MY STOMACH TORE AS IT EXPELLED EVERYTHING in it, which wasn’t much. The act itself was quick, but the horror hung in the air around me, holding me down, and I couldn’t bring myself to look back up. My heart lodged in my throat.
“Here.” A water bottle was placed in my hand, and then Gage crouched beside my chair, rubbing soft circles on my back. “You’re sick? You should be at home resting.”
I swished the cool water in my mouth, rinsing it of the acid taste before I spit into the bin, but it didn’t rid me of my thoughts that were choking out everything else. I gave a small nod of agreement as I sat up in the chair. I was sick. That was all.
The back of his hand rose to my forehead. “I don’t think you have a fever, was it something you ate?” He glanced at the bag of food I brought for our late lunch.
“I don’t know,” my voice was as hollow as I felt, and I closed my eyes as nausea crept back into my stomach.
“Aw babe, let me take you home.” He gripped my hand and slid his other arm around my shoulders, bringing me to stand with him.
“My phone.” I swiped it off the desk and slid it back in my pocket. I’d charge it at home. I needed to get home, to think. To figure this out.
“Do you feel like you’ll get sick again?”
I paused, considering. I felt shaky, but wasn’t going to throw up again. “I can make it home.”
We walked out his office, and he stopped to scan the space. A few of the girls were on stage practicing; Cherry and Ian were seated at a table in front of the performers. Her feet were perched on the edge of his chair, and he pulled the end of one of her pigtails as she laughed.
“Ian,” Gage yelled across the room, disrupting their conversation. “Follow me to my place. I have to drive her home but need my car.”
Seeing Cherry reminded me that Gage and I had been arguing before.
“Are you going to be back for the meeting?” She kicked each leg high as she brought them off Ian’s chair and he stood up.
I went rigid at the mention of the meeting. Why would he talk to her about that?
“You can start it if everyone’s here.” Gage tightened his arm around me and walked us away.
A fraction of relief seeped in. I was jumping to conclusions and needed to slow my thoughts. Not only with Cherry but with everything. There was no need to freak.
My pep talk wasn’t helping. Nerves ricocheted like bullets under my skin. I didn’t understand anything that was happening, I had never felt so out of control. And my stomach hurt. I pulled my hand from it, when had I rested it there?
Gage was glancing at me, questions growing behind his gaze.
“You got an umbrella? It’s raining hard out there.” Ian jogged to catch up with us in the storage room, on our way out back.
“Nope.” Gage tossed his keys to Ian. “Pull up out front of the condo, I’ll meet you there.” He dropped his arm from my shoulder and turned to me, hand out for my keys. “Stay here, I’ll pull your car up.”
“It’s fine. I’m already soaked from coming in.” I pushed my wet hair back from my face. “And you don’t have to leave. I can drive on my own.”
He paused for a half second, staring at me. “I’m driving you. No arguing. Let me do this.”
I nodded, and he followed Ian out the door to get the car.
“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” He kept glancing at me as we merged with city traffic.
I stayed with my head rested on the window, his words barely penetrating as I tried to work out when I last had my shot. It hadn’t felt like that long ago, but I knew it was a couple weeks before Vegas. How many weeks, I couldn’t be sure. Even if it was at the beginning of summer though, I’d only be a month late. It shouldn’t be possible to be pregnant already. But I needed to make an appointment now.
“Maybe you’ve been doing too much. You have your fight next Friday, right? You need to stay home and relax, get better.” His tone was gentle, and care in his touch as he gripped my thigh. Gone were the harsh words and cold look from earlier, vanished as if they were never there. But I remembered.
Sitting up, I pushed down my thoughts of a baby. It wasn’t likely. I needed to focus on what was really happening. “How convenient for you.”
“What?” He whipped his head towards me, and he sighed as he met my hard stare. “Not this again. What are you so angry about?”
“I know what I saw Gage. She was getting too close, and you let her.”
“I pushed her away.”
“Because you saw me.” I cut in just as quickly as he did.
“Because I love you. So stop arguing. Stop making this harder than it needs to be.”
Those words hurt, all of them, even the ones that shouldn’t. And my tears were back, stinging behind my lids. “She probably keeps it easy, if that’s what you want.”
“No. Stop twisting everything I say. Why don’t you trust me? After everything we’ve been through, and I mean everything, you should trust me. You should know you’re the only one for me.” Tension strained his words and flexed his jaw.
I nodded, throat thickening. “Except, even after all that, you were ready to end it the other week.
“And there it is,” he whispered, looking away to make a left turn, “the truth. I’m sorry for that. I mean it. I was wrong, but I was scared for you. I still am.” He gave me a side look, sadness pulling on his eyes and lips, but it flickered with a smile. “You’ve always scared me though. That’s all this is. That’s why I want you home now. I want you better. I want you healthy. There are no other motives. When you’re better, you can come back to the club.”
His words surrounded me, pressing on the ache in my chest, but not moving it. I tried to hold tight to them, let them reassure. I wanted to believe.
He slid his hand up my leg, capturing my hand in his. “You are the most important thing to me. I told you to leave, but I wouldn’t have ever let you go. Not really.”
My emotions were burning out of control. I took a deep breath to extinguish them. I had to believe. If I wanted to move on, I had to believe. I had to let it go.
“All right,” I kept his hand in mine, running my thumb over the top.
We rode the rest of the way in silence, my thoughts consuming me. My stomach was no longer swirling, but it was heavy with paranoia I couldn’t talk myself out of. I needed to call the doctors.
He pulled into our spot in the parking garage but paused before getting out. He turned to look directly at me.
“I love you.” He stared into my eyes, reaching in me, touching deeper than his words.
“I love you, too. I’m sorry for making things hard. I don’t—”
“No. It’s okay.” He leaned towards me, inches from my face. His hand slid to my cheek. “I’ve—I have to do better. I don’t want you doubting me.” He frowned, sliding my hair behind my ear. “You still look pale. Come on, you should be in bed.”
I moved to get out, and he hustled to my side of the car to meet me. He slipped his arm around my waist as we walked to the elevator.
The moment we stepped into our place, I plugged in my phone. Once the battery icon lit the screen, I turned to Gage. “Have you heard anything about your meeting with Viktor?”
“Not yet. Should be soon.” He didn’t pause from digging in our medicine cabinet in the kitchen. “How are you feeling? Anything other than your stomach bothering you?”
I walked back to our room, peeling off my damp clothes as I considered. “I’m just tired now. I think I’ll feel better after a nap. It hit quick, hopefully it’ll pass quick too.”
He appeared in the room as I slid my head through an oversized shirt, a pink bottle in his hands. “Here’s some Pepto for you. I’ve got to get back, you’ll be okay?”
I swallowed my words. I was supposed to let go of my jealousy, and really, I wanted him gone so I could work out my own concerns, make sense of them.
“I’ll be all right. Call when you know anything and,” stepping close to him, I set the Pepto on the dresser and slid my arms around his shoulders, “be safe. Be careful.”
“Don’t worry about me,” he soothed and slid his arms low around my waist. “I know what I’m doing, and this is only a meeting to talk. I’ll be back as soon as I can and I’ll call.” He kissed me briefly but thoroughly. “Keep that phone charged and get in bed,” he ordered as he walked out.
I followed him to the front door, locking it behind him. Then I checked my phone. My calendar was blank, no history or notifications for my appointments. It hit me like a wrecking ball; we upgraded our phones in July. I thought that information would have transferred, but that meant it was before then. I was late on my birth control shot.
I called the doctors and made an appointment. They couldn’t see me till Friday, but here was no way I could wait till then. Sliding on yoga pants and shoes with no socks, I grabbed my wallet and walked to the drug store one block over. I had to know. I needed to know I wasn’t pregnant. I couldn’t be.
My phone rang as I turned the corner from our building. Gage was calling.
“Hello,” I answered, breathless from nerves, not activity.
“Where are you going?” He spoke loud and clear.
“How do you know I left?” His question gave me pause, momentarily making me forget my mission.
“Parker told me. Are you okay? Where are you going?”
“Parker? The doorman? That— That’s crazy.” I slid into the store, closing the umbrella behind me. Pumpkin and spice filled the warm, bright interior.
“Maybe. But you haven’t answered my question.”
“I’m getting ibuprofen for my headache.” I pulled out an excuse, heart pounding so hard I wouldn’t be surprised if he heard it. The family planning isle was in front of me now.
The words almost slipped out, I could feel them bubbling, wanting him to know. But there was no point in making him worry about something that couldn’t be true. I was only doing this to reassure my own irrational thoughts. Crazy thoughts. He didn’t need to know how far I slipped.
“At Greenway?” he asked.
“Yes. Then I’m going home.”
“All right. Let me know if you need something else. I’ll try and get home earlier tonight.”
“Okay.” I didn’t hold much hope in that being earlier than midnight.
“I love you,” we both said before hanging up.
I picked up the errorless pregnancy test. It was supposed to say pregnant or not pregnant, no line confusion.
After the longest walk home through some rainy dimension of hell, I was finally in the bathroom, waiting for a stick to tell me I had been crazy. To relieve my fears.
The wait was worse than the walk.
But seeing Pregnant on the stick was the worst yet. It had to be wrong.
I pulled out another and forced myself to pee, shaking as I waited again.