“No,” Vincent panted, his voice barely above a whisper. “You started it when you hurt her.” Every word was strained and seemed to require all his energy just to pronounce.
“How can you even say you love her?” Marty said, flabbergasted. “You barely even spend time with her. You’re a f**king hypocrite.”
“That’ll change . . .” Vincent was visibly struggling to hold his head up. Most of his face was swelling and bleeding now but his eyes were burning with intensity. “It’ll work.”
“You’ve only been with her for two months. I was with her for two years!”
“You took her for granted . . . You didn’t appreciate her. She’s unlike anybody . . . I cherish every moment.”
“No you don’t. You won’t settle down. All you care about is money and excitement. How can you even pretend to be serious about what you’re saying?”
“. . . We’ll settle down when the time is right. For both of us.”
Marty threw up his hands, frustrated. “You’re going to be a terrible father to Kristen’s baby. You’re too busy. You wouldn’t be there like I would.”
No. Marty didn’t just say that. He didn’t just tell Vincent about the baby. How did he even know about that? Was it from my text messages with Riley about the pregnancy?
“Baby . . .?” Vincent struggled.
“You didn’t even know Kristen was pregnant? What a piece of work you are.”
Vincent summoned the strength to turn his head in my direction. “Is it true?”
Tears streamed down my face. “It wasn’t supposed to come out like this. I wanted to tell you. That’s why I called you over.”
Vincent’s eyes locked with mine. Tears ran down his cheeks.
The sadness in his gaze hurt more than anything I could’ve imagined. The image of his dark eyes filled with tears ripped through my heart like a bullet.
One week prior
“So, Vincent . . .”
I knew that tone.
“Tell me more about Kristen,” Giselle said as she did some preliminary tidying in the kitchen before Brady’s birthday party officially ended.
“She’s a very capable analyst recently promoted to wealth manager.” I fingered a trace of blue frosting in a nearby bowl, tasted it, then chased it down with a gulp of orange soda. It was delicious. I made a mental note to caution Brady about drinking too much of this stuff. But damn did it taste good to have some every once in a while.
“And . . .?”
“. . . And she’s funny and caring.” She’s also one hell of a minx in the sack, I thought. Just the thought of her lips wrapping around my c**k made me instantly hard even in the most awkward of situations: during business meetings, presentations, even if this conversation. I decided it was better to keep that to myself.
“This is the first time you’ve let me meet one of your girlfriends and that’s the best you can give me? I’m disappointed. Here I thought she was something special.”
You don’t know how special she is. My mind slipped back to the first time Kristen and I met. Pinching my nipple in that business meeting? I remember thinking in that moment—as her chest was pressed against mine—that she was either the stupidest girl ever or the smartest. Special, for sure. She had quite the set of balls on her. I smiled, suppressing a laugh at the thought.
It wasn’t until we started dating that I realized how brave and strong she is—especially with what she’d been through, being in an abusive relationship like Giselle had. It made my blood boil to imagine the silent suffering Kristen endured because of her ex.
“I never said she wasn’t.”
Giselle shot me a knowing look. “All right, fine. Don’t want to tell your sis too much about your love life. I know, I get it. I’m not a gossiping housewife you know. At least not yet anyway.”
“You started picking up knitting. I’m not willing to take that risk.”
She smiled. “Brady needs sweaters made from love. A boy can’t live on trains alone.”
“We can agree to disagree on that point,” I teased.
Giselle sighed. “You’re so fond of Brady. When are you going to have your own kid to spoil?”
I sputtered on my drink.
Kids were something I wanted badly, but it was too early in the relationship to discuss it. It was something I’d hoped for ever since Brady had been born. What I saw in him was what I’d been missing: something worth making money for. Something that made me think beyond the present. Long after I was done risking my life stupidly and working day and night on my company, he would be there, growing and living as I had. I wanted that.
Recovering, I responded, “When I’m with the right person. When the time is right for both of us.”
“Mmhmm. I’m not dumb, Vincent. I know you brought her over here for a reason. Maybe to evaluate her reaction around kids?”
Damn, Giselle was clever. I looked around the kitchen, making sure Kristen wasn’t within earshot. I could hear her playing with Brady and the other kids in the den. The sound of her laughing and making loud choo choo noises along with the kids made me feel warm and fuzzy.
I lowered my voice. “It’s too soon to talk about. Kristen and I have only been dating for two months.”
“I know. And yet you’ve brought her to meet me when you haven’t let me meet your other girlfriends. I know you’ve been in longer relationships than that.”
“Those weren’t serious.”
“Okay. And this one is? Despite being shorter?”
“Quality over quantity. As far as seriousness, it is on my end but we’ve had some rough patches recently.”
“I think she’s very serious about you.”
“Why do you say that? You guys only talked for a few minutes.”
“She seemed very interested in hearing about what I had to say about you.”
“Uh . . . what did you tell her?”
“Nothing scandalous.” Giselle smiled. “I told her about Mom and Dad and how you changed after that happened.”
“How did she react?”
“She seemed very interested in your story.”
“Makes sense considering we’re dating.”
“It’s more than that. I think she’s really into you, Vincent. I can’t put my finger on it but call it woman’s intuition. She’s probably already thinking about taking things further.”