"Momma I’m hungry.” Sitting in the back of a limo, we were on our way for a little mini-vacation to see Brandt and his family in California. It was my first vacation in years and I still felt guilty about pulling Lena out of school for a week and leaving the business at the start of its busy season. The same business I never wanted to get into in the first place, but circumstances pushed my hand.
“Here honey, why don’t you take my snack from the plane.” Taking the chips from my hand, she replaced it with one of her winning smiles making my heart clench in my chest. Her look mirrored her fathers so much it made me sigh. And to think, I almost gave her up.
How different my life would be. I wouldn’t be working for my father. Instead, I would be gallivanting around the world, seeing the sights, and making impressive business decisions.
And I would be miserable.
The day after I left Logan, I went to Seattle to the job interview at Boeing that Chelsea set up. That night in the hotel, I couldn’t take it anymore and went out to get a pregnancy test. Actually, five of them. When they all came back positive, I had a mini-meltdown clinging to the hope it had all been some crazy mistake. But life never worked out the way you wanted it.
The pregnancy had me so shook up I bombed the interview. Since there was no correcting my failure with Boeing, I returned to New Hampshire with my tail between my legs, my newfound career ambitions falling to the wayside.
Convincing my parents I really wanted to work for the family business, they were both ecstatic with my choice. And after I settled into the job, I made the first appointment for an abortion. And then I made three more.
The first one I flat out avoided. For the second and third ones, I even got as close as the parking lot. The fourth one I ended up actually setting foot inside but when the nurse took me back, I broke down crying. She was so nice to me, telling me to take my time deciding, not to let this be a knee-jerk reaction. I doubted my ability to raise a child, but then I turned selfish.
The child inside of me was a part of Logan. The man who I loved with all my heart and I wanted a piece of him with me forever. In my mind, this child would be loved just as much and a constant reminder that there was good out there. Going home after the clinic and telling my parents proved the hardest thing in the world apart from telling Logan I didn’t love him. Of Course, they wanted to know who fathered my child, but I refused to give them that information stating he was out of my life. They didn’t necessarily like my answer, but Brandt and Chelsea came to my defense explaining to them it had been my choice. And if I believed the father shouldn’t be in the picture, it must be for a good reason. It was hard on the family, but they all helped me in the end.
Taking the job at my parent’s company provided me the support of my family to raise my daughter. My lies made it bearable to keep Brandt out of it as I told them a different due date to make it seem as if my sexual prowess happened after the tour with my brother. When I delivered Lena, it was obvious she wasn’t a preemie although my mother never said a word, and I loved her all the more for it.
It wasn’t fair to Lena. Raising her without a father. Telling her he wouldn’t be a part of her life. It made her sad and I felt horrible for the lie.
"Momma, do you have any more? I’m still hungry.” Snapping out of my thoughts, I focused on my daughter knowing my selfishness brought some regrets but certainly not that she was here with me. Her tiny singsong voice made me smile as she looked expectant of me.
“Sorry honey, all out. Maybe you shouldn’t have given away your snack on the plane.” She tilted her head in a way that showed me she was thinking.
“But Momma he was an army guy. You told me all army guys are heroes. They help to keep us safe. Doesn’t he deserve a snack?”
I smiled and nodded my head. “Yes honey. They are heroes but he had his own snack.” Unperturbed, she shrugged and looked out the window.
Lena looked so much like him. Despite the black hair color, she had his curls. Those unruly curls I had a hard time brushing in the morning before she went to school. And the eyes. Steel-blue and so big making it hard to look at her sometimes as they reminded me of him so much.
Their personalities were the same too. She was never the drama-filled toddler, so compliant and had the most understanding temperament. All her teachers fawned over her telling me what a dream she was to have in class. Smart, caring. Always helping when she could. I got the best of Logan in her and I would do it all over again.
“Are army guys pirates?” Here we go again. She received a children’s book for Christmas on pirates and now her obsession took on a whole new life.
“No, honey. Pirates don’t exist anymore. Besides, pirates were bad people.”
She scrunched up her face, “There could be good pirates.” So convinced on the theory of good pirates, I let her run with it picking my battles as they came. Being a single mother, it was the difference between sanity and eating my weight in chocolate to cope.
The car pulled up to Brandt’s house and we scrambled out to get our luggage from the driver. His house stood magnificent before me, my jealousy clear whenever I got to visit. Although he gave me an allowance to help with Lena, I put it all away for her college fund, choosing to stay in the small bungalow house I could afford on my salary. I might have leaned on my family for support, but I didn’t need to be totally dependent on them.
Another car sat in the driveway and I assumed Brandt had a visitor. It was an expensive sedan few common people could pay for, but the owner must not be in the music business as it was far from sporty. This type of car screamed reliability with only the newest safety features. All the airbags and the crash points. The type of expensive car my brother would buy for Chelsea, so she and the kids were kept safe.
Going to the massive front door, I raised my hand to the bell noticing a new security feature not present on my last visit. Before I could ring, the door opened to my handsome older brother, the smile on his face huge, “Rebecca!”
Opening his arms I fell into them while he bent to ensure the hug included an overly excited Lena. “Uncle Brandt!” Lena started to giggle as he let me go and lifted her up to throw her in the air. Her black curls bounced as she screamed in delight.
“I’m so glad you are here. And so are your cousins. Come. Let me take you outback where they’re playing.” Unable to separate himself from her embrace he carried her to the kitchen and the deck area beyond. Brandt had been great with her ever since she was born, and she loved both her uncle Brandt and uncle Dean so much. They meant the world to her and as the only current father figures in her life, it made me wish I could take more time to see them.
“How was your flight?” Lena started to ramble on about her ears popping and having a movie to watch on the plane while I took in the beauty that was his house. They completely renovated it a while back but even though it had been ten years prior, it was still amazing to behold. Little hints of my mother’s embellishing skills showed in the decorations and it blended perfectly with Brandt and Chelsea’s style as well as my mother’s exquisite taste.
Bringing us out to the deck, I felt the heat of the sun starting to set in the sky over the ocean. Their view showed stunning as it lent contrast to the blue in the water and the tan rock cliffs on either side of their property. The air smelled of salt and still warm to the point of hot even for May. We stepped out of the door drawing my eyes to a brand new pool house with me being the first occupant. The kids rushed out of the door followed by Chelsea.
“Hey guys, look who I found!” Brandt yelled down as the kids all perked up screaming Lena’s name in celebration. The look of joy on all their faces was priceless as well as Lena’s face. I really should make a point to come to visit more often. Lena needed time with her cousins. She had so much fun with them and I missed my brother and sister-in-law as well.
Chelsea ambled out the door followed by a familiar male body I would recognize anywhere. Logan’s large frame amassed the door, and when he looked up in my direction, my breath caught in my throat. Stumbling over to the railing of the deck I blinked my eyes desperately to find him a mirage. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. It was risky coming out to California, but I didn’t think I would ever run into him again.
And he stared right at me as I stood there transfixed.
“Stay right there. We will be right up.” Chelsea went to grab Angel but Logan lifted her up easily instead and carried her up the stairs to the deck while a running herd of kids preceded him.
The simple act of holding his niece mesmerized me in how comfortable it seemed for him. He looked different too but still so much the same it tugged at my heart. His hair now groomed shorter to his head, either because of the army’s influence or to keep his unruly curls in check, made him look more of a man. The curls suited him, but he still displayed a rugged vision of virility. It made me remember a time when I would run my fingers through it.
Somehow, he appeared bigger too. Muscular. The same steel blue eyes looked up at me but this time faint lines shone around his eyes as if the desert wore down on him.
When he got to the top of the deck, just feet away from me, I hid my nervousness hoping he didn’t notice my heart pounding in my chest. Setting down Angel leisurely she ran for a hug after waiting her turn. Taking my time to hug them all, I needed to collect my thoughts although I was unable to pull my eyes off Logan. I ran my fingernail over my eyebrow wasting time until I get a grip on my senses. The realization his daughter stood in front of him brought a cold chill down my spine making it hard to breathe all of a sudden.
He steadied his expression and then smiled at me. “Rea. Nice to see you again. Are you out for a visit?” Curtly, proper. Friendly even. Nothing to alarm me but if I didn’t snap out of my trance soon I would be likely to act in a manner to cause suspicion.
“Yes, Brandt invited me out to attend the awards banquet with him.” Shaky, but not too bad.
Brandt smiled in his direction, “She never got a chance to go and Chelsea is already sick of being my date.”
Chelsea rolled her eyes, “You seen one rich rock star, you’ve seen them all.” She shared a chuckle with Brandt, but Logan still had a plastered-on expression visible on his face.
“It isn’t the only reason. We get to celebrate a certain lucky little girl’s birthday coming up.” Brandt looked at a jumping Lena making her giggle with excitement. “This will be the first time she gets to celebrate in California, isn’t it squirt.” He mussed up her curls on her head, but she didn’t seem to mind, obviously loving the attention her uncle bestowed on her.
Logan’s expression changed when he looked down at her and my heart wept. Kneeling down he got to her level before addressing her, “And who is this birthday girl?”
She smiled a big, bright smile, “Lena.” She said it in her singsong voice letting Logan know she liked his attention as well.
“Lena? That is a beautiful name.”
Dipping her head shyly, she responded, “That isn’t my full name. My full name is Katalena Margaret Stennet.” Once she uttered her full name, his eyes shot up to find my own. Unable to talk at the moment, we stared at each other knowing the reason behind the name.
Taking his time to stand back up he turned to me, ”Katalena?”
“I... I told you I liked the name.” My voice was soft, and my hands shook slightly seeing the proximity of father and daughter. I couldn’t let him see me nervous though, not wanting him to misread my unease.
Turning his back on me to address Lena, he gave her a genuine smile after recovering from the look of shock on his face. ”Katalena was my sister’s name except we called her Kat for short.” She looked up at me now trying to decide if he was pulling her leg. I swallowed down the lump in my throat and nodded at her.
Always one to jump from one whim to another she looked at Chelsea, “Aunt Chelsea do you have something to eat? I’m hungry.”
Chelsea obliged, “Why of course Lena. We have supper planned in a little while, but I am sure we can find you a snack. Would you like some fruit?”
She nodded as her curls bounced around her head. “I would have gotten more chips on the plane, but I gave them to an army guy.”
Chelsea looked at her confused, “Why did you give them away if you were hungry?”
Shrugging, she answered, “It was an army guy. Mommy always says they are heroes. That they deserve extra prayers at night to keep them safe so they can look out for us.” The breath I held left me as I found Logan openly staring at me.
Chelsea winked at Logan, “Well your mother is right. Did you know that Logan here was in the army? He helped protect little kids like you too.”
Her eyes widened, “You were in the army? Mommy, this guy was in the army too. Maybe we should feed him?” Chelsea and Brandt both laughed while my knees threatened to give out. A small forced chuckle meant to divert suspicion poured out of my mouth.
Chelsea tilted her head at Logan, “That was the plan. Brandt and I have plenty for tonight. I offered for him to stay, but he said he had to leave.”
Relieved he would be leaving in a little while, I calmed my heartbeat knowing my misery would end soon. I would just need to make myself scarce if he were to turn up here again. I could avoid him all week knowing I did it trapped on a tour bus with him once upon a time.
That was when he put the fake smile back on his face and looked directly at me. “On second thought, I would love nothing more than to have some of your good cooking again Chelsea.”
Dinner felt awkward, to say the least, but I didn’t think Brandt or Chelsea thankfully realized it. I busied myself making sure the kids kept occupied never letting myself in the same room as Logan, and under no circumstances were we ever alone together. I became ultra-protective of Lena too. She seemed to find him fascinating, asking him if he knew any pirates and talking nonstop about the book she discovered on them. He didn’t seem perturbed with it either, as if amused by her constant questions.
He wouldn’t leave. Why wouldn’t he leave? Dinner came and went, and he sat outside with us while we had wine and talked. Brandt reminisced with him about the touring days, and he even brought me into the story asking me if I remembered the time I followed Brandt on the road. Couldn’t Logan see my discomfort talking about it? Why did it matter to him except to rub it in that his life went how he planned it and mine... well, didn’t turn out as I hoped.
My discomfort reached an all-time high when Lena, tired from the trip, asked Logan to read her the pirate story while Brandt made up her room in the main house. Sleeping in the pool house wouldn’t be good enough when the excitement of sleeping with cousins played into the picture. Lena was even fought over by Brandt’s kids. Ronnie asked her to sleep in her room which upset Angel until they agreed they would all sleep in the multi-purpose room upstairs so as not to have her pick between them.
While Brandt and Chelsea set out some makeshift beds and pillows, I watched as my daughter settled in next to Logan and let him read her a story. He took his time lending his deep, gravelly voices to the bad pirates and gave whimsical voices to the other pirates. I watched in awe as she laid her head back on his shoulder and melted into him, content that he was an army person, and therefore destined to look after her as a good guy. The whole act brought tears to my eyes and as soon as her sleepy head lulled, I picked her up in my arms and hugged her tight before climbing the stairs to lay her down in her bedroom for the night.
By the time I had tucked her into bed, my head pounded and all my energy drained from watching the man who impregnated me interact with his biological daughter knowing both of them clueless the other existed. Deciding I would turn in myself, I made an excuse the moment I stepped back on the deck and left for the pool house feigning exhaustion from the flight.
Once inside the safety of the pool house, I slumped down in the armchair and laid my face in my hands. How did I let this happen? They were never supposed to meet. Logan had his life planned out. He wanted to settle down and start a family soon after leaving the army, not discover a long-lost daughter in the meantime. His career ended too soon though. Brandt told me the story of him in the terrorist attack on a train in southern France and how it ended his military career. The one he wanted his whole life. It amazed me the obstacles Logan went through and his bravery on that train fighting to make it back alive, but he was always a fighter.
Brandt was none the wiser when I would get nostalgic and ask about him from time to time but I never thought I would run into him again. Even when I learned of him settling down in California, I never thought our paths would cross. Just my dumb luck I would pick the one week he was scheduled to do work at the house.
A knock on the door stopped my beating heart. Frozen, I stayed silent until I knew of the presence behind it. “Rea, it is Logan. I think I forgot my notebook in there from earlier.” Looking around I didn’t see any notebook. If I had, I would have slid it under the door instead. Standing up, I made my way to the door on shaky legs.
Opening the door slowly, I found him leaning against the door jamb leering at me. “I don’t... I don’t see any notebook.”
Pretending to look behind me he returned his attention to me and smiled, “Maybe you didn’t look in all the right places.” Pushing past me, he entered the pool house uninvited.
“You can’t barge in here!” Spinning around he came in close to me making me back up, but my legs hit the edge of the sofa pinning me to the spot. I could smell the ocean on his skin and his scent. The scent of Logan that still haunted me in my dreams.
He stepped closer and I sidestepped out of his way, inadvertently closing the door behind me. “Why so defensive Rea? I just wanted to catch up. See how life was treating you.” Leaning in close enough to make me squirm, I felt my hands go sweaty in his presence.
“We... we can catch up later. I... I’m not feeling too good right now.” A tremble was heard in my voice and it seemed as though he had fun with my discomfort.
“You don’t look sick. In fact, you are looking good. Motherhood agrees with you.” Motherhood yes. I was a mother. My body shouldn’t be responding to him being so close, but his blue eyes kept drawing me in being we were alone. Just the two of us. Alone.
“Well, you look good yourself. Your hair is a little shorter and your chest is broader...” Oh, great Rea. Why don’t you just mention how your panties flooded when he knocked on your door. Better yet, why don’t you throw him down on the couch and...
I seriously needed to stop this train of thought. Nothing good could come of it. I was a single mother working hard to keep my shit together. Sex was no longer a need.
Following my sightlines to his massive pec muscles, Logan smirked at me enjoying knowing he affected me. Snap out of it Rea! “But I really am tired. Jet lag and all. Maybe we could start this up again soon?” What the hell was I saying? Start what up again soon? I knew what I would like to start with him. Fuck, my mind had the consistency of a dog chasing a squirrel.
“Are you sure you want me to leave?” Tilting in extra close until our lips were barely inches apart, I could feel the heat of his breath. His steely blue eyes drank me up and the pink wetness of his lips was almost too much to deny.
And then the devil on my shoulder spoke. Just one kiss. You loved the way he kissed, the way he tasted. He was so tender he would bring you to tears just with his lips touching yours.
But I knew I would never stop. The fact I still dreamt about him, both in my sleep and during the day when I was supposed to be going over payroll or doing the laundry, was just too much. If I let myself have one kiss there would be more and I couldn’t let it happen.
Steadying my gaze, I answered him, “Yes Logan. Please leave.” Not surprised or deterred I asked him to leave, his mouth twisted into a smirk.
The smug smile engulfed his whole face as if he didn’t believe me but would humor me. Letting his gaze leave mine as he raked it down my body heating it as much as one of his caresses, he confidently looked around the room before turning back to me. “I guess I was mistaken. No notebook here. Good night Rea. Sleep tight.”
In a barely audible voice, I said good night and watched him walk out the door and back up to Brandt’s darkly lit house. The whole time he strolled away he gave me a perfect view of his firm, tight ass, making me wish I had packed my vibrator.