t someone he liked and they’d already forged a connection, one he hoped strengthened and lasted. Owen might be the kind of guy who fucked a lot of women, but he was not a cheater. Things would not progress with Lindsey, no matter how often she looked at him with longing. He knew how to keep it in his pants; he’d just rather let it out to play.
Sole Regret hadn’t even left the city limits of Houston, and their brand-spankablely-new pregnant problem was already making Owen’s life hell. He flinched when Lindsey took his wrist in her hand. They probably should have left the chick behind the stadium instead of inviting her on the tour until the band—or more likely he—figured out what to do with her.
“I need to speak to you in private,” she said.
She had backed Owen into a corner—both literally and figuratively. He looked down the aisle of the tour bus to his friends—his band brothers—for a bit of support, but it was as if he’d turned invisible. He didn’t hate Lindsey, but he didn’t want to talk to her either. Caitlyn had left because of the woman’s odious timing, and while he felt bad for Lindsey—who was notably pregnant and apparently had no one in the world who cared—he had more important worries. Like how to convince Caitlyn they were meant to be together when he had a surprise pregnant groupie showing up on his bus step.
“It will only take a minute,” Lindsey said, her blue eyes weary in her gaunt face.
He wondered if she was eating right. No matter how uncomfortable she made him, she was knocked-up and needed help. His conscience wouldn’t let him disregard her without hearing what she had to say.
“I’m listening,” he said.
Lindsey glanced at the other band members on the bus, guys trying so hard to ignore her that they’d fixated on her instead. He was pretty sure they were all holding their breath so she wouldn’t notice they existed. Owen would like to play dead too, but she’d already zeroed in on him.
“Not here,” she said under her breath. “I don’t think you want them to listen in on this conversation.”
He shrugged. “I don’t think there’s anything you can say that they shouldn’t hear for themselves.” Owen projected his voice toward the possum-playing rockers, but no one so much as blinked. Apparently they planned to throw him under the proverbial bus. And lucky for them, they had one handy.
Something about the intensity in Lindsey’s gaze made him reconsider his claim to share her conversation with everyone. Without another word, he brushed past her to make his way to the open bedroom door. If she tried to make a move on him, he was sure he could handle himself. And if that wasn’t why she wanted to speak to him in private . . . Well, maybe he was wrong about her.
He closed the door behind them and sat on the edge of the bed, crossing his leg over his knee so she couldn’t sit too close to him. She released a shaky breath and didn’t sit at all. Instead, she stood over him with a wide stance to maintain her balance. Concerned the bus might make a sudden move and send her tumbling, he patted the mattress beside him.
“Please sit. You look like you’re about to fall over.”
She considered him for a long moment, hooking her long blond hair behind one ear, and then she sat beside him, leaning forward and folding her arms over her belly.
“I’m not sure how to say this,” she said.
“Just spit it out, Lindsey. Nothing you say can possibly be more upsetting than finding out I might be the father of your baby.”
“You are the father,” she insisted.
“Until you present some solid evidence, I’ll hold off on installing a car seat in my Jeep.”
She rubbed at her tired eyes and released a weary sigh.
“How well do you remember that night in the mountain pass?” she asked.
“Pretty well. I wasn’t even drunk.” Drunk on lust maybe, but not on alcohol.
“Then you’ll recall the final time we were together that night. Everyone else had already passed out. That’s when it happened. I’m sure of it.”
He squinted as he tried to conjure up faded memories. He slept with a lot of woman and didn’t recall each occurrence in vivid detail. “I know I wore a condom every time, even that last time. So unless you poked a hole in it—”
Her glare cut off his accusation. “Of course I didn’t poke a hole in it. What kind of psycho do you think I am?”
He decided that was a question best left unanswered.
Her glare intensified. “You were the one who tried to put it on wrong side out.”
He laughed. Oh yeah, that had been awkward. He’d been eager to fuck her one last time but had been forced to slow down when he’d tried unsuccessfully to unroll an inside-out condom over his dick. “I realized my mistake pretty quickly.” And he’d felt like such an awkward idiot.
“You touched the outside of the condom to your . . .” She lifted her eyebrows and then glanced down at his crotch. “I know you had cum on your tip. I’d been rubbing it into your head with my thumb. Remember?”
He didn’t remember clearly. He remembered being awoken in the middle of the night by her mouth sucking at his cock, and he remembered almost putting the condom on wrong side out before flipping it over and unrolling it. They’d gotten a good laugh out of how clumsy he was in his excitement. The woman had been hot and impatient—there was no denying that. But had he actually touched the outside of the rubber to his jizz-sticky skin? He wasn’t sure. And he hadn’t given the incident a single thought since it had happened all those months ago.
“Why would I do something that stupid?” he said, a heavy weight pressing down on him.
“You were excited,” she said, “and it was your last condom. And I wanted you so bad, I wasn’t thinking clearly either.”
That was no excuse. Stupid mistakes like that got women pregnant. Owen suddenly felt light-headed.
This could not be happening.
“Are you sure I touched it to my . . .” He couldn’t even bring himself to say cum. That stuff had potentially gotten him an unwanted heap of responsibility.
“And that’s why you think the baby is mine?”
She nodded again. “The fault isn’t entirely yours, Owen. I’m not blaming you. We both made mistakes. I could have told you I didn’t want to do it with that contaminated condom, but I was on the pill. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“How did you get pregnant if you’re on the pill?”
“My doctor said it was most likely the St. John’s Wort I started taking a few months before. Did you know something like that can interfere with birth control pill effectiveness?”
How the hell would he know that? “So lots of women get pregnant that way.”
She shook her head. “No, it’s really rare. It’s almost like a higher power wanted this to happen just to punish me.”
“Punish you? For what?”
“For fooling around.”
“We all fooled around.”
And maybe they were all being punished. But not with a baby. A baby should be considered a joy, not a consequence. He was always so careful. Owen still wasn’t a hundred percent convinced that Lindsey was pregnant with his baby, but if he’d done something as totally idiotic as fucking her with a contaminated condom, then more than likely she was.
This could not be happening.
“You can’t tell the guys,” Owen blurted.
Because they’d think he was a total moron. If they thought he’d knocked her up because there’d been a hole in the condom, that was one thing. But if they knew he’d made the stupidest mistake of his life, he’d never live it down.
“I’ll take responsibility for the baby for now,” he said, “but don’t tell them why.”
“Owen . . .”
“Please.” He reached for her hand and squeezed it for emphasis, and she made a pained sound of longing in the back of her throat. He chose to ignore what that reaction might mean. She was a beautiful young woman—he couldn’t deny that obvious fact—but he’d just me
“I’ll find you a place to stay,” he said, “and get you the medical care you need.” His mind scrambled for ways to sweeten the deal. “I’ll even help you find a job, and if the baby is proven to be mine, I’ll take full responsibility, but don’t tell anyone the truth about why I’m helping you.”
“People make mistakes, Owen. It’s not the end of the world.”
Oh, but it was. The end of his carefree days, in any case. He didn’t even want Kelly to know that he’d fucked up so spectacularly, and Kelly knew everything about him. Owen planned to lie his ass off to his best friend for the first time in his life, and he didn’t even feel a twinge of guilt about it.
“If you want my help, Lindsey, you have to promise not to tell anyone,” Owen said, using his only bargaining chip. He knew he’d help her even if she held a press conference and told the world all about how stupid and irresponsible he’d been, but he was banking on her not knowing that. “Just let them think I’m a nice guy who wants to help you out. They’ll probably think I’m a sucker.”
In his book, being thought of as a nice-guy sucker was a lot better than being known as the idiot who attempted to apply a condom wrong side out and instead of discarding it, flipped it over and used it anyway.
“I think you should tell them why I think this baby is yours,” Lindsey said. “So they don’t keep wondering if it’s theirs.”
“Why does it matter as long as I’m helping you? You’re getting what you want.”
“I want more than financial support, Owen. I want my child to have a father.”
“And that’s why you waited until you were huge pregnant to come looking for one?”
Lindsey hung her head. “I was too ashamed. I’d been made to feel like getting pregnant was my fault alone because I was promiscuous once, but it takes two to make a baby, Owen.”
And in the case of that fateful Christmas Eve, it took six—or had it been seven? The details were a little fuzzy.
“I wasn’t the only one being promiscuous that night,” she continued. “Don’t make me feel guilty with your double standards.”
“I wasn’t trying to make you feel guilty.”
“And you shouldn’t. I saw another example of your promiscuity just before we got on the bus.” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Leave Caitlyn out of this,” Owen said, his stomach sinking even further. He liked Caitlyn. A lot. And Lindsey showing up out of the blue with a baby on board had more than likely ruined any chance he had to be with Caitlyn in any serious capacity.
“Is that her name, Caitlyn?” Lindsey sneered as she tried out the name for the first time.
Owen shook his head. “I said leave her out of it. She has nothing to do with this.”
“How long have you been seeing her?”
One night. One amazing night that had felt like forever and mere seconds all at once.
“That’s none of your business. And just so you don’t think I’m going to start seeing you, I’m letting you know now that I plan to pursue Caitlyn. Even if that baby is mine . . .”
This could not be happening!
“. . . I can still be a good father without getting entangled with you.”
Lindsey shook her head. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
“Why not? We can be friends, civil to each other. Make sound, unified decisions about any issues that arise with the child. Both be actively involved in the kid’s life.” He was saying the words calmly, but was pretty sure he was breaking out into hives. He was completely unprepared to be a father. He figured someday he’d settle down and have a family, but baby or no baby, he didn’t want to settle for a woman he wasn’t in love with.
“Do you really think you could do that?” she asked. At his nod, her shoulders sagged with relief. “I’m so glad this baby is yours and not someone like Adam’s or that bus driver guy’s. I can’t even remember his name.”
Owen was pretty sure she’d sucked the bus driver guy’s dick while one of his bandmates fucked her doggy style, but she didn’t remember his name? Owen was struggling with that double standard she’d called him on. “Tex.”
She grimaced. “That’s right.”
“So do we have a deal? I’ll help you get on your feet and you’ll keep my condom mishap a secret from the guys.”
“And if the baby is yours . . .”
“And if it isn’t mine?”
Her long lashes lowered to cover her lovely but troubled blue eyes. “I guess we’ll figure that part out after the baby is born,” she said.
“How long do we have?”
“I’m due mid-September.”
That was soon. Less than three months away.
“The tour will be winding down around then, so I’ll be able to help with the baby.” Ugh, why had he said it that way? It was almost as if he knew the baby was his when he truly didn’t. Maybe he hadn’t been the only idiot on the bus that cold December night. Maybe someone else had made a monumental mistake as well.
Lindsey touched his wrist, and an unwanted spark of attraction made his arm muscles tighten.
“Thank you, Tags. Owen,” she corrected.
“Being the man I thought you were. And for helping me out.”
He smiled. He did love compliments. “Don’t feel too special. I’d help out a stranger on the street.”
“You should get some rest,” he said. “You look exhausted.”
“And hungry?” she asked, sucking in her cheeks. “Do I look hungry?”
He had no idea what possessed him to stroke a lock of hair from her cheek and tuck it behind her ear. He didn’t want her to get the wrong idea and have her think he actually cared about her. “You do look hungry,” he said. “We should stop at a restaurant soon, but I’ll go see if there’s anything on the bus to eat besides beef jerky and peanuts. We might have some pretzels to tide you over.”
Her body stiffened unexpectedly, and she laughed. “I think he heard you,” she said, taking his hand and placing it on her distended abdomen. Something hard and round moved beneath her skin along his palm and then thumped against his hand. It was the strangest yet most awe-inspiring sensation he’d ever felt. There was a tiny person growing inside of her. A living being that might be half him.
“He’s got quite a kick,” Owen said, laughing when what he figured was a foot thumped against his palm again.
“I think he’d like some of those pretzels,” Lindsey said.
Owen drew his hand from her belly, strangely reluctant to do so, and rose from the edge of the bed. “Make yourself comfortable,” he said. “I’ll scrounge up a snack for you. We’ll stop for real food in about an hour.”
“Thanks again, Owen,” she said, scooting awkwardly up the mattress and rolling onto her side. She squirmed around for a full minute trying to get comfortable before stuffing a pillow between her knees. She was asleep almost instantly—her breathing even, her body relaxed. Owen covered her with a blanket and quietly shut the door on his way out. He didn’t bother finding the probably stale pretzels he’d promised, but instead made his way to the front of the bus. “When are we stopping for dinner?”
Tex glanced at the cellphone he had stuck to the dashboard with directions to a suitable restaurant displayed through his map app. “Forty-seven minutes,” Tex said. “Approximately.”
“I’m hungry now.”
“We called ahead, and they’re already preparing to serve the busloads of crew headed their direction.”
“Did you remember to include Lindsey in your head count?” he asked.
“The pregnant chick?”
“Lindsey.” They m
ight as well get used to saying her name and not referring to her as the object she’d been to them all the last time she’d been on the bus.
“No, I just gave them our usual numbers. But Kellen’s not here, is he?”