Chapter 2 - An Unexpected Pregnancy
Tristan saw Avery returning to her office, and he picked up that she was a little distracted. He decided it would be a good idea to try to take her mind off things, so he placed yet another order at her favorite cafe.
He leaned back in his chair and admired her as she made a phone call. She’d left her door open, so he didn’t feel bad about listening in.
“Hey, Mom, could you get Dad and make this a conference call? I need to tell you both something,” Avery said.
“Of course, honey. Let’s do a video call instead? We haven’t seen you in forever,” Mrs. Blanc said.
“No, just get Dad and let me-”
“You’re always working,” her mother interrupted. “You never make time for us anymore.”
Avery was quiet for a moment. She kept telling herself that the news would delight them. But she knew things didn’t always work out the way she wanted them to.
Her mother was always so pushy, and she was in no mood for an ice-cold staring competition with her father.
She sighed heavily. “Fine, Mom, whatever. I’ll call you in an hour.”
“But you’re calling now,” Mrs. Blanc said.
“Something came up,” she lied.
If they were going to switch to video, she’d need time to get her shit together. She’d have to get her balls of steel in place to deal with the inevitable fallout.
Avery sat at her desk, tapping her pen against the table as she formulated her speech. She laid out the facts, thought of any negative outcomes, and came up with solutions to any counter-arguments her dad might have.
The minutes that ticked by felt like seconds, and with each of them, she was pumping herself up even more.
Avery’s behavior confused Tristan, as he had never seen her acting like this before. She was pacing in front of her desk, talking to herself, extremely riled up about something.
“Avery?” Tristan asked as he put the order down on her desk. “Is everything okay?”
She stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. “Yeah, why wouldn’t it be? And why are you always bringing me food?”
He sniggered. “It calms you down,” he said, smiling.
She rolled her eyes but took a huge bite of the muffin anyway. Dammit, he was right.
Although she liked to think of herself as a complex, layered person, there was nothing like comfort food to calm her mind.
“So are you going to tell me why you’re pacing up and down and fighting with yourself?” Tristan took a seat at her desk and steepled his fingers. “I’m available if you need to talk about whatever is bothering you.”
Avery dusted crumbs from her shirt and gave a sardonic laugh. “You know, Tristan, boundaries don’t only exist so we can tell one country from another.”
“Excuse me?” he asked, his face scrunched up in confusion.
“Between you and my mother, how am I supposed to have a moment of peace to think?”
“Uh… your mother? What’s-”
“Just- forget it,” she said, shaking her head.
She’d said too much. This whole thing about having to face her father… It was throwing her off her game.
“Miss Blanc, I didn’t mean to offend you,” he said, rising from his seat. “It looked like you needed-”
Avery planted her hands on her hips. “If I want your help, I’ll ask. If you don’t hear me say the words, ‘Tristan, I need your help,’ then please, for the love of God, mind your fucking business.”
“Of course. Sorry,” he mumbled, head down, and made to leave.
“And close the door behind you,” she called after him. “I have an important meeting in a minute.”
Her words were barely cold when the phone rang. She looked at her watch. Her father was nothing if not prompt.
She took a second to straighten her hair and then answered.
“So, darling, what is it you wanted to tell us?” Mr. Blanc asked.
Getting right to the point, as usual.
Avery took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She looked her parents right in the eyes and said, “Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant.”
Mrs. Blanc covered her mouth as a gasp escaped her and Mr. Blanc didn’t react at all. He just sat there, looking at his daughter with a cold, calculating stare.
Avery met her father’s gaze, daring him to question her. But it was her mother who did the talking.
“Who’s the father? We didn’t know you were seeing anyone! When do we get to meet him? How does he feel about joining our family?”
“Uhm…” Avery’s facade slipped for a split second but she was quick to hide it. “I don’t know who the father is. But that’s not important. What’s important-”
Mr. Blanc slapped his desk, making Avery jump. “What on earth is wrong with you, Avery? You can’t just go around sleeping with a bunch of men you don’t know and expect us to be okay with that! You’re the heir to our empire and I expect you to treat it with a little more respect than that!”
“It’s not like that!” Avery snapped. “I’m not sleeping with a bunch of men!”
Mr. Blanc leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest. He was clearly furious about the situation.
Avery leaned back in her chair, mimicking her father by crossing her arms. Once again she met his gaze, being just as stubborn.
“Your father didn’t mean it like that, honey,” Mrs. Blanc said. “It’s just a little unexpected, that’s all… What do you plan on doing with the baby?”
Avery stared at her mother with a look of utter shock. “I plan on keeping it. Who the father is doesn’t matter. It’s still my child and I will love it nonetheless.”
“Keeping it,” Mr. Blanc echoed with a chilling laugh. “What do you think this is, a soap opera?”
“Well, with the way you’re carrying on…”
“What was that?”
“Stop it, you two,” Mrs. Blanc jumped in just as her father was about to unleash all hell on her. “We’re not going to get anywhere by yelling at each other.”
“Listen,” Avery said, containing her anger. “I’m not having this call to ask your permission. I’m just trying to do the right thing by letting you know that-”
“You have two choices in this matter,” Mr. Blanc said. “Either you have a husband to include in this announcement or you get rid of the baby. The choice is yours.”
Avery opened her mouth to lash back, but the call ended abruptly. She stared at the empty home screen on her phone, the rage in her father’s eyes lingering in her mind.
Husband or get rid of it. Was he crazy? Had he suffered a mental break since the last time she saw him?
Hours seemed to go by, and even though everyone had already left for the day, Avery couldn’t move from her desk. Her father’s words replayed in her head, over and over.
“I’m so screwed.” She sank her head in her hands.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, her stomach churned. “Oh, God.”
Avery grabbed the wastebasket and leaned over, emptying the contents of her stomach into it.
Tristan burst into her office as though he were watching her the whole time. He put a glass of ice-cold water on her desk and kneeled beside her.
Tucking her hair behind her ear, he rubbed her back gently while she heaved. “It’s okay,” he said. “It’s going to be okay.”
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and sank into her chair, out of breath. “Goddamn morning sickness.”
He looked up at her, shock etched into every line on his face. “Morning what now?”
He was such a decent guy, her secretary. Always ready to do whatever to help her out. His face just then, the way he stared at her, it gave Avery an idea.
The rush of something working out for her, for once, made her sit upright in her chair.
“Tristan, dear, sweet, Tristan…”
“Are you okay, Miss Blanc?” he asked, eyeing her with more than a little trepidation.
There was a momentary twinge of guilt in her chest, but it didn’t last too long. Her father was forcing her hand on this one. He had left her no choice.
“Remember how I told you before that I’d ask for your help when I needed it?”
He shrunk away from her, obviously realizing he’d overstepped a boundary by barging into her office. By being that close to her. Touching her…
“I remember,” he said softly, not taking his eyes from hers.
She took a breath and leaned forward, elbows on her knees. “Well, Tristan, I’m asking.”