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Authors: Rose Francis

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A Tangled Web (Dangerous Secrets)

BOOK: A Tangled Web (Dangerous Secrets)
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A TANGLED WEB

 

Rose Francis

 

 

A Tangled Web

Copyright © 2013 by Rose Francis
All rights reserved.

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted
or circulated
in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

CHAPTER ONE

 

The moment Vivian’s receptionist told her Catherine Davenport was there to see her, a knot formed in her stomach. Something was wrong, and it probably had something to do with her pregnant daughter.

Vivian kept Catherine waiting as long as she could but eventually, as she expected, Catherine stormed past her law firm’s front desk and into her office like she owned it.

Vivian closed the file she had been working on and stared at the angry, green-eyed blond who’d been her best friend in another life.

“Vivian, how do you manage to keep track of all of your lies?”

The knot in Vivian’s stomach grew.

“Catherine, what are you talking about?”

“You know exactly what I mean Vivian Jordan.”

Vivian kept looking at Catherine is innocently as she could.

Catherine let out a breath.

“We both know Kimberly’s lying about who the father of her baby really is. I mean come on, you’re her mother—I don’t expect you to claim it’s someone she doesn’t want it to be. But that’s the problem.” She paused for dramatic emphasis, as Vivian had so often seen her do. “Who she wants it to be is my
son
. Now is that who it really is?”

Vivian couldn’t look at her. Instead, she busied herself with refilling her stapler with a block of staples.

How did Catherine figure it out?

When she glanced up, she saw a look of both triumph and disgust on Catherine’s pale face.

“I guess that’s my answer,” Catherine said, her mouth tight.

“Catherine listen...”

“Of course you know there’s no way I can let my son go through this. You know I can’t hide this from him.”

“And why not Catherine?” Vivian said, finally glimpsing a way out—at least temporarily. Though they were no longer as close as they used to be
throughout college
, Vivian had retained a lot of privileged knowledge. “You’re so good at hiding so many other things! Let’s see…well I suppose you sleeping with some of your professors won’t matter now, or you paying people to write your papers. But
don’t forget I know about your hit-and-run accident.
Not sure there’s a statute of limitations on hitting someone while driving drunk then leaving them to die. My goodness Catherine, since when did you become so honest and upstanding? You forget how many of your secrets I’ve kept—who knows how many more there are now, or how easy they’d be to figure out?”

“Vivian,” Catherine said, her voice suddenly gentle, “believe me, I can see where you’re coming from. After all, your entire family has just been destroyed.
James
is the only person you’ve got left and I’m sure there’s nothing you’d love more than to have your daughters love you again since they blame you for breaking up your family. Look, I know this was an opportunity to get in Kimberly’s good books and also—I mean, I’m a mother too—you wanted to protect her. That’s what good mothers do.” She nodded her head at Vivian approvingly. “So surely you can see why I want to protect Kent from the tragedy we all know will come of this when the truth comes out, however it comes out.” She paused a moment. “Don’t you think it’ll be better sooner than later? I’m sure Kent will understand more if he’s told about it as soon as possible, and preferably from Kimberly herself. And I
know
you’d want to protect her from the consequences of him finding out later on down the line and possibly from some other source.”

Vivian could see Catherine searching her eyes to see if she was getting through. She hated to let her see that she’d succeeded.

“Oh Catherine,” she said, breaking down a little, “what has my little girl done?”

“I don’t know Vivian, but it’s up to us to help our children, to fix this before it gets any more broken. I really do believe our children love each other and I would hate to see my son’s heart broken. Lord knows I’ve disappointed and broken his heart enough for this lifetime and the next.” She sighed. “I really don’t want to see him hurt again Vivian. And I do so badly want to be a good mother to him—he deserves it.”

Vivian witnessed Catherine’s moment of weakness and felt better about her own. It almost felt like old times again, when they could lay their souls bare to each other, talk about anything. Almost, but not quite—not since Catherine decided way back then to date then marry the man she’d known Vivian had been in love with—James Davenport.

They both held their composure.

“So what do we do?” Catherine asked.

Vivian sighed.

“I’ll talk to Kimberly and try to convince her once again to do the right thing and tell Kent the truth about the baby. But we both know what she thinks of me now, I doubt she’ll listen.”

Her thoughts drifted to her last conversation with her daughter.

She didn’t blame Kimberly for feeling like her life fell apart because of her; after all, she was the only one responsible for giving up her baby with James all those years ago. James never even knew she was pregnant since he’d moved to another state once they’d broken off their relationship. Unfortunately for all of them, that baby grew up not knowing his origins, and by some cruel joke of the universe met her daughter—his half-sister—and they fell in love. Now, they had an unwanted, incestuous baby on their hands.

Vivian didn’t want Kimberly to make the same mistake—to give up a child she couldn’t bring herself to abort only to risk the same thing happening all over again. Kimberly agreed not to go for adoption; instead, decided to find a man who would accept the child as his own. Without him knowing. Vivian tried to talk her out of that too, but had no answer for her daughter’s question: “Well what else do you expect me to do?”

Kimberly hadn’t told her ex-boyfriend and half-brother Damien and didn’t plan to—she was immediately too embarrassed about carrying her brother’s child; in fact, Kimberly hadn’t told anyone else about the child’s true paternity, and although Vivian didn’t feel right about it, keeping her daughter’s terrible secret was the only thing left binding them together. Kimberly had only revealed the truth throwing in her face the whole mess was her fault to begin with.

Vivian let out a heavy breath, not looking forward to the inevitable exchange.

“I’ll do it though—I’ll talk to my daughter. For all of us.”

Catherine looked satisfied.

She turned to go, but then whipped back around.

“Vivian, when’s the baby due anyway?”

Vivian shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she said, and a look of horror came to Catherine’s face.

“You can’t be serious—has she not been examined by a doctor yet? Who knows what could be wrong with that baby!”

Vivian looked away again.

“I’ll bring that up to her again too,” she said, but she knew the chances were slim. She had a hard time getting her daughter to listen to any of her advice these days. But beyond that, she wasn’t about to tell Catherine her suspicions—that Kimberly seemed to be withholding prenatal care in perhaps a subconscious attempt to kill the child she considered a monster in her belly.

***

“Why should I listen to you? I don’t want the advice of a selfish whore!” Kimberly screamed at her mother.

She couldn’t believe her mother had called her over to her apartment to tell her this. And she certainly couldn’t believe she actually came.

“Now Kimberly you listen to me, and you listen good. Kent is a good man—he doesn’t deserve this. And from what I’ve observed he really does love you…”

“Mom, it’s you who made me do this to him!”

“When did I make you have premarital sex Kimberly? When did I force you to have
unprotected
premarital…”

“Damien and I were
always
careful!”

“Then how do you know…?”

“Because I took a test mom. I was feeling sick for a few days so I took a test and it came out positive and this was before I slept with Kent. There must have been an accident somehow. This is what made me do this to him—I didn’t have a choice!”

“Of course you had a choice Kimberly. You could have told...”

“No! No-one needs to know!”

“But Kimberly honey, you’ve seen my own life—what more do you want? Your secret will come out! Don’t you think it’s better sooner than later? Look at what happened to the two of us—did my secrets protect you?”

Kimberly saw the opportunity to blame her mother again.

“Damn right they didn’t…”

She saw her mother look away and decided to keep digging.

“I’m glad you see it mom, I’m glad you see how you’ve ruined my life.”

“That may be partially true, but you’re doing a superb job of
actually
ruining it all on your own.”

“No mom! This is all your fault!”

Suddenly Kimberly saw a look come to her mom’s eyes that had sent the fear of God into her as a little girl. It still made her apprehensive now and she found her emotional state veering.

“Now you listen to me Kimberly Daphne Jordan. I might not be able to still put you over my lap but dammit, I am your mother—you show some respect! I mean here you are, pregnant by your half-brother according to your calculations, and you want to blame me! Well I did
not
force you to have sex Kimberly, and I certainly did not force you to lie to Kent. Now I’ve had enough of your tantrums. You’re supposed to be a grown young woman and you’re constantly acting like a child!” She let a breath. “Kent is a fine young man,” she continued. “You should be the adult you pretend to be and talk to him. Kimberly, he really does love you—I’ve seen it in his eyes. Why didn’t you give him the opportunity to show you that? I’m sure he would’ve understood and stood by you if you’d only talked to him!”

“But I don’t know that for sure! I mean why would he stay with me?”

“Kimberly, you let him find out at the wrong time or by the wrong person and he might not. He should know about this,” she said, indicating Kimberly’s still-small tummy, “and you should know that.”

“Mom…”

Kimberly’s voice broke and her hand came over her mouth. Tears stung her eyes.

She saw that her mother was about to hug her so she straightened back up, then looked her mom dead in the eye and said calmly: “I’ll think about it,” then turned and left the apartment her mom shared with the man she’d left them all for, the man who also happened to be the father of both her ex-boyfriend and the man she’d picked to be the father of her child.

CHAPTER TWO

 

As she left her mother’s place, Kimberly thought about what her mom had said.

But Kent can never know!
she thought. That was the point of it all. If he found out and he left her, her plan would have failed. Everyone would know the baby had to be Damien’s.

But was there really a chance Kent would stay with her anyway?

No,
she thought,
no
.

She started her car.

It was too big a risk; she couldn’t afford to take it.

But could she afford not to?

His face came to mind, specifically that warm look he gave her with his eyes of honey, so full of love and happiness. As if he couldn’t take his eyes off of her, like she were an oasis in a desert.

She’d known he had been in love with her for a while but pretended she didn’t see it or had any inkling of his attraction—she was too blissfully in love with Damien. Sure, they’d had their problems, but Damien was her first love and she could forgive him almost anything—even his excessive flirting, and the nagging feeling she’d get that sometimes, he’d done more than flirt with some of his female acquaintances.

Kent had respectfully kept his distance at first since Damien was his roommate and friend, but eventually Kent got sloppy—the way he looked at her, the way he jumped to fill in any gaps Damien had left—helping her run errands when Damien couldn’t, taking her to see movies Damien didn’t want to or was too busy to see. Kent became a good friend, a willing ear, convenient company.

Then eventually he started worming his way in further, past the cozy familiarity she felt for him. She felt herself getting closer to him,
particularly
in moments of weakness—those moments of insecurity regarding what Damien was really up to when he had to stay out late or had gone too long without calling. Moments when she was imagining his coworkers or fellow students cozying up to him, wrapping their arms around him.

Kent made her start questioning everything. She’d wondered: was it possible to be in love with two men at once?

Then she started resenting him. Why’d he have to shake up her world? Why couldn’t he have just stayed away?

I tried
, he’d said once,
I tried to not feel the way I do about you. I tried to stay away from you but that only made me miss you more. I’m in love with you Kimberly, and I can’t do anything about it. All I know is I want to be around you. I need to be around you. I want to make you happy.
He’d paused, grabbed her hand.
My happiness depends on you being happy.

He finally admitted everything to her—when he first fell in love with her, how long he’d been pining for her—when they got together after she and Damien broke it off once a DNA test revealed their blood connection. Damien had been determined to find out more about his roots, and her mom’s DNA was already in the system from taking an ancestry test herself, and the system connected them.

Kimberly sighed, thinking about her first night with Kent.

He’d been too easy a target for her plan. Getting him to sleep with her unprotected right away had been a piece of cake—she knew he’d wanted her for a while.

Then she remembered a nightmare that came to her every now and then about Kent finding out the truth—the look of anger on his face, but most of all, hurt. Pain she couldn’t bear to be the cause of.

What her mother had said made sense—her secret did have a far greater chance of coming out than remaining secret—she’d seen it happen far too many times. What would she do then? How would
he
react then? Certainly less positively than he’d react now…right?

“Gah!” she exhaled sharply to herself.

In her heart, she knew what she had to do, but she couldn’t quite convince her head it was the right thing.

She didn’t know where she was going, but she kept driving and ended up the only place she could go.

She pulled up to Catherine’s house where she knew Kent would be and sat there.

She wasn’t ready.

How exactly do you tell the man you love that you’re carrying another man’s baby? And that the other man is your half-brother? And that you had fully intended to have everyone, including that man you love, believe the baby was his? A man who constantly claims to love you more than anything—more than life itself?

Perhaps that was enough reason.

He loves me
, she thought.
He really does
.

She had felt it in his touch and seen it in his eyes which reflected it in his soul. He’d been in love with her pretty much since the moment he saw her, he’d said—especially after hearing Damien speak highly of her all the time—and he loved her now.

She exited the car and headed up to the house.

***

“I waited a bit to see if Kimberly was coming but she hasn’t so far—how did your talk go?” Catherine said quietly into her phone.

She was sitting on her bed, her bedroom door almost shut, trying not to think about her hapless son downstairs, fighting every urge to go and tell him the news herself.

She’d gotten lucky in discovering the whole thing—she’d made a comment to Kimberly when she was over the previous day with Kent, wondering out loud what the baby would look like and she happened to catch a look on Kimberly’s face—a look that sent her spider-sense off.
Kimberly looked like she hadn’t thought about it before, but even more, briefly appeared worried about it.

“I told her how important it was to tell Kent and she told me she’d think about it,” Vivian said. “Catherine, I really don’t know what else to do about my daughter—I don’t know what else she needs to see that being truthful to Kent now is the best way to go. I mean, even with my own example right in front of her!”

Vivian sounded so distressed, that Catherine believed she really had tried.

“God Vivian, I was so hoping you’d get through to her. I mean how long does she expect to get away with passing her child with Damien off as Kent’s?”

A sound, like a sharp intake of breath came from behind her, stopping her from going on.

She turned and saw Kent’s stricken face at her bedroom door.

He looked so much like his father in that moment, despite having dirty blond hair like hers. His honey-brown eyes went dark with emotion.

“Kent,” she began, pulling the phone away from her ear. “What are you doing here?”

She tried to smile, hoping he hadn’t actually heard her.

“That’s hardly important now is it mom? Could you repeat what you just said for me? I heard my name…”

“Oh Kent, I was just telling Vivian how happy you were about being a father. And Vivian was expressing her concern for Kimberly as a young mother…”

“Mom that’s not what you said and you know it!”

Catherine was stuck by what she saw in her son’s eyes, and in that moment, wished she hadn’t insisted on talking to Vivian.

“Kent…” she began sadly, but Kent turned around and left, ignoring her calling after him.

***

Just as he swung open the door to leave the house, Kent saw Kimberly heading up the path toward it.

He didn’t like the expression on her face—heavy, sad, and suddenly frightened.

He waited at the door, then quietly led her inside and to his bedroom, shutting his door behind them. They both sat on the bed.

“Kimberly, please tell me the truth.”

He reached out and tilted her face toward him with his finger, forcing her to look him in the eye.

“Kent…”

A tear rolled down her face.

He wiped it away then continued staring into her eyes, shifting slightly on his bed.

She watched him fearfully and it made his heart sink.

“Please tell me my mother is delusional Kimberly. Did you get together with me because you were already pregnant with Damien’s baby?”

Her eyes gave him his answer, confirming what his heart didn’t want to but his brain pieced together anyway.

“Is that why you were so eager to sleep with me? To make me and everyone else believe the baby was mine? Telling me you loved me, it was all a part of…”

“No Kent—I do love you, I really do!”

“Then surely you wouldn’t have done this—my mother is wrong.”

He searched her eyes again, hoping, waiting for her to make a liar of his mother, her revealing eyes, and his own brain. He wanted her to deny it, simply because he didn’t want the alternative to what they had been living—that which he thought was pure, honest love born out of an undeniable attraction. He wanted to remain in the world where Kimberly was his, and had come to him of her own heart, unable to fight her feelings for him any longer, that she loved him as he loved her, with every honest bone in her body.

“Kimberly? Please tell me it isn’t true.”

Her tears fell freely and generously now.

She sniffed.

“Kent listen—I love you, I do, and you have to believe that no matter what. But what your mom said…” She paused, looking at him tentatively, and he felt a shattering within him begin.

She looked away.

“Oh god Kent, what have I done?”

“Kimberly, what are you saying? It’s not true right? I mean finding out Damien was your brother just made it easier for you to come to me because you really wanted to all along...”

She looked up at him again.

“Yes! Oh Kent, I wanted to be with you so badly, but I was adamant about loyalty and fidelity—I couldn’t let you sneak in. But you did! You snuck in here...” She grabbed his hand and placed it on her chest above her heart. “But soon it was too late for anything,” she said, looking down again. “Kent, I never wanted to hurt you, but I…I needed to protect my baby.” She looked up slowly and kept holding his hand. “My baby with Damien.”

No more could Kent delude himself—the words had been said.

The whirlwind of emotion that had been toying with him since it finally hit him there was a possibility Kimberly could have lied to him about their relationship and his child had reached the point where the only thing he could do was something he had not done since his first day at boarding school: Michael Kent Davenport slid off his bed and onto the floor, his head falling into his hands, and he let himself cry. He cried as if he were the lonely, eight-year-old version of himself who finally realized it was possible for a mother to not only
not
love her children, but despise them through no fault of their own. He cried like he did every holiday for the next few years when Catherine did not send for him, did not even care to call him. And neither did his father, James.

His actions seemed to make a dam in Kimberly burst so they both ended up reduced to shaking masses of wet salt.

She reached for him, and he didn’t even have the fortitude to push her away.

Her embrace was not a comfort to him—he merely didn’t have space in his brain or heart to really take notice of her actions.

BOOK: A Tangled Web (Dangerous Secrets)
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