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Smolder
Author: Emma Renshaw


Prologue

 

 

Makenna

 

 

Three minutes.

One hundred eighty seconds.

Each of those one hundred eighty seconds took a lifetime to tick by. One by one they went, and with each passing second my stomach tightened more. Was this nausea caused by the nerves or was it the…other thing? The one I hadn’t even wanted to voice in my mind. If I didn’t say it, if I didn’t flip the test over, then it couldn’t be true. I could lock this secret away in a vault in my mind where it would never see the light of day.

If only. That wasn’t reality. It wasn’t as easy as keeping a secret or refusing to speak it.

Declan held my hands in his. His gaze bounced between me and the clock on the dash. It wasn’t a digital readout, but an actual analog clock. I spent most of my time in this old, beat up truck with Declan in the driver’s seat. The dusky blue vinyl was cracked and splitting on the steering wheel and poked my hands when I drove his truck. The seats weren’t faring much better, but it ran—and got us from point a to point b, all over Hawk Valley. And this time, just outside the county line to Oak Ridge. I hoped we’d driven far enough—this wasn’t something I could buy in Hawk Valley.

“It’s time,” Declan whispered, brushing a lock of my long blond hair over my shoulder. He put his hand on top of mine, stopping me for a moment. “Look at me, Makenna.”

Tears welled in my eyes and my breath caught in my throat as my gaze met his blue eyes. There was so much love in them that it broke the sob I’d been trying my damndest to hold back. I didn’t understand why I saw excitement in his eyes. Excitement and even joy. I was downright terrified.

“No matter what, we’re in this together. I’m going to marry you one day, Makenna Clarke.”

Declan had been saying those words to me since our first date, at the buffet pizzeria. Neither of us could drive. My mom drove us there and sat a few booths down from us, the only way my dad would let his fifteen-year-old daughter go out on a date. Declan had been flirting with me for most of the year, passing notes in class. We talked on the phone every night, but every time he asked me on a date, I said no. And when I finally said yes, my dad said no.

That first date was a long time coming. As I laughed over his thoroughly disgusted face when I made him try a bite of my spinach alfredo pizza, he stared at me from across the booth. Shouts mingled with the mechanical beeping spilling from the arcade just behind us. He stared at me so hard, he stole the air from my lungs. Declan always had an easy smile and a quick joke, but in that moment, he was serious. My laughter died and I swallowed, somehow knowing he was about to change my life.

His words hit me like a lightning strike.

“I’m going to marry you one day, Makenna Clarke.”

It was the first time he’d said it, but it wasn’t the last. I believed him with everything I had inside me. I knew those words were true just as I knew the sky was blue. In my world, marrying Declan Young one day was a simple fact. High school romances came and went, but my love for Declan only grew. We’d planned our futures together. He would be a baseball superstar, and I’d be cheering him on and helping my mom run Sweet Stems in the off season. We’d be married and have kids.

But that was all in the future.

While we made those plans in the bed of this truck, under a blanket of stars, it all seemed so far off. So far away.

Now it was all happening too fast. Declan was leaving tomorrow for the MLB draft. He was expected to go in the first round. Once that happened, it would be a whirlwind of camps, physicals, traveling to wherever he would sign. Minor league ball, traveling all over the country. Everything was already changing. High school was over.

Now there may be one more unexpected surprise to throw in the pile. Three minutes was going to change my life one way or another.

While still staring into his blue irises, I flipped the pregnancy test over, sucked in a deep breath, and looked down.

Two lines.

I was pregnant at eighteen.

I dropped the test to the floorboards and covered my mouth with my hand. Declan had tears in his eyes too. But also, a gigantic grin was stretched across his face. He scooped me from my seat and set me on his lap. The steering wheel cut into my hip. I wound my arms around his neck, hiding my face.

“We’re having a baby,” he whispered with a little bit of awe.

“This can’t be happening now.”

“We said we wanted kids one day.”

“Yeah, Dec, one day. Not when we’re eighteen!”

He leaned me away from him until my back was against the window and he could frame my face with his hands. “It’s earlier than planned, but it’s still part of the plan, babe. Not everything we want will come when or how we want it, but you and I will be there together. We’re going to be okay.”

He laid a hand on my stomach. “This baby in here is a piece of you and a piece of me. I’ve loved you for so long, and I’ll keep loving you every day of my life. I love this baby already. I’m excited, Mak. We’re having a baby. We’re going to be okay.”

“How? We’re eighteen. I’m going to be in college. You’re going to be playing baseball. How does a baby fit into that?”

Dec stroked my cheek and planted a kiss on my lips. “I don’t have all the answers right now, but we’ll figure it out together. One step at a time. I know my mom will help. Yours will too. And your dad, after he tries to pummel me into the ground.”

My lips kicked up on one side in a shaky smile.

“I’m getting drafted tomorrow in the first round. I am. None of this ‘expected to go in the first round’ bullshit. I’m going in the first round, I feel it in my fucking bones, babe. It’s happening. My agent says I’ll get a nice signing bonus. We’ll use it to take care of the baby until I make it to the majors. You can go to school and we’ll hire a nanny. We’ll figure it out.”

I bit my lip thinking over his words. The fear started to flee. I was still anxious, but the excitement in Declan’s eyes was contagious. I laid my hand over his, on my stomach. “We’re having a baby.”

“Marry me, Makenna. I swear to love you for the rest of my life. Let’s get married now. Fuck waiting. We’re starting our family now. Marry me.”

I didn’t even hesitate. “Yes.”

“I always knew I’d marry you one day, Makenna Clarke.”

 

 

I’d wiped away the tears and fixed my makeup by the time Declan pulled up to the bonfire party celebrating our last day of high school. He’d bought me a bottle of apple juice at the gas station and poured it into a red plastic cup so it looked like I was drinking beer. We had decided to keep our secrets just between the two of us until after the draft.

“I didn’t realize how huge this bonfire was going to be,” I said, staring up at the towering wood structure, flames licking and popping out from the sides.

“I think the guys had too much fun building it,” Declan said.

I snorted and shook my head, scanning the crowd for Macy, Allison, and Zoe.

“Go have fun with your girls. Burn that piece-of-shit bear. I’ll come find you soon,” Declan said and gave me a kiss through my chuckles. Zoe, Allison, Macy, and I had decided to burn something in the bonfire. Something we were letting go of as we moved to the next phase of our lives, something that had hurt us in the past. I chose a bear from the first boy that broke my heart. He asked me to be his girlfriend before school, cementing our relationship with a little bear he’d won at a festival. By recess, the other boys had teased him into believing girls had cooties. Jimmy Gunderson broke my little seven-year-old heart. The bear had been in my room for all these years, bouncing from the dresser to the closet, and he hadn’t fared very well. His fur was dull, and one eye dangled by a single thread.

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