I love secret baby romance so much. The raw emotion pulls me in like nothing else. When Natalie and I were writing, this chapter had us holding each other from all the emotion.
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Hope you like this chapter below – chapter 6!
I’m still shaking. It’s even worse than I thought it would be, trying to pretend that I don’t know Brady for who he is—the man who basically killed my sister. The man who brought a huge blessing to my family with Liam’s birth but a huge curse when Lucy died.
How the hell can I keep this up?
I slump down in my desk chair then lean forward to set all my photos upright again. Did he see the resemblance…that Liam is his Mini Me? Probably not.
Somehow, I don’t think his powers of perception are all that finely honed.
I run my fingertip down the photo of me and Lucy at graduation. Thank God he didn’t see that one. I’d need to be more careful.
For a moment I let myself think about what would happen if Brady knew he was Liam’s dad. It could make life pretty easy for Liam—a dad who was a pro football player could give him anything he wanted.
But I promised Lucy.
I touch her face, so carefree and laughing in the photo. “I miss you, Lucy,” I say. “And I’ll keep my promise not to tell Brady about Liam.” Then I giggle. “Although I guess I have to admit, I can see just a little of what you saw in him.”
I find myself thinking about Brady’s eyes, his muscles, and how my skin tingled just from brushing my arm against him. I shake my head.
Stop right there, Izzie, I think to myself. He broke Lucy’s heart, even if he never knew it. He’s bad news.
I sit back in my chair again, swiveling to look out the window and thinking about Lucy. She’d been so happy. I remember the day she told me about Brady Thomas for the first time.
“He’s amazing, Izz,” she told me that day as we sat in Brew Baker’s Café, just off campus. Her eyes had that dreamy look they always got when Lucy was in love, but somehow, this time, they sparkled even more. “Would you believe he’s an orphan like us?”
“That’s a big coincidence,” I said carefully, sipping my mocha. Lucy was always falling madly in love, then falling out of it with a thud a few weeks or months later.
“He was raised by his aunt and uncle,” Lucy continued, then frowned. “But they didn’t treat him so great, not like us with Gigi and Pappy. We were so lucky…” Her voice trailed off.
We both thought about our grandparents—about how warm and loving they’d been, even when they suddenly found themselves with two kids to raise just when they should’ve been thinking about enjoying themselves.
“Anyway,” Lucy continued, “he loves football. No, he, like, lives for football. He’s an amazing player, and he thinks it’ll be his ticket out of his old life.”
Football. Well, at least that was good. Although Lucy had a weakness for football players in general.
Lucy gazed into her mug with a little secretive smile. “I’m totally in love with him,” she confessed. As if this was something new and different.
“C’mon, Luce,” I said, unable to help myself. “If I had a buck for every time I’ve heard you say that, I’d be friggin’ rich.”
“It’s different this time,” she said quietly. “Really different. Real love.” Then she giggled again. “I’ve pretty much been living in his room.”
“Oh my God, Lucy, you’ve been having sex?” I said in a mock-horrified voice.
Heads turned to look at us, and Lucy turned bright red. But then we both collapsed into giggles.
“Well, I hope he’s good,” I said, and Lucy quirked her eyebrow and grinned.
I shake my head, gazing at the photo of Liam on my desk. My mind drifts, moving forward to a month later as Lucy’s sitting on her dorm room bed, wringing her hands, her face anxious.
“Look at it for me, Izzie,” she said, handing me the stick from the home pregnancy test. I take it from her with finicky fingertips—ewww—and look.
“How does this thing work?” I say, twisting the plastic stick.
“A plus or a minus. Plus yes. Minus, no.”
I peer in the little window, then look up and meet Lucy’s eyes. “Plus.”
Lucy slumped onto the bed. “That’s that, then.” She sighed. “Happy Mother’s Day, right?”
I stood there awkwardly, still holding the stick. Then I carefully dropped it into her wastebasket and rubbed my fingers against my jeans. “That’s…what? What’re you gonna do, Luce?”
“I’m keeping the baby,” she said, as if surprised I’d even ask. “Of course. Maybe Brady and I can move in together for real. I can get a job…I’ll have to drop out of school, but who cares?”
She probably wouldn’t. Lucy had never been all that crazy about school, and I thought she’d gone to college just for something to do. And to watch football games.
Lucy was smiling now, hugging herself, forgotten tears drying on her cheeks. “Our own place, maybe one of those campus apartments for married students…” She laughed with delight. “Married…”
I went over and hugged her. She was so happy that it was infectious.
Suddenly I sit up in my chair, thumping my feet angrily onto the floor under my desk. She was happy. And stupid.
Before she even tells him about the baby, Brady tells her that he’s transferring to another school, where he can have a better chance to play.
And it’s pretty clear that it’s not an arrangement for a guy with a wife and a kid on the way, and it’s also clear that he wants to break up with her, so Lucy decides to be noble and doesn’t even tell him she’s pregnant.
“I can’t,” I remember her telling me as we sat on our grandparents’ porch. “If I tell him, he won’t go, and he’ll ruin his chances for a pro career. This is his big break.”
“But, Lucy, it’s his baby,” I argue helplessly, angrily pushing my toes against the worn, splintery porch floor to make the swing move back and forth. The chains holding it up creak in protest. “You at least need to give him the chance to decide.”
“No.” Lucy was adamant. She had the steely, stubborn look in her eyes that meant there was no changing her mind. “He wants to break up with me anyway. I can tell.” Her resolve wavered for a moment, but I watched her take a deep breath, her mouth firm. “It’s better for everyone. I’ll tell him someday, when he’s gone pro.”
What if that day doesn’t come? How will you survive? I thought, but I just couldn’t say anything to her. “So what’re you going to do?”
Lucy gazed around at the porch, the familiar fields, and the yard. “I’ll live here, I guess. I can help Gigi and Pappy. And Gigi will love having a baby in the house again.”
I tipped my head back and focused on the beaded board of the porch ceiling, its paint flaking off. I wasn’t so sure that Gigi would be all that thrilled. “I’ll help you, too,” I finally offered, and Lucy gave me a smile and a sideways hug.
“Everything will be fine,” she reassured me. “And eventually I’ll be a family with Brady and the baby. And you, too, of course,” she added.
I get up from my desk, unable to sit still, bombarded by memories I don’t want to have. How happy she was when the baby, when tiny little Liam, was born, already the spitting image of his dad.
True to Lucy’s word, Brady had gone off to another school and then to a pro career without ever having a clue that he was a baby daddy.
But just two short weeks after Liam was born, I sat next to Lucy in the hospital as she was dying.
Puerperal infection. That’s what Lucy died of. A stupid infection picked up in the hospital, probably because she’d had to have a C-section.
She was fine when she and Liam came home, but then she lost her appetite, she always had the chills, and she complained of a headache. When she started running a fever, Gigi forced her to go to the doctor. But it was too late.
“You’ve got to promise me something, Izzie,” Lucy had said faintly that day in the hospital. She was ghostly pale against her pillow. “If…if I’m not around…”
“You’re going to be fine!” I insisted, almost angrily, as I clutched her hand, but she shook her head.
“Whatever happens,” she said, struggling, “you have to promise not to tell Brady about Liam.”
“Why, Lucy? Why?” I asked, feeling like my heart was already being torn in half. “Liam is his son, and Liam will need him. No matter what.”
Lucy closed her eyes briefly. “No!” she whispered. “There’s no reason now. Liam’s better off with you and Gigi and Pappy. Promise me that you’ll take care of him, of my beautiful boy, and that you won’t tell Brady. Ever.”
I was only sixteen. How could I promise to take care of a baby? But Lucy was my sister, the dearest person to me in the whole world, and I’d do anything she asked.
“I promise,” I said, kissing her. “I’ll always take care of Liam. And I won’t tell Brady.”
“Thank you, Izzie,” Lucy whispered again. I sat there, holding her hand, until she died a few hours later.
I dash my hand angrily across my eyes, wiping away tears. That moment eight years ago still as vivid as when it happened.
God fucking dammit. I promised Lucy. I promised.
And I’d keep my promise. I have a good job, and I can take good care of Liam.
And as far as I’m concerned, Brady Thomas is nothing. Zero. Zilch.
He’s just another muscled, meaty football player. I’ll try to get him to put something in his mouth besides junk food, which is my job, but that’s it.
He caused my sister’s death, even if he never knew it, and I’d be happy if I never had to see him again.
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