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Happily Ever All-Star 1(8)

By´╝ÜSosie Frost



Except he’d use the tatters to tie me up in his velvet tease.

“So far so good, but this is the real test.” I held up my hand, counting on my fingers. “I’m going to say five words. I want you to repeat them to me.”

“Got it.”

I smirked. “Prom. Pizza. Theater. Fire. All-Star.”

Jude raised his eyebrows. “Random words?”

“No. I…uh, just remembered the time you escorted me to prom after my date flaked out. You were super sweet to do the Grand March with me so I wouldn’t be alone in the pictures, even if everyone asked why you were in jeans.”

“All I could manage on short notice.”

“And I was thinking about the times we got pizza after football practice while you watched movies with Eric.” I lowered my gaze. “And the time at the theater when you tackled the guy who tried to steal my purse.”

“Broke his wrist.”

“And there was the fire at your house, when you had to stay with our family for two weeks while your mom had the kitchen rebuilt.”

“You remember that?”

“Yeah, because you were sleeping in my bed. I got the couch.” I crossed my arms. “And the last word. All-Star. Because you’re Hall of Fame bound. You don’t need to play another season. Prom. Pizza. Theater. Fire. All-Star.”

“I’m perfectly fine to play, Rory.”

“Repeat the words back to me.”

Jude stared, quiet. Thoughtful or confused, he was always unreadable like that. A man who never said more than what was necessary, never smiled when it was unearned, and always maintained a strict sense of decorum at all times.

But the silence dragged on.

“Oh, Jude—”

“Holy shit, you’re pregnant.”

I leapt backward. “What?”

“You’re pregnant!” His eyes flashed hard. “Rory! How did this happen?”

“I…” How in the ever-loving hell did he figure it out? “What are you talking about?”

“My sister Jasmine just had her baby. You think I can’t tell? Your body is…fucking amazing right now. You just ran out of here to throw up. You’re pregnant.”

He didn’t have to tell me that. It was all I could think about every waking moment of the day—and the nightmares at night.

I tried to keep it quiet and attempted to stay calm. I wasn’t entirely sure the baby couldn’t smell my fear.

I faked a smile and pointed to my belly. “Oh. This old thing? I’ve had it for a couple months now. Nothing to worry about.”

“Months?”

“Not many. Just about…sixteen weeks.” I pointed him to his chair. “But we’re not talking about me right now. Sit.”

“Who did this to you?”

“I’m fine. Everything is okay.” Except that my crush now realized I carried another man’s baby. That probably reduced my chances with him. “I have it handled. I’ve been to a doctor, and I’m completely healthy. I’m just…keeping it quiet.”

“Who’s the father?”

“That’s not very quiet.”

“Who is the father, Rory?”

I hoped when he twisted the knife, he wouldn’t nick the kid. “It doesn’t matter. He’s not involved.”

“Not involved?” Jude’s voice darkened. Still measured, still composed, but shadowed with anger. “Please tell me he’s helping you with this?”

“Helping is such a strong word—”

“Who the hell is this jackass? You tell me now, and Eric and me will have a nice talk with this fucking—”

I held my hands up. “It was a stupid, one-night thing. He doesn’t want to be involved, and that’s fine with me. We just need to keep it quiet for now.”

“But, Rory—”

“This is a very prestigious, very competitive fellowship. I can’t tell anyone, not until the season has started and I’ve got the baseline assessments on the team completed. The league is all about appearances and reputations, and the fellowship was supposed to send honest, dependable, and upstanding doctors from the community. If it gets out that I’m a single, pregnant woman, I’ll lose this chance.”

“Don’t you think they’ll find out eventually?” Jude patted his own stomach. “Hard to hide something like this.”

“I don’t have to hide it all year, only until I’ve proved myself here. I’m due after the season anyway, first week of January. I can complete the fellowship and work on finding another residency position after my maternity leave…”

The cracks widened in my plan. Keeping everything bottled up inside drowned me in my own fears and uncertainty, but speaking it out loud dredged up a whole new slew of problems.

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