Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #2)(6)

She swings her legs to the side of the bed and cradles her face in her hands. “Oh, this is so stupid. I can’t believe I even said anything to you.”

“Well . . .” I clear my throat. “I guess I’m flattered?”

She peeks at me between her fingers. “You guess you’re flattered? I asked to bear your offspring, and you guess you’re flattered?” She groans.

I lower myself to sit on the bed beside her. “Are you serious about this baby thing?”

She drops her hands and nods. “I’ve thought about it for a long time, but I was hoping I’d find somebody. Like any other girl, I’d prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, but it’s getting kind of late for that.”

“You’re only thirty, Ava. There’s still time.”

She drags her bottom lip between her teeth. “My mom had three miscarriages, months of infertility treatments, and finally me. She had to have the same treatments to have Colton. It’s not going to be easy for me to conceive. I know it seems like I’m rushing into this, but I’m not. There aren’t many things in my life that I’m sure of. I am sure I want to be a mom, and I’m not willing to wait and see if it ‘works out.’”

Swallowing hard, I take her hand in mine and squeeze. “What are you gonna do?”

“I’ve talked to a fertility clinic about a sperm donor, but last night, I was freaking out about my kid having a crazy man’s genetics, so Teagan suggested I ask a friend. I could get the sperm free and know my child wasn’t genetically inclined to develop a fetish for Barbie heads or something.” She attempts to smile, but in her miserable state, it looks more like she’s baring her teeth than feeling joyful. “I’ll be fine, Jake.”

“You’re gonna raise a kid on your own, though? Do you know how hard that’s going to be?”

“Yeah. I do. But I don’t have any doubt in my mind that it’ll be worth it. I would never regret a child.”

If this were one of the novels Ava likes to read so much, I’d kiss her hard, climb over her on the bed, and tell her that I’d give her babies, and I’d be by her side. If this were one of those books, she’d secretly want me in return.

But I put myself out there for Ava once before and, in the process, found out exactly how she felt about me.

So here we are. Sitting side by side, both desperately wanting something the other can give, and unable to make it happen.

“Too bad we didn’t make one of those pacts when we were kids,” I say. When she screws up her face in question, I say, “You know, one of those if we’re not married by thirty, we’ll marry each other things.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “It would be kind of like marrying my brother.”

I press my hand to my chest. “Ouch.”

“No offense.”

“It’s just emotional castration. No worries.”

She rolls her eyes. “And anyway, don’t you want to marry some hot young thing who can give you wild sex every night?”

“Yeah. Definitely.” Wild sex with Ava sounds amazing to me. Too bad she’s not talking about herself.

“I should get home. I have a thousand things to do before my shift tonight.”

“Including research on artificial insemination?”

She nods, then studies my face. “Are you going to be okay with this? I know there are people who don’t approve of a woman starting a family on her own, but—”

“Since when have I ever not been right by your side when you needed me? This won’t be any different.” Except it will. Because somehow, her decision to start a family on her own feels like the final nail in the coffin of Ava-and-Jake. Ever since her divorce, I’ve been holding on, waiting for her to see me differently, to give me a chance. But now . . .

I release her hand and stand. “Want me to make you some bacon and eggs? Salt is good for the hangover.”

She lies back down instead of getting up like she said she was going to. “Yes, please.”

I pinch her nose and head to the kitchen.

“Jake?” she calls when my feet hit the hallway.

I stop and turn, hope wobbling around in my chest like a newborn foal. “Yeah?”

“Would you put some cheese in my eggs?”

I take a deep breath, as if that might help me steady myself after this emotional rollercoaster of a morning. “Anything for you, Av.”


“Feel better?” Jake asks as I push away my plate.

“I do.” Jake was right. My hangover was nothing a little salty breakfast couldn’t fix, and by the time I was halfway through my food, I felt like a new woman. It helps that he’s the best chef I’ve ever met. I lean back in my chair and put my hand on my full belly. “Thank you. That was so good.”

He turns his wrist to look at his watch, and I realize in a sudden panic that it’s Saturday. “Jake! Your mom and Shay are coming home from Grand Rapids today! You wanted to be there, didn’t you?”

He shrugs. “It’s no big deal. I texted Shay and told her I’d be late.”

My shoulders sag. I’m the worst friend ever. “You stayed here and cooked the hungover girl breakfast while your family is rallying together around your sick mother.”

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