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My stomach tensed, and I knew it was something more than just the first-trimester symptoms I’d been experiencing over the past week. Though Haley was being silly, there was a part of me that did kind of wish that Alex was looking for me, that he’d come back into my life. After all, this kid was going to need a dad.

I spotted the sign for Beau-Jo’s up ahead, giving me a good reason to end the line of conversation.

“We’re here,” I said. “I didn’t even realize how hungry I was until just now.”

“Oh my God, same. I’m pretty sure I’m at the point where I could eat an entire pizza myself.”

Haley grinned, the two of us stepping out of the car and heading toward the restaurant. My phone buzzed with a text as I arrived. It was from Mom, letting me know they were already there and had found a place to sit.

We stepped into the place, greeted by the din of a full restaurant and the smell of delicious pizza. The place was packed, not a table empty. Servers zipped here and there, setting down trays topped with the massive pies with crusts as thick as your forearm.

We spotted Mom and Dad in the back corner, Mom rising from her seat a bit and waving to us. Seconds later, we were seated with menus in our hands.

“I can’t believe the size of these things!” Mom said, looking around at the pizzas on other tables.

Dad said nothing, his eyes on the drink menu. My stomach tensed again, knowing he’d want a round for the table, which meant that I’d have to tell him why I wasn’t drinking.

“Think I’ll do a beer to start off,” he said with a nod, passing over the menu to Mom. “You guys want anything?”

“Just a Coke!” The words shot out of my mouth with such speed and intensity that the rest of my little group couldn’t help but look at me like I was a crazy person.

“Uh, a beer for me.” Haley glanced at me with an expression of slight skepticism, letting me know that while I might’ve dodged the question for the time being, it was only a matter of time before someone at the table realized that I was being cagey about something.

We went over the menus, ordering our drinks and pizzas when the waitress stopped by.

Mom clasped her hands together and leaned in. “So, your new book…”

“My what?”

Mom cocked her head to the side, confused. “The new book? The one you’ve been writing?”

“You know,” Haley said. “The book you wrote that sold, like, a million copies?” She spoke with a wry tone, joking at the possibility that I might forget something like that.

It took me a second to come back to Earth.

“Oh… oh yeah!”

The three of them shared a look, one that suggested they knew something strange was going on.

I had to get my head in the game unless I wanted to turn this celebratory dinner out into a three-on-one session of Mom and Dad and Haley prying the news out of me.

“OK, so it’s the final book in the series, calledMaster and Minotaur. It’s going to be everything that people love about the previous books but turned up to a million. Lots of action and romance and se—” I stopped myself, realizing that I was talking to my parents. “Se… riously fun adventures.”

“The second one just came out, right?” Mom asked. “And you’re already writing another?”

Dad nodded, a proud smile on his face. “That’s my girl—hard-working as they come.”

“Well, it’s the outline, not the book. The outline is just all the chapters and the basic idea of how the book is going to go. The writing part’s going to take a long time.”

“Well, you’ve got time now,” Dad said. “You’ve got your Masters, your own place, and all the opportunity to work on it.”

“I know, and I can’t wait. I’m going to be looking for something in academia before too long, but right now the idea of just me and my laptop in my new condo with time to focus on my writing… sounds like total heaven.”

Dad reached over, putting his hand on mine.

“I couldn’t be prouder.”

My heart tingled, tears forming in my eyes.

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