My hand trembled slightly as I walked to my bed. Sitting down, I placed the small photo next to me, and I didn’t look at it until I had my shoes on. Then I drew in a deep breath and picked it up.
Honestly, I still didn’t see a baby in the sonogram picture. It was just a black-and-white blob, but it had been my blob and it had been Nick’s blob. Pressing my lips together, I gave a little shake of my head. It didn’t hurt as much as it had before to see this. Confusion still existed. I would never know why it had happened and I wouldn’t know if there was a serious issue with getting pregnant until it happened again, but I knew now there wasn’t anything I could’ve done differently.
And I knew it was okay to still hurt over it.
Standing, I walked over to the shelf and stood the photo up against the one of my dad. It made sense for it to be there. Maybe one day I’d take it down again, store it away. Just like one day Nick would turn his grandfather’s bedroom into something else.
Nick arrived, looking as yummy as usual in his jeans and button-down shirt. He gave a low whistle when I stepped out in the hall, closing the door behind me.
I gave him a half curtsy. “Thank you.”
He chuckled as he draped his arm over my shoulder. “Weirdo.”
We met Jax and Calla at a local steakhouse. They were already there, seated in a booth, because we were late even though we’d left early. Nick got a little . . . frisky in the car outside my apartment and then again outside of the restaurant.
Calla shot me a knowing look as we slid into the booth across from them. Self-conscious, I lifted my hand to my hair, smoothing the waves.
Jax laughed under his breath. “Glad you guys could join us.”
“I know.” Nick picked up his menu, a slight smile on his lips. “You all are blessed by our presence.”
Calla giggled while Jax rolled his eyes. I tucked my hair back as I peeked over at Nick and then turned my attention to her. “So what are you guys getting?”
Her brows puckered as she glanced down at the open menu in front of her. “I think I’m getting the strip.”
“Porterhouse.” Jax patted his flat belly. “Porterhouse all the way.”
Nick tapped a finger off the center of the menu. “They have a rib-eye,” he said to me. “Bone in. You know you want it.”
I grinned. Yeah, I did. The waitress arrived, and once the orders were placed the conversation flowed. I’d ordered a wine, and then Nick made fun of me when I ended up getting a soda, because I couldn’t eat food while drinking water or wine. It was weird and made no sense. I completely knew that.
Calla talked about what she planned on doing when she finished her nursing degree. Having transferred to one of the local colleges to get it, two of her transfer credits hadn’t been accepted, so she’d be taking summer classes to finish up. Jax mentioned the plans he had for a small remodeling of Mona’s bar. He wanted to strip out the old floor and get rid of the tables and chairs. There was one topic I knew they wouldn’t bring up, because of what had happened to us, so I knew it would be up to me to cross that bridge.
After taking a sip of the Coke, I placed it next to my plate. “You guys have seen the pictures of Avery and Cam’s baby, right?”
Calla’s gaze shot to mine and she nodded. A moment passed. “I’ve never seen a baby before with so much red hair.”
“She could be a Weasley sibling,” I said, placing my hands in my lap. No one had sent me the pictures at first or brought it up around me when Avery went into delivery a week shy of nine months. I’d seen Roxy showing Katie two weeks ago, and then after a few days I got Avery’s number from her and sent her a congratulations text. After a few back and forth texts, I got a picture of the tiny baby girl.
Avery and Cam’s child was gorgeous.
Jax chuckled. “Don’t tell Cam that, because I think Avery tried to name her Ginny.”
I laughed. “But Ava is such a beautiful name.”
“Fits them, I think,” Calla agreed, smiling tentatively at me.
From what I gathered from the bits and pieces I’d heard from everyone, Avery’s delivery hadn’t been easy, and there were some complications. I didn’t know the details and I hadn’t felt comfortable asking for them. I was just glad that in the end they were a happy family of three.
“What are you planning to do with your grandfather’s house?” Jax asked as he picked up the beer he’d ordered.
“My grandfather left the house to me, so it’s mine and it’s free and clear,” Nick explained. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do long-term, but for right now, I’m going to keep it.”
“It’s a great house,” I threw out.
Jax nodded. “Hell yeah it is. You’re sitting on a nice nest egg.”
“Yeah.” Nick leaned against the booth, stretching his arm along the back. His fingers brushed over my hair, then played with it, but his posture had shifted. He stiffened, and I knew he was about to drop the bomb on them.
I reached over, under the table, and placed my hand on his knee, letting him know that I had his back.
“There’s something I wanted to tell you guys,” he began. “Something I probably should have said a long time ago.”
Jax’s brows knitted as he glanced over to a confused Calla, and then he said, “Okay. You’ve got my curiosity. What’s up?”
When Nick’s attention shifted to Calla, I wished I’d had the foresight to order a second glass of wine. His shoulders lifted with a deep breath and then he said, “Blanco is my grandfather’s last name—my mother’s maiden name—but my father’s last name was Novak.”
Calla blinked slowly as her face paled a little. “Novak?” She sat back, her hands falling into her lap.
Beside her, Jax frowned as he stared across the table. “Wait a sec. Novak was . . .”
“Novak Construction,” Nick confirmed quietly.
“Oh my God.” Calla’s hand rose toward her cheek, but she stopped short of touching the scar.
My chest squeezed when Jax reached over, wrapping his fingers around her wrist, gently pulling her hand back down. “What are you saying, Nick?”
Nick exhaled roughly and then told them everything—about his father and the electrician he hired, and what his father eventually had done. He told Calla that her mother had known who his father was and that he’d been shocked when he’d first seen Calla, never expecting to see her walk into the bar.
When Nick finished, Calla gave a little shake of her blond head. Several moments stretched out, and I began to fear the worst, but then she finally spoke. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, and then said, “Actually, that’s a lie. You were dealing with a lot then and I didn’t want to add to it. I didn’t want to mess up your life any more than—”
“Wait,” she interrupted, her eyes widening as she held up a hand. “Why would you mess anything up? What happened to my family wasn’t your fault. I mean, you had to be just a kid then.”
Nick sucked in a ragged breath while a strong jolt of release burst through me. Jax nodded in agreement. “She’s right. You had nothing to do with any of that.”