Gripping the rusty metal railing, she slowly started down the stairs, her pulse fluttering with each step she took. By the time she made it to the sand, Gavin stood from the bench, catching her gaze. In an instant, Emily froze, her breath faltering. As the waves kicked up, pounding against the pier, she watched Gavin make his way toward her. He shoved his hands in his pockets, his eyes locking on hers as he stopped a few feet away. Even with distance separating them, Emily could feel his heart burning through her, felt the undeniable connection they shared.
“I love you, Emily Cooper.” He paused, looked at the ground, then back to her. “I think I loved you before I knew you existed.” His voice was so soft, Emily could barely hear him. He stepped closer and brought his hand to her cheek, his touch gentle as his blue eyes caressed hers. “I’m pretty sure you were in my dreams before you walked into my life. I felt it the first time I saw you. You pulled at me. Took hold of my heart and never let go. Even if you had, I wouldn’t have let you. I wouldn’t have been able to. Something about you was… familiar, and it scared the shit out of me, but I knew somehow we needed one another. I’ve never been a man who believed in any type of fate. I considered it fluffy bullshit women read in romance novels, but sitting down here for the last couple of hours, I started thinking about you and me. Our romance. Our novel.” Once again he paused, his head tilted as he wiped away a tear that’d trickled down her cheek. “Did you know I was supposed to go on that trip to Ohio with Trevor when you were in school?”
“I did,” she whispered. Though her nerves started to calm, she wasn’t sure if this was his goodbye. “Olivia told me.”
“Right.” Stepping closer, he wrapped his arm around her waist and brushed his lips against hers. “You were never supposed to be with Dillon. You were always supposed to wind up with me, but fate interrupted us for a while. This baby may not be mine, but it’s a piece of something I need in my life. Something I’ll cherish even after I’m long gone. I wasn’t kidding when I said the good, the bad, and the in between. This is just our… in between right now.” A small cry escaped Emily’s lips, and God, Gavin’s heart broke. Melted. “Standing here before you tonight, I give you my word as a man, as your friend, and as your lover, if this baby isn’t mine, I’ll love it no less than I do the angel carrying it. I can’t tell you I’m not scared because that would be a lie, and I promised you I’d never lie to you. I’m scared to death, and I know you are too. So, Miss Cooper, if you’ll forgive me for acting like an asshole by leaving you alone while I got my head on straight, the next few months, you and I are going to be absolutely scared to fucking death together. No matter what, we’ll figure it out. Sound like a deal?”
Body warm and breath stolen, Emily nodded and pulled him down to her mouth. She’d stepped out of her sister’s home swimming in a sea of hurt and confusion. But now, as she stood on this beautiful Christmas night kissing the man who would stay by her side through anything, she was drowning in a sea of relief so deep, words couldn’t even begin to describe it.
The New Year had come and gone, bringing with it a mountain of emotions for Emily. As she sat in her doctor’s office, holding Gavin’s hand, Emily couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for her mother when she’d found out she was pregnant with her. Given her father started showing signs of abuse somewhat late in their marriage, Emily’s mother never hid the fact that Emily was an unplanned pregnancy. Her intentions were to leave Emily’s father shortly before she found out she was having another baby with him. Nonetheless, she always told Emily she was the greatest surprise of her life. That simple statement rang loud in Emily’s ears as the receptionist called her up to the window to fill out paperwork.
“Do you want me to go with you?” Gavin asked as she rose from her chair.
Emily shook her head, trying to ignore her full bladder that’d just screamed out in pain. “No, I’m good. It’ll just take a second.”
After reaching for her purse, Emily made her way to the window. While waiting for the blonde, bobbed-hair girl to finish up a call she’d taken, Emily glanced around the small office at the other couples waiting to be seen. Emily wondered if any of them were in the same situation as her and Gavin. From their smiles, she highly doubted it. On a sigh, she rummaged through her purse, plucking out her insurance card and license.
“Sorry about that. It was my boyfriend,” the receptionist squeaked, sliding a clipboard through the window. “If nothing’s changed, you can just sign at the bottom, and Dr. Richards will be with you shortly.”
“I have a new insurance carrier, and my home address has changed.” Emily handed her the card and license. After snapping her gum, the girl rolled her eyes, flipped her hair, and turned to go make copies. Emily shook her head at the obvious lack of professionalism. When the girl finally returned, she slipped them back through the window, and Emily filled in the necessary sections on the form. Afterward, she sat next to Gavin, feeling as though she was about to burst.
“You don’t look so hot,” Gavin whispered, his lips turned down. “Do I need to make a scene in here if they don’t let you pee within the next two minutes? You know I can deliver.”
Trying not to giggle because she knew it’d be the end of her bladder, Emily laced her fingers through his. “Oh, I know you can.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “But I’m okay. At least for another few minutes.”
Gavin smiled and brushed his thumb along the top of her hand. “You’re in dire need of my twenty questions game.” Emily looked at him as though he’d sprouted a new head. “I’m serious. It’ll help take your mind off this whole non-urination thing. I go first.”
Emily frowned, nudging his arm. “You always get to go first.”
“That’s because I invented it, sweets.” Grinning, Gavin stared into her eyes. “Silk or lace?”
Emily lifted a brow. “That’s a question I should be asking you.”
“Nope.” Gavin leaned in closer, his lips grazing her ear. “My game. My rules. Now answer the question. Silk… or… lace?”
Emily pulled in a breath, his husky tone instantly making her forget her bladder issue. “I… like… silk.”
Gavin smirked. “Nice answer. Can’t beat Emily Cooper in silk.” He leaned back, sliding his arm over her shoulder. “Stone or brick?”
“Hey.” Emily nudged his arm again. “It’s my turn. And how do you go from silk or lace to stone or brick?”
“My game. My rules, so I decided to change the rules and go again.” He smiled at her pouting lips and leaned into her ear once more. He nipped it and held it between his teeth, loving the way he could feel her shudder. “Don’t worry about how I go from one subject to the next. Just answer the question. Stone… or… brick?”
Emily puffed out a breath, convinced he’d spent years studying the art of driving women to the brink of losing control in public. Full bladder a distant memory, Emily brought her gaze to his, her ear desperately missing his teeth. “Stone,” she said slowly. Now she’d play his game, knowing she could drive him as physically crazy as he did her. “I like anything…hard.” Gavin’s eyes honed in on her lips, so she puckered them, feeling high as she watched his pupils dilate with lust. Oh yes, she had him. “Not that brick isn’t… hard, but if I’m not mistaken, and I could be, so forgive me if so, but isn’t stone… harder… much… harder than brick?”