Home > Always Yours (Whiskey Men #5)

Always Yours (Whiskey Men #5)
Author: Hope Ford



Chapter 1






I stretch my hand across my belly and look around the low-lit room. The music is loud, people are relaxing, trying to relieve the stress of their week, and I’m sitting here completely on edge. I shouldn’t be here, but as I look over at Natalie, I do feel better that I’m not the only one here in this condition.

She leans over to yell into my ear. “We have babies… in a bar.”

She pulls back, laughing and rubbing her expansive belly. I know we’re both thinking of that popular movie from years ago where the woman was holding her baby in a bar. However, neither Natalie nor I have had our babies yet. Nope, I still have three months to go, and Natalie has four months before her baby is due.

I grab on to her wrist and shift on the bar stool. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I shouldn’t be here. I should be at home with my swollen feet propped up and trying to rest. Isn’t that what people say? Sleep before the baby comes.”

She shrugs her shoulders and scrunches her nose up. “No, I think the saying is to sleep when the baby is sleeping. And I talked you into this because you can’t keep hiding out. No one cares about your circumstances. At least not like you think.”

And at that moment, my body physically jerks from the kick of the baby. Wow, that was a good one. I run my hand over my belly soothingly. “I haven’t been hiding out.”

But as soon as the words are out, I know I’m lying. “Fine, you wanted me out, I’m out. But I didn’t think we’d be meeting at my ol’ hangout.”

The Whiskey Whistler is a popular hangout, and I’ve been coming here since the day I turned twenty-one. Basically everyone comes here that wants to unwind in Whiskey Run.

Natalie reaches for me and wraps her hand around mine. Her touch calms me, and I’m sure it’s because we’re going through the same thing. Well, sort of. We’re both pregnant, but where she’s married and secure in her relationship, I’m single and have no one. Well, I have Austin. He’s my best friend who would literally do anything for me, but it’s not quite the same. Natalie’s husband Beau is one of Austin’s older brothers, and I’m pretty sure that Austin convinced Natalie to drag me out tonight. I hold back a sigh, not giving in to the pity party I want to have right now. “Okay, so how does this work?”

Olivia, Chloe, Abby, and Natalie all look at me. Olivia is smiling ear to ear as she pulls the book from her bag and holds it up with a big grin on her face. “Did you read it?”

I’m about to answer her when Abby gasps, grabbing the book out of her hands and then slamming it face down on the table between us. She’s looking around the bar to see if anyone saw it before glaring at Olivia. “Why do you do that? Why? I swear, I think you do it just so you can embarrass me.” She waves her hand toward the rest of us. “Yes, we all read it. We don’t have to get the book out to talk about it. We don’t need the whole town to know what we read.”

I lean in and try to hear over the bar sounds. At least it’s not a night where they have live music. This place would be packed, and we wouldn’t be able to hear anything. But even for six o’clock in the evening, it’s louder than normal.

Olivia rolls her eyes and pries the book out of Abby’s hands. “You are such a prude. This one was good. I was impressed.”

Abby shakes her head. “There was way too much sex and not enough plot.”

Natalie turns to me. “What did you think, Ally? Did you like it?”

My face heats but not for the reason that Abby’s did. No, I thought the book was good, and yes, there was a lot of sex, but I thought it added to the story. Nope, the reason I’m embarrassed to talk about it is because I couldn’t help but read the story and think about my own best friend. “It was good. I love the friends to lovers trope, though. It’s one of my favorites.”

Chloe chimes in for the first time. “Duh! We all could have guessed that.”

I shift on the seat again. I swear my ass has doubled in size because this seat feels way smaller than normal. I take the lemon off my glass and squeeze it into my water. I’m trying to think of a retort, but all I can do is stick my tongue out at her.

All my friends laugh, and thankfully, Olivia starts talking about the book, leaving me off the hook. I only joined the book club a few weeks ago, but I am already loving it. The past few months I’ve spent way too much of my time at my house on the couch. It’s only after months of doing the same thing night after night, having both Natalie and Austin nag me, that I decided I needed to get my shit together.

I was hiding out. I live in a small town, I’m pregnant, and I’m not married. I’ve waited for the people in town to talk about me. I’ve waited for the stares or the righteous people to tell me everything I’m doing wrong, but it hasn’t happened yet. If anything, everyone in town has been really supportive. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my best friend is Austin Blaze. No one is going to go against a Blaze. At least no one around here.

The server comes and starts setting out appetizers. Every empty spot on the table is soon filled with french fries, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and potato skins. She takes the last item off the tray and sets it in front of me. “And last but not least, a grilled chicken salad with ranch on the side.”

Natalie groans and points her fork at my food. “Good for you, but I’m going to enjoy all this fried, cheesy goodness.”

I look at the little plate she’s filling from the appetizers and I’m instantly jealous. I would love to eat that, but I’ve already been warned by my doctor that I needed to rein it in because my blood pressure is high. My last visit, I had a ten-minute talk on the importance of nutrition, so to avoid bed rest and other ailments, I’m doing my best to eat what he recommended. Especially since I have a follow-up appointment tomorrow.

“Congratulations, by the way.”

My fork is midair, and I try not to tense at the server's words. I look at her name tag and read the name there. I see her in here all the time. Heck, I’m pretty sure she’s helped me out a time or two, even holding my hair the night I turned twenty-one all those years ago. She’s smiling at me, and it looks sincere. I run my hand along my belly. “Thank you, Megan.”

Her forehead creases. “Oh, I mean congratulations on the baby too, but I meant on your engagement. I hear you’re marrying Austin.”

I sit up a little taller. I can feel everyone at the table staring at me, waiting for my response. I never talk about my relationship with Austin, but obviously it’s been on everyone’s minds. “Oh, uh, thank you, but—”

Natalie leans into me, resting her head on my shoulder. “We’re going to be sisters, and our kids are going to be cousins. I mean, how cool is that?”

I force a laugh even though what I really want to do is roll my eyes. Natalie knows that Austin and I are not getting married. She is married to Austin’s older brother, and she knows that Austin and I are just friends. Well, I shouldn’t say just friends. Truth is, we’ve been best friends since we were in middle school so yeah, over half our lives. I thank the server again, and when she walks away and is out of hearing range, I turn to Natalie. All eyes are on me still, but I address my friend. “You know that Austin and I are not getting married.” I cup my hand across my belly. “Just like you know that this baby is not Austin’s.”

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