealing with life now.
Enjoying a nice, long stretch after she crawled from bed, she decided to enjoy all the good days that she could. Then she went to the bathroom.
And all the good feelings went away in a rush of terror so real that it made her previous turmoil seem as inconsequential as worrying over an exam she knew she would ace anyway.
Calm. Keep calm. She took care of the situation as best she could and changed out of her silky pajama bottoms into dark yoga pants. Purse, where was her purse? There, beside her dresser. She grabbed it, moving as carefully as she could, then went to look at her sheets. Nothing marred the pale-pink-with-flowers pattern, so that was good. Good. She left her room and went downstairs, taking each step slowly.
Her mother sat at the breakfast nook, having an afternoon cup of coffee and leafing through a magazine, her leisurely day about to be seriously disrupted. She lifted her mug to her lips as Gabby spoke.
“Mom,” she said coolly and waited until her mother looked at her. “Put down the cup.” Frowning, Gianna did so. “I need you to not freak out on me. But you need to drive me to the ER.”
Of course, as expected, Gianna freaked out. Her face blanched and her eyes rounded. She rushed to Gabby’s side as if she might collapse at any moment. “Oh God, what’s wrong?”
“I’m okay. But let’s go. I’ll explain on the way.”
Her mom’s eyebrows drew together, that Evan worry-line forming between them. “You’re okay but—”
“Mom! Get your purse and let’s go!”
Less than two minutes later, Gianna was speeding down their driveway in her Mercedes, her knuckles white on the wheel. Gabby stared blindly at those bejeweled hands and felt the words rising in her throat. She couldn’t seem to push them out, until her mother said…
“Gabriella, tell me what’s going on right now.”
“I’m pregnant. And I’m bleeding.” And now she couldn’t look at her mom anymore, so she turned and stared out the window at the passing trees, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth in an effort to hold back the tears. This couldn’t be happening. She couldn’t disappoint her family, get Ian involved and end up with nothing to show for it. She couldn’t have another dream snatched away from her. How much more could she take?
The tears spilled regardless of her attempts to hold them at bay. She hadn’t cried in her mother’s presence since she was a kid. Not even over Mark.
“Preg— You— What?”
“You heard me. And I know what you want to say. I don’t need a lecture.”
“Doesn’t matter. You don’t know him. I might be miscarrying anyway.”
To her surprise, she felt her mother’s fingers curl around her left hand and squeeze tight. “I hope not.”
“I guess we’ll see.”
Her mom released her, putting her hand back on the wheel. “Get my phone out of my purse. I’m calling your father. Don’t argue with me,” she added sharply when Gabby opened her mouth to wail. “You should have told us both about this.”
“I’m sorry, but—”
“Merda, Gabriella. Were you just going to leave without us knowing this?”
Oh God, she was bringing out the Italian cuss words. Brian would be so proud of her. “I don’t know!”
“This is not the way I would want to find out!”
Gabby lifted her fingers to her temples and rubbed. “Please don’t yell at me. You’ll upset the baby.”
Her mother’s face softened. Score. “Get my phone.”
“Telling Dad will upset the baby too.”
“Get. My. Phone.”
Or not. Sighing, she dug into her mom’s Prada and handed her the phone, then returned to her former position staring out the window. She supposed she needed to make a phone call of her own but couldn’t bring herself to do it until she had more information.
Still no pain in her abdomen. Obstetrics wasn’t her specialty by a long shot, but she hoped she could take that as a good sign. She shut her eyes and tried not to listen to her mother filling her dad in, but there was no way on earth she couldn’t hear it. The movements of the car without the benefit of sight began to make her feel nauseated, and she had to open them again.
“I know,” Gianna was saying. “I have no idea what she was thinking. If—”
She couldn’t stand it anymore. This wasn’t going to turn into a situation where she was talked about like she wasn’t even present. Where they planned and schemed like she didn’t have a say. “Give me the freaking phone,” she snapped, plucking it away from her mom’s ear. “Daddy?”
“What is going on with you, Gabby?” Alexander Ross could bring the thunder right alongside his wife, and that was what Gabriella had been prepared for, what she’d been ready to give right back. But her dad only sounded disappointed and more than a little concerned.
“I’m sorry,” she said, all the fight going out of her. She had a sudden vision of the distant future: her child f**king up and Gabby trying to understand his or her actions. She wanted that future so badly, even with its ups and downs and disappointments. She hadn’t realized how much until now. A fresh deluge of tears streamed from her eyes. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t want to make you guys worry. I was going to tell you both, I promise. But yes, I am pregnant, and I don’t want to lose this baby. So please don’t make me explain any more right now. I just want to get to the hospital and find out what’s going on.”
“All right. I’m on my way there to be with you both,” he said. “I love you.”
“Love you too.” Sniffling, she gave the phone back to her mom, practically tossing it at her because she couldn’t see for her tears. Gianna spoke a few more words to her husband and hung up. Moments passed where the car’s quiet engine was the only sound. Finally, the hospital came into sight up ahead, and she felt the warmth of her mother’s hand on her arm as dread settled into her stomach. They always said doctors made the worst patients—well, she wasn’t one yet, but she already filled that particular criterion.
“It’s going to be all right,” Gianna said.
More than dread—outright panic welled in her chest. “I don’t want to go.”
“You have to.”
She knew that, she did—but that didn’t stop her from wishing there were some way she could get her mother to turn the car around and take her back home. As Gianna eased through the ER’s parking lot, looking for an empty space, Gabby grabbed for her purse and dug for her own phone. She fired off a quick text to Ian and prayed he would come. It would be so awkward to everyone involved. It would blow their secret wide open for the world to scrutinize and offer its f**king self-righteous opinions on, but it didn’t matter to her anymore. All she wanted was to see his face. She wanted him telling her it was going to be all right. Making her feel safe and protected. If he’d be inclined to do so.