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Authors: Nikki Winter

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BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
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          Sansone started to sing “It’s A Small World
.

At least until Luciano popped him from behind the headrest. To ignore his brother and assistant, Luciano adjusted his headphones and tuned into his daily morning joy. Just in time too—Samara was ranting.

         
“...all I’m pointing out is that these kids who make it big don’t always have the right guidance to help them along. A lot of the time they get screwed over, not realizing how short the lifespan of a pro-ball career truly is. I’m not saying every noob fails but there’s a huge percentage that falls to the wayside because of bad management. My sister—”

          “Shameless plug,”
the voice of Trip—Samara’s co-host--interrupted.

          Something that distinctly sounded like a slap sounded in the background.

         
“The violence!”

          “Quiet, obnoxious ass-hat!”
Samara snapped.

          Luciano chuckled as he listened. She was feisty as ever.

         
“As I was saying,”
Samara continued.
“My sister, Nyssa Blackwell, whom we’ve had here a few times, has contractual stipulations for clients under twenty-five. A degree is a necessity in her eyes. You either have one, are working for one, or are looking for new management, because she likes to prep her people for the real world. Nothing lasts forever aside from knowledge, folks.”
She yawned.
“Remember that.”

          “A little tired there, Sammie?”
Paz teased.

         
“Must be the pregnancy,”
Trip murmured in a distinctly absent-minded tone. The problem was, while it was absent-minded for him and
definitely
unintentionally spoken from what Luciano could tell, it. Was. Still. Heard. And it still caused Luciano to stop breathing.

          The silence on the line after the comment was enough to leave his hands trembling as he stared down at the blinking screen of his android, one million different thoughts battling in his head. Pregnant. Samara was pregnant. Samara was pregnant with
his
baby. He didn’t even stop to question whether or not the kid was his, because he knew it in his gut that he or she was. Samara was a lot of things, but someone who hopped from bed to bed without protection wasn’t one of them.

          The morning Luciano had woken up in his bedroom alone with condom wrappers scattered all over the floor and dresser had been more than enough evidence that he hadn’t been dreaming she’d been with him. For the first time in his adult life, the absence of a woman the morning after had left him feeling cold and wondering how he could get her back. That led to his ever-sparking interest in Samara deepening but he never drifted down that road, preferring to continue his routine of wanting her from a distance. Now not only would he have her again...it seemed like he might be tied to her for the rest of their lives, all because of one tiny person growing inside of her.

         
“Oh. My. God. Sammie, I didn’t mean to—”

          “Okay!”
Paz interrupted the other man’s apology.
“Time for a master mix!”

         
That was all Luciano heard before the sound of the Harlem Shake came crashing through his headphones. He slowly pulled them out, palms sweaty. “Uh, Sunny?”

          “Yeah?”

          “You mind calling Nyssa for me?”

          “She’s still not speaking to me
and
I dunno if she’s back in town yet, but I can try.” Sansone took his eyes off the freeway to glance at Luciano in the rearview. “Need something in particular?”

“Yes.” Luciano almost crushed his phone, he held it so tightly. “Samara. I need to talk to Samara.”

Chapter Five

 

         
“Put your head between your knees and
breathe,
Sammie.”

          “Oh, my God... Oh, my God...” Samara chanted while following Ava’s directive as she sat on the couch inside her station manager’s office,

          “You’re having a panic attack, which is completely understandable, but I need you to take slow, deep breaths, okay?”

          She nodded, following the exhale pattern Ava gave her; desperately trying to inhale normally.

          Samara’s boss went out of view, and she briefly wondered where the hell she’d disappeared to and why she was abandoning her until she heard, “You two! In here now!”

          There were footsteps, and then Trip was kneeling in front of her, cupping her face. “I do a lot of shit, Sammie, the majority of it stupid, but you have to know that was an accident. Swear to
God.”
Of course it was an accident. Trip was insane and exasperating, but he wasn’t spiteful.

         
She nodded again, still taking slow, deep breaths. “I know.” Samara poked him in the face. “Doesn’t make you any less of an asshole, but I know.”

          He grinned, kissed her on the forehead. “You’re gonna be just fine, kid.”

          Samara frowned. “’Course I am. I’m pregnant, not dying.” Those words sunk in, and she held Trip’s shoulders in a white-knuckled grip, her previous calm disappearing. “Holy baby shit, dude! I’m
pregnant!
Now all my listeners know! I have over twenty thousand listeners!”

          Paz pushed Trip to the side, took his place, and held her hands. “Yes, you’re pregnant. And yes, people are now well aware of the fact.” He glanced over one shoulder to Trip, who simply raised his hands then turned back to her. “But Sammie, people were going to know whether you said something now or later.” Paz tucked a braid behind her ear. “You’re happy, aren’t you? About the pregnancy?”

          Three pairs of eyes watched her closely, and her belly flipped. Automatically, her hand moved there, and she realize in her panic, her questions, her consideration of how the news would be told that she never stopped to ask herself that, too afraid of the answer. What if she
wasn’t
happy? What if she’d been dragging her feet on telling Luciano because she was terrified
he
wouldn’t be happy? What if all the calls, the comments, the flirting were just that? What if all he wanted was a repeat of seeing her naked and nothing more? What if he’d moved on already because she’d been screening his calls over the last week?

          Samara looked to Trip. “Can you get my bag, please?”

          He was gone and back in the blink of an eye. She took the shoulder tote from him and rummaged through it until she found what she was looking for—her first ultrasound. Samara stared down at the small, three-dimensional image of the person who’d unceremoniously taken up residence in her womb and waited to feel regret or nausea or a combination of both. But...she didn’t.

          For the past week since her little discovery, she’d been going through the motions, making preparations, looking for new apartments and even hiring a maid to help keep her place clean, but she’d never allowed herself a moment of peace, of stillness, to sit and really think about the fact she was going to be a mother. Why? Because the gnawing feeling she might not be able to handle it, that she might fail, had haunted her. So instead of taking everything one day at a time, she’d been robotic, almost mechanical with every decision.

But at the moment, all she could hear in her head was the voice of Dr. Balcomb explaining to her that while most physicians stated pregnancy lasted forty weeks it was really only thirty-eight for the majority of women. The first two weeks were actually the days the body spent preparing itself for conception. She also explained that this meant Samara was only technically nearing her sixth week, and that at her next appointment she’d be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. In twelve more weeks, they’d know the sex.

At the moment, all she could think about was the way her
own
heart skipped a beat in excitement when she wondered if she’d have a boy or a girl. If they’d have her eyes or Luciano’s. If they’d...love
her
the way she already loved
them.

Samara had never thought herself the maternal type. She babied Manfred, but that didn’t really count since he was a cat. She’d always been too busy with her journalism to have a truly stable relationship let alone a marriage; her secret dream was to own a magazine someday. Yet, at the moment, all those thoughts seemed so small compared to her child.
Her child.

In a few short months she’d have one small, needy, whiny, grumpy, moody, silly human being completely dependent on her, expecting her to be at their beck and call. And she’d love every. Fucking. Minute. Of. It. Because they were
hers.
Trip’s slip of the tongue was the exact bitch slap she’d needed to revisit the land of reality and realize she had everything she could ever need or want zapping every ounce of energy out of her. Samara was pregnant. And fucking well proud of it.

She raised her eyes to Paz’s. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my goddamn life. The first person to turn my kid’s conception into a media circus will be the first person back home in the basement of their geriatric parents; the only joy in their life lusting after old high school crushes and potluck night down at the bingo hall in between masturbating to
Playboy
issues from the fifties.”

          Trip rocked back on his heels, nodding. “That mama bear instinct really kicks right in, don’t it?”

          Samara looked to Ava. “Could you please call Robin so she can start damage control?” Robin McCall was WKZ’s publicist, and a damn good one at that. She swung her gaze to Paz. “And I need you to get my phone out of the studio. I have some damage control of my own to do.” Despite the men’s prodding, she hadn’t given them details on who had helped her conceive her little gift. They’d know soon enough.

          Fuck fear, fuck waiting, and fuck wondering. Luciano needed to hear about her pregnancy from her
now
and not from some bitter, middle-aged blogger.

          “Shit’s about to go down,” Trip murmured.

          Samara’s sentiments exactly.

***

          “Put your head between your knees and
breathe,
Luc.”

          “Jesus... Lord on high... Oh, God...” Luciano did as Sansone told him, praying the airport would stop spinning at some point.

          “You’ve gotta calm down.”

          “Easy for you to say!” he yelped, head still bent. “You’re not the one who got someone pregnant!”

          “People are staring...” Sansone sung in a low murmur.

          Luciano looked up, casting glares around at the onlookers. “Got a problem?”

          Several people turned back to whatever it was they’d been doing. All he could hear was Sansone’s sigh right before Brian rushed toward them, a bottle of water in his hand. “I managed to get you a flight for noon. Boarding begins in fifteen minutes.” He handed Luciano the bottle and his boarding pass. “Terminal B21 just down the left corridor. The flight should take no more than an hour.” It had been Luciano’s idea to hop a plane to New York as soon as possible. Sansone had tried to talk him out of it, saying driving would be a sensible option, but Luciano wasn’t feeling sensible and of course Brian, ever loyal, rolled with the punches.

          Luciano looked to his PA. “When I get back, I’m sending you and Antonio someplace where you can frolic in Speedos to your heart’s content.”

          Brian winced. “Speedos chafe. We try to stick to trunks, unless of course the beach is a nu—”

          “And we’re
so
done with this conversation,” Sansone cut in. “How about we worry about what the fuck you’re going to say to Sammie when you show up on her doorstep, or the fact you should probably
call
first before actually doing so?”

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
4.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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