School half term was upon us before we knew it and with suitcases packed and faces full of apprehension, I waved both Spencer and Calvin off, blowing huge kisses to an excited Leila as well.
“We’ll bring you some gelato back, Jess!” she yelled, clinging tightly to her dad’s hand, per his orders.
It was busy at Heathrow and given the nature of their trip, he was keeping tight hold.
“Strawberry flavour, please!” I shouted, ignoring the odd looks I received from travellers in return. “Love you!” I added.
“Love you too,” replied Spencer, flashing me one last smile before turning the corner.
Lucy had joined me in waving them off and blew a kiss to her man, smiling when he returned the gesture.
“You two seem awfully affectionate,” I observed, smirking at her slight blush. “Care to explain?”
“We’re just more affectionate, I suppose.”
I chose not to press the matter, sensing her resilience. The pair were a complicated mix to begin with and I didn’t want make it worse by asking her to place labels on things.
“Fancy a tea before we head back?” I asked, in desperate need of some company.
With Alister due back in a matter of days, it was a wonder I hadn’t had a breakdown already. Constantly on high alert, my body was stuck in a state of anticipation. We were all counting on Isy finding those emails and whilst part of me wanted to remain optimistic, I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling that something terrible was about to happen.
“Sure, let’s get you some caffeine.”
Spencer had thankfully filled Calvin and Lucy in on our plan, which meant I was now able to offload my worries. Keeping up appearances by pretending everything was fine certainly had its downsides and I was only just now starting to realise the repercussions. Keeping the true extent of what was going on from loved ones was hard. Scott had insisted we not inform Rosalie and James had asked for the same with Catherine. Of course, I understood why but it left me with very little outlet. Sure, I could talk to Spencer about anything but I didn’t like to burden him with my doubts. Since my chat with Dad the other day, I did open up to him more but also kept my ranting to a minimum. Afterall, it was his daughter’s well-being at stake here. None of us wanted her living with Alister and if I constantly admitted to having concerns, it would surely add unnecessary pain to his suffering. I couldn’t let that happen.
By day two, I had resorted to asking the girls around for lunch, no longer satisfied with my own company. I was driving myself mad waiting. Twice I had called Isy to go over the plan and even she was growing concerned over my relentless need to talk about it. Truth be told, I was nervous. More than nervous. I was terrified. And I needed a distraction.
“Need a hand, babe?” asked Bethany, peeking her head around the kitchen door.
I was busy adding crisps into a bowl which was hardly a task deemed worthy of assistance but still, I nodded.
“Sure, could you grab the salsa dip from the fridge, please.”
She did so with a pleasing smile and upon presenting me with the tub, offered me a sly smirk.
“So, I’m pregnant.” She smiled. “Sam mentioned he told you.”
I shot her a grin. “Oh, thank God. I’ve been dying to congratulate you all day but didn’t know whether I was supposed to know.”
She laughed and I went straight in for a hug, overcome with happiness for my big brother and his girlfriend.
“I can’t believe it. It’s all happened a bit sudden. We don’t even live together!”
“That doesn’t matter,” I stressed, cracking the lid open on the salsa dip. “Do you think you’ll look for a new place or move in with him and Alex?”
She pursed her lips in a moment of contemplation. “I’m not sure Alex would enjoy a crying baby twenty four, seven…”
“But?” I asked, sensing she was apprehensive about something.
“I can’t split them two up. They’re best friends!” she shrieked, making me smile.
That, they were. For as long as I could remember, Alex and Sam were joined at the hip and splitting them up wasn’t going to be easy. That being said, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I’m sure they’ll live. It’s probably good for them to spread their wings. It might encourage Alex to pay more attention to the opposite sex, instead of obsessing over landscaping.”
An unattractive giggle flew from her mouth, setting me off in my own need to laugh.
“Have you told my dad yet?” I asked, stealing a crisp out of hunger.
Its flavour burst on my tongue in an instant, setting my stomach off with regards to demanding more.
“Not yet,” she informed. “We will soon. I’m a bit nervous…”
“Don’t be. He’ll be over the moon,” I ensured, gesturing towards the closed door. “Shall we get back in there before they complain about the lack of crisps?”
“I think it’s best we do. Rosalie was bitching about how hungry she was.”
My Jaw dropped on its own accord, amused by my best friend’s antics. I desperately muffled my laugh by covering my mouth and crammed a few more crisps in for good measure. Rosalie had the kindest soul known to mankind but since Sophia arrived with her need to feed every ninety minutes, she’d become something of an emotional mess. A ticking time bomb.
“She must be exhausted,” explained Bethany, helping me by carrying the dip.
“And just think…you’ve got all this to look forward to,” I teased, opening up the door by kicking it with my foot. “Some nibbles, ladies!” I announced.
Rosalie pounced on me like a vulture.
“Hungry?” I asked.
She nodded, grateful for the snack.
“Lunch will be done soon. I’m just heating the quiches through,” I informed, settling her apprehensions.
She smiled as I peered into her arms, catching sight of her sleeping daughter.
“She’s flat out.”
“It’s all the screaming she does.” She smirked and landed a swift kiss to Sophia’s head, mindful of her sleeping form.
Luce, crisp?” I offered, holding out the bowl.
She grabbed a handful and lightly nibbled, fussing over the tiny bundle in Rosalie’s arms.
“Is she a good feeder? My Ted was awful for the first month,” she admitted, polishing off the last of her crisps. “The poor thing hardly ate!”
“Sometimes she’s unsettled but Scott does this thing where he strokes her forehead and it seems to relax her. After that, she takes to my boob no bother.”
“How’s he finding fatherhood?” asked Bethany, fiercely intrigued.
I quickly checked on the quiches, leaving Rosalie gushing about how great Scott was. My boss had yet to officially return to the office but whenever he did make brief appearances, he couldn’t stop talking about little Sophia. The man was in love all over again and it was beautiful to watch.
“Quiches are done!” I yelled, alerting the others.
One by one, they all filtered in and helped set up. In no time, we had pies, salad, sausage rolls and of course, quiches on display, all shop-bought for this afternoon’s little get together. Rosalie had seemingly put Sophia down to sleep somewhere and clutched her portable baby monitor as though her life depended on it. Soft snores could be heard through the small speaker, offering her a sense of fulfilment.
Happy baby, happy mamma.
“This looks amazing, Jessica,” praised Lucy, helping herself to a plate. “Mind if I dig in?”
“Go for it!” I encouraged, right behind her.
Together, we stuffed our faces and chatted about anything and everything. The small matter of mine and Spencer’s news scandal became the main topic at one point and I was grateful for the laughs we shared regarding the issue. Lucy was particularly vocal throughout and ended up detailing her relationship with Calvin to the others. They were a little taken aback but not at all surprised. Apparently, Calvin had a vibe about him that had Rosalie suspicious a while back.
“Has it effected the business at all?” asked Bethany, licking salsa from her fingers.
During her previous laughing fit, she’d spilled the thing all over her jeans.
“Actually, we’ve experienced a boom in sales,” I revealed, offering the poor thing some kitchen roll. “As it turns out, being kinky is good for business.”
“They say all publicity is good publicity,” imputed Lucy, impressed.
“I for one think having a CEO of a hotel chain who’s into BDSM and shit is a great selling point,” shared Rosalie, grabbing another slice of quiche. “It’s marketing at its finest.”
“Did you just swear?” mocked Lucy, pointing an accusing finger her way.
Rosalie simply shrugged and turned in her stance, shooting me a wink.
“Motherhood has changed you,” I stated, dramatically pausing. “I love it!”
The kitchen filled with laughter once again, cut short by the sound of Sophia waking up.
“Mamma’s coming, baby!”
“I bet that’s what Jessica says to Spencer!” cackled Bethany, plunging us all into hysterics.
I shook my head and just about managed to sober up enough to hear the ringing of my phone. Quickly, I retrieved it from my bag and hit accept, silently smiling at the name on the screen.
“Hey, bellissima. You okay?”
“I’m good. I’ve got the girls around,” I informed, offering the remaining two my biggest grin before exiting the kitchen. “How are you? How’s Leila?”
I kept my volume low, not wanting to alert Bethany or Rosalie of Leila’s presence on the Italy trip.
“I’m good. Leila’s good. She misses you.”
“Is that Jessica?” Leila’s sweet voice came into play and before I knew it, she was talking directly to me after what I assumed was her stealing the phone from her dad. “Jess, Daddy showed me the hotel site today. It’s so big!”
“It is, isn’t it, darling? Did you manage to squeeze in some gelato too?” I asked, sounding enthusiastic.
“Oh, yes. It was lovely. I got chocolate and Daddy got strawberry because it made him think of you. I think he misses you.”
A huge smile made its way onto my face. “I miss him too. I miss you as well.”
“REALLY?” She seemed delighted. “I miss you too.”
“Can I speak to Jess now, please?” questioned Spencer, apparently done with waiting.
I heard a lot of muffling before I was gifted Spencer’s voice once again; deep, gravely and utterly sexy.
“My daughter just ruined my casual reputation,” he moaned, though I detected a hint of humour to his tone. “I do miss you, though. Terribly.”
“Enough to order my favourite ice cream flavour? ” I replied, failing at keeping the amusement out of my voice.
He laughed, though conversation soon turned to that of more serious matters.
“Have you spoke to Isy?”
“Briefly.” LIE. “She’s all set to go. He’s due back the day after tomorrow.”
He sighed. “Christ, I’m nervous.”
You and me both!
“Waiting is the hard part.”
“You’re telling me. I hate not being able to do anything.”
I wandered down the hallway and straightened out the many coats hanging on the pegs. “We’ve done all we can.”
“It’s enough, isn’t it?” he asked, genuinely distraught. “Tell me it’s enough.”
“It’s more than enough,” I ensured, keen to ease his apprehensions.
I hated how unsure he sounded.
“I promise you won’t lose her, Spencer. I won’t let them take her away from you. I won’t.”
More than ever, I wanted him. I wanted him with me so I could reassure him with actions, as well as words. He had insecurities. Many of which surrounded his ability as a dad. No one of his nature deserved to have their capabilities tested. He was a brilliant father, a wonderful boyfriend and an amazing human being. No way would Alister win this. I wouldn’t allow it.
“I wish you were here,” he admitted, softening his tone. “Calvin is great but I’d much prefer the company of you.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Glad to hear it, although Calvin is your best friend. Try to have fun. Leila is safe with you. Relax a little, baby. Or at least try to.”
“Is that a demand, Miss. Turner?” he tormented.
I small laugh slipped passed my lips. “Yes. I need to go now. I’m being a shitty host.”
Now it was his turn to laugh. “Okay. Say hi to everyone.”
I slowly made my way back towards the kitchen, finding all three ladies plus Sophia sat around the breakfast bar. “Call me tonight before you go to bed?”
“Will do, gorgeous. Love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.”
One by one, they each shot me a sympathetic smile, appreciative of how much I missed Spencer. Lucy was the only other one without her man and knew the true extent of my concern. Alister would soon return and with him, his laptop. That was all we needed to execute our plan and once Isy located those emails, it would all be over with. I just hoped it went in our favour because, honestly, the alternative didn’t bear thinking about. I promised Spencer they wouldn’t take Leila away from him. I had every intention of keeping that promise.
Even if it killed me.