“How can I not?” The question escaped me before I could stop it.
“Trust me,” he said earnestly.
My stomach roiled. He was asking for some major trust there, but in the end, whether or not he could help support this child wasn’t going to determine if I kept this baby. Nick was right earlier, but it still hadn’t prepared me for his willingness to do this.
Nick actually wanted this baby.
A knot took form in my throat as emotions swirled violently inside me. Normally I was so in control, but everything that was going on had blown through my defenses. Unable to sit, I stood, and before I knew it I was in the kitchen, one hand on the edge of the counter and the other tugging at the collar of my shirt. It felt hot in here. Maybe I shouldn’t have cranked the heat up so much.
“Are you okay?” Nick’s voice was close.
“Yeah.” I cleared my throat. “I didn’t plan on getting pregnant. Obviously. And this couldn’t have happened at a worse time, and I feel shitty for even saying that, but I just started a new job and there is so much I want to do—planned to do—before having a child. I wanted to travel. I wanted to be stable . . .” Well, the rest of what I wanted was right in everyone’s face. “And I . . .”
A hand gently settled on my shoulder, turning me around. I swallowed hard as I lifted my gaze. Light green eyes bored into mine. “And what?” Nick asked.
“I didn’t plan on this,” I repeated as my heart thumped in my chest. “But I want this . . . I want this baby.”
Something I couldn’t quite read flickered in his eyes as he wrapped his hand around my wrist, pulling my fingers away from the collar of my shirt. “Then we’re on the same page.”
“We are,” I whispered as my gaze dropped to where he still held my wrist between us. “This . . . this isn’t going to be easy, Nick.”
“There isn’t anything about what is happening that’s going to be easy. You didn’t have any siblings, right?” When I shook my head, a wry grin appeared. “Neither do I. Any experience with babies?”
My heart was doing that horrible pounding again. “Nope.”
Nick laughed, and I couldn’t believe he could laugh right now. “It can’t be that hard.”
“I’m going to have to thoroughly disagree with that,” I said wryly.
“We’ll figure this out.” His eyes searched mine when I lifted my gaze. “We will. You and I. Together. We can do this.”
That one word was like having my entire chest placed inside a juice grinder. Together. Besides my mom and my friends, when had I ever approached anything in unity with someone else—with a guy? Not since high school, and really, one couldn’t count that as an example.
My thoughts were still whirling and the knot was lodged in my throat, going nowhere. How I planned my entire life had veered off course in one of the most important ways. I had no idea what to expect now, not a week or a month from now, especially not a year from now.
Everything had changed, and I was . . .
“I’m scared,” I whispered as my chest squeezed.
Nick didn’t respond. Not vocally. The hand on my shoulder slid around to the nape of my neck as he dropped my other hand. Without saying a word, he hauled me against his chest and his arms circled me. Stiffening in his hold, I inhaled deeply. He smelled fresh, like spring, and as he dropped his chin to the top of my head, I slammed my eyes shut against the burn.
But I wasn’t just scared of having a baby. God, that did scare the living hell out of me, because I wasn’t sure if I’d be a good mother, if I would raise a kid right, but the fear swirling around in me like a dusty, dark cloud was twofold.
Because as I stood there, stiff and awkward, my arms clamped to my sides, in Nick’s embrace, it was hard—too hard—to look at him objectively. To separate the situation we were in and how that made me feel toward Nick, and what had existed between us before I found out that I was pregnant.
Realization was hard to swallow, but I forced myself to acknowledge what I felt every time someone mentioned his name—that tightening in my chest and stomach, the unnerving and unfamiliar sense of anticipation that always accompanied how I felt. We were obviously very attracted to one another on a pure, visceral level, but I also remembered Nick’s words the night he’d came to apologize.
He wished we were different.
Did that mean he wished for something more? But he had wanted to try to be friends with me, something he’d apparently never done before. And how did I feel? Could I feel more for him?
As his hand slowly moved up my spine in a smooth, comforting gesture, I felt my heart trip over itself in response. Yeah, I could . . . I could feel more.
Maybe . . . maybe this was it. Maybe this attraction, the simmering chemistry, would transform into something far, far deeper. Maybe he was the . . . the one.
Seconds ticked by and my muscles slowly loosened. Tentatively, I lifted my hands and placed them on his waist. The embrace wasn’t perfect, but as my cheek eased against his chest, I wasn’t sure if either of us were capable of perfect now or if it even mattered. We were virtual strangers, with our own issues and pasts, who believed we were being responsible, only to find out life had completely different plans that neither of us foresaw.
And the hug might not seem like a big deal, but it was a start, a beginning of our linked futures.
“I would like a rib-eye, medium. . . .” My gaze flicked from the young waitress to the menu. Was I not supposed to eat possibly undercooked foods now that I was pregnant? I had no idea. I needed to Google this shit. Sighing, I closed the menu. Safety over taste. “I’ll go with medium well.”
“Is that how you normally eat steak?” Nick asked as the waitress moved away.
I shook my head. “I normally eat it like you do—medium rare, but I’m not sure if I should be eating meat like that now.”
Sitting across from me, he picked up his glass of water. “Maybe we need to get a manual or something.”
“I think we do.” Grinning, I fiddled with the edge of the cloth that had been rolled around the silverware. “I’m sure there’s one out there.”
After what wasn’t the most awkward hug in history, Nick had asked if I was hungry. Instead of explaining that I just ate, I decided to go with whatever he was suggesting, because we needed to talk. A half an hour later we ended up at the Outback not too far from Mona’s.
“You said you have a doctor’s appointment, right?” he asked. “This week? I want to go with you.”
For the hundredth time today, astonishment winged its way through me. I settled back against the booth. “You don’t have to—”
“I know I don’t have to.” Nick frowned, and damn, even with a pretty decent frown on his face, he still was strikingly handsome. “But I want to.”
Something warmed in my chest, but I ignored it. “It’s just a general doctor. They’re just going to tell me I’m pregnant and that I’ll need to see an OB/GYN.”
“Then why not go ahead and set that appointment up?” His gaze was steady, searching. “Why go to a general doc when you already know what they’re going to say?”