Softening, he takes a step to me and reaches out. “Whatever it is, I’ll love you regardless.”

“Can we just leave it then? Never talk about it again? Please?” Tears spring to my eyes but the words won’t come. I’m terrified of losing him. He’s everything. “I… it was… just… please.”

He nods, still saddened but still understanding. “Okay.”

He won’t push me, not yet, but there will come a time that he’ll demand to know and I’ll have to tell him. I’m being selfish keeping it from him now but I simply do not have the courage to be that kind of honest.

He really is everything to me, more so than Captain Calder ever was and ever will be.

But unfortunately, even everything can shift to nothing in the blink of an eye and nothing… well, nothing can become everything.

I knew the truth the moment I woke up and vomited into the toilet basin I cleaned the night before. It still reeked of bleach to the point I’m surprised my eyes didn’t blister over.

I flushed and brushed my teeth. I didn’t need a test to confirm it but I took one anyway less than an hour later, while my knees bounced with anxiety.

“It’s typical isn’t it?” I say to Niall as he looks at the test on the edge of the basin. “That the moment things start to turn normal again, everything crashes down.”

He stares at the stick much like I did my vomit this morning. He looks as forlorn and as helpless as I felt that first week on that fucking ship. The Sea Whore, just like me.

“It can’t be mine, we didn’t until last week,” he murmurs, looking at me now. “It’s not mine is it?”

Ah, that fateful night. The day I got my STI results back but my pregnancy screen came back inconclusive. I thought for sure that meant I wasn’t. I felt elated and like everything could be okay again.

Niall and I finally made love, soft and sweet. He took his time, kissing me, caressing me, touching me in ways that used to light me up but now only make me remember the rough hands I truly crave in my dreams and fear in my waking moments. I needed it from him, I felt better afterwards, but now I feel so fucking devastated for both of us.

“Probably not,” I reply quietly, waiting for him to lose his temper, something he doesn’t ever do.

Still, even in this moment, he doesn’t falter. He just tosses the stick into the trash and lifts me from the toilet. His tenderness breaks the seal and I sob as he holds me and sob harder when he curls his body around mine in bed.

“We’ll figure it out,” he promises and I can’t help but wonder why is he still here? “I love you, Rain. We’ll figure this out. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s his, Niall… isn’t it? Fate just couldn’t have been kinder.” I hug my pillow as he hugs me. “This is karma, for everything I’ve done.”

“You didn’t do anything. You tried to con a few people, so fucking what? You’re not a bad person, Rain.”

“How can you still defend me as I taint our lives with the child of another man?”

He shakes his head and then buries his face in my hair. “You didn’t ask for this any more than I did.”

But I did. I didn’t practise safe sex with a fucking pirate. I didn’t say no. I didn’t walk away. I didn’t tell the truth.

“I’m not going to abandon you either.”

And this is why I love him, honourable, loving Niall. The man of so many women’s dreams. Once the man of mine. Now a man of my nightmares plagues my sleep.

His green eyes, his smug grin, the confidence in which he stands, demanding respect.

Will I ever be rid of him?

“Maybe we can move away to a different country?” I suggest and his silence has me wondering if he’s considering it. Would he do that for me?

Niall kisses my neck and moves away. “We should eat.”

“You don’t want to discuss this more?”

He shrugs and sighs heavily. “What’s there to discuss? It is what it is.” We pause and stare at each other, the man who saved me twice. Once from a life of villainy and once from a life of piracy. I don’t deserve him. “You’re not getting an abortion.”

I search his eyes. Is he against abortion? I didn’t know that about him. He’s never opened the conversation before. Kids aren’t something we’ve spoken about in great detail yet.

“It could be an option?” I suggest, testing the waters.

His soft gaze rolls over my face. “You’d never go through with it so what’s the point of entertaining it? Besides, it could still be mine.”

I really, really hope it is.

“I love you, Niall,” I say, searching his troubled eyes for strength. “I really do.”