I cock a questioning brow. “Do you have a job interview lined up already?”
And her nostrils flair. “No. I have a job. I’m dressed to go to it.”
At some point during the night, I decided I wasn’t going to fight with her anymore. She’s fucking pregnant—only an honest-to-goodness coldhearted prick would upset his pregnant wife, and I’ve put a lot of effort through the years into not being that.
So I nod. Take out my cell phone and dial Brent’s number. And as I speak to him, my gaze doesn’t waver from my wife’s stubborn face.
“Hey. Listen—I’m supposed to be in court today at ten and I’m not gonna make it. Can you stand in for me? Request a continuance?”
After Brent responds in my ear, I tell him, “Yeah, exactly. Thanks—I owe you.”
I jab at the disconnect button and slide the phone into my pocket.
And all eyes—mine and the kids’—are on Chelsea.
“What’d you do that for?”
I open my palms, gesturing like the answer is obvious. “We’re going to work at the museum. I’m pretty frigging talented but even I can’t be in two places at once.”
Her eyes narrow. “You’re coming to work with me?”
I smirk viciously. “There’s no place else I’d rather be.”
“That’s your plan? You’re going to follow me around. Forever?”
I lean forward, elbows on my knees. “I’ll do what I need to do, sweetheart, for however long I need to do it.”
Her face pinches and she looks away from me. Then she yanks her own phone out of her blazer pocket and a few seconds later speaks into it—leaving a voice mail.
“Gavin, it’s Chelsea. It seems that what you told me yesterday is accurate. I’m resigning. I . . . good-bye.” She pins me to the chair with a scowl. “There, you win. Happy, Jake?”
“You sure? Because that’s how it feels.”
She turns away, heading into the kitchen, but not before I see the tears welling in those crystal-blue eyes.
And—fuck—if that doesn’t make me feel like the smallest dick that’s ever existed.
Just when I think I can’t feel any lower, Regan manages to help me out.
“Are you and Mommy getting divorced?”
Riley swats his hand and tells him to shut up.
I touch Regan’s little head. “No, we’re not getting divorced.”
“That’s what Abigail Stillwater’s parents said. Right before they got divorced. Then on Visiting Day Mr. Stillwater called Mrs. Stillwater’s friend an underage boy toy and Mrs. Stillwater said Mr. Stillwater was a deadbeat bastard who didn’t own her. They had to be escorted from the building.”
Ronan steps up next to his sister. “Are you sure you’re not gonna get divorced?” He wags his finger. “Tell the truth.”
“Yes, I’m sure.” I rub my hand over my face. “Look, guys . . . sometimes adults disagree. Just like you two—you fight all the time, but you still love each other.”
They glance at each other, confused—and slightly disgusted.
“Okay, bad example. I promise Mommy and I are not getting divorced.” I gesture to their backpacks and coats. “Now get ready—the bus will be here soon. Rosaleen, help Ronan with his shoes.”
Rosaleen purses her lips, quieter than I’ve ever seen her. “Okay.”
With a big breath I walk into the kitchen, to fix the shittiness that is this situation. She’s at the sink, washing dishes . . . and holding back tears.
I’ve seen some heartbreaking stuff in my days—but there is nothing on earth more gut-wrenching than watching Chelsea Becker trying her hardest not to cry.
I come up behind her, wrap my arms around her waist, and bury my face in her neck.
She stiffens, and sniffles, but stays silent.
“I fucking hate this. I want you to be happy, but I need to know that you’re safe.” My arms squeeze tighter. “I won’t . . . I won’t be able to function if I don’t know that. Try and understand. Please.”
She gives me more of her weight, leaning back, softening just a little. “I do understand. I would probably feel the same way if things were reversed. But . . . it hurts when you make decisions without me.” She hiccups, and it lands like a knife to my stomach. “When you don’t think of me.”
I turn her around, raising my hands to swipe at her tears with my thumbs. “I do think of you. Always.”
Chelsea regards me with wet, wounded eyes and puffy lips. “You should’ve talked to me about it first, Jake. So it was something we decided together. We’re a team . . . remember?”
Her words bring me back to another time, years ago—another argument, and the harsh, stupid words I threw at her. When I was terrified of screwing this up. When I had no fucking clue what I was doing.
Sometimes . . . it feels like I still don’t.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again, Chelsea.” I kiss her gently. Her mouth is warm and soft and yielding. “But you can’t keep things from me because you don’t like how I’m going to react. I need to know you’ll be honest with me.”
She nods. “I’m sorry. I was wrong, I should’ve told you what was going on. I won’t keep anything like this from you again. I promise.”