He huffed for the first time I had ever seen. “I was not being weird.”
Oh my gosh. This sweet, little innocent soul. “No, you were not. I’m sorry. You have never been weird around strangers in front of me. You were being shy. Why didn’t you tell me?” I straight-up asked him.
Natia started cackling a little more. “Did he do his small voice? The one that you can barely hear?”
Tearing my eyes away from his blushing face, I nodded at her, trying my hardest not to smile because I was trying to be understanding and supportive over the idea of this beast of a man being shy. Heh. Wow. I seriously couldn’t believe I hadn’t put it together before. “Not with me, but with other people, he has. I never realized that’s what you were doing, Jonah. You talk to my grandpa and Peter just fine.”
“Well, that explains it then,” his sister said. “Wow. We’ve been making bets—”
Jonah groaned. “Nati, no—”
She ignored him. “Lenny, he’s been shy for ages. I mean, forever. His entire life. Even with teachers he would get like that. Did you talk to him first?”
I nodded, switching back and forth between looking at him and then at her.
“I knew it,” she bobbed her head triumphantly. “I knew it.”
A thought entered my head that killed just a slice of the pleasure in my heart. “Wait, but you’ve had girlfriends before. So you’re just shy around certain people?”
His sister didn’t give him a chance to answer. “You mean Hanna and that annoying girl? They were our neighbors. We grew up together. They weren’t strangers. I always thought they were more like your sisters.” She snorted with a shake of her head. “Settled for them, he did.”
I raised my eyebrows and smiled at her, and she did the same right back.
And poor Jonah just sat there, still pink and at a loss for words.
I liked his sister even more now.
Jonah being shy. Who the fuck would have known? Jesus Christ. And his ex-girlfriends had been people he’d grown up around.
That shouldn’t make me feel nice, but it really, really did.
He let out a deep grumble as he sat back in his chair. I’d cut him a break.
Turning to Mrs. Collins and going back to the question she had asked, I told her, “To answer your question, no, Mo wasn’t intentional. I had never planned on having kids, if you really want to know.” I smiled at how uncomfortable she looked... at me or at the conversation we’d just had about Jonah having girlfriends and having sex? I had no idea, and I didn’t care. “But I wouldn’t change anything. I’m just glad that Jonah’s happy and wants to be part of her life. That’s the most a mom can ask for, isn’t it?” I was sure there was more I could ask for, but that was beside the point.
The other woman took a deep inhale, set her shoulders, and I got ready.
Natia must have sensed something too because she suddenly shot up in her chair and said, “Oh, I have a phone call. I’ll be back.”
And that was when Mrs. Collins spoke. “Jonah is a wonderful man, of course he would want to be part of his daughter’s life.” That was what she decided to pick up on of all things.
Did she want me to argue that? I wouldn’t. So I kept my mouth shut to keep the temptation of saying something unnecessary down. Grandpa Gus had always said that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to just say it in my head. And most of the time I couldn’t uphold that, but in this case, I could. Because she was right. He was a good man.
“But,” she kept going, and something in me told me I wasn’t going to like whatever was about to come out of her mouth next either. “I can’t help but feel it’s a bit convenient that you say that you didn’t want to have kids, but you happened to have one with my son, a successful rugby player in every sense, who happens to do very well for himself. A former All Black—”
“Mum,” Jonah said in a voice that was pretty damn close to a growl.
But I didn’t look at him. I just looked at the woman who was staring right back at me without the smallest sense of shame or submission.
“That’s no secret,” she went on, apparently ignoring him too. “Jonah, I’m only speaking the truth. Aren’t I? Your deal in France was well publicized. It was in the papers. On the internet. Seems a bit convenient to me, is all, that you just found out now that it’s time for you to sign a new contract when you’re still playing so well after your injuries.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him lean forward. Using that same tone as before, the one that was almost a low spit, he said very quietly, “That was completely uncalled for and unnecessary. You promised me you would listen.”
He kept going. “You said you would listen to the entire story later, but you’ve broken your promise and insulted Lenny. She’s the mother of my daughter, Mum. She’s my… mate. My partner.”
I was his mate? His friend? Was that what he meant? And his partner? Like his partner in crime? I guess I had said he could be in the Mo League.
I sat there and let that soak in. I liked it. You know, if I ignored the fact that I liked him and that was all he saw in our… friendship. But what could I do? It was good enough. I should have been overjoyed we got along so well.
But I couldn’t think about that for too long because he kept going in that voice that honestly sounded almost as deadly as the one he’d used the other day to defend me.
“I appreciate you worrying, but I’m not a child, and I haven’t been in quite some time. I know whom I surround myself with; that’s never been an issue,” he argued. “I love you, Mum, you know that, but you can’t talk about Lenny in that way or make those assumptions. Not if you want to be part of this, and I want you to be, but my daughter won’t be surrounded by these kinds of dynamics. She won’t be hearing anyone disparaging her mum. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever.”
I didn’t move as I sucked up every single word he spoke.
And…. I thought my nipples might have gotten hard at his voice. At all those big words and the strength behind them. This kind, nice man wasn’t always all that kind or nice, but he picked and chose his moments so well….
Goddamn, I was easy.
Or pathetic, which wasn’t that true because I’d never thought I was pathetic. But here I was getting a little uneasy because someone—Jonah—was defending me. Who the fuck was I? Was this why women liked strong men? Because I’d known a lot of physically strong men, and I’d known a lot of bossy men, and I knew most of them would kick someone’s ass for me, but talk to their moms in that way? Not so much.
And I must have been lingering over that for too long because the next thing I knew, Sarah was leaning back against the bench seat, looking a little pale, and I kind of felt bad.
Because really… really… if Mo were a boy and he came to me in thirty years and said he got some bitch pregnant that he wasn’t dating, I would honestly probably do the same exact thing she had just done. I would think she was a gold digger, for sure, even if she wasn’t. And I would more than likely hate her on principle for working magical vagina powers on my sweet, innocent child.
That’s exactly what would happen.