Gavin, Matthew, and Maura ran off to the playroom and we both sat at the messy, empty table, too stuffed to move.

“That . . . was unbelievable,” I said with a happy sigh.

He looked over and arched a brow at me. “We’re not done.”

“We’re not?”

“Nope.” His lips curled into a sexy grin and for the first time, I noticed a small dimple in his left cheek. “We still have pumpkin pie.”

I lifted my arms on the table and groaned as I dropped my head on top of them. “I don’t think I can.”

“Come on, champ.” He laughed and walked around behind me, massaging my shoulders like a boxing coach does to his fighter. “I have faith. You can do it.”

“I think if I try, you’ll have to wheel me to the hospital.”

He let go of my shoulders and took a few steps toward the kitchen. “Okay, fine. More for me then. I’m gonna grab some wine. You want some?”

I didn’t lift my head but my eyes shot open. “Uh . . . no. I’m good. Thanks.”

“Okay, be right back.”

 

As soon as I heard the fridge open, I sat up straight and my mind raced. Obviously Jodi hadn’t told him that I was pregnant or he wouldn’t have offered me wine. Should I tell him? Should I not? And why the hell was I so nervous and freaking out about it?

He set the glass down and sat back in his chair. “Boy, we have a mess to clean up, huh?”

“I’m pregnant,” I blurted out, then cringed at how crazy he must have thought I was.

“Uh . . . okay,” he said with wide eyes as he stared down at the table. “Well, I can clean the mess by myself then, that’s fine.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I blurted it out like that and I probably could’ve done it in a more tactful way but you asked if I wanted wine and I can’t have wine and then you came back and out it flew,” I rambled until I ran out of breath.

“Michelle . . .” He leaned forward on his elbows. “Slow down. I’m glad you told me, so please don’t worry about the way you told me.”

“Thanks,” I said softly, staring down at my lap.

“At least that explains the twelve pounds of mashed potatoes you ate,” he teased with a wink.

“Shut up!” I crumpled up my napkin and threw it at him.

We left the mess on the table and moved to the family room to talk, where I filled him in on almost everything that had happened with Viper. I told him about how he’d been acting weird after his surgery and how he was less than thrilled about my pregnancy, but I left out the really bad parts because, for some reason, I just didn’t want anyone else thinking he was a horrible person, even if I did.

When I finished, he stared at me with raised eyebrows and a dazed look on his face. “Wow. So how long has it been since you’ve talked him?”

“Mmmm.” I closed one eye and looked up at the ceiling, trying to figure out when he left. “It’s been just about a month.”

“And he hasn’t contacted you at all?”

“Kinda. He sent a text once and apologized, and Gam says he asks her about me, but that’s about it.”

“I don’t even know what to say.”

“Don’t say anything.” I shook my head quickly. “That’s my story. It’s out there now. It’s over. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Okay.” He nodded. “I just want to say one thing and then I promise I won’t bring it up again, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed reluctantly.

“You have my number now. If you need anything, and I mean anything, I want you to use it. I’m right across the street and can be here in ten seconds if I need to be, fifteen if I have to put pants on first.”

I giggled. “Well, it’s about to be winter in Minnesota, so pants would probably be a good idea if you’re going outside.”

“True. Freezing cold air and naked dudes don’t go well together, and I certainly don’t want anyone spreading that rumor.”

My shoulders shook as I laughed again . . . hard. It felt good to laugh.

 

Joel kept his promise and didn’t bring up my situation, or Viper, again. We small-talked for a few more hours, then pried the boys apart after they’d fallen asleep in Matthew’s bed together. He slung Gavin over his shoulder and made his way to the front door.

“Thanks for having us,” he turned and said.

“Are you kidding? Thank you for the amazing dinner. To think we almost ended up with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of all that.” I laughed.

He tilted his head to the side and gave a little shrug as his eyes locked on mine. “It still would have been worth it.”

My pulse sped up and suddenly I wanted him to leave. Fast. I put my hand up on the edge of the door and pulled it a couple of inches toward me, hoping he’d get the hint. “Okay, well I’m gonna call it a night. I’m pooped.”

“Me, too. Thanks again.” Moving quickly, he reached down with his free arm and wrapped it around my waist, pulling me in for a tight hug against him. I rested my hand on his shoulders and squeezed back as I forced air in and out of my lungs. After a few seconds, he let go and walked out the door.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” he called out as he stepped off the front porch, totally unaware that he’d just made my heart skip thirty-seven beats.

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.”

 

 

For the first time in my whole life, I spent Thanksgiving alone. In the past, if I wasn’t out on the road with the team, I was at Gam’s, but this year was just . . . different. Gam had invited me over, and I’d initially said yes, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to leave my house. I didn’t want to lie and say I was thankful for anything because I wasn’t.

I was miserable.

I missed Michelle and the kids so bad that my chest ached when I thought about them. I wondered what they were doing every second of every day. On Thanksgiving morning, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I got in my car and drove to her house, where I parked a couple houses down while I thought of what the fuck I was going to say when I knocked on the door. I sat there for over an hour, playing scenario after scenario over in my head and nothing I came up with saying even came close to how I was actually feeling. All that popped into my head was that she didn’t answer my last text. I didn’t blame her for ignoring me, God knows I deserved it, but maybe it was too late. The thought of never being able to hold Michelle again, make love to her again, lie in bed and have her put her cold feet on me again . . . it was crushing.