Peach - *Book Four*

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The day after my nightshift, I wake up in the early afternoon after sleeping for maybe four or five hours, which is usually enough for me, but today I feel utterly exhausted.

What a night this has been! I was genuinely surprised when Jack showed up. I still can’t believe what happened. He told me he liked me. He kissed me! A kiss so soft and barely there that I’m not exactly sure it actually happened, if our lips really touched. But I still feel that tingling I felt last night, still feel how it affected me.

For the rest of my shift, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was a mess, and everyone, including me, was glad when I could finally go home. It wasn’t until then that I realized I didn’t have Jack’s number and he didn’t have mine. How were we supposed to meet for dinner? So I was all the more surprised when I checked my phone on my way home and saw a message from an unknown number.

The butterflies started dancing in my belly when I read Jack’s text. He said he got my number from Paul and that he was going to pick me up at 7pm if that was all right with me. I just had to tell him where I lived, which I gladly did.

And now I’m lying in my bed, yawning and stretching, trying to get rid of the fatigue. I get up, shower, and put on my underwear. When I walk back to my bedroom to get dressed, I catch a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror. I stop and stand in front of it. I take a deep breath and put my hand on my belly. I turn and look at myself from the side. I’ve never been the super skinny kind with the extremely flat tummy, so there’s no external sign of my pregnancy yet. As Rob likes to keep me updated on what’s happening when, I know that at fourteen weeks the baby is now the size of a lemon. A fucking lemon! This is all going so fast! Before I know it, nine months will be over, and I will have this baby to take care of. I should start reorganizing my life soon.

What I shouldn’t do is hold onto this stupid crush I have on Jack. But that’s going to be hard, especially after last night. There’s no denying that I want him. Bad.

Shit, why did I get myself into this mess? I’ll lose him before I even had him.

Once I’m dressed, I prepare a little snack to eat while I sit on my couch and try to take my mind off all my worries. But my moment of peace and quiet is interrupted by my ringing phone. I groan when I see the caller ID. For a second I’m tempted to let it go to voicemail, but I know I can’t avoid her for much longer. We haven’t talked in two weeks. So I pick up. “Hey, Mom!”

“Emma, darling! I thought you were avoiding my calls! Why don’t you ever call me back?” The reproach in her voice makes me cringe. Okay, relax, don’t go there!

“Mom! Why would I avoid your calls? Seriously. I’m sorry, I was busy. Working a lot.” I try hard to keep my voice under control.

She sighs, and I can sense her eye roll through the phone. “Yes. Work. That’s why I’m calling, actually.”

I have a sense of foreboding about what she’s going to say next.

“I told you about that surgeon that your father met at this medical convention, didn’t I?”

I sigh. “Yes, you did. And before you go on – no, Mom, I do not want to move to Miami and work at his private clinic!”

“Emma, be sensible!” she huffs. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! This job pays very well, and you’ll be living so much closer to us!”

And that right there is the dealbreaker. “Please, Mom. I don’t want to leave New York. I like my life here. My friends are here, and I love my job.”

She takes a deep breath. “Sweetheart, don’t decline this offer right away. Give it some thought, okay?”

I’m still trying hard to keep the annoyance out of my voice. “Fine, I will.”

No, I won’t.

“Wonderful! Now, are you coming to your father’s birthday party?” she asks cheerfully.

“That’s not until August!”

“Yes, but we need to plan ahead.”

I sigh, again. “I’ll try to get a couple of days off work.”

I still haven’t thought about how I’m going to tell her the happy news about my pregnancy. But showing up at my father’s birthday party with a big baby belly, isn’t really the best solution. And I will try to keep this from her as long as possible.

“Are you bringing your lovely friend? Robert? I’d love to see him again!”

“Mom! Why would I bring him to Dad’s birthday party?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because your brother is bringing his boyfriend. You should bring someone as well.”

“I won’t bring Rob. You know I don’t feel that way about him, Mom.”

“Have you tried? Darling, I keep telling you, you’re not getting any younger. Think about your future. With him, you’ll at least have financial security.”

I groan. “I don’t need a man for financial security. I earn enough money to take care of myself.”

She takes a deep breath. “Okay, Emma, we’ll talk about this another time. When you’re less moody.”

It takes me all the willpower I have not to throw a few choice words at her. “Yes, Mom, let’s do that. I’m sorry, I’m pretty tired today.” Sucking up to her has always proved to be the most sensible thing to do.

“That’s fine, darling. Call me. I love you.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

Damn, talking to her is really exhausting. After the call, I lie down on my couch and close my eyes for just a minute or two.

A minute or two later I’m startled awake by a knock on my door. It takes me another minute or two to figure out where I am and who I am, and most importantly what year it is. Ugh, I shouldn’t have taken a nap. I always wake up confused and feeling like I’m a little hungover.

Whoever is at my door, knocks again. I groan and get up from the couch. I wonder who the fuck would want something from me now as I sleepily walk over to the door. I rub my eyes and fix my hair before I open and am face to face with my visitor. I gasp, “Shit, Jack! What are you doing here already?”

He chuckles as he eyes me up and down. “I’m sorry, did we not say I’d pick you up at seven?”

I blink at him a couple of times before my eyes go wide and I check my watch. Fuck, I didn’t sleep for a minute or two, I slept for three hours! I groan, “Dammit! I fell back asleep.” I give him an apologetic look and step aside. “I’m sorry, come in!”

I close the door behind him and turn around. Only now do I take a closer look at him. Damn, he looks so handsome in dark jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Ass-hugging dark jeans and a tight fitting plain white t-shirt, that is. Handsome? Scratch that. Sexy as fuck.

Jack turns to me, and when he catches me staring at him, he smiles. And I blush. Dammit again! I clear my throat. “Hey, Jack.”

“Hey, Peach.” His smile widens as it’s his turn to take a closer look at me. I cringe internally at my outfit because I’m nowhere near sexy in my oversized t-shirt and sweats. I wrinkle my nose. “Just give me five minutes to get ready.” I look down at myself and run my hand through my hair. “Okay, maybe ten.”

He holds up his hand. “Hey, no need to hurry. If you want – we don’t have to go out. We could stay in and order some food. Or we’ll do this some other time. You look pretty tired.”

Some other time? I frown at his suggestion. Does that mean he doesn’t want to spend the evening with me? “Uh, okay – if you want to – I mean, yeah, we can meet up another night.”

Jack chuckles and slightly shakes his head. “Emma,” he says in a low voice and comes a step closer. But there’s still enough room, so we don’t invade each other’s personal space. “I’m here, and I’d love to spend time with you now. I was just worried about you being so tired. Maybe you’d prefer to go to bed.”

Oh, the pictures! Yes, let’s go to bed! Ugh, stupid hormones! They make me want to do really stupid things. They make me want to lean in and press my lips to his. They make me want to throw myself at him. Damn, does he have to look at me like this? Why is he looking at me like this? Shit, is he leaning in? Oh no, he can’t! He doesn’t know yet!

“I’m pregnant!” I suddenly blurt out. Oh wow, good job!

Jack blinks at me before he narrows his eyes. “Excuse me? Did you just say you’re pregnant?”

I bite my lips and nod. “I’m sorry for throwing this at you like that,” I say and start pacing up and down, putting my hand on my forehead. “But this was eating me alive! That’s what I wanted to tell you last night. And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but I couldn’t. I was having a tough time with this myself. I didn’t know what to do. And then you came to the ER last night and said–”

“Emma, Emma, please, stop!” Jack interrupts. To my surprise, he grabs my arms to stop me from pacing up and down any further, but he lets go as soon as I stand in front of him, staring at him with wide eyes. “Emma, relax!”

“Okay,” I breathe, still staring at him. “Uh – so do you want to leave now?” I point to the door.

Jack lowers his eyes to the ground and chuckles. With a shake of his head, he lifts his gaze and meets my lingering stare. “No, I don’t want to leave now. I have a lot of questions though.”

I nod. “I bet you do.” I look at my clothes again. “But could we continue this conversation after I get dressed? I’d feel much more comfortable.”

"Of course."

So I excuse myself, put on actual pants, along with a better fitting t-shirt, and apply just a little makeup before I tie my hair up in a messy bun. No time for more.

No need for more.

When I return to my living room, Jack sits on my couch, and once we ordered pizza and got some drinks, he begins his questioning. He starts off with, “How long have you known?”

I take a deep breath. “I took the test after Paul’s birthday party.”

“Was this planned? I mean, are you in a relationship?”

I lower my head, a little embarrassed. “No, and no. This was a stupid and very drunken mistake.”

When I look at him, I see no sign of judgment on his face. He just goes on. “And what’s next?”

Wow, he really has a lot of questions that he fires at me incessantly. I grimace. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. As far as work is concerned – from Monday on, I’ll be working on the maternity ward.”

“Really? How come?” He gives me a surprised look.

I shrug and avert my gaze. “Well, after the attack it feels a little weird. And it will get harder to work there as the pregnancy progresses. So Rob suggested that I ask for a transfer. I’ve worked there before, so it seemed like a sensible thing to do.” I lift my eyes again and meet his curious gaze.

“Rob – that’s the doctor I met when I tried to fix the ultrasound device, right?” He smirks at me when uses air quotes on the word tried.

I nod, chuckling. “That’s him.”

“Are you close?” is his next question.

I nod. “He’s my best friend. I met him a few years ago when he still lived in Baltimore. He was tutoring my brother who’s attending med school there. And about two years ago he got a job offer here in New York. We’ve been kind of inseparable since. And yes, I’m sure he’s just a friend.”

Jack hesitates a moment before he asks his next question. “Is he the father?”

I look at him wide-eyed. “Rob? No! It’s someone I met at my friend Abby’s wedding. He was staying at the hotel where the reception was held. But he told me quite clearly the next morning that this was not to be repeated.”

Jack frowns. “So he doesn’t know?”

I shake my head. “No. I only know his first name and that he lives in Washington. And I’m not really keen on finding him to give him the good news. I don’t think he’d take it too well. So I’m trying to make my peace with the fact that I’m going to be a single parent.”

“Which means you’re keeping it?”

For a split second, I wonder if I correctly interpreted his tone as hopeful. I sigh. “Yes. It took me a while to accept it but I will keep it, and I will try to be a good mom.”

“I think it’s great. I’ll be there for you if you need a friend, okay?”

A friend? I don’t need a friend. But I’m not going to tell him that. If he thinks it’s great that I’m pregnant, he’s not interested anyway. But interested in what? What am I interested in? A relationship? He hasn’t even told me why he avoids being touched. How would a relationship work at all?

“As you know,” he interrupts my thoughts, “my sister is pregnant too. Do you want to come to my niece’s birthday party this Saturday? I can officially introduce you to Liv if you need another woman to talk to.”

I smile at him and nod. “That’d be great!”

It would be, right? It would be great to have someone to ask my many questions. Or would it be weird to not only befriend the guy I have a crush on but also his sister? Am I sure this is a good idea?

As our conversation carries on, only one thing is sure. I did lose him before I had him.

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