Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #2)

Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #2)

Lexi Ryan


“It’s a turkey baster.” I frown at Teagan—my friend, holder of my latest secret, and bestower of the world’s strangest birthday gift. Teagan laughs so hard she falls sideways in the booth. This is what I get for telling her my big plans. “You’re a bitch.”

All four of us—Teagan, Nicole, Veronica, and I—are crowded into a booth at Jackson Brews to celebrate my birthday, and I’m so damn happy I can’t stop smiling because one, I love these women with the big, warm kind of mushy love that fills you from your gut out to your fingertips. Two, I’ve just turned thirty, and while that freaked me out yesterday, today I’m excited. Because today I have a plan.

And while giving me a turkey baster might make it seem like Teagan is mocking me, I know it’s just her way of showing her support.

“I guess I should make an announcement.” I put one hand on the table to steady myself. Tequila gets me every time.

“I want to hear your announcement, Ava. Spill,” Nic says, tucking her light brown hair behind her ear. Even she indulged in a drink tonight—a rarity for the resident good girl in our group—and her cheeks are flushed a pretty pink.

“Since it’s my birthday, I decided to get myself a present.”

“You deserve it,” Teagan says. She lifts her glass in salute. How lucky am I to have such amazing friends?

“What kind of present?” Veronica asks.

“A baby,” I blurt, excitement turning my voice shrill. Veronica and Nic stare at me as if I just spoke in Latin, so I explain. “I decided I’m going to have one.”

“Like, immaculate conception or . . .” Veronica says.

I squeeze the end of the turkey baster and glare at Veronica. “Okay, bitch. I’m fully aware of the missing piece of this puzzle, but I’m thirty years old, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. But I couldn’t conceive the entire time I was married—”

“A blessing in disguise,” Teagan says.

“—so I feel like I should start trying now,” I say.

“Trying . . . to get pregnant?” Nic says.

“Yeah, ’cause who needs a dude to do that?” Veronica says.

I shake my head. Are my friends being intentionally obtuse? “Listen. I swear I’m not crazy.” I scan our small group, feeling a bit like the ugly duckling in this bevy of swans. Next to the beautiful Nic is her identical twin, Veronica. Veronica is the very-pregnant, less-cheerful version of Nic. Across from Veronica is Teagan, with dark hair, olive skin, and a pair of incredible God-given boobs I’d trade my left arm for.

My friend Ellie couldn’t make it tonight—she and my brother, Colton, are fighting again—but she’s just as gorgeous as the rest of them.

It’s not that I think I’m unattractive, but without a good deal of eye makeup and some quality time with a curling iron, I’m closer to “plain” than “pretty.” Add a bunch of baggage to my underwhelming appearance, and ta-da! A recipe for an eternity as a spinster.

“I’ve already been married and that didn’t work,” I explain. “As nice as it would be to find a guy to spend my life with, it’s not necessary. But pregnancy and a baby? That’s something I want to experience.” A burst of adrenaline shoots through me, renewing my excitement. Or maybe that’s the alcohol? It’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t matter. Honestly, since I hatched Operation Pregnancy plan yesterday, my only real question has been why I didn’t think of it sooner.

I smack the table like a judge smacking a gavel when she’s giving her final ruling. “I want a family, and I’m not getting any younger, so I’m making one myself.”

“Good for you,” Veronica says, raising her glass of water. She beams at me, her eyes shining, her smile wide. Maybe she’s proud, or maybe she’s just glad she’s not going to be the only single mom in the group.

“I think that’s great,” Nic says. “Really, really damn brave, but great.”

“So . . .” Teagan scans the room. “Do we get to just pick from the guys at the bar or what?”

I roll my eyes. Teagan knows my plan is artificial insemination—thus the turkey baster—but I guess I should have been more specific about where I plan to get the sperm. “I’ve already talked to some sperm banks. I’m looking through donors now, but here’s the deal—what if these men are crazy? There’s no checkbox for that on the questionnaire. How do you know you’re not putting crazy-man semen up in your business? I want to love my child, not wonder if maybe his dad had some weird rubber-glove fetish.”

Teagan nods. “This seems like a reasonable concern. Because genetics.”

“I’m confused,” Veronica says. “You’re using the sperm bank, or you’re not?”

I sigh. Okay, I’m really excited about my plan. And I’m determined. And I’m not going to change my mind. Only, I’m not sold on buying sperm. “I haven’t decided. Obviously, that’s the easiest way to get a baby in a position like mine, but . . .” I groan. “But ever since I got this crazy-guy thought in my head, none of the profiles are good enough. I’m nervous.”

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