Misadventures with the Boss (Page 31)

Silence reigned between us, broken only by the soft clatter of Hailey’s spoon as she stirred her tea.

I counted the seconds. One, two, three, and then I glanced at her, determined to make her meet my gaze. When she didn’t, I spoke again.

“Well?” I prompted.

“Well.” She sighed. “Look, I don’t want to upset you any more. We can talk about this when you’ve had a little time.”

“I don’t need time. I want to know what you think,” I said.

Hailey frowned and then sipped her drink. With another sigh, she started again. “Well, I can kind of see where he’s coming from, honestly. I mean, what was he supposed to do? Throw his arms open and ask your due date? The guy got blindsided.”

“That’s no excuse,” I said.

“I think it might be.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “You’ve had a couple of days to deal with this news and process how it’s going to affect your life. Jackson didn’t have that. He just found out that not only were you pregnant, but you lied to him about it repeatedly to keep him from finding out.”

“Because he doesn’t want children!” I argued. “I did this for him. If you could’ve heard how he spoke about having a baby…”

“That was ancient history, Piper. His opinion could have changed in the last decade. And besides, would that be your assumption if you were in his shoes right now?” Hailey asked patiently. “Or would you think the person didn’t tell you because you were lacking somehow? Because, for whatever reason, they didn’t think you’d be a good influence in their child’s life?”

I frowned, that noxious sickly feeling returning to my stomach. “I hadn’t thought about it that way. If he’d just asked, or let me speak, I would have explained why I didn’t tell him.”

“He was in shock, I imagine. He didn’t know this was the kind of conversation he’d be having today, I guarantee that,” Hailey said. Then she reached toward me, took my hand, and stroked the back of my fingers.

“Look, Piper, you made a choice. You thought it was the right thing to do, but the thing is, you made that choice without his consent or knowledge. Like it or not, that’s going to be a tough thing for a guy like Jackson to swallow.”

I gripped my sister’s hand and squeezed. “Did you hear the part…the part where he said he loved me?” I choked out the words.

She nodded. “I did.”

“I love him too, you know. I wouldn’t have worried about ruining his life if I didn’t love him. I wouldn’t have…” Hot tears scratched at the back of my throat, and I swallowed hard.

“I know,” Hailey said. “I know.”

“So what do I do now? I can’t get him back. I can’t force him to stay with me because I’m having this baby. Not after everything I’ve done.”

Hailey frowned. “No, but you can give him what he thinks he wants right now.”

“Which is?” I prompted.

Hailey took another sip of her tea, her brow furrowing as she thought. “Well, what do you think you would want if you were in his shoes?”

“I guess…reassurance more than anything. But it’s not like I can call him and leave a message or something.”

“Then don’t. Go back to the city and do something about this.”

My mind whirled. “He won’t want to see me.”

“Then don’t let him. Leave him a letter or something. Just, you know, let him know that what happened doesn’t have anything to do with him. Not really.”

I nodded. “I can do that.”

“I know you can.”

“And what if he still hates me when he’s done reading it?”

“Then the two of you will work it out. Because right now? This isn’t about either of you. This is about little Tallulah.”

“I hate that name.” I grinned.

“I knew you would.” Hailey patted my hand. “Now go get to work, tiger.”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Jackson

Twice in my life I’d thought I was going to be a father.

The first time, I was sure my life would fall apart. I had barely started a company and was with a girl I barely knew and certainly didn’t love. The prospect of spending the rest of time with her crushed me. The idea of being a father was hardly ever on my mind, to be honest.

In truth, I spent my time thinking about what my days with her would be like. The sort of mindless rhythm we’d fall into as two people bound together not by love but by our responsibility to the life that depended on us.

It was true that when the miscarriage had happened, I’d been relieved. But now, as I thought again about being a father, of having that new precious life in my care, I wondered if my reality had changed in the years that had passed since then.

Because now, when I thought of this child, I didn’t think about the responsibility like a sort of crushing weight on my freedom. Instead, I looked around my cold, unfeeling apartment and realized the warmth of a child—of a family—was exactly what I needed.

Barely twenty-four hours had passed, and already I was imagining where to put the cradle, what I needed to get rid of, what sorts of things I’d need to read up on. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t anxious. In spite of being angry and devastated by the loss of Piper and her lies…

I was excited.

Truly, deeply excited at the idea of taking my child to Central Park to play chess or catch. To help him with his homework and put him to bed at night.

Before, I had been broken. The kind of person who wouldn’t make a child’s life any better, no matter how hard I tried.

But now? I was someone new. Someone different.

And that was because of Piper.

I sat back on my sofa and took a deep breath. Naturally, I couldn’t think about the baby without thinking of her. Would he have her same dark-red locks and heart-shaped face? Would he laugh like her or have her keen sense of organization?

I also couldn’t help but think of Piper. Was she taking care of herself? Eating well? Sleeping enough?

I couldn’t bring myself to ask her, nor could I think of her without my chest tightening and my hands balling into fists.

I couldn’t understand it. Or worse, maybe I could.

Maybe she’d seen me for the broken, heartless corporate man I was and had deemed me unable to care for a child. Whatever had gone through her head, it must have been bad enough to not only leave me but to take my child away without me ever knowing about them.

And then, when I thought of her face… The way she’d paled when she’d finally been caught out.

Like a victim facing their abuser.

I pinched my nose between thumb and forefinger and took another deep breath as guilt hammered at my chest.

I couldn’t think about that now. Soon I would have to get my lawyer involved and see what sort of custody arrangement we could work out.

No matter what, I was going to have to see her again. To bring her back to the city for her doctor’s appointments and to speak with her about the kind of life we would develop together for our child.

Rather than feeling trapped by the idea of her, though, I felt like I was missing a limb. Like seeing her again would make me feel all the love, all the need, all the completeness I was desperate to shove back down. I couldn’t forgive her, not after everything she’d done. But if I saw her again…

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