“Gina, why’d you hang up on him?”
Gina’s eyes gleamed with mischief. Then she frowned, her chubby face twisting in innocence and confusion. When she cocked her head playfully, her rhinestone tiara toppled to one side.
She was wearing her blue satin princess costume, and Regina’s dark Ray-Bans. Only the overlarge shades were upside down and hovering on the tip of her nose, about to fall off as the child bit off another chunk of chocolate chip cookie.
The babies’ cries turned to screams in their cribs.
“You shouldn’t have grabbed the phone. My friend will think I hung up on him.”
Gina shrugged and chomped off more cookie. “We can call him back!” She threw up her hands.
“And no more cookies, young lady, for either one of us.”
Clutching the remnants of her cookie, Gina raced to a far corner. When it came to chocolate chip cookies, Gina did not have a stop button.
The babies were still yelling and Regina was leaning down to pick up the tray and all the spilled cookies, when the doorbell rang.
Regina ran for the door and peeped through the window shade.
Regina flung the door open and hugged her radiant pregnant friend before allowing her to waddle across the threshold.
“Chocolate chip! My favorite!”
“Join the club.”
Lucy plucked a cookie off the tray. “What’s all the ruckus?”
“Thank goodness, you’re here. I’m pretty overwhelmed. Watch Gina while I change the babies.”
Lucy ran a hand through her short, spiky red hair. “There was an accident on Lamar. The traffic was horrible.”
Gina smiled coyly at Lucy from her corner.
“What have you got there, Princess?”
Tina opened her mouth, displaying her tongue and chewedup cookie.
“Are you a princess today?”
“My favorite fairy tale. Do you want me to read it to you?”
“I can read it myself.”
Ten minutes later, each woman had a baby guzzling a bottle in her lap while Gina sat on the floor at their feet with her dolls and books, waiting to be read a story.
“I can’t wait for mine to be born,” Lucy said. “Babies are so sweet.”
“But trouble. Lots of trouble.”
“They’re worth it.” Lucy petted Dino’s dark head. “Aren’t you a cutie-pie?”
Now that the children were temporarily under control, Regina remembered Nico’s aborted call and wondered if he was okay. She’d bought all the tabloids that had stories about his romance with Viola. Prince and princess: they sounded perfect for each other.
Why had he called her?
Don’t think about him.
I can’t help it.
Yes, you can. You can do anything you want to do.
You should start dating again.
Not until I find a new job.
She should never have risked her position by speaking so recklessly without another job. Just thinking about that depressed her. If only she had a plan.
Forget Nico. Get a job. Pay your bills. That’s a plan.
“We’ve hardly talked since you got back from Italy,” Lucy said.
“I’ve been busy…. Work.” Technically, Regina was still earning a salary since she’d been given two weeks’ severance.
“You never told me about the gigolo.”
“He wasn’t a gigolo.”
“He was a real guy, huh? And you had a real date?”
“I—I can’t talk about him right now.”
“That good, huh?”
“I hate the way you think you can see straight through me.”
“The way I think…ha!”
“It was a dream. I woke up. I’m here, and he’s there, and that’s the end of it.”
Lucy’s eyebrows flew together. “I don’t mean to criticize, but sometimes your devious lawyer mind is too smart for your britches.”
“Are you in love with him?”
“I said quit!”
Lucy wouldn’t stop looking at her, so, of course, she saw Regina’s telltale blush.
“It wouldn’t have worked. He’s Italian.”
“And what are you? Italian-American!”
“We’re completely different, okay? Not possible!”
“Nothing is impossible,” Lucy said. “Look at me. I finally got pregnant.”
“You, you’re a walking miracle.”
“Your turn will come. So, if the gigolo-guy’s a no-go, have you thought any more about E-321 and maybe having that little half brother or sister for my baby?”
Regina shook her head. “I’m not ready. Neither is my family. I’ve got some bills. Italy…” She thought about Nico and blurted, “I’m just not ready to have anyone else’s baby.”