“Noah,” I whined. “The wedding is tomorrow.”

Carson had done exactly what we asked him to. He came home, he brought Alia, and he trusted us to get everything sorted out, but it was the day before the wedding and I still had no answers.

“I know,” Noah said. “I’m sorry. Derek is waiting on one call that could confirm everything, but the person is ducking him. He’s going to have a colleague call in the morning and trick him into answering. Please just stall until then.”

I hung up my phone, exhausted and, above that, pissed off. I couldn’t believe that someone could honestly manipulate someone like that, and drag a poor baby into it. Didn’t that child deserve to know who its actual dad was?

Carson walked into the bar, the same one where we’d first met. I asked him to sneak away from Alia for a few minutes to grab a quick drink with me. I was hoping I’d have better news, but now I had my back up against the wall. As he sat down on the stool next to me, he just looked exhausted and broken. It made me want to punch Alia in the face.

“Hey,” I greeted.

“I don’t have much time,” Carson said. “I called Ian and Ryland earlier, but I wanted to tell you in person. This is going to happen. I’m sorry.”

“Carson, you can’t let her do this to us. What about me? Don’t you want to be with me?” I asked.

Carson looked at me with desperation in his eyes. “I would love nothing more, but I’m stuck. I’m the one who made this dumb mistake and my child doesn’t deserve to suffer because of it. Even if it wasn’t about doing the right thing, I could never trust Alia to let me see my child if we aren’t married. I’m sorry, but this is the way it has to be. I even checked what you were saying with the hospital that issued the test and they confirmed it was real.” He grabbed my hand and kissed the back of it. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not,” I said sadly. “I know it isn’t, I just need a little more time.”

“I knew it.” Carson and I looked up and Alia was storming into the bar. She wedged herself physically between Carson and I, bringing her face so close to mine, I could headbutt her, and I would if she weren’t pregnant. “I thought I told you to stay away from him.”

“You’re a liar and I’m going to prove it,” I hissed back.

I prepped myself to go toe to toe with her, but I saw Carson’s pleading look from behind her and stood down. He was already so stressed out, and I didn’t need to add to it. I let our eye contact linger for a few more seconds before I finally stood up and walked out.

Carson

I sat with my head in hands, unsure of what to do, or if there was anything to do. I was going to have to marry Alia. I considered setting her up with a few million dollars for our child, put it in a bank trust so she could only withdraw expenses for the baby, and send her off to some island to live and leave her alone, but that wouldn’t be fair to the baby. I feel backed into a corner.

“I’m ready.” I looked up and Alia was standing there with a white dress on and a small bouquet of flowers in her hand. “You look nice,” she told me.

I had put on a suit for the occasion, I was getting married after all. Well, for the first time. Alia had revealed to me that she just wanted to get married legally for now, but that we would have another, complete ceremony for friends and family in Malibu, sometime after the baby was born.

“Okay. Let’s go,” I said, standing up and grabbing my keys.

“You don’t have to look so miserable,” Alia said. “We’re getting married, not picking out plots.”

That’s what it felt like to me. “I’m just tired,” I said.

We loaded into my car, with me hoping that I would get struck by lightning before we got to the courthouse, when I got a call. I could see on the panel on my car that it was Ryland. Alia sucked her teeth.

“It’s my job,” I said as I answered the call. “Hello?”

“Carson, I need you to come into the office right away,” Ryland said.

“Right now?” I replied, side-eyeing Alia. “I’m kind of busy.”

“I understand, I apologize for interrupting your plans, but I promise, it’s of the utmost importance. A major investor is about to back out because he hasn’t heard from you in weeks. Please, we could go under without this money.”

I looked over at Alia and she was leering back at me. I shrugged and finally she nodded with a huff. “I’m on my way. Alia’s with me.”

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