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Trent was a father. To a fifteen-year-old. To Angel’s fifteen-year-old. He hadn’t told her, so she suspected none of their friends knew, either, and the knowledge was eating her up inside. But she’d ended things with Trent, so what right did she have to be upset by this?

Loud, kid-friendly versions of pop songs played, and she followed the sounds of laughter and voices toward the ballroom.

She’d contemplated not going at all, but she was really trying to make an effort to change her ways moving forward. Work was only one aspect of her life, and while it may feel like the only thing she truly had anymore, she needed to reconnect with her friends.

She was grateful that Trent hadn’t arrived yet. She wasn’t quite ready to be in the same space with him, even if separately. The revelation that Angel and Max were dating still left her with an unsettling feeling. She’d read the situation wrong, but that didn’t change anything. Especially not now. Trent was the father of Angel’s fifteen-year-old. The thought kept going around and around in circles in her brain. She had no idea what to do about it.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Sarah whispered to her, wrapping an arm around her waist as Whitney entered the B&B’s ballroom where Marissa’s party was in full swing.

Whitney squeezed her friend’s hand. “I can’t stay long, but I wanted to drop off her gift and say happy birthday. You two really went all out.” Whitney took in the beautifully decorated room with at least two hundred pink, purple, and white helium-filled balloons and matching streamers hung across the ceiling. A largeHappy Birthdaybanner was hung on the wall, and the tables were covered with party hats, favors, and candies. A unicorn-shaped piñata hung from the ceiling, and the kids hovered around it, eager to break it open.

Across the room, she met Jess’s gaze, where she sat next to Mitch, and her friend offered a conflicted-looking smile. Whitney gave a quick wave in return. That relationship was probably going to be the hardest to figure out. She hated that Jess would feel as though she had to take sides. She didn’t, and Whitney wanted to reassure her friend that she’d never expect that. She also wanted to ask Jess if she could apologize to Frankie for her… In time, she’d like to talk to Trent’s mom herself, but she wasn’t sure if the woman would want to have anything to do with her after breaking her son’s heart.

She noticed Lia across the room as well, laughing and dancing with a group of Marissa’s friends. As Marissa’s godmother, Lia wouldn’t dream of missing the party. No doubt, she’d flown in just for the event and would be leaving the next day. The other woman didn’t notice her yet, but Whitney found a comfort knowing Lia was in town, and she’d definitely plan some time with her before she went back to New York.

“How you holding up?” Sarah asked.

“I’m okay,” she said with a forced smile. Except that her heart was a mess and she’d recently learned that the man she’d been building a life with had a son.

This wasn’t the right time to talk, and she wouldn’t be a buzzkill at a child’s birthday party. “Really, I am. We’ll get together and talk soon,” she promised.

“Okay,” Sarah said as Wes arrived from the kitchen, carrying the birthday cake full of sparklers.

“Happy birthday to you…” the happy dad started to sing, and everyone joined in.

Whitney even managed to croak out a few whispered lyrics, but all she could think about was how many of Eddie’s birthdays Trent had missed. He loved children. He must be devastated to know that he hadn’t been there for Eddie all these years. Hadn’t known. She knew he must not have known, because Trent was a good man, and he would have stepped up. He would have wanted to be a father…

So when did he find out?

She brushed the thoughts away, focusing on the birthday girl.

Marissa beamed, and her eyes widened, seeing the beautiful cake shaped like a flying unicorn that seemed to defy gravity. Jess must have made it for the event. It was absolutely incredible, with majestic wings and a sugar-worked gold horn. The little girl sent Jess a look of appreciation before she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then blew out the candles. Everyone cheered and clapped.

The baby monitor in Sarah’s hand crackled with static before the sound of Henry’s cry came through the speaker.

“Ah, he must have smelled icing,” Sarah said with a laugh. “I’ll be right back.”

“Can I get him?” Whitney asked.

Sarah couldn’t hide her surprise. “Sure… I mean, are you sure?”

Whitney nodded. It was time to start stepping up as Auntie Whitney. It may be the only role she ever played in regards to children, and she needed to get used to that idea. Embrace it. Be the best darn aunt to all the kids her friends had. “I’m sure,” she said.

“Okay. He’ll need to be changed,” Sarah teased, calling out after her.

“I think I can handle it,” she said with much more confidence than she actually felt. She didn’t have much experience with dirty diapers. But she’d figure it out.

She climbed the winding staircase to the living quarters section of the inn, but when she reached the top landing, an unexpected dizzy spell hit, and she struggled with the wave of nausea as the entire house seemed to spin all around her. She swallowed the saliva in her mouth and shut her eyes, but it didn’t help. The music from downstairs sounded like it was getting farther away, and the floor rippled under her feet, knocking her off-balance. Her body swayed, and she reached out all around her for something to grab hold of, but she couldn’t reach the railing in time—

Because she was falling, tumbling down the staircase, her body violently crashing against the wooden steps all the way down.

Trent couldn’t even remember the drive from the bar to the hospital. He’d been moving on autopilot, in a foggy haze of worry and pain, his thoughts racing a million miles an hour and his heart beating out of his chest.

Entering now, he hurried toward Jess, sitting in the waiting room with Sarah and Wes. “How is she?” he asked, still trembling. His entire body was breaking out in a sweat despite the cool temperatures today, and he felt as though someone had a vise tightening around his lungs.

Jess gave him a quick hug. “She’s going to be okay,” she said, trying to sound reassuring, but Trent heard the deep concern in his cousin’s voice. “Mitch is in with her now and so is her regular doctor. A few broken bones and a nasty blow to the head.”

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