Chapter no 17 – Hannah

Bagging the Blueliner

A BEAUTIFUL MORNING IN the Bahamas brought us the company of Amy and Liam for the rest of our Caribbean vacation. I was tired of Jaxon giving me the evil eye over the breakfast table, and their arrival broke the tension.

Declaring a girls’ day, we shooed the boys off the yacht, ready to catch up after a month apart. Amy wanted to know all about what was happening between me and Cal while we got massages in the open air on deck.

“You two must be getting serious for you to bring him on vacation with us,” Amy remarked.

Letting the strong hands of the masseur brought on board knead my stiff muscles, I groaned before I could stop myself, and the girls giggled in response.

“It seemed like a couple’s thing. I didn’t want to be the fifth wheel.” I tried to keep my answer vague.

“So, he’s just your plus one?” She sounded skeptical.

I braced myself, knowing she was going to lose it over my following words. “Well, we kinda determined we were exclusive after I told one of the crew members that he was my boyfriend.”

My comment was met with silence, so I lifted my head to find both Amy and Natalie staring at me wide-eyed.

Natalie spoke first. “Whoa.”

Brushing it off, I countered, “It’s not a big deal.”

Amy wasn’t going to let me get away with that, declaring, “Bullshit. That’s a huge deal, especially for you. You date guys; you don’t have boyfriends.”

I scoffed. “Like you can talk. You skipped the boyfriend stage and went straight to marriage. Technically, your wedding was your first date.”

Natalie asked, “How many nights a week do you two spend together?” The answer was damning, I knew that. “Every night.”

Amy was smug. “I want it on record that I knew it all along. He was so hot for you.”

“Oh, it’s hot, all right.”

“Figured as much when you didn’t make it to dinner last night. I had to sit there and listen to Jaxon spitting out doomsday prophecies,” Natalie grumbled.

I shot back, “I’m surprised you didn’t join in.”

Offended, she huffed. “I’m the one who invited you when Lucy backed out, remember?”

Amy became the mediator, a role that she often fell into naturally. “What I think Hannah is trying to say is that she’s surprised that you’re supportive of her relationship with Cal because it’s contradictory to your earlier opinions on the matter.”

“What she said.” I pointed at Amy.

Natalie sighed. “I’m your friend first and foremost. You know that. While I share some of Jaxon’s fears that this is going to end badly for Cal if your dad ever finds out—and let’s face it, if you’re throwing out the term ‘boyfriend,’ you can’t keep this a secret forever—I didn’t want to see you get hurt.”

Cocking my head in confusion, I asked, “How would get hurt?”

“He’s a player, and not just on the ice. We’ve all seen him at the club with a different woman hanging off him each time we go, and the same could be said for when they are on the road. I didn’t think he had it in him to offer more than one night. You deserve better than that.”

Well, color me shocked. Natalie wasn’t uptight—she was only looking out for me.

While I tried to find the words, Amy spoke. “I think it’s fair to say that each of our men had an active lifestyle before they met us, but when the right woman came along, something clicked and they were ready to settle

down. Who’s to say the same can’t be true for Cal? How long has it been since you two started sleeping together?”

“A little over two months,” I answered.

“And in all that time, neither of you has been with someone else?” “Nope.”

Her green eyes lit up. “I think you accomplished your mission. You’ve got your hockey player. The next thing to figure out is how to tell your dad.”

I cringed. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen any time soon.”

Natalie chimed in. “You’re taking a risk coming on this trip with him. Suppose someone recognizes him and takes a photo—who knows where it might end up? You’re better off coming clean before he finds out from someone else.”

She was right. I hated it when she was right.

Blowing out a breath, I conceded, “After the season. I promise.”

Amy chewed the inside of her cheek—a telltale sign that she was nervous. “That could be more than four months from now if things go well.”

Natalie added, “Jaxon knew something was up while you were on the road. If he noticed, I’m sure someone else will eventually.”

Sighing, I countered, “They don’t need the distraction right now. They have a real shot this year. I would never forgive myself if I caused locker room drama and they faltered before reaching the pinnacle.”

Skeptical, she twisted her lips. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

I gave her a smirk. “As always, Nat, I’m flying by the seat of my pants.

It’s gotten me this far.”

What I didn’t vocalize was that I was worried it might all fall apart before the end of the season. What if Cal got bored of me? What if I pushed him too far and he cut me loose for being too much drama?

Was it worth blowing up both our worlds if it wasn’t going to pan out anyway? If we did make it to the end of the season, I swore to myself I would sit down and have an honest conversation with Dad.



The crew offered to serve us lunch after our massages, but we decided to leave the boat to shop, snacking as we went. We knew the boys were hanging around the area and would happily join us if we called them, but we were enjoying our girl time. With Amy spending more time in Europe and the travel required for my job, we saw less of each other than ever.

We were in a tiny shop, sifting through clothes racks filled with tropical dresses, when Amy glanced at her security officer, Marcus, standing by the door before whispering, “I think I might be pregnant.”

Nat and I froze, staring at her. Flicking her eyes to the door again, Amy grabbed a handful of dresses, saying loudly, “Let’s go try these on!”

Silently, we followed her, all cramming into the largest dressing room in the back of the shop. Amy calmly hung the hangers on the hook on the wall.

Natalie clearly couldn’t find the words, so I spoke first. “Um, why is this just coming up now? We’ve been together all day!”

Turning around, Amy shrugged. “I didn’t want the masseurs to overhear.

All it takes is one rumor, and it’s all over the news.”

Natalie sighed. “She’s right. It sucks, but that’s her reality now.”

A lightbulb went off in my brain. “We’re hiding in the dressing room because of Marcus?”

Nodding, Amy confirmed, “He might be my guard, but he reports to Liam.”

“So, Liam doesn’t know?” Natalie asked.

Amy shook her head. “He wants this so badly that I didn’t want him to be disappointed if it took a while.”

Eyes widening, Natalie’s jaw dropped. “Wait. Does that mean he doesn’t even know you’re trying?”

Covering her face with both hands, she confirmed, “No. He wanted to try right after the state wedding, but things went sideways.” Amy’s gaze flicked to me before continuing, “So, I put him off some more. I got my IUD removed before Christmas but didn’t tell him.”

The way she mentioned the wedding gave me pause. What had gone sideways? I remember the palace going on lockdown due to a threat, but it turned out to be nothing in the end. The news of Leo being committed to the mental institution came in the following weeks. Lucy had also left Belleston around the same time and refused to return. Were all those events related in some way?

Before I could ponder that further, Natalie asked, “What makes you think you’re pregnant? Are you nauseous?”

“No,” Amy answered. “For starters, I haven’t had a period since my IUD removal, and that’s been six weeks now. My boobs are so tender I can barely stand to wear a bra, and I’m tired all the time. I almost fell asleep in the middle of an engagement last week.”

“Did you take a test yet?” I leaned against the wall as Amy dropped onto the bench inside the dressing room.

Her only response was a heavy sigh. Natalie nodded knowingly, musing, “You can’t buy one without someone finding out.”

“Exactly,” Amy breathed out.

Taking charge, I declared, “I’ve got this.” Natalie eyed me. “You’ve got what?”

“I’ll go to the pharmacy. We passed one a block or so back. Meet me back at the boat, and we’ll settle this once and for all.”

“That’s actually a great idea.”

I gave her a hair flip in response. “Thanks. I’ve got lots of them.” I winked.

“Listen, make sure to get the early response ones,” she instructed. “Without a period to track timing, we need the most sensitive ones on the market.”

I nodded, making a mental note. “Early response. Got it. Meet you back in Natalie’s room in twenty minutes.”

Natalie grabbed Amy’s hand. “Let’s get out of here.”

They left me alone in the dressing room, and I peeked through the curtain to make sure they’d left with Marcus. Confident they were gone, I ventured from my hiding spot and exited the shop, turning toward the pharmacy I’d spotted earlier.

Locating it on the road that led back to the harbor, I ducked inside. Scanning the aisles, I found the feminine care section tucked in the back corner—probably to protect the delicate sensibilities of men.

I wasn’t a super fan of trolling the aisle myself, opting to source my products online in avoidance. It was awkward as hell, especially if someone else happened to be there. Then there was trying to hide whatever product you got under other items in your cart so other shoppers didn’t see. Not that it mattered because, at checkout, the clerk saw anyway. The workings of the female body were natural, but society conditioned us to feel ashamed. The

only thing that topped buying period products in a physical store was realizing you needed one and being forced to ask strangers in the bathroom if they had any you could have in a pinch.

Scanning the shelves, I found the type Natalie had demanded I choose, throwing a bunch of the bright pink boxes into my shopping basket. I wasn’t sure how many she needed, so it was better to be safe than sorry. I wasn’t running this errand twice.

Walking to the checkout with nothing but a basket of pregnancy tests, the clerk—of course, it had to be a man—gave me a knowing look. He could fuck off right now with his judgment. He didn’t know me. I wasn’t some teenager in trouble; I was a grown-ass woman in my thirties. What kind of world did we live in where people went right to the worst-case scenario in their minds? Millions of women were excited to get pregnant, and the pitying look this guy was giving me had the power to kill their joy.

Tapping my credit card on the screen of the reader showing my total, I snatched the bag from his hands, resisting the urge to give him a piece of my mind. Without further delay, I headed back to the boat.

It was time for Amy’s moment of truth.



Clutching the pharmacy bag to my chest, I knocked on the door to Natalie’s cabin aboard the yacht, feeling like a smuggler. It was ridiculous, but it felt like everyone I passed on the street had X-ray vision and could see through the thin plastic to know its contents.

“Let me in,” I whisper-shouted, knocking more insistently.

The door flew open, and Natalie snaked out an arm to pull me inside. “Did you see any of the guys?” she asked.

“No.” I thrust the bag at her. My heart hammered against my chest. Since when did going on a mission to buy pregnancy tests feel like I was in special ops?

Frowning, Natalie glanced inside. “Why did you buy so many?” Frustrated, I threw my hands up. “I don’t know! I panicked!”

She eyed me warily. “Jeez. The way you’re acting, you’d think you were the one who was possibly pregnant.”

I crossed myself. “Don’t even say that shit out loud.”

Amy stood from where she sat on the bed, twisting her hands nervously. “Since we have a few extras, do you think you guys could take one too? Just so I’m not alone?”

Natalie threw an arm around her waist. “Of course we will.”

“I don’t know . . .” I was stalling, trying to think of any way I could get out of this.

“What? Scared?” Natalie challenged.

Snatching one of the boxes, I glared at her. “No.”

Her lips turned up in an evil smirk. “Good. Then you can go first.” My eyes widened. “Me?”

“Why not? You’ve got nothing to hide, right?”

Ooh, I hated her so much right now. Cracking open the box, I stared at the sealed stick. “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”

“You pee on it.” Natalie rolled her eyes. Moving over to her purse, she rummaged around before pulling out a black marker. “Here. Put your initial on the back at the bottom so we know which one belongs to you. Then leave it on the counter, with the results window facing up. Nobody looks until we are all done and the timer goes off.”

Snatching the marker, I grumbled, “Fine.”

Closing myself in her ensuite bathroom, I opened the plastic around the stick. If I had it my way, I would never have cause to encounter one of these. But I would do anything for Amy—both of them, really—so here I sat, in the middle of the Caribbean, having a showdown with a pregnancy test.

“Here goes nothing,” I muttered to myself before sitting on the toilet, trying to angle the stick so I didn’t get urine on my hands.

Why was this process so disgusting from beginning to end? Maybe the amount of bodily fluids involved in creating and carrying out a pregnancy was nature’s way of preparing a woman for the spit-up and diaper changes when the baby arrived. I was not interested in any part of that process.

Capping the stick, I wrote a black H on the bottom handle and left it on the counter, face up, along with the marker.

Emerging from the bathroom, Natalie went next, then finally Amy. I set my timer for two minutes, and we sat silently, watching the time tick down on my phone screen. When the alarm went off, we all stared at it, no one making a move.

The silence stretched on for what felt like forever, and when I couldn’t take it a moment longer, I blurted out, “I’ll go look.”

Amy’s green eyes met mine, and I could see the hope shining through them. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, I prayed she got the result she wanted when I walked through that bathroom door.

Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the bathroom. Walking to the counter, the three pregnancy tests were lined up side by side with the result windows facing up. Looking at them, I froze.

“What the fuck?!” I yelled. Two of them were positive.

Amy and Natalie burst into the tiny bathroom, their eyes going right to the tests.

Natalie realized what she was looking at first and breathed out, “Oh shit.”

My finger shook as I pointed at her. “Does this seem like a good idea now?” I was this close to having a mental breakdown.

“Taking the test doesn’t make you pregnant,” she shot back.

Fuck. She had a point. “Well, if we didn’t take the test, someone would be blissfully ignorant right now.”

“Grow up, Hannah.” Natalie’s voice shook; she was as freaked out as I was.

Amy reigned us in. “Everyone, calm down. Turning on each other isn’t going to change these results.”

It suddenly struck me that I was equal parts terrified that one of those positive tests was mine and that the lone negative was Amy’s. She wanted this, and it was clear from our reactions that neither Natalie nor I did. This had the makings of a really fucked-up day, where all three of us walked away unhappy.

Happy vacation to us.

“What do we do?” I asked our rational-minded friend.

Without warning, she scooped up the tests, causing Natalie and me to scream in protest. We weren’t ready to face reality yet.

Holding them in one hand, obscuring the bottoms where our initials were clearly marked, she presented them to us. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. You each take one as if we were pulling straws. Then, at the same time, we look. Deal?”

We nodded, but my legs were shaking and I leaned against the counter to remain upright. Natalie went first, choosing the negative result. Bitch.

Eyeing up the two positives like it really mattered which one I chose, I closed my eyes, reaching for one blindly.

Amy took a deep breath. “All right. One . . . Two . . . Three.”

We opened our hands and looked down. My hand held the test with a black A written on the handle.

Thank God. One down and one to go.

Holding it up, I declared, “Congrats, Amy.”

She dropped onto the closed toilet seat, her eyes filling with tears. I handed her the test, and she clutched it to her chest.

Her happiness only heightened my panic. She held the other positive.

Swallowing, I asked, “Ames. Whose do you have?”

Suddenly reminded that someone else’s life was about to change today, she cleared her throat. “Natalie’s.”

The wave of relief crashed into me so hard that my knees nearly buckled.

Crisis averted.

Looking over to Natalie, I discovered she’d left the room. Shit. She had my test, so she knew she was pregnant the moment she opened her hand. She didn’t need Amy or me to tell her.

That’s when it hit me that I was being left behind again.

I wanted to be happy for them. No. I was happy for them. They were my best friends. Natalie was already an amazing mom, and I knew deep down Amy would be just as incredible in that capacity.

I didn’t want kids, so it wasn’t even about that. I would be outside looking in while my best friends shared an experience together. Lucy and Amy pregnant at the same time would be one thing—hell, it was a public relations wet dream—but throw in Natalie, too? It would be easy to figure out which one of these things was not like the others.

On top of sticking out like a sore thumb, there went girls’ nights for the next year. Drinks for one? Sign me up.

Shaking off my mini pity party, I tapped Amy’s shoulder, gesturing to the bedroom, letting her know I was headed that way to comfort our friend. I stopped dead in my tracks when I crossed the threshold.

Natalie was pacing, muttering under her breath. She was downright pissed.

Seeing me standing there, she screamed, “I’m gonna kill him!”

Poor Jaxon didn’t even know he’d ordered the fireworks package on this vacation. From our conversations over the years, I knew he would be over-

the-moon thrilled that Natalie was pregnant again, which would only serve to fuel Natalie’s rage. He was a dead man walking.

She needed to get it all out, so I stood there silently while she continued her rant. “I’m about to have teenagers in the house! Teenagers! As in plural! Charlie is off to school in the fall! I was finally going to get a break! He’s gone all the fucking time! The smug bastard is going to be so happy. Well, guess what, buddy? I’m marching your ass in for a vasectomy, and I’m going to sit there and watch with my popcorn. See how you like it. Maybe I’ll pay them off not to numb you while they do it!”

Natalie finally stopped talking long enough to take a deep breath and dropped to the bed, placing her head between her knees. Moving to sit beside her, I locked eyes with Amy standing in the doorway to the bathroom. The pointed look on her face told me this one was all mine.

Rubbing Natalie’s back, I gave her my personal brand of comfort— humor. “I like the unmedicated vasectomy idea. But with your luck, he’ll be one of those guys where it grows back.” Failed birth control was quickly becoming her thing.

Feeling her shaking beneath my palm, I couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying. At least Amy was chuckling from where she stood.

Doubling down, I asked, “Can you at least let us know what failed you this time so we can add it to the growing list of birth controls to avoid?”

Sitting up, Natalie sighed. “At this point, I don’t think it’s the birth control; it’s me. God’s up there laughing his ass off.” Glancing up at Amy, she whispered, “Sorry, Ames. Kinda stole your thunder there with my tantrum.”

Smiling, Amy approached, sitting on Natalie’s other side. “It would appear there’s a thunderstorm brewing for the Remingtons.”

“Slate-Remingtons,” I corrected. Natalie and the kids were no longer legally Remingtons, but their bond had never been stronger.

“Whatever our name, I guess I bring the lightning. Apparently, it strikes more than once,” Natalie remarked wryly.

“There’s our girl,” Amy teased.

“Can we keep this between us?” Natalie asked. “I just want to enjoy this trip. Reality will still be waiting for me when I get home.”

Who was she kidding? Natalie had the worst poker face. I was mentally laying bets that Jaxon would figure it out by the end of the week.

Regardless, I moved my fingers across my lips and twisted them at the end, signaling locking them up and throwing away the key. “Not a word. Don’t worry about the crew; I’ll give them a heads up to start sending virgin drinks your way—for both of you.”

“Ugh. I was really hoping to let loose on this trip.” Winking, I offered, “There’s always next year.”

“Yeah, maybe,” she sighed. “I still don’t understand. My period isn’t even due until after we get home.”

I nudged her shoulder with mine. “Someone insisted on the early detection tests.”

“Don’t remind me,” she groaned. “I’m my own worst enemy sometimes.”

There was never a dull moment with these girls, but I was damned lucky to have them as my friends.

Guess I was getting ship-faced alone this vacay. I’d happily take that fate over being one of the ones knocked up.

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