She was sitting on a bench with a man who had been Roger’s roommate. A man who understood that Roger was better on paper than he was in real life.
A man who didn’t think she was insane for running away from her own wedding.
“I’m pregnant,” she announced because she hadn’t been able to tell anyone yet and that single fact—those two little words—had completely altered the trajectory of her life.
Seth stiffened and then said, “Oh?” in a far too casual voice.
“Roger is the father,” she went on in a rush of words. “I’m not the kind of person who would cheat on my fiancé.” Ironically, though, she was the kind of person who’d abandon her fiancé. What did that say about her? “It’s his child and I should probably go back and marry him because we’re going to have a baby. Together.”
Seth didn’t say anything, nor did he spring to his feet to lead her back to the limo. Back to her doom.
Wait—how did the limo get here? Had she stolen it?
And was it stealing if she’d rented it for the whole evening?
“Easy,” Seth said again in that soothing voice of his. She could feel it in her chest, warm and comforting. “You might not believe this, but people have babies without being married all the time. It doesn’t mean you’ve doomed your kid from the beginning.”
“How can you say that?” And how was he reading her mind?
His arm tightened around her shoulders. “Because I’ve lived it, Kate. I won’t let anything happen to you—I promise. Now,” he went on even as she gasped at that honest promise—something she’d never heard cross Roger’s lips, “do you remember where the limo came from?”
“Um...” She sat up and dabbed at her eyes again. The waterproof mascara was doing its best, but it was no match for this day and his handkerchief was paying the price. She tried to focus on the limo. “Stein, maybe?” It felt right—Stein Limo. That was a thing, she was pretty sure.
“Ron Stein? He’s a great guy.”
She stared at him in confusion. “You know the limo guy?” She didn’t even know Seth’s last name, but he knew Roger and now the limo guy. Was there anyone Seth didn’t know?
“He rides,” Seth said, as if that explained everything. “I’ll see if I can make a call and let him know where his limo is. But I need you to stay right here, okay?”
“I don’t know where you think I’d go. I’m not walking home.” She wiggled her toes and realized she wasn’t wearing her shoes. Where the hell were they?
But even the thought of going home made her wince. She had a home—with Roger. They’d bought it last year, after finally setting a date for the wedding. It’d been a big sign of their commitment to each other.
No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t have a home with Roger. She owned part of a house. She shared a property with him. They split the bills right down the middle. They’d maintained separate bank accounts, even.
She’d lived with Roger, but it’d never felt like home.
“Promise me, Kate.” His eyes were intense and serious. “You’re not going anywhere without me.”
“I promise.” It wasn’t like she’d sworn to love, honor or obey—but there was something to that promise that resonated in her mind.
Why could she make such a promise to this man she didn’t know but couldn’t to the one she did?
He gave her a satisfied nod of his head, leaned over and slid his hand inside his jacket, right over her left breast. She stiffened and he paused. “Just getting my phone,” he said, purposefully not touching her. “Don’t move.” He stood and walked off to the side, far enough away that she couldn’t hear what he was saying. But he turned back to her and gave her a little smile that set off butterflies in her stomach.
She ignored them and settled back on the bench, trying to get a handle on everything that happened.
It was a lot. But she’d had a good cry and Seth’s jacket was warm and she felt better. Her mind was clearer and she could look past the next five minutes without having a panic attack.
She tried to rationally go over the facts. She was pregnant. She wasn’t marrying Roger. She couldn’t go back to the house she shared with him and she didn’t think she could go to work on Monday. Her parents had sold half of Burroughs Realty to Roger in anticipation of the wedding. He owned it now.
She’d worked for Burroughs Realty her whole life, starting when they had her making copies and greeting clients as a little kid.
But they hadn’t seen fit to give or even sell her part of the agency. Instead, they’d used it almost like a dowry, rewarding Roger for taking her off their hands.
Why hadn’t she realized that before? She was a good real estate agent. She sold her market well. She was more than capable of being a full partner in the family business and running the office.
But it was Roger Caputo who was being rewarded with his name on the front door. Because why? Because he was marrying her?
She was their daughter. Wasn’t she good enough on her own?
Oh, what would her parents say about all this? Especially once they found out she was pregnant? Her mother would try to be supportive—Kate hoped. The prospect of a grandbaby would be exciting, once the humiliation of a broken wedding passed.
But her father? Joe Burroughs was a dyed-in-the-wool workaholic who demanded perfection—or at the very least, that everything be done his way, and in his mind, those two things were the same.
She had to face the facts—her father might disown her for this, and if he did, he might forbid Mom from seeing Kate. Hadn’t he already chosen Roger over her?
Just as she began to panic at the thought, Seth looked up at her again and smiled. It was a very nice smile, seemingly real and not the kind of expression one directed at a crazy person. He hadn’t treated her like she was nuts at all, actually—even though the situation certainly did seem to warrant a little concern.
Instead of telling her she was insane to walk away from Roger, he’d agreed that tying herself to him was a bad idea. Anyone could have said the words, but Seth wasn’t just saying them because she was having a really bad day. He was saying them because he actually knew Roger. Maybe not well, but he’d lived with Roger. He understood what that was like in a way that her friends and even her parents might not. Seth was speaking from a place of wisdom, and that counted for a lot.
It didn’t make any sense that she felt safer with a strange man who rode a motorcycle than she did with the man she’d been with for four years, but there it was. Seth didn’t know her at all, but he was more concerned with her well-being than anyone else. After all, how long had she been here? At least half an hour, maybe much longer. And had anyone come looking for her? Roger? Her parents? Any of the wedding guests?
No. Seth had stumbled upon her, noticed something was wrong, and he was actively making sure she was okay. He’d given her his leather jacket and dried her tears.
He glanced at her again, another smile on his lips—which set off another round of butterflies in her stomach. Now that her mind had cleared, it was hard to miss the fact that her Good Samaritan was also intensely handsome.
No, no—she was not going to be the kind of woman who defined herself by her attractions to men. It was blatantly obvious that she couldn’t run from Roger’s arms straight into a stranger’s. She was pregnant, for God’s sake. Romance should be the last thing on her mind.
She needed a place to stay tonight. Maybe tomorrow. She needed a job that didn’t involve Roger or her father. She needed...
A plan. She couldn’t sit here at a scenic overlook forever.
Had she managed to bring anything important with her—her wallet, money, credit cards, her license—anything that could help her out tonight? She rather doubted it—she didn’t even know where her shoes were.
Seth ended his call and began to walk back toward her, and Kate realized something.
She needed him.
“Come on,” Seth said, pulling her to her feet. She was not a tiny thing—she was only a few inches shorter than he was—but there was still something delicate about her. “I’m going to take you to a hotel.” Her eyes widened in surprise but she didn’t lean away from him. Not that that mattered. “And I’m going to leave you there,” he added with a smile.
“Oh. Of course,” she said, her cheeks blushing a soft pink. “Thank you. I don’t think I can go back to the house I shared with Roger.” She cleared her throat. “Are we taking the limo?”
“No. I talked to Ron—he’s going to send someone out to pick it up. They did have cops looking for it but he’s reported it not stolen. He’s not going to press charges.”