And I was also watching that like a hawk.
I needed to cool it. Severely.
She expressed a wish to get a new sort of agent, and I delivered. Dierek was interested, so despite being new to her world, I knew he’d be good for her. Her career, I mean. Good for her career.
I was a jealous fucking asshole.
I was rarely jealous when it came to women. Then again, I’d never cared enough about a singular woman either. Except for Valerie, but she’d been different in a lot of ways.
“Hey.” Quincey was laughing and nudged my shoulder with her hand. She held out her phone. “She’s so cute.”
I heard the adoration and felt it deep inside. Emily had taken a picture of Nova in her crib. She was tangled up in a blanket, her penguin, a dolphin, and a whale. She looked damned cute.
“She loves the marine mammals, huh?”
“She does.” Quincey took the phone back, sending off a text. “I think she gets it from Stephanie…” She trailed off, a look of horror flaring over her face.
“Oh my God.” A soft utter from her.
Something happened on the field again. Everyone was roaring around us, jumping to their feet. Quincey stayed sitting. So did I. I bent closer to her. “What’s wrong?”
She turned those horrified eyes my way. I had to crane to hear her. “I forgot she’s not mine. I forgot that she came from Valerie.” The horror was quickly turning to shame, and something worse, something darker. “That’s horrible of me. To forget… and I thought she actually came from me for a second. I’m going to be sick.”
She shoved up from her seat and darted past me. She was up the aisle in a flash.
“Nate?” Dierek leaned over.
I glanced at the clock. There were thirty seconds left.
Grabbing my coat and hers, I stood. “I have to take care of this. We’re eating at Peluzza. Seven. Reservation is under my name.”
“Okay. Yeah.” He nodded in the direction Quincey had gone. “Is she okay?”
I hesitated, but he needed to be told something. “Uh, yeah. It’ll be fine. A recent death in the family.”
With that, I headed after her. She was long gone by the time I got up to the walkway. Upset females generally went to the bathrooms, didn’t they? I had no clue, so I veered toward a staff member standing by the entrance. “A female ran past, looking like she was going to be—”
“She took off down that hallway. The bathrooms are right there, so I’m sure she’s just ahead.”
The staff member was correct.
I rounded the curve, and Quincey was there. She was wiping a finger under both her eyes, and she expelled some air before turning to come back. She saw me then, faltering, but she looked fine.
“You okay?” I asked as I drew near.
“Yeah. I’m fine.” Her smile was shaky. “I’m just—I forgot, and I can’t forget. I can’t forget Valerie. And I can’t do that. It’s not right. Or fair.”
This was partly on me, forcing her to sign that paper.
“Valerie wanted you to raise Nova for a reason. She’s yours now. In Nova’s eyes, you are her mother, or she’ll grow up thinking of you as her mother.”
“But she’s not mine. She didn’t come from me.”
“Nova needs a mother who’s here. We’ll talk to her about Valerie. She’ll grow up loving her mother, but she’ll know that she has two mothers. One’s here, and one’s in heaven. You’re not going to replace Valerie. You’re just filling a new mothering role.”
“And if you meet someone?” Her voice grew hoarse. “If you fall in love and that woman doesn’t want me around? What’s protecting me from you taking Nova from me then?”
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
If Logan were here, he’d be pulling me away. He’d be telling me not to say anything or promise anything that I wasn’t sure about following through on, but I was staring at her, and she was hurting. I was feeling her hurt, and that was making me hurt.
Nova was new to me, but this was also new to me.
I was starting to realize how much of a selfish bastard I might’ve been.
Still… I clamped down on spilling words that the rational side of me knew I might regret one day, so instead, I drew her to my chest. My hand cupped the back of her head, and with her in my arms, I whispered over her head, “You will always be in Nova’s life. I promise you that.”
But I wasn’t saying how she would be in Nova’s life. I couldn’t. I couldn’t promise her what she needed me to say.
I was a right dick, such a bastard.
But I couldn’t say anything more. I just couldn’t.
Her hands lifted, grasping onto my arms, and she sagged against me. “Thank you.”
I could feel her relief.
Yes. A bastard. That was me.
I knew the game was done, and people were starting to leave even before the time ran out. Matteo’s team won by a last-minute touchdown, so the local fans weren’t happy. Matteo would be, but I wanted to get a start on heading out for the restaurant. But I was also feeling like a shithead over Quincey’s feelings, so I needed to try to do something.
I texted Dierek.
Me: Do you have your own car? Or do you want a ride to the restaurant with us?
Dierek: I took an Uber here. A ride over would be nice, then I could talk more with Quincey. Where are you?
I shot him a pic of the door we were at, taking Quincey’s hand to hold her up.
My phone buzzed a second later.
Dierek: I’ll be there in a bit.
“What’s going on?”
Quincey asked, and outwardly, she looked fine. But to me, she seemed more vulnerable. More raw. More open to me. Maybe that was my guilty conscience sparking up? I needed to check that in place, and I said, a bit gruffer than necessary, “Waiting on Dierek. He’s going with us to the restaurant.”
“That’s right.” She closed her eyes, swaying to me. She groaned. “I was so unprofessional up there. This…” She waved at herself. “This isn’t me. Not normally. The last thing he’ll want to do is sign me now.”