Read Bound to You Online

Authors: Vanessa Holland

Tags: #Romance, #General, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Bound to You (5 page)

I didn’t have a choice,” he thought aloud. “She was set for law school and I knew I had to go help Gramps. He was getting bad off and wouldn’t leave the ranch. Her dad went ballistic when he found out about us. He said she wanted to give up her career to marry me. Said they’d had a fight about it and the only way was to break it off clean. I kept thinking she’d regret it later, giving up school to follow me across the country, to live out in the middle of nowhere. So, I called her, told her it was over, and hung up. I didn’t even let her speak except to say hello. I still can’t believe I did that. We were right out there on the water. I remember it like yesterday. I’ve thought about it a hundred times over the years. She was different.”

Damn, that sounds familiar,” Jack said.

I’ve told you all this before?”

Jack shrugged and picked up the hunk of wood again and began to whittle with his pocketknife. “So what happens now?”

Sam stared up at the stars. “Don’t know. I think I’m in shock.”

Ya know, just because she says it’s yours doesn’t mean it’s your kid.”

I thought of that.” Sam took a stroll up the pier to the grass then turned around and came back. “She’s got this old boyfriend, but says it’s not his. I can’t think why she’d lie, what she’d want with me otherwise. She comes from money, lives out on the edge of town where they built all those big houses and isn’t looking for someone to support her. I figured she hated me now. Maybe she does. Maybe it’s a trick.”

Probably is.” Jack sent a splash flying with his toes. “Women do that. Say they’re gonna stick it out and then just up and leave.”

Why didn’t you marry her?” Sam asked, genuinely interested. He and Jack were a lot alike, maybe too much alike. Maybe whatever problem Jack had with marriage was the same problem Sam had. Whenever a woman got too close, Sam found himself backing away.

I don’t know,” Jack said. “Tell me about this kid. Did you say you saw him? What’s he look like?”

Yeah, I saw him. I touched him but I just didn’t know it at the time.” Sam leaned against the post again. “He fell down and I picked him up. I touched him. I held him in my hands.” He looked at his hands, empty now, and could still feel a soft warmth there. He made tight fists until the feeling went away.

Well? Does he look like you?” Jack prompted.

Sam chuckled, though he found no humor in the situation. “I couldn’t tell by looking. I can’t remember what he looked like now. I think I’m in shock. He had blond hair, though. That Stewart guy has light brown hair, almost blond. Then, Jenna’s a blonde.”

You had blond hair when you were little,” Jack informed him.

Sam stood up straight and a jolt of pain shot down his left leg. “I did?”

Granny Mae was a blonde. You and Mikey and Boone all had blond hair when you were real little. Darkened later.”

Well, that helps some.”

I’m not trying to convince you one way or the other,” Jack said. “I’m just telling the facts.”

Man, I’m an idiot,” Sam realized.

Why’s that?”

Jenna. She came looking for me, yesterday at the park. I thought it was chance, but now….” Another humorless chuckle escaped his lips. “I don’t think so.”

Jack clucked his tongue. “If she came looking for ya then she wants something, bro. Danger.”

I guess. But what? For her kid to have a father? Money? I’ve had girls come after me for money but she doesn’t need it. She comes from one of those old money families. Her house is probably five, six thousand square feet. Nearly as big as Mom and Dad’s place. And she’s gorgeous, I mean really beautiful. She could find somebody in a second, kid or not. Ya know it can’t be Stewart’s kid. He would have married her by now if he’s still in town. It must be mine. That’s the only answer. The math adds up.”

Jack read his expression and seemed to realize he needed strong advice. “Now, listen. You don’t know who all she’s been with since then. And it doesn’t matter if she’s rich, it doesn’t look good for her to be with a kid and not have a husband. It sounds fishy to me, bud. Sounds like she’s up to no good. Looking for somebody to put a ring on her finger.”

She did ask if I was married.”

There, see, testing the waters.”

But why tell me the kid is mine? He’s mine, I can feel it.” Sam shook his head as the tingling feeling, almost like fear, crept up his spine. He could still see the scathing glare of emotion in Jenna’s eyes. “I thought she’d turned cold, but she was boiling mad. Damn, bro, that
my kid. I’ve gotta go.”

Where ya headed?” Jack complained as Sam pushed off the post and left the pier. “Ya drag me down here and then run off?”

Gotta make a phone call.” He stopped and raked his hand through his hair. “No, forget that, I’ve gotta go out for a while.”

Yo, demand a test!” Jack called after him. “That’s all I’m saying!”





Jenna lay awake in bed, tossing and turning, weighing her options, considering the ramifications, trying in vain to slow her mind and fall asleep. Sam was still too fresh and hot in her mind, and she couldn’t help remembering how he’d been that night.


How frighteningly handsome he’d been, though not frightening in manner. So tender and warm. She remembered how beautiful twilight had been that night, how a glowing specter of the sun had hovered over the tips of the trees, slowly smothered by striations of pink and tangerine. He had smiled, a light of humor brightening his stormy eyes, washing away any trepidation she’d felt.

Then the lies had started and the maneuvering began. And before the night was through she was pregnant and her life was forever changed.

She’d been maneuvered. Seduced! Looking back it seemed so blatant, the words that had slithered silky sweet off his lips, the continuous push and retreat, two steps forward and one step back, until she was warm and flushed and naked beneath him, floating on a rocking wood raft under the distant bright stars. His warm, solid body pressing down on hers, keeping her steady, and safe.

She shook the memories free, kicking the smothering covers off her legs. It was humiliating as much as anything. She must have stared at him with wide-eyed innocence and wonder, drinking in every single lie, molding to his every caress until she became the same shape as the image in his mind.

I’ll come by tomorrow and we’ll take a little drive to a special place I know,’ he’d said in a voice as deep and affectionate as his lovemaking, leaning in to give her one last kiss.

Instead, the next afternoon, he’d called and dumped her. Just six words – ‘Look, it’s over. It’s not working.’ She’d replayed those words in her mind a million times, wondering what she’d done wrong. What she could have said or done to drive him away. She’d thought she’d mattered.

But she hadn’t mattered, she’d only been one of many, and he’d never planned to follow through. He’d only wanted sex.

Her door slowly swung open and Brianna came in and sat on the bed.

Can’t sleep?” Jenna asked.

You know you’re really stupid, right?” her sister said.

Actually, Jenna did know that. She’d been stupid to trust Sam. But she knew her sister wasn’t talking about that. She was talking about the situation with Brandon Stewart.

Jenna was about to turn on the lamp, then decided to leave it off. They’d already had this conversation and she’d tried her best to explain her reasons, the financial problems, the details of Brandon’s offer - all of it. Bri had listened and then stomped away. Jenna had hoped that would be the end of it. But apparently not.

What’s wrong now?”

You can’t do it,” Bri said. “You can
marry that guy. The Stewarts are scum. Rich, horrible scum.”

Her sister was right, but she also didn’t realize the harsh truths of their current situation. She was too young. “You need to go to school and get a good education, so you don’t end up like me.”

Oh yeah,” Bri said. “I’ll be at Vanderbilt going la-de-da while you’re married to scum and Ethan’s calling that scumbag Dad. That’s what I’ll do. Sounds like a great plan. How do you expect me to live with that?”

Jenna reached out for her sister’s hand, but Bri pulled back. “Honey, I haven’t paid the mortgage in two months and I can’t pay it this month. The payments alone are five times more than I make in a month. I thought the life insurance would be more but now that’s gone and in two weeks we won’t even have any furniture. I’m barely keeping us afloat. You just don’t realize.”

Blah, blah,” Bri said. “You’re making this all my fault.”

No, I’m not.”
Was she?

You’re only doing it so I can go to college. You’re making it my fault.”

Jenna went ahead and turned on the lamp, realizing this wasn’t going to be a short conversation. “It’s not your fault.”

It’s Dad’s fault,” Bri grumbled. “That college money was mine.”

Jenna struggled to remain calm. She’d made up her mind to forgive her father for all his faults and only remember his positive traits. That was the only way she could function. “This is just the situation we’re in. And I won’t have to be married to him for long. Brandon said his grandfather is very sick.”

Bri gawked at her. “
. That makes it even worse.” She fell back on the bed. “I’m not going to college. I don’t care. Promise you won’t do it. I’ll take Ethan and run away if you do.”

Jenna sighed. She knew her sister wasn’t serious. She also knew her sister was right. There had to be another way. She’d thought of a few, but none ended with Brianna going to Vanderbilt. “It might not matter, anyway. Brandon was supposed to call and let me know if he had enough money to help. So, maybe he changed his mind.”

Brianna sat up. “I don’t care about him. Say you’re changing your mind because I’m not leaving no matter what. Call Sam Strickland and see what he says. Why does he get off scot-free?”

This isn’t about him.”

I know. It’s about me and my school.

Jenna held up her hand. “I told Sam. He ran for his life. Forget about that.”

Bri jumped off the bed. “Then sue him! How could he do that?”

Child support would help, but it’s not enough. I think he’s only just scraping by himself. I’m barely making over minimum wage. We need a way out and marrying Brandon is a way out. Just… go to bed.”

Then, see, it doesn’t matter,” Bri said. “You have a college degree and you’re still not earning anything good. So, what difference does it make if I go?”

Dad helped me get that job. I was pregnant and no one else would hire me. I’ve been sending out resumes, looking for something better, but…. It’s different for me. I have a child, you don’t. Look. Just go to bed, okay? We can’t figure this out in the middle of the night.”

No,” Bri said, standing her ground. “Not till you promise you won’t marry him. If it’s my fault then it’s my choice. I hate the Scumbag Stewarts. I won’t go to school on their dirty money. Yuck! It makes me sick. Promise or I’ll hate you forever.”

Jenna closed her eyes and tried to think. Once she had the house off her back, either by selling it or through foreclosure, she could just, just, support herself and Ethan - if she found an extremely cheap place to live and miraculously inexpensive and safe daycare. But Bri would be on her own.

I’m not taking money from Ally Stewart’s family,” Bri insisted. “No way. I hate her. I’ll die first. I’ll end up owing her for the rest of my life and you don’t know how she is. She’s horrible. I’ll do whatever it takes. I don’t care.”

Well,” Jenna said, “I’ve been thinking. There’s another option. The best option for you. And what I think you should do.”

Bri leaned on the bed with one knee. “What’s that?”

Save yourself. Ethan and I are weighing you down. Without us, you could go out there and make your own way. You were accepted at other schools, not just Vanderbilt. You were accepted at UT. With some financial aid, and some hard work, you could put yourself through college. I know Dad was focused on Vanderbilt for you. We all were. But UT is a great school. My alma mater. And mom’s. Stay here over the summer, get a job in the evenings and save every penny you make. I’ll give you half of whatever we make in the garage and estate sales. It’s rightfully yours, anyway. Go to Knoxville and make your own way.”

Bri backed up, frowning. “But what about you and Ethan?”

We’ll be fine. Don’t worry about us. You worry about yourself. Either do what I say or I’ll marry Scumbag Stewart and force you to go to Vanderbilt kicking and screaming.”

That earned a slight, but brief, smile from her sister. “The house is half mine, too, right?”

Other books

A Bad Boy is Good to Find by Jennifer Lewis
Heart of the Demon by Cynthia Garner
Just Perfect by Lynn Hunter
Aquaterros by Mac Park
Finding Divine by Vaughn , Eve
Dandelions on the Wind by Mona Hodgson
Cadaver Island by Pro Se Press