Nate: When are you going to be home?
Leila blinked, stared at the message. It was the 4th or 5th time reading it and she still didn’t know how to reply.
Soon. Never. When this shit with Lorelei is straightened.
Or maybe: When I feel like my heart’s not going to combust every time I think that you might have a baby somewhere thousands of miles away. When I know you can’t leave me because of it.
After the discussion with Jared on Saturday night, Leila had decided to cool it around Nate. He had previously been over her place or she at his as soon as they got home from work. But this thing with the she-devil Lorelei was seriously fucking her up. Everything Jared had said resounded in her mind like it was being tapped out in Morse code on her heart.
S.O.S. About to lose my shit over some knocked up bitch who claims my man impregnated her.
Yeah, it wasn’t the ideal situation, especially for a relatively new relationship. But still...
She started to stay later at work, go over to Jared’s house to hang out. It had been like that for a week, but the weekend wasn’t short enough for her to do it for the whole 48 plus hours. She had to go home somtime.
Sighing, she settled her MacBook into her bag and turned off the dull light of her desk lamp. She had turned it on when the fluorescent lighting of the place had started to give her one fuck of a migraine.
The notification on her cell phone still taunted her saying answer me. She picked it up again, fully intending to respond when a movement at the door stopped her.
Standing in her office door like a long, lean centerfold in khakis and a button-up shirt. Deliciously casual. Everything but his face. It was turned down in a frown, his mouth dipped low and his brow scrunched up and meeting almost in the middle of his forehead.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” he told her, hurt dripping from his words.
She looked down at her bag, looking for a way out. It wasn’t there. It was... nowhere.
And she had no idea that Nate knew where she worked. But he was a smart man, could figure things out. And she was... a coward.
“I’ve been... busy,” she said softly, avoiding his penetrating gaze.
“Busy avoiding me,” he retorted back.
Leila’s lip twitched but she said nothing. It wasn’t like her to lie, unless it was a lie of omission.
“Why?” Nate asked. His voice was soft, hurt, unlike the strong Nate she knew and loved. Or liked. A whole hell of a lot of like.
“You... that... it could be your baby,” she said.
“And so you run?” Nate asked. “I thought we had worked this out. Nothing changes. I wouldn’t want to be shackled to Lorelei even if she was the last woman on Earth. The odds are against the baby being mine and she certainly wasn’t being careful with how many men she was fucking at any given time. I should know.”
“I know, but-”
“If the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn’t run,” Nate decreed. “If you... were pregnant by someone who wasn’t me, I’d be disappointed, but I’d deal with it. And I certainly wouldn’t ignore you the way you have ignored me this past week. I thought you were okay with this.”
Leila gave a weak shrug of her shoulders.
“I... I thought I was too,” she said.
“Then what changed?” Nate asked, pushing off the door frame and walking into the office. “What happened since last week that has you doubting me?”
She didn’t want to admit that Jared’s words had gotten to her. Or rat him out. Or... something in between. Or both.
“Just something someone said about protecting my heart.” She looked over at him. His hair was a mess and there were dark circles under his eyes, but he was still Nate, her Nate. “People change their minds. What if that baby is yours and you decided you wanted to be more involved? I’ve spent most of my life running, Nate. It’s what I do. Shit gets difficult and my ass is a vapor. I... I don’t think I could handle being second in someone’s life.”
“You’re not,” Nate said, moving over to her desk so that he was standing opposite of her. “The baby’s not mine.” He sighed. “Let’s say the worst case pans out and we do DNA and by some fucking miracle that kid is mine. What would I do? Who would I put first? Damn if I haven’t gone over and over in my head what I would want. The first thing that pops up to answer that is always what it has been. You.”
She looked up at him, surprised by his words.
“That’s not going to change next week or 5 months from now,” Nate told her. “Or even a year. I know I’m no fucking psychic and I can’t read into the future, but I wasn’t kidding when I told you I’ve always had feelings for you. Feelings I’ve had since you were way too young for me. I stayed away and acted like an asshole to you because I felt I had to. If I didn’t I’d have been locked up or your father would have beat my ass to a pulp. Hell, my father would have joined in on the ass whooping. When I went to college, it was easier to forget you and date other people. You were far away. Just... in the back of my mind, like some errant thought I never could get rid of. Then I was in Europe, even farther away. I thought I was over you for good. Then Lorelei...”
He ran his hand through his hair again, making the curls stick up. Her hands itched to soothe him and fix his hair for him at the same time.
“When I came back it all washed over me like some fucking strong-ass deja-vu. Treated you like shit because I thought it was the only way to let you go. I figure if you hated me, I never stood a chance. But I couldn’t and I’m here. I’ll always be here. Now. The next day and the next. Next year even. It’s like a terminal illness. It doesn’t go away until I die, Leila.”
She gasped at his words. He was saying so much more at the moment than her mind could comprehend. He wanted her, not just now, but forever. Aside from her mother, she didn’t know anyone else she could say that about.
Her throat filled with emotion, choking her until all the things she was feeling spilled out in thick, salty drops of water from her eyes.
“Come home with me.” He practically pleaded as he walked around the side of her desk to stand next to her. He tipped her chin up to look into her eyes, his thumb skating over the line of her jaw.
“Come home,” he repeated. “We can yell about this, fight about it, argue until we can’t speak anymore. Then we can make love and fall asleep in each other’s arms. At least I’ll know you’re there with me and not running. Please.”
Her head dropped and rose and she was nodding at him. Agreeing.
Nate’s face lit up and the dark circles were almost gone. Yeah, they were still there, but they weren’t as prominent or make him look years older like they did before.
“Okay,” she said just before Nate pressed his lips to her mouth in a kiss.
Nate and Leila had fallen into bed with one another at Leila’s place as soon as they had gotten home. They fucked, ate, and fucked again. Now their limbs were entwined as they lay in her bed.
It was late Friday evening.
Scratch that- very early Saturday morning. Whether they had worked- or fucked- out their differences for good was yet to be seen, but they were both content, sated. Or at least as sated as they could be with Lorelei’s pregnancy still hanging over them.
“I’ll probably have to go to England at some point,” Nate said. “To deal with Lorelei’s bullshit. Hopefully not for a while though.”
Leila murmured her assent. She knew it would have to be done, and probably not until the baby was born. She had months to go until that hurdle had to be vaulted. And she trusted Nate, now more than ever. He may have pretended to hate her at first, but he seemed to have gotten over that little phase.
“Mason’s birthday is next week,” he reminded.
“Yes, I got the invitation in the mail,” Leila said with a wry smile. “You need to remind your mother that Mason’s turning one and not getting engaged.”
“The tissue paper in the middle with the engraved RSVP was a bit much, wasn’t it?” he asked with a lopsided grin.
“Just a smidge,” Leila said with a laugh.
“I’ll make sure that-” Nate started to say. Then an odd silence. And then he laughed.
“What? What’s so funny?” she asked looking over at him.
“I was just about to say something,” he said, amused with himself. “It’s nothing really, just- never mind about it.”
“No,” Leila said, sitting up a bit. “I want to know.”
Nate shook his head, his face turning pink.
“Don’t freak?” he asked.
“Not a chance.”
“I was... what I was about to say was something along the lines of making sure she didn’t do the same for- for our kids,” he told her.
Leila blanched for a moment before the color seeped back into her skin.
“Yeah, really,” he said, smirking. “I guess I’ve been thinking far too much about the future this past week.”
“Wow, I guess so.”
“Scared?” he asked.
“Only of your mother’s ability to go overboard with her party planning.”
“Good,” he said and pulled her down to him. He pressed his lips against her mouth, cheek, and neck.
“And slightly scared of you thinking about babies with me when we still don’t know what’s going on in the U.K.”
“It was just a thought,” he said. “I don’t plan on impregnating you tonight.”
“Tomorrow then?” she asked, laughing.
“Only if you’re game,” he said. “If not, we can have a hell of a lot of fun practicing.”
“Hmm, just don’t start calling me Mommy or whatever,” she said with a frown. “It trips me out.”
“I don’t mind if you called me daddy,” he said, his hands roaming over her flesh before coming to a rest on her rear.
“Oh God, no,” she spat out. “What- like what Vi and Carl have going? I’m not calling you Daddy in bed.”
She pushed off him a little to land a glare at him.
“What?” he asked.
“Oh, shit,” Leila said, her hand covering her mouth. “Never mind. Forget I said that.”
“No, tell me,” Nate said with a grimace. “As much as I’m probably going to regret it, tell me what on earth you’re talking about.”
“You can’t tell Violet,” she swore.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he said. “Especially if it means bringing up her sex life in front of her. Or... anybody.”
“Okay.” Leila blinked a few times, screwed up her face and took a deep breath.
“Carl’s, well... Violet, she...”
Words weren’t there. At least not any that could be scrambled into a coherent sentence.
“Violet calls Carl ‘daddy’ in bed,” she blurted out, wincing at how loud the words sounded. Like she had used a megaphone to announce it to the entire neighborhood.
“Are you fucking with me?” Nate asked after a moment.
“No, it’s a... well, it’s a kink,” she said.
“I know what it is, I just...” his voice faded out. “I’m never gonna be able to look at him the same.”
“He has a reverse Prince Albert,” Leila said, desperate for anything to get them off the subject of his sister’s kinks in bed.
“I knew that,” he said. Ramon had mentioned something before plenty of times and he’d heard Aiden and his father all chatting about it one time or another.
“I’ve seen it.”
“What?” Nate almost exploded, sitting up in the bed like a defective jack in the box.
“I walked in on them once,” she said. “Wasn’t my fault she was blowing him in the living room at my old place.”
“Please, just stop talking for a bit,” he said groaning.
“What? He had a pretty dick,” Leila said, teasing.
“Merciful Lord,” Nate muttered.
“Not as nice as yours,” Leila offered. “But his did have bling.”
“Mine’s the only one that’s gonna give you a pearl necklace,” Nate growled, only half kidding.