“You’re freaking out; calm down, there must be a way around all of this.” Phillip tried to console his friend but realized that Erik had few options … and really only one that made sense, and that was to fix this mess.
“Ugh, yeah I’m freaking out! I think you would, too—my f**king career is on the line because of this shit. What my family thinks of me is now in jeopardy and believe it or not that bothers me, a lot. I want them to be proud of me, not think I’m a shit! And damn Piper, who gives a guy three months’ notice that he is going to be a dad! Pissfuckshit, she f**ked me over! I’ve got no options here!”
“Wow, this is insane,” Phillip muttered, shaking his head, realizing his buddy was totally screwed.
Silence filled the room as Erik nursed his beer. Finally Phillip said, “There is only really one thing you can do.”
Erik swallowed another gulp of beer and said, “I know, I should probably start packing.”
“No, you should marry her.” And that was not the response Erik was expecting from Phillip.
“Yeah, right,” he said, laughing. Phillip was kidding, right?
“No, really. Back home when you got a girl pregnant, you married her. No matter what. You need to give this a chance, so at least you can tell the child you tried. This will show Elli that you are trying, and then hope for the best. It will also get your family off your back. It will show everyone that yeah, you guys made a mistake but you’re trying to give the baby the best life you can.”
Erik looked at Phillip, dumbfounded, as he said, “Being married won’t make people think we are trying; it will make everyone think we are dumb and stupid. We don’t love each other.”
“Sure you don’t, but no one else knows that. You guys can play this off. She would help you as long as you promise to help her after you leave, ya know, financially and shit like that. This is not an eternity thing, idiot; you’re doing this to keep your f**king job and to not have your family up your ass about fathering a kid.”
“She wouldn’t help me, even if that idea was sound. She hates me. I was an ass**le to her and said mean shit,” Erik said dismissively.
Piper probably wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire, not that he could blame her.
“Piper is a good girl. She cares about people. If you explain your situation, promise to be there for the kid, take him to hockey practice, and pay his doctor bills, ya know? I bet she would help you,” Phillip reiterated.
“Who says I want to be there for the kid?” Erik asked. “I told you I don’t want a kid.”
Phillip pinned him with a look. “I know you had a shitty childhood because of your shitty father but you are not that guy, especially if you don’t want to be. You are Cooper’s son, too, and Cooper’s son wouldn’t let his child go through life without knowing him. My best friend wouldn’t do that, either. Jeez, Erik, all kidding aside, you are better than that. Call Piper, talk to her.”
Erik laid his beer on the counter and buried his face in his hands. He moved his fingers through his hair, pulling slightly, hoping to wake himself up from this terrible dream. Phillip made this all sound so easy to fix, but it couldn’t be. Piper wouldn’t want to help him; she wouldn’t want to marry him and he definitely didn’t want to be married. This wouldn’t work, but then again what if it did? What if he could stay in Nashville, continue to play for the Assassins, and be close to his family and his unborn child?
Phillip was right: He couldn’t run out on this kid. He might have been a dick to Piper but he didn’t want to be that way to his kid. His stepfather would be so disappointed and Erik would hate to do that to him. Cooper was his saving grace and Erik owed him everything. He didn’t want to be anything like his real father, Jasha. Would being of Jasha’s blood overcome what Cooper had worked so hard to instill in Erik?
What about Piper? What was he supposed to do about her—she scared him because she was the one and only girl he’d been with that he still felt something for. She had a way of making him open up and he hated that, because the people he cared about most always left. The only people who had ever stayed with him and supported him were his family: Jakob, Alla, and Cooper. What if he allowed himself to fall for her, to go for the white picket fence—God, what was he thinking—it didn’t matter. It would never happen. This was a marriage of convenience and it would be over in three months’ time. Besides, he was no prize; he was a mess and he wasn’t sure Piper even wanted him, even if it was only temporary. He needed to convince Piper that this was a good idea.
Looking up, he found Phillip watching him. Taking in a deep breath, he said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
“You’re going to call her? I think you should do it in person,” Phillip told Erik, who was picking up his phone off the couch.
“No, I gotta call Koey first, have him call the lawyers to draw up the papers and get everything ready. This will have to happen fast. Especially so neither of us has time to change our minds.”
Phillip looked over at him questioningly. “She hasn’t said yes, though.”
Erik nodded. “No, but she will.”
He’d make sure of it.
Erik had called four times.
Piper sat at her drawing desk with her pencils now neatly organized. Not because she was a neat freak but because Erik calling had put her on edge. She had rearranged her desk, checked and rechecked her email, and done just about anything else to keep from answering his phone calls. What the hell did he want? It had been two days since she had seen him. Had he changed his mind? Did he want to be in their child’s life? Surely not. He was probably calling to yell at her some more.