Unspoken Vows, Book 1 of the Heartbeat Series

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Chapter 2. The Drama of It All

The next morning, Megan was in the office at seven as usual. I knew for a fact that she hadn’t slept much that night; the gate alarm went off at five of three that morning, waking me in the recliner where I fell asleep watching the Lakers game. Never does lack of sleep put my hyperactive assistant off her game. Last night, she had put on her best game face and acted as if everything was all right when she entered the foyer, but I knew for a fact it wasn’t. While she could live days without sleep, I wasn’t so inclined, so I opted to get all the gory details in the morning and let her be, hoping for a few hours of sleep myself before my slave-driving assistant put the day’s agenda before me.

After requesting the same file five times and still not receiving it from her as she sat at the computer writing a proposal, I finally asked, “What happened last night?”

“Nothing, Train was excellent, that Pat Monahan is a dream,” she replied to her computer monitor, her face still in the grant proposal she had been writing all morning.

“Don’t nothing me, Meg Beal, and I don’t care how adorable Pat Monahan is,” I replied, reaching for the back of her office chair and swiveling it so she faced me. Her eyes were red. Meg had been crying. Quickly she looked down at her desk blotter, unable to make eye contact with me, and immediately I knew that I would have to drag the truth out of her if we were going to get any work done at all today. As I sat on the futon across from her desk, I waited for her dramatics to take over, but Megan wasn’t giving it up. I sat back, checked my watch and determined that she had two minutes to spill it as I had plenty more to do than listen to her carry on about a guy who was not worthy of her. For a minute and a half, she pushed papers about her desk, straightened files, she didn’t mutter a word, as she waited for me to ask.

Getting up from the futon to leave her for my office to work, I said, “Its Randy, isn’t it? Fuck him. Get rid of the bastard, he’s not worth the effort or the tears.”

While my words satisfied me, they only led her to sob openly there in the office. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my pressed cotton hanky and handed it to her over the desk, feeling like a louse for bullying her and not letting her tell me in due time.

“What did he do?”

“Randy’s just an ass.”

“Tell me, did he hurt you?”

Meg turned back to the monitor, dismissing the last question altogether.

“Where?” I asked. She shook her head, not saying.

“I told you before, I don’t like how he treats you and I want you to get rid of him.”

“He doesn’t like you either. He thinks we’re sleeping together.”

“Is that what this is all about?”

Meg nodded and her hands went to her face as she wiped away tears.

“You’d tell me if it wasn’t, wouldn’t you?”

Meg nodded, but she should have shaken her head, wanting to rid me of my concern, so she nodded for me to let her be.

The phone rang and I picked up the extension on her desk. “Associated Artists AIDS Foundation,” I answered with the abbreviated title. It was Brandon Bixley, one of my friends who adored Megan. Since the day she moved into my house, she and Brandon had been thick as thieves. Every Thursday they met for lunch, and I was certain he was calling to cancel when I picked up the phone. Brandon chatted non-stop about his latest acquisition, Philip, a hot little artist from NYU who was working as an apprentice for peanuts in his gallery. Philip conveniently moved into the loft above the gallery where Brandon used to live and paint before he had earned enough to purchase the brownstone.

“Good talking with you, Bran’, here’s Megan.”

As the two talked, Meg almost sobbed into the phone. If Brandon had considered canceling on her, he changed his mind when he heard the tone of her voice.

“Okay, we’ll meet at the Berry Patch at one. No, I need chocolate ice cream covered in hot fudge after the salad today.” I heard her voice breaking up again and left my little drama queen while I refilled our coffee mugs, letting her bend Brandon’s ear for a change.

At least Bianca wasn’t awake to make this situation even worse. No, Bianca was like Sleeping Beauty while I worked. She’d sleep to noon or one, lounge about and dress, then make her grand entrance into the office around three in the afternoon, just in time to piss off Megan so the two would flame at each other with biting comments that would last throughout the evening.

When I returned with hot mugs of coffee, Meg was not at her desk. Instead, she sat in my leather executive chair, her feet out of the sandals beneath her. She was listening to whom I believed at first was Brandon, and then later realized that it was Randy.

“I’m not sleeping with Alex. He’s very much in love with Bianca and wouldn’t hurt her that way. Come on, Randy, you know I’m not that type. No, I’m not getting another piercing to prove jack to you. I have enough problems with the one I got.”

After handing Megan the mug of coffee, I winked at her and left my office for hers. Sitting at her desk for a change, I clicked on my calendar to see what she had on my agenda for the day, and then surfed the net to see what Billboard and MTV were saying about my acts. While sitting there, I realized that I could still hear her every word as if she was on speaker phone.

I’m probably too laid back when it comes to Megan. If any of my employees at the label did this, I’d have their jobs, but this one, I don’t know, she’s different. Meg made being home more fun than it used to be, and I relived my youth vicariously through her dating escapades.

“I told you before, Alex and I have a purely platonic relationship. So what? I like to ride his ass. Alex is a lot of fun in the office. I love my job. Screw you, Randy, I’m not quitting my job because you can’t think rationally.”

My ears perked to this conversation. ‘Good girl,’ I agreed with her and sipped my coffee, glad she put the bastard in his place.

“No, I’m not getting pierced down there for you,” she said. Hearing that, I almost choked. Unlike Megan, I prepared with cream instead of skim milk that she would have substituted in her covert efforts to change my diet.

“Don’t you send me any photo attachments of it, I don’t care, it ain’t happening. Screw you, Randy.”

Too busy concentrating on her conversation, I didn’t exactly hear the phone ringing on her desk.

“Alex, are you out there?” she asked.

“Yeah, sorry, I got it,” I replied, picking it up. It was Sean, calling from London about foundation business. I wasn’t in the mood, and from what I could hear in the other room, this was getting real good real fast, and I had to cut Sean off or miss it all.

“I’ll call you in a few,” I replied, cutting him off. “There’s trouble in paradise.”

“Whose paradise? Yours or Megan’s?”

“Hers.”

“Fine, you’re always in trouble. I want the play-by-play.”

“You got it, bye.”

“I don’t have to get pierced to prove jack shit to you,” Megan argued. I wondered if she’d let me examine this one, as I put the phone back on its receiver.

“What? The twins? No way, I’m not so shallow that I need constant sexual stimulation, thank you,” she replied, totally confusing me.

What in the hell was she talking about? Her tits maybe? I knew women had names for their breasts, but ‘twins’ would make sense for those perfect globes. By next week, it would be warm enough to watch Megan out at the pool in her bikini. Determined that I wouldn’t miss bikini season this year to the Los Angeles office, I reconfigured the schedule so that things could run on autopilot as most of the acts were on tour or in the studio. The contracts I tried to negotiate before Easter so I had my summer free, well at least this summer.

“If you mention it again, it’s over,” she said emphatically, making me smile.

‘Keep at him, girl,’ I thought, as I played solitaire on her computer. As she listened to him rant in her ear, I heard her reaching into my crystal candy dish for a couple Jordan Almonds.

“No, I think I’ll keep it, only because Alex likes to look at it,” she replied. She hung up the phone abruptly, causing his blood to boil and me to groan because she had put me back into the thick of it, yet again.

“If you play with fire you’re going to get burned,” I said. Realizing that this was my cue, I re-entered my office carrying what was left of my cup of coffee.

“Don’t lie, Alex, you do like looking at it,” she said, crunching through the almond’s crunchy shell and extending her leg so her pedicured toes pressed against my thigh. She had a toe ring on today, and it said ‘angel’ on it.

“Don’t go there.” I picked up her delicate foot and replaced it back on the chair after caressing its heel. “You’re teasing me again.”

“I think that’s a two-way street.”

“Have you broken it off with him yet?”

“No, not yet. I just have to make him realize who the boss is.”

I laughed. “He doesn’t know you very well.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Are you getting another piercing?”

“If I do, I promise to let you see it.”

“You’re a devil, Meg Beal.”

“Only when necessary.”

I couldn’t keep my mind on work that morning, for obvious reasons. Finally, I told Megan that I was going up to see Bianca, to which she sported a devilish grin knowing that she had made me all hot and bothered, and Bianca would be woken from her beauty sleep to deal with it.

As I left the office, she replied, “I’ll see you after lunch.”

Upstairs, Bianca was asleep in my bed, her bare back exposed as the rest of her was barely covered with the sheet. I took off my pants and shirt before bending over her and planting a series of kisses on her shoulder that teased the nape of her neck. Finally waking her after moving her blond hair away, I covered her back with gentle wet kisses before attacking her earlobe.

“Good morning to you, too. What did that little vixen do?”

“Nothing, she’s working,” I lied, “I just needed you.”

“Oh, Alex,” Bianca replied with a sigh. Believing my lie and turning over to face me, her tiny breast bobbed as I teased her nipple with my thumb before suckling it to awaken her arousal to meet mine. My hips ground against hers as she pulled my boxers from me. No need for extended foreplay today. My Bianca was more ready for me than I had imagined. When I pressed myself into her, I wanted Megan beneath me. My tongue longed to tease that navel piercing or her perky full breasts instead of Bianca’s tiny tits.

Bianca had a name, a reputation and a title. Megan was just my assistant whom I had wanted to fuck since day one. I despised how she played with me as if she knew that I wanted to put her over the desk and bang her just as fast.

‘That would teach her for teasing,’ I thought, quickening my pace inside Bianca, whose moans grew louder when I knew I had her near satisfaction. ‘Damn that little devil for flirting so,’ I thought, flipping Bianca over onto her stomach. ‘Fine, I’ll give Bianca what she should have kept for herself.’ I plummeted Bianca even more, as her hands clenched the sheets, almost ripping them from the mattress as I felt her tremble with the release. Relentless, I kept at her, although she writhed beneath me. With a firm grip on her shoulders, so she couldn’t slip forward and away from me, I moved harder and faster, bringing her to the edge again with myself, collapsing upon her petite form, my heart palpitating as she panted. My mouth left wet kisses upon her shoulder where my fingertips had marred her fair skin with pinkness. As her dainty hand shooed my face away from her sensitive shoulder, I strategically kissed the center of her back above her shoulder blades, where she couldn’t swat my mouth away from her over-sensitive skin, until she begged me to stop. Quickly diverting my lips from her back, Bianca signaled me off then turned on her side so she faced me, returning the kisses to my face.

“You’re smashing,” she replied. Her hand combed through my salt and pepper curls on the back of my head with her slight hand until I rolled her onto her other side and spooned her spent body against mine. Sweat misted our skin while the warmth from the morning sun smothered me. With the room’s remote, I turned on the ceiling fan and Bianca sighed in relief as the cool air evaporated the mist from our bodies. With Bianca’s tiny body spooned against me and my arm draped about her, I fell asleep that morning, not caring about work. I had my goddess in my arms as the house fell silent in homage to my beautiful woman’s need for sleep.

When I woke to the house phone ringing, I realized that Megan went to lunch with Brandon, and Anna was at the market. I reached across Bianca and pulled the cordless receiver to my ear, only to hear Gonzo on the other end.

“I didn’t catch you in the office, Alex,” he explained, sounding rather exasperated.

“It’s all right, just taking a break,” I said. Kissing Bianca’s forehead before lying back with my head on the pillow, I asked, “What’s up, Gonzo?”

“I have a situation here.”

“Oh God, what now?” Remembering my blood pressure, I took a deep breath and told myself whatever it was could probably be fixed.

“I have to ask you a personal question, Alex, and I hate doing this.”

“Spill it, Gonzo,” I said, sitting up.

“Do you have a daughter named Angela?”

“Yeah, why?”

“She’s traveled with us since Hartford.”

“She what?” I exclaimed, startling Bianca awake.

“She’s here with us in San Francisco, and I think you need to come to get her.”

“Angela . . . she’s only sixteen,” I replied. As my heart raced, I thought, what in the hell was my sixteen-year-old daughter doing with a reggae band and not in school? Where in the hell is her mother and why didn’t she call me?

“We just discovered her age and her identity. I wish I had asked sooner, I’m sorry.”

“What on earth was she doing traveling with the band?”

“It’s a long story. She’s really mature for sixteen.”

“Gonzo, you know better than that. Liability--”

“We have a bigger problem on our hands, Boss, and I think you need to get here before I say anything else.”

“Is she all right?”

“Yeah, she’s fine, it’s just--”

“What?”

“She’s too young to be here and Connor wants her out of here by this afternoon.”

“I’ll call my pilot.”

I dressed as fast as I could and wished Megan was there to make the arrangements. When I found Tom, my pilot, he put a rush on the flight plans to San Francisco.

Bianca wasn’t pleased with the news. In fact, she had a fit and said she’d pack and go back to her apartment in Manhattan rather than stick around for the family reunion. Needless to say, she was angry with me again. I scribbled Megan a note just in case Bianca wouldn’t be around when Megan returned, wishing she’d walk in the door right now so she could accompany me to California to help me keep my cool. The tone of Gonzo’s voice concerned me. What’s more, I knew that something was wrong--seriously wrong, or he would have told me right then and there what else was troubling him except that his charge had been banging the boss’ daughter. Without calling for the limo, I drove my Range Rover over to the small airfield and left it with the alarm set.

While I was on my way to California, Meg and Randy got into another fight, this time while she was at lunch with Brandon at the Berry Patch, one of her favorite cafes in White Plains. Apparently, Randy was upset because Meg didn’t tell him that she was having lunch with Brandon. Worried about Meg, Brandon called me while I was in mid-flight.

“Alex, we’ve got to talk,” replied Brandon. We’d been friends for almost fifteen years now, and when Brandon said, “we’ve got to talk,” it was code for ‘shut up and listen to me.’

“Oh no, I have enough on my hands,” I explained to Brandon about Angela tucked away in the mountains of Northern California with Connor.

“This is important.”

“My ears are all yours until the phone cuts us off.”

“Megan and Randy had another fight today.”

“And?” I asked, since this wasn’t anything new. She’d been arguing with him since their first date and personally, it was getting old as far as I was concerned.

“He got her really upset.” Not much ruffled Megan’s feathers, but this guy really got under her skin, but still, even that was old news.

“And?”

“She was in tears at the Berry Patch.”

“What did they fight over?”

“Me.”

“You?”

“He thinks I have a thing for her.”

“Same here, but I’m straight, so it’s understandable that he’d assume something like that about me, but you, you’re—”

“Not,” filled in Brandon. Then taking one of his exasperating and dramatic sighs, he concluded, “Really, Alex, I don’t understand what she sees in him. He’s such a cur.”

“I know. So is that all? They had a fight?”

“She’s supposed to meet him to discuss this matter tonight.”

“Discuss, eh?”

“I don’t think talking will be his intent, considering the conversation I heard on her end.”

“From what I’ve seen as a result of their discussions, I happen to agree. I’ll call her and give her some work that I need to be done in a hurry to delay her from going anywhere. That should keep her there until I arrive.”

“She deserves someone much better than that asshole.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more, Brandon.”

“So, now what do we do?”

“She’s got to end this.”

“I don’t trust Randy.”

“Me neither, I’ll find her and give her plenty of work to do to keep her busy until I get back.”

I called Megan and checked in with her. She sounded pensive at best, and I gave her a rundown of what I needed. I decided numbers weren’t her strong suit since she literally has to talk herself through calculations in order to total the balance sheet each month. When I gave her a detailed fund search of all the organizations that received more than one thousand from us in 2003 and 2004, I was certain she would spend all day on this project.

“That’s easy, I can do that in five minutes.”

“What?”

“I’ll plug in a database query and have it printed and on your desk in five minutes.”

“That’s not the point. You wait there until I get home. Don’t bother arguing with me. I’m sending Mike over right away.”

“No, I’m going to meet Randy to end this mess.”

“You’re not going anywhere without a member of my entourage or me with you.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“The last time you said that—”

“He apologized for hitting me.”

My blood began to boil again and I thanked my lucky stars that I only had one teenage daughter, even though at times Megan made me feel as if I had two.

“He should never have hit you in the first place, and I should never have let you go out with him again.”

“Who died and made you my father?”

“Old Howard Beal himself. Someone has to look out for you.”

“It doesn’t have to be you.”

“Well Brandon has just appointed me as your savior, so be a good girl and be home when I get there, eh?”

By this time, Meg was mad. “If I don’t go over there, he’ll just come over here.”

“Let him. I’m calling Mike right now.”

“Alex, no, it’s Mike’s day off. He hasn’t had a break since you two left for California. I’ll be fine, let him alone.”

“If you want to run today, it will be in the gym on the treadmill. You’re not to leave the estate’s grounds. If you do, then I’ll deal with you myself, is that understood?”

“Fine, whatever.”

“One situation temporarily under control,” I muttered, while I dialed Mike’s cell. I no sooner left a message for Mike than my phone rang again.

This time it was Mrs. Simms, my assistant at AC Records. She was inside my office with the door shut, she told me. Margie Simms may not be as young and beautiful as Megan, but she was faithful and careful not to reveal any of my private life to the staff or media.

“I found your ex-wife, Janice.”

“Where was she?”

“Honeymooning in Hawaii with her latest gigolo.”

“Did she know that Angela was not at school?”

“No. The boarding school left word in Janice’s voicemail, but the housekeeper didn’t answer the voicemail upon request of her mistress.”

“Hell, she could have been dead, and Janice wouldn’t have cared.”

“She’s on her way to New York to fetch her.”

“That’s good, call Megan with the flight information and have her send a car for Janice.”

“I’m trying to keep this out of the office. I already sent Gonzo’s assistant home for the day and told her to keep her mouth shut or she’d deal with me tomorrow. I’ve forwarded all of her calls to my desk, so if he calls again, I’ll make sure this is not made known to the office staff.”

“Thanks, Margie.”

“Anytime, Mr. Corwynn. I hope this is a beginning of a real relationship with your daughter.”

“So do I. Thanks.”

“Call me if you need me.”

“Will do.”

For the last fourteen years, I hadn’t seen my daughter once--not a photo, not even a phone call. Janice made sure that I didn’t have any contact with her. I paid the child support and the alimony dutifully. After all, it was my fault that the separation even occurred. One night on Heartbeat’s last tour, I got dumb and drunk and let my libido get the best of me. Janice found me out in the midst of her pregnancy with Angela and was gone before I could even explain. The only photo of my daughter and I together is in the Waterford Crystal frame on my dresser. She’s not even three days old and it was the first time I ever held her, and luckily for me, there was a camera present. I remembered her ebony locks, so thick already at the crown of her head. She was so beautiful, so fragile, and I wanted to spoil her rotten, but Janice would see to it that I was punished for my infidelity by omitting me from my daughter’s life altogether.

When the jet’s seatbelt light had shut off, I unbuckled it and went to the bar, grabbing the bottle of Scotch from the cabinet, pouring myself a couple jiggers worth into a glass with some ice. With my first sip, I tried to forget the sound of Angie’s cries from the last time I saw her. She was but a toddler then. After not knowing where my daughter was for over two years, I hired a private investigator to find where Janice had been hiding her, hearing from acquaintances that they were back in the states again.

Paul Lenci, one of my best friends from when we were kids in South Philly and the keyboardist from Heartbeat, accompanied me to Hartford to see my baby girl, who clung to her mother’s legs when I approached her. When I picked her up and hugged her, she screamed. While I gave up after that episode, I did come to terms with Janice: I’d quit pursuing them if she promised to stay there in Hartford, not run off somewhere else. Constantly uprooting this child couldn’t have been good for her, and all I wanted to know was that the child was safe. Janice agreed to do so if I stayed out of their lives and paid the mortgage, support, and alimony without question.

Paulie balked at it, but I agreed. Then, I left the house too shaken to drive out of the allotment where they lived. I had to stop at the entrance to let Paulie drive us home. After I sent Angela a birthday gift for her third birthday, Janice sent me papers to relinquish parental rights, threatening me to stay away or I’d never see Angela again. I didn’t interfere in her life after that, not because I didn’t care. Actually, I wanted to know her. Truth be told, when I was in Hartford on business or anywhere near it, I’d drive by the house looking for some activity, once seeing Angie in the yard with another little girl. When Janice came to the screen door, I quickly drove off, hoping she hadn’t seen me. All the stress of fighting with Janice wasn’t worth it to me, and I didn’t want to cause Angie any more strife, so I gave up on the relationship until she was old enough to seek me out on her own.

As I sipped my Scotch, I wondered if this whole thing with Connor was just that, a ploy to get near me, and if it were, great. I’d love to get to know my daughter. I just hoped she was safe and healthy in the midst of Connor and his crew. Angie didn’t know me then, and she didn’t know me now, but that was subject to change.

After I rented a car, I drove it up to the lodge that the label owned and our artists used for a retreat. It took me almost an hour to get out of San Francisco traffic and to the interstate, but I made it in good time, hoping that I’d get Angela and locate Mike to send him to my house in White Plains. Trying his number again as I pulled into the drive of the lodge, I got his voice mail and gave him explicit instructions not to let Megan out of his sight, regardless of who came over, until I arrived.

The security guard checked my ID and let me past his post. Gonzo, the handsome Puerto Rican manager who never had any trouble meeting a lady but sure had trouble keeping one, met me at the door. Through the gleaming gold Gucci glasses, I could see the look of worry in his eyes.

“Where is she?”

“I’ll get her, Boss,” said Gonzo. Leaving me in the foyer as his long legs skipped stairs in his acid washed jeans, the open French cuffs of his silk shirt flapping like a baby bird failing to fly. He called for Angie as he disappeared from where I could see him on the balcony.

I checked out the great room where everything looked fresh and clean, a good sign that the cleaning crew had been in this morning and the place looked presentable though I could always smell the remains of hookah and air freshener hovering in the high ceilings’ rafters. Gonzo probably called the service out here because I was on my way and didn’t want me to think illegal activities had probably gone on here last night. Whenever I’ve shown up unannounced, the lodge had been trashed.

I heard footsteps on the staircase and returned to the foyer to see if it was my daughter, only to find Connor coming down the stairs in blue satin pajamas like a black Hugh Heffner.

“Where’s Angela?” I asked, stuffing my hands in my pockets because even before I knew what he had done to her, I was all ready to pound him.

“Gonzo’s getting her.”

“What’s Gonzo so worked up about that he wouldn’t tell me on the phone?” I asked, walking closer to the skinny reggae artist, whose hair in dreadlocks fell about his face.

“It’s Angie,” he replied, retreating away from me.

“I guessed that. What about her?” I asked almost backing him against the wall of the staircase.

“Man, I had like no idea that—” said Connor, sliding across the staircase wall and away from me. I just stepped even closer to him. He ran from me like a scared schoolgirl.

“Get on with it, Connor. What did you do to her?”

“Alex? Is that you?” asked Angie stepping down the staircase. Before he could answer me, I left Connor’s side to meet my daughter on the stairs. My Angela looked just like my ex-wife Janice but she had my black hair. Before she could refuse me, I hugged her, although she stood like a stone statue, shocked by my presence. I released her enough to look at her with those ridiculous plaits about her head and nose piercing, but couldn’t resist my arms pulling her close to me once more, and she obliged me with a hug that time.

“What are you doing here? How did you know I was here?” she asked. With her arms still about my waist, her soft doe eyes looked up to me. I couldn’t help smiling at her and examining her heart-shaped face. The daughter I had longed to see for fourteen years was there in my arms. A sprinkling of faint freckles spotted her nose and beneath her eyes, and when she smiled, I saw dimples like mine dent her cheeks.

“I had Gonzo call him this morning, Angie. You need to go home with your dad.”

“But why?” she asked, releasing her grasp on me and rushing down the staircase to confront him. A strong-willed spitfire just like her mother; she wouldn’t take this news easily.

“You’re too young, Angie. You should have told me how old you were to begin with, and who you were.”

As I moved to her side between them, Angie replied, “But you wouldn’t have let me come.”

“Damn straight.”

“But the baby—”

“What baby?” I exclaimed, going after Connor. As I seized a handful of satin with my left, I impacted his face with the right, ready to pound him into the ground until Gonzo grabbed me and pulled me back.

“I’m pregnant with Connor’s baby. I just found out this morning.”

I thought I’d die a thousand deaths right then and there, but I considered my heart problem before I got too upset. Instead, I pulled back from Gonzo, straightened my suit coat and told Angie to pack her things, because she was going home with me, now.

A tearful Angela refused to do so.

“Now!” I bellowed and she rushed back up the staircase, while I cornered Gonzo, telling him that I was too angry to discuss this situation, but in the near future, the two of us would discuss this matter in great detail.

Gonzo nodded, and I went after Connor who began to climb up the stairs like a coward to escape me.

“You fucking bastard,” I said to him, “If you ever come near my daughter again, God help you and your career.”

Within five minutes, Angela was descending the staircase with her messenger bag swung over the front of her, a sketch tablet in her other arm and her backpack across her back. I took the backpack from her and led her out of the lodge to the car.

As I keyed the ignition, she cried, “I thought he loved me.”

“Connor only loves himself.”

“Where are you taking me?”

“To my house in New York. Your Mom’s on her way,” I said. I steered around the horseshoe drive and out of the lodge’s gate.

“Oh, shit,” she said, leaning back in the seat and staring out the passenger window.

“Yeah, I heard. She’s on her honeymoon, and she’s not thrilled to hear that you ran off from school to be a groupie for a reggae band.”

“Do I have to go back with her?” she whined. As if I could do anything about the arrangement between her mother and me?

“She’s the custodial parent.”

“Don’t you have a wife, yet?”

“No, a girlfriend.”

“Oh, that ballerina. What’s her name?”

Thinking how long ago our morning together seemed at that moment, I replied, “Bianca Barteau.”

“So Mom’s upset with me. What else is new?” asked Angie, pulling down the visor and fixing a plait that the hair had fallen out of.

“Do you got a brush on you?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Take those ridiculous things out, and run a brush through your hair.”

“You sound like Mom,” Angela smirked and undid the plaits, letting the hair loose. She took the brush and slowly brushed out the black hair, and I was shocked that its length was below her shoulders.

The first few hours of our meeting weren’t as joyful as I had hoped for so many years now. In fact, it was stressful and the two of us picked at each other the same way Megan and I do when I’m upset with her. Within minutes of our arrival on the tarmac, my pilot taxied the jet for take-off. Angela sat in the ivory leather seat across from me and appeared half stoned.

“What’s been your drug of choice?”

Shocked by my question, thinking she could beat it by acting all innocent like she had no idea what I meant by that, she asked, “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. I wasn’t born yesterday, so drop the innocent act. You smell like a lit joint. What else have you been mixing with it?”

“Mollies and E,” she replied.

“Mollies and Ecstasy?”

She nodded.

“You’re getting an abortion.”

“To hell I am.”

“Yes, you are. I won’t have Connor’s kid for a grandchild, and what kind of life have you given it thus far? Mollies, Ecstasy, and God only knows how much booze. That child will be lucky to have any brain cells at that rate.”

“It’s my body, my choice.”

“After screwing Connor more than once, you’ve probably come home with more than just a baby!”

As she stared out the window as we lifted off, I sensed this was all a grand adventure for her. I was certain that until her mother got there she’d check everything out to report to her mother what I had and what she wanted. I figured within the month, I’d get another list of bills and needs for this child I never knew.

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