“No.” I saw nothing but a blinding white light as the bundle in my hands squirmed and started to cry. “Is she okay?” I asked. “Fuck, I can’t see shit. The kid’s okay, right?”
“She’s fine.” Pick’s voice came from my left. “I’ve got her.” The screeching baby was tugged from my arms and she instantly calmed down.
No longer needing to worry about the girl, I doubled over and clutched my throbbing eye. “God...damn.”
“Ten, are you okay?” Buttercup asked as she touched my arm.
“Never better,” I muttered.
She laughed but then quietly said, “Then give a thumbs-up or something, because Caroline looks worried enough to race over here and check on you.”
I immediately lifted my arm, my thumb in the air. “I’m good,” I called. “It’d been too long since I had a black eye. Thought I’d get caught up again.”
Someone started clapping. “Way to go, Zoey. You can now officially join the Gave-Ten-a-Black-Eye club with Quinn, Pick and me.”
“Shut up, fucker,” I yelled back to Gamble as Buttercup and Blondie grasped my arms and guided me toward the house. “I bet Blondie’s bruise will spread a lot bigger and darker than the little dink you gave me.”
After the girls fashioned a baggie of ice for me, I returned to the party and found myself talking to Pick and Mason because they seemed to be located the farthest away from Caroline. It was as if everyone was trying to keep me away from her. I didn’t like that. So I didn’t listen to much of anything the bastards said, too busy keeping track of everything she did across the yard.
This was miserable, and it got even worse when Lowe grinned and clasped me on the shoulder as he spoke to Pick. “Just look at that puppy-dog expression on his face while he watches her.”
Pick grinned rather smugly. “Ten, man. You’ve got it bad.”
“Shut it,” I muttered and just kept staring as I drank my beer.
The rest of the party seemed to drag by. But seriously, one year olds took freaking forever to open their damn gifts. They actually wanted to play with their toys as soon as they opened them without the slightest urge to move along and see what else they’d gotten. Seriously, what was up with that?
I was leaning against a fence post, trying to encourage her brother to toddle over there and help her rip apart wrapping paper when from the corner of my eye—where my Caroline radar was blaring strong—she grabbed her stomach and pitched forward, doubling over. My full attention immediately zoomed to her, and I pushed away from the wall. Her gaze met mine, her eyes wide with shock and pain.
“You okay?” I mouthed the question.
She nodded, but she was getting paler, and sweat was slipping down the side of her face. She wasn’t fucking okay at all. Suddenly, she dashed to a nearby bush and heaved over it, upchucking all her lunch.
“Shit!” I leapt forward, but Ham grabbed my arm, stopping me.
Glaring up at him, I tried to pull free. “Don’t fuck with me, man.”
He shifted closer. “Noel’s here. He’ll take care of her.”
My breathing escalated. I wanted to shrug him off and go to Caroline anyway. Pick, and Hart, and Gamble’s wife were crowding around her, as were all three of her brothers. What would be wrong if I went over there too? She was my woman, damn it.
“This would be the worst time ever to expose your relationship,” Ham murmured.
So I paced on the other side of him, feeling like a caged animal, as I watched from too fucking far away, while Caroline continued to empty her stomach.
“What the fuck is wrong with her?” I muttered, starting to panic. She’d been fine only minutes ago.
Ham shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t think—” He broke off when Buttercup slapped a hand over her mouth and darted inside Pick and Eva’s place right before Lowe followed her, cradling his stomach.
“What the hell?” A second later, Brandt started puking on the lawn too.
“Food poisoning?” Blondie guessed just as Gamble’s wife lifted her arms and called, “What did everyone eat?”
I guess it was a good thing I didn’t like shrimp. It saved me from a severe case of diarrhea and vomiting. But it didn’t keep me from worrying my ass off.
After the worst of the food poisoning passed from Caroline and her brother, Gam scooped her into his arms and carried her away. When his wife went to help Brandt stand, Quinn started forward. “Here, I’ll help.” But I grabbed his arm.