Liz was pleased when Meg came home for a long weekend, and not because she was emptying her bedroom to make room for Petra. They were well on their way to having a great sisters-in-law relationship. They had found a lot of common ground over Christmas and Liz was eager to get to know her better.
Which is why she felt bad about keeping her little secret.
Her very tiny, smaller than the strip on the wand secret. She was pregnant.
The news had come in the middle of a really hard couple of weeks in January. Liz had taken Petra back to California where she had explained to her mother and sister that she was uprooting her life for a man they had met once, years ago. Meanwhile, as she rattled around her former life, she had found herself questioning whether it had all been a dream.
But she had talked to Blake every night and when he told her how much Crystal had been pressuring Ethan to come to Texas, and the sorts of legal options he had—all of which were expensive and guaranteed to provoke more ill-will—Liz had been drawn back to him.
It had been impulsive and maybe a little juvenile. She couldn’t do anything. Given their complicated family history, she absolutely had to sideline herself from weighing in on custody and what anyone ‘should’ do. There wasn’t anything concrete she could do to help.
But she had wanted to be with him.
He’d woken her the first morning with a soft kiss on her mouth. “Feels good to wake up and have you here. I was afraid you might not come back.”
“I shouldn’t have come. Now I don’t even want to go back there to finish the move. The whole drive here I kept thinking that I should have stayed to organize things, but…” She cupped the side of his face, falling in love all over again. “I needed to be here with you.”
With so much going on for both of them, she’d lost track of when her period should have happened. A few days into that troubled week, she’d realized she was late and hadn’t wanted to mention it to Blake because what if she was wrong? She’d held her breath for two days, until he’d had a meeting with a lawyer in Bozeman. While he’d been tied up, she’d bought a drug store test and crept into the ladies’ room in the mall like a desperate teenager.
Except she had desperately wanted a positive outcome.
When Blake had walked out to the waiting room thirty minutes later, he’d worn a grim expression. He didn’t want to rain legal hell onto Crystal, but he had to fight for what Ethan wanted. It was one of those days when he felt the entire world was against him, Liz could tell.
“What’s wrong?” he’d asked sharply as he got a look at her red eyes.
“Absolutely nothing,” she’d said through a wobbling smile. “You got me pregnant.”
His stunned expression had been priceless.
“I thought about it a couple of times, but I figured you would tell me…” He drew her into him, voice astounded and filled with emotion. “Are you serious? We’re having a baby?”
She had nodded and he’d crushed her close, wordless while his heart had pounded against the side of her face and his strong hands had molded her to his frame. When he finally drew back to look into her eyes, his were wet.
“Don’t get your hopes up, okay? In case—”
“We’re not going to think like that,” he said, hugging her again. “Right now, our lives are perfect. Ethan is still with us, Petra’s on her way. Right? No issues there?”
“It’s all good,” she assured him.
Given Ethan’s paternity, Crystal had a different view of things than Dean did about Petra. And Pet had the Flowers streak of stubborn determination. If she wanted to live in Marietta, she was going to live in Marietta. Liz was meeting with the counselor at the high school tomorrow to complete the paperwork on Pet’s transfer.
Blake hugged her again. “Thank you for this. I needed to quit focusing on the What Ifs and be happy for what we have. We’re good. We’re so good, Liz.”
They were. Crazy good, because everything seemed to fall into place over the next week or so. Ethan convinced his mom to respect his wishes, Crystal and Blake hammered out a new visitation schedule, and Petra arrived.
They told their kids and swore them to secrecy at the same time, which made both teenagers groan with complaint at not being allowed to tell anyone.
Which had kept Petra griping all the way to the airport to pick up Meg. She was dying to tell someone.
Liz might have let her open to Meg if she hadn’t already had the ache of one miscarriage weighing on her heart. She knew whatever would be, would be, but until she was more certain that she would go to term, she wanted to keep the news to herself.
Fortunately, Petra didn’t dwell on what she couldn’t talk about. She filled the silence with every other topic under the sun, including how she was getting together with kids from the school to work on the set decorations for the Christmas concert. This led to some questions for her new Auntie Meg.
“So you know, um, Skye Wolcott, right?”
“She’s one of my best friends. She grew up on the ranch next door. Not the one that’s for sale, the other side.” Meg hitched in her seat to see Pet in the back. “Why? Oh, she and Chase gave you and Ethan the lift from the airport at Christmas, right?”
“Yeah, he’s super nice. But, um, what’s his brother like?”
“Flynn?” Meg shot a look at Liz.
“Interesting question, Pet,” Liz said, mom instincts redlining. “Why would you ask that?” Pet had been in Marietta one week!
“No reason.” That casual tone was highly suspect. “Just, I met him at Christmas when we were tobogganing. Remember he was there with Skye and Chase and the Wolcott kids? He seemed nice and I saw him today. He was like, You go here now? I was like, Yeah. My mom is marrying Ethan’s dad. He was like, Cool.”
Liz exchanged a look with Meg. Oh, the deep conversations of youth.
Petra missed their silent amusement because they’d come into range for her phone. She let out a laugh.
“Uncle Sea Bass wants to know if you’re off your nut.”
“My brother,” Liz explained to Meg. “I sent him a Save The Date email. He’s been traveling in South America so this move of ours has blindsided him. Tell him to come to the wedding or I’ll never speak to him again,” she instructed Pet.
“I’ll tell him I won’t speak to him. Carries more weight,” Petra said, tapping her screen. “He better come to the wedding. I miss him so much.” This led her to relay a few of her favorite Day Out With Uncle stories. They typically involved terrifying amusement park rides, action movies, and shopping. He spoiled his niece and nephews relentlessly, but not just materially. They adored him and Liz really wished he would quit playing the field and settle down.
She glanced at Meg again, considering, but Meg’s life was in Chicago.
“Auntie Meg, you should marry Uncle Sea Bass,” Petra said with a sudden lunge forward. “Wouldn’t that be hilarious, Mom? Can you imagine me and Ethan trying to explain that? It’s taken all week to explain to the teachers how Ethan is my cousin, but also going to be my stepbrother.”
“Let’s get your uncle to my wedding before we start arranging his own,” Liz said.
“He’s really good looking,” Pet informed Meg. “And super nice.”
“I look forward to meeting him and having his babies,” Meg said, making them both laugh.
While Liz indulged a wistful moment. Being pregnant with Pet’s Aunt Stella, then raising their girls together, had not only strengthened their own friendship, but had been a much-valued support in those early days of motherhood. Their daughters were as tight as tight could be. Liz would love nothing better than to have something like that with her new sister-in-law.
But Meg was dedicated to her career and Bastian wouldn’t even be back state-side for another few months. At least Liz had Blake and, honestly, he was already such a great dad she knew she wouldn’t need anyone else. It was just a nice thought.
She tucked it away like an old valentine and made the turn to take them home.