“All of the above,” I said, half kidding, half not.

“Better in your belly than in the garbage.” She leaned against the counter with one hand and started taking containers out of the fridge with the other.

Kat hurried over and took the food out of her hand. “Let me do that for you.”

“No, I got it,” Gam said stubbornly.

Kat tilted her head to the side and glared at Gam, who retreated like a little kid.

“How’s therapy going?” she asked as she sat down next to me.

“Good. Really good, actually.” I tore the corner off an envelope that was sitting on the table and rolled it in between my fingers. “My therapist is a dude named Sherman. I thought I was gonna hate him, but something about him is just . . . different.”

“Different good?” Gam took a sip of the iced tea that she’d brought with her from the family room. At least I thought it was iced tea, but with Gam you never knew.

“Yeah. For sure. He’s a fun guy.”

“Fun is good.”

“Fun is good,” I agreed. “As long as he’s kicking my ass back into shape so I can go be fun on the ice, that’s all I care about.”

“You’ll be back out there in no time.”

The microwave beeped, and Kat took out the hot plate and set it in front of me.

“Thanks,” I mumbled without looking up at her.

“Want some root beer, too?” she asked nonchalantly.

Gam’s head swooped up to Kat with a frown. “How did you know he likes root beer?”

Kat froze as her mouth dropped, her eyes darting back and forth between Gam and me. “Um . . . I . . .”

“She was in the kitchen the other day when I got one out of the fridge,” I answered for her.

Idiot. Why did you do that? That was your chance to let the cat out of the bag so Kat could walk out the door.

“I see.” Gam nodded, content with that answer. “I keep it in my fridge all the time for him. Nobody loves root beer like my Lawrence.” She reached over and playfully pinched my cheek as I shoveled a forkful of spaghetti into my mouth.

As I chewed, my eyes followed Kat, who hurried to the fridge and returned with a bottle of cold root beer. She gave me a small smile and a quick wink as she set it down.

“I’m gonna go change your sheets,” she said as she rested her hand on Gam’s shoulder. “Unless you want me to do something else instead?”

“Nope. That’s wonderful. Thank you!” Gam rested her hand on Kat’s and beamed up at her.

I waited until Kat was out of earshot. “How are things going? With her?”

“With Kat? Oh, they’re so great.” There was a softness, a contentment, in her voice that I didn’t hear often. “When I found out that you’d hired a nurse, I was irritated and so hesitant about this whole thing, but she’s more than a nurse. She helps me pick up, she takes me places, she keeps me company. I’m so glad she’s here, Lawrence.”

As bad as I wanted Kat gone, it was obvious how happy Gam was to have her around, and Gam’s happiness was the most important thing. That meant Kat was there to stay.

 

 

It had been three days and not a word from Viper. I picked up my phone to text him at least a hundred times, but every time I pulled his name up, I got mad all over again and put my phone away.

I’d been to my first doctor appointment, and while it was too early to hear the heartbeat, I did see it on the ultrasound. Even though it was a tiny, grainy white blob, my baby’s first picture hung proudly on the fridge. Thankfully Matthew hadn’t noticed and asked about it yet, and I had no idea what I was going to tell him when he did, but I needed to figure it out fast. The one thing he had noticed was that Viper was gone.

“Momma, did Viper go on a plane to play hockey?” he asked as I sat on the couch folding tiny pairs of Thomas the Tank Engine underwear.

“No, buddy. Viper went to his house for a few days,” I answered as nonspecifically as I could.

“Oh.” His eyes dropped to the coffee table and thought about what I’d said. I braced myself for more questions but was grateful when he decided to run off to the playroom down the hall instead.

“Shhhh! Maura’s taking her afternoon nap,” I called after him.

Kacie had called a couple of times over the last few days, but I’d avoided her. I’d been avoiding everyone, really. I didn’t know what to say or what to think, but as she called again, I knew I couldn’t avoid her anymore.

“Hello?”

“Hey! What’s going on? Where have you been?”

“Hey. I’ve been here, just busy. How about you?” Every nerve in my body was on high alert. I had no idea if Viper had talked to Brody and told him anything, but if Brody knew, Kacie knew.

“We’ve been busy, too, but we’re hanging in there. How’s Viper?”

Kacie wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. If she knew something was up, she wouldn’t have asked how he was.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” I answered with a big sigh as I sat back against the couch.

“What does that mean?” she asked, her tone turning serious.

I turned and peeked over the couch to make sure Matthew wasn’t anywhere near me. “We had a fight—a big fight—a couple days ago, and he left.”

“Wait. He left? Left where?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t talked since.”

“Holy shit! What did you fight about?”

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, knowing I needed to just let it out. “I found out I’m pregnant, and the news didn’t go over so well on his end.”

“You’re pregnant?” she asked softly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t tell anyone. I’ve been so preoccupied with Gam, then Viper, and everything just kinda ran together, and it was never a good time.”

“Well . . . congratulations. I’m happy for you!” I could tell she was grinning by the tone in her voice. Kacie was a true friend who would always have my back, no matter what. “I can’t wait to squeeze that little nugget. When are you due?”

“Not till June. I’m only eight weeks.”

“So what happened when you told him?”