“How’d he do?” Elle tucked her camera into a converted diaper bag. Her little boy reached for the dyed red ends of her hair. “Is he healthy?”
A man that irritating would outlive all of us. “We didn’t get very far, but I think he’s okay. He…might have some undiagnosed ADD issues though.”
Lachlan took her hand. “Let’s go, Red. I got some rookie hazing to take care of.”
Elle rolled her eyes. “You’re hazing?”
“So…explain to me how you got taped to the goal posts yesterday?”
“That was an accident.”
“Right.” She poked her baby’s nose. “Say bye-bye to Daddy, Nick. He’ll probably be hogtied and stuffed in a locker tonight.”
“That only happened once.”
Elle thanked me, nuzzling both her baby and her husband. The two deliriously happy, wretchedly sweet, and unabashedly perfect lovebirds scampered away with their lovely family, shared smiles, and squirming baby boy.
And that was fine.
So I didn’t have a husband. Or a boyfriend. Or a supportive father for my unborn baby.
I did have a killer rack and peppermint flavored burps. What more could a girl want, especially with an MD and specialization in neurology? Plus, I had been offered a fancy new office converted from my very own Ironfield Rivets’ supply closet!
Modern day fairy tale, right?
I retreated to my office and closed the door. My laptop rested in shards on the floor. The fellowship didn’t leave much in the grant for new computers, but it was better to ask for forgiveness than to tell the organization I was three months pregnant.
Even if I denied it for a long as I could.
It’s not a pregnancy. It’s heartburn.
It’s not morning sickness. It’s a two-and-a-half-month flu.
That’s not a baby in the sonogram. Just a friendly, neighborhood tapeworm.
At least I had a bit of privacy to fix my bra now. The damn thing mutinied under my shirt, and I struggled to unlatch it before the straight-jacket permanently embedded in my skin.
The cracked underwire had shredded through my blouse. The material, already stretched too thin courtesy of my freed jubilees jiggling their way to freedom, ripped from arm pit to sleeve. The bra tangled in what remained of my shirt. I gritted my teeth and tugged.
How the hell had it knotted in my blouse? I’d earned a goddamned doctorate neuroscience…and I got tangled in my own bra?
“And I’m supposed to bring a child into this world.” I bundled my shirt and curled my hand through the sleeve. “Even a baby will squirt outta me easier than this.”
I gave it one good heave. The blouse ripped and my bra snapped. The strap adjustor pinged me in the face.
Whoever knocked thought my yelp was permission to enter. The door swung open.
“Doctor Merriweather, is it possible—”
The Rivets’ head coach paraded into my office, halting his steps to watch as I groped under my shirt and struggled to stuff the unruly parts of me back into place.
“Oh!” I spun before I flashed the coach with more than just my cookies. A carefully crossed arm hid the chocolate chips. “Coach Thompson, I didn’t hear you…”
He wasn’t alone.
And in the briefest of moments, I recognized the man he led within my office.
This. Wasn’t. Happening.
It couldn’t be him.
Coach Thompson cleared his throat. “Doctor Merriweather, do you have time to complete one more examination? We’re ready to sign his contract, but first he needs to be medically cleared to play.”
Coach Thompson presented me to the most gorgeous man I had ever seen.
My step-brother’s best friend. My first, last, and only real crush of a lifetime.
I knew awkward moments. I’d lived my life through a series of minor embarrassments—like waving hello at someone who meant to greet the person behind me or bashing into a door marked pull instead of push. Every day was another opportunity to drop a full cup of Starbucks on the store’s floor, and I usually met that challenge head-on. Even this was a little cruel for fate.
“Jude Owens,” Coach Thompson introduced us. “I’d like you to meet Doctor Aurora—”
Jude’s smile twitched into a glint of confidence, that suave composure he mastered when we were young. I fell in love with him when I was ten. Almost twenty years later, my stomach still fluttered in his presence.
He surveyed my impromptu office with the lone degree on the wall. His voice—that mixture of quiet poise and rugged masculinity, riveted me in place.