“Hello?” I grumbled.

“Hey, it’s Noah.”

I sat on the bed, energy shooting into me. “Oh my gosh, hi. What have you been able to find out?”

“Derek says it definitely looks suspicious, but he needs to look into it more first and get something concrete. He could risk his entire career if he invalidated something like this and it turned out to be legit,” Noah explained.

“I understand completely. Does he have any idea how long it could take?” I asked.

“No, I’m sorry. He’s working as fast as he can, but he’s gotta make some calls and talk to a few people, and that’s between shifts, so it could be a while,” Noah said.

I sighed. Carson was on the edge with this woman already, I didn’t know that we had much time. “Okay, please just impress how important it is to him and if there’s anything else we can do to speed the process along, let me know.”

“I will. Keep your head up, girl. We’ll figure this out,” Noah replied.

“Thanks, Noah. Coffee on me when I get back,” I said. “Bye.”

“Bye.”

I ended the call and looked over and Ian was watching me with peaked brows. “Well?”

“Nothing new yet,” I said. “He said it looks suspicious, but he needs to be sure.”

“So do we,” Ian replied. He held out his arms and I crawled back into bed with him. He rubbed my hair gently and I started to doze off again. “What is he going to do if it’s real?” he asked eventually. “What are we going to do?”

I shook my head. That thought had been a steel deposit in my stomach ever since I saw Alia’s pregnant belly. “I have no idea.”

We stayed in California for a few more days with the hope that Carson would reach out, but he never did. We went back to Vegas and tried to proceed, business as usual, but neither myself, Ian nor Ryland could focus much. Any attempts to reach Carson were falling on deaf ears and close to two weeks had passed and we’d heard nothing from him nor had Derek figure out the paternity test yet. It felt like we were fighting a losing battle.

Finally, while I was with Ian and Ryland one day, I got a text from Carson wondering if we were together. When I confirmed that we were, he called.

I answered, my heart racing. “Hey!” I greeted.

“Carson, gde, chert voz’mi, ty byl?” Ian hissed.

“In English,” Carson responded.

“Fine, where the fuck have you been?” Ryland barked. He and Ian were nearly as upset as I was, if not more so.

“I’m sorry, to all of you. This has been really crazy, and I guess I’ve been avoiding you three because I was dreading this moment,” Carson said.

“What moment?” I asked.

Carson let out a deep sigh. “I have to pull myself out of this relationship.”

“What? Why?” I replied, sadness filling my body in an instant.

“Alia wants to get married,” Carson replied.

All three of our jaws dropped through the floor. It was like someone had come in and dropped boulders over all of our heads.

“You can’t be serious,” Ian said. “You can’t marry her. She’s horrible.”

“She doesn’t want to have a child out of wedlock, and to be honest, neither do I,” Carson said. “Children are supposed to have a family. Two parents who are married and can raise them in a stable home. We want to make things official within five days so we can start applying for licenses and insurance and all of that.”

“Carson, now isn’t the time for your righteous, rule-binding bullshit,” Ryland snapped. “Do you have any idea what you’re suggesting? You’re going to marry a woman you don’t love just to raise a baby you aren’t even sure is yours?”

“Did you guys not tell Ryland about the test?” Carson asked.

“We did, but Carson, that test is fake,” Ian spat out.

I eyed them both angrily. The plan wasn’t to make that accusation until after we were certain.

“What?” Carson asked.

I growled a little at Ryland and Ian, but ultimately decided it was best for me to take over. “We weren’t going to say anything until we had proof, but the paper that Alia gave you is fake.”

“You can prove that?” Carson said.

“No, not yet, but… Look, do you trust me? Us?” I asked.

Carson was silent for a while. “I do.”

“Then come back to Vegas. Tell Alia you want to get married here and bring her with you. I promise before you actually tie the knot, we’ll have proof that test was forged,” I explained.

“Sascha,” Carson murmured.

“Carson, just do what she says!” Ian freaked out.

“There’s nothing wrong with being in Vegas, just come home, and for fuck’s sake answer your goddamn phone!” Ryland joined in.

“Okay,” Carson said, a small chuckle in his voice that made me feel a bit better. “Okay, I’ll come home. I just hope you guys know what you’re doing.”

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