Sam rested his forehead against her shoulder and pressed a kiss on her clavicle. “Let’s get you dressed.” He went to get up but she held him to her.
As soon as they dressed and left the cave, it would be back to reality. She wasn’t ready. “Sam, wait.” He lifted his head and looked at her, and she saw the love. It was easy to see, and that made her sad because he’d come clean and explained. She even understood to an extent, although understanding didn’t take away the many months of pain she’d felt. He’d still hurt her, even if he had good intentions.
“What is it, Sim?” He nuzzled her with his nose. It was cold against her skin and her flesh puckered with goose bumps.
She grabbed his face between her hands. “I—there’s some things I need to tell you.”
He gave her a quick kiss and stood, then pulled her to her feet slowly. “Damn, you’re beautiful.”
He helped her dress and then proceeded to do the same. “I’m listening,” he said as he zipped his pants.
“It’s…” Ugh, how did she say it? The words. How did she make him understand what an amazing child Sabrina was and do it without sounding like she wanted something from him? “It’s… I—
have a child,” she finally blurted.
He froze in the process of adjusting his tie. His brows crunched together and his lips tightened. “What do you mean?”
Simone huffed, tugging on her sweatshirt. “It isn’t that hard to grasp. We were together. Nine months later I gave birth to a baby girl.” Her insides softened as she thought about her daughter. “And she’s wonderful, the most amazing child. A sweet disposition with a full head of dark curly hair, blue eyes, and the cute—”
“A child?” He tugged on his shoes. “You and me?” He grabbed hold of the blanket and shook it angrily, then folded it.
She sighed, feeling the awkward tension. There weren’t a lot of men in the world who would be excited to hear such news, that a summer fling had given him a child. But he’d said he loved her just now. So why was he mad? “I-I just thought you’d like to know, but if you aren’t interested, I’m not asking for anything.” She picked up the wine bottle and the glasses and clung to them.
Sam set the blanket down and went to work putting out the fire. After it was out and smoking, he turned to her, his eyes blazing. “I can’t believe it. I never would’ve thought you were that kind of girl. I just told you I loved you. I just made love to you. Why would you lie? What’s the point? You had me.”
He kicked sand over the smoldering wood, picked up the blanket and left the cave.
Simone stood frozen, unable to comprehend what was happening. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish gasping for air. She tried to shake off the feeling of dread in her stomach and followed him out.
Water had reached the entrance and her feet got wet. Dammit. He was walking quickly and had already reached the stairs. She jogged to catch up. When she reached him she put a hand on his lower back. “Sam. I’m not lying.”
He paused and turned, his features even more angry. Simone noticed the way his jaws were clenched and the flash of rage in the way he was breathing. “Bull.” He went back to stomping up the stairs.
Simone trailed after him, wrath building within her. What the hell? She had no reason to lie.
Sam stopped. “I can’t have children, Simone. My wife and I tried for years. Years,” he shouted and continued up the steps.
She was dumbfounded. She hadn’t been with another man, ever. He was it for her. “Well, I’m sorry, but it happened. She’s yours. She looks just like you.”
At her words he turned and came back down. Sam towered over her like a wild ox. He was breathing hard. His hair had fallen into his eyes.
“I swear she’s yours. I’ve never been—”
He growled and started back up the steps.
She let him go. Just stood there and watched. “You’re a stupid, stupid man, Samuel Dean Merrick,” she whispered as tears rolled down her cheeks.
When he reached the top, he turned back and paused. For the briefest second she thought he’d realized what an jerk he was being and would come back and apologize.
He left her. Again.
Simone reached her front door and paused, not quite ready to go in and face her mom. The night had started out so well and ended…
“Jerk.” Simone went in, quietly locked the door, and went to the freezer. At the back, behind the mint chip ice cream and the chocolate chip waffles, was a bottle of vodka. Her mom had brought it over the day she found out about her cancer. She’d been pregnant with Sabrina at the time so she hadn’t had any. Her mom had a shot for her and they’d cried. Simone had put the rest in the freezer, telling herself she would save it for a rainy day. Tonight was that rainy day. The perfect opportunity to get stumbling drunk—incredibly, stupidly drunk—and pass out on the couch. That would be a present to herself. She’d earned it.
Simone got a glass from the cupboard and carefully filled it with ice. From the refrigerator she took a lime, cut it in half, and squeezed the juices over the ice. Then she filled the glass with vodka and sat at the table.
The first swallow burned and she gasped, but immediately took another. There was no more time for tears. She would drink and feel sorry for herself tonight—one night. Tomorrow she would push all the feelings she had for Sam away, lock them in a vault deep, deep down, and focus on Sabrina and getting better. Tomorrow.
About halfway through the bottle she decided she wasn’t done with Sam Merrick. She’d email the jerk and attach pictures from the day Sabrina was born and up until two days ago, when she took a picture of Sabrina in a red, white, and blue outfit. Her daughter—their daughter—was adorable. She wanted Sam to see her. Under each picture she typed comments about it. Like on the day Sabrina was born, she commented:
I named her Sabrina Sam after your sorry ass.
When Sabrina hit her one-month mark, she’d taken a picture of the two of them at the library. Underneath she typed:
Baby loves books
Sam is an idiot.
At two months, she’d taken Sabrina to the beach. Her mom took the picture of the two of them and a starfish she was holding out for Sabrina to see. Her comment after she attached it was:
Sabrina’s my little starfish
You’re a jerk.
The next was Halloween, and Simone dressed Sabrina in a peapod costume. She looked like one of those Anne Geddes pictures. Under that picture she typed:
She’s a sweet pea. You’re an ass
. At Thanksgiving Sabrina wore a turkey on her shirt. Simone’s mom was holding her and her sisters stood on either side. She typed:
My family and you’re missing out. Jerk!
At Christmas, she’d put her in a Santa outfit and then on her first birthday she’d put Sabrina in a shirt that had the number one on it. Finally Simone attached the latest pic and commented:
Enjoy your summer. I’ve never lied to you. I don’t know how, but Sabrina is yours. If you can’t see that, then you’re the biggest ass on the planet, you stupid gorgeous man.
She didn’t even think about it when she finished. She just hit Send, closed her laptop, and went to the couch where she promptly fell asleep, feeling much better.
The next morning Simone woke with a splitting headache. People were whispering, but they could have been banging pots and pans the way it affected her head. She sat up and moaned. The talking stopped.
“She’s awake now. You might as well come in.”
Simone forced her eyes open and was shocked to see her mom standing next to Sam. He had on jeans and a white tee. The way she remembered him, rumpled and hotter than hell. For the briefest second she thought about running into his arms.
But last night—the way he’d treated her, the things he said—came flooding back, and she was angry. “What are you doing here? You made your intentions and feelings for me quite clear. Get out.”
He didn’t leave. He grimaced, obviously upset about last night. “Sim?” He moved away from the door and knelt in front of her. “I’m so sorry. Truly, deeply sorry.”
Simone was still a little groggy from the alcohol and lack of sleep, but she noticed he looked haggard. Dark circles shadowed his eyes and his hair had that mussed, out of sorts look. He was disgustingly, deliciously worn out.
His hair hung in his eyes and she reached out to push it away, then thought better of it. “You’re sorry? Great. Good to know. That doesn’t change the fact that you think I’m a liar. That you walked away from me. Again.”
Sam squeezed her hands. “I know. I was a jerk and an idiot. The truth is, if you hadn’t sent those pictures, I probably wouldn’t be here.” He closed his eyes. “Sabrina does look just like me.”
That caught her attention. “How do you know her name? I never told your sorry jerky-jerk face her name.”
He gave her a strange look. “Wasn’t it you who emailed me pictures last night? The comments underneath were… thought provoking.”
Simone looked to her mom for help. She shrugged.
Almost right on cue, Sabrina began to cry. Simone tried to move around Sam. She needed to see to her child. But Sam held her fast.
“Wait. I want to talk,” he said.
“You two talk. I’ll get Sabrina up.” Her mom dashed from the room as though grateful she had an excuse to leave Simone alone with Sam.
“Look, I don’t remember sending you any photos, but nothing’s changed. I told you about your daughter, you called me a liar, and then walked away. I have nothing more to say to you. Now get out of my house.” Simone crossed her arms. Stupid tears filled her eyes at the idea of watching him go, but it was bound to happen. “And this time, don’t ever come back,” she added, knowing she wouldn’t be able to take it again.
Sam stood, tucking his hands in the pockets in the front of he jeans. He glared.
Simone jumped up and pushed on his way-too-sexy chest. He didn’t move, so she slammed a fist into his arm. She totally hit like a girl, but she didn’t care. Angry tears fell from her face. “You don’t get to be mad, you son-of-a-bitch. You don’t get to see your daughter and you don’t get to see me. You get to leave. So go.” She pushed at him again. “Go. Get out, damn you.”
Sam grabbed her hands and pulled her into a hug. “I can’t. I won’t ever leave you again. I know I don’t deserve a another chance, but I swear I’m here. I’m staying. I—”
“I have cancer, Sam. The doctor’s giving me a fifty-fifty shot at survival.” She was doing the ugly cry, the kind where she didn’t care what she looked like and, even if she did, it wouldn’t have mattered. She wouldn’t have been able to stop. “So shut up and leave.” Simone was out of control, hitting him without force, but still hitting.
Sam froze. Simone felt his body go stiff, and she momentarily felt bad. She wiped her nose on her sleeve and looked at him through her tears.
“What kind?” he whispered.
“It’s on my spine,” she returned sadly, sitting on the couch. She hadn’t wanted to tell him like that, but she was glad it was out. All the cards were on the proverbial table.
“What’s your treatment plan?” he asked, so soft she almost didn’t hear him.
“I start chemo the middle of August. At the moment I’m on several different drugs to help slow it down. So far they haven’t helped much.”
Sam sat beside her and put his head in his hands. Now she really felt bad.
“You don’t have to stay. You don’t have to go through this.” Simone shrugged. “If, you know, you could come and visit Sabrina sometimes, I’d really appreciate that, though.”
“You mean after you’re dead?” he asked and looked up. His eyes were angry again.
Simone nodded slowly. “If something were to happen, it’d be nice if she could see her father.”
Sam grabbed Simone by the shoulders. “Don’t you dare talk like that.” He walked to the door. “I’m leaving, but I’m not leaving-leaving. I need to make a couple of phone calls, move around a few things, and cancel a couple of others. I will be back later today and I will meet my daughter. Got it?”
Simone nodded numbly; afraid if she said anything he might change his mind.
When the door closed Simone’s mom came out holding Sabrina. “That was intense.”
Simone sniffled and smiled, her eyes immediately finding her daughter’s form and going to her. “Hi, baby-girl.” She took Sabrina from her mom and snuggled her close. She’d given up a lot for her daughter, but she knew she’d do it again in a second if it meant spending more time with Sabrina.
“Do you believe him? You think he’s coming back?”
Simone shrugged. “His track record isn’t great.” She placed Sabrina in her bouncy chair, buckled her in, and busied herself making Sabrina a bottle.
Simone’s mom poured two glasses of orange juice and flipped on the coffee pot. “Why don’t you let me feed her while you shower. You smell like you fell into a vat of vodka.”
Simone sipped the orange juice and brought the bottle over. “That reminds me, he said I sent him pictures.” She flipped open the laptop and scanned the emails in the Sent folder. Sure enough, there was an email to Sam Merrick. “Holy crap.” She opened it. Her mom leaned in. Simone scanned the email and pictures in complete shock. She couldn’t believe she’d had the lady balls.
Simone’s mom covered her mouth. “No wonder he showed up here this morning. But you’re right, Sabrina looks just like him.”
“Yeah, she does.” Simone smiled at her daughter, picked her up. “You sure you don’t mind feeding her?”
Her mom took the child into her arms and cooed. “Not at all. Go shower.” Simone walked out of the kitchen. “You just may get your miracle.”
Simone turned back. “I don’t need a miracle. I have much more than most.” She walked over and kissed her mom on the cheek. “Thanks, Mom.”