Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #2)(9)

I can’t argue with her there.

“She just needs to be patient,” Ellie says, and there’s so much intensity in her words that I think she’s almost as screwed up about all this as I am. “Ava’s amazing and fucking hot. Who wouldn’t want to be with her?”

“I have no idea,” I mutter.

“I don’t want her to make a mistake.”

I swallow hard. Ava was crushed when her husband left her, but it wasn’t just losing Harrison that broke her heart. She thought she was losing her chance at having a family. It makes sense that him having a baby would fuck with her a little.

I drag a hand through my hair. “I can say something to her, Ellie, but it’s not really my place.”

“Come on,” she says. “You and I both know she listens to you more than she listens to me. And anyway, at least you’re single. Everyone knows Colton and I are going to get engaged any day now, so it’s hypocritical for me to say she shouldn’t mind waiting when I don’t have to.”

What she’s saying makes sense, but what does she expect me to say? “Hey, Ava, you’re being impulsive because your ex is having the baby you wanted. It’s okay to be upset, but don’t be in a rush to get knocked up. Wait until you’re ready for me to do it.”

“You look tired,” Ellie says.

“I slept on the couch last night. Ava was drunk and needed a place to crash,” I say, leaving out the part about how I was up worrying because I thought Ava was pregnant. I cut my gaze to Ellie. “Which you would have known if you hadn’t bailed on her birthday party.”

She grimaces. “I didn’t want to. Colton and I got in a fight, and I wasn’t in the mood to party.”

A fight with Ellie would explain why Colton was at the bar trashed and looking for trouble at last call. I went back down to retrieve Ava’s purse after tucking her in, and there was Colton, swaying all over the place and eager for an excuse to take a swing at anyone. I was relieved he showed after I got Ava upstairs and not before. Ava seems to think the job of keeping her little brother out of trouble falls on her. “What were you two fighting about this time?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Levi emerges from the locker room. “Hey, Jake.” He lifts his chin in greeting, then his gaze shifts to Ellie and his eyes skim over her the way they always do. My little brother has it bad for his best friend’s girl. My heart goes out to him. I know a little something about wanting a woman you can’t have.

“Hey, Levi,” Ellie says. “Thanks for bringing Colton home last night.” She shakes her head and lowers her voice. “It won’t happen again, okay?”

Levi nods, his posture stiffening. “What about you? You okay?” He scans her face, and I wonder what I’m missing.

“I’m fine. Just trying to convince Jake he needs to talk Ava out of having a baby.”

Levi’s eyebrows shoot up into his hairline. “I didn’t know she was even seeing anyone.”

“That’s just it,” Ellie says. “She’s not. She has this idea she’s going to go to a sperm bank and get herself pregnant.”

Levi turns to me and locks his gaze on mine. “Really now?”

“I don’t think she’ll go through with it,” Ellie says. “I’m hoping she’s all talk. She doesn’t realize what a tough road it’s gonna be if she does this alone.”

Sighing, I look away from Levi. I can’t answer the question in his eyes—not here. Hell, not even in private. I shake my head and turn to Ellie. “You keep saying that, but she was raised by a single mom, so surely she has some idea.”

Not that I love the sperm-bank plan. Honestly, I hate it even more than I hate the idea of personally providing her with unlimited semen for her turkey baster. I can’t shake this feeling that if she goes through with her plan to impregnate herself, I might lose her again. And maybe for good this time.

“But it was different with her mom,” Ellie says. “Her dad didn’t leave until she was ten, so he was around all that time before. Then, even when he did leave, he saw them on the weekends and paid child support and alimony. Child support and alimony from a lawyer?” She shakes her head. “That’s not the typical single-mom income. I stand by what I said. She has no idea how hard this will be.”

Levi smirks at me. “Why don’t you just offer to give her a baby?”

My breath leaves me in a rush, and I blink at my brother. I have no desire to embarrass myself by admitting to these two that Ava drunkenly asked for my sperm last night. First of all, it’s none of their business. Second of all, I’m clinging to the shreds of my pride already.

“Ew,” Ellie says, frowning at Levi. “Why would he do that? You’re not helping.”

Levi shrugs. “Seems like a simple solution to me.”

“Ew?” I ask. “Seriously, Ell?”

“You’re friends. Like Levi and me. It’d be weird.” Behind her, Levi blanches, but she misses it because she’s looking me over, a grin slowly tugging on one corner of her mouth. “But I’m sure there’s nothing gross about sleeping with you, Jake.”

“Moving on,” Levi says.

“Will you please talk to her?” Ellie asks me again.

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