“I can’t believe you’re a mother,” Stella White said to her sister, Lindsey McNamara. Her sister had given birth to her daughter, Ava, a few days ago and was home resting in the new house they’d lived in for a few months.

“Neither can I,” Lindsey said. “Less than a year ago I didn’t even know who Mick was and now I’m married with a baby.” 

Her sister looked down at the baby in her arms drinking a bottle. The dark hair was more Mick than Lindsey’s blonde. 

“It all started with Carolyn too,” she said. Carolyn Fierce was a very close friend of their mother, Maggie. They all knew the story of how Carolyn set up her children with their spouses and their mother had a hand in it with their stepsister, Adriana, who was not only married to Wyatt Fierce but pregnant with their first child too.

At Wyatt’s wedding, Dr. Mick McNamara had caught Lindsey’s eye, one of Wyatt’s best friends from college.

“I wasn’t on their radar for Mick,” Lindsey said. 

“You keep telling yourself that,” Stella said, grinning.

“He didn’t talk to me at the wedding. I noticed him though,” Lindsey said.

“And he noticed you,” she said.

“True. But it wasn’t until he called from work and said his name.”

“You only knew his name because Carolyn came over and caught you looking at Mick and said who he was.”

“You win,” Lindsey said. “Because once Carolyn and Mom heard me say his name again they got their heads together.”

“They did,” Stella said. “Then came this darling little girl. How long are you taking off of work?” Lindsey worked in a retirement community as a case manager. 

“Three months,” she said. “Then Mom will be taking over for daycare on the days Mick is working. I feel bad she retired and then is going to do this, but it’s better with Ava being so little. When she is older we’ll look at other options.”

“It’s what Mom wants,” Stella said. “She’s been waiting for one of us to have a baby.” 

“She offered to watch Wyatt and Adriana’s son too, but they have daycare lined up,” Lindsey said. “Carolyn said she’d watch their son, but with Noah and Drake both having twins a few weeks ago, there is no way they were letting Carolyn watch five kids.”

“What is everyone doing with their kids?” she asked. “Do you know?”

In the past Stella could have cared less about babies and marriages. She was out for fun and trying to find a guy for herself. She was realizing now that all that fun was leading to misery and it was time to slow down and figure her life out.

“Kara and Paige are both taking off three months too, but I didn’t get too many details. I’m sure they are all going to daycare at least part time. Kara has the most flexible job of them to take time off.”

Kara Fierce worked for Fierce Engineering as a Finance Director, Drake an engineer. Noah was a high school principal and Paige a dental hygienist. 

“I’m sure they will figure it out with Carolyn leading the charge and helping out as needed. But Mom will have Ava in a few months and I’m sure Adriana’s son at times too.”

“Do they have a name picked out yet?” she asked.

“Not that I’ve heard. They are still arguing. They’ve got about six weeks though. Do you want to hold her?”

“Can I?” she asked, reaching for Ava. “Where is Mick?”

“He’s at the grocery store picking up things for the week. He’s taking two weeks off to be with me too, but he knew you were here for the weekend and wanted to give us time to visit.”

She’d driven in from Wilmington last night, the two-hour drive not that bad. She’d stay until Sunday…maybe longer. It could be time to broach that now with her sister and feel her out.

“I’m thinking of moving back,” she said.

“Really?” Lindsey asked, her eyes lighting up. “That’s great.”

“Do you think? I want to get to know my niece.”

“I do think it’s wonderful. I know we both wanted to leave the area. Too many bad memories for me, but it was time to come home.”

“I didn’t want to get away like you did,” she said. “I didn’t care about Dad as much. Or I didn’t let it bother me.”

Their father cheated on their mother. He remarried the woman he’d had an affair with and they’d had two sons. Brent White decided sons were what he really wanted and doted on them and only did the obligatory time with his two daughters.

Stella never let too much bother her in life, or so she let on. But Lindsey struggled more.

“You wanted to go out and have fun and not get lectured by Mom,” Lindsey said. “Be honest.”

“Maybe,” she said. “But I’ve had enough fun to last me a while.”

She was running her fingertip across Ava’s cheek as she drank the rest of her bottle. When it was empty, Lindsey took her daughter back and put her on her shoulder to pat her back. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“It’s me you’re talking to. I know you.”

“You’re talking to me like it’s your job,” she said, squinting one eye at her sister.

“Maybe you need that. But I feel like something is going on.”

Stella wasn’t ready to say it completely. Maybe a little. “I was seeing someone. We worked together. It didn’t end well.”

“So things are dicey at work?” Lindsey asked.

“Not anymore,” she said. “I left a few weeks ago.”

“You’re not working?” Lindsey asked, shocked.

“I am. You know I’m a notary and a signing agent. I’m working independently and making my own hours. It’s just I never know when I’ll get work or how busy I’ll be.” 

She was hustling and taking every job she could. What she thought would be fun turned into a lot of driving and paperwork. She never blocked her schedule off for work and text messages would come in giving her little to no notice to accept a job. She grabbed every one she could if she could fit it in.

The work itself was easy enough. She’d done enough of it in her job at the bank she’d worked at for years. She’d moved around helping in the mortgage department, the legal department. Anywhere they needed her, she moved or she trained. She was flexible and always willing to meet new people.

 Now, thinking back, she should have stayed more focused, but it didn’t matter. She had a lot of experience and figured she could find a job somewhere. She hadn’t even tried because she’d been deciding where she wanted to live.

“But that isn’t stable. You’ve probably got no benefits or insurance.”

“And there you go sounding like Mom.”

“Sorry,” Lindsey said. “I can’t help it.”

“I know. And that is why no one knows. Don’t say anything.”

“I won’t. But maybe you should move back here. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a job.”

“I shouldn’t. I can and will continue to do what I am. But I don’t want to live with Mom either, so I’d have to find a place, and that might be hard without having a job.”

“Well,” Lindsey said. “I might have a solution there if you want a roommate.”

She hadn’t had one in years. “Depends on who it is.”

“You know Julia got a teaching job here. When Julia said she was thinking of moving closer to spend time with Ava too, Mick decided not to sell his townhouse and instead let Julia pay the mortgage. She wants a roommate to help with the bills and is looking, but I’m sure she’d be fine with you. You’re family.”

She’d met Mick’s younger sister a few times and liked her a lot. She could see them living together. That could work out. “I’d have no problem with it, but you should ask Julia.”

“I’ll call her if you are serious about this,” Lindsey said. “Take some time to think it over.”

“There is nothing to think of,” she said. “If Julia is willing, then I’ll do it.”

Maybe it was the push she needed. “Then give me a minute to call her if you want to take Ava for me. Are you sure?”

“You know me. I make a decision and I’m set. I don’t need time to think things through.”

Which was probably how she got in this mess but wouldn’t mention that. She was downplaying it for now. Her mother would be on her case enough when she found out. 

Maggie Lopez would be thrilled her baby was moving home, but then less than thrilled it was done without a steady secure job. She’d find one, she was positive and until then she had enough money and could make more.

Things always had a way of working out in life. That was how she’d lived for most of her adult years.

“Very true. I just don’t want to get Julia set up for you to come and then have you decide on something else tomorrow.”

Stella grinned and stood up to walk around the room while she rocked Ava. “Not happening.”

“Then I’ll call now.”

She watched as Lindsey talked to Julia, explained briefly that Stella wanted to return and was looking for a place to stay, then heard Julia’s excited voice. 

When Lindsey hung up the phone, Stella asked, “So it’s a yes?”

“She’s thrilled. She was struggling over having a stranger as a roommate. I guess it was fate. You live that way, right?”

“I do. But what is better than fate is the Fierce interference. Do you think Carolyn will put me on her radar now?”

“Do you really want that?” Lindsey asked. “You just said you didn’t have a good breakup and you left your job.”

She sighed. “You’re right. It’s just they are so good at what they do, so I figured if they put some work into me, I wouldn’t have to.”

“That’s always been your problem,” Lindsey said. “You don’t want to put the work or effort into the important things.”

There was no use arguing because her sister was one hundred percent right.

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