“When were you telling me we’re coaching your girlfriend’s softball team?”
Irritably dropping the weight I’m lifting with a loud metallic clank, I see Cara standing in front of me with her hands on her hips. What the hell is her problem? She’s given me dirty looks all damn day, and it’s pushing past annoying. “Uh, I was going to mention it, but her name isn’t that common. I thought you’d recognize her from Chimborazo, and you’d put two and two together. I guess you didn’t.”
Cara crisscrosses her arms underneath her ample tits and prances in circles. “No. I didn’t realize that was her. You never called a Hadley on the roster. And I only saw her from a distance at the park.”
“Why are you pissed off?”
Stopping, she glares at me but then shakes her head. “I’m not. Well, a little. You should’ve told me.”
“But I didn’t. So?” I pick up my towel and wipe off my face before draping it over my shoulders. Cara’s eyes freeze on me. What’s her problem now?
She blinks rapidly before speaking. “I thought you would’ve told me.”
I shrug. “Sorry. Now you know. I didn’t think it was a big deal, and I thought you’d figure it out.” That’s a lie.
Cara sighs and almost resentfully acknowledges, “She’s pretty.”
Hadley Beckett is more than pretty. Just thinking about her sexy body… Fuck.
“Yeah, she is.” I quickly stand and walk over to work on my back and shoulders, hoping to get my mind off Becks, and that Cara will leave me alone. However, she trails behind me. I’m not in the mood for this interrogation shit. If I were, I would’ve called Ricky. Though, my mom is the real pro.
I sit and pull down on the handles, trying hard to focus. I hate that I forgot my phone and earbuds in my office. Damn it.
Cara used to be cool. I liked shooting the breeze with her, but suddenly, she’s a nagging mosquito that wants to know more about my girlfriend.
She sits across from me on another machine. “So you call her Becks. Where’d that come from?” It’s not fucking obvious?
Between presses, I state, “Her last name. Beckett.” I’m not telling her about soccer with Becks. It’s too private to share with Cara. That’s when I fell helplessly in love for the first and last time.
“Oh. Have you talked?”
“We had dinner last night.”
“When is she moving in with you?”
“Soon, I hope.” Now go away, Cara.
“You were distracted at the field. I caught you staring at her too many times to count. I thought you had a crush.”
I look over at her as I push up on the handles. “It’s more serious than a crush.”
“I see that.” I stare at the wall in front of me, not responding to her. “She’s not what I imagined your girlfriend to look like.”
I capriciously let go of the handles, causing them to loudly clang and vibrate the machine. “What’s that supposed to mean?” She’s working my last damn nerve.
“I pictured you dating a model-type. More charismatic. A bigger rack, maybe. Someone taller.”
“Huh?” Is she judging Becks? Oh, hell, no. “Why does it matter how tall she is? Or if she’s outgoing? Do I have douchebag written on my forehead?”
“No, but you’re a handsome city celeb. You could pick up any woman who watches your sportscast. Why would you settle down with just one?”
I growl, “Because I love Hadley. She’s the only woman I want. That’s why.”
“Don’t get so defensive about her.” I’d defend Becks with my life. “I was just pondering it.”
I finally tear my eyes away from her, and testily grip the bars again, salvaging the time I have left.
“She hangs around that guy, Rod, a lot.”
“Yeah, so?” Shit. My workout is shot.
“They seem close.”
My irritation seeps through. “They are. Again, so?”
“Doesn’t that bother you? He’s kind of touchy-feely with her. They were doing everything together.”
Increasing my reps, I edgily say, “They’re just friends.”
“If you say so. I don’t see that. I think Ricky is suspect of him, too.” What the hell?
“Ricky doesn’t have a problem with Rodwell like that.” Ricky thinks Rodwell’s a strange guy and finds it hilarious I was jealous of him. That’s my best friend. Taking any opportunity to nail my balls to the wall.
“I would just watch them more. If you don’t, he might steal Hadley away from you.”
I openly scowl at her. “He wouldn’t do that. Hadley wouldn’t do that to me. She thinks of him as a brother.”
I trust them.
I trust Becks.
“Yes, but it’s obvious he doesn’t think of her as a sister. He watches her as much as you do.”
Lifting up the bar, I look straight ahead. I don’t want Cara to know I’m wavering. “He keeps an eye on her. That’s what friends do.”
“Okay. I’m your friend, too. I don’t want her to hurt you.”
I grit my teeth and briefly glance at her. “She won’t.”
I pray she doesn’t.
After my shower, I go back to my office. Sitting at my desk, I return to my Internet search for cabins while I wait for our next meeting, but after what Cara said about Becks and Rodwell, I can’t concentrate. They did seem chummier during practice, and he touched her more. At the kite festival, he joked about looking up her dress. At practice Saturday, he joked about her having his kid. Not in this lifetime. Then, he mouthed off about seeing Becks naked while she was taking a shower.
Picking up an ink pen, I twirl it between my fingers as my mind races. Becks says she needs time to think. About Rodwell or about me? If she’s pregnant, is it even mine? I don’t want that fucking thought in my head, but it’s there. It’d better be mine. I made love to her without protection three times. Or is she also fucking him without it, hoping one of us knocks her up?
Would Becks do that to me?
I throw down the pen and restlessly sit back in my chair. My hands fly up to my face, and I tensely breathe in behind them.
I wish these thoughts would stay the hell out of my damn head.
This damn week crawls. By Wednesday night, the wait is killing me. I want her at my place when I come home from work on Friday night.
Lying on my navy-blue couch, watching some science show, my phone rings, and I reach down to the cushion to pick it up, nearly dropping it on the floor in the process. “Hey, baby.”
Her smile is evident. “Sparks. It’s so good to hear your voice. How was your day?”
“Shitty, but it’s over. How was yours?”
“It was okay. Morgan and I are dress-shopping Friday after work. Then, Saturday morning, we’re driving to Virginia Beach to meet with the hotel and the officiant to hammer out details.”
What the hell is she doing?
I promptly sit up and mute the TV. “What time are you leaving Saturday morning? That’s a two-hour drive.”
“Around 7:30. I’ll stay at Morgan’s Friday night so we can just leave from there.”
I cuttingly inhale. “Becks, are you kidding me? You said you’d stay with me this weekend.”
“I will. Saturday night.”
“Night? I have a dare at the Richmond International Speedway Saturday afternoon. I won’t be at practice, but I’ll be done around 4:00. I’m all yours after that. We don’t have to wait for that night.”
“Morgan invited us to dinner.”
“You told her we’d go?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t I? Don’t you want to go?”
“No. I want to spend time with you.”
“It is spending time together.”
Leaning forward, I rest my elbow on my thigh, my forehead in my hand. “Alone, Becks.” Why is that so hard for her to understand?
“We will be after dinner. You can do anything you want with me then.” Will she sleep in the bed with me, or will she only jack me off on the couch, like she used to?
Whatever she decides, I have to go with it. Again.
I roll my eyes as I accept defeat. “I’ll hold you to that.”
“We have to use birth control, though. I know you have issues with the type we use now.” Why does she have to get into this shit now?
“Well, we don’t need any if the damage is already done.”
She’s quiet, and I realize that sounded insensitive. I open my mouth to rephrase, but she snaps, “Really, Finn? Do you have to say it like that?”
I close my eyes and shake my head against my hand. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said it that way.”
“I told you, I won’t know for another week or so.”
“I get that.”
“How would you handle a positive test, Finn?”
I drop my hand and shift, so my feet are on the floor. “We’ll be okay, Becks. I’ll learn to live with it.” Bowing my head, I dig my hand into my hair and stare at the brown carpet underneath my bare feet. This conversation is derailing fast.
“Would you be happy if I had an abortion?”
I immediately sit upright. Does she think I’m a fucking monster? “Fuck no! You can’t do that!” I never thought I’d have this conversation.
She sniffs. “Why? It would make your life easier. Would you at least hold my hand when they turn on the machine?”
Becks can’t kill our baby.
“That’s enough! It’s not an option. Don’t even think about doing it.” How’d we go down this fucking road?
She quietly replies, “I wouldn’t. But you might want that.”
“No. I’m not that vicious, Becks.” What the hell?
“What about adoption, then?”
I recline against the back of the couch, laying my arm across my forehead as I stare at the ceiling. “No. Can we not talk about this until we know for sure?”
“Until we’re sure? Like when I’m pushing out a baby in the delivery room? Will you talk about it then?” I didn’t think she’d be this upset with me. Shit.
“Stop talking like that.”
Her voice falls. “I wouldn’t want to do this alone, Sparks. I’d need you with me the whole way.”
I nod against the back of the couch, wishing we were talking in person instead of the damn phone. “I will, Becks. I promise. I’m not going anywhere without you.”
“Even if this could change our lives forever? Are you willing to help raise a baby?”
“I’d be right by your side. Always.” It’d be impossible to get rid of me.
“I’ll hold you to that, Sparks.” Closing my eyes, I smile at her, borrowing my words again.
“You can. No matter what.”
Early Friday morning, I sit at my desk, still unable to focus because of all the shit right now. Tapping my fingers impatiently while my legs annoyingly bounce, I search cabins, but if she is… pregnant, can I take her into the mountains? I’m wholly unaware of pregnancy dos and don’ts. Can we still have sex? I wouldn’t want to hurt her or our kid.
Two hours later, I lock down a cabin reservation at Red River Gorge in Kentucky. It’s in the woods and not too high in the mountains. It has a lake view and a hot tub like I promised her. No close neighbors, either.
The cabin is available in three weeks, which is perfect, according to my schedule and hers. I leave the reservations a secret and will coordinate with my second baseman. The day before our trip, I’ll tell Becks to pack her bags and then whisk her off to the Kentucky Wilderness. I don’t need her chaperones coincidentally reserving a cabin nearby and crashing our trip. I want Becks to myself. Rodwell and Morgan suck up all of her time. I barely see her.
Checking my watch, it’s lunchtime. Drake is doing the noon broadcast, so I’m free until my two interviews this afternoon. Most of the week during lunch, if I’m not on location, on camera, or meeting Becks, I go to our in-house gym and run on the treadmill. It’s one of my favorite ways to relieve stress. Before I get up from my desk, my cell phone rings. I recline back in my chair, smiling. “Hey, baby. What’s up?”
Her voice is uneven, and she skips pleasantries. “Um, was going to call you… I wanted to ease your mind.”
I promptly straighten, snapping my chair upright. “What’s wrong?”
She takes a small, shaky breath. “You dodged a bullet. You’re free and clear.”
Shaking my head, I ask, “What are you talking about?”
“I started, Finn. It’s a little early, but I got it. I didn’t ruin your life.”
I lean forward onto my desk, my head propped in my hand. “Baby, I… It wouldn’t ruin it.”
“Anyway, you didn’t knock up a Finnatic.”
“Becks…” I know she’s disappointed. I want to see her. “Do you want to have lunch?”
“I was just leaving for lunch with Morgan and Rod.” Fuck me.
“Can I go with you?” Damn it. We’re never alone.
“If you want to. We’re going to that diner nearby.”
“I’m leaving now.”
Checking my pockets for my wallet and keys, I go down to my car as my mind buzzes. I disappointed her, yet again. She needs me to want the same things, but I don’t know how to be what she needs. A husband and father. I’m so fucked up, and I don’t want to pass that on to a kid. My mother is right. I’m living in a fucking dream world if I believe Becks will always be okay with us not getting married. I either give in or give her up.
I love Becks. I can’t break up with her. I’m that selfish.
Pulling into Sage’s Diner, I still haven’t figured out what to say. Yeah, I’m relieved, but I’m also strangely disappointed, too. Aside from my reasons, I’d share a tangible and permanent bond with her. I’ve never had sex for the purpose of pregnancy before. Why wouldn’t I want to create a life Becks and I made with our love? That’s a fucking spin.
I need to cheer her up. Do I tell her about the cabin? Do I tell her we’ll try again? Shit. What the hell am I doing?
Shoving a hand into my hair, I walk to the diner. Opening the door, the smell of hamburgers coldcocks me as I observe the nearly empty dining room. In a corner, I see the back of Rodwell’s head bobbing up and down. Morgan then smacks him, and he pushes her away, making her laugh.
Sighing, I walk to the table, where Becks sits across from Morgan and Rod, looking pale and tired, with her light brown hair appearing shades darker.
“Coach!” Rodwell greets me with a wave.
“Hey,” I answer as Becks scoots over, and I slide in next to her. She briefly looks up, and I lean over to kiss her lips. She doesn’t say anything except smile, but it falters, and she turns away from me.
Morgan slips her menu over to me. “We were waiting for you to order.”
“Thanks.” I sit back, adjusting my tie. I don’t even feel like eating. Becks is upset. Because of me.
Rod rhythmically pounds his fists on the table. “What are you ordering, Wilder? Morgasm is having the pint of blood and batwing stew.”
Morgan shoves his face from the side. “And Rod’s having the knuckle sandwich, a can of whoop-ass, a kidney punch, and a slow ride to a free clinic.”
“Sounds great,” I mutter as I watch Becks, who wraps an arm around herself and stares at the table. Reaching over, I rub her back and go to her ear, whispering, “You okay?”
She nods but says nothing else.
The waitress stops at our table, and after flirting with Rodwell, she finally takes our orders. She apparently specializes in catering to the freaks.
As soon as she’s gone, Becks turns to me. “I’ll be back.”
She frowns at me. Oh. Her monthly. Right.
I get up from the table, and she slides out behind me, dragging her purse with her and heads to the restroom. As I sit down, Rod asks, “Did your number one Finnatic tell you what she did this morning?”
“Normally, if she’s in a bad mood, I ask if it’s her shark week.”
Morgan sets down her lipstick and mirror with a clatter. She questions, “Shark week?”
He rolls his eyes. “Well, duh, Morticia,” he scoffs, shaking his head at her, and then turning back to me, continuing, “Last time I asked Hadders that, she said I’d be the first to know. I didn’t think much of it. This morning, your better half climbed up on a chair, cupped her hands, and yelled that she got her period. She then jumped down and left. What a rude wakeup call.”
Morgan asks, “She really did that? I didn’t hear her, and I’m next door to you.”
“She sure did. Scared the shit out of me. I thought she was having a psychotic break.”
Morgan picks up her mirror. “I would’ve also thrown my orange juice in your face.”
Rod dismissively swats at her and asks me, “Has she ever announced her Aunt Blow like that to you?”
Shaking my head, I glance toward the restrooms, but no sign of Becks. “No.”
Morgan laughs. “Aunt Blow?”
Throwing his hands up, he says, “Well, doesn’t it? Shit. Why do I not have to explain ragging terminology to the other man here? Only you women don’t get it.”
Her face contorts. “What the fuck, Rod? Who in the hell calls it shark week?”
Rod dramatically sighs and waves his hand in the air. “Only men, apparently.”
Morgan reaches down to what looks like Rodwell’s lap. “What did you just say, Dick Rod?”
He smacks at her with one hand while shoving at her hand under the table with his other. “This is almost sexual battery! I’m positive!”
She takes back her hand. “It was your thigh.”
“I didn’t touch your Tic-Tac dick. And stop making jokes. Periods suck. Hadley has it extra harsh.”
Rod picks up his menu and curls it upward. “So I’ve heard.”
Morgan adds, “She’s always had heavy, irregular periods, and her cramps have sent her home from work before.”
Rod makes a face. “I don’t know how you’ll live with that, Wilder. May the Force be with you.” Like I don’t know that about my girlfriend?
“It’s nothing new.” Her cramps have cramped our sex life before.
Morgan slaps Rod’s arm. “It’s not funny. Some months are really bad for her.” Morgan looks over her shoulder and then at me. “I’m sure you already know she might not be able to have kids.”
My stomach drops. “What?”
She frowns. “Her doctor said she might have a hard time getting pregnant, the older she gets.”
“I bet that’s a load off,” Rod says to me from behind his fingertips tapping against his mouth.
“Why?” I snap at him.
He smiles from behind his fingers. “You don’t have to worry about a Wilder Jr.”
As I reel from that, Morgan says, “She could possibly get pregnant, but it might take longer if at all. The Pill should help lessen her periods, though.”
If Becks needed to be on the Pill because of a medical condition, why isn’t she on it now? When I asked her not to take it, she claimed she wasn’t on it, and I didn’t ask if she’d ever been on it before then.
Even more staggering, why didn’t she tell me she might not be able to have kids? I took having sex without birth control too far, tormenting her, and now she hates me for not getting her pregnant. I’m an asshole.
Movement catches my eye, and I see Becks walking back to the table. Numbly, I stand to let her back into the booth. She looks slightly better, yet I feel incredibly worse.
As I sit down, I glance furtively at Rod. Would she sleep with him to get a kid? She said she only wants mine but is that the truth? Would she take Rod’s kid as a replacement if I don’t deliver? No way. If Hadley Beckett carries a baby inside of her, I need to be the one to put it there.
“There you are, Hadders. I was ready to call the Coast Guard.”
“When I was coming back, my dad called. Sorry to worry you.”
Becks lays her head on my bicep, and I peer down at her, wishing I could help her.
“Hadley, are you okay?” Morgan asks.
She nods against my arm. “I’m fine. Just crampy and tired.”
I say, “Maybe you should go home, baby. I’ll take you.”
“No, it’s not too bad right now. I think the worst is over. I look uglier than I feel.”
I move my arm to put it around her, stroking her arm and kissing the top of her forehead. “You’re never ugly. Always beautiful.” From above, I see her cheeks rise in a smile.
“Aww!” Rod squeals. “Wilder, that is so sweet!”
Why do I want to rip out his lungs?
Keeping my lips on her head, I indignantly peer at Rod. “I forever tell her she’s beautiful, but she doesn’t believe me.”
Morgan rolls her eyes. “Listen to your boyfriend, Hadley.”
“Hadders, you’re rather fetching. I only joke when I call you a hag.”
Her laugh reverberates through my jaw. “Thanks?”
“You know you’re hot, so shut up.”
She shakes her head, and her ponytail swishes against my arm. “Rod.”
Is Cara right? Does he want my girlfriend? Right in front of my face?
Do I even know Hadley Beckett?