Not My Type: Rhiannon Ch. 05

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Joe and I sat in his truck outside of Lilly’s apartment in silence. My stomach was churning with nervousness and I didn’t feel good.

“Ready for this?” I asked. My voice wobbled.

Joe cleared his throat. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose.”

I looked down at my left hand, where Joe’s tiny engagement ring sparkled on my fourth finger. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to tell Lilly about that yet, since it meant I’d have to tell her about the baby. But I didn’t want to hurt Joe’s feelings and take it off. I didn’t know what to do.

Joe took my hand and kissed the back of it. He touched the small diamond and smiled sadly. “I’ll understand, darlin’.”

I nodded and swallowed the lump in my throat. Was it fair to Joe to pretend that the ring didn’t exist; that the question had never been asked? I took a deep breath. Maybe it was time to put on my big girl panties and deal with it. Lilly was an adult and besides, I couldn’t control her reaction. If she was giving me a second chance, then I should be honest with her from the beginning.

“Well, let’s get this over with,” I said in a fake bright voice. I opened the door to Joe’s truck and slid out. He did the same. We crossed to the stairs of Lil’s second storey flat.

“You first?” I prompted.

Joe nodded and took a deep breath. He reached out and squeezed my arm and then led the way to Lilly’s front door.

She answered his knock with a shy smile and I couldn’t read her expression. She seemed warm and friendly enough, but she was a Tanner and I knew all too well how still and deep the waters ran with that clan.

“Adele’s in the livingroom with Nate,” she said. “Adam’s just about ready to go with dinner, so why don’t the two of you join them? Would you like a drink?”

Joe requested a rye and water, but I kept quiet. If I turned down a drink I’d have to explain why, since Lil would never believe I was simply abstaining for the fun of it. I knew I’d have to tell her at some point in the evening, but I didn’t want it to be the first thing out of my mouth.

Adele’s flirtatious laughter drifted from in the other room, which piqued my curiosity. Who was Nate anyway? Did she bring a date and not tell me? I didn’t even know she was dating someone. It hurt to think there might be someone new in her life and she hadn’t told me about it, although to be fair, I’d had other things on my mind lately.

Adam was leaning in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, his arms crossed over a t-shirt-and-apron covered chest. He flashed me a sexy, welcoming smile over his shoulder which I instantly returned.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he teased. His smile was all teeth. The damn man looked like a movie-star, except for the tattoos. A small part of me wished I was the one he had stared at that night at the bar two months ago, but he only ever had eyes for Lilly. “Glad you two could finally join us.”

“Thanks for holding dinner,” I laughed. “I didn’t mean to complicate things.”

Adam looked past me to Joe and gave him a crooked grin full of innuendo. “I figured you two had better things to do.”

Joe actually blushed, which sent Adam and me into a peal of laughter. Adele inquired into what was so funny from the living room. She sounded happy. She hadn’t sounded truly happy in a long, long time.

“Come meet someone,” Adam prompted, taking my arm. Joe followed and the three of us stepped into Lilly’s cozy livingroom. Adele was seated at one end of the couch, and a blond-haired man at the other. The two of them were smiling at each other with a look I recognized and which might bode trouble. The man rose to his feet and smiled shyly at me.

“Rhi, Joe, this is my best friend Nate. Nate, this is Rhiannon Barnes and this Lilly’s big brother, Joe.”

The blond man held out a hand, which I took. I knew my jaw had hit the floor but I couldn’t keep the shocked expression off my face. The handsome man shaking my hand was clothed in head-to-toe black and wore a clerical collar.

“Reverend Nathaniel Fontaine,” he chuckled. “And don’t worry, I get that look all the time,” he laughed over my shoulder at Joe, who was making mumbled excuses for me, before moving to shake his hand too.

“Your best friend is a priest?” I sputtered to Adam, who was laughing.

“Actually, I’m a Presbyterian Minister,” Nate explained politely. “It’s a little different.”

There was such an odd dichotomy between the two it was positively comical. Like something out of a sitcom really, the dark, tattooed former-bad-boy and the angelic blond man-of-the-cloth. I threw back my head and laughed.

“I’m sure there’s a story there,” I giggled as I sank onto the couch beside Adele, who joined in my laughter. “Are you going to tell it?”

“Nate saved my life when I was in prison,” Adam admitted with a sheepish grin. “Not physically, mind you, more like metaphorically.”

“Now if only I could convince him to go to church,” Nate muttered with a teasing laugh. He sat down in an empty armchair. “There’s not much to tell really. I met Adam while I was the chaplain at a correctional center. Understandably it was a difficult halkalı escort time for Adam but we struck up a friendship as best we could. When I took a parish here on the Island I suggested he move here too. I thought it would be a good place for a fresh start and his parole officer agreed. That’s all there is to it.”

Lilly entered the room with a rye and water in hand and passed it to Joe, who took a grateful sip. He had said very little since we’d arrived and looked a little awkward and out of sorts. I smiled encouragingly at him. I knew he wasn’t completely comfortable with Adam’s past and really I couldn’t blame him. Joe had always been protective of Lilly, of all his younger siblings. Lilly tended to gripe and moan about it, but she had no idea how lucky she was to even have a brother who cared so much.

Adam told the story of how Nate had put in a good word for him with the owner of the La Langoustine Fâchée, a parishioner of the good reverend’s. That was how Adam started working at the most exclusive restaurant on the Island. I was struck by how easily the two men worked Adam’s incarceration into the conversation, like it was nothing to be ashamed of, although if that was Adam’s feeling on the whole thing then I guess it wasn’t. It didn’t matter to me one way or the other, the man was just too nice to look at to hold past sins against him.

Joe stood awkwardly to one side, watching as Adele asked Nate questions about his parish and life on the Island. I followed along as best I could without really understanding much. I hadn’t been to church a day in my life, except for the occasional wedding or funeral. I knew the Tanner family had though; I expected Joe to jump into the conversation but he didn’t. He just shifted his weight from foot-to-foot and went through the first glass of rye a little too quickly. I wondered if he felt awkward around Adam, who was just so completely opposite to him and who I knew Joe would probably never feel comfortable with, or if it was something more than just shyness.

Adam slipped back to the kitchen to finish with dinner while Adele held the pace of the conversation just as she usually did. She was remarkably comfortable with strangers, but I guess as a lawyer she was used to questioning people she didn’t know and finding out what she could about them. Usually Lilly would be right there with Adele, armed with a long list of questions of her own, but like her brother she was unusually quiet, and kept watching me with an unreadable expression.

I did my best to weave Joe into the conversation, and at some point Adele must have picked up on what I was trying to do because she turned her attention to Joe and delicately started to ask him the leading questions instead of Nate. Joe’s responses were short and simple, but at least he was speaking. Nate too seemed to sense Joe’s uncertainty and when the two of them started talking about crop rotation I finally got a chance to shoot Adele a thankful smile.

Adam stuck his head around the doorframe and announced dinner and the five of us rose to our feet. Joe moved a little more slowly than the rest and I lingered behind with him.

“Is something wrong?” I asked in a stage whisper. “You’re so quiet.”

Joe’s gaze was indifferent. He wasn’t the same man I’d spent the afternoon in bed with, he was back to being silent and stoic—the Joe I never knew what to do with. He shrugged. “Are you gonna tell them?”

My stomach did flips and I curled a hand around it, trying to calm the jittery feeling. “I don’t know how,” I confessed.

Joe’s answered sigh was one of frustration, but he leaned forward and kissed the top of my head before taking my arm and leading me into the kitchen.

Lilly’s long table was set perfectly with white linens, gleaming crystal, and a big bouquet of fat white roses. Joe and I took our seats across from Nate and Adele with Lilly at the foot of the table and Adam serving. There was an expectant silence as Adam bought out the appetizers and we all sat silently waiting until he removed his apron and took his place. Nate said a very quick grace and Adam encouraged us to begin.

I looked down at the perfectly prepared and exquisitely plated bacon-wrapped scallop sitting in front of me. It was beautiful, almost too beautiful to eat, and then the air in the room shifted and I got a good smell of it. Normally I’d love bacon and seafood put together, but at that moment my stomach didn’t care for the aroma. I pushed my chair back with a panicked gasp and bolted for the bathroom, slamming the door with a little too much force.

My stomach heaved and my head swam. I sank to my knees and curled my arms around the cool porcelain of Lilly’s toilet as I fought the overwhelming desire to be sick. From beyond the bathroom door I heard the concerned hum of voices. A minute or two passed and there was a soft knock on the door.

“Rhi? Are you okay?” Lilly asked through the wood.

“Yeah,” I answered weakly, not sure that my voice was even loud enough to be heard.

There was low rumble of taksim escort a male voice I knew to be Joe’s and then silence from the crowd in the kitchen. I felt the cold sweat on me and the slick fear of what Joe could be telling them, but just then my stomach rebelled and I couldn’t fight it. So much for ‘morning sickness’; mine didn’t seem to care what time of day it was.

I don’t know how long I sat there, how long I laid my head against the solid comfort of Lilly’s toilet bowl. It took more energy for me not to cry than it did for me not to be sick, but I didn’t want to ruin my make-up. When I was sure I was done I rose weakly to my feet and did my best to rinse the sour taste out of my mouth. A few glasses of water and a swig of mouthwash later and I felt slightly better. My reflection in the mirror was terribly pale, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

“It’s okay,” I muttered out loud, curling a hand over my stomach. “We’re okay.” I wasn’t sure exactly who I was reassuring, but it felt better just to say the words.

Everyone came to their feet when I opened the bathroom door. Everyone looked worried, even Lilly, but there was another layer of expression on her face which told me all I needed to know. I looked over at Joe and he nodded.

“I’m sorry,” I said. I’d meant the apology to sound off-handed and casual, as if I didn’t care that I’d just lost my lunch in Lilly’s bathroom, more than likely within earshot of the entire dinner party, but instead the words came out high-pitched and wobbly, like I was a lost and scared little girl. I cringed.

“I’m sorry,” Adam apologized swiftly. He was the closest to me and his emerald green eyes were dark with worry. “I didn’t know… I didn’t mean for you…”

I waved a hand dismissively as he trailed off, uncertain. “You didn’t know. It’s okay.”

“Are you okay?” Adele asked. Beside her Nate echoed the question with concern.

I nodded.

“I’ll live.” My gaze moved from the two of them to Lilly. The line of her pretty mouth was grim and she said nothing.

The bacon-wrapped scallops had been cleared and salads were at the other’s places. There was a stack of saltine crackers at mine and I almost laughed as I caught Adam’s eye when I moved to my seat. There was a mischievous twinkle there which calmed me slightly. He winked at me as I sat down.

“It’s a completely bacon-free meal from here on in,” Adam teased. Everyone but Lilly and Joe laughed and I managed a weak thankful smile in Adam’s direction.

The rest of the dinner was awkward. Adele, Nate, and Adam supplied the conversation and the rest of us sat in silence. I nibbled at my saltines and tried my best to eat a little of everything Adam had cooked up, but my appetite was gone. I felt hollow and alone. Beside me Joe sat without expression, without speaking. On the other side of me Lilly’s expression was a female mirror of her brother’s. I felt worse than awful.

How we all managed to get through the meal I’ll never know, but we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when Adam cleared the last plate and smiled encouragingly at Lilly.

“Got new chrome plating on the exhaust pipes of the bike,” he offered in Nate’s general direction. “Want to see?”

Nate drew his chair back and smiled as Adam rose from the table. “Definitely do. You coming Joe?”

Joe looked up and blinked in surprise, as if he didn’t expect to be included. He didn’t turn his head towards me at all, but I noticed him catching Lilly’s eye and he rose from the table without sound. The three men filed out the door and down the stairs to the driveway, Adam keeping up a litany about motorcycles the entire time.

There was a very long pause in the room. I finally got up the courage to look over at Lilly. Her expression was empty and there was an indefinable, almost hard edge to the corners of her mouth.

“Lil…” I started awkwardly. God, I hated emotional conversations, and I knew this was going to be one.

“Do my parents know?” Lilly folded her napkin precisely into quarters and laid it on the table, before smoothing it down. I noticed her hands were shaking.

“Not that I know of,” I offered. I tried to modulate my voice, to keep from sounding upset, but I could feel hysteria creep in a little. “Joe hasn’t said anything to me about it if they do. I’m only ten weeks, it’s still a little early to be telling people.”

Lilly’s blue eyes were a little cold as she looked at me. “Is it his?”

Adele’s gasp of shock was even louder than my own.

The nausea was back, a wave of sickening, clammy dizziness that made me want to close my eyes and put my head down, to block out everything until it passed. I didn’t want to look weak in front of Lilly, not again. I squared my chin and looked her in the eye.


“Are you sure?”

It was a question you never want to hear from anyone, certainly not a friend. Across the table Adele sat motionless, her mouth open in surprise, her brown eyes wide.

“Yes Lilly, I’m sure,” I said softly. My throat clogged up with tears I had no intention of shedding. şişli escort Seeing the doubt flicker across Lilly’s face cut me deeper than I could ever have imagined. I may have slept with my fair share of men, but I’d never been anything but one-hundred-percent honest with my friends. I was more than capable of taking care of myself, so lying to Joe and the world about the paternity of the baby served no purpose at all. But how could I make her see that?

Lilly watched me for a while, the wheels in her clever mind turning. She didn’t say anything though. She didn’t look mad, she didn’t look anything. She had a blank, stoic expression that would have done Joe proud had he seen it. Goodness knows I’d seen the same look on his face numerous times in the past few days.

“Joe and I are trying to make the best of this,” I whispered defensively. “I wouldn’t have chosen to tell you this way, but I’m not going to apologize to you. I can’t change what’s happened and we all have to deal with it. Joe and I are trying, really trying to make this work in some way.”

“Are you going to marry him?” Lilly’s question caught in her throat a little. I held my breath and clenched my hands in my lap. The cool diamond of Joe’s engagement ring dug into my palm. It hurt but the small pain kept me anchored; it was real even if the rest of evening didn’t seem to be.

“I don’t know,” I said quietly.

“He asked you to.” It was a statement, not a question.

I pulled my hands from my lap and laid them on the table. My tiny, pretty ring glinted in the light. It was so throat-achingly beautiful and I didn’t feel like I could part with it. It had only been mine for a little while, but my finger would look strange without it.

“Yes, he asked,” I whispered in a hoarse tone. Across the table Adele’s brown eyes were kind. I tried a small smile out on her, hoping it would make me feel brave.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Lilly murmured, pushing her chair back. She stood and began pacing the room while both Adele and I watched. There was a wave of men’s laughter through an open window from the driveway below. Lilly paused when she heard it. “I can’t believe you would do this to me.”

Adele stood then, as I sat in mute shock. She towered over Lilly and scowled down at her. “She didn’t do it on purpose, Lil. These things happen.”

“They shouldn’t,” Lilly whispered.

For a split second Adele looked as if she was going to slap Lilly. I would have applauded her if she had, but the tall blonde restrained herself. I rose to my feet but I didn’t say anything, I couldn’t. I could feel my temper rise and it was difficult not to start yelling. Once upon a time I would have done just that, but now I didn’t feel like I had the energy for it. Besides, Lilly was a Tanner and ridiculously stubborn. The more I fought her, the harder she’d resist. She was just like Joe that way, but at least with Joe I was learning the sly little ways of getting around his stubbornness. That most of those ways involved being naked certainly didn’t hurt. Lilly however would require a different tactic

“Why do you always take her side on things?” Lilly accused Adele hurtfully. Adele looked shocked.

“This isn’t about sides,” Adele said. Her expression had evened out to a smooth, professional mask. It was her ‘lawyer face’. Both Lil and I knew it meant business. “I know this must upset you Lilly, but this isn’t about you. Joe and Rhiannon are trying to do the right thing. This can’t be easy for them and I’m going to support them any way I can.”

“Do you love him?” Lilly asked me after she’d let me hang in silence for much too long.

I didn’t know how to answer that, so I kept silent.

“He doesn’t need to be jerked around, Rhiannon. He’s had enough of that,” Lilly said somberly.

I tried to smile a little, hoping it might calm Lilly down. “I know, he told me.”

Lilly’s auburn eyebrows shot up but evidently she didn’t know what to say to that. I wondered if she hadn’t expected Joe to be open with me. The image of Joe standing in the middle of his field being completely and sweetly honest with me probably didn’t match up with Lilly’s image of her big brother, which didn’t surprise me. I seriously doubted there was anyone who’d seen that side of Joe.

Her sigh was long and she sounded as tired as I felt. “He’s my brother Rhi.”

“Lilly, you’ve always made me feel like part of your family,” I wrapped my arms around myself and smiled faintly. “Now I have an opportunity to be. What about my second chance?” I’d never given anyone such an obvious peace offering, never rolled over so easily without a fight before, but she was my best friend and I was so tired of all the drama. I hated the weeks of silent treatment she’d given me after that first night with Joe. I didn’t want to live like that again. I’d missed her too much.

She nodded and returned my smile with a little one of her own. I could tell she wasn’t completely won over, she was too stubborn for that. The Tanners were just too resistant to change, every one of them. They all instantly baulked at the idea of things evolving. Lilly had always been like that, every time I left for a trip overseas, every time Adele or I dated someone new, when Adele had gone to law school in another province, when she’d gotten married to Harry and then gotten divorced. Every single time Lilly had had trouble adjusting, how could I expect that part of her to change just to suit me?

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