Look the Part (Page 46)
When he leaves. Of course he’s leaving. My brain knows this, but my heart won’t come down from the incredible high over him being here and confessing that he wants me and this baby.
“What’s the plan, Flint? I know you well enough to know that you have a plan. Even if you aren’t sure how you’re going to execute it … you have a plan. You wouldn’t have come here without a plan.”
His forehead wrinkles with deep lines of thought as he reaches over and curls my hair behind my ear. “What if I told you I don’t have a plan? What if I told you I booked this trip last minute after you texted me yesterday about not wanting to be pregnant?”
“Flint, I didn’t mean—”
He shakes his head. “I know you didn’t mean it—at least, I do now. All I knew at the time was you were feeling bad and you have no one to take care of you. So, I just reacted. No grand plan.”
No grand plan. I let that sink in for a few moments. “It’s early. I could miscarry. You just never—”
“Jesus, Elle …” He grimaces.
I rest my hand on his chest. “I don’t want to, I’m just being realistic. I could miscarry. I’ve never been pregnant before. I don’t know how this will go. But I know a lot of women who have had multiple miscarriages. All I’m saying is that I don’t want you to stress out over this right now. You could go home and tell Harry, and if he doesn’t react well, you’ll have put a strain on that relationship over something that may never happen.”
“Something that may never happen?”
He sits up, hunched over the side of the bed, fisting his hair. “I need some air. I’ll be back later.”
“Air?” I sit up as he walks away. “It’s cold and snowy outside.”
He continues out of the bedroom and down the stairs without responding. I flop back onto the bed and try to get some sleep, but after long minutes of incessant thoughts, I sit up. Throwing on some warmer clothes and boots, I tiptoe downstairs and try not to announce my departure as I escape out the back door.
“Dang! It’s cold.” I pull my hat down over my ears better and cinch my scarf tighter. There’s a rental car in the driveway, so he didn’t go far. I follow the footprints in the snow to the dock where Flint stands with his back to me.
“It’s cold. Go back inside,” he says without turning.
“You’re upset. Why are you upset?” I stay a few feet behind to give him some space.
“I’m not upset. I’m just trying to figure out everything.”
“Were you not listening? I told you it’s too early to stress over figuring any of this out.”
He turns. Cheeks rosy from the icy air. Jaw set as if it’s frozen in place. “You miscarry. Then what?” His shoulders lift toward his ears.
“Then …” I shake my head. “Nothing.”
“Nothing,” he repeats with a breath of cynical laughter. “I go back to my life and you go back to yours?”
I cringe, turning my body to guard my face from the wind. I’m not sure which is more chilling, the frigid wind or his words. “I … I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Maybe.” He nods slowly with an indiscernible expression. “And if you don’t have a miscarriage?”
“Then we figure it out.”
The warm air condensing from his exhales floats over his shoulder, proof that he’s here. I still can’t believe it.
How ridiculous of me to think that, even for one second. Of course he’s here. When I break—he picks me up.
“Let’s go inside. I don’t want you in the cold any longer.” He wraps his arm around my shoulders and guides me into the house.
“Oh shit.” I stop, looking up at the back door and the man opening it to go inside like he lives here.
“Yes. He’s here visiting his parents for the holidays.”
“And how do you know that?”
I continue toward the door. “They stopped by yesterday.”
“There she is. Where did you go?” my grandma asks as we step inside from the freezing cold.
“Just to get a few minutes of fresh air.” I smile, shifting my gaze to Alex, but he’s not looking at me.
“Who’s your friend?” he asks as if we’re still together and he’s curious about this man behind me.
“Alex, this is Flint. Flint, this is Alex.”
Alex doesn’t offer his hand, but maybe it would be weird since his are kind of robotic. I don’t know what the protocol is on that. “How do you know my Ellen?”
My Ellen? Since when? I narrow my eyes at Alex, but he’s still not looking at me.
“I wasn’t aware that she’d been chipped and registered to a specific owner—like a dog.”
I snort at Flint’s response.
“Sorry.” Alex gives me a brief glance. “Habit. I feel like we’ve been together forever.”
Except for the two years you treated me like shit and the year since our divorce. But who’s counting.
Alex steps toward me, giving me that look of adoration that he used to give me, as he lifts his arm up, touching my cheek with his cold, prosthetic fingers.
I stiffen as Flint’s hand wraps around Alex’s forearm, pulling it away from my face. “But just to be clear … if any man were going to put something inside of Ellen and lay claim to her … it would be me.”
Just to be clear … I just fell in love with Flint Hopkins again.
From the kitchen table, my dad and grandparents look on with confusion while Alex’s face alights with realization as he jerks his arm from Flint’s grasp. Flint steps between me and Alex like he’s protecting me. He doesn’t need to protect me from Alex, not anymore. But seriously, I love this man so damn hard right now.
Alex takes a step back. He’s athletic, lithe but strong, like most good surfers and climbers. But my ex-football-playing baby daddy probably packs a bigger punch.
“So you’re the responsible one who put her in this situation. How kind of you,” Alex says.
“What situation?” Grandma asks.
I move around Flint, giving my best fuck-you look to Alex. “There’s no situation, Grandma. I’m good, Alex. Thanks for stopping by to check on me.”
Alex stares at Flint. I’m afraid to turn around to see the look on his face.
“Call me if you need me.” A smug smile crawls up Alex’s face. The only thing he loves more than knowing my secret is knowing Flint knows that he knows. “Like if things get too complicated.”
“I don’t anticipate that.” I give him a tight smile.
Alex nods slowly. “Have a happy New Year.” He turns and gives a polite nod to my dad and grandparents.
I watch him all the way to the door. When it shuts behind him, I turn toward Flint. He’s wearing his special unreadable expression, but the vibe I’m picking up is that he’s upset. At Alex? At me?
I don’t know.
“Yes, Dad?” I smile at him.
He gives me a look that’s much easier to decipher. It’s the look that will make me confess if I don’t get out of here soon. All these years later, and even after suffering a stroke, he still has that look.
“Do you need something? If not, I’m going to go get ready to take you to your appointments.”
Dad continues to stare at me. Nope. I’m not going to let him break me. Not right now. “Okay, give me twenty minutes.” Without glancing back at Flint, I climb the stairs, but I feel the heat from his body right behind me. Maybe it’s not his body, maybe it’s his anger.
“You’re mad, but I’m not sure why.” I turn the second I step foot into my bedroom.
He towers over me in our customary toe-to-toe stance. “Your dad doesn’t know about the baby?”
I shake my head.
“Your grandparents don’t know about the baby?”
Another head shake.
“But your fucking ex-husband knows about the baby?”
My chin drops, gaze to the floor. “He was here. I threw up. It just …” I shake my head. “I don’t know. It came out. I felt like hell. I was mad at you and mad at the world because feeling like that makes you hate life a little.”
“Why were you mad at me?”
I look up. “Because you are partly to blame for this pregnancy, and when I was bent over the toilet dry-heaving until every single muscle burned, it wasn’t your hands pulling my hair out of my face, it was his. And that pissed me off. It pissed me off that you weren’t here. It pissed me off that he was here. And I …” I sigh. “I needed to tell someone.”
“I hate that he touched you. I hate that it was his fucking hands that pulled your hair back. I hate that I wasn’t here.”
I nod. “I know.”
The pain intensifies in his face. It hurts to imagine what’s going through his mind.
“My dad has his therapy appointments. Are you coming with us?”
He pulls me into his chest. “Yes.”