Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #2)(5)

“With what?”

“Why are you making this so hard?” I throw a pillow at his chest. “Just go away. I’m tired and I feel like death, and last night was totally a mistake.”

“I’m not trying to be thick-skulled here. I’m just a little slow to understand what you mean.” He takes a deep breath and pastes on his most patient smile. “You want a baby. You’re not pregnant.”

“I’m not pregnant,” I say softly. The words never hurt less. Not at the beginning of my marriage, when my husband would pull me into his arms and promise we’d have better luck next time. Not in the middle, when the pink minus sign on those stupid sticks slowly formed a wall between us. And not even at the end of my marriage, when I was heartbroken by his betrayal and everyone told me I should be grateful we didn’t have kids involved. They always hurt the same. Not pregnant.

Jake exhales, and his shoulders sag as he turns away from me. “Fuck. That’s good news.”


“It’s terrible news,” Ava says, but the words come out in an uncharacteristic screech. “If I don’t start a family now, do you realize my chances of conceiving go down every year after thirty? Do you understand how hard it’s going to be for me to get pregnant?”

When I turn back around, she’s crawling back down the bed and pulling the covers over her head. “Can we talk about this?” I ask.

“No,” she says, her voice muffled.

I cross the room and pull the blanket off her head. I know she’s hungover, but I can’t just walk away from this conversation. I barely slept last night, freaking torn up about her pregnancy and all its implications, and now she’s telling me she’s not pregnant. She just wants to be, and she wants my help.

What the fuck does that mean?

“Talk.” I fold my arms across my chest.

“I want a family, and I’m sick of waiting for Mr. Right to come along, so I’m going to do it on my own.”

“And you want my help?” Hell. I’m trying really hard not to jump to conclusions here. Emphasis on hard.

“Yeah. I mean, no. I mean . . .” She takes a deep breath. “It sounded like a good idea last night.”

Doing baby-making things with Ava sounds like a good idea to me every minute of every hour of every damn day, but I’m quite aware that doing that with me doesn’t cross her mind nearly as often. Okay, or ever. “Last night, when you asked for my help, you meant you wanted me to get you pregnant?”

She scowls. “Are you being dense on purpose?”

“I promise I’m not.” But if ever there was a conversation where I’m going to need things spelled out for me, this is it. “I just want to make sure I understand.”

She presses her palm to her forehead. “I just wanted you to jack off in a cup and hand it to me. Not the weird way.”

Right. Because that wouldn’t be weird. “I’m sorry.” I hold up a finger. “Give me a sec.” I walk around the room, scanning the ceiling and the corners. I check behind the lamp and crack the closet to look in there.

“What are you doing, Jake?”

I spin on her. “I’m looking for the camera—the one you planted before you Punk’d me. Is that show even still a thing? Because I’m sure I’m being Punk’d right now.” I crouch and look under the bed.

“You’re not being Punk’d! Quit being an asshole!”

I stand, fold my arms, and set my jaw. “You’re telling me that last night you wanted me to jack off in a cup and give the contents to you.” My gaze lands on the turkey baster in bed beside her. Of course. It all makes sense now.

Christ. This is what my life has come to. This is what happens when you pine for your best friend for years instead of forcing yourself to move on. She wants your sperm. Not you. Just your swimmers. I feel like the kid who realizes he’s been walking around school with a “kick me” sign on his back. “You can’t be serious, Ava.”

“No. I’m not serious now. I was drunk, and it seemed like a good idea then. Now, I’m sober and I don’t want your sperm. It’s a bad idea, and I know it’s a bad idea. I’m sorry.”

And then, fucking dammit, she starts crying. She uses her thumbs to wipe her tears away, but her chest shakes, and it’s like taking an ice pick to the chest.

“Why can’t I just be like everybody else?” she asks, her voice unsteady. “Why can’t I find a nice guy who wants to knock me up? What’s wrong with me that my only relationship that lasted longer than five minutes was a marriage that was clearly doomed to failure from the start?”

Dammit. “Ava . . .”

“What?” Rolling to her side, she grips the blankets in her fists and stares at me. “You know I suck at relationships. I really, really suck.”

In my experience, it’s not so much that Ava sucks at relationships. The problem is more that she doesn’t really give them a chance. She meets a nice guy, and he’s either a jerk—so she doesn’t want to see him again because she married a jerk once and learned her lesson—or he’s too interested, which makes her suspicious that he’s a crazy person, because who would be interested in her? It’s all sorts of fucked up, but that’s just who she is—the most confident woman I know in every aspect of her life but romance.

Lexi Ryan's Books