Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #2)(8)

“I’d cancel anything else for this anyway.” I scan the print-off for the date and my breath leaves me in a rush when I see the venue. “Jake, these are for the Hamilton on Broadway.”

“Is that a problem?”

“In New York City.” I tear my eyes off the tickets to look at him.

“That’s where Broadway is, last I checked.”

I blink, mentally calculating how much I’ll need for the plane ticket and hotel. Maybe I could save some money if I drive, and I don’t need to stay anywhere fancy. I nod. “I’ll make it work,” I whisper, because come on. This is bucket-list stuff. “I work two jobs. I deserve this, right?”

“You absolutely do,” Jake says. “But if you’re worried about money, don’t. Everything’s covered.”

“No.” I shake my head furiously, as if the movement might knock some sense into him. “Jake, that’s too much.”

“It’s nothing more than the tickets.” He ticks off his reasons on his fingers. “We’re using my free credit card miles for the flights, and Jackson Brews is going to pay for our hotel, since I’ll need to do a little business while we’re there.”

“For real?”

“It’s your birthday present. Just be happy and stop stressing about it.”

I smack his chest even as my eyes fill with tears. There might be areas of my life that leave me wanting, but I scored big in the friendship category. “You can’t spoil me like this every year.”

“Can and will,” he says. He turns to the sink, running the water hot.

“Hold up! You cooked breakfast. Let me get the dishes.”

“Not a chance, birthday girl.”

I swallow hard, but my throat is still thick with gratitude, my skin tingling with excitement. I don’t know what I can do to return the favor for Jake, but I’m going to have to figure out something. “Call me later, okay? Let me know how Mom’s doing.”

“Sure thing.” He loads dishes into the soapy water and winks at me.

I clutch the tickets to my chest again. Leave it to Jake to turn one of my toughest birthdays around by giving me the best gift I’ve ever received.


The gym is a ghost town Saturday afternoon, and I couldn’t be happier. After the morning I had, the last thing I want is social hour while I’m trying to work off my frustration.

When Ava left, Shay texted to tell me not to come over. Mom was sleeping and said she’d see everyone at brunch tomorrow. I finished cleaning up breakfast, trying my damnedest not to think about Ava. Not the way she hugged me after I gave her the tickets. Not the way she looked lying in my bed. And definitely not the fact that she’d rather have me jack off into a cup than touch her.

I tried really damn hard not to think about any of that.

I failed.

Ava was all I could think about, and since that clusterfuck of emotions was making me more than a little stir crazy, I headed to the gym like I always do when I want to escape my feelings.

Despite thirty minutes of intervals on the treadmill and a grueling leg session, I’m still screwed up. Maybe you can’t just sweat out a conversation like this morning’s.

I’m setting up my bar for bench press when someone taps me on the shoulder. Pulling out my earbuds, I turn to see Ellie, Ava’s other best friend.

“Ava has lost her mind.”

“Hey, El. Good to see you today.”

She rolls her eyes. “I need your help.”

My mind flashes back to last night, to Ava in that sexy-as-fuck wrap dress and red heels, and her hand gripping my arm as she asked if I’d help her.

Ellie stares at me expectantly. “Please?”

I look around for Colton, since he and Ellie always come to the gym together, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Judging by his condition when I kicked his drunk ass out of my bar last night, I’d guess he’s still sleeping it off.

“Are you listening to me?” she says. “Ava wants to have a baby.”

“She told me.” I shrug, as if I don’t care. As if this news and the way it was delivered to me didn’t rock my world in the most fucked-up way this morning. “What do you want me to do about it?”

If she suggests I hand over my sperm, I might lose my shit.

Ellie’s eyes go wide, and she throws up her hands. “I want you to stop her! She has no idea how hard this is going to be. Raising a baby on her own? I watched my mom struggle for years. I want better than that for my best friend.”

I slide a forty-five-pound plate onto one end of the barbell and grab another. “So tell her that.”

“I have, but she won’t listen to me. She’s gone crazy since she got that invitation.”

I slide the second plate on and look at Ellie. “What invitation?”

“The invitation to Harrison’s wife’s baby shower. What do you think started all this?”

Honestly, Ava’s wanted to be a mom so long that I hadn’t thought about what made her decide to act on it now. I’ve been too fixated on my bruised ego. But if she just found out that her ex-husband is going to have a baby, that would explain a lot. “Harrison’s wife is expecting?”

“Yes, and now Ava’s got it in her head that the only way she can have a baby is to do it alone. You know there’s a good man out there who’d kill to be with her.”

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