I’m not sure why, but I’ve always assumed a baby shower would be an elegant, classy affair.
Apparently, I was wrong.
“It was either this or Pin the Penis on the Hunk,” Cass explains to my best friend, Jamie, as my sister-in-law, Sylvia, holds her hands over her belly, which is huge at thirty-seven weeks into her pregnancy. Honestly, I’m not sure if she’s trying to keep the laughter at bay, or prevent her unborn infant from hearing all our crazy banter.
Jamie shrugs. “I’m totally okay with fondling a cock while blindfolded.”
“Uh, lesbian here,” Cass says with a devious grin toward her girlfriend, Siobhan. “Plus I can claim the party planner privilege.” She nods toward the table where two dozen paper sperm are laid out, ready to be pinned to a poster with an image of a woman’s uterus and a smiling, waving, welcoming egg.
Forget Pin the Penis on the Hunk. For that matter, forget Pin the Tail on the Donkey. We’re playing Pin the Sperm on the Egg. And I’m having a very hard time not laughing. Which may have more to do with the five mimosas I’ve downed than the game, but either way, I’m having a great time.
Jamie turns to look at me. “Told you, Nik. You and I should totally have planned this party.”
“I offered, but Cass pulled rank on me.”
“I played the best friend card,” Cass admits. “Besides, Nikki did plenty. Offering her bungalow, for one thing. Not to mention being all sneaky and coaxing Syl to the island.”
“It wasn’t easy,” I say. “The woman’s a workaholic.” I’d told Sylvia we needed to take a family getaway before the baby arrived—just me and Damien joined by her and Jackson and their four-year-old, Ronnie—but she insisted she couldn’t afford the time away from the office when she had maternity leave looming.
I even felt a bit guilty about my ulterior motives when Syl confessed that she was a little nervous.
“I’m not nervous about actually giving birth,” she clarified, then immediately corrected herself. “Well, actually, yeah. That’s kind of got me freaking out, but I figure it is what it is, and there’s always drugs, right?”
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
“It’s just, the whole thing about being a mom is more than a little terrifying.”
“But you’re already a great mom,” I pointed out, since Jackson, her husband and Damien’s half-brother, came into the relationship with a daughter.
Syl lifted a shoulder. “I guess. I mean, I hope so. I try, that’s for sure. And I love Ronnie so much.” She let out a long breath, and when she looked me in the eye, I could see both fear and courage. “I was so scared at first. Scared enough that I almost blew it. And I think I’m over that—I really do. But I knew what I was getting with Ronnie. I mean, she was already a little person. But a baby? And one who’s inheriting all of my family’s crazy baggage? It’s a little scary.”
“It’s wonderful,” I assured her. “Any baby would be lucky to have you and Jackson as parents.”
Her smile was watery but genuine, and when she held out her arms I hugged her close. “Thanks,” she whispered. “I promise I’m not melting down, and every book says doubt is normal. But it’s just so much responsibility, you know?”
I did know. Hell, I do know. Even Sunshine, Damien’s and my cat, is one hell of a lot of responsibility. More than that, I understand the fear of passing on all that familial baggage. I don’t know all the details about Syl’s relationship with her parents, but I do know there’s some bad blood. And it’s the same with me and Damien. Frankly, any child we had would be buried under a boatload of crap.
Honestly, it scares me.
Not that I’m staying up nights worrying about that. I’m not ready to be a mom yet—my business has enough growing pains at the moment, and I’m more than happy being Aunt Nikki. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder…
At any rate, it was my role as Aunt Nikki to Syl’s unborn child that had motivated me to get Syl to the island for her secret shower. And since I’d had no luck with the family getaway angle, I’d ended up calling in the big guns and having Damien fabricate some bullshit crisis that could only be handled on the island.
“I would have been more compliant if I’d had any sort of a clue what you all were cooking up,” Sylvia admits. “But I really wasn’t expecting a second shower.”
“You had the boring work one,” Cass tells her. “And now you’re getting the fabulous girlfriend one.”
“Um, excuse me,” Rachel says. “The boring work one was so not boring.”
Sylvia used to be Damien’s assistant, but now Rachel has taken over that role. And in that capacity, Rachel organized Syl’s office shower. Which, from what I heard, really was fun.
Syl’s still a Stark employee, of course. But now she’s a project manager for Stark Real Estate Development. In fact, her first project was the development of the high-end vacation property that encompasses this island, The Resort at Cortez.
Her husband, Jackson Steele, is an architect, and he designed the entire resort, which features a small hotel, private bungalows, plenty of recreational areas, restaurants, shops, and a gated area that surrounds five privately owned vacation bungalows on a secluded beach.
We’re in one right now—mine and Damien’s. Jackson and Syl own the one next door, and Dallas Sykes—who was one of the resort’s primary investors—owns the third. The other two are unoccupied, and Damien uses them as corporate perks for key clients and colleagues.