Aria parked in her usual spot, and we strode like gangbusters into the office. Few people emboldened me as much as Aria. We had met through friends when I was trying to get away from Jinx’s dad, and we’d been friends ever since.
Aria went back to start her important job as I sat behind the front desk, preparing for another thrilling day of answering phones and fielding appointments and questions. Some of which really could come right out of the clear blue sky.
It was nearing nine when Jinx strolled in, probably on a coffee break from his fancy advertising job. I tried to dismiss it, but the truth was I was really impressed. He had really pulled himself together from where he was the last time I saw him.
I had already stood, trying to get out before Gabe, my boss, could see what was going on. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my boss. He was very likable. The problem was that he liked me a bit too much in a way I wasn’t really able to reciprocate. I had no idea how he would act seeing me around a man.
I froze, my mind immediately going to war with itself. Most of it yelling at me to tell Jinx to fuck off. The other, smaller part — that remembered what we once had — pleading that we should give him a chance. I compromised by staying still and giving my ex my best ‘fuck off’ glare, hoping he would get the message.
Jinx started talking, but I didn’t respond. The angrier part of me was willfully ignoring him until he literally started to yell. I knew I had to put a stop to that if I wanted to keep my job.
“All right, what?” Jinx asked, sounding genuinely confused.
“I’ll go to lunch with you. Though be warned, I’m still furious and could go off at any moment. The timer is ticking, bucko.”
“Understood,” he said, bowing slightly.
“Is everything okay out here?” Gabe asked, coming out of the back office.
He took a look at Jinx and backed up a bit, making a noise somewhere between a gasp and a gulp. It could have been the Misfits T-shirt with the giant, sinister-looking skull on it, though I guessed that Jinx’s rather imposing frame also had something to do with it. The boy worked out, that much was clear, and genetics had been generous in terms of height as well. I would be lying if I said the T-shirt and jeans he was wearing didn’t give me a flashback to high school.
Gabe was sweet and protective, if a little pushy, and great with Billy. Though he didn’t make my heart skip a beat like Jinx did — even though I had all but written him out of my life.
“Yes, everything is fine,” I said brightly, eyeing my ex to try to keep him quiet.
“Great, I got this for Billy,” Gabe said, holding out a little, custom made teddy bear.
“Oh, thank you!” I said, with extra mustard as I went over to accept the gift.
My enthusiasm was partly for show, but it was also an adorable bear. Way nicer than anything I could ever afford.
“Would you like to go to lunch with me?”
“Sorry, I have plans,” I said, hearing the door close behind me.
I had expected it to slam, but it just re-set itself gently. Maybe Jinx really had changed.
I was dreading lunch. Jinx had mentioned a nearby cafe while I had still been trying to ignore him, but the name had gotten through anyway. I was ready to be mad. Part of me still really hated him for abandoning me like that, but the part that still remembered how things had been was growing in strength. There was sure to be a battle royale sometime soon.
When I saw the new teddy bear sitting next to Jinx at the table, the never again side got a boost. I could hardly believe he was being so petty.
“Seriously, dude?” I asked, sitting down, staring at the bear.
“Yeah, by about a hundred percent,” I argued.
He shrugged, the fire never leaving his brown eyes. “I guess I didn’t like the idea of another guy buying my son nice things.”
My temper spiked, and I crossed my arms. “You made your thoughts clear last night. You get no say.”
“A DNA test and the courts will say different,” he said, without a trace of the smugness I expected.
“Really? We’re doing that?”
“No, we’re not. I’m really sorry about how I reacted. It’s also not an excuse, but I was just really shocked to find out I had a son. It seemed so big, you know? Our combined genetic code going into a completely separate human being. I needed some time to process.”
“I wouldn’t run away,” I lied, not knowing that at all.
“Really?” he asked pointedly.