Allure
Author:Nina Lane

I eye Dean with a touch of wariness. As unnerving as it is to admit, I know that neither of us is ready for a baby.

 

I started thinking about having a baby a few months ago, but then everything went to hell between me and Dean. I found out he’d kept a previous marriage a secret from me, one that involved three miscarriages and a bitter divorce.

 

Then in the midst of my own confusion and hurt, I made the mistake of kissing the man who was teaching a cooking class I’d enrolled in. Dean and I have barely gotten past all that, let alone figured out whether we want children.

 

Too late for that now.

 

We haven’t talked about the pregnancy since I discovered it only yesterday. I haven’t even processed the idea, and probably neither has Dean. Especially since just the subject of a baby caused conflict between us, not to mention that we hadn’t agreed to try…

 

My stomach knots with apprehension and guilt. I rub the scar on my left hand, the physical evidence of how wrong things went between me and my husband. Dean glances at the movement. His mouth tightens.

 

“So, um, how about that?” I pick up my fork. “I’m pregnant.”

 

“How do you feel?”

 

“Fine, actually. I only checked because I missed my period. I should make an appointment with Dr. Nolan, I guess. I know she handles prenatal care and delivery, in addition to family practice.” I can’t read Dean’s expression. I can’t make sense of the sudden jumble of emotions crowding my chest. “Will you go with me to the appointment?”

 

“Of course I’ll go with you.” A crease appears between his eyebrows. “Did you think I wouldn’t?”

 

“I didn’t know.” I poke at the eggs with my fork. “I’ll call Dr. Nolan tomorrow, if the office is open.”

 

I sense his gaze on me and glance up at him. He puts his hand on my arm.

 

“I’ll take care of you, Liv,” he says. “No, we didn’t plan on having a baby right now. Yes, we’re still getting back on our feet. But I’ll do whatever it takes to make this easy for you. Whatever you need, whatever you want, I’ll do it. We’re going to be fine.”

 

His voice is a deep caress of certainty. Though I’m grateful for his assurance, I’m aware that I don’t share it. Yet.

 

“We’ll talk to the doctor first and go from there,” Dean says. “Okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

I squeeze his hand and we finish eating our breakfast. We spend a quiet day together—we clean the kitchen, play Scrabble, make love again, watch a movie. Dean does some work in his office, and I wash and organize the rest of my new cooking equipment. I also open the present from the holiday party, which turns out to be a gift certificate for one of my favorite places in Mirror Lake—an old-fashioned tearoom called Matilda’s Teapot.

 

“Do you want to pick up the rest of your things from Kelsey’s?” Dean comes into the kitchen, looking scruffy and delicious in torn jeans and a faded T-shirt.

 

I close the cupboard door and turn to face him. I don’t want to ask the question, but I have to. “Do you think… do you think maybe it’s too soon?”

 

“No, I don’t think it’s too soon.” He frowns. “Do you think it’s too soon?”

 

“I don’t know,” I admit. “As much as I miss you, with this pregnancy now and… well, everything else...”

 

“I want you to come home, Liv.”

 

“I know. I want to come home, too.” I’m also scared to come home. Scared of what we have to deal with, scared of hurting each other again, scared that things won’t be the same as they once were.

 

Dean moves closer and tugs me into his arms. My whole body weakens as I press my forehead against his chest and breathe in his familiar scent. He puts his hand on the back of my neck and kneads the tense muscles.

 

“You need to come home,” he murmurs against my hair.

 

“Are you scared?”

 

“Not about us.” Dean pulls back to take my face in his hands. “Remember winter break of the first year we met?”

 

Desire uncoils in my blood as I look into his eyes. He is imprinted in my bones, my soul. He has marked me in ways more permanent than time.

 

“I remember,” I breathe. Two weeks that changed me forever.

 

“That’s what we’re going to do again.” Dean brushes his thumb across my lips. “You and I. No one else.”

 

We both want this so badly. I can feel it resonating between us like the hot pull of our first attraction, tangible and intense. We want our marriage to be a haven of warmth and pleasure again. We want our pure lustiness back, untainted by fear and mistrust. We want the unending spirals of bliss we can create only with each other. We want to shut the rest of the world out while locking ourselves in together. We want to be united in this pregnancy and impending parenthood.

 

As if he knows what I’m thinking, Dean slides his palm down to my belly. I put my hand over his.

 

“We’re going to have to read a lot of books,” I say.

 

“My life’s work involves reading books.”

 

“We’ll probably have to take some classes.”

 

“I’m at my best in a classroom.”

 

“And I hear we’ll need to buy a ton of stuff.”

 

“We can afford stuff.”

 

I look up into his chocolate-brown eyes.