“Your Honor,” Max begins, “in light of this unusual situation, I’ll ask you again if you’ll consider granting a continuance so we may be better prepared.”
Considering his earlier refusal, I’m surprised when the judge says, “I think these are indeed special circumstances, Counselor. We’ll reconvene here at nine in one week.” When Max opens his mouth, possibly to ask for more time, the judge adds, “That’s all the leeway I can offer. A young woman’s care is at stake here. I’m sure you’ll agree that her needs take precedence at this time.” Monique and her lawyer stand, leaving the room quickly. She probably hopes not to be waylaid by any of us on her way out.
Max, Aidan, and I are slower to depart, still reeling from what has just transpired. We’re on the courthouse steps before Aidan finally says, “What in the fucking hell just happened in there?”
Max shakes his head. “My investigator called me right before I got here. I was hoping to catch you both before earlier, but no such luck.”
“There is no way that I believe all of this is a coincidence. Monique goes after both Aidan and me, even though she knows our connection to Cassie. She sought us out after finding out who we were,” I snap, needing an outlet for my frustration.
“I agree.” Aidan nods. “This is all some kind of game to her. We just need to figure out what her goal is before next week.”
Max looks at his watch and then nudges me in the shoulder. “Hey, Lia’s graduation begins in less than an hour. It’ll probably take close to that to get through the traffic, park, and find a seat.”
“Let’s go.” Aidan starts walking toward where we’ve parked our cars on the street. “I don’t want to piss the little momma off and put her into labor. Come on, I’ll drive. We need to regroup before we get there because, right now, we look like someone took a serious dump in our oatmeal.”
“That’s lovely imagery, Aidan. Thanks,” Max says dryly as he gets into the backseat of Aidan’s BMW. I take the passenger side and do my best to shake off my foul mood. Aidan is right, this is Lia’s day, and I don’t want any shadows over it. She’s worked too hard and deserves to bask in her accomplishments for one day before I heap more of my fucked-up life on her tomorrow. Maybe everyone has a point. I should marry her now before she wises up and runs like hell.
I feel a hand on my shoulder as a voice says near my ear, “How’re my girls doing?” I turn and Lucian immediately pulls me into his arms and drops a kiss on my head.
“I was starting to wonder if you were going to make it,” I tease, even though I had actually been getting a little nervous. Lucian is so much a part of my life that I can’t imagine celebrating this milestone without him. He’s smiling gently down at me, but his body feels tense against mine. It makes me more determined than ever to find out what’s been bothering him the last few days. We promised no more secrets between us and I intend to see that he honors that.
I hear a throat clear behind me and then Aidan is there, pulling me from Lucian’s arms. “Release your woman so I can give her a big, inappropriately long hug of congratulations.” I giggle as Lucian scowls. For a moment, I feel like a Raggedy Ann doll as Lucian holds one hand while Aidan pulls on the other.
Rose steps up and throws an arm around Lucian’s shoulders, distracting him sufficiently for Aidan to tug me away. “Come on, Quinn, I’ll give you a hug so you won’t feel left out.” When he throws a disgruntled look at Aidan, Rose laughs and says, “I know I’m a poor substitute for Lia, but could you at least try to act excited about it?” I giggle as Rose fans herself dramatically over Lucian’s shoulder. For the first time, I notice Max standing off to the side not looking in the least amused over Rose’s silent praise of Lucian’s hotness.
When Aidan releases me, I immediately walk over to Max and give him a hug as well. “It’s so good to see you again,” I say and mean it. In the time Lucian and I have been together, I’ve grown very fond of his friends.
“You look beautiful, Lia,” he says as he indicates my baby bump. “That looks good on you,” and then pointing to Lucian he adds, “and on him as well.”
I feel my cheeks flushing as I say shyly, “Thanks, Max.” I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this group of good-looking men that now seem to be family to me. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they simply ooze power and confidence as they harass each other good-naturedly. I see Rose and Max trying their best not to stare at each other and wonder what will become of them. At the very least, there’s a wild attraction there. Lucian doesn’t want me to interfere, but how am I supposed to sit by and watch my friend let what I suspect would be the best thing to ever happen to her get away?
“There she is.” I turn to see my father, Lee Jacks, walking toward me with his brother Peter and a dark-haired woman I don’t immediately recognize following closely behind.
I give him a smile of genuine pleasure as he clasps me to him for a moment before Peter does the same. “I’m so glad you could come,” I enthuse. Lee had seemed so touched when I’d invited him while we were having breakfast one morning. He’d held the invitation in his hands as if it were something far more valuable than just a piece of paper with some writing on it.
Lee gives me a look full of admiration as he says, “There is no way I’d miss your graduation. I’m so proud of you.”