The Soul Mate Page 24

I didn’t know if I was stalling or simply taken by the moment, but whatever it was, when he pulled away, the last thing I wanted to do was follow him inside.

Instead I wanted to stay out here in the rain, in his arms, breathing in the uncertainty of a family that I only just now realized how badly I wanted.

It had been so long since I’d had a family that was whole and happy and good. To have this baby…to have the chance to mend the broken pieces of my heart that my father’s death had left behind…it would be such a blessing. But I had to take that terrifying first step.

Mason took my hand and led me into the building, stopping only when we reached my front door.

I pulled out my keys and unlocked it, then led him inside, ignoring the sudden tightness in my chest.

“Time for round two,” I said, then found the matches and lit every candle in the room until the whole place was filled with glowing yellow light. Mason ducked into my bedroom, and when he reappeared, he held the white envelope—and our fate—in his hands.

I took a deep breath then turned on the indie folk station again, closing my eyes as the music filled my head and dulled the insistent pounding of my heart.

“We don’t have to do this.” His deep voice rumbled through the room, and I opened my eyes again to find Mason waiting for me.

“No,” I said, taking another step toward him and the tall pillar candle in the center of my coffee table. Thought nerves swam in my belly, I knew it was time. “I want to know. Once and for all.”

He nodded. “Then let’s find out.”

He handed me the envelope and I blinked back at him. “But I thought—”

“You’ve been patient with me and you agreed to my crazy scheme. You should be the one to open the envelope.”

I swallowed hard, then nodded. “Okay, fine, but come close so we see it at the same time.”

He took another step toward me, wrapping one of his arms around my shoulders as I held the envelope in my now trembling hands.

This was it. The moment of truth.

“Whatever this paper says…” I started, but I had no words. Shaking my head, I wet my lips, then said, “Maybe we ought to count down?”

“That’s a great idea. On three?” he asked.

“On three,” I agreed.

“One,” he said.

“Two,” I sighed.

“Three.” We said the last word in unison, and I tore the final scrap of paper from inside the envelope and stared down at it as Mason’s arm squeezed me close to his hot, hard chest.

But the words weren’t right and they blurred before me. They weren’t the ones I’d been expecting. And when I closed my eyes at night?

The words weren’t the ones I’d seen in my dreams.

Mason’s arm loosened from my shoulders and he stepped back before I turned to face him.

“Not pregnant,” I said through numb lips, though the words alone made me suddenly want to burst into tears. “Are you relieved?”

I could hear myself talking and it sounded echoey to my own ears as I tried to quell the sudden wash of nausea that swept over me.

“No,” he said simply, his blue gaze searching mine. “Not at all.”

“Me, neither,” I admitted, swiping a trembling hand over my eyes. “Shit. How accurate is this?”

“It’s accurate, Bren.”

Confusion, fear and disappointment washed over me. “I think I need a drink.”

I blew out the candle on the coffee table and stalked toward the little bar cart in the entryway. Carefully I selected the best bottle of whiskey I had—though in truth it was also the only bottle—and poured two glasses.

Making my way back to him, I held out a glass and he took it without a word.

“I thought…” I started, but everything I’d thought sounded dumb now. Unimportant.

I took a sip of my drink and winced at the burning oaky flavor that hit me even harder considering I hadn’t had a drink in so long. I couldn’t. Not when I’d thought I was having a baby.

A million questions rushed through my head, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask a single one of them. Instead, I settled onto my couch and stared down at my glass, wondering about what this would mean for me. What it would mean for us. He had no reason to stay here now, to make this budding relationship work. And I had no reason to ask him to.

Only a couple of hours or so ago, we’d daydreamed together about a baby girl who was smart and brave and wonderful, pledged that we were together, but that had been when there was a potential baby in the mix. Now that we knew there wasn’t? There was no telling how Mason’s feelings might have changed. Maybe this was the end of the road.

But it was more than that. I felt like, even though there had never been a baby, the child between us had gone. Like all my hopes and dreams for the baby I’d wanted so much were dashed in that one terrible moment. And just like a tragedy, the death of hope left grief in its wake.

“So,” Mason said, and then took a sip of his own drink.

I followed suit, then said, “So.”

We stared at one another, suddenly aware of a stark, tense awkwardness that had never been more present…not even the day my feet had been in stirrups. Which, I supposed, made sense, because suddenly there was simply nothing left to say. We had nothing to do, nothing to plan. The vitamins he’d given me were useless. All of our past conversations on the topic were just silly dreams.

It was all gone, replaced instead with crushing, all-consuming disappointment.

“I have to get up early,” I said. “I wonder if—”

“Yeah, sure. I’d better get going anyway. I’ve got a big day ahead of me as well,” he said, and though we both knew we were just making lame excuses, I nodded. Clearly we both needed some time to process this and didn’t need an audience while we did it. It was a lot to take in.

I followed him to the door, taking his half-full glass before waving him off and embracing the sudden stillness of the apartment.

“Night,” he said stiffly.

“Night,” I returned before closing the apartment door.

There were no sweet embraces, no tender goodnight kisses, no promises to call tomorrow.

As I took a deep breath and stalked toward the bar cart for a refill, I realized there were things to be grateful for. Loads of them. Now I wouldn’t have to move or know the financial burden of a child. I wouldn’t go through morning sickness or cravings. I wouldn’t have stretch marks or pee when I coughed too hard. I wouldn’t gain weight. Hallelujah, am I right?

I wouldn’t have a baby.

With shaky hands, I brought the whiskey to my lips and took a long sip.

I glanced at the door behind me, then leaned back until my back hit the wood of the door. I slid all the way to the ground, crumpling until my head rested on my knees and I saw the world from an angle as big and overwhelming as it felt.

I wouldn’t have a baby.

I couldn’t understand it any more than I could understand why the weight of loss was pressing so hard and deep on my chest. Leaning my head back against the wood of the door, I tried again to take a deep breath, but instead I gasped out a sob as a scalding tear rolled down my cheek and dripped onto my shirt.

First one, then another and another until I was crying, mourning the loss of something that had never been mine to begin with.

I wasn’t having Mason’s baby.

Chapter Twenty


I felt like I’d been holding my breath ever since I’d left Bren’s apartment last night.

As Mondays went, it was even worse than usual—complete with a drab, rainy sky and the promise of a stilted lunch with only one of my parents instead of both of them. Because, from now on, that was how I’d be seeing them most of the time now—separately.

After my second appointment of the day, I trudged back to my office, determined to get some work done if only to feel slightly accomplished on top of whatever else this deluge of disappointment and confusion had already caused.

As soon as I sat down, though, Trent walked in behind me, knocking on the open door before stepping in front of my desk.

“Why aren’t you ready to go?”

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