“Yeah, we just had this conversation for you,” Roxy said, her eyes sharp behind her Harry Potter glasses. “And Reece didn’t fair too well.”
Out of the corners of my eyes I saw Calla start toward us, but Jax tagged her with a quick shake of his head. She wisely stayed away.
Nick was ignoring everyone, though. “Why would you not be here, in a bar? You’re pregnant.”
I opened my mouth, but there were no words, so my jaw snapped back together. Nick wasn’t exactly mad, more like shocked, and my irritation gave away to indecisiveness. I glanced around, and I saw Roxy looking like she was seconds away from whacking Nick over the head with a bottle of liquor.
“It’s safe for me to be here,” I said, my voice low. “I’m not drinking. No one is smoking. And I doubt there’s about to be a massive fight with this crowd.” I could feel the heat traveling from my neck to my face. “I even looked it up on the Internet. Pregnant women go out.” Then I started rambling, and I didn’t even know why, but I wanted to smack myself so I stopped. “I was bored. All I’ve been doing is sitting in my apartment, night after night. It’s really lonely and I’ve—” Luckily, I cut myself off before I blurted out that I missed him. Right now I wasn’t sure if that was wise.
“Hey Nick, you got a minute?”
I glanced over to see a heavier older man with a bald head and grease stains splattered across his blue shirt. He was standing in front of the kitchen doors, and I assumed that was the cook.
Nick’s shoulders tensed as he sighed and straightened. His eyes were fastened to mine. “I’ll be back in a few.”
Looking away, I nodded. Nick thrust his hands through his hair as he wheeled around, walking back toward the kitchen. My gaze fell to my ginger ale. Bubbles clung to the glass wall, and I suddenly found myself so very interested in those little dots of carbonation happiness, because I could feel several sets of eyes on me. I squirmed in my seat, the muggy and oppressive feeling crowding my thoughts. I was . . . indecisive about coming here now, and I felt . . . embarrassed. Was it wrong? I mean, I could see both sides of the argument, but what I’d said to Nick had been true. All the alone time was getting to me.
“You okay?” Roxy asked.
Swallowing hard, I nodded as I lifted my gaze. “Yeah. Yes. I’m okay.”
A look of doubt crossed her face as she turned to one of the guys from the pool tables. She was grabbing bottles of beer when I saw Nick step out from the kitchen. Jax walked over to him and glanced inside when Nick nodded in that direction. Calla joined them, and even though my head was caught up in its old weird brand of misery, I couldn’t help but notice how Nick stiffened with her arrival. Recalling what Roxy had said about his behavior around her pecked at my attention. He obviously wasn’t comfortable. That much was true, but why?
Why did it really matter right now anyway? I picked up my clutch, holding it in my lap as my gaze returned to my glass. The bubbles were less active. For the first time that I could remember, I felt out of place, and God, was that a pleasant feeling. Who knew that becoming pregnant would be such a blow to confidence? Then again, maybe it wasn’t the pregnancy. Maybe it was the fact that everything in the last couple of weeks had been completely uncharted waters for me.
Being pregnant. Acknowledging that I wanted more from Nick. Attempting a real relationship. Being pregnant. Not being up front with my boss. Being away from my mom. All of this was new to me.
The weight of it all suddenly landed on my shoulders, and I swallowed a sigh. Going back home and curling up with that bowl of candy sounded like a really fun idea.
I looked over at Reece. “Yeah?”
“Don’t let it get to you,” he advised quietly. “Nick’s a guy. And guys are generally stupid. Trust me, I know. I’m a guy. A stupid guy from time to time.”
Appreciating the words, I smiled slightly as I ran my fingers over the beads of my clutch.
When I didn’t say anything, Reece continued, his voice low. “As long as I’ve known him, he’s never been serious about anyone. He’s probably going to need a substantial learning curve when it comes to not saying things that are going to piss you off.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that, but my experience with real relationships was as nonexistent as his, and I wasn’t over here acting like an ass. Well, I kind of acted like an ass that time I didn’t respond to his text, but at least my bitchy behavior was in private.
About fifteen minutes passed and Nick had disappeared back into the kitchen along with Jax. I had no idea what they were doing in there, but when I glanced at my phone, it was close to nine. My gaze swung to the kitchen doors again, but they remained closed. Roxy was over at the other side of the bar, mixing three drinks at once.
“Hey,” I said, sliding off the stool. “I’m going to head out of here. Can you let Roxy and Calla know I said good-bye? I’ll text Nick.”
Reece lifted his glass of what I assumed was water and eyed me over the rim. “Yeah, I can do that.”
“Thanks.” I started to turn.
I nodded and then left the bar. The cool air that greeted me was a welcome respite. Once in my car, I sent Nick a quick text letting him know I was going home. The drive back was quick, and the first thing I did when I walked into my bedroom was kick off my shoes and pull my sweater off. I tossed it in the wicker hamper and then turned, planning to go back to the kitchen and reacquaint myself with the bowl of candy, but my gaze strayed to the shelf, across the spring break picture, and stayed on the picture of my father.
He was in tan army fatigues, and that’s how I always remembered him. Even when he had been home, at some point I saw those tan camouflage pants. They were a symbol of him coming home and a warning that he would soon be leaving. It is possible to love and hate something so fiercely and so equally.
Reaching up, I ran my fingers along the framed photo as I let out a shaky breath. God, I missed him so very much, and I couldn’t help but wonder what he’d say about having a grandchild—what he would feel. Would he have been proud or disappointed? No matter what, I knew he’d be as supportive as Mom.
I bit down on my lip as I lowered my hand. Now I really needed that candy. Tonight I was going to eat my emotions. I’d started down the hall and reached the bathroom when I heard a knock on my front door.
Frowning, I walked to the door and checked out the peephole. Surprise shuttled through me. It was Nick outside, but that didn’t make sense. He was supposed to be at work. Throwing the lock, I opened the door.
The rest of the words were lost in action. He stepped in, shutting and locking the door behind him. My heart jumped into the vicinity of my throat. Nick circled an arm around my waist, lifting me up and pulling me against his chest. His other hand folded across the nape of my neck. Within a heartbeat Nick’s mouth was on mine and he was kissing me. There was nothing slow and tentative about this kiss. It was deep and consuming, and before I knew it, my arms were around his neck. I hung on to him, reeling from the depth of the kiss, of how I felt in his embrace. Like a treasure or a rare work of art. That was how he kissed, and it was like touching on forever.
Nick was slow to break the contact, but when he did, he pressed his forehead against mine. “I’m sorry,” he said, and the kiss had twisted up my senses so much that I didn’t realize at first what he was apologizing for. Or why he was talking. I just wanted him to kiss me again. “I didn’t mean to come off as a dick at the bar,” he explained, clueing me in. “I was just surprised to see you and I was worried about you being in there, in case something happened.”