Taking It All (Surrender Trilogy #3)


by Maya Banks

ONE

CHESSY Morgan pulled into a parking spot at the Lux Café in Houston, her eyes widening in surprise when she saw both Kylie’s and Joss’s cars parked short distances away.

Kylie being there didn’t shock her. Kylie was always punctual. But Joss? Joss was perpetually running late. Chessy and Kylie almost always had to wait on Joss, who’d dash laughingly inside the restaurant where Chessy and Kylie waited, an unnecessary apology always on her lips for her tardiness.

And, well, who could ever get mad at Joss? Especially for something so insignificant as being habitually late. Joss was just someone who lit up a room with her warmth and sweetness. She’d come a long way from grieving widow after losing Carson to where she was now. Happy. In love. Married to Dash, her former husband’s best friend. Chessy was genuinely thrilled for both her friends. Joss and Kylie had both found love. For Kylie, this was huge. She’d made monumental steps in her life, being able to finally overcome the demons from her past that had ruled her present for so very long.

Kylie had more than met her match in Jensen and they made a wonderful couple. Chessy didn’t doubt for a single moment that Jensen was absolutely perfect for Kylie.

If only Chessy could say her own love life—her marriage—was as perfect as her friends’.

She let out a sigh and climbed out of her Mercedes SUV, glancing ruefully back at the seven-passenger vehicle. When Tate had surprised her with it, she’d wondered why on earth he’d gotten her something so big, but he’d looked at her with that charming, devilish twinkle in his eyes and told her that it was the perfect car to hold their children. The children they used to talk about having—it had been a frequent topic early in their marriage. They’d spoken of their dreams of a large family and a house full of children, love and laughter. But more recently, Tate had been unwilling to broach the subject of having children.

He was still building his business after going out on his own and having his partner bail on him. He wanted to wait until things were more stable and he was established before having children. But Chessy wondered quietly if that day would ever come. She hadn’t had the courage to broach the subject in the last year.

She felt as though Tate was slipping further and further away from her, his career taking over, and she was second or even third or God only knew how far down his priority list she currently was.

“For God’s sake, Chessy. Quit being a drama queen. It’s not that bad. Tate loves you. You love him. You just have to be patient and see this through. Everything will work out,” she scolded herself aloud.

She braced herself to greet her friends as she entered the restaurant and made certain her expression contained none of her dour thoughts. The last thing she wanted was to worry them more than they already were. They’d known for months that things weren’t as they should be. She saw the looks passed between them when they thought she wasn’t aware. But she missed nothing. Not the worried looks. Not the doubt in her friends’ eyes. She knew they were deeply concerned about hers and Tate’s relationship. But both women were happy. Deliriously so. And Chessy didn’t want to drag them down into the mire of her own unhappiness.

She was the “bubbly” one of the group. The one everyone always counted on for good cheer, the happy spark. Except she was absolutely horrible at concealing her emotions. Good or bad, she was utterly transparent. When she was happy, she was really happy. Exuberant. Bubbly. Sparkling even, as her friends often told her. The problem with that was when she wasn’t happy, she was an open book for her friends to see right through any sort of façade, and no amount of acting ever fooled them for a second.

Still, she gathered herself and pasted on her brightest smile, which made her cheeks ache with effort as she walked up to the booth Kylie and Joss already occupied.

“Thank God you’re here!” Kylie exclaimed, immediately grabbing Chessy’s hand and dragging her into the curved booth beside her. “Joss is practically glowing and she has that ‘I’ve got a secret’ look in her eyes, but she refused to spill until you arrived.”

Chessy plopped down, having been yanked into the seat by Kylie, and grinned at Kylie’s outrage that Joss would hold out on her until Chessy arrived. Some of her earlier ache dissolved, because how could it not when she was with her two best friends in the world? Just being in their presence lifted some of the sadness that seemed to have become a permanent fixture in her life lately.

“Ah okay, I see what Kylie’s talking about now, Joss,” Chessy said, studying her friend. “You’ve got a definite ‘cat who got the cream’ smug look on your face and you are positively glowing. So spill. The sisterhood is together and accounted for. Don’t make me hurt you, because I can guarantee Kylie will be with me on this. Poor girl has already had to wait for me to get here. We’ll sit on you if we have to, so spill already!”

Kylie nodded fervently and all eyes were glued to Joss’s radiant smile that spread over her face, lighting up every delicate feature. It was a sucker punch to Chessy’s stomach. Joss did look radiant. And so happy that it almost hurt Chessy to look at her. But there was no freaking way she’d ruin her friend’s moment in the sun by allowing even a hint of her own unhappiness to cloud the gathering of best friends.

“Dash and I are pregnant,” Joss said with unconcealed joy. “I’m pregnant,” she amended, her face softening, eyes glowing with love and happiness. “We’re having a baby!”

Kylie squealed and immediately threw her arms around Joss, hugging her tightly, ignoring startled looks from other restaurant patrons seated in close proximity to the women’s booth.

Chessy immediately rose, though her stomach had plummeted, and rushed around since Kylie separated Joss and Chessy. She slid in on the other side of Joss and tugged her away from Kylie’s fierce grasp.

“I’m so happy for you,” Chessy whispered so she didn’t have to choke the words out around the lump forming in her throat.

Joss hugged her back and then pulled away, her gaze piercing as she studied Chessy.

“Thank you,” Joss said quietly. “Now perhaps you can tell us what’s going on with you and why you look so unhappy. Is it Tate? Have things gotten worse?”

Chessy’s heart sank. She should have known of all people she couldn’t fool her best friends. And now that Joss was basking in the glow of her news—glorious news—and the realization of a long-time wish come true, the very last thing Chessy wanted to do was dampen the celebration.

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