The loud pounding on what sounded like the shop’s door downstairs woke Orlando and had him sitting up in his bed. He waited for a moment because he thought maybe he’d been dreaming. The sun was just beginning to rise, so it was still fairly dark out. It was nowhere near time to open up the shop. That couldn’t be a customer knocking. When he didn’t hear anything else for too long, he lay back down with a groan.
Once awake, there was no way he’d be falling asleep again, damn it. Still, he closed his eyes in an attempt to sleep in just a little longer. It wasn’t until a few moments later as he lay there in vain, trying to catch some more Z’s, that he heard it. A tiny whimper. He opened one eye and listened intently for a few moments longer. Nothing.
“Fucking hell,” he muttered, bringing his pillow over his face.
It was the only thing he hated about his place. His apartment sat directly above the auto shop he and his two best friends owned. While it had everything he needed and was in close proximity to several bars he frequented, it was in the middle of a commercial district, not in a residential area. So, when it wasn’t delivery trucks or street-repair crews making noises early in the morning, it was people from store-top apartments like his own nearby, walking their dogs.
He heard the whimpering again of what he assumed was someone’s annoying little dog tied up while they went into the coffee shop across the street or something. With a grunt, Orlando swung his legs off the side of his bed and sat there for a moment, yawning. He was seriously going to have to consider what his friends had begun to suggest: that he start looking into investing in a real home, especially now that business was really taking off. He’d need the write-off, and bringing women back here was beginning to feel like he was sneaking them into his place of work. Technically, it was his place of work, but he was a grown-ass man who was part owner of the shop, not some horny kid using the upstairs living area at his job to get laid.
The whimpering started up again, only this time it sounded different—closer. He almost ignored it as he got up on his way to take a leak when something clinked loudly at his window, making him flinch. “What the . . .?”
He turned to the window, walking toward it. Remembering the pigeons that sometimes made themselves at home just outside his window sill, he frowned, ready to scurry them off. Until he saw an actual rock this time hit his window and bounce off. Rushing to the window now, he pulled the blinds all the way up and caught a glimpse of someone hiding just around the corner of the building across the street.
Whoever it was, ducked out of sight quickly when Orlando pulled the window open. He hadn’t been able to make out whether it was a girl or a guy. They’d worn a hoodie that covered most their face.
“Hey!” he yelled out, after glancing down at the good-sized pebble that had landed on the awning just below his window.
It was then that he heard the whimpering again, and it was closer than he’d thought. It sounded like it was coming from directly below the awning, but he couldn’t see because of it. “Someone down there?”
The whimpering turned into crying—a baby crying. Confused, Orlando glanced around, up and down the street, but saw nothing. It was early. Too early for even the coffee shop to be open, so it wasn’t coming from there.
He peered out at the corner where someone peeked around again but ducked back out of sight when they saw him look up. “Hey!” he yelled out again. “You throwing shit at my window?”
There was no response, but then he saw it. Whoever had hidden just around the corner of that building was still there. The tip of a shoe stuck out at the bottom of the building’s corner.
Rushing around his room, Orlando slipped on his jeans and his running shoes without socks, nearly falling in the process. He grabbed the bat he kept by his bedroom door and started out but then remembered. He darted back to his nightstand and grabbed his beanie, put it on, then rushed out of his room and down the stairs on a mission.
“Little fuckers,” he hissed as he made it to the bottom.
Since they’d bought this place a little over a year ago, they’d had some issues with the punks in the area tagging up the walls. He thought they’d taken care of the issue, but apparently, the punks were still up to no good.
Flinging the front door of the shop open, he’d been ready to sprint down the street, but came to a screeching halt when he saw the bundle at his front door. That baby he’d heard crying was a lot closer than he thought. The crying was now coming from under the blanket that covered what looked like a baby car seat. An overstuffed baby bag sat next to the seat.
“The fuck?” he said, stepping out cautiously, still wielding the bat.
There was no one in sight, and that foot he’d seen from upstairs near the bottom of the building’s corner across the street was gone. Walking around the baby seat, Orlando jogged over to the side of the building where the person had ducked behind, but there was no one in sight.
“Anyone there?” he called out anyway.
Turning full circle in the middle of the street, he looked around everywhere, even up on the roofs of the buildings as if maybe someone was filming this. Maybe someone was punking his ass. Could there really be a kid in that thing?
He rushed back to it, kneeling down slowly, almost afraid to lift the blanket. Cautiously, he lifted it, and sure enough, the pouting baby let out a cry and lifted its little arms the moment it saw Orlando.
“Holy shit,” Orlando gasped, nearly falling back on his ass, but managed to keep his balance and glanced around again. “Who . . .?”
He shook his head, afraid to even touch the kid much less take him inside. He’d just begun to consider his options. Calling the cops was definitely at the top of the list. Then he saw it. He’d been in such shock, when his eyes had met the baby’s, he’d completely missed the piece of paper sticking out from under the other blanket he was snuggled in.
Lifting the paper carefully with his fingertips so as to not mess with any evidence of a possible kidnapping, he opened it slowly and read it.
His name is Orlando, like his daddy. He’ll be four months old on the 8th. Aside from his heart murmur, he’s in perfect health. No allergies that I know of and up-to-date on his immunizations. You’ll need to get him on your insurance ASAP so they can monitor his heart. I can’t take care of him anymore, so it’s time for you to step up. Everything you need for now is in the bag. He just ate, but he’ll probably need to be changed soon.
He’s yours, Orlando. Have him tested if you want, but PLEASE don’t give him up! He needs his daddy.
For a moment, Orlando thought he might faint. He didn’t even realize he’d stopped breathing until he gasped in a much-needed deep breath and touched his hand to his clammy forehead.
“No fucking way,” he whispered, staring at the piece of paper, then glanced back down at a pouting little boy.
As dazed and shaken as he felt, his expression eased up when the baby reached out and grabbed his finger. His little grip was a strong one, and once latched on, he didn’t appear to be letting go. His other little hand reached out for him, opening and closing.
“Orlando?” he heard himself whisper.
The pouting ceased at the sound of his voice, and then there it was: a perfect little toothless smile that inevitably had Orlando smiling too.
“This is fucking insane,” Nine said, staring at the baby. “Can you really just keep him?”
“I don’t know.” Orlando ran his fingers through his hair, pacing around the room for the millionth time. “I’m waiting to hear back from Slater. But he’s on a flight to Colombia right now. It’ll be at least another hour before he lands and calls me back. I did leave a long text explaining this. So hopefully he’ll call me as soon as he reads it.”
That seemed to confuse Nine until his eyes went wide. “Slippery Slater? He’s a contract lawyer.”
“I know that, but I don’t know any other lawyers, and if he doesn’t have answers for me, he can hook me up with someone who might.”
“What’s going on?” Beast asked, walking in the back door. “Why are we still not open for business?”
“We’re not opening today,” Orlando said, moving out of the way so he could see the baby in the car seat. “I gave all the guys the day off.”
Beast slowed when he saw the baby and took his sunglasses off. Orlando glanced down at the baby nervously then back at Beast.
With his brows furrowing, Beast met Orlando’s eyes. “Whose baby?”
Nine chuckled, bringing his fist to his mouth.
“Mine, I think,” Orlando said, even as insane as it sounded hearing it out loud.
Orlando explained quickly about the knock at the door that morning and everything that followed. He handed the note to his friend, hoping for some words of wisdom since Nine had zero so far.
“And this was at what time?” Beast asked.
“Just before six in the morning.”
Beast looked at his watch. “Who’d you call?”
“Nobody,” Nine said, answering for Orlando with a shake of his head and another chuckle. “Oh wait. He text Slippery Slater.” This time he all-out laughed, making Orlando frown.
Orlando gave Nine a murderous glare. “He’s a lawyer, okay?” He turned to the baby when the baby started fidgeting. “He can at least tell me what I shouldn’t do.”
“Are you nuts?” Beast asked, handing him back the note. “You gotta call the cops. Cover your ass. What if this kid’s been reported missing?”
“But what if he is mine?” Orlando asked.
“Even parents get arrested for kidnapping their own kids, O,” Beast insisted, getting a closer look at the baby. “For all you know, this could be a set-up. Some jilted chick you fucked and never called back.”
The words “watch your mouth” nearly jumped out of Orlando’s mouth, but he caught himself. He’d been around this baby less than three hours, and already he was feeling protective. It’s why he hadn’t called the cops yet. After rocking the baby to sleep and holding him for a while just staring at him, he’d instantly felt a connection.
“I’m giving it another hour,” Orlando said then panicked when he saw Beast calling someone. “Who you calling?”
“My lawyer,” Beast said, bringing the phone to his ear. “This is some serious shit, O. If this isn’t really your kid and his parents are looking for him, they’re probably losing their fucking minds right about now. I know I’d be.”
“Can you”—Orlando paused, catching himself again— “not be so loud?” He glanced down at the baby, who wasn’t just fidgeting anymore; he was making faces. “Took me forever to settle him down and asleep.”
Beast glanced down at the baby who was making noises now. “Well, looks like he’s gonna be up soon. It’s what babies do. If he is yours, I hope you’re ready for it. I don’t know what the hell I’d do without Ali.”
Beast started talking into his phone, and as if on cue, the baby began to whimper. Orlando walked over and picked him up as awkwardly as he’d done the first time.
Nine, who was standing closest, winced, bringing his hand to his nose. “Ooff!” he said, and at that very moment, Orlando smelled what he was referring to. Practically running away, Nine was already several feet away. “That’s nasty.”
It wasn’t pleasant. That was for damn sure. But Orlando didn’t know about nasty. He had shared a place with these two guys not too long ago, so he knew all about real nastiness.
“Relax. He just needs to be changed. The note said he would, remember?”
He grabbed the bag and headed upstairs, gulping because he’d never changed a baby in his life. He had no idea what he was in for. Thankfully, everything in the bag he’d gone through so far had been labeled in detail. It seemed odd to Orlando as he thought about it, walking up the stairs. This was only the second time he was holding Baby O, and already the little guy had grown on him so much he wasn’t dreading the diaper change as much as he thought he might.
Aside from the heart murmur, he was otherwise healthy enough and well taken care of. From the looks of all the labels in the meticulously organized bag, whoever had him for the first few months of his life seemed to care about him. They certainly made sure everything was unmistakably labeled and even left a typewritten list of the foods he’d need to shop for. The note on the baby formula firmly stated, “This is the ONLY formula he can have. NO EXCEPTIONS!” Clearly, someone cared about him. So how could they just leave him at his doorstep?
Already, Orlando was in love with the pacifier. That thing was godsent. The moment he stuck it in little man’s mouth, it shut him up and calmed him. Even that was labeled, “use sparingly.” Fuck that. Until he got a hang of this dad thing, he was using every cheat he could find.
“Dad,” he whispered as he laid the baby down on the bed.
The more he thought this might actually be a possibility, the more terrified he felt for two reasons. For one, he was in no way ready to be a dad—much less a single dad. Already, he had no idea what to do next. But the second was a dread that was growing with every passing minute he spent with the kid. He crinkled his nose. No matter how stink-ass he was, what if they did take him from him? He shook his head, deciding he wouldn’t start worrying about that just yet.
“Beast!” he called out, staring down at the baby’s wiggling legs. He held his nose as the stench got a little stronger. “Yo, man, can you come up here when you get a minute?” He glanced down at the smiling baby. “You stink.”
The baby smiled so big the pacifier fell out of his mouth, but he didn’t cry. Instead, he giggled, kicking his legs a little harder. “You doing that on purpose?” Orlando asked, pinching his nose even tighter. “You’re making the smell worse, dude.”
As much as the pungent smell made him grimace, Orlando couldn’t help smiling. He’d since been corrected. The little guy wasn’t as toothless as he first thought him. He had one tiny tooth—that Orlando could see anyway. He hated to jump ahead of himself, but something in the twinkle in the baby’s eyes reminded him a little of himself. Feeling the weirdest flutter in his heart, he swallowed hard. Could this really be his kid?
Beast walked in the bedroom. “Whoa, that’s bad.” He lifted his shirt to his nose.
“Can you do this?”
“Hell, no.” Beast lifted the shirt even higher over his nose. “I do everything for Elsa except change sloppy diapers. Well, so far. I’ve managed to avoid it anyway.”
“But you’ve changed a diaper, right?”
“Yeah, but only when she’s just wet.”
“Well, walk me through this, man. I’ve never even done that.”
Beast walked him through it, the whole time holding his shirt to his nose. He started laughing when Orlando gagged but then gagged himself and started to walk away. “Get back here, ass,” Orlando called out for him in sheer panic.
He grabbed a handful of wipes as Beast instructed and started wiping. It took a while with Nine getting curious and sticking his head in the room only to run back out of there cussing like a little bitch. By the time he was done, Orlando was sure he’d used far more wipes than he was supposed to. But it was over. Beast offered to hold the baby while Orlando ran outside to throw everything out in the dumpster. Beast was coming down the stairs when Orlando walked back in. He looked way more comfortable holding the baby than Orlando had felt so far. But then the guy was a dad.
Before Orlando could take the baby from him, his phone rang. Remembering the call he was waiting on, his heart rate spiked. He rushed to his phone, and sure enough, it was Slater.
The first words out of Slaters mouth the moment Orlando answered the phone were, “Call child protective services.” Instantly Orlando felt his stomach drop as he listened intently to everything else the guy had to say. “I just got off the phone with someone who knows about this stuff. Even if it is your kid, this needs to be reported. Do you know who the mother is?”
“I have no idea,” Orlando admitted. “He’s three and a half months according to the note, so this has to be someone I slept with last year. I don’t have a fucking clue.”
“Well, first things first, call child protective services, and they’ll take it from here.”
“Whoa, whoa, wait.” Orlando turned back to Beast still holding the baby. “What if he is mine? What do you mean they’ll take it from here?” Unbelievably, he was already feeling alarmed. “Are they just gonna take him from me?”
“Absolutely. They’ll take him straight to the hospital to get him checked out and rule out any illnesses or abuse—of any kind. Then he’ll be put in emergency foster care until they know for sure he hasn’t been kidnapped and the real parents aren’t out there frantically looking for him. Even if you can prove you’re his dad, just ’cause you made him doesn’t mean you’re fit to be a parent. A child is a very delicate thing. If you really want to keep him, you’ll have to prove you’re fit. It’s a whole process. They’ll check your background, test you for drugs, and even send someone out to check out your living arrangements. But you gotta call them, O, or you’ll be in a lot of trouble, and I’ll tell you this much: if they find the mother, she’s already in a world of trouble.”
By the time he was off the phone, he felt dazed. Beast’s contacts told him pretty much the same thing. Orlando had no choice but to make the call. Then he sat and waited. His heart was already telling him this baby was his. The whole time he sat there holding the baby he felt numb.
What Slater had said was no exaggeration. The police arrived first, followed by the paramedics who’d be transporting his son to the hospital where they said he’d be thoroughly checked out. The social workers were going straight to the hospital. But even more surprising was he was asked to come into headquarters for questioning. The idea that he might be a suspect in the case of this kid’s missing mother hadn’t even crossed his mind. Just like that, Orlando’s world was turned upside down.
It was the right thing to do. Danica knew this. There were no two ways around it. The only other choice she’d had was out of the question. All she could do now is pray Orlando would do the right thing and fight to keep him. As the biological father he’d be given first choice of the baby. She knew he wasn’t the fatherly type. Knew it was a risk to leave the baby with him but she couldn’t imagine anyone not falling in love with that beautiful near toothless smile.
Thinking about it only made her sob even more. Danica buried her face in her hands. As much as she wanted to hate Symon for forcing her to do it already, she knew he was right. The only other choice meant losing the baby forever. Of course, she didn’t tell Symon that. Not only would he think her crazy for her farfetched plan, he’d be completely against it. It was still way too soon to know if the first part had even worked. The second part of her plan wasn’t as well thought out. But one thing was for certain. As insane as it sounded, if Orlando did decide to keep the baby, she was definitely going to have to find a way to get her foot in. It hadn’t even been a whole day since she’d left him at that doorstep and already she was falling apart.
Gathering herself, she got up and walked to the bathroom in the spacious home. She rinsed her face clean only to start crying all over again when she glanced at the bathtub and saw the baby wash. Sitting down on the toilet seat she snatched a towel off the rack and wiped her face. How in the world would she ever get through this?
Twice that morning she’d nearly just kept driving. Thoughts of packing her stuff too, running away with baby Orlando and never looking back had plagued her for weeks. But in the end, she always came back to the same conclusion. She wouldn’t get far and eventually she’d be worse than where she was at right now. At least now she was just without him and miserable but not locked up. Also doing it this way was imperative, so she’d know where he was. It was the only thing that would keep her from completely spiraling into a deep depression. She still had a chance to try and be a part of his life. Even before she’d given him up, she was certain she’d try just about anything to be able to see him and be around him again. Now that she knew just how agonizing it’d be to go even a day without him, she knew she’d stop at nothing.
Ironically it was only several months ago that Orlando started dating someone and taking it a little more serious than he ever had in his life. Since getting his business running had been his only priority so far, a serious relationship hadn’t even been on his list of priorities. Although his mother had always said you don’t go out looking for the right one. The right one will show up one day when you least expect it. You won’t even know it until you realize she’s sucked you in. Not that it’d happened exactly that way.
He met Rachel in the typical less than profound way he often met chicks. At the local watering hole just around the corner from the shop. He’d gone there after closing up shop, they exchanged a few words and ended up hitting it off. She’d walked home with him at the end of the night since he’d walked there, and she and her friend had Ubered there. As expected, she spent the night, only difference between her and any other girl he’d brought back to his place after just meeting her that same night was she was still there in the morning and for once, it hadn’t felt awkward. He’d woke to the smell of breakfast being made.
Normally that a girl would just invite herself to stay for breakfast would’ve annoyed him. But the way Orlando saw it even now, she had three things going for her that made her a stand out from most of the girls he came home with did. For one, she hadn’t been a lush. She’d known when she had enough and switched to water before they even left the bar.
Two, she knew exactly what she was doing when she agreed to come back to his place and hang for a while. Most girls, unlike Rachel, were pretty lit by the time they got back to his place then did the walk of shame in the middle of the night or early morning, and thankfully so.
Three, Rachel had been perfectly honest and upfront about her decision to stay the night. For starters, she said one nighters with someone she just met weren’t the norm for her and somehow Orlando believed her. She also said she had too much going on to be looking to get into anything too serious. “But naturally I do have desires that crave more than the DIY stuff every now and again.”
Orlando had laughed at that but appreciated the honesty. Moreover, he’d been relieved when she hadn’t asked when or even if he’d be calling her again. She even insisted on taking an Uber home and not putting him out of his way. Even knowing it was technically his day off she hadn’t even hinted about them spending the day together. In fact, Orlando got the feeling she was hoping he wouldn’t hint at it either
That had been just over five months prior. Obviously, he had called her eventually. He’d always had his doubts about fuck buddies, which he did get the impression she’d hinted she’d be okay with. That kind of shit never worked out, but he figured he could maybe hang with her every now and again.
They made plans to meet again and each time she’d spent the night the next morning she’d been up before him making something. Even if it was just coffee and bagels. Orlando assumed this was just what she was used to. Unlike most girls who were clearly used to making a quick exit before he could even wake, something he’d always been grateful for, Rachel was different.
Before he knew it, she gave into what just happened. She became his go-to girl. He preferred referring to her as that, than his fuck buddy. Still, no promises had actually been made but for the first time in like—ever—he’d found himself oddly annoyed when hearing her mention other guys in her life. Friends and co-workers she occasionally hung with. This happened about three months into hanging out with her off and on. She didn’t bring up her guy friends often but after hearing her mention who’d she’d hung with during a weekend he went to Vegas with the guys he had to ask. “You sleeping with him?”
Her appalled expression had cracked him up as much as it relieved him. “Of course not. He’s just co-worker and a friend.” But it opened the way to a conversation that had him regretting asking. “Are you sleeping with anybody else?”
Orlando had been honest because it’d been easy. He hadn’t slept with anyone else since he’d met her except he left out that it wasn’t out of loyalty. He’d just been too damn busy, and Rachel was convenient. He figured he was convenient for her too. It’s why he’d asked if she was sleeping with the dude she’d hung out with. Orlando had yet to presume he was her one and only. Even after the conversation he dared not make such demands either, because despite the slight annoyance when hearing her speak of her guy friends he still wasn’t sure he was ready for such commitment. So, he hadn’t made any promises either.
While he gave her the respect of behaving like her boyfriend in her presence, old habits died hard. Especially when you weren’t sure you were ready to kill them. Despite his giving into the curiosity and asking if she’d slept with her friend, he hadn’t asked her to cut him off because technically, he hadn’t cut off any of his girl friends either and he had no intentions too. Rachel was the one who’d initiated the whole, I don’t have time for anything serious, disclaimer when they first started, and he was holding her to it.
It’d been as close as they’d come to even touching on the subject of exclusivity. But it hadn’t been brought up since, except it felt like an upspoken precedent had been set. Both were okay with things staying as they started but both would appreciate a heads up if someone new came into the equation. It was absolutely the closest Orlando had come to being in an actual grown-up relationship. And since he was so busy, he could live with the understanding for the time being. Rachel was cool people to hang with and given a choice of who to bring to hangout with him and friends he was most comfortable bringing her than any of the other chicks he knew. So even his friends had just jumped to the assumption that things were getting serious.
Despite all that, it still didn’t take from how awkward as fuck today’s conversation was about to get. He stood in his small kitchen having to give her the news about the baby. He hadn’t seen or really talked to her in days, since he’d been up to his eyeballs dealing with lawyers, social services, and being interviewed by the police. It’s why it’d been days after he’d been hit with the bomb that he had a kid and he was just now getting around to giving her the details about it.
She stood there across from the small kitchen island staring at him silently as he told her everything he knew so far. The results from the paternity test weren’t back yet so her first question didn’t surprise him.
“Do you think, it’s your baby?”
Orlando shrugged not wanting to admit the truth. That as crazy as it seemed, with each day that passed, and he remembered what it felt like to hold that little guy, his heart yearned for it to be true. He’d already been gently warned by his mother and not so gently by Beast and Nine that this could all be a hoax. That he shouldn’t be getting his hopes up for anything and instead be prepared to be disappointed. It wasn’t unheard of for unscrupulous women to pin kids on men who weren’t actually the father.
“It’s no secret that you’re part owner of a shop that stays so busy our waiting list for restorations has gotten so long we’re now scrambling to find qualified help, O.” Beast had reminded him. “I wouldn’t be surprised if words already gotten out that we’re looking to expand. It’s pretty obvious we’re gonna have to. This could be someone down on her luck just trying to make sure they leave a kid they can’t afford in good hands.”
“Yeah, but by that logic,” Orlando had argued. “Wouldn’t their little scheme be over the moment the paternity test came back negative?”
Beast hadn’t been able to argue but both his two best friends were suspicious about the whole thing. He knew they just meant well and were worried he’d end up scammed or worse—heart broken. Never in a million years would he have believed it if someone had posed the situation as a hypothetical question to him that he’d be feeling this way. But the more he thought about it, the more excited he got about the possibility.
Rachel was still staring at him as speechless for the most part, as he’d known she’d be. Until he found out for sure if the kid was actually his and what that meant for their future, he had no idea what else to say to her.
When he didn’t offer more about his thoughts on whether the baby was his or not, she moved on to the next question he’d known she’d be asking. “Do you have any idea who the mother might be?”
Shrugging again he exhaled sharply. “A few girls come to mind, but to be honest at this point I don’t think it matters. Push comes to shove and it turns out he is mine; I’ll make damn sure whatever bitch could just walk away from him so easily never gets him back. I’ll be raising this kid alone.”
Her brow arched and for the first time since Orlando started telling her all this she no longer looked as floored as he’d felt the day he found the baby at his doorstep. Now she seemed hurt. It almost irritated him. Was she expecting an apology for something that happened long before he’d even met her?
It’s why her next question took him by surprise. “By yourself? What about me?”
What about you? The words almost slipped out until he realized what she was hurt about. He’d been so caught up in this insanity that he hadn’t even given any thought as to how this could or would change things between him and Rachel. In his defense, he’d expected she’d want out. And he wouldn’t have even blamed her.
Nine was the only person he knew that’d been more than willing to take on the role of step-dad to his girl’s kid. But things between him and Drew were completely different. Even if he didn’t admit it then, Nine had been balls to the walls whipped over Drew almost as soon as they first connected. As much as Orlando cared for Rachel now he just wasn’t there yet. If the tables were turned here, he knew he’d likely take a step back, so he just assumed she would too.
Clearing his throat and stumbling with his words he finally got something out. “I uh . . . well. I just meant his mom will be out of the picture if I have anything to do with it.”
He reached across the kitchen island for her hand and kissed it. Mostly out of guilt but a part of him was warmed by the fact that she hadn’t made a b-line to the door when she heard he was very likely a single dad now.
“I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about this, but I don’t want you feeling like you have to pretend to be okay with it.”
“Pretend to be okay with having a boyfriend who after just a couple of days of finding out he might be a dad is so ready to own up to it?” She smiled big. “I didn’t think I could possibly be more attracted to you.”
Boyfriend? Instantly Orlando was torn. While he appreciated Rachel’s willingness to step up and stand by him through this, if he thought he had too much going on before to be able to commit to anything, his life was about to get even crazier.
Orlando smiled, feeling like a coward about not addressing her boyfriend comment but he did want to make one thing clear. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen yet, Rach. All I know is I have even more going on now. Or will have more once I find out for sure if he’s mine. I just wanted to be honest with you about this and let you know what’s going on.”
Rachel’s smile waned a bit as if she got this was his response to her boyfriend comment. For a moment she even looked embarrassed by it, but she shrugged. “I understand. I mean of course this is life changing. But I just want you to know if there’s anything I can do, you can count on me.”
“Thanks.” He nodded but he’d leave it at that.
Last thing he needed was for Rachel to start jumping the gun with their relationship when he had something so much bigger to focus on now. She’d been cool from the beginning and her offering to help was a nice gesture. But he didn’t want to give her the idea that by life changing this meant he was ready for any other type of commitments. He’d leave things between him and Rachel as is for now. But if she ever used the b word again to describe his relationship to her, he’d be sure to address it.
Stay tuned for more 2020 teasers coming REAL soon!!
*unedited and subject to change