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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2261398-Ambivalence
by JD
Rated: 13+ · Novel · Romance/Love · #2261398
Chapter 12: Temporary Mend of the Heart
“I just needed to make sure you made it home,” Christian explains.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to text you. It’s been a crazy night.”

“Don’t worry about it. I get it.”

“Thanks...” Chewing on my fingernail, I ask, “Since you’re here, do you want to come in? I can make us some tea or something.”

“No, it’s late. But I’d like to talk tomorrow. There’s something we need to discuss.”

My chest plummets. “If you’re upset with me I would rather talk now.” I confess.

“Why would I be upset with you?”

“Because Lexi used your name with that cop.”

His chuckle surprises me.

“I’m not mad about that,” he states. “To be honest, I was a little flattered when he mentioned it…But maybe Lexi shouldn’t be the designated driver anymore. At least not when it’s raining.”

“That’s for sure.” I emphasize with conviction. Peaking through the entry window, I ask, “Why don’t you just come inside? We can talk now.”

“I don’t know. I’m pretty wiped.”

“Please…I have donuts,” I say in my best enticing tone.

“Oh yeah? What kind?”

“Strawberry with rainbow sprinkles.”

“Not a fan of sprinkles,” he says, exiting his vehicle. “They give me gas.”

Stifling a giggle, I say. “I also have double chocolate.”

“Hmm,” he mumbles, shutting his door. “What else can you offer me?”

I pace the entry way, stalling for an answer. “Um…Me?” I reply hesitantly.

“Huh?”

“I’m modeling a very unflattering pair of pajama bottoms. I don’t think you want to miss this opportunity.”

“Alright.” He exaggerates a sigh. “I guess that will do.”

My grin widens as I hear him lock his car from the sidewalk. The fact that Christian can grant my request and playfully tease me even after a long exhausting night of work makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I open the door and observe his swaggered approach with more enjoyment than I should. His fit frame is still sporting the same black tee as earlier, but now his cross necklace is visible, along with his badge, clipped to the side of his jeans.

As he gets closer, I shake my head in disapproval. “Seriously? Sprinkles give you gas?”

His lopsided grin grows bigger as he walks inside. “OK, but we both know who told the bigger lie here.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, confused.

“Uh, you look adorable in those Batman PJ’s,” he says, staring me up and down. “Unflattering my ass.”

“Whatever,” I say, peering down at my purple pajama bottoms. “They’re part of a little sleepover fun happening in the living room. Everyone is zonked, but we should probably head to kitchen so we don’t wake anyone.”

“Lead the way,” he whispers.

As I walk down the hallway, I drag my finger along the gray textured wall, slightly nervous about being in Christian’s presence. I’ve felt this way before, but now I’m feeling it even more—this strong physical attraction towards him. He’s no longer available. I’m no longer available. But for whatever reason, my nerves refuse to take that into account.

Patiently, Christian remains behind the kitchen island as I grab some tea bags from the cupboard.

Leaning over, he asks, “So why aren’t you asleep like everyone else?”

“I don’t know,” I answer, grabbing two mugs. “I think my brain is just overstimulated from tonight’s events.”

“I take it the club was a little rowdier than you expected?”

“Yeah and getting pulled over in the storm was interesting.”

“I bet,” he says, grasping his permanently flexed forearm.

I open a pink box of donuts and slide it in front of him. “Sit. Relax,” I insist, handing him a napkin.

He smiles and takes a seat on one of the bar stools. “So anything else happen tonight?”

“Hmm…I got soaked standing in front of Bryce’s house. That was quite the experience.”

He coughs a little, almost choking on his bite of donut. “Bryce’s house? Why there?”

“We stopped by for a little bit so he could confess his love to Sam. It was actually pretty romantic.”

”Interesting,” he conveys dimly.

As I make a cup of hot water with our Keurig, I notice Christian is suddenly distracted, as if he’s thinking long and hard about something. The topic of Bryce seems to be quite the mood shifter, but I’m afraid to ask why.

“How did the rest of your night go?” I ask.

“Not that great,” he answers, breaking his trance. “We lost our main target of interest. Pretty sure they slipped away while we we’re preoccupied.”

“Oh,” I mumble. “That’s probably my fault.”

“No, not all. That’s on us. And I can pretty much guarantee that Josh agrees with me.”

I exhale in relief. “I like Josh. He seems pretty great.”

Christian nods. “One of the best people I know.”

“How old is he?” I inquire, filling the next mug.

“Uh…Thirty-one, I believe.”

“Is he married?”

“Why? You interested?” He teases, sending a skeptical look my way.

I return a narrowed glance. “No—and not funny. My friends think he’s hot. I figured I’d humor them and ask.”

“Ah, I see.” He sets down his donut. “Josh is recently divorced and has a five year old daughter that lives with him part time.”

“Wow. That’s rough. I bet he’s great dad though.”

“Yep. From what I can tell.”

I press my lips together, carefully adding tea bags to each mug. “Is he going to be your new partner?” I ask casually.

“I’m not sure yet,” he replies, scratching his chest. “I’m still figuring that out.”

I nod and fight the urge to pry any further. The exact details about his last partner are still a mystery to me. But I know Christian getting shot and losing his partner in the line of duty is certainly reason enough to consider all his options. Though, I can’t imagine a better partner than Josh.

After grabbing some sweetener from the pantry, I pour some into each mug and hand Christian his tea.

“It’s chamomile,” I explain. “It should help you relax.”

“Sounds good.”

I take a whiff of my tea, breathing in the subtle apple scent with a deep inhale of breath. The warmth and aroma is already having a calming affect. After taking a sip, I glance to Christian.

What?” I ask, catching his appraising gaze.

“I didn’t realize you were a tea drinker.”

“It’s a fairly new interest. I find it helps me deal with stress.”

“And what has you so stressed lately?”

“Just the normal life stuff. School. Friends. Work. A long distance relationship.”

He nods ever so slightly, raising his mug to his lips.

“So what were you needing to talk to me about?” I ask, cupping my mug with two hands.

“I’m not sure now is the best time for that.”

“Why’s that?”

Twisting his mug back and forth, he says, “Too many ears nearby.”

“It’s fine.” I assure him, quickly making my way around the island. “Everyone is passed out. We’re good.”

I take a seat next to him on one of the barstools and wait anxiously for him to speak.

“It’s about Bryce,” he explains gravely, twisting his stool my direction.

My heart sinks. The last thing I want to hear is unfavorable concerns or biases towards my boss. Credible or not, I’m not ready for it. And I’m certain Sam isn’t either.

“I already know about the tax fraud investigation,” I offer, hoping that’s the extent of his concern.

“You do?” He cocks a brow.

“Yes. I did some research. It wasn’t hard to find. Anyway, I already asked him about it. Apparently his partner tried to blame him for the crime and deception. And now the guy is serving time because of it.”

“Well, I did a little research of my own and you’re not going to like what I found.”

I swallow hard. “OK. Tell me.”

“First off, the investigation has been reopened.”

“Really?” I gasp. “Why?”

“New evidence was found.”

“How do you know this?”

“I have a friend that works for the FBI. He’s been directly involved in Bryce’s case from the beginning.”

“What evidence does he have?” I press.

“I’m sorry, but for several reasons, I can’t share that with you.”

“Seriously?” I scoff.

“It’s for your own protection Ally.”

I start to argue, but then a question pops in my head. “Does Bryce know he’s being investigated again?”

“Not as as far as I know.”

I sigh deeply, twisting my stool in the process. My leg begins to bounce vigorously. The thought of losing everything I’ve gained this past week worries me. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Probe Research.

“There’s more,” he continues. “About six months ago, a girl not much older than Sam, filed a police report on Bryce. After dating him for four months, she claimed to be a victim of emotional abuse—saying he controlled and manipulated her to the point of losing herself, sending her into a deep depression. Later, she dropped the charges, but that of course doesn’t imply it never happened.

“Maybe she was crazy,” I offer.

“Or maybe Sam is also being manipulated.”

“No,” I quickly argue. “Sam wouldn’t allow it.”

“Listen, not all abuse is obvious. In fact, abusers often use shared secrets to build a false trust. They also work hard to break down defences through a mix of behaviors and reassuring words. Trust me, its not always easy to spot, especially if you don’t know what to look for.”

“Christian, I get why you don’t trust Bryce, but I think you’re wrong about him. Is it possible he has a shady, unattractive past? Yes. But I don’t think he’s a bad person. A little cocky sometimes, but definitely not abusive.”

Taken aback, Christian is slow to respond. “OK, please explain to me how you can you be so quick to defend someone you barely know? Someone that has been accused of multiple crimes, including fraud and domestic abuse.”

“I’m not saying I trust Bryce completely. But we are friends and I enjoy working for him. I’m sorry, but until you have actual hard evidence to share, I’m staying neutral. Because honestly…Bryce has been nothing but kind and supportive to me.”

Christian shakes his head in disbelief. The annoyance in his face speaks volumes. Leaning forward, he rests an elbow on the counter as his hand grips his head in frustration. It hurts me to see him so stressed.

“Please don’t be upset about this,” I plea. “I can’t even begin to explain to you how much this internship means to me. Or how much I’ve learned this past week. It’s not something I can just walk away from.”

Peering up, he glances my way, worry etched on his forehead. “You have no idea how hard this is for me. I’m trying really hard to be rational right now, but what I really want is to find a way to keep you as far away from him as possible and deal with the consequences later.”

“Don’t say that. That makes me feel awful. Seriously Christian, you don’t need to worry about me. I’m always vigilant and cautious, and it’s not like I’m in any danger.”

“I wholeheartedly disagree,” he says, clutching his seat, unintentionally showing off his bulging biceps. “Let’s say you’re right about him not abusing Sam. He’s still allegedly a criminal and thats likely to have damaging consequences. The possibility of you getting hurt is…” He looks away as he finishes. “Let’s just say it’s very possible.”

“Hey…” I say, rubbing his shoulder. “I’m perfectly safe. And look, I barely even see Bryce. Most days I work with his sweet, innocent younger brother.”

My words don’t seem to appease him as his jaw remains clenched.

“How do you think Ryan’s going to feel about you working for an alleged criminal?”

“I’m sure he’ll be concerned, but honestly, there’s nothing he can do about it. I’m an adult, and I get to choose who I spend my time with.”

The glare I receive is one for the record books. “Really? That’s your response?”

“Three days ago, you gave me that exact speech—right over there.” I point to the family room. “Or did you forget?”

With a hard expression, he says, “Of course you would choose now to use my own words against me.”

“I know the timing isn’t great, but you were right. I get to make my own decisions. Even if the people I love disagree.”

His face remains disappointed with his reply. “I think you’re being incredibly naive.”

“I know you do,” I say softly, resting my hand on his leg. “And I’m sorry you feel that way.” Gently, I scratch his jeans with my fingertips in the hopes of disarming some of his frustration. It takes a moment, but his tense frame finally relaxes.

“What am I going to do with you?” He asks, leaning towards me.

I shrug my shoulders, unsure of how to respond.

Lightly gripping one of my knees, he says, “Just promise me right now you’ll stay out of this mess—that you won’t go looking for trouble.”

“Christian I—”

“Promise me,” he presses urgently.

“OK, I promise.”

“One more thing,” he continues.

“What is it?”

“If you ever feel like something isn’t right—don’t hesitate. Just call me. Immediately.”

With deliberate tenderness, I cup his face with my hands. “I will. I promise... Now will you please stop worrying?”

“Not likely,” he replies as I let go.

I frown at him, unamused by his cynical answer.

“Well it’s the truth,” he admits, presenting me a disarming smile.

“Fair enough.”

I hear the garage door opening and glance to clock on the microwave. There’s only one person likely to come home at two in the morning.

“It’s Ben,” I say to Christian, noticing the curiosity in his posture. “Another late night with Natalie, I’m guessing.” I sigh heavily before taking a sip of my tea.

“You don’t like her very much do you?” Christian asks.

Entering with little to no discrepancy, Ben heads straight for the bathroom, shutting the door hard and loud.

“Nope,” I explain, suddenly annoyed. “Her—I’m better than everyone attitude is repulsive. Be glad you haven’t met her yet.”

He nods in agreement, but somehow doesn’t look convinced of my shameless claim.

“Alright, well I should probably head out,” he says, standing.

“Yeah, I—“ A loud mumbled blurt resounds from the bathroom, halting my words and startling me back down to my seat.

Soon after, Ben enters the kitchen distressed, carrying a narrow object in his right hand.

“Hey hotshot,” Christian says, greeting my brother. “How’s it going?”

“What the hell is this?” Ben asks, sliding the small stick like object my way, exasperation in his voice.

Caught off guard by my brothers angry tone, I can’t help but stare at him for a moment, taking note of his harsh scowl. But once I peer down at the counter, his behavior makes more sense.

My eyes grow wide at the sight of the used pregnancy test laying in front of me. The one Ben obviously assumes is mine. I struggle to process the situation, leaving time for Christian to comment.

“This is a positive result,” he says, taking a seat with urgency.

“I know,” Ben replies. “I found it in the bathroom trash can.”

“It’s not mine,” I finally reveal.

“You expect me to believe that.” Ben scoffs.

“Yes,” I answer sharply.

I glance to Christian to observe his reaction. His face is full of concern. Unnecessary concern.

“Don’t lie to me,” my brother demands, gripping the edge of the counter.

“Ben I’m not pregnant. I swear.”

My brother looks to Christian for some sort of confirmation.

“Why are looking at him?” I scowl. “We didn’t sleep together.”

“She’s right,” Christian confirms. “We didn’t.”

“So Ryan did this?” Ben says, his voice almost breaking.

“Heck no,” I dispute heatedly. “Will you just listen to me. it’s physically impossible for me to be pregnant. I’m still a virgin.”

For a moment everyone is silent, contemplating my bold revelation. Thankfully, they both believe me—and to my surprise, Christian’s sigh of relief comes before Ben’s.

“Is it Kelly’s then?” Ben asks, scratching his tousled dirty-blond hair.

“No, I don’t think so,” I say. “She’s on the pill. And I know for a fact she has no desire to have a baby right now. Jason would literally lose his mind if she became pregnant during his last year of medical school.”

“I don’t understand,” Ben says, tucking his hands in the pocket of his sweatshirt. “It obviously belongs to someone.”

“Has anyone been over here recently—anyone that would’ve used the downstairs bathroom?” I ask.

Rather quickly, Ben’s face shifts from reflective to concern. I can see it in his beautiful blue eyes—something is wrong. He mumbles something under his breath and heads towards the garage.

A disturbing thought crosses my mind and blurts out of my mouth. “Please tell me you didn’t get Natalie pregnant?”

“Don’t even start,” he fires back. “I don’t need to hear your skewed judgment right now.”

“Ben I didn’t mean to be insensitive. Come back. Let’s talk about this.”

The next three words that come out of my brothers mouth crush me like a wrecking ball.

“Bro, that was so uncalled for,” Christian says, defending me.

Ignoring him, Ben bolts and leaves the house in a mad rush.

“That’s a first,” I point out, solemnly.

“What is?” Christian asks.

“My brother telling me to go…” I clip off mid sentence, sulking in my seat. I can’t even repeat what he just said. It hurts too much.

I lay my head down on the cold counter, closing my eyes for a moment. Christian starts to rub my backside with his finger tips, allowing my brain to process the last few minutes.

I quickly realize my friends have all used the downstairs bathroom tonight. Based on Sam’s current relationship status, the test could easily be hers. The thought of her being pregnant makes me angry. I can’t decide which is worse: my best friend suddenly expecting a child or my brothers horrible girlfriend.

“He had no right to speak to you in that way,” Christian says. “Especially after falsely accusing you.”

“I agree,” I say sitting up. “But I could tell his resentment towards me was building. I should’ve addressed it sooner.”

“That shouldn’t matter. It’s about respect. I would never speak to my sister in that manner.”

I tap my fingers on the granite countertop, nodding in agreement. My brother is still grieving for Ayden, and even though that doesn’t justify his actions, it at least gives me a possible root cause for his out of character behavior.

“What are you two doing up so late?” Kelly asks, dragging her feet in the kitchen, her messy bun bouncing as she ambles over to us.

“We could ask you the same question.” I counter, managing a smile.

“I don’t know. My stomach is feeling weird,” she explains. “I came down to eat a few crackers.”

“There’s a few donuts left,” Christian offers, opening the box.

“No thanks,” she says, leaning to get a better look. “What’s this?” She picks up the pregnancy test and examines it for a moment.

“Ben found it.” I sigh. “We think it belongs to Natalie.”

“Possibly,” Christian adds. “We’re not sure.”

“Where did he find it?” she inquires, taking a second hard look at it.

“The downstairs bathroom.” I point.

“It’s not Natalie’s,” Kelly says, her voice subdued. “It’s mine.”

“How?” I ask, titling my head.

“The new medication I take lowers the effectiveness of my pill. I didn’t realize it until I did some research. What’s weird is when I took the test this morning, there was only one line. I think it might be defective.”

“Well, maybe you should go take another test right now,” I urge. “Just to make sure.”

Kelly groans. “Yeah, I guess I better.”

“We’re here if you need us,” I say with sincerity.

“Absolutely,” Christian adds.

“Thanks,” she says, slumping her shoulders. “As you can tell I’m not exactly thrilled about this.”

As she leaves the room, I glance to Christian with mixed emotions. My heart is racing with anticipation, excited at the possibility of being an aunt. But also anxious for the result because I know the timing isn’t the best for Kelly and my very busy brother.

“Interesting night, huh,” Christian says, lightly bumping his leg to mine.

Amused by his notion, I return the favor, only harder. “Yes…But I’m glad you were a part of it, especially this part.”

“Me too,” He admits, bouncing his leg again. This time making it dead weight against mine. I try moving it, exerting myself to the point of grunting, but it’s no use.

Chuckling, he says, “Are you even trying?”

“Shut up.” I nudge him with my elbow, hiding my embarrassed smile. He finally releases the weight of his leg and somehow I feel like I just had a workout. Maybe that was the point. Some sort of stress relief. One thing is for sure, I never tire of Christian’s playful distractions. If he only knew how much his efforts affect my overall mood and happiness.

Kelly returns with another test in her hand and worry lines on her forehead.“I haven’t checked it yet,” she informs us, wrapping it in a paper towel.

“Whatever happens, you have my unconditional support,” I say reaching to touch her arm.

“Thanks, sweetie.” She pats my hand.

“How are you feeling?” Christian asks.

“Anxious. Annoyed. Unprepared. Basically I’m terrified. It’s not that Jason and I don’t want kids. We do. But right now is pretty much the worst time to start a family. I don’t even want to think about his reaction.”

“He might surprise you,” Christian suggests.

I disagree with him, but keep my comment to myself. I know my brother. Becoming a father right now is the last thing he wants. The sad part is Kelly already knows it.

“Well, I guess I should check it.” Kelly admits as she grabs the paper towel, sliding it from across the counter. With a deep breath she peers down and uncovers the test. Her eyes darken as she reads the result. “Two lines.”

To my surprise, Christian gets up and walks over to Kelly. Wrapping one arm around her, he draws her close, letting her lean into him for a quiet moment.

Eventually he speaks softly, sympathy and wisdom exuding from his deep voice. “Just remember, Jason might feel panic or shock at first, but once he has time to process all of this, he’s going to provide you with all the love and support. I can’t imagine him doing anything else.”

I hear Kelly suck in a sob as she nods her head.

“And if he doesn’t,” Christian continues. “I will personally take care of him. No questions asked.”

Her soft chuckle brings me all the feels. I think Christian’s enticing threat is exactly the kind of emotional support Kelly needs right now. Although, I bet the warm steady frame of muscles is also helping.

“You keep this up and I might have to replace my husband,” Kelly admits, patting Christian’s chest and pulling away from his side hug.

He blushes. “I think Jason might object.”

“Oh, he’d get over it,” she says, flipping her wrist. “Ally on the other hand…”

My slow nods of objection are accompanied by an embarrassed smirk, and Kelly’s wink only adds more color to my cheeks.

Feeling the need to retreat, I quickly get up and grab some crackers from the pantry. When I return, I set them on Kelly’s chest. She giggles with her mumbled appreciation.

The three of us talk for a while, mostly about the club, which doesn’t seem to upset or surprise Kelly. But then again, her head is a little distracted tonight.

Christian never mentions Bryce and I’m grateful. It’s a topic I hope to avoid with everyone, except maybe the girl that pressed charges against Bryce. I’d love to find her and ask a plethora of questions.

“I hate to ask this, but can you both keep this quiet until I get a chance to talk to Jason?” Kelly asks.

“Absolutely,” Christian replies.

I nod and ask, “What about Ryan?”

“I’ll call him tomorrow. I’m very curious about his reaction.”

“Me too,” I admit.

“Alright, it’s incredibly late,” Christian points out, checking his phone. “Kelly, It’s been great visiting with you. Please keep me updated on everything.”

“Thanks Christian,” she says, embracing his arms once more. “I definitely will. Don’t be a stranger.”

Peering to me, he says, “Thank you for the donuts and tea. I guess I’ll see you…when I see you.”

As he begins to stroll away, I scoff under my breath. “What—am I not special enough for a goodbye hug?”

Holding in a laugh, Christian returns to my side with a big grin and open arms. “Of course you are.”

I take a step towards him and get pulled into the warmest, snuggliest hug. His muscular arms wrap my torso tightly as our bodies press together.

“Better?” He whispers in my ear.

“The best,” I whisper back.

As he lets go, the effects of his embrace linger on my skin, reminding me of what I’ve given up.

“Good night,” I force a small smile.

“Take care.” He begins to walk away, then halts his steps. “Oh…” He twists around and stares at me for a moment.

“What?” I ask, beaming with curiosity.

“Just wanted you to know…that dress you wore tonight...” He slowly shakes his head and clicks his tongue. “Killed me.”

“Really?” I ask with a chuckle.

“You were stunning.”

“Thanks. You have no idea how much I wanted to hear your thoughts.”

“I figured.” He grins, gesturing goodbye with his hand.

Even after Christian leaves my sight, those warm fuzzy feelings stay with me. And I have to ask myself: Why am I finding each goodbye a little harder than the last?

After returning to the kitchen island, I notice Kelly’s peculiar stare.

“What’s that look for?” I ask.

“I don’t know what your talking about,” she says, unable to conceal her grin.

“Yes you do. Spill it.”

“It’s nothing, really.”

I sit across from her with urgency. “Come on. Tell me.”

“Alright… I find it interesting that Christian’s been popping by a lot lately.”

“We’ll that’s because we’re still friends.”

“You sure that’s the only reason?” She raises a brow.

“Yes. Need I remind you that Christian has a girlfriend.”

“That’s what you keep saying.” She turns and straightens a pile of napkins.

And?” I drag out. “You don’t believe me?”

Facing me, she says, “I believe in the convenience of it. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if his timely new relationship is a way to distract himself from losing you. A temporary mend of the heart, so to speak. But the crucial question is—what are you going to do about it?”

I frown in confusion. “I didn’t realize I was supposed to do anything.”

“You’re not—or at least you don’t have to. Christian knows how you feel about Ryan and obviously he knows your with him. I just assumed you’d be having some conflicting thoughts. That’s what I was meaning to imply.”

I rest a hand on my forehead. “Is it that obvious?”

“I mean, it’s understandable if you were. Ryan’s been the constant in your life, but now that he’s away, Christian seems to be stepping up. To be honest, it’s been nice to see his face around here. I enjoy his company. And with Ryan gone, I think all of us can benefit from the added support.”

“We’ll Ryan asked him to look out for me. And being a loyal friend comes naturally for Christian.”

“Or…” she pauses for dramatic effect. “It could be that he’s still very much in love with you.”

“You think?” I ask, biting my lower lip.

“I don’t think he would be at our house at two in the morning having coffee and donuts with you if he didn’t.”

“Tea,” I clarify, attempting to hide my blush.

“Same difference.”

I shrug in agreement.

Clearing her throat, Kelly says, “Listen…I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the other night—when Jason and I walked in and saw Christian on top of you. It was—.”

“It was all innocent fun,” I cut in. “I promise.”

“I know. But for someone who’s supposed to be your ex, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of physical distance, if you know what I mean. I just want you to think about Ryan, and how he’d feel if he witnessed the two of you fooling around in that manner.”

Guilt and shame course through my core like a spark to dry brush, creating a wildfire of emotions within me. I’m embarrassed and ashamed, but it’s fear that rises above, blazing in my chest. The thought of hurting Ryan clutches my lungs, inducing a shortness of breath.

“You didn’t mention it to him, did you?” I ask, my voice breaking.

“No, sweetie,” She replies, shaking her head. “I wouldn’t do that to you. But if things were to escalate to more than friendship with Christian, you should know I couldn’t hide that from him. I love Ryan like I love you. He’s family and I will always protect his heart.”

“I know, Kel. I would never hurt him like that. Christian wouldn’t either. “

“Just be careful. It’s very easy to justify precarious actions when there are no immediate consequences.”

With a guilty conscience, I nod in agreement.

“Well, I’m going to head to bed. Unless you need me.”

“No, I’m good. Get some rest.”

“You too.”

“Hey Kel,” I whisper, prompting her to turn around. “I know you’re not thrilled about the timing, but I want you to know I’m very excited to be an Auntie.”

She flashes a sweet smile. “And the best Auntie you will be…”
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