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Authors: Julia Kent

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It's Complicated

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It’s Complicated

Julia Kent

Copyright © 2013 by Julia Kent

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.

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Chapter One

“Where are the balls?” Josie shouted as she and Laura entered Jeddy’s. The warlock waitress was missing, and the joint was empty, so it wasn’t hiding behind some crowd of rowdy college students.

As she craned her head around to see if it had been moved, she was disappointed to find no trace of the cardboard monstrosity anywhere.

“Gone,” Madge croaked, eyeing Laura’s enormous belly. “You got triplets in there?” she asked, poking her tummy with a stylus. Laura wore a lovely pink cotton tent that used more fabric than a king-size duvet. Josie felt sorry for her these days, with cankles and sciatica and a belly that stretched so far she could use it as a sail after the birth.

It had been Laura’s idea to come and eat lunch at Jeddy’s, and against Josie’s better judgment she’d said yes. The place held a few too many memories for her, but for Laura it was all about the food. And when a hungry, overdue pregnant woman suggests the place that serves her favorite comfort food, you don’t argue.

“No, but I’ll happily eat for three,” Laura answered, making Madge’s face crack into a grin. No, really—it cracked in half and she looked like a Muppet for a second. How a dried-up old prune like that could smile and make it look almost human was beyond Josie.

“You threw the warlock away?” she asked Madge as they chose their favorite booth and Madge slapped the menus down on the scarred tabletop.

“No. My granddaughter asked us to donate it to some fancy autism charity ball auction.”

“Rich people want to buy a cardboard cutout that’s been fondled thousands of times?” Josie asked as she slid into the booth. Laura turned sideways and tried to tuck her belly under the table. Nope. Stuck. Madge watched, head cocked, as she struggled to get in.

“How’s that different from Paris Hilton?” Madge challenged, shaking her head as she observed Laura’s pathetic attempt. Josie felt a pang of compassion and stood, offering Laura a hand to unwedge herself.

“Touché.”

“You need a table,” Madge said, moving the menus over to a four-top.

“I need a crowbar,” Laura groaned. Josie smiled sympathetically and patted her hand. Two days overdue and Laura acted like the world was ending. The only part of her that seemed to function properly these days was her appetite.

“Let’s get you started with some fried green tomatoes,” Madge said, scribbling on her electronic tablet. “And you like the Peanut Butter Hulk Smash….” she mumbled, ignoring them.

“Coconut shrimp!” Josie interjected.

“With a side of Pitocin,” Laura begged.

Settled at their table, the two women leaned toward each other, Laura struggling with her girth but finally managing to make it a foot or so as Josie whispered, “So, have you decided what to do?”

Laura nodded. “We want you to be the only one who knows.”

Josie pulled back as if slapped. “What? Me? That’s crazy. Why? Why
me
?”

Laura inhaled deeply and slowly through her nose, her hands sliding across the table, fingers splayed in an effort to control her breath. Josie respected that. She imagined that right now Laura’s lungs were the size of quarters, shoved up into her collarbone by the baby.

“Because you’re the person that all three of us trust.”

“That’s not a good reason to pick me,” Josie protested. “I don’t want to be the only person to know that kind of information.”

Laura narrowed her eyes. “You’re clearly the only person who should know. It’s not exactly going to be my dead mom or Dylan’s judgmental parents, right?”

Josie swallowed hard. Loathe as she was to admit it, Laura was making sense. This issue of paternity had been
her
issue. Laura had slept with two men and found herself pregnant under extraordinary circumstances, and now living with both men under even
more
extraordinary circumstances. Dylan and Mike had no desire to know which of them was the father, choosing instead to live with a kind of loving ambiguity that Josie absolutely did not understand, but had grudgingly come to respect.

Laura bought into it. That’s what surprised Josie. If you were a baby’s mom, wouldn’t you want to know who the dad was? Lately, though, Laura, Dylan, and Mike had become this incredible threesome that exuded love and support and understanding.

Gag.

Josie wasn’t about to try to put fissures in that, knowing full well that there was a way out—and it was through her.

“How do you want me to do this?” she asked Laura skeptically as Madge flew by and threw glasses of water on the table. Being the only person who would know who the baby’s biological father was seemed like an outrageous responsibility to carry. Doing it for Laura was part of being a good friend, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.

“We figure that the baby will be born, and we’ll get the paternity tests done, and then only you will see the results. You can come in and put the father’s name on the birth certificate and I’ll never know as long as you cover that part when I sign. Neither will the guys.”

Laura blinked rapidly and Josie could see that she was barely holding it together, knowing damn well that that was about the stupidest plan ever.
Of course
Laura would see the name on the birth certificate. She’d have to pull it out a million times over the course of the child’s life for everything from getting a Social Security card to a passport to flying with her.

Treading carefully, Josie said as much in kinder words. “Laura, you’ll have to see it at some point.”

“Well…I’ll…I’ll just—”

Madge interrupted them with a plate of hot coconut shrimp and one of fried green tomatoes.

Laura scanned the table and looked at Madge with pleading eyes. “Where’s the cake?”

Josie laughed and grabbed two coconut shrimp and put them on her little plate, careful to use the pads of her fingers. She’d just done her nails in a pink glitter in honor of the pending baby. If she didn’t take her share, Laura would just plow through it and she’d never get any.

Madge shot Laura a derisive look and said, “It’s coming. Cool your jets. You’ve got more than enough here.” She looked at Laura’s belly, looked back at Laura, looked at Josie and saw how Josie had cupped her hands around the little plate of her two coconut shrimp and said, “Ah, all right. I gotcha. Hang on, I’ll get the cake out here. You need a side of ice cream with that?”

“I need two sides of ice cream with that,” Laura snapped.

“I’ve had two kids myself and I know how bad it is when you hit the, what—493rd week?” Madge snorted. “But you don’t have to bite my head off.”

Josie tapped the table. Laura and Madge looked at her. “When you’re pissin’ Madge off, you know you’ve crossed the line.”

Laura’s eyes filled with tears.
Aw, shit,
Josie thought. “I’m sorry,” Laura said, her lip trembling, wide, wet eyes looking at Madge like she’d just run over her cat. “It’s just…you don’t…it’s just…” She flinched and grabbed her belly, bending over and taking a deep breath. “It’s just hard.”

“Is something wrong?” Josie asked.

“No.” Laura’s breath caught, a hitched gasp, and then smoothed out. “It’s just these stupid Braxton Hicks contractions.”

Madge waved her hand. “Early labor. Whatever. Call me when you’ve gone through twenty-one hours of labor alone ’cause your car’s broken, your husband finally gets you to the hospital, and you end up giving birth in the lounge on top of some stranger’s trench coat.”

“That happened to you?” both women asked in unison.

“No. Just call me when it happens.” Smirk.

Josie and Laura shared a
what the fuck?
look and then Laura dug in as if she’d just spent a year on Jenny Craig and this was her first off-plan meal. Josie had been right. Within minutes all the coconut shrimp were gone, Laura using her finger to scrape the last of the dipping sauce. Chugging down her water, she banged the glass on the tabletop like a Viking. Madge, as if reading her mind, zipped by with a pitcher, leaving it on the table for the two to share.

“I know it’s not a perfect solution,” Laura said, wiping her mouth, looking around the restaurant for Madge. Josie could almost hear the words “where’s that cake?” coming out of Laura’s brain. “But this way, the guys don’t know,
I
don’t know unless I choose to look at that part, and yet the baby will be protected in case something happens to me because the real father—” She cringed at the words.

“Biological father,” Josie helped.

“Yes, the biological father will be listed.”

Taking a sip of water, Josie nodded slowly. It could work. She could see that. Or, at least, she could easily pretend that this would work. The hard part would be knowing and keeping her mouth shut. For—well,
ever
—she would have the answer to a secret that was at the fundamental core of Dylan and Mike’s, and really Laura’s, being. One that they wouldn’t know, and one that could alter so much in their relationship if it were revealed.

She’d rather shit an eight-pound football than carry that around.

Almost.

Biting her lip, she decided to stuff her mouth with more food, and then looked down. She’d only eaten one coconut shrimp and now the other one was gone. “Hey,” she said, tipping her head up and looking at Laura, who was now chewing suspiciously.

A guilty look crossed Laura’s face. “Sorry.”

Madge to the rescue with two pieces of cake. Josie wrapped her arm around hers and snarled at Laura. “Mine.”

The three women laughed. “It’s only yours if you eat it before I eat mine.” Laura mugged and they began the chocolate fest.

“Not to bring up a touchy subject,” Josie said through a mouthful of cake.
As if the baby’s paternity hadn’t been a heavy topic
. “But when are you going to finally have this kid?”

Laura glared at her. “You think that I’m hanging on to her for no good reason? She’ll be born when she’s born. Or when they make me give birth to her. Time’s ticking right now, and Sherri says they can give me five more days. After that, it’s going to be tough.”

Sherri was Laura’s certified nurse midwife. Josie admired the woman’s approach. With a master’s degree in nursing, she was sort of like an obstetrician and a midwife combined, except she couldn’t perform surgery. If Laura needed a C-section she would have to use the obstetrician who supervised Sherri, or whoever was on duty that night.

Josie knew from enough years of working in hospitals that
that
was a crap shoot. Sometimes you got someone great, and sometimes you got a completely incompetent asshole. Most of the time, you got somebody in between, so she really hoped that Laura would have a smooth birth. The problem of too much fluid in the womb, the polyhydramnios diagnosis that Laura had gotten in her second trimester, had resolved enough that she could stay with the midwives, but she was still enough of a concern that Josie had some serious trepidations about the birth.

The medical issues were one thing. The other part made her scratch her head and wonder how this would work operationally. There were
two
dads, and while she was sure that the staff at the hospital was an enlightened group by and large, they probably didn’t get too many situations where two men were in the room. Plus Josie as a friend. Rather than saying anything, because Laura was about as sensitive as any forty-week-and-two-day pregnant woman would be, she just nodded and said simply, “You’ve got my number programmed in your phone. You know where and how to find me, and I’ll show up in my pajamas and barefoot if that’s when this baby decides to be born.”

Laura looked up from her plate, chocolate and peanut butter smeared at the corners of her mouth, her cheeks persistently pink and rosy, as they had been the entire last month of the pregnancy. “You will?” she said.

“Of course I will. You know that,” Josie answered. “And so will Dylan and Mike.”

“They will, no matter what,” Laura said, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “They live with me now. They have no choice.”

About a month ago, the three had all moved into Mike’s cabin. For the past two weeks, though, they’d been staying at Laura’s place—her lease didn’t run out for a bit. Her place was closest to the hospital where Laura hoped to birth. Josie had forgotten one day, absentmindedly dropping by for morning coffee, greeted at the door by a very wet Dylan wearing only a towel.

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