Abstract Passion: Artist Duet #2
★★★★★ “Gahhh these two were perfection! So deserving of all the love and hope in the universe! I have loved each and every couple in this series! I'm a bit bummed that it has come to an end. Truly bittersweet!! These characters are gonna stick with me for a very long time!”My Bookish Rendezvous
★★★★★ “This is a touching story about falling in love, learning to trust and live again, and making a beautiful life with your soulmate.”Kylie
★★★★★ “This story was emotional but passionate, intense but loving. Shelly and Devlyn were made for each other and I truly enjoyed their journey.”Reading in the Red Room
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One word makes him freeze. And with his silence, I walk away.
Leave it to me, the unintentional abstinence queen, to get pregnant after my first time. Nothing hurts more than walking away from Devlyn after I share the news. The decision is impulsive and painful… and I regret it instantly.
Not long ago, I envied my friends. Envied their lives, their relationships, their opportunity to move forward. I wanted what they have. Now, it is my turn.
But loving Devlyn Templar isn’t that simple. Sharing a life with him comes with its own challenges—heavy baggage and severe insecurity. Every day, we navigate those obstacles together.
And just as we find our groove, another complication gets hurled in our direction. One that refuses to be ignored.
Release date: October 25, 2022
Publisher: Between Words Publishing LLC
Print pages: 330
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Abstract Passion: Artist Duet #2
A block from Devlyn’s house, I pull over and throw the car in park. Tears spill from my eyes in a violent torrent of pain and confusion. Every muscle in me aches with agony.
I’m pregnant. No. No, no, no. What the hell am I going to do? What the hell am I doing?
I stare out the windshield with blurred vision and try to collect myself. Try to slow the tears and quiet my irrational mind. Try to stop the convulsive sobs crawling up my throat and spilling from my lips. I close my eyes and shut out the chaos whirling in my head. Eviscerate the words like ruin and over.
Swiping at my eyes, I wipe away the tears and look in the rearview mirror. Stare down the street behind me as a new version of panic squeezes my heart. As new found alarm constricts my airway.
“What have I done?” I whisper in the cab of my car.
Understandably, he went into shock with the news. So did I. Where he went completely still and utterly speechless, I went into full-on hysteria. My brain short-circuited and I made irrational decisions in the heat of the moment, undoubtedly hurting him.
What have I done?
I steer the Beetle into the next driveway, back out then drive back to Devlyn’s house. The small neighborhood block feels miles long as I roll closer and closer. Two houses away, I swipe my cheeks dry and take a deep breath. When I pull into the driveway, I am definitely not prepared for what I see next. Devlyn curled into a tight ball, knees crushed to his chest, and head tucked as he rocks back and forth.
I press the heel of my palm to my chest as the pain beneath my breastbone kicks up to level ten.
Cutting the engine, I bolt from the car and run to his side. Drop down in front of him and gingerly lay a hand on his head. Lightly comb my fingers through his hair and hover over his bundled frame. “Devlyn,” I whisper. His tempo and erratic rocking don’t pause, so I try again and with more volume. “Devlyn.”
He startles on the second call of his name. The constant shaking of his body stops. His head lifts and I am stabbed in the heart by the pain in his puffy, red eyes. The way he regards me, rakes his eyes over the lines of my face, it’s as if he is unsure I am real or a figment of his imagination.
I add more weight to my touch on his head and in his hair. Slide my hand slowly down the side of his face. Wiggle my fingers in his hair and scratch them along his scalp. When my palm cups his cheek, he leans his weight into my hand. Closes his eyes. Inhales deeply and holds the breath in his lungs for three of my breaths.
When his eyes reopen, he scrambles forward and wraps me in his arms. “You can’t go,” he mumbles in my ear, voice strained and raw. “I need you.” He hugs me tighter to his chest and kisses my neck. Takes another deep breath and sighs heavily. “Please stay.”
My arms squeeze him impossibly tighter as my fingers roam his hair and my lips kiss his shoulder. “Let’s go back inside.” I lean back and frame his face in my hands. Hold his turbulent gaze as tears blur my vision. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking rationally.” My lips press to his, again and again. “So, so sorry.”
On unsteady legs, we rise from the pavement and wander back into the house. Devlyn’s hand firmly holds mine as we wind our way to the living room and sit on the couch. He inches closer until it’s difficult to tell where I end and he begins.
“Do you want a drink? Maybe some tea or water or juice,” he suggests, tone antsy.
A fresh layer of guilt washes over me. I hate that my first instinct was to run away. To abandon Devlyn. What kind of person does that? You were scared and so was he. And you both process fear differently. Internally, I hang my head and berate myself.
“Some tea would be nice,” I whisper, and he nods. Then he is off the couch and dashing to the kitchen.
While Devlyn prepares us drinks, I mull over what to say when he reenters the room. I feel the need to apologize until I lose my voice. My actions were spontaneous and foolish, but my head was—is—a scrambled mess. And when I said the words aloud—I’m pregnant—Devlyn froze, then thawed, only to freeze again. I went from panicked to unreasonably hysterical in a heartbeat.
So I bolted.
But I can’t run away from this, from us. Devlyn or our unborn child. It may be unplanned, it may throw both of our worlds completely off-balance, but that doesn’t change anything.
I lay a hand over my still flat belly, close my eyes and take a deep breath. Tell myself it will be okay. That it will all work out. That everything happens when it is meant to.
When my eyes open, I consider how to broach the conversation again. This time with calmer heads and less anxiety. Hopefully.
I am—we are—pregnant and we will be parents before the end of the year. A baby… Devlyn and I are going to have a baby. Another human to love and nurture.
Mentally, I laugh at myself. Leave it to us—the fumbling virgin and almost virgin—to mess up condom usage.
Regardless, it is done. Neither of us can change the past. All we can do now is prepare for the future. But what does that future look like?
Devlyn wanders back into the living room with a mug in each hand. He sets them both on the table, drops next to me on the couch, and wraps me in his arms again. Eliminates every ounce of space between us with a fierce hug. Holds me like he fears I will bolt for the door once more.
And I hate that I did this. Inflicted him with this level of fear. Fractured the trust he has in me. Created doubt that I will stay.
I want to stay. For as long as he will have me, I want to stay.
“Sorry I freaked out. Sorry I didn’t say anything right away.” He tugs me into his lap and shifts his hold. Shakes his head as he burrows into my chest. “Sorry I froze.”
I lay my cheek on his head, close my eyes and comb my fingers through his dark locks. “This isn’t all you, so don’t you dare try to take all the blame.” My arms circle his shoulders and head. Cradle him in my hold. “I’m just as guilty. I shouldn’t have packed my bags and jumped in the car.” My lips press to his hair. “But I wasn’t thinking. Not clearly.”
Nose buried in my hair, Devlyn inhales deeply. On the exhale, he leans back and frames my face in his hands. “This is scary, for both of us, but I know we’ll get through it.” He lowers my lips to his and kisses me with newfound tenderness. “I love you, Shelly.”
Tears sting the backs of my eyes. An emotional ball grows thick in my throat. I lift my hands to his cheeks, cup either side of his jaw, and stroke his cheekbones with my thumbs. “I love you, too,” I choke out.
Time creeps by, our tea cools on the table, but neither of us move. For now, I simply want to breathe him in. Want to let all the madness from earlier fall away. Want to feel his arms and warmth blanket me in love. Want to give the news of us becoming parents a moment to seep in.
Pregnant. Me. The woman that plans all the big moments in her life. The woman that makes five-year plans and intends to stick to them. I am pregnant. We are pregnant. This was definitely not in the five-year plan. Finding love was in the plan, but not becoming a mother.
My mind drifts to the piece of paper pinned to the wall in my apartment bedroom. My current five-year plan. The biggest thing on the list… purchasing Petal and Vine from Elizabeth.
I close my eyes and sink deep inside myself. Try to steady my rapid-fire pulse with steady breaths. Clear the worrisome thoughts invading my head.
Elizabeth won’t be upset about the pregnancy. Knowing her, she will rejoice at having another baby to spoil. Be excited that her own grandchild will soon have a playmate. But her happiness won’t erase the guilt holding me hostage daily as I delay her retirement. Something she has looked forward to for the past two years.
Will I still be able to purchase Petal and Vine when the time comes? Will I be able to run a business with a newborn in my arms or on my hip? It’s silly to think such things. Plenty of women and families manage this all the time. But maybe they planned ahead. Had all their ducks in a row before the pregnancy test came back positive.
Then my thoughts drift to Autumn and Clementine. Autumn’s first pregnancy was a surprise. In a matter of months, she wasn’t just a pregnant mother with an absentee father, she’d also been kicked out of her home. Abandoned in every way imaginable. Her family had been that cruel.
But she kept going. Never gave up. Moved forward and persevered. Found a place to live and got a job she loved. Thrived when some might fall. And if she can overcome such heavy obstacles—struggles much worse than the possible ones I will face—then I can do this. We can do this.
“You’re so quiet,” Devlyn whispers against my skin.
I shift off his lap, pick up my mug and sip the now cool tea, then take his hand. “Just thinking.”
Everything. “How much this will change our future.”
He nods, then tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “True.” Glass-green irises lock on my blues while his thumb leisurely strokes my cheek. “But I know we’ll make it work.”
For a beat, his eyes drop to my lips before meeting mine again. “I just know.” He shrugs. “With you, I believe anything is possible.” I raise my brows in question. “Shelly, I have been through hell. In more ways than one.” He takes my hand in his, pulls it to his lap and strokes my skin. Slow and steady. His eyes on the movement. “The first round was young love gone astray. Although it sent me in a downward spiral, I’m grateful it happened. Without that loss, I wouldn’t appreciate and love you the way I do.”
“And the other?”
He sucks in a deep breath and speaks on the exhale. “That hell is still ongoing.”
He nods. “Yeah. Not sure what to do about her.” He shrugs and looks off in the distance. “Things with her… it’s been brewing a long time.” His chest expands as he takes a deep breath. “I don’t want my past with her to affect our relationship or the baby.” He trails the pad of his thumb over my knuckles. “Maybe I should talk to someone again. Get advice from a professional or someone who’s been in a similar situation.”
I squeeze his hand and he brings his attention back to me. “If that’s what you want, what you need, I’ll support you.” I huff out a laugh. “Heck, maybe I should talk to someone.” His eyes narrow. “About pregnancy. Motherhood. How to keep moving forward without feeling like I’m pulling everyone under.”
The backs of my eyes sting and I hate how I am already so emotional. “Well, it’s how I feel.” I shrug. “Like I’m letting Elizabeth down.” Tears well in my eyes. I take a deep breath and try to hold them at bay. “I’m supposed to buy the shop from her after this year.” My jaw wobbles back and forth. “How will I be able to do that now? How will I run a business with a baby?”
“Hey,” he says, voice barely above a whisper. “We’ll figure it out. All of it.” He chuckles and I look up. “Maybe I’ll need to learn how to run a florist shop too.” I furrow my brows. “So you’re not doing it alone.” He presses a chaste kiss to my lips. “Because you aren’t alone, Shelly.” Another kiss. “Ever.”
“Aren’t we just a hot mess,” I say on a laugh.
“Wouldn’t want to be in a hot mess with anyone else.” Devlyn rises from the couch and extends his hand. “Come. Let’s go make something for breakfast.” His eyes drop to my belly. “Need to feed you two.”
And in a blink, life returns to a seminormal state. We bring our mugs to the kitchen and add a touch of hot water. I scramble eggs and cook sausage while Devlyn cuts fresh fruit and toasts bread. We move around the kitchen as if we have done this for years. Been in a relationship. Existed in the same space. Loved each other.
Speaking of space… Suppose our living situation will be one of many conversations we share in the near future. A new knot forms beneath my diaphragm. Twisty and tight.
When the time comes, when we talk about housing and what will work best, I hope we are on the same page. Please let us be on the same page.
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