Those were thoughts that had haunted her over the last few days – if she were being honest with herself. But she had a plan. It was all still forming and taking shape in her mind, but she had a path.

“I’m going to take some time off for a few years until the twins go to preschool. Then, I’ll finish college and go on to my Ph.D.”

“And what if you never go back? And did you really just say ‘twins’? Jesus Christ.”

She blinked back tears. No. Jessica refused to be that upset in front of her dad. Dammit. He’d always understood before, been her rock since her mom moved to San Francisco. Why couldn’t he understand how important this was to her now?

Even though she struggled to say even-keeled, her voice broke as she talked. Jessica tried to speed up her words, so she’d fall apart less. “Dad, this is happening. I’m pregnant. Brent’s the father, and you’re going to have to accept that.”

Her father stalked over to the kitchen island and picked up the takeout box. Trudging to the refrigerator, he shoved it in and then slammed the door. “We’re done here tonight. I… Jessica, you ruined your life. I let you do that. Worse, I’m the one who sent you to his office. Your schooling, your dream… your everything just gone and I helped do that to you.”

Tears fell down her cheeks no matter how hard she tried to fight them. “I can have a new plan. Brent, Cara, the twins… they’re all part of that. A better path.”

“But it’s not what I wanted for you, and until now, it wasn’t what you wanted for yourself.”

“My next ultrasound is tomorrow. We wanted it to be for family. Cara’s coming, too. Daddy, please. I really want you there.”

“How can I do that?” he asked, yanking on his hair. “When I get near Brent, I want to punch him. Hell, I have punched him.”

Her heart sank. “What?”

“I confronted him first – got a few blows to his jaw before he stopped me. That was before I knew he’d ruined your life,” her father finished, gesturing to her stomach. “I can’t… How can I just go there tomorrow with a smile on my face?”

“For me,” she offered, her chin wobbling.

“That’s why I can’t go – because I can’t condone this, not when he’s robbed you of everything.”

Jessica couldn’t take anymore. After rushing to the front room, she grabbed her purse, then ran to the front door, wrenching it open. Her father was hot on her heels. Reaching out, he put a strong hand on her shoulder, one that would have comforted her years ago. Hell, one that would have comforted her a week ago before everything changed.

“Stay, sweetheart. You need a few days to get a clear head, to think about adoption… to… I don’t know. Don’t let your life get derailed because of a mistake.”

She shook her head and pulled away from him. “You don’t understand. This isn’t an accident or mistake,” Jessica replied, cradling her belly with her free hand. “This is a miracle, and I’m embracing that.”

He put his hands on his hips. “Then I can’t do that, can’t help you anymore.”

“Goodbye, Dad,” she said, hurrying out the door before her tears blinded her.


“I can’t believe it.” She was curled up in Brent’s arms in bed.

Cara was spending the night at a friend’s house – had offered to after she’d seen how upset Jessica was when she got home. Jess was grateful – both that middle school was being kind to Cara and that she was already making real friends, and that the girl cared enough about her to give her space. Jessica and Brent hadn’t had sex. God, it was the last thing she wanted in the world. However, he’d taken her to bed and now was lying next to her, almost bracing her with his body and trying to protect her from the world around her.

Cinnamon and cloves tickled her nose, reminded her she had a place she belonged, even if it hadn’t been the place she’d started out at five months ago.

Still, her father should have understood, should have accepted her. He’d always been there for her before, and now it made no sense that he’d abandon her at this point in her life. It ached. God, how everything ached – her bones, her chest, even her very heart. It was all shaking apart, torn asunder, and Jessica had no idea how to fix any of it.

Maybe there was no way back.

“Maybe I can talk with him again,” Brent said.

“No, Dad wants to punch you again on sight. He said so. He might even kick you a few times in the balls for good measure.”

Brent winced involuntarily at that. “Well, I wouldn’t want that. I can say, I think I’m done for the children-having, but I rather like my balls.”