Authors: Katie Ashley
Copyright © 2013
This is a work
of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel
are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner
whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the
use of brief quotations in a book review.
my grandmother, Big Mama—a woman of tiny stature whose courage, faith, and
conviction of character earned her status as big. May you always live on not
just through the thousands of wonderful memories I possess, but through every
woman I write who is strong and deals with the hand life dealt her with courage
not complaint, who has an immense love of family and a strong faith, and who is
smart, sassy, and sometimes just a little naughty.
Aidan tried to still the rapid beating of his heart
as he raced up the front walkway. Stumbling on the porch steps, he lurched
towards the front door. He banged both of his fists against the wood as hard as
he could. “Please! Please open up! I have to talk to you!” he shouted. His hand
slid down the jamb to the doorbell. His finger punched it relentlessly like a
SOS call in Morse Code.
Finally, his desperate ministrations were rewarded
by the front door swinging open. At the sight of her tear stained face, his
soul twisted in agony. “Please…please just let me talk to you!”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing left to say,
Aidan. We’ve been down this road too many times. I’ve come to the conclusion
that your actions will always speak louder than your words.”
“No, last night is
what I want. It’s just
I was scared with the baby and everything that’s happened between us in the
last few weeks.”
When she tried sweeping past him out the door, he
pushed himself in front of her like a shield. “Aidan,
. I have to
get to work. Nothing you have to say is going to change the way I feel right
“Can’t you call in? I love you, and I want to make
this right.” He raked a shaky hand through his already disheveled hair. He was
still in the wrinkled clothes he had worn the day before. He hadn’t slept,
hadn’t eaten—he had spent the night consumed with how to get her back. “No
matter what you think, I do love you…and I do want the baby.”
She raised her head to glare at him. Aidan took a
step back at the unadulterated rage that burned in her eyes. “Don’t you dare
say that! I know how you really feel about me being pregnant—the burden it is
on your life. If anything, it’s the reason you were fucking that girl! Because
when you’re scared, you always manage to screw up!”
Shoving him out of the way, she stomped down the
porch steps. He followed close on her heels. “Okay, you’re right. It was a
burden—maybe it still is. But I realize now I was just being stupid. I love
you, and I do want to marry you and raise our child.”
She skidded to a stop. Her shoulders sagged before
she slowly turned around. “Right now you think that’s what you want. But I know
you too well. Before we get married or before the baby is born, you’ll get
scared and cheat again.” She shook her head sadly. “I was stupid to think me
being pregnant would change you. That somehow it would make you commit. But you
can’t even be faithful for your baby.”
Aidan reached out for her, but she spun away and ran
down the sidewalk. When he finally caught up to her, she had locked herself in
He banged his fist against the window. “
Please don’t do this!”
She threw the car in reverse and squealed out of the
driveway. The engine roared as she sped down the street. Aidan closed his eyes
in defeat. He staggered back, trying desperately to stop himself from
Then the sound of screeching tires and busting glass
caused Aidan’s heart to shudder to a stop. He sprinted to the edge of the
driveway. His entire world slowed to a crawl at the sight of the mangled heap
of twisted metal in the distance.
“AMY!” he screamed.
Aidan jolted out of his nightmare to find himself
facedown on the kitchen table. Sweat trickled down his face. He raised a
trembling hand to swipe it away. That was when he realized it was tears, not
sweat, soaking his cheeks. He hadn’t had a nightmare about Amy’s accident in
years. It only took a second for him to remember what had brought it on.
Everything he thought he had felt for Amy was
magnified a million times with Emma. He had only thought he knew what love was.
Without even trying, she had managed to illicit feelings in him he never could
have imagined. And now she was gone.
A defeated cry of agony slipped from his lips.
“I see we’re back to the nightmares, huh?”
Aidan jumped before jerking his gaze over his
shoulder. “Hello to you too, Pop. How’d you get in?”
Patrick gave him a tight smile. “I have a key, son.”
When he whirled around in his chair, Aidan’s head
spun, and he had to grip the table to steady himself. “Yeah, well, whatever
happened to knocking?”
“I did, but you never came to the door. Now I can
Aidan stared up at the blurry double images of his
father’s frowning face. One look of absolute and total disgust would have been
enough, but damned if in his drunken state, there had to be two.
Patrick leaned back against the counter, crossing
his arms over his chest. “Son, I do believe you’re shit-faced!”
After snorting contemptuously, Aidan’s face smacked
hard onto the table. His chest rose and fell in laughter at the fact his father
had actually said the word shit-faced. Of course his level of inebriation also
made it funnier.
When he finally composed himself, he exclaimed,
“Actually, Pop, I was shit-faced five beers and three shots of Patron ago. I
think it’s safe to say I’m fucking plastered.”
“So is this where we are again?” Patrick huffed.
Raising his head, Aidan furrowed his brows. “What do
Patrick’s face clouded over in anger. “You know
exactly what I mean. You’re starting the same damn patterns as you did nine
years ago, right down to the drinking like a lush.”
“I called you because I wanted your help, not a
lecture. So if you came over here to yell at me then you can just fuck off!”
The next thing Aidan knew Patrick had yanked him up
by his hair and was glaring down at him. “Don’t you
speak that way
to me again! I’m still your father, and you will show me respect. You got
“Just leave me alone!” Aidan blared, trying to pull
Patrick tightened his grip on Aidan’s hair, causing
him to wince in pain. “All right. That’s it. I’m going to treat you just like I
would a prick of a recruit in The Corp who had screwed up!”
Before Aidan could protest, Patrick dragged him out
of the kitchen chair. It clattered noisily to the floor. “Didn’t know you still
had it in you,
man. You’re pretty agile for a seventy-two year old,”
“You better shut up if you know what’s good for
you!” Patrick snarled before shoving Aidan towards the hallway. He might’ve
passed out again if Patrick hadn’t kept a firm hold on the scruff of his neck
along with his belt buckle.
When they got into the master bedroom, Patrick
pushed him in the bathroom. Aidan whirled around to catch Patrick locking the
door. Dread washed over him. Nervously he staggered back as Patrick stalked
over to him. “Shit, Pop, you aren’t gonna beat my ass again like the time in
high school when you discovered that pot stash under my bed, are you?”
Ignoring him, Patrick went to the shower. After
flipping on the water, he grabbed Aidan’s arm and jerked him into the stall.
Ice cold water rained down on him. Even through his clothes, each droplet felt
like a jagged knife piercing his skin. He tried to get out, but Patrick slammed
the shower door shut. “You’re going to stay in there until you can sober up and
discuss what happened like a man!”
Aidan thrashed against the door, but Patrick held
firm. “I’m too old for this bullshit, son. I may not be around in nine years
when you try to pull another stunt like this again. At least let me die in
peace knowing that you’ve got a wife and child to love!”
Patrick’s words froze Aidan more than the cold water
pelting him. Just the thought of how he had hurt Emma sent pangs of regret
reverberating through him. Instead of protesting any further, he turned and
stood under the shower nozzle, letting the icy water sting him like the lashes
of the whip. Hanging his head, he wished it was a whip. He deserved to be
beaten for everything he had said and done in the last few weeks to Emma and in
turn his son. Physical punishment would be a welcome relief to release the
emotional torment within him.
“You manning up now?” Patrick asked.
“Yes sir,” Aidan murmured under the stream of water.
“Good. I’ll go put on a pot of coffee. I’ll be
waiting for you when you’re ready to talk.”
Biting his lip, Aidan couldn’t stop the tears
filling his eyes from spilling over his cheeks. He wanted more than anything
for his father to somehow find a way to help him get Emma back. “Thanks, Pop,”
he said, his voice wavering with emotion.
Aidan forced himself to stay under the water until
his cloudy senses became clearer. When he could walk without staggering, he got
out of the shower. His teeth chattered as he tore off his soaked clothes. After
toweling off at record speed, he padded into the bedroom and threw on a pair of
pajama pants and a t-shirt.
When he got to the kitchen, Patrick sat at the
table. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “Sorry I had to go all
Marines on you.”
Aidan shook his head. “I deserved it. Frankly, you
should’ve kicked my ass.”
“Becoming a masochist, are we?”
Shrugging, Aidan poured himself a cup of coffee. “I
deserve nothing less. I hurt the ones I care about the most.”
Patrick sighed. “I don’t know about that. There’s a
lot of goodness in you, Aidan. I wish you could see that.”
“Must not be much goodness in me if I keep fucking
“Speaking of that…” Patrick eased back in his chair,
resting his arm along the top rung. “Before I offer to help, I have to know one
Aidan arched his brows and took a tentative sip of
coffee. The scorching liquid seared his tongue. “What is it?” he croaked.
“Do you honestly want Emma back because you love
her, or is it because you feel guilty?”
“This isn’t like what happened with Amy,” Aidan
“It’s just a simple question, son. Do you want to
spend the rest of your life with Emma and your son or not? I mean, most men who
are truly in love don’t go and try to sleep with other women.”
Hot, bitter tears stung Aidan’s eyes. “I do love
her, Pop. That’s the God’s honest truth.” He ground the tears out of his eyes
with his fists. Sinking down in a chair across from Patrick, he related all the
details of the day on the dock. “Even though I couldn’t say it to her then or
even tonight when she wanted me to, I do love Emma.”