Slow burn, secret baby?
Uh, yes, please!
Enjoy a little taste of The First Classman two weeks before it goes LIVE!!
“I love this part,” Willow murmured.
On the screen, the Statue of Liberty had left Liberty Island and was wading into New York Harbor as Jackie Wilson sang.
“Yeah, same,” I said distractedly.
“I mean, can you—oh!” Willow shifted, pressing one hand to the small mound of her belly. “I guess Lady Liberty isn’t the only one who appreciates Jackie Wilson. Baby Thing is getting its groove on.”
I stared at her. “You can feel the baby move?”
She glanced at me. “Yeah. Not all the time, but more and more lately.”
“You didn’t tell me that.” I was annoyed, and I wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t like I expected Willow to give me regular updates on the baby’s development. Since I’d been spending time with her, we only referenced her pregnancy in passing, and when we mentioned the baby, it was in weird generalities.
But now I wanted to know more. If Willow could feel the baby move, what did that mean? Was it kicking or just moving its arms around—and why did we have to keep calling the baby it? Shouldn’t she know the gender by now?
“No, I didn’t tell you,” Willow answered me slowly. “I didn’t think you cared.”
“Well, I do.” I crossed my arms over my chest.
“You never said anything. You haven’t asked me about how it’s doing—only about how I’m feeling.” Willow wasn’t upset; she sounded strangely reasonable.
“Only because I didn’t know how to ask—and I thought maybe you didn’t want to talk about it. Since you’re not sure.” I swallowed. “Also, I thought if your parents heard us, they might think it was odd that I was invested in the growth of a baby who doesn’t belong to me.”
“Okay.” She wiggled around until she faced me, her long hair framing her pretty face. “Well, we’re here alone now. Ask whatever you want.”
Of course, now I couldn’t think of a single thing. “Um, what does it feel like when the baby moves?” That was a good place to start.
Willow smiled. “Weird in the beginning. At first, I didn’t realize what I was feeling. I thought it was just gas or something. But now I can tell when it’s kicking. It happens mostly after I eat or drink, or when there’s music.” She pointed to the TV. “Case in point.”
“That’s cool.” I stared down at her belly. “It’s crazy, isn’t it, that we had sex last summer, and now there’s a little being moving around in you.”
“Very crazy.” Willow laughed. “Do you want to feel it move?”
“Are you serious?” My eyes went wide. “Hell, yeah, I do.”
“Okay. Give me your hand.”
She circled my wrist with her fingers and placed my palm flat against her. I was surprised at how tight and hard her bump was, and for a moment, that was all I could think about. And then, suddenly, I was poked in the palm.
“Holy fuck!” My smile was huge. “It really did—what was that, a kick?”
“Probably. I can’t tell yet which is what when it comes to arms and legs.” With a thoughtful expression, she moved my hand a little lower. “Try here. This is a favorite spot.”
We sat there for the next half-hour, the movie forgotten, as I moved my hand over Willow’s stomach until I couldn’t feel anything else.
“Yeah, it’s probably sleeping now. Worn out from all the excitement.” I didn’t miss the way Willow curled one arm protectively around her belly. I wondered if she realized she was doing it. “Baby’s first New Year’s Eve—in utero, that is.”
“Oh, my God—that reminds me. What time is it?” I looked at my watch. “Eleven fifty-eight! Hand me the remote quick, please.”
As the hosts traded quips, Willow and I were sitting closer together than before. When the ball dropped and clock struck twelve, she turned to me.
“Happy new year, Dean.”
“Happy new year, Willow.” For a moment, I was tempted—so fucking tempted—to hold her face in my hands and kiss her lips. I could still remember what she tasted like, how she felt, and the memory was killing me by degrees.
But in the end, I chickened out and leaned forward to kiss her cheek before I pulled her tight against me, our baby between us. My heart was thundering. Here in my arms, I was holding two very precious beings. It was an odd feeling, brand-new, and it made me more than a little nervous.