I plastered a tight smile on my lips. “Thank you, but I’m pretty tired.”

“You’re definitely pretty.” He leered, and I looked away, barely resisting the urge to roll my eyes. “And you’re always tired. You sure somethin’ isn’t wrong with you?”

My brows knitted. Oh, how accurate he was, and he had no idea. “I’m fine.”

“Then why don’t you come out with us?” he pressed, and my hand tightened on the strap of my purse. “What? Are you too good to go out and have a little fun? Maybe too uptight?”

I exhaled loudly, my patience wearing thin as I turned a cool gaze on him. “Yes. I’m that uptight.”

Thankfully, the elevator doors opened and I stepped in before he could respond, reaching for the button to close the door. Of course, I realized my mistake immediately. Rick followed, catching the door, and I mentally strung together an atrocity of fuck bombs.

He was actually smiling. “You have an attitude.”

I shot him a bland look, not even dignifying that with a response. Engaging with pervy Rick was the last thing I needed to deal with right now. Thank God there weren’t many floors to go down, and before this confrontation could go any further, the elevator jerked to the stop. The doors opened.

Rick had planted himself in the opening, smiling and not moving.

What a bastard.

Hands clenching into fists, I turned to the side to avoid touching him as I moved past, but at the last possible moment he stepped to the side. His front brushed against my stomach and hip. What I felt, what was so disgustingly obvious, sent a shiver of revulsion through me.


Rick smirked.

That was it.

I stopped with my back to the wind whirling past the cement pillars and parked cars. “Don’t ever touch me again. If you do, I will be in Mr. Browser’s office faster than you can blink an eye.”

His smirk faded. “I didn’t touch you.”

“Bullshit,” I snapped, my jaw clenching. “You know what you just did.”

Rick huffed out of the elevator, and I held my ground as he got into my space, his face flushed so red I wondered if he was going to have a stroke. “Are you threatenin’ me?”

“No.” I held his stare even as a tendril of unease formed in the pit of my stomach. “I’m making you a promise.”

He drew back, his eyes beady in the low light. I held his gaze for a moment longer and then I whirled around. My heart pounded as I walked to my car and the back of my neck tingled. Was he going to follow me? No. I reached my car without further annoyances, and I hoped and prayed that he would heed my promise and back the hell off.

I’d dealt with guys like him before. Frat boys who didn’t understand personal boundaries. Guys at the gym who thought everyone who looked their way was into them. Normally they backed off the moment they realized you weren’t going to be intimidated. Hopefully, Rick fell into that group.

As I pulled out of the parking garage, I heard a text go off. Since my phone was in my purse, I left it there. The streets were congested, and I needed to pay attention so I didn’t ram someone’s car.

The drive home was as annoying, but expected. The sky was a deep blue, the sun almost gone, by the time I walked through my door. Shrugging off my coat, I laid it over the back of the kitchen chair and placed my purse on the table. I started for the fridge, but remembered I’d received a text. Going back to my purse, I pulled my phone out and tapped the button.

My heart lurched in my chest. The text was from Nick.

You up for game night?

My brain sort of emptied for a couple of moments. I stared at the text until the screen faded to black. Reece was having what I guessed was a bimonthly Wednesday game night, and Nick was inviting me again, but I . . .

I wasn’t in the mood to go up there and pretend that everything was okay, because it wasn’t. Placing my free hand against my lower stomach, I jerked it away. What was I doing?

I couldn’t see Nick right now without blurting out what was going on, and I wasn’t ready for that conversation. Right or wrong, it was the truth. I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around the fact I was pregnant, I couldn’t even begin to talk to someone else about it, especially him, because I knew that was going to be a difficult conversation.

If it was a conversation that was going to even take place.

I didn’t respond to Nick’s text.

And he didn’t text back.

I made it through the rest of the week without having a mental breakdown when I realized a pair of pants that had been loose before now felt a little bit snug, which could’ve been simple paranoia. The upside was Rick. He seemed to have gotten the message and hadn’t come near me since the elevator gross-out.

I still really hadn’t come to terms with what was going on inside me.

Friday night I texted and told Roxy I wouldn’t be able to do breakfast on Sunday because I wouldn’t be in town, which was true. Early Saturday morning I left my apartment and drove the three hours to my mom’s house. She was expecting me, but she didn’t know why I was coming down.

I needed . . . I needed my mama, and this conversation I had to have with her couldn’t be done over the phone. There was no way.

My mom lived in the same house I grew up in, and I knew she would never leave the two-story colonial-style home on Red Hill in Martinsburg. There were too many memories.

It was close to eleven when I pulled into the driveway. The asphalt was cracked, like it had been for the last three years. Mom kept saying she was going to get it repaved, but I didn’t see it happening in the near future.

Swallowing hard, I sat in the car, letting the engine idle as my gaze roamed over the front of the house. An autumn wreath hung from the front door. When I was younger, this close to Halloween, she used to put those ghost and witch stickers in the front windows.

But I wasn’t a little girl anymore.


I turned off the ignition and grabbed my purse and the overnight bag I’d packed. I planned on staying the night. Climbing out into the bright sun, I walked up the pathway obscured by thick holly bushes.

The door opened before I knocked, and despite the rapid anxiety building in my system, a wide smile broke out across my face. “Mom.”

She stood in the doorway, holding a white and brown ball of absolute terror who was doing everything in its little dog power to get down. Around her neck was a silver chain that hadn’t been removed in years. My father’s dog tags. “I was wondering if you were going to come in or sit outside all morning.”

Laughing, I stepped inside and gave her and the dog a one-arm hug that warmed my chilled skin. “I wasn’t out there that long.”

She arched a dark brow as she let the dog down. “Uh-huh.”

Dropping my bag and purse on the floor, I swooped down and scooped up my mom’s Jack Russell terrier, which she had appropriately named Loki. The little dog squirmed in my arms as it bathed my face in kisses for about three seconds and then whipped itself around in my arms until I placed it back down.

Loki tore off through the foyer and into the den before dashing back into the room. The dog ran a circle around me and then darted off down the hall, returning with an orange and black striped, stuffed tiger in its jaws. I shook my head.

“I baked your favorite.” Mom started toward the kitchen.