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Authors: Meg Jolie

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BOOK: Holding On
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“Now, come on. We’re not going to hang out in the bathroom all day.” She grabb
ed Quinn by the arm and pulled her out into the hallway. Then she towed her down the stairs into the kitchen where she led her to a bar stool and sat her down.

“What if…” Quinn
could hardly say the words. Her throat constricted and her voice shook. “What if he doesn’t want it?”

Carly ha
d gone to the fridge and was rooting around. Her head popped up, over the door and she gave Quinn a horrified look.

“Don’t even think that way! He might need some time to adjust. But he’ll come around. I’m sure of it.” She closed the door with her foot. Her hands held a carton of eggs, a package of cheese and some sliced mushrooms.
“Omelet?” she asked.

She knew Quinn hadn’t eaten yet. When her sister nodded she placed everything on the counter. Then she leaned across, looking Quinn in the eye.
“You’ve known him forever. You’ve known his family forever.” Her eyes locked with Quinn’s and her face looked determined. Comforting. “It’s going to be okay. I know it.”

“I hope so,” was all she
could say.

Jake and Quinn
had been together for a while. She’d known him for most of her life. His younger brother, Luke, was her age.

She and Luke
had been friends for as long as she could remember. Growing up, the McGraths had lived down the street from the Johnsons. While Jake thought he was too cool to play with the “little kids” and especially too cool to play with a girl back then, Luke and Quinn had hit it off. They’d remained friends through grade school. Through middle school, too, even after the McGraths moved to the other side of town. In high school, he’d been on the football team and she’d been the captain of the cheerleading squad. They’d spent a fair amount of time together between riding to out of town games, fundraisers and other events the girls had headed up for the team.

It wasn’t until Quinn’s
junior year of college, while at a party with Luke and a group of friends, that they ran into Jake. She’d seen him on and off since he graduated high school. She’d spoken with him a few times while at Luke’s over the past few years. But he was still more of an acquaintance than a friend.

T
hat night, at the party, with a beer in his hand and a wicked looking smile on his face, he’d approached her. His eyes had been gleaming and his attitude fully in place.

“Quinn Johnson, how the hell did you end up so hot?” ha
d been his lame come-on line.  She had rolled her eyes and walked away.

The truth was, while she and Luke
were just friends, for years she’d really wished they were something more. She was always anxious for any type of group outings that would put them together. Not that it ever mattered. She had never gotten up the nerve to tell him how she felt.

She had been
too afraid of jeopardizing their friendship.

That night, having his older brother hit on her had some appeal. She had hoped that just maybe, Luke would finally notice her in that way, too.

But he hadn’t. He’d simply narrowed his eyes at them from across the room as Jake followed her out the door. To her surprise, alone on the deck in the crisp, fall night air, the conversation improved. They’d gone out for breakfast after the party. They’d gone on their first date the next night.

They’d been nearly inseparable from that first date forward. The crush on Luke had been forgotten. It had been replaced by a love for Jake so deep she hadn’t known it was even possible.

“Toast or no toast?” Carly asked as her words yanked Quinn out of the past.

Her tone made it clear she’d asked at least once before.

“Toast. But I can get it,” Quinn said as she started to stand.

“Sit!” she said as
she pointed a butter knife at her. “I’ve got this. I might not be a great cook,”
this
was an understatement and they both knew it, “but I can handle an omelet and toast. You need to call Jake.”

Carly stood with her fist ground into her slender hip until Quinn rose from her bar stool to retrieve her phone.

She didn’t call Jake. She was feeling like a coward so she sent him a text. She could blame it on worrying he’d be able to tell by her tone that something was wrong. Or she could say that she hated bothering him when he was working. Both of those excuses were legitimate and somewhat true. But mostly…she was a coward. He responded in no time to her request.

“He has to work late, but he’ll st
op over as soon as he’s done,” she told Carly. The original plan was that she would spend the evening with her family. Carly didn’t come home all that often. When she did, family dinners were usually a nightly requirement.

“Perfect. I’ll get Mom and Dad out of here,” Carly said with assurance. “I’ll make sure the two of you have plenty of time to talk,” she said over her shoulder as she popped two pieces of toast into the toaster. “Have you thought about how you plan on telling them? Mom and Dad I mean? I’m sure things are going to go just fine with Jake. But if for some reason you need me there when you tell them, I’ll be there.
If you want
, I can be there,” she said, clarifying. She didn’t want to overstep boundaries but she would be there for Quinn no matter what.

Quinn nodded absently. She hadn’t given any thought to how she would tell her parents. She really hadn’t even decided on how she was going to tell Jake.

Several minutes later Carly was seated next to Quinn. Gooey, cheesy omelets, toast and a glass of grape juice in front of each of them. In seconds Quinn could feel her sister’s eyes on her.

“What?” she asked after she
swallowed her bite and took a big gulp of grape juice.

“No morning sickness?” Carly
wondered.

“No,” Quinn
admitted. “I feel fabulous. Well, other than a little tired because I haven’t slept well the last few nights. And I’m starving.” She’d been too nervous to eat breakfast. She’d headed to the pharmacy as soon as it opened. Now, it was edging close to lunch time. She supposed this meal served as their brunch.

Carly
grinned. “Great. Then after we’re done eating, let’s get out of here. We should spend the day doing something fun.”

“Such as…?” Quinn
wondered.

“We could call Jemma and Lily. We could get our nails done. We could go shopping. Maybe a movie? We just need to do something to get your mind off of this until tonight,” she decided.

Jemma and Lily were Quinn’s two best friends from high school. Jemma had left for two years to go to a community college. Having been able to finish in two years, she moved back and was now a dental hygienist. Lily, like Quinn, would be done in a few months.

Quinn shook her
head. “Jemma is working. Lily and Nate went out of town for break. I think they’re visiting his family.” It was just as well. She couldn’t spend the afternoon with the two of them without either of them realizing something was up. They’d known each other for years and they knew each other far too well. Quinn knew she’d never be able to pull it off. Honestly, as nervous as she was about telling him, she knew that Jake needed to be the next person to know.

He was, after all, the father. The baby’s father.
Their
baby’s father. Her stomach dropped at the thought as her mind tried to grasp the enormity of it all. She was so not ready for this.

Not realizing where Quinn’s mind had gone,
Carly shrugged. “Perfect. I’m more than happy to have you all to myself.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

“Pregnant?” Jake echoed. He ran a hand through his close-cropped, coffee-colored hair. His brown eyes were huge and he stared at her blank-faced. “Pregnant.” This time he said it as though trying to figure out what, exactly, the word meant.

She
nodded. When he had first arrived, she had been visibly upset. He’d pulled her into his arms and asked her what was wrong. For a moment, she hadn’t wanted to tell him. She had just wanted to stay where she was, feeling safe and secure.

It had taken her
a few minutes to steel herself. To get the words out. She’d slipped out of his arms and had started pacing her parents’ living room. He’d coaxed her into calming down by telling her whatever it was…it would be okay. He’d told her she just needed to talk to him. He’d told her that whatever had her so upset, they’d get through it.

So she’d told him and he’d stood there, silent, for an unbearably long time. Then he’d echoed her word back to her.

“Wow. I was…not expecting that,” he admitted. He blew out a breath but other than that, didn’t move. He seemed frozen.

In shock
? Quinn wondered.
Very likely
.
This is what I get for not telling him I was late. I hadn’t wanted to worry him just in case it was a false alarm. I wish I would’ve warned him

I really can’t be upset with him for not knowing what to say. Not when I’ve just thrown it at him like this.

She cut off her mental rambling to say, “Jake? Are you okay?”

He shook his head just a bit. His mouth opened but no words came out.

Her
parents had taken Carly out to dinner. Or rather, Carly had insisted upon being taken to dinner. Their parents had of course insisted that Quinn come along. Until Carly jumped in and said that she’d appreciate some alone time with them.

She had pulled their mom aside and pointed out that the three of them saw each other frequently. She told Margo that she’d really just like to have her parents to herself for the evening since she’d had Quinn to herself all day. Margo had beamed at her, agreeing that sounded like a logical plan
. So she had readily agreed but insisted that they plan a family dinner the following night.

Carly had agreed that yes, there would indeed be family time of some sort the following night.
Then she had ushered them out of the house, giving Quinn time alone with Jake.

Unfortunately, he’d gotten tied up on the jobsite
. He’d texted her to let her know he’d be late. She’d waited anxiously for over an hour before he finally arrived. And now he was staring at her as though she were speaking a language unknown to him.

“I’m…just…huh…” he stammered. Then repeated, “I
really
wasn’t expecting this.”

“I wasn’t expecting it, either,”
she pointed out to him.

She had stopped pacing and now they
were both just standing in her parents’ living room. She realized she had her arms tightly folded across her abdomen. She’d expected him to pull her into his arms again. He hadn’t. He just stood there, staring at her. But she felt like he wasn’t actually seeing her. He seemed like his thoughts were somewhere else entirely. She’d never felt so alone or vulnerable in her life. For a crazy minute she wished that Carly was there with them. She’d probably know exactly what to say to snap Jake out of this…whatever it was.

H
e started backing away from her and her heart and stomach twisted painfully. “There’s something I’ve got to do,” he said. He was walking backward toward the door.

She
followed him despite the fact that her knees suddenly felt wobbly. “Jake..?”

He
’s not leaving, is he
? She frantically wondered. She’d just told him they were going to have a baby and he was leaving?! She’d played the scene over in her head repeatedly the entire afternoon. Well, to be honest, for nearly a week. In her mind he was shocked, upset, and even in a rare scene, happy. But not once did she picture him
leaving
!

“You really have to go?
Now
?” she demanded. She followed him out of the living room, down the short hallway into the foyer. A small voice in her head was screaming at her to latch onto him. To not let him leave because he was not supposed to be leaving!

“I’ve just…
there’s something I need to do,” he repeated.

“Can’t it wait?” she pleaded.

BOOK: Holding On
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