“You’ll get pregnant soon. You just have to let it happen.” She grabs my hand. “And there are other options out there.” I will myself not to cry. I’m so close to letting the tears spill out but I know that won’t help anything or solve any of my problems. Plus, I don’t want to make her feel bad about being pregnant. I’m happy for her. She and Heath deserve this after everything they’ve been through. But her pregnant belly is a constant reminder of my shortcomings. That thought alone makes me feel even worse because Orchard is like a sister to me.
“You might just have to let me snuggle your babies all the time.” I give her belly one last rub before scooping up the papers I was looking over. They show that our business had another month of profits but we would be using them all for renovations. We are surprisingly making profits but using them as quickly as they come in.
“Of course.” She beams at me. She really is glowing. She has been since she found out her husband was madly in love with her. Something I’d been telling her for years. She had been convinced that they had a marriage of convenience. Right before all this happened she got a wild hare to buy a grocery chain with the money he kept depositing into her account as an act of rebellion. She dragged me right in with her. Okay, maybe she didn’t have to drag me. I hopped in willingly. I wanted something to keep my attention away from the fact I wasn’t getting pregnant.
Now my brother is back in my life and I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew. This morning was a perfect example of that. I’ve never turned my husband down when it came to sex. I always want him. Then my phone went off. I knew from the persistence that it was my brother. That had killed the mood in a second.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” I ask. She looks at her watch.
“Yeah.” She eyes me for a second. “You and Con have big plans?”
“No, I just have to handle some stuff.” I slip my papers into my bag.
“Okay, but if you need to talk—” She stands, coming over to me to give me a hug.
“I know.” I hug her back. For a moment I think about telling her Teddy is back but my phone dings, reminding me I’m already late.
I stare coldly at the man sitting in the black leather chair across from my massive desk. “When I told you to never show your face again, I meant that shit.”
Abigail’s brother gives me a cheeky smile. “Big bro, how can you say that? We’re family after all.”
“Abigail’s my family. You’re an albatross around her neck that is trying to drown her.” I drum my fingers against the walnut. Teddy Case has always been a problem. He’s Abby’s only surviving family member. Their parents died in a car crash when he was seventeen and Abby was sixteen. The state wanted to send them to different foster homes, but Teddy swore he could take care of her until she was legal. At first glance, that seemed like a decent thing to do, but it turns out that Teddy had a bad gambling problem and the moment he had access to the insurance money, he’d used it to pay off some bookies. Once he was debt free, he didn’t take the opportunity to make a new life for himself. Instead, he moved on to higher stakes games, buying his way into the high rollers clubs in Atlantic City. Because he was a shit card player with even worse instincts, he fell into debt again. Whenever he did, he’d come crawling back to Abby begging for money. All she had left was her educational trust and she probably would’ve drained that for him but the bank trustees were too strict. Still, she did what she could, forgoing computer equipment and study aides, eating fewer meals, scrimping and saving because she couldn’t bear to see him hurt.
It was maddening to watch Abigail suffer through this from the outside. I couldn’t do anything but hold her while she cried over her brother because I didn’t come into my trust until I was twenty-one. Once we were married and I had access to my money, I paid him off. He’d promised that he’d leave Abigail alone and for the three years we’ve been married, he’s kept his word.
I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s here now, though. He’s an addict. There’s no amount of money that he won’t burn through, given enough time. It’d be fine if he wanted to gamble himself into a grave, but I have Abby to think about. She doesn’t need extra stress in her life.