By: Rosa Swann
One party, one birthday gift, and the secret is no more…
We’ve been trying to keep a low profile for the last couple of weeks, ever since the weekend I mated Seb, but that’s about to be rudely disrupted.
It didn’t help that I told our parents last night that Seb was sick from drinking too much booze, after they were already worried about him. And I’m not sure that my explanation of ‘sorry, it was a stomach bug, Seb doesn’t have a drinking problem’ this morning is convincing any of them. Which is bad, especially with Seb’s dad’s birthday party tonight…
All eyes are on me, judging my every action. Between me trying to avoid my parents, looking rough from not getting enough sleep because of stress and my younger twin brothers acting out at school, my parents are on high alert about my behaviour.
It doesn’t help that I’m already feeling guilty over keeping a massive secret from them, and that I’m making others keep secrets too, which all makes the early pregnancy symptoms even worse. How am I going to survive my dad’s birthday party without giving away what’s going on?
If you don’t want to buy through any of the international stores, this story is also available in the Netherlands and Belgium as part of Blossoming of Fate Collection 1. This features the first four novellas of the series and is available in ebook or paperback.
I’m supposed to work today, and I can’t really bow out of my shift after the run-in with our daddies last night. If they think that we’ve been drinking too much and that I’m trying to take the day off because I’ve got a hangover, I’ll be in a lot of trouble.
But when I look down at Seb as he’s still fast asleep on the pull-out couch in the living room, I don’t actually want to go anywhere.
“Destin,” Maddy loudly whispers, standing in the doorway, and she jerks her head to the side, signalling for me to follow her.
I quietly get up and follow her into the kitchen.
“You need to get to work. Your shift is about to start.” Her voice is low.
“I can’t just leave him alone. He…” Last night, while we were watching some movie, Seb fell asleep between us, and we stayed with him all night. Luckily, the pull-out couch is pretty comfortable, but it made me realise how poorly Seb is really doing.
“I’ll stay with him. The cafe doesn’t open yet and I don’t have to be in early today. You need to at least show your face, you can always just come back home after that. You can’t just not show up, that would be suspicious.”
“I guess.” I sigh. “I’ll go check on the work for the day and then I’ll be right back. It’s just…” It’s hard to leave his side when he’s so vulnerable. I want to protect him, I need to protect him.
“I know.” Maddy puts her hand on my shoulder, squeezing slightly. “I’ll look over him. See if I can get him to eat something.”
“Thanks.” I nod.
She’s right. I have other responsibilities, and suddenly not showing up, or calling in sick, after what I told our daddies last night, that would be a bad idea. Especially since I’m trying to get Daddy to give me the job of manager of the orchard, so I can’t fake a hangover and just not show up today…
If I’m serious about the promotion, I need to show up, even if he thinks I’m working through a hangover. To let him know that I really want the job. And with Seb’s pregnancy, I need that promotion more than ever.
Last night, we found out that Seb’s daddy is worried that Seb is having problems with drugs or alcohol, because he’s been avoiding his parents, and has not been looking very well.
And, right as they walked around the back of the barn, where we were having dinner, Seb emptied his stomach onto the ground. I gave them the first excuse that popped into my head after we’d just heard of their worries about Seb and alcohol, and I told them that Seb was sick because he’d had too much to drink. Basically confirming what his daddy was already worried about.
It was better than accidentally telling them that it was because the pizza disagreed with him because he’s pregnant, but still… Not good.
It also means that I really have to go in today, just to show how ‘responsible’ I can be. That I didn’t let ‘some drinking’ keep me from my work.
I glance into the living room, but Seb is still fast asleep on the couch and I quietly put on my boots, grab my jacket and leave the apartment. If I hurry, I can be back before he wakes up.
Shivering in the cool wintery morning, I walk down the stairs, cross the large storage area, which we use for workshops in the summer, but which is now just filled with the outside furniture, waiting for warmer weather.
Then I spot Seb’s dad’s car and put on my best smile. He’s probably here to drop off the twins for their shift at the orchard. Great…
The twins look really grumpy, which is basically how they look every time one of their parents drops them off for work these days, as they wrap their arms around themselves to keep warm and stomp towards the orchard and barn.
When they spot me, they give me a curt nod, but don’t greet me otherwise. Well, that’s different from normal.
“Good morning, Alpha Guarde.” I try to sound respectful, but I think that was way too formal.
My mind just blanked on what to say, and the look his dad is giving me lets me know that he agrees with that observation. Way too formal, which is, of course, suspicious.
“How is Seb feeling?”
I try to look as honest as possible, as I try to come up with a new excuse. I should have thought of an excuse before I left the house, just so we could all have our stories together if we’re asked…
“He’s okay. He’s sleeping off whatever made him feel crummy last night.” True, mostly.
“Aiden said that he’d had too much to drink? Does he… Does he do that often?” Oh, so Seb’s dad isn’t afraid to ask me the things that Seb’s daddy wasn’t sure he could ask me about.
“No. It wasn’t the alcohol.” I shake my head, trying to look as convincing as possible. “It turns out that the pizza disagreed with him. He must have caught something at university. His whole system…”
I move my hand in front of my stomach and upper body. “It’s been out of wack. He must have caught a stomach bug from someone. You must know how those things tend to spread when you’ve got so many people close together for hours on end.”
He’s starting to look a little more like he’s trying to believe me. “You’re sure he didn’t drink too much? You’re not just making up an excuse?”
I am making up an excuse, just not about drinking…
I shake my head again. “He did not have enough to drink to get sick like that. You know he’s a pretty responsible drinker.”
Seb’s dad nods slightly. Looks like my excuse is working. I’m lucky that he really wants to believe that Seb doesn’t have a problem with alcohol and that there must be a different reason for his behaviour.
“Seb had been feeling off for a couple of days already, and has not been feeling well all night. I just hope he feels better soon, he’s been looking forward to your party all week.” He hasn’t, but I’m trying to get out of here and this seems like a great way to pivot the conversation.
“So do I. I hope it’s nothing too serious.” Seb’s dad looks towards the apartment. “I’d go check on him if I wasn’t in a hurry.” He lets out a slight laugh. “Still lots to do for the party.”
I nod, trying to give him an encouraging smile. “I bet. We’re taking the twins with us to the party, right?”
“Right.” He nods. “That sounds like the best idea, that way we’re not all driving back and forth twenty times today.” He gives me a quick smile. “Look after my boys, will you? See you later.”
Then he gets back in the car and I sincerely hope that he believes what I said… It would be good if they didn’t think Seb has suddenly turned into an alcoholic now that he’s gone off to university, nobody needs that right now.
“Destin!” Leon, my younger brother, who’s a year younger than the twins, waves at me from the gate between the orchard and the cafe. Behind him, Daddy is looking at me suspiciously and I swallow hard.
I’ve sort-of convinced one parent that Seb just has a bad stomach bug, but now I need to convince another parent that Seb does in fact not have a drinking problem and that I’m not trying to get out of work because of a hangover.
And Seb’s dad is much easier to convince than Daddy…
Apparently, it wasn’t too hard to get out of work today. When I was about to sign in, Daddy pulled me aside, asked me the same questions as Seb’s dad had asked me and when I told him about the ‘stomach bug’ Seb has Daddy looked at me seriously and told me that I should probably look after Seb for the day.
Which was… maybe a little bit too easy? But I’m not going to question it, not if it means that I don’t have to work today.
I walk back up the stairs to the apartment and go inside. When I look into the living room, the couch is empty, but I hear voices from the kitchen.
Seb and Maddy are sitting at the table and Seb has a plate with a plain piece of toast in front of him and a glass of water. He’s looking a lot better than last night, which immediately calms me down.
“Morning.” I sit next to him at the table, giving him a quick kiss on the side of his head. “How are you feeling?”
He gives me a soft smile. “Good enough to try to eat something. I thought you had to work today?”
I shrug. “I told Daddy that you must have caught a stomach bug at university, and that that was why you didn’t feel well. He then sent me home for the day.”
“Destin…” Maddy sighs and gives me a pointed look.
“What? What did I do wrong?” I look from her to Seb and back. I thought it was a good excuse, it explains enough without being suspicious.
Maddy pulls a face. “How am I supposed to work in the cafe, handling food and drinks for customers, if Seb has a stomach bug? I can’t spread the bug around. If he really had a stomach bug, I shouldn’t be working either.”
Oh. Right. I didn’t think of that. “Just tell them that you haven’t seen Seb? I don’t know. Maybe you can take the day off too? Impromptu day off?” I grin, but she doesn’t look impressed. We really should have come up with an excuse before I left, then this wouldn’t have happened.
Seb lets out a soft laugh. “We all know the stomach bug story isn’t true. So, I guess saying that you only saw me a few moments this morning should be fine?”
Maddy sighs as she nods and then stands up. “You’re right. It’s fine. Anyway, I’ll get you some mint from the greenhouse and make you a glass of mint and ginger tea. Hopefully, that will settle your stomach a little more.”
“Thanks.” Seb gives her a soft smile and then pokes at the toast on his plate. “I know that eating something is a good idea, and I feel pretty good, but…” He pokes at it again. “Is it weird that I’m scared to puke again?”
I rub his back. “I guess I can understand that…”
Then the bell rings, making all of us look up in alarm, and Maddy frowns, before going over to the door. Who could be there?
“Hi, Daddy.” Maddy’s voice is bright, loud enough for us to easily overhear them. “I was just about to go downstairs. Is there something wrong?”
“No, everything is fine. I just wanted to see how Seb is doing. I heard he wasn’t feeling well?” Daddy’s footsteps start down the hallway and Seb looks at me with fear in his gaze. Oh, great…
“Yeah. Poor guy. Universities can spread all sorts of icky stuff around. Anyway, they’re in the kitchen. I was about to start setting things up in the cafe. You can find me there if you need me.” It almost sounds like she flees, which I totally understand.
Daddy comes down the hallway and then looks into the kitchen. He’s frowning, but then his face softens as he looks at Seb.
I try to pull my arm back from around Seb without Daddy noticing it. I know that we’re pretty touchy normally and Seb is supposedly not feeling well anyway, but I don’t need to give Daddy any ideas, even when they’re true…
Daddy puts a couple of sprigs of mint on the table. “Morning. I heard you weren’t feeling well. I thought that this might make you feel a little better.”
“Thanks.” Seb nods. “I’m sorry for keeping your best worker away for the day.” He tries to give Daddy a smile.
“I guess it can’t be helped. I’m just hoping you’ll feel better soon. You do look a lot better than you did last night.”
“I also feel a little better. Thank you.” Seb at least doesn’t look hungover, so if Daddy came here to check on that, then we’re in the clear.
But it doesn’t mean we’re safe. If we’ve got to go to the party this afternoon, then we’ll constantly be surrounded by people, and with our parents’ eyes already on us, it’s not going to be very fun.