“You sure your parents won’t mind me being here?” Stryker shifted uncomfortably in the patio chair. He had been on the Camerons’ patio before, several times, although the last time had now been months ago, and unlike this time, back then he had climbed onto it each time when her parents’ had gone out at night and Bri was home alone. This was where Chase had caught them before. And today marked the first time he accessed it via the conventional way through doors.
“Never concerned you before.”
“Things were different then.”
“Were they? You are right. They’d probably worry you could get me pregnant or something. Better you leave before that happens.”
“Were you always such a smartass?”
“Yup! Came out of my mom’s womb that way. Ooh, right back on topic.”
“How are things going with your parents?”
“Good. You see my dad almost as much as I do now. He’s a teddy bear. I think my mom and he are getting calmer with age. Either that or I am going tonedeaf to bickering.”
“Surprised I am still alive and your teddybear dad hasn’t bearhugged me to death yet. He does know who I really am now … I mean, not the big story, but the baby part.”
“I told you, my family is solid. We have problems, most definitely, but we are there for each other where it counts. I never felt unloved as a child and I always knew my parents love each other. They are just butts to each other sometimes. Well, a lot of times. But all of them come through for you when it counts. You are part of that now. All you have to do is not abuse that trust.”
“They all seem to think we are getting back together.”
“I don’t see why they would. Nobody knew about you, except the Chasenator. And we never were together to begin with. I was just some toy to you. I know that now. Don’t look at me like that. I am over it. End of discussion. Topic change.”
“Still seeing that Donovan dude?”
“Ha! No, he won’t go near me after your treatment. He is scared out of his wits you would come after him again. But I am showing big time now, so I guess dating is on hold for me anyway. My college time will be super boring, can’t party, can’t fool around, just study, study, study until I have the baby, then take care of a baby. No facepalm type stories I can look back to when I am old … Thanks a lot for that, by the way. ”
“Sorry. Actually I am not sorry. He wasn’t right for you anyway. You would have been so bored with that guy in no time. Better off studying.”
“Oh, thanks for that analysis, Dr. Phil. I already know I am no good at picking guys, exhibit A sitting across from me.”
“At least exhibit A is trying now. And exhibit A never bored you in the bedroom, even though bedrooms have never really been out thing. Pretty much everywhere but …”
“Man, and to think I was so cray-cray about you. No sense of romance at all. Just sex, sex, sex and crudeness. I have no idea how I ever thought we could be something long term.”
“Your grandma seems to believe I am not a hopeless case. I admit I am not the type you take home to a very conservative mom and dad, that ship sailed for me many tats ago, but I’d like a chance to show you I can do better than just some really, amazing sex in unusual places. But that much you have to give me, I am solid there.”
“I am so not going to go there with you. Can you get your mind out of the gutter now?! Maybe you should start dating. I mean, really date, not that old ‘I’m a bad boy and I have girls coming straight into my bedroom on a conveyor belt BS’.”
“Was never like that. I always prefered more neutral territory for my shenanigans. And you know I never take anyone to my apartment, let alone into my own bedroom.”
Briar Rose giggled.
“Guess I should feel special then, since I have seen your bedroom. Not really by invitation, but you did carry me over the threshold in a way … if I bend the truth enough, that could almost be considered romantic.”
“Agreed, probably as romantic as I get. Hey, if you want me to go and apologize to that Donovan guy, I will. Maybe he’ll come around then … if you really want to date him so bad. I don’t want to be responsible for more things in your life being fucked up than I already am.”
“Don’t worry about it. Truth be told, he is a nice guy, but absolutely not my type. And a sloppy kisser. Yuck. I rather go French kiss my cat than him again.”
“Then why did you bother with him? And why did you get so physical with him?”
“Really? You still haven’t figured that out? Pretty sure you had during one of your angry rants, but you were so loud that I may have had backlash from that, and may have imagined your words.”
“So you really were taunting me? Trying to make me jealous?”
“If the shoe fits …”
“You are one evil little girl.”
“I think you know better than to think of me as a little girl.”
“Yeah, starting to wonder if you should go by Stryker … dayum girl, you are really something. Most grown men haven’t stood up to me like you have. I was about to say you have balls the size of 18 wheelers, but I can also attest you got much better parts than that …”
“OMG- stop! I just cannot with your crudeness today. I cannot believe I once thought that was so cool and sexy or something. But since we are on the topic of that area on me, it reminds me, I have an appointment at my ob/gyn on Tuesday morning. Do you want to go with me? May find out the gender … only if you are interested, of course.”
“Really? I would like to, but I have to work … ”
“If you want to go, REALLY want to go, I’ll handle daddy and grandpa. So, do you or don’t you? Choose wisely, if you say yes now but end up flaking on me that day, I won’t ever ask again and that will be the smallest of your problems.”
“I won’t flake. I want to go. Are you sure you want me there?”
“Do I look like I am not sure?”
“Thank you, Bri. I know I signed away all rights like this.”
“Yeah, no problem. To be frank, you have impressed me so far. I honestly didn’t think you’d be able to keep all this up this long. I know my family, so I know it cannot be easy all the stuff they are holding you to, after all the years you spent squandering your life away as you saw fit. You really are trying, no idea why, but you are.”
“Honestly, I admit it is tough some days, but I always liked structure, rules. Law school was almost easy for me, because everything was logical and structured. It’s the unstructured life that messed me up the most, I think.”
“You could join the military. Doesn’t get any more structured than that.”
“Must have really pissed you off, if you are trying to have me sent to war, rather than let me stick around here.”
“Yeah, you found me out. I so want to get rid of you, cos I don’t give two shits about you, that’s why I dragged you into my family. DOH!”
Stryker’s head jerked to face her when she casually teased him like that. He just got the hint he had no clue how to ask about.
“So you do still care?” he heard himself say before he could stop it.
She didn’t answer, so he asked again. Since it was already out there, he needed some sort of answer.
“Bri, is there any hope for this, for me … with you?”
“Why? So you get some structure and all of a sudden you want to be the family guy with a girl, a baby and a white picket fence? I may have been really dumb and gullible with you before, but that I am not buying.”
“I am not saying that. I just … I … look, some people are born to be solitary, loners. I am not. I chose it for many reasons, but I never liked it too much. Silence can be deafening too. I like where I am at now. And I really like this, what we are doing right now, whatever it is. And I also learned that I hate watching you with other guys. So whatever that means, is what I mean. And whatever that is, it is with you, if possible.”
“I don’t know, Stryker. Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell. I am not going to lie to you either way. I told you before, you still do something to me, and you are hard to resist, but in moments like that, all I have to do is remember the way you treated me, what you said to me, how you ditched me when I needed you so much and I am over it again. I see you are trying, I do, but you know how they say, fool me once …”
“But it is not a definite no then either?”
“No, Stryker, it’s not a no either. But not a yes and definitely not a right now, so don’t even go there.”
“Good enough for me. If you can get your dad and grandfather to agree, I’ll be at that appointment on Tuesday, bright eyed and bushy tailed.”
Stryker looked pale and was very quiet when they left the hospital, where Briar Rose’s gyn had his practice.
Walking next to him quietly, Briar Rose finally spoke.
“Give me the keys. You are not driving like this. You look whiter than a bedsheet. And quit running like that. I am a pregnant girl, not Seabisquit.”
“Sorry. And I’m fine.” he slowed down.
“You are most definitely NOT fine. Don’t tell me you are disappointed that it’s a girl!”
“Of course not! Okay, maybe I am not fine. I just looked at some creepy monitor images of what is some life we both created, listened to a heartbeat of our child. A real person. A living being. Somehow I was involved in that. That’s a real baby there inside of you.”
“You are not going to keel over or something, right?”
Stryker shook his head, but looked even paler now.
Bri exhaled, then said more gently.
“Trust me, I know exactly how you feel, except, I am the one that cannot ignore that fact. Yeah, there is actual life, and actual person growing inside of me, something we, you and I, created. Not really intentionally, but we did.”
“Why did you tell them that I was the father?”
“Because you are …”
“But you had me sign that document …”
“Stryker, I never wanted you to NOT be the father of our child. This is and will always be OUR baby. But you were just too unpredictable, maybe you still are. I didn’t want to risk exposing myself and the baby to any potential weird stuff that may – or may not – come up. Especially not after all you told me about your father.”
“All this time I thought you didn’t want me in our baby’s life. Still sounds weird saying it like that. I assumed that I was just supposed to remain in the background as some stranger, that the child was never to know who I really was, if I were even still around when it was old enough to understand stuff like that.”
She quick-stepped in front of him, stopping him short, when she gently put her hands on his chest, then played with the zipper of his leather jacket while looking up at him.
“You really don’t know me at all if that was what you were thinking. Why would I have asked you to come along today if that were the case?”
“I have no idea, but I sure wasn’t going to argue with it!”
“Silly man! Let’s get ourselves home.”
He drove her father’s car to her home, where he had parked his motorcycle when he picked her up. The home was empty as both parents were at work.
Upon her invite, he followed her inside, she took him upstairs to her room. He had never been there, since their relationship had always been hush-hush. It felt awkward to him, especially when Briar Rose shut her room door and locked it, began removing her clothing, until she stood before him in just her bra and panties, while he did nothing other than stare at her like he had never seen a naked girl before.
“Stryker, are your batteries dead or what is wrong?” she teased.
“Bri, I don’t understand why you are doing this right now … ”
“Not sure how much clearer I can make it for you. I took off my clothes, natural reaction would be to take off yours and do what we usually do when we are both naked. Or has it been so long since we last did this, that your little brain cell was reprogrammed?”
“Is this … safe?” he wondered, ignoring her teasing and sarcasm, staring worried at her baby bump.
Bri laughed out loud
“Safe? Yeah, I’d say. Nobody is home, my door is locked and not sure if you remember, but I pretty positive that I won’t end up any more pregnant than I already am. And the baby will be fine. I actually asked the doctor during my last check up.”
“Another first for the books. The first girl to laugh at me in the bedroom. Nice.” he finally relaxed and smirked.
“Blah blah blah … and you are still dressed. Maybe I’ll just put my clothes back on and see if I can find Donovan instead … he’ll do in a pinch.” Bri acted as if she wanted to do as she said, when life returned into Stryker and he pulled her into a very heated embrace.
“You are going nowhere until I am done with you! I’ll teach you what happens to naughtly little girls that make fun of me in the bedroom!” he sat as he pulled her onto her bed in into his lap.
“I’ll teach YOU once and for all that I am not a little girl!”
The afternoon progressed as one would expect at this point, but was shadowed over slightly when Briar Rose made it very clear to Stryker as they were getting dressed that their little afternoon romance session had not changed a thing about where they both stood with each other before.
-to be continued-