Frat Boys Baby Prequel by Aiden Bates
"How did your audition go?"
Greg winced, his fingers flexing as he held the phone. Brendan's enthusiasm was one of the things he'd loved about the alpha since high school, but today it just meant he had to work twice as hard not to lie. "Are you ready for finals?" he countered.
"That bad?" Brendan huffed into the phone. "I'm sorry, babe. Was it that same jump that you twisted your ankle on last year?"
Swallowing hard, Greg looked away, his eyes catching on the paperwork on the beat up dining table that had come with the apartment. He didn't want to think about that right now. "Someone else got the lead," he said shortly. "I'm in the ensemble."
Brendan sighed, his voice softening. "I know how much you were looking forward to this."
"It's The Nutcracker. It's not like I'll never have another chance at it; they do it every year. I'll catch it some other time." Even the hint of a lie made his stomach roll over, and his throat burned with bile. "How's Molly?" The silence on the line was so full of love and caring that he had to grit his teeth against a wave of nausea. "Don't make a big deal about this," he said, his voice pleading. "I already had to listen to Mama rant for an hour."
On the other end of the line, Brendan cleared his throat. "Okay." He sounded close enough for Greg to fix his hair after he ran his hand through it, instead of three hundred miles away. "Okay. Molly's good. Great, really. She's loving California."
"How are you doing?" Greg leaned against the counter carefully, drinking the disgusting vegetable smoothie the dance nutritionist had recommended for him.
"Me? I'm fine."
Greg didn't say a word. Ten years was a long time to get used to someone's bullshit, which was why it was almost impossible for them to lie to each other.
"I promise, I'm coping. She's a good kid, and she's having the time of her life doing the freshman thing." There was a slight pause before he added, "I told her I was thinking about switching to UCLA."
"What did she have to say about that?" Greg forced himself not to calculate how many more miles that would be between them, and how much easier it might be.
"She threatened to shave my head," he admitted sheepishly.
Greg laughed, imagining his lover without his full head of rich brown hair. It wasn't that Brendan was vain, but he did have more hair products than most of the women Greg knew, and he was in theater. "That's my girl."
Laughing right along with him, Brendan blew a raspberry into the phone. "I just want to make sure she has everything she needs."
Affection spread through Greg's chest, warming him despite the terrible day he'd had. "Not many people would have dropped everything for their little sister like you did after your parents died, but that's taking it a bit too far."
"Dad would have done it," Brendan said, the pout audible.
"Your Papa would have helped Molly shave him bald, too."
They were both quiet for a moment. "Yeah," Brendan said finally. "He would have gotten you to help, too. Papa would have been proud that she's going to his alma mater."
"You know she's going to miss you, right? Even if she doesn't say it?"
"I know," he said, and Greg couldn't help but smile at the warmth of his voice. "I'll miss her, too. Not as much as I'd miss you if I moved to California, though."
Greg scoffed, rolling his eyes at the dingy apartment ceiling. "You haven't seen me since this summer." In the background, a door slammed, and someone started shouting. "Is that Cody?"
"Yeah. His appeal was denied."
"That's stupid. West Point would be lucky to have him. Just because he's an omega is no reason to keep him out. They've allowed women since the 70s." Greg frowned, picking at his dried out cuticles. He tried not to think about the prejudices omegas faced. Nausea swelled in the back of his throat again and his gut twisted with a loud gurgle.
"Was that your stomach?"
"I should go eat. I'll call you later?" Greg grit his teeth, leaning over the sink as his mouth started to water. He put every bit of energy he had left into keeping his voice even. "Ensemble rehearsals don't start until tomorrow."
"I have study group," Brendan said reluctantly. "Advanced Chem is kicking my ass."
"I told you to ease back into it. It's been three years since you took a full course load," Greg teased, "but who ever listens to little Gregori Petrov? Everything I say goes under a dog's tail."
It was one of Brendan's favorite Russian idioms, and he laughed. "I know, I know. You're always right, babe. I should listen to you about everything. I'll call you tomorrow once I get out of class, okay? Do you have anything going?"
"Rehearsal will take most of the morning. I'll call you when I get out, promise." The lie sat uneasily on Greg's tongue. "I've got to go," he said, prying his fingers off the phone. "Good luck with your study group. I love you."
"I love you, too. Break a leg tomorrow."
Greg forced himself to hang up, his stomach cramping. In high school, he'd spent hours on the phone waiting for Brendan to hang up. They'd sit in silence, just listening to each other breathe, until one of their parents made them go to bed. He didn't have time for that today, bending over to spit sour green bile into the sink.
He hit the tap and watched the water swirl until he felt like he could straighten back up. Following some age-old instinct, his hand came to rest on the hard bump that was barely starting to distend the hard muscles of his abdomen. He jerked his hand away when he realized he was stroking the tight skin soothingly, but the urge was too great. He took a deep, calming breath and settled his trembling hand on the curve.
The papers seemed to grow bigger as he walked over to the table. The cheerful pink form from the campus clinic was half hidden under the summons from the scholarship committee, but he could still see the scrawled diagnosis every time he closed his eyes.
"Pregnancy test—Positive. Training regimen should be reduced immediately and limited to barre work and stretching in the third trimester."
Two lines on a pink sheet of paper, and his plans for the future disappeared.
"I'm going to assume that it didn't go well?"
Greg jumped, knocking the cup of veggie slime with his elbow. It left a line of green goo as it rolled across the counter.
"Sorry," Evan said, dropping his bag next to the kitchen door. His weight-lifting gloves stuck out of one corner, and the rank smell of sweat and gym cleaner made Greg's stomach twist. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"They're not making me pay back this semester," he said, trying to keep his voice cheerful as tears welled up in his eyes. "But I can't dance next semester, so I'll lose my scholarship by default."
"That's tough, man." He was trying too hard not to stare at Greg's hand on his belly, his eyes circling around like fireflies. "Don't worry about the rent too much, okay? I can cover your share for a couple months until you figure something out."
"Thanks," Greg said. His eyes burned, and he groaned as the tears dripped down his cheeks. "God, not again." Evan's eyes widened in alarm, and he waved him off. "I don't know why I'm crying. Sorry."
"I'm... uh... I'm going to go take a shower, okay?" He hovered in the doorway, wringing his hands, and Greg scrubbed at his face.
"I think I'll go out for a walk to clear my head. Do you mind if I move your bag to the laundry?" He grabbed a handful of paper towels and stared at the ceiling while he tried to get the tears under control.
"I'll get it," Evan said, disappearing with one last sympathetic, relieved smile.
He didn't want to go out, but he didn't want to stay in the apartment and deal with the awkwardness that had been growing ever since he'd started throwing up every six hours like clockwork. Evan was a good alpha with a very nice girlfriend at NYU, but his protective instincts were annoying at times. Grabbing his jacket, he headed out into the cold November air, his hand still hovering around the tiny bulge of his belly.
"Straighten up, Ivanov."
Greg automatically straightened his back, feeling the strain from muscles exhausted by puking all night. He smiled sympathetically at Nikolai as they passed each other, the only two Russians in this ballet group. Niko started to slump again almost immediately, the bruise from his fall already showing over the top of his practice pants.
Pointing his toes, Greg leaped high, his leg coming up enough that his stomach cramped, and he landed badly. Strong arms caught him as he tumbled toward the ground, curling around his belly automatically.
"Petrov! You're out." The director glared, and the other dancers flowed around them as the song came to an end. "Ivanov, get him settled in the dressing rooms. And don't you dare throw up on my stage. Reset, everyone."
Knees shaking with adrenaline from the near miss, Greg couldn't get them under him fast enough. Nikolai grunted, lifting him up by the rib cage as he strode off the stage.
"You okay?" he asked quietly, his thick accent making him sound angry. He'd spent his whole life in Moscow, and after three years, he was still adjusting to being around omegas.
The day Brendan's parents had been killed in a car crash, Greg had broken down sobbing in the practice hall. Niko had heard him cursing and been so relieved to find another Russian speaker that he hadn't noticed that Greg was an omega. Two weeks later, when Greg had come back from the funeral, Niko had made a single, terrible attempt at a pickup line. Greg, lost in his grief, had slapped him. They'd been friends ever since.
"I don't know," Greg said, his voice shaking. He'd never even been to Moscow since the omega ban had gone into effect the year before he was born. His accent in Russian was terrible, but he liked to practice it to give Niko a break. "I think I'm going to throw up."
"Alright." He was solid and unfazed by the threat of bodily fluids. Pushing open the door to the changing room with his shoulder, he propped Greg up over one of the sinks. "Baby good?" He dipped his head pointedly to where Greg was cupping his hands protectively over his stomach.
"Yes," he said, breathing through his clenched teeth as the smell of the cleaner burned at the back of his throat.
"I heard about the scholarship committee," Niko said a moment later, carefully sounding out the complicated words. "I am sorry."
Leaning his forehead against the cold glass of the mirror, Greg tried not to be offended by how perfect Niko's sweat sheened body looked. Greg looked more like road kill, his dark hair stringy and tangled because he'd made the mistake of showering before breakfast and then spent so much time hunched over the toilet that he didn't have the energy to comb it out again.
"This sucks," he said.
Niko leaned against the sink next to him and nodded, his blue eyes thoughtful. "You need a place, yes? An apartment? I know someone."
Rumor had it that Niko's family was involved in the Russian mafia and had used their connections to smuggle him out when he decided he would rather marry a forbidden omega boy than a good Russian girl. Greg had asked him about it once, but Niko had just smiled.
"It's not a mob boss, is it?" he asked, sighing as the nausea receded to a vague, sick feeling. He turned on the tap to splash some water on his face. "I don't need the cops banging on my door."
"Not a mob boss. No problem. I will set up meeting. Meet after rehearsal at coffee shop, yes?" Niko arched one blond brow and nodded. "Don't be late," he said seriously.
"You act like it's life or death," Greg said with a laugh. "It's not like they'll kill us if we're late."
Niko didn't laugh. "Don't. Be. Late," he said as he disappeared through the door.
This close to finals, the coffee shop was filled to overflowing with students up to their eyeballs in caffeine and study guides. The line was out the door when Greg walked across the street, but he didn't even make the corner before he had to turn back. The smell of roasting beans, a staple of his life since graduating high school, made the sour taste of bile burn at the back of his tongue. Tears welled in his eyes, and he stomped back to the covered bus stop, cursing in Russian the whole way.
"This is ridiculous," he told his belly, invisible under his warmest sweater. The two girls sitting on the other end of the bench scooted further away as he continued to glare at the ugly orange knit. It was one of Brendan's sweaters from that last, short year of college, and the Sigma Alpha Omega frat logo was cracked and faded from its original glittery purple. "I'm not crazy," he said to the girls, and they scooted to the end of the bench.
"He is having baby brain," Niko said from behind him, making all three of them jump.
"I thought you said not to be late." Greg crossed his arms and glared at the alpha. The girls were staring at him with sappy smiles now, and it was making his skin itch. "I was here."
"Roberto is not as good as you. He kept screwing up the intro," Niko said bluntly, pulling Greg to his feet with a gentle hand on his elbow. "We will be late, but don't worry. I will take the bullet for you."
"Some day," Greg said as they hurried down the street, "someone is going to take you seriously."
Nikolai grinned, his slightly uneven teeth only adding to the air of mischief.
They turned down a small street that Greg had never paid much attention to before. The buildings were getting more run down with each block they traveled. When they finally came to a stop, Greg stared at the building in shock. "You've got to be joking."
The place looked like it was about to fall over. The front steps were cracked and crumbling, and the railings tilted out at a drunken angle. All the visible windows were stained with what looked like decades of smoke, turning the blinds inside to an ugly orange color. A ragged alley cat sitting on the front step gave them both a haughty look as it climbed down, flicking what remained of its left ear at them as it passed.
"Is cheap, clean, and warm," Niko said, raising an eyebrow at him. "If you have money for deposits and rent, then we can look other places."
Flushing, Greg looked away. He wasn't stupid; he had some savings, but he'd need every penny for doctor visits and things for the baby. "Are you sure it's safe?"
Nikolai patted him on the shoulder. "I promise."
The door swung open with a shriek worthy of a horror movie, and the woman who stood there glared at them. "You're late," she said, her accent as heavy as Niko's. It should have been comical, this tiny, old woman chastising two fit, young men, but there was an air about her. His mother would have called her a witch, made the sign of the cross, and kept walking.
Taking the steps two at a time, Niko smiled at her. "My fault, Mrs. Solonik. I am late with rehearsals." Her lips never twitched from the deep set frown carved into her wrinkled skin.
Greg swallowed hard, cupping his belly through layers of sweater. "I'm so fucking screwed," he said, starting up the stairs.
"No screwing," the woman snapped. "This is how you end up in trouble. No screwing, no parties, no visitors. If you come back after dark, use back door." Without waiting for them to get to her, she turned and stomped back inside the building.
The inside was surprisingly clean, if worn. The soothing blue stairwell paint had rubbed or peeled away in swathes, revealing an old floral wallpaper underneath. The effect would have been chic if it weren't for the smoke haze that covered everything. The scent was faint, though, and Greg barely noticed it over his dismay at the tiny set of stairs that wound up the inside of the building.
"Not that way," the old woman snapped, hands on her hips as she stood in one of the numbered doorways. "Apartment is in basement. No big pregnant men going up and down stairs. Belly ruins the balance."
"I'm a dancer," he said politely. "I think I'll be okay with some stairs."
She glared at him, poking her finger at his chest. "No argue." She stalked off, a walking stick appearing out of thin air to click menacingly against the floor. "Stupid men," she muttered in loud Russian. "No common sense, getting pregnant in the fall." She stopped in front of a battered metal door, spinning on Niko. "Does your mama know you've done this, Nikolai Ivanov?"
Greg's ears burned as his temper snapped. "Niko isn't the father," he snapped in perfect, scathing Russian. "And I got pregnant in the summer, if that makes a difference, you old hag."
Raising one white eyebrow, she clicked over to him, swinging her cane purposefully. She stopped when her stooped head was inches from his collar bone, grabbing his hand. Her grip was stronger than the swollen joints and wrinkled skin would suggest, and she easily held on through his attempts to pull away, running her fingers over his palm. When he finally fell still, she hummed, tracing ticklish paths across the creases of skin.
"If you tell me that I'll meet a tall, handsome stranger, I'm leaving," Greg said, one hand on his hip.
"I like him," she said, grinning gap-toothed at him. "Pregnant in June is best. Summer is fucking hell with a big belly." The last was said in perfect English, and it startled a laugh out of him.
"I didn't really have a lot of choice in the matter," he said, prying his hand out of her grip.
"Next time," she said, nodding to herself. "Next time, you'll see. Pregnant in June. Much nicer. This is apartment. Come to office when done." She thumped her gnarled fist against the door and clicked away.
"I'm not sure what to think of that," Greg said, watching her disappear into what must have been the office.
"She liked you," Niko said, sounding surprised. "What more do you need?" He pushed open the door and descended the stairs first.
The apartment was furnished, which Greg would have appreciated, but it only served to emphasize how little room there was. Niko was looking around in satisfaction, nodding at the single bed and tiny kitchen.
"It's... small." Greg put his arms out, brushing the refrigerator with one hand and the bathroom door with the other.
Niko gave him an unimpressed look. "Bigger than the apartment I lived in as a baby."
"Before your parents joined the mafia?" Greg said, looking away.
The familiar teasing broke the ice, and Niko snorted.
"She didn't say how much the rent was," he realized, running his hand over the cheap Formica counters.
Glancing away, Nikolai shrugged. "What do you have to pay?"
Greg grimaced. "Not a whole lot."
"I remember," he said thoughtfully, "that you said your Brendan got money from his parents. Funds and settlements. Will you not ask him for help?"
"No." Greg said it firmly. "Molly barely convinced him to go back to school this year. He'll never get into medical school if he keeps dropping everything to help with other people's problems."
"Is kind of his problem. Little bit," Niko said, holding up two fingers. "I'm thinking he'll find out when you are coming to Christmas with big belly."
Greg swallowed hard. "I'll figure something out. I’m not going to keep it from him forever. I just need to prove I can take care of myself." He ran a hand through his hair. “If he thinks that I need his help, he’ll put every one of his own dreams on hold for me.
Niko tilted his head. “This is what old stories call romantic.”
“I don’t want him to give up his life for me,” Greg snapped. “I can handle this.”
He nodded agreeably. "Maybe so, maybe not. Why stress when you shouldn't have to? Having a baby is for two people. One to keep the baby, and one to keep the papa."
"Don't mangle Russian proverbs at me, Niko. I've already heard all of it from Mama." Her scathing voice had echoed down the line from Queens, and he had no doubt that the whole neighborhood knew about his pregnancy by now.
"Maybe she has a point. Maybe she doesn't see anything but her own past. She is dancer who is losing rich patron because baby is inconvenient. You are not taking diamond bracelets from married men. I do not think that your Brendan is like your father, but I also do not think that you will listen to me." Niko shrugged. "Come," he added, clapping Greg on the shoulder. "We go tell her you move in."
"I don't even know how much this is going to cost," Greg protested, but Niko was already heading back up the stairs. Throwing his hands in the air in exasperation, Greg followed.
"Please tell me there's still coffee," Brendan said as he stumbled through the front door of the frat house. His last final had been absolutely brutal, and he still had three hours of driving to do.
Luke glanced up from the couch with a shy smile. "Marcus made a pot before he left for the airport."
"Hallelujah." Brendan made a bee-line for the kitchen, shedding snow and layers of outerwear on the way. "Are we the last ones?"
"I think so." Luke followed him, leaning in the doorway with his hands shoved in his pockets. "Cody was going to try and get an earlier flight, so he went with Marcus."
Warming his hand on an oversized mug of coffee, Brendan dug his phone out of his pocket and dried it off with a paper towel. "The snow is ridiculous. I hope Molly makes it to the cabin without any trouble."
"Oh, Marcus said to tell you he checked your car over. You should be good to go, but if you can keep it in the garage over break, it'll help." Luke pursed his lips. "I think Teddy left you some blankets in the back, too."
Brendan grinned. He'd been worried about coming back to the frat after such a long absence, but the guys, just freshmen when he'd had to drop out, had welcomed him back like family. "They're great guys. I'm going to call Molly and check on her flight. Are you heading out soon?"
Luke nodded, ducking his head. "Uncle Robert's picking me up on his way to the house in the Hamptons. My stepmom is hosting a big party there tonight, and you know how she is about Dad leaving when they have plans." He shrugged. "I'll help you lock up before I leave."
"Thanks." Dialing with one hand, Brendan sipped his coffee while he waited for Molly to pick up.
"Yes, my flight is on time."
"Hello to you, too," he said, unable to keep the smile out of his voice. A mechanical voice in the background was announcing boarding for a flight to Colorado. "How's the airport?"
"I spent two hours waiting to check my bags, I'm starving, and the only place to eat that isn't a hundred dollars a plate is McDonald's."
"You know, if you'd gone to school up here, you wouldn't have to fly," he teased.
Molly scoffed, and he could picture her rolling her eyes and tossing her pink hair. He'd been on the fence when she'd first dyed it senior year, but it had grown on him. "I have a tan," she said. "In December. I love California."
"Lacy said there's three feet of snow at the cabin, so I hope you packed a coat."
"Yes, Mom. When is Greg getting in?"
Brendan cursed. "I forgot to ask him what his flight number was. He's got performances up to Friday, so he wasn't sure when he'd get in."
"Why don't you call him and find out? He likes it when you fuss over him," she muttered, just loud enough for him to hear.
"Fine, then. I will," he said, pretending to be offended. She laughed until he added, "I'm going to tell Greg not to make that cake thing you love so much."
"Don't you dare," she said. "I'll tell him about all that ring shopping you did over the summer, you big chicken."
"Hanging up on you," he said, pressing the mute button.
"You're such a liar," she said cheerfully. "My plane just got here, so I'm going to go line up for boarding. Tell Greg that he's my favorite brother."
"You're dead to me," he said, laughing as she hung up without replying. "Brat."
He was still laughing as he dialed Greg's cell phone. If he was lucky, he'd catch him on his way out of afternoon rehearsals. The phone rang and rang, not even picking up for voicemail, and Brendan frowned.
"Everything okay?" Luke asked, filling the coffee machine as Brendan finished the last of his cup.
"Yeah. The phone service has been iffy because of the snow. I'll just call the apartment." He had to dig through his contacts for the little-used number, accepting a fresh cup of coffee as it started to ring. "Thanks, man."
Luke nodded, using a rag to wipe down the counters. It was a nervous habit, like his stress baking, and it made Brendan wonder if he was more worried about his stepmom than he'd let on.
Brendan blinked, jerking his attention back to the phone. "Hi, Evan. Is Greg there? I can't get through to his cell phone."
Evan cleared his throat. "He's not here," he said, his voice hard.
Taken aback, Brendan leaned his elbows against the counter and tried to keep his tone polite. "Can I leave a message for him? I wanted to check when his flight is getting in." He'd always found Evan to be a good alpha, but they had butted heads from time to time, usually during football season.
There was a long pause, and Brendan had to double check that the call was still connected. Evan sighed. "Greg moved out last weekend."
"What?" Brendan jerked upright and stared at the phone in his hand. "That's not funny, man. I just talked to him this morning."
"Look," Evan said, sounding slightly more sympathetic, "you need to talk to Greg. It's not my place to say anything."
"Why would he move out? What happened?" Brendan paced across the kitchen, running a hand through his hair. "He didn't say anything to me." Luke watched him with concern, but he waved the other alpha off. "We talk on the phone every day, and he never said he was moving. Not even once."
"Sorry," Evan said. "You'll have to ask him."
"I can't even get through to his phone. I thought he had it off after rehearsal, but..." He glanced at Luke before slipping into the living room. "Is he okay? He's not in trouble, is he?"
The silence stretched long enough for ice to creep up his spine. "I can't say anything else. I'm really sorry. I'm headed to campus. If I see Greg, I'll tell him to call you." The call ended, and Brendan cursed the most vicious Russian curse that Greg's mother had ever taught him.
"Are you okay?" Luke hovered in the doorway to the kitchen, a container of cookies gripped in his hands.
"Greg moved out of his apartment. I think he's sick." Brendan laughed slightly hysterically as his phone tumbled out of his shaking hands. "He'd tell me if he was sick, right?"
Looking a little panicked, Luke nodded. "Definitely. I'm sure he's fine. Maybe he found a cheaper place?"
"He has a scholarship, and the housing is subsidized by the school," Brendan said, scooping up his phone and taking a deep breath to steady himself. "I'm going to try his phone again."
It rang and rang.
"Fuck!" He threw his phone at the couch. "Why wouldn't he tell me?"
"Maybe he didn't think it was important?" Luke said quietly. "If it was just something temporary, and he didn't want you to worry, maybe he thought he could fix it himself." He didn't flinch when Brendan glared at him. "I know you said his mom was big on self-reliance."
"Sure, if he has a cold or cracks his toenail off again." Brendan grabbed his phone off the couch, checking it for damage. "I talked to him three times this weekend, and he never even mentioned apartments at all."
Luke chewed on his fingernail thoughtfully. "Maybe he was embarrassed to tell you."
Brendan flopped down on the couch. "I won't know until I can get ahold of him." He redialed Greg's number and listened to it ring, his fingers tapping the soggy denim over his knee.
Settling on the overstuffed arm chair, Luke watched him. "When I really need to get my dad on the phone," he said when Brendan raised an eyebrow at him, "I don't call his phone; I call Uncle Robert, his best friend."
"I'm Greg's best friend," Brendan snapped, then took a deep breath and thumbed off the phone. "Sorry. Fuck. Sorry, I'm being a jerk."
Giving him a sympathetic smile, the other alpha got to his feet. "I understand, believe me. After Mom died, I freaked out if I didn't know exactly where everyone was. For two years, I called Uncle Robert every night. It must have driven him crazy, but he always took the time to describe the view from his hotel room." He paused at the front window. "Speaking of, I think that's him. I'm going to lock up the back, okay?"
"Thanks." Brendan watched him disappear into the back, then scrolled through his phone.
"Nikolai? It's Brendan, Greg's boyfriend." If he hadn't been sure that Greg was in trouble before, the way Nikolai pulled the phone away to curse in muffled Russian would have cemented it. "What the hell is going on?"
"Sorry, what? English is not good for me." A door shut and there was a burst of wind across the line. "Connection not so good either. Maybe call will die."
"Bullshit," he growled through his teeth. His imagination was full of images of Greg in the hospital, sick, hurt. Adrenaline prickled across his skin. "Where is Greg? Evan said he moved out."
Nikolai gave a particularly filthy curse. "You didn't know about the apartment? I find him an apartment just for him. Very safe neighborhood. Landlady is ex-wife of KGB assassin."
Brendan had never gotten used to Nikolai's odd sense of humor, but the absurdity of that statement made him snicker. Once he'd started to laugh, he couldn't stop. "Please, just tell me he's okay. I'm going crazy."
"They are fine," Nikolai said, his deep voice barely a rumble.
Shaking his head, Brendan sighed. "He is fine, Nikolai. In English, it's he is fine."
There was a startled silence, and then Nikolai said very clearly and emphatically, "Fuck," and hung up.
Staring at his phone, Brendan hit redial. It went to voicemail, so he hung up and tried again.
"I am dead," Nikolai said when the call connected. "You have killed me with your too-in-love, sad, puppy eyes." He was audibly pouting. "I will not be talking to you anymore."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but you can't see my eyes." Running a hand through his hair, Brendan stared at the ceiling. "I need to talk to Greg. Can you ask him to call me?"
"I will try if he does not kill me first," the Russian said carefully, each word sounding like he was prepared to snatch it back at the slightest provocation.
"He promised to spend Christmas with me," Brendan said quietly, his recent conversations falling into a pattern in his mind. "He keeps putting off telling me when his flight is coming in, though. I didn't even notice."
The phone crackled as Nikolai covered it, muttering to someone else in Russian. "Not flying," he said distractedly, a burst of Russian in the background making it hard to hear. "Doctor would not allow after second trimester."
Brendan's heart stuttered, skipping a beat entirely before pounding so loudly in his ears that the whole world shook with it. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. There was pressure on his chest, squeezing the air out of him until he couldn't move. He wanted to think he'd misheard, or blame Nikolai's language skills, but suddenly a lot of things made sense.
"He's pregnant," he said, the words shattering the pounding silence that had enveloped him. Angry Russian cursing was his only answer. He got to his feet, hooking a shaking hand through his backpack. "I'm on my way down there, you damned well better text me a fucking address."
Luke jumped back as he barreled by, his eyes wide with concern, but Brendan didn't slow down.
"You still haven't told him?"
Greg leaned against the splayed railing in front of the run down building and sighed. They were surprisingly sturdy, and at the perfect angle for him to stretch his aching lower back. "No, Mama. I... I don't know what to say."
"Bah. You know that I am right. You were stupid enough to get pregnant before there was a ring on your finger, and now he will toss you aside like so much garbage. Rich men don't want big, pregnant women with swollen ankles on their arms at dinner parties." She punctuated her comment with the snick of a lighter. "I taught you better than to make my mistake. You should be making him pay for your apartment and nice clothes and a good car so that you don't have to take the bus."
"I don't need his money, Mama. We've talked about this." Greg dragged the door open with a shriek of uncooperative hinges.
"You think you're too good to go begging for money from your rich lover, but I know. How much money do you have put away, Gregori? How long will that last when the bills start to arrive?"
"I'll figure something out." He scooted past the office, ducking his head when Mrs. Solonik glared after him.
"Da, just like you'll figure out what to tell him, and figure out how to get a job. You always have a plan." She tapped the phone, and he flinched. "When your pride runs out, you'll see that my way is easier. It kept you fed."
"Brendan's parents aren't going to pay me to get out of the country," Greg snapped.
"Fine," she hissed after a moment. "Let's see how far your pride takes you."
"Mama, I'm sorry," he said, but the line was dead. "Fuck." He pressed his head against the steel door of his apartment, ignoring the way the landlady watched. His stomach rumbled, and he pressed a hand to the basketball-sized swell of belly protruding over the top of his sweats. He was always hungry lately, and none of his clothes fit, but he didn't have the money to replace them again.
Nikolai had used his connections to get Greg a doctor that would see him without insurance. Even though he was becoming more and more convinced that the mafia rumors were true, he'd discovered he didn't care if it meant he wasn't paying $3,000 up front.
He shuffled down the stairs, dropping his bag on the bed as he headed for the kitchen. The fridge was empty, but he opened it anyway, staring at the mostly empty milk jug and jar of pickles. His stomach growled again, and he slumped against the counter, trying to calculate if he had enough money to order delivery. The nearest grocery store was a few blocks away, and his feet were already so swollen he could feel his socks cutting into his ankles.
"Fuck it," he muttered, grabbing a handful of takeout menus from the drawer by the sink. They'd showed up on the couch the day he'd moved in, and he had decided not to question it. There was no signal down here, so he'd have to go out on the street to make the call.
Upstairs, the big front door screeched, and he couldn't help but smile when he heard the abrasive Russian in response. With the only window facing the backyard, the space was usually dead silent. The air vent in the corner of his apartment let through just enough sound to be soothing in the otherwise eerie quiet. It reminded him of his childhood, listening to the dull rumble of Russian shows in the distance.
He was still trying to decide between Chinese and pizza when the distinct sound of Mrs. Solonik's cane banged against the door. She hadn't bothered him much except to berate him for coming in after dark the day he'd had his last check up with the troupe's physician. Curious, he grabbed his phone and headed for the stairs.
"Yes?" he said through the door as he reached the landing. The tiny table in the corner had a dusty matryoshka sitting on it that tended to fall over if he slammed the door. He had a feeling it was placed that way on purpose.
"Rule is no visitors," she said, tapping on the door again so that the figurine wobbled precariously.
"Of course, Mrs. Solonik," he said, rolling his eyes. She'd harangued Niko the entire time they'd moved in, going on in Russian with another woman from the upper floors, their hunched backs folded together as they muttered.
He pulled the heavy door open, ready to rescue Niko. It wasn't Niko. He tilted his head up, staring in shock at Brendan's bloodshot eyes.
He looked terrible. His hair was standing on end, and his clothes were soaked with melted snow. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out, his eyes locked on Greg's bulging t-shirt.
Greg squeaked in a way that he hadn't since junior prom, slamming the door in Brendan's face on reflex. He pressed his back against the cold metal, watching the little Russian doll teeter and roll off the end of the table with a hollow rattle.
His heart was pounding in his ears, but he could still hear Brendan clear as day as he leaned against the other side of the door. He imagined that he could feel the heat of his body, and tears welled up in his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. Brendan was quiet for a long time, and no matter what Greg did, he couldn't get the tears under control.
"Are you mad at me?" The big, confident alpha sounded so small through the door.
Greg gave a watery snort, the tiny basement disappearing under the memory of a room strewn with dance trophies and dirty clothes. "Did Penny Larson put you up to this?" It was high school all over again.
"This is going to be our thing, isn't it?" Brendan said, his voice still shaky. "The story that we tell so many times that it irritates our kids, and they groan and put a pillow over their head so they don't have to listen."
Curling his hand around the weight of their baby, Greg cried harder at the longing that caught his chest in a vice. "I'm sorry," he said again.
"I was so nervous last time," Brendan said. "Here I was dropping all these hints, and you just kept changing the subject when I brought up prom. I thought you were trying to let me down gently, you know?"
"You were my best friend, and the sexiest alpha I'd ever seen," Greg said, scrubbing at his cheeks. "What kind of idiot turns that down? Even at sixteen?"
Brendan chuckled. "That's what Molly said. She made Papa take her out to get the sign and the flowers. That's why they were pink." He shifted, his voice soft and intimate. "Can I come in?"
"I didn't know how to tell you," Greg said, turning around until his forehead rested against the door. "I just kept telling myself that it wasn't the right time. Did Mama call you?"
"Nikolai let it slip."
"Don't be mad at him," Greg said, pulling the door open just a crack. Brendan stared hungrily but made no move to rush him. "He's been trying to get me to tell you for months. He thinks this is your problem, too."
"It's not," Brendan said immediately, his hand slipping through the gap to caress Greg's wrist where it rested on the curve of his belly. Under both of their hands, the baby shifted, and Greg's knees went weak. "It's not a problem at all."
Swinging the door open, Greg threw himself into Brendan's arms, not doubting for a minute that the alpha would catch him. "I lost my scholarship," he said into the damp university sweatshirt. "I didn't know what to do." He rubbed tears and snot into the snow melt on Brendan's chest. "My back and feet are killing me, and I think Nikolai called in mob favors to get me a doctor."
A loud snort from the office reminded them of their audience. Mrs. Solonik was watching them unabashedly, her arms crossed as she propped herself up on the end of her cane. "I am going to grocery," she said when he glared at her. "No breaking rules while I am not here to know. Later, I make borscht. You will come."
Brendan nodded respectfully, his throat clicking as she glared at him. "Yes, ma'am."
She narrowed her eyes. "You must teach him Russian," she told Greg as she pulled on her coat. "Otherwise, how will he know when he is being cursed at while you have baby?"
"Context clues," Greg said, pulling the door to his apartment open with his nose in the air. She laughed all the way out of the building.
"You know," Brendan said as they reached the bottom, "I can almost believe that she was married to a KGB assassin."
Shivering at the thought, Greg rubbed his arms to warm them. The room seemed even more ridiculously small with Brendan standing there taking up so much of it. "So, uh... This is it."
Brendan pulled him close, rubbing hot hands down his arms. "It's nice?" he said, his eyes never leaving Greg. He kept sneaking glances at the heavy press of belly between them.
"You can touch, you know," Greg said, smiling at the helpless look Brendan gave him. "You're not going to hurt me."
His fingers trembled slightly as the alpha ran them over the curve of his t-shirt. The touch was barely there, and Greg couldn't help but giggle at the ticklish feeling.
Brendan smiled, his eyes wide with awe. "You look amazing."
"I look like I swallowed a balloon."
"Kind of." He smiled apologetically, leaning down to press a kiss to the soft skin of Greg's neck. "But still amazing."
The hot wash of his breath made every hair on Greg's body stand on end, and he huffed a laugh as the old woman's parting shot suddenly made sense. "Take your shirt off," he ordered, tugging at Brendan's sweater. The alpha just stared at him for a moment, so he peeled it up himself. "We're on a schedule here."
"We are?" Brendan asked, muffled by the sweaters as they pulled over his head.
Greg had forgotten how broad his chest was, and he ran his fingers over the muscles, gleefully reacquainting himself with the coarse brush of chest hair against his fingers. Heat curled through Greg's midsection, his achy back forgotten as he scraped his fingernails across Brendan's pebbled nipples.
Groaning, Brendan slid his broad hands up under the edges of Greg's too-tight shirt. The slide of his calluses against the sensitive area raised goosebumps on both of them, but he was excruciatingly careful as he leaned down to press a kiss to the taut skin. "Hello there."
Joy welled up in Greg's chest, and he laughed even as he blinked back tears, pulling Brendan up for a kiss. He tried to make it deep and hard, but Brendan held him back, stroking gently across his lips.
"Hello to you, too," he whispered, smiling into the kiss as Greg huffed impatiently. "I've got you, babe."
"I'm not going to pop. The doctor said I'm cleared for sex basically until my water breaks," he growled and nipped at the alpha's lips.
They were both laughing too hard to do more than bump lips for a while.
"I love you," Brendan said, curling himself awkwardly around the bump of Greg's belly to hug him close. "I wish I had been here."
"I don't," he said wryly. "All you missed was morning sickness. So much morning sickness."
"I wouldn't have minded." He stroked his lips up the side of Greg's neck.
Gasping and arching to give him better reach, Greg peeled down his sweats with jerky movements. Brendan stroked a hand down the bare curve of his ass, and he moaned, reaching for the button of his jeans. "Hurry up."
"What's the rush?" Brendan asked, nuzzling into a deeper kiss before he could answer.
This time, he let Greg deepen the kiss, his impatience melting away as their tongues slid together as smoothly as they always had. "I love you," he whispered in Russian, diving in for another kiss as he dragged the alpha's jeans down.
Brendan was hard, his erection rubbing against the underside of Greg's belly, and he groaned filthily as Greg stroked his hand over the hot flesh. The tip was already smeared and shiny, and he blushed when Greg raised an eyebrow at him. "I told you," he said, kicking off his shoes, "you look amazing."
The heat in his eyes was like a caress as he took a long look. For the first time in months, Greg felt sexy, his cock twitching in sympathy as Brendan gave himself a few strokes.
"You're sure this is okay?" Brendan said, his free hand sliding around to cup Greg's ass, tucking him tight against his chest so that he could feel the way his body pressed against each muscle.
"If you don't fuck me," Greg said, dragging his teeth over the nipple in front of him until Brendan hissed, "I will tell every one of your frat brothers the story of how you ended up in a pink, ruffled Little Bo Peep outfit at the senior talent show."
"Where's the lube?"
Smirking, Greg lowered himself carefully to the bed, spreading his legs to give Brendan a good look. "Dresser drawer." A heady feeling of power prickled up his spine as his lover moved with alacrity, fumbling for the bottle without taking his eyes off him.
Kneeling over him a moment later, Brendan devoured his mouth, his thumbs scraping across the omega's sensitive nipples until he was gasping into the kiss. Mouthing his way along Greg's jaw and down his neck, he dug his teeth lightly into the sensitive spot on his collar bone.
Greg moaned, overwhelmed, fisting his hands in the sheets. Slick fingers traced up the inside of his thighs, and he had to bite his knuckles to keep from cursing at Brendan to hurry up. It had been months since he'd felt any desire at all, and his body was reminding him of that.
The first press of one thick finger inside him felt huge, and he couldn't help the way his hips bucked against Brendan's hand, trying to take more.
"You're so tight, babe," Brendan whispered, pulling back to watch.
The curve of his belly blocked any view of what was going on, and Greg was self-conscious of the way he must look, writhing on the sheets. When Brendan curled his finger and sent pleasure rocketing through him like lightning, he stopped worrying about it. He dragged Brendan back down, muffling his cries of pleasure in deep kisses. His cock was so hard he could feel it bounce against the underside of his stomach with every movement.
Two fingers stretched him wide and he grunted, working himself determinedly back on them, chasing the pleasure that Brendan's touch had always brought him.
"More," he said, sinking his teeth into one broad shoulder until Brendan obliged. He felt like he was being split in two, the feelings bouncing through this new body gaining intensity with every second. "I'm ready."
"Are you sure? You're still really tight." The alpha bit off a groan when Greg reached out and stroked his erection. He was almost purple with need. "Okay, okay. You're ready," Brendan hissed, pulling his hand away.
Greg started to roll up onto his hands and knees, but Brendan stopped him.
"I want to see your face," he said, his ears red.
Rolling to his side, Greg squirmed against the hard arms that wrapped around him, just to feel them hold him tighter. The sheen of sweat on their skin let them move together smoothly, and he loved the feeling.
Hot and hard, the first push of Brendan's gorgeous cock at his entrance made him curse. It stretched him wide, too big after so long, and his hips pulled away against his will.
"Shh," Brendan whispered, stroking down his side. "Just breathe for me, sweetheart."
Greg pulled in as much of a breath as he could, the baby pressing against his lungs and making it difficult. This time, the tip pushed in. He cried out, the shock of being filled leaving him shaking, and he immediately tried to take more.
Brendan moved with him, leaving quick, soothing kisses across his cheek and shoulder. "Give me a second, baby, please," he gasped, his muscles so tight they were shaking.
"Move," Greg whined, and Brendan buried a tense laugh in his neck.
"I want this to last more than a second," he growled.
"It'll last longer next time," Greg said with a gasp, pressing his hips back and stealing another inch.
"Fuck," Brendan whispered, his hips jerking.
He thrust deep and Greg wailed, control going out the window. They stumbled together without any real rhythm, their bodies craving more, now, faster, harder. Pleasure burned across his skin, building deep in his core until he was pushing back on each thrust, straining for the orgasm that hovered just out of reach.
One of Brendan's broad hands curled around his straining erection, stroking it firmly, and he was gone. Greg arched his back hard, driving him onto Brendan's next thrust, and a sharp cry tore out of him. His orgasm swept over him in waves, up his spine and out across his skin until the tips of his fingers tingled.
He collapsed back against Brendan's chest, whining low in his throat as another thrust bumped across his prostate, sending shocks through his over-sensitive system. The alpha was dripping sweat, his jaw carved from marble as he grunted with each powerful thrust.
"I love you," Greg said, the words slurring together as he laced his fingers with Brendan's over his swollen belly.
The next thrust was deep enough to make his eyes roll back in his head, and Brendan shouted, burying his face in the sweaty skin of Greg's neck as he gave two more jerky thrusts. He squeezed Greg's hand, holding on like the pleasure would shake him apart if he let go. His hot breath washed over them, the shivers of aftershocks washing back and forth between them like a wave.
He grumbled when Brendan pulled out to settle them more comfortably, but fell asleep before he'd finished tucking the covers around them.
After a semester of living in the frat house, it was the silence that woke Brendan up. The tiny basement apartment was so quiet that he could hear every whine and sniffle that Greg made as he slept in the curve of his arm.
Swallowing hard, he stroked his thumb across the taut skin of Greg's belly, his heart lurching as a vibration fluttered under his hand. He couldn't stop the smile that spread across his face. He was going to be a dad. Staring at the ceiling, he tried to imagine what his parents would think.
They'd have been thrilled, just like Molly would be. Of course, if his parents were alive, he'd be in medical school already.
Brendan pressed a kiss to Greg's shoulder and pulled away. His phone was hanging precariously out of the pocket of his hoodie, draped over the corner of the apartment's only chair.
He couldn't get enough of a signal to do anything, but he drafted a quick letter to Marcus. As the head of the frat, he would have to be notified first when Brendan withdrew from the spring semester.
"What time is it?" Greg asked, tangling in the sheets as he rolled over. His eyes were sleepy and sated, and his lips were still red from Brendan's stubble.
Brendan stared at him until Greg blushed and turned away. "I hope our kids look like you," he said, closing the letter. "I hope they have your talent and strength."
Greg gave him a tiny smile, picking at the sheets. "Don't think you can distract me with compliments," he said, his eyes straying to Brendan's chest, "or your sexy naked body. What were you doing?"
Tucking his phone back in his pocket, Brendan stalked over to the bed. "Maybe I was taking a picture of my beautiful lover," he said.
"Maybe not," Greg said, eyes narrowing. "What were you up to?"
Brendan sighed. "I was just writing an email."
Greg's eyes narrowed further. "About what?"
Looking away, he settled on the edge of the bed and pulled Greg up to lean against him. "I'm withdrawing from the spring semester."
He didn't need to see Greg to know exactly what he thought of that. The omega went stiff as steel in his arms, practically vibrating with fury.
"No." The word was stretched thin like it had squeezed out the gaps in his gritted teeth.
"Greg," he said gently, "it's just one semester. You're more important than school."
Struggling to his feet, Greg paced the three steps to the bottom of the stairs and spun on him, each movement graceful and furious. "That's what you said last time. 'It's only one semester, Greg. Molly needs me, Greg. I'm not going to let anything keep me from my dreams, Greg.' Three years later, you said you were too old to try for medical school, and we had to blackmail you into going back."
Brendan got to his feet, glaring. "I'm not going to argue about this with you again. Molly needed me. She couldn't have gone to court on her own."
"I wouldn't have asked her to," Greg said, throwing his hands in the air. "I was right there with you for every court date, every verdict. I went to her birthday party, science fair, and graduation, and Monday morning, I was right back in class."
"You're just..." Brendan swallowed the rest of the words, turning to stare at the wall. "It's different for you."
"If you say I'm 'just a dancer,' I'm going to throw you out," Greg growled. "I trained for two performances while you were in court. I made time in my twelve hours a day of training and classes to help out."
"I don't know what you expect me to do," he said, running a hand through his hair. "I want to be here when you need me."
"I don't need you every second of every day," Greg snapped, crossing his arms. "Besides the birth, over which I have zero control, I can work around your schedule. We don't both have to sit around like useless lumps."
Brendan shook his head. "How am I supposed to apply for med school, knowing that I'll be spending ten hours a day missing all our daughter's firsts?"
"The same way every other married student does," Greg said, shaking his head.
He stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Greg's stiff shoulders. "I don't want to miss any more of this," he said, tucking him under his arm and surreptitiously digging around in the folds of his hoodie. "I don't want to miss another second of our life together."
Tucking his head under Brendan's chin, Greg sighed. "When did our life together start meaning every second of every day? When I went to Paris last year, and I didn't expect you to be in the front row for every single performance."
"Maybe you should have," Brendan said, drawing back. Sinking to one knee, he pressed a kiss to the swollen belly in front of him. "Maybe you deserve that." Wiping his sweaty hands on the corner of the sheet, he held up the velvet box that he'd been keeping in the fraternity safe since the jeweler had finished it in September.
Greg stared at him, his wide eyes filling with tears. "Are you really," he said, his voice cracking, "asking me to marry you while we're both naked?"
Brendan glanced down at his bare chest with a chuckle. "If you say yes, I'll let you make up any story you want."
"Oh no," Greg said, fumbling the box out of his hands. "This is how you decided to do it. I'm going to enjoy watching you tell Molly all about this." He scrubbed at his cheeks and stared at the smooth bands of braided metal.
Brendan had gone back and forth with the jeweler about it, wanting it to be delicate enough to match Greg's slight stature, but sturdy enough for him to wear while dancing. It had taken him most of the summer to figure out the omega's ring size. The colorful stones were inset so that he wouldn’t snag them on the fabric of his costumes.
"Does that mean you're going to say yes?"
Greg rolled his eyes. "Get up here and put this ring on me."
Bounding to his feet with a surge of nervous energy, Brendan pulled the ring out with shaking fingers. "I love you," he said as he slipped it onto Greg's ring finger.
"I love you, too." He blinked away tears, admiring the ring. "It's too big," he said cheerfully.
He frowned. "It fits perfectly."
Laughing, Greg leaned forward to kiss his jaw. "My fingers are practically sausages, they're so swollen. We'll have to resize it once the baby comes."
"We can do that," he said, leaning down to get a proper kiss. Underneath the tears, Greg tasted sweet and fresh, and he couldn't get enough.
When they broke the kiss, panting against each other's lips, Greg pursed his lips. "I'm still not letting you drop out of school."
Brendan groaned, burying his head in the corded muscles of Greg's shoulder.
"I'm not," he said again. "You could be there for every performance, and every rehearsal, and every sneeze, but you know what that would make you?"
Resignedly, he raised an eyebrow, the sight of the ring on Greg's finger as he gestured making him smile. "Your devoted husband?"
"A shadow." Brendan's smile melted away. "When would you have time to be your own person, following Molly and me around like that, making sure we didn't have a splinter? I've seen the people who do that. The wives who follow their husbands around like little dogs waiting for a scrap of affection. They can't even have an opinion without checking with someone else."
"You think that I will be like that?" He pulled away slightly, crossing his arms.
"Yes," Greg said bluntly. "Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. If you spend every day according to my schedule, my hobbies, my travel plans?"
Brendan shook his head. "I told you, it's just for a semester until the baby is born."
"And I told you," Greg said, stabbing him in the chest with one finger. "No. I will allow you to miss three days of class." He paused thoughtfully. "Four, if the labor takes two days."
"Maybe," Brendan said, smiling helplessly, "I should take that ring back. You weren't this bossy as my boyfriend."
"If you try to take this ring, Mrs. Solonik will make sure they never find your body," Greg said cheerfully.
Brendan threw back his head and laughed. "I believe you."
The distinct sound of cane on metal echoed through the apartment. "No more laughing. No more screwing. Borscht is almost ready."
"We'll be right up, Mrs. Solonik," Greg called, heading for the bathroom. "I'm going to get cleaned up. You better check if your clothes are salvageable."
"We should get going," Brendan said with a grimace. "Molly's probably wondering where we are."
"You just want to get out of the borscht."
"I hate beets," he grumbled.
"You can always go tell her that we're not coming to dinner," he said. Brendan blanched, and he nodded. "Exactly. Stop being a cabbage and get dressed."
"Sir, yes, sir." He tossed off a mock salute, still laughing when Greg flipped him the bird. "Russian idioms are so weird," he called through the door as it shut in his face.
Picking up his phone, he padded across the floor to his pants, trying to smooth the wrinkles ineffectually with one hand as he pecked at the keyboard with the other. He set the text message to auto-send once he got a signal, glancing ruefully at the bathroom. "Sorry, babe," he said quietly. "Papa would kill me if I didn't do this right."
"I can't believe you took the leftovers." Brendan guided the car down the snowy road. They'd ended up staying overnight in the basement after the terrifying Russian woman had stuffed beets down their throats well past sunset. Now, with the sun blinding on the heaped snow, and Greg happily munching cold borscht from a plastic container, he was glad for the extra sleep.
"Russian," he said with a grin, showing off his bright pink teeth.
Brendan rolled his eyes, turning carefully into the cabin's driveway. "Lacy told me this was plowed clear when I called yesterday," he said, frowning at the tracks in the snow. "I hope Molly didn't try driving during a snowstorm."
"You talked to her on the phone less than an hour ago. She's fine," Greg said, popping the top on the empty container and tossing it into the back seat. His belly looked even bigger with the thick sweater and seat belt stretched tight across it.
Sticking his tongue out, Brendan pulled into the spot next to a massive SUV.
"If she was driving that," Greg said, staring up at it, "she was probably better off than the snow plows."
"Careful, it's slick." He hurried around the side of the car to help the omega out, eying the larger car thoughtfully. "I bet they were happy to get her to upgrade to a premium vehicle when they heard she was going out into the mountains," he muttered.
"You're so cynical."
"Very Russian of you." The familiar, heavily accented voice came from the narrow porch.
They both stopped, staring at Nikolai. "What are you doing here?" Greg asked, so startled that he slipped into Russian without thinking.
"I bring Santa and his elves for early Christmas with baby Petrov." Niko smiled, pleased with himself as Molly leaned out from behind his broad shoulders.
"Wow," she said, her eyebrows high. "He's exactly as big as you said he was." She propped her chin on her fist and watched them come up the steps. "You look like you're going to pop."
"It's the narrow hips," Greg said, smoothing the sweater over his stomach self-consciously. "The baby sits farther forward on a man than on a woman. I'm not due till May."
"Also," Niko said, leaning on her until she groaned, "is because dancers have all muscle and no soft fat to pad the baby."
Brendan rubbed his temple. "Can we discuss this inside where it's warm?"
"Maybe," Molly said, glancing at the door. "Let me check."
"I'm really not up for any more surprises, sis." She didn't reply, opening the front door just enough to squeeze through.
"What is English phrase?" Nikolai asked thoughtfully. "I told you so?" He raised one blond eyebrow at Greg, not twitching when Greg poked him in the chest.
"I can still decide to be pissed that you spilled the beans, you know."
Niko grabbed Greg's hand and examined the sparkling ring. "I am very worried that you will decide to do this thing," he said, his voice deadpan.
"Oh, shut up," Greg said, snatching his hand back.
Molly poked her head around the corner. "You can come in now."
"He is wearing ring," Niko said, and she squealed.
"Why did I think this was a good idea?" Brendan said, unable to keep a straight face as happiness warmed him. "I'm never doing this again."
Brendan was so surprised by the chorus of voices that he bumped into Greg's back. The room was packed with people. Brothers. His whole frat crammed into the cabin's main room with balloons and packages dripping in ribbon.
"What are you doing here?" His voice was a full octave higher than normal, and he didn't care a bit.
Marcus got to his feet, holding up a champagne flute. "I," he said dramatically, "have had a very interesting day."
"Hear, hear," Teddy muttered, his face flushing as red as his hair as he wrestled Kurt's cell phone out of his hand.
"The Tokyo market is about to open," Kurt grumbled, crossing his arms. They all ignored him with the air of long practice.
"Quiet," Cody snapped, the lone omega hunched under an oversized Santa hat. "Not a word," he growled when Brendan raised an eyebrow at him.
The door to the kitchen swung open, the smell of cookies wafting out, and Luke, still dressed in his outfit from yesterday, padded out and set a tray on the table. He ducked his head and smiled. "Uncle Robert dropped me off this morning," he said, nudging Cody over until he could sit next to him.
"Kurt, let Greg have your seat," Marcus said. Without waiting, he continued, "Yesterday, I got a text from one of my brothers. This brother has been through a lot, and now it appears he's planning to withdraw from school so that he can transfer to New York in the fall."
Brendan winced, looking away when Greg glared at him.
"Fortunately," Marcus said, "I received another text a half hour later from a number I didn't recognize telling me to ignore anything that my brother said."
"Actually, it said he was an idiot, and not to be trusted," Kurt said, ducking Teddy's swat.
Perched on the edge of Greg's chair, Brendan leaned around to look at him. "How did you get Marcus' number?"
"I checked the University register. All the frat officers are listed." He leaned up for a kiss.
"Then, I got another text." Marcus raised his voice, ignoring the commotion. "From the sister of my brother, saying that she was stranded at the airport, and couldn't get hold of her idiot."
Alarmed, Brendan turned to Molly, who shrugged. "I could have gotten myself a hotel room, but I was worried about you. You always answer your phone."
"I am getting phone call early in the morning. Man says to come outside." Niko shrugged.
"So you went?" Brendan blurted, staring at the Russian in surprise. "It could have been an assassin or something."
Nikolai chuckled. "I am thinking pretty omega boy is not assassin." He winked at Cody. When the other man bristled in response, the muscles from his constant training strained his shirt and made him look even broader than the Russian. Niko sighed dreamily.
Cody turned his back on Niko. "Can I take the hat off now?"
"We haven't given gifts yet." Teddy stood up and handed Greg a thin envelope with a bow stuck haphazardly to the back. "It was too hard to wrap it," he said with a sheepish shrug.
Greg glanced back at him with a suspicious glance, but Brendan shrugged. "Don't look at me."
"It's a rental agreement," Kurt said, stealing his phone back when Teddy wasn't looking. "The Kepler house is empty again." He thrust his fist in the air and cheered, tapping at his phone with the other hand. "Another ten percent on this month's investments, guys."
"What's the Kepler house?" Molly asked, leaning against Brendan's shoulder.
"You guys are renting us the Kepler house?" Brendan stared at them in shock. "How can you rent us the Kepler house?"
"The Kepler house," Teddy said, adjusting his glasses, "is the house directly behind our frat house. It went up for sale a couple years ago, and thanks to Kurt's investment savvy, the frat had enough to buy it as an investment property." He glanced at Brendan. "That would have been during your break."
Cody got to his feet, shoving a box into Brendan's hands. "There, I gave my gift." He ripped the hat off his head and shoved it down between the couch cushions as he sat down.
The box was covered in a layer of tape, but it was still bursting at the seams. Brendan tugged on one corner tentatively, and the whole thing fell apart in his hands, spilling a familiar orange and purple throw blanket over Greg's lap. They each had one just like it on their beds at the frat. Confused, he smoothed it out, wondering if there was something wrapped up inside it.
"Welcome to Sigma Alpha Omega," Marcus said, holding up his champagne flute in a toast.
"We contacted the national scholarship committee," Luke said when Brendan just stared at them blankly. "They were impressed with Greg's credentials, and are happy to provide him the opportunity to finish his Master's program."
Greg squeaked and buried his face in the blanket. Brendan ran a hand soothingly over his back, barely containing the urge to squeeze the life out of every one of them. "You guys," he said, his voice hoarse. "This is too much."
"It's less than 18% of the chapter's quarterly earnings," Kurt said without looking up from his phone. "And only 3% of your anticipated alumni donations."
"Do you ever take anything seriously?" Cody asked, leaning over to try to swipe the phone away from him.
"You guys are the best," Brendan said, stepping forward and pulling Marcus into a hug. "Thank you."
"If we are handing out hugs, I will hug little omega, yes?" Nikolai drawled.
"Touch me, and I will castrate you," Cody growled.
"Boys," Molly said, swatting Niko on the shoulder. "Go get the drinks. This calls for a toast."
"A toast," Brendan said a few minutes later, Greg tucked against his side, one hand resting on his belly. He raised his champagne flute full of sparkling cider and around the room, everyone else did the same. Outside, the snow had started coming down again, but inside there was so much life and happiness that Brendan thought he could stay in this moment forever. "A toast to friends, to family, to love, and to happiness." He paused, looking at each of them in turn. "To the Brothers of Sigma Alpha Omega.”
Turn the page for you preview of Book 1 in the Frat Boys Baby Series, Trust Fund Baby!!!
He swore he’d never date another artist, but what about the one who got away?
Alpha Luke Carter is a successful lawyer, but after his last serious boyfriend left him on their anniversary, he’s turned into a workaholic.
Omega Jay Collins is a struggling artist. Barely making ends meet, he’s recently become homeless… just as he lands the gallery show of a lifetime.
When they run into each other at an art show, sparks fly. Luke knows better, but he just can’t stop thinking about getting the sexy omega back into his bed. A night of celebratory passion leads to unexpected consequences…
In this 77,000-word omegaverse/gay paranormal romance, two men get their second chance at love and learn value of family. Deeply descriptive and sexual scenes make this non-shifter alpha/omega male pregnancy romance suitable for adults only.
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