She nodded.

“Did you leave a message?”

“Yeah.” She shrugged.

“What did you say?”

Her eyes scanned the room quickly and then returned to mine. “I just said that I couldn’t get a hold of you but that I needed to drop Matthew off early. Could he tell you to call me. Why?”

“I was just curious.” I shoved my hands in my back pockets and tried to act normal.

Taylor knew better. She narrowed her eyes at me and slowly turned her head, just a little. “What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing,” I lied. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. I can see it. Something’s up. Are you okay?”

My chin started to quiver and I felt myself losing control again. Keeping my composure was next to impossible when I was already upset and someone asked if I was okay. It was permission to my brain to open the floodgates and let it all back out, no matter how hard I tried to keep it in.

“No, you’re not okay,” she continued, her expression softening as she stepped forward. “What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing.” I waved, offering up another fake smile. “Really. I promise.”

She put her hands on my shoulders and stared me straight in the eye. “Nothing doesn’t make your chin quiver and nothing doesn’t bring tears to your eyes. Tell me.”

“Viper and I got into a fight—a big fight—and I told him to leave.” I struggled to get the words out and keep my sob in.

“I don’t understand.” She dropped her hands and shook her head slowly as her eyes searched my face. “You two never fight. What was it about?”

I wrapped my arms around myself to hide my shaking hands. “Uh . . . well . . . he found out I’m pregnant, and the news didn’t go as well as I was hoping.”

Her mouth fell open. “You’re pregnant?”

I swallowed hard and nodded.

“Congratulations!” she cheered and pulled me in for a hug. “I know you’re sad right now and we’ll get back to that, but I’m so happy for you and about this, so I just have to hug you first.”

Her reaction made me feel a thousand times better, but also made my cry harder. We stood in the foyer, her arms wrapped around me, as I sobbed and sobbed against her shoulder. After what felt like an hour, I pulled back and turned toward the powder room. I pulled a handful of tissues from the box and blew my nose. Then I grabbed another handful and wiped my eyes before returning to Taylor.

“Sorry about that.” I tried wiping my tears from her shirt but they’d already soaked in.

“Oh God, I don’t care about my shirt. I’m worried about you.”

She watched me like a hawk as I dabbed at my eyes again. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, the tears would not stop coming.

“Hang on one second, okay?” she said as she pulled her phone from her back pocket and stepped into the living room.

I walked to the back of the house to check on Matthew, hoping my meltdown hadn’t totally freaked him out. He was sitting on the couch, quietly playing a game on his Kindle as Maura leaned her head against his shoulder and watched him.

“Okay.” Taylor walked up behind me. “I called in.”

I spun to face her. “What? No! Don’t do that. I’m fine . . . I promise.”

“I’m sure you are,” she agreed. “But I’m going to help you out around here tonight just in case. We’re gonna feed these kiddos dinner in a while, tuck them into bed, and you’re going to fill me in on everything, got it?”

I nodded. “Thanks, Tay.”

“Anytime.” She gave me a tight smile and sat with the kids on the couch.

 

I looked past her into the kitchen and my eyes focused on Viper’s pill bottle on the island. As angry as I was at him for his reaction, I didn’t want him to be in pain all night. I picked up the bottle and read the label closely. “Every four hours . . .” I mumbled to myself as I glanced at the clock on the stove. He’d already been gone for almost five.

I won’t stop worrying all night if I don’t make sure.

I took out my phone and sent him a quick text.

Do you need your pain meds tonight?

 

My heart raced as I stared at the screen, waiting for his reply. I was mad as hell for the way he’d treated me, but that didn’t mean my feelings walked out the door with him. I still loved him a lot. More than anything, I wanted him to text and say that he needed the meds and would come back for them, then maybe stay and talk to me.

My phone lit up and I swiped the screen.

Viper: No

 

Gutted by his one-word text, I put my phone away and turned my attention back to Matthew and Maura. I’d spent most of the day crying and feeling sorry for myself, but I still had a few hours left before they went to bed to make up for it.

While Matthew and I played Candyland and Maura “helped,” Taylor nosed around my mostly empty kitchen to try and find something to make for dinner. It was no secret that cooking was just not my thing, even after Viper spent a year trying to teach me, so when she offered to whip something up, I didn’t argue.

Just as our third game was finishing, Taylor called us to the table.

“How did you do this?” My eyes took in everything she’d made in less than half an hour. There was a huge bowl of alfredo pasta with shredded chicken, a giant bowl of broccoli, and biscuits that were still steaming from the oven.

Taylor looked at the table and shrugged. “It really wasn’t hard.” Her eyes lifted to me and she giggled. “Close your mouth and sit down. You just need to practice. You’ll get it.”

I watched in awe as Matthew and Maura shoved bite after bite of noodles, chicken, and broccoli in their mouths without me begging them to eat. My appetite wasn’t near as large as theirs, but I ate a little and pushed the rest around my plate while we all talked.

After dinner, I gave the kids each a quick bath and dressed them in clean, cozy pajamas. I tucked them into bed and went back to the kitchen, surprised and relieved to find Taylor already had the table cleared off and dishwasher running.

“Wow.” I shook my head as I gawked at my sparkling kitchen. “I swear you were a mom of twelve in a past life.”

She let out a loud laugh as she pulled her hair wavy blonde hair up into a ponytail. “Well, let’s get this started. I’m probably going to want to stab him in the eye, but I want to hear what happened anyway. Let’s pour some wine—wait—pour me some wine and lay it all out.”