This kind of tension wasn’t new. I could tell that real easy.
I wasn’t expecting the warm fingertips that lightly brushed over my forearm. Just for a second, but enough to have me snapping my eyes up to that face so close. “See you there then, love,” he told me quietly, and I heard the tiny, quiet noise his mom made when he said it.
Tugging on the bottom of my shirt, I was thankful I had extra clothes in my office at all times. “See you there.”
The rest of Jonah’s smile fell off as his gaze flicked to his mom.
“Look, I don’t know how this is going to go down, okay? Hopefully it’ll be fine, and she’ll be nice once she sees that you’re the cutest and sweetest baby on the face of the planet, but you don’t have anything to be worried about, all right? If she’s mean, we’ll leave and you’ll only have to see her if your dad forces you, but I think your dad already knows how cool you are, and he’ll keep her in check. But if he doesn’t, you know I will. You know I’ll cut her if I have to, right?”
I glanced into the rearview mirror to eye the back of her car seat.
I snorted. “Right. I knew you’d agree, Mo.”
Obviously she was so worried.
She’d shouted at the top of her lungs when I’d gotten to Mr. Cooper’s house—that was my best friend’s father-in-law who watched Mo every once in a while—to pick her up. Apparently Grandpa Gus had been invited to play a pickup game of basketball and had dropped her off an hour ago. Luckily, Mr. Cooper’s house wasn’t too, too far from the gym. I’d known him my whole life, and he was the nicest man.
With one more turn of the wheel, I spotted the big sign for Panera coming up just on the left and turned in. I pulled into the first spot closest to the door that I could find and parked. I had left the gym first, with Jonah, his mom, and sister busy still talking just outside my office in some hushed tones, so I had no idea what kind of car he was driving, much less what rental car she might have had, if she had one in the first place.
But I had barely opened my door when I spotted, in the side mirror, a very familiar body stepping off the curb and heading over. By the time I slammed the door shut and opened the rear door, Jonah was there, pulling out Mo’s diaper backpack from the passenger seat and handing it over to me.
One look at his face confirmed he was tense as hell.
“You all right?” I asked, watching through the glass as those big fingers fiddled with the straps almost clumsily.
He made some kind of response.
“Yeh,” he answered, distractedly. Then he sighed. “Nah. My mum is in a mood, and I’m sorry, Len. I’ll tell you everything later, but I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain tonight.”
He was still fumbling around with the straps as I watched him and thought about what he said. “Is she being mean to you or something?”
Jonah’s laugh was dry, and I didn’t like it. “Some of it’s deserved, but some of it isn’t. I’m used to it.”
Used to it?
For all the shit Grandpa Gus had given me over the course of my life, there was nothing to be… used to. I had always known all his shit-talking was love. I rarely took anything he said to heart because I knew he loved me as much as I loved him. I knew he thought I was a champ, even when I wasn’t. He’d never cared whether I won or lost as long as I had tried my best.
But this? This tone he was using, the apologies he was making? It didn’t sound similar at all. Then again, I had apologized to him for Grandpa being a pain in the ass toward him, so I wasn’t sure how he should take that.
“I promise I’ll explain later,” he said before muttering, “bloody finally” as the latch on the straps finally unbuckled themselves and he managed to get two arms out before the rest of that baby body followed, Mo streaming out some really important shit as she gripped his sweater in her hands.
I couldn’t help but smile at the smile on Mo’s face or at the animation in her voice as she babbled to him. She’d been watching Jonah the entire time as she rambled on, with that curious and open expression on her face, like she was all about this person and wanted to tell him exactly what was on her mind. It was nice.
I fucking loved her. So, so much.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told him, figuring after that last debate that I really wasn’t in any position to say shit about his mom.
Grandpa Gus was still calling him by the wrong name every opportunity he had. Just the night before, he’d called him Carlisle. Three days before that, he’d chosen Emmett. God help me.
“How ya goin’?” Jonah whispered to Mo as he pulled her right up against that massive chest, a big, white smile crossing over the closely bearded face. “How’s my sweet girl?”
Mo, in response, was watching his face with those big eyes like she was staring into some kind of mysterious universe that had her completely in awe. Whatever it was that she said, she said slowly and in a voice that sounded pretty close to awe as well. They really were going to make me throw up one of these days.
I was too busy looking at her cute little face to see one of those tiny hands reach up, quick like lightning—like me, I wanted to think—and wrap its fingers into the short-trimmed hair on the face in front of her and yank at it.
Jonah blinked in surprise—and I was sure in more than a little pain—as I said, “No, Mo, no,” and went to undo one tiny finger at a time from that crazy strong grasp. Which I also liked to think she got from me.
“Oww, Mo, oww,” Jonah said with a minor wince as I pulled the last finger off from its death grip. “Please, no.”
My little psycho just laughed. Our little psycho just laughed. And clapped her hands.
I snorted, and Jonah shot me a smirk.
“You look so pleased with her.”
“I am,” I agreed with a laugh. “Where’s your mom anyway? Inside?” I asked him as I closed the back door, tossing the backpack over my shoulder.
The lightheartedness in his voice disappeared. “Inside.”
I didn’t like how he sounded, and it made me frown at his back. Before I could think about it too much, I reached forward, slipped a finger through the belt loop directly in the center of his back, and tugged at it. “Is she mad at you because of Mo?”
He stopped walking immediately, his chin coming up to rest on his shoulder. Conflict moved beneath his eyes. There was my answer.
I knew what that was like. But I also knew that Grandpa Gus hadn’t been pissed at me for getting pregnant. He’d been pissed at me for keeping it a secret so long. He’d been pissed at me, initially, for refusing to tell him who her sperm donor had been. He’d been mad at me for crying over it.
He hated when I cried.
But he hated it even more when I forgot the lessons he’d taught me. The important one then being that actions had consequences, and I couldn’t blame anyone else for my own mistakes. Which was what I’d done to be fair, for a while.
I’d blamed Jonah’s super sperm for kicking my life off track when it really had been fifty-fifty.
So his mom being pissed at him?
“We’re adults, the last time I checked. What’s she going to do? Call her a mistake? Say we screwed up? Because she’s not a mistake—at least I don’t think she is,” I told him, sounding defensive.