Misadventures with the Boss (Page 27)
“Oh.” Her voice sounded hollow, and I glanced up at her. “That’s awful,” she added.
I frowned as I took in her appearance. Was she normally so pale, or was it just the soft glow of the computer screen that made her skin look chalkier than I’d ever seen it before?
“What happened at the doctor’s?” I asked, my stomach clenching suddenly. What a s**t. I hadn’t even asked her why she was going or if she was all right. Jesus, don’t let it be something serious. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m feeling fine. Just a checkup,” she murmured and then glanced at me, meeting my eyes for only a second before her pupils darted back to my computer screen again.
“There’s no way you can send this email,” she sighed, a little of the color seeming to return to her cheeks as she focused on the job at hand.
“Why not?” I demanded.
“Because you sound like you’re negotiating with a supervillain rather than the people who you are hoping to partner with.” Her mouth thinned into a line, and she rolled my chair back, pushing me away so she could get closer to the keyboard. “We just need to soften up some of this language,” she added.
“The language is plenty soft,” I mumbled, but it was all bluster. I was just glad she was here and that everything was all right. If she needed to fix my email, so be it.
“Maybe for a hostage negotiator,” she shot back.
I watched as she studied my words, clicking here and there as she nipped and tucked my sentences. Still, as she went, she didn’t seem to have that same laser-focused determination she always had when she set to a task. She hadn’t made a single complaint about my grammar or anything.
“Piper, there’s something wrong,” I said.
She glanced in my direction but still didn’t quite meet my gaze.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“You tell me. Your forehead is wrinkled like you’re trying to diffuse a bomb.”
She sighed. “I thought you wanted me to fix this for you.”
“Was it something at the doctor that you’re not telling me?”
“Jackson…” she started, but I couldn’t let her go on. I couldn’t let her push me away.
“Just answer the question.”
“Did it ever occur to you that some things are personal?” she shot back. “Stop pushing me.”
“You’re the one making me push,” I countered. “If there’s something wrong…”
“Nobody makes you push. You just…do. And there is nothing wrong, all right? Just a regular female checkup, and sometimes you feel a little off afterward. Jeez.” She shook her head and then clicked the mouse button. “Now read the email.”
I moved closer to the screen, reading her words with only half my attention. The rest of it was focused solely on the tension that now crackled in the air between us and the way she crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her shoe against the floor as I read.
“This is exactly what I needed. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she said with a forced smile. “Now, if that’s all, I’m going to get back to my day off and relax a little.”
“No, you’re not,” I said, laying a hand on her arm as she stood. “Something is different, I can tell. And you’re not leaving until we talk about it.”
I knew it was unreasonable, but I was past giving a s**t. The merger falling apart was bad enough, and now I couldn’t help but wonder if the doctor’s appointment was just an excuse for her to take the day off because something had changed between us.
Was she over me?
The thought sliced through me like a blade, and when she shook my hand off her, I didn’t try to stop her.
“I’m done discussing this,” she said. “I’ve gone through the proper channels to take a day off, and that’s what I’m going to do, Jackson.”
Without another word, she stalked toward the door and opened it, disappearing behind the frosted glass.
I couldn’t seem to shake the strange and awful sense that it might be for the last time, which was ridiculous. I was overtired and stressed with work, that was all. When Piper was ready to tell me what was bothering her, she would. In the meantime, I needed to focus on getting this merger back on track, or we could both be out of a job.
I turned back to my computer, but the dull sense of dread stayed with me long after that door closed.
The whole walk home from the office, I had to remind myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I was dizzy and nauseated, and my head was spinning at the speed of sound, but whether it was because of the pregnancy or simply because of Jackson, I didn’t know.
Dear God, what was I going to do?
My paranoia—my absolute certainty that he had read the truth in my face—was too much for me to bear, and I found myself searching for a bench and sucking down desperate gulps of air that were quickly becoming hard to come by.
When I reached a bus stop, I huddled into the little glass enclosure and sat down, grateful for the lack of company as I drew a deep breath.
There was no denying it now. No running from the truth. The doctor had taken the tests and shown me the pictures, and the truth was right there on the screen. There was a little pea-sized person inside me.
A person depending on me to make the right choices for the rest of their future.
And the fact of the matter was, the best decision I could make was to ensure this baby would be cared for by people who loved him or her unconditionally.
It was true I hadn’t planned on being a mother, but when I’d stared at that image, I’d known the truth. There were no options for me, no other choices to be made. From the second I knew I was pregnant, this baby was completely and irrevocably mine.
I wouldn’t give this baby up for all the world. And I wouldn’t make him or her live with a father who didn’t feel the same way—nor would I force Jackson into a life of caring for a child he’d been so open and certain about not wanting.
So today had been the day where I had to make my choice once and for all.
I thought once I saw him I would know. That the answer would be so clear to me that all my doubts and restless thoughts about what to tell him would be laid to rest.
But no. Just like everything else in this relationship, it hadn’t been so easy.
I looked into his eyes, if only for an instant, and saw that cold, calculating look of his. That desperation for his business to succeed. That was what drove him, what got him up in the morning. A child would only derail that, and I couldn’t bear it for him to resent the baby or me. But, s**t, it would hurt to walk away.
A few times, I’d thought of turning on my heel and telling him everything, pouring out my heart and soul—my terror, my joy, my utter shock—but every time I came close, he would bark something else at me. Another demand. Another question I wasn’t ready to answer.
Because with him, everything was on his terms.
And then, when he’d tried to press me one last time? Well, that was as close to an answer as I could have gotten. He was uncompromising, stubborn, and used to being in control. A baby would require changes on all fronts. Living life on his terms twenty-four-seven would be over.
So my choice was made. I couldn’t tell him about the baby. Which meant from now on, absolutely everything had to change.