Cleo shook her head. Blue gave her a speculative look before glancing over at Luc, who was now doing the dishes.

“Hey, I wanted your opinion on this dress I bought the other day.” Blue changed the subject abruptly, and Cleo raised her eyebrows in surprise. Luc glanced up.


“What dress?” he asked.

“It’s a surprise. You don’t get to see it until our anniversary dinner next week.” She gave him a sexy little look over her shoulder, and he practically frothed at the mouth in response. Which was an exchange Cleo would rather not have witnessed. Blue grabbed Cleo’s hand and dragged her from the kitchen, up the creaking staircase, only to let go once they were in her and Luc’s huge bedroom, which was also filled with brimming buckets and pots. She shut the door firmly behind them.

“This better be one hell of a dress, Blue,” Cleo warned, rubbing at her shoulder. “I think you’ve just about dislocated my shoulder.”

“Never mind the dress.” Blue waved her hand dismissively. “How do you feel after the dinner we just had? Any nausea?”

“Not right now,” she replied, still massaging her shoulder.

“Any other tummy issues? Maybe down at the other end?

“Gross. No.”

“No fever, no headaches, just nausea and dizziness?”

“What, is there some delayed echo in here?” Cleo asked sarcastically, and Blue glared at her.

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“I’m working up to something here, okay?” she hissed. “Let me do my thing.”

“Get to the point, will you?”

“Fine! But don’t snap my head off when I ask my next question.”

“Oh my God, you’re so dramatic,” Cleo teased. “How did my practical brother wind up with such a drama queen? Just ask the question.”

“When was your last period?”

All thought fled Cleo’s mind as her knees buckled and she sank down onto the bed. Blue’s question hit her like a ton of bricks, and she finally understood what her friend was leading up to.

She did some frantic calculations and came to the realization that she couldn’t even remember when she’d last had her period! She’d been so preoccupied with the new job, her weird illness, and the fact that she stupidly missed seeing Dante Damaso more than she had ever expected. Dante bloody Damaso, who may well have knocked her up!

“Cleo? Is it possible that you’re pregnant?” Blue asked quietly, and Cleo raised a hand to her mouth, her eyes wide with absolute fear.

“It’s possible,” she whispered. “But not likely. I mean, we used condoms.”

“They’re not a hundred percent effective,” Blue murmured, and sat down beside Cleo to wrap an arm around her narrow shoulders. “It’s just a theory. You could still just have a stomach bug.”

No, now that Blue had raised the possibility, Cleo didn’t see it being anything else.

“I haven’t had my period in a while,” she confessed.

“If you don’t mind me asking . . .” Oh, Cleo knew what was coming next and braced herself for it. “If you are pregnant, who’s the father? You haven’t been dating anyone. Have you?”

“That’s not important,” she whispered. God, she felt completely sick. “If I am . . . if there is—” She shook her head, unable to formulate the words. “He won’t be involved.”

“Well,” Blue said after a moment, “before we get ahead of ourselves, we should probably confirm that you’re actually pregnant.”

“Right,” Cleo whispered. She felt . . . numb, with an underlying sense of dread and confusion. How was she supposed to cope with this? She would make a terrible mother. She would be a complete failure at it, just like her own mother had been. And to do it on her own, without a partner to support her . . . she would totally mess up the kid.

“Oh my God, Blue,” she finally said, a sob escaping from behind the hand over her mouth. “How can I be a mother? How do I support a baby? What if I forget to feed it? Or if it gets sick and I can’t tell that something’s wrong? My salary only barely covers the rent and food for the month. How will I afford nappies and clothes and other baby stuff? Babies need a lot of stuff, don’t they?” She could hear her voice rising hysterically with each question, and Blue’s other arm came up to enclose her in a warm and comforting hug.

“Ssh, Cleo. Let’s get you to a doctor first and confirm the pregnancy, then we’ll start worrying about everything else. You have options, but you don’t have to think about them right now, okay? For now, just take a deep breath and relax. Everything will be fine.”

Cleo buried her face in Blue’s neck and wept, desperately wanting to believe that comforting bit of fiction despite knowing that nothing would ever be fine again.

“Don’t tell Luc, okay?” she requested in a small, shuddery voice. “Not yet.”

“I won’t,” Blue promised. “It’s not my place to tell him.”

“I’m sorry you’re going to have to buy a dress for your anniversary dinner now,” she apologized miserably.

“Since when is it a hardship to buy a new dress?” Blue quipped, but Cleo knew that Blue and Luc were both pinching pennies to save for the wedding. She gave Blue a look, not wanting to state the obvious, but Blue merely smiled and hugged her again.

“Go and wash your face so that your brother won’t see that you’ve been crying, okay? And for my own peace of mind, I’d prefer it if you slept over here tonight. I don’t want you driving in the state you’re in. Not when it’s pouring outside and the roads are like rivers.”

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