“I know you do, sweetie.”
“Is that wrong?”
“Not at all, and it doesn’t dismiss the love you had, and still have for Chase. I know how you’ve always felt about both of them. Tell me,” she switched directions, her face suddenly mischievous, “how was the kiss? He sure was up there longer than I thought he would be, seeing how he had to carry your sleeping butt up there.”
Heat flooded my cheeks and a wide smile quickly stretched across my face, “Amazing.” I said a little breathless, remembering his lips on mine and moving down my neck. Mom chuckled at my expression.
“Hmm…” Bree walked sluggishly in the kitchen with Konrad, “Mom’s giggling, and Harper’s blushing. I have to know what’s going on here.” She hugged me and sat on Konrad’s lap in the seat next to mine.
“Harper kissed Brandon last night.” Mom was leaning over the table like she was sharing some seriously juicy gossip.
“Well it’s about damn time!” Bree said faking a little exasperation.
I looked at her stunned, “How can you even say that? It’s only been two months Bree.”
Her face fell to a sympathetic smile, “I know, but you’re only holding back because you’re afraid of letting go of Chase’s memory. Tell me friend, has anything changed in your heart? If Brandon asked you right now to marry him, what would you say?”
Yes. I didn’t even have to think about that or answer it for that matter, “But Bree –”
“Allowing yourself to be with Brandon isn’t a bad thing. It’s also not discarding what you had with Chase, and it’s what he would want for you. We all do.”
That’s exactly what Mom had been saying, I looked between the three of them, my eyes narrowing. “Have you guys been talking about this? Why am I just finding this all out?”
“Because you needed the time to heal enough to the point where you would know if you wanted to be with Brandon or not. We didn’t want to push you either way by saying it was okay too early.” Mom said simply. “Sweetie, honestly, if you want to be with him you should. Don’t let anything stop you from loving him and letting him love you and your baby.”
“But I don’t know how to go about this. What would be okay in a relationship with him?”
“What do you mean?” Bree asked.
“I mean – I don’t know. This whole thing is just so weird and confusing. I already,” I looked at them quickly, my cheeks heating with shame, “um, I already think about him playing Dad for Gummy Bear. He’s so sweet with him and I find myself thinking how good of a father he would be. I’m afraid if I were to be with him again, I would just assume he would want to play that part and that isn’t fair to Brandon. Or what if he didn’t want that role at all? I can’t pressure him into even having to make that kind of a decision.”
“Kid,” Konrad snorted, “I’m sorry, but really? You really think all that?”
“No. But I feel like I’m taking advantage of him or something.”
“Okay, it’s painfully obvious to us that he would be there for you and GB in a heartbeat. But hearing you say that, it’s just so frustrating knowing that you two are doing this to each other. You sound just like Brandon.”
“What do you mean?”
“I love you Kid, but God you’re so dense sometimes. He freaking loves you. And I know you know that. But he’s terrified that he’s going to push you away with his feelings for you and GB. It doesn’t help that you keep telling him you guys can’t be together.” He momentarily took a hand off Bree’s thigh to stop me when my mouth opened, “I know why you say that, and he gets it too. But all of us are just waiting for the day when you guys finally acknowledge the fact that you can’t live without each other. So you’re sitting here telling us you’re afraid of pushing him into something you think he might not want to go into, or you think he shouldn’t have to. And when we go work out or surf, all he can talk about is wanting to take care of you and GB for the rest of your lives, but he’s worried that if he says anything you’ll shut him out for good. You know he told me he’d rather be your friend for the rest of his life than risk not being able to make sure you guys are happy and okay?”
“Oh Brandon.” I whispered. “God I’ve been so selfish, he needs to go live his life. I need to make him leave.”
“No, you’ve been stupid. I’m sorry,” his hands went back in surrender as he looked at Mom, “but someone needs to say it to her. Harper,” he waited until I was looking in his eyes, “you love him, and you want to be with him. He loves you and GB and would give anything to be with you. So stop fighting it, this is like ten times worse than you not telling Chase you were pregnant. And yeah, I knew then too.” Bree, Mom and I all stared at him in shock, “I was with you and Bree all the time, it was obvious right away what was going on.”
There was a knock on the door and the three of them turned to me with smirks on their faces.
“Konrad’s right friend. If you really want this, then tell Brandon. You’re the only one who’s been stopping it.”
I blushed and went to the door, heart fluttering. Brandon’s gray eyes and wide smile were all I could look at when I opened the door. He hugged me quickly and crouched down to tell my gummy bear about how he’d gotten his ass handed to him by one of the guys at the gym because he’d been so distracted all morning. An elbow jabbed me and Brandon kissed where he’d felt it, then stood up and searched my eyes. If Konrad was right, and honestly I had no doubt that he was, then I was being stupid for trying to stop this. I loved him and the thought of not being with him for even another moment felt like the purest form of torture. I needed to change this. Fix it. Now.
“Morning.” His warm voice was soft and unsure.
“I’m glad you’re here, I was worried after last night you wouldn’t come by again.”
“Of course I’m here. Are you okay? After what happened, I mean. If I pushed you too much, you can tell me and I’ll back off.”
I smiled and grabbed his arm, “I seem to remember being the one who started it.” Pulling him closer in, I leaned up on my toes and kissed him soundly.
“Harper,” he rested his forehead against mine after we pulled away, “I need you to tell me what you’re wanting from this. It would probably be a bad idea for me to just assume what’s happening between us.”
I took a deep breath and ran my fingers across the back of his neck, “I can’t imagine my life without you in it, and I’ll take that any way I can because I don’t deserve you, but –” I huffed out a frustrated laugh, my earlier fears threatening to stop me, “It’s not fair to even ask anything from you.”
“Let me be the judge of that.” He kissed my nose then rested his forehead against mine again.
He wants this too. He wants this too. And you’re stopping it. I took another deep breath in and out before talking, “Even though I messed up before, I never stopped loving you, and I want to be with you in every way possible. The way you talk to him, and take care of us even though there’s no reason for you to, well, I get flashes of you helping me raise him, as a family. And I want that. I want it bad. But I feel horrible for even telling you this. He’s not yours, and what led to me getting pregnant is what broke your heart. So I can’t ask you to do that. No matter how much I want it, I can’t ask for a future with you because of what I did, it would be selfish.”
“I tried to live without you Harper, I tried to let you go and I couldn’t. To me, there is no one else, it’s only been you since the day I met you. I love you, which means I love him too. Those flashes you get? I have them all the time.” He cupped my face gently and leaned back to look in my eyes, “It doesn’t matter to me that he isn’t mine. If you let me, I’ll raise him like he is, I’ll take care of both of you for the rest of my life, and I promise I’ll be right there with you to tell him about Chase, and how great his dad was.”
Tears filled my eyes and eventually pooled over, I don’t know what I ever did to deserve men like Chase and Brandon, and their families, but I was thanking God for putting all of them in my life. “If we do this,” I warned, “you won’t be able to get rid of me again.” I laughed and kissed him softly, “I’m in this forever if you are.” I whispered against his mouth.
“Forever.” He agreed and scooped me into his arms, carrying me to the living room, our lips never parting.
When he sat on the couch, I pulled back slightly to smile at him, and caught a glimpse of my family still sitting at the table. I looked closer to see the three of them smiling at us, Bree and Mom had tear-streaked faces. I remembered how much the entryway echoed and knew they’d heard everything. Having them support me and being happy for us meant the world to me, as I’m sure it did for Brandon.
Brandon had been looking at them as well, and turned to smile at me, “I love you Harper.”
If my heart could sing, it would be now. We’d told each other in discussions that we still loved each other, but hearing him say it right now, like this, was like the world was finally right again. “I love you too.” I trailed my fingertips down his hard jaw, and reached up to kiss him again. “You’re sure you want to do this? Be a dad, early morning feedings, school and sports, teenage years…be with me for the next sixty years?”
“I think we could try for seventy.” He whispered, hovering over my lips. Now that we’d had a taste of each other again, it seemed like having our mouths apart from each other would physically cause us pain. “And yes, to all of the above.”
“Is everything okay Brandon?” I asked him a few hours later as we sat near the pool after lunch. He’d gotten oddly quiet all of a sudden.
He thought for a second before responding, “I’m afraid I’m going to move too fast for you. You were with Chase and planning a future and family with him up until the accident. All I’ve been able to think about is you, I knew there wouldn’t ever be anyone else. Over the last couple months, I tried to only be your friend, and I would have stayed that way if you asked me to. That didn’t stop me from thinking of everything I would do if I ever got you back though. But now that I have you again, the only thing the time away from you did, was make me want you more. So now I’m right back to where I was before we broke up, wanting nothing more than to buy a house with you and marry you. But I don’t know when it would be okay to do any of that because of what happened. And I know what you said about raising him with you, but I don’t know if that’s all you actually want me to do when it comes to him, just be the guy that helps you raise him. I want to be the dad that raises him, his dad. I just don’t know if that’s okay with you or if you think I’ll be trying to take Chase’s place.”
“Brandon,” I frowned a little, with what we’d been talking about earlier, I thought we were on the same page. Apparently not. “okay let’s clear this all up, so there’s no more confusion. Considering everything we had before, I think we are way beyond worrying about moving too fast. I want to marry you, more than anything. But I don’t care when that happens, it can happen tomorrow or it can happen two years from now. I had tried to explain it to Chase, but I don’t think he actually understood that I didn’t need to be married just because I was having a baby. With Chase though, I hadn’t been planning a future with him until after he found out about the baby, I had already known way before that, that I wanted to marry you.