Read Explosive Memories Online

Authors: Sherri Thomas

Tags: #Contemporary,Western

Explosive Memories (11 page)

BOOK: Explosive Memories
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“Not possible.”

Trent cupped her chin and kissed her—hard, driving out any doubt forming in her beautiful head. If someone told him a week ago, or even yesterday, he’d be this aware, this connected to another person, he’d have accused them of being crazy. Yet, he hadn’t felt this alive in a long, long time. Six years to be exact, when he’d last held her.

“Have you talked to anyone ’bout your parents’ death or the fire?”

“I’m an RN. You think I’d get away with no counseling.”

“You tell me, ’cause no one seems to have corrected your way of thinking.”

“There’s nothing to correct.”

He peered into her eyes, willing her to see the truth through him. “You
to blame. You weren’t home. You were a normal teenager, rebellious and young. Why can’t you see that?”

Her gaze held his as if she wanted to believe him, then she shut him out. “It’s getting late. I should head back.”

Wrapping her stiff body in his arms, he kissed the sweet skin on her neck. “Have supper with me,” he murmured.

She shook her head, and stared at the floor. “Thanks, but I’ve humiliated myself enough for one night.”

He nipped her earlobe. “Please. We can ride back together. I’ll take care of the horses, grab food from the main house, and bring it back to your cabin. That should give you enough time to shower and cook up more arguments for me.”

Chapter Eight

Two hours later, Jordan sat, picking at the meal. Inner turmoil swept her up like a tornado. Years of perfecting her life, perfecting
, bordered on being for nothing in Trent’s presence. These past years, she’d been walking around numb, incapable of loving anyone, or being loved. The man wore her down. That and the fact she liked the feelings he evoked…liked

Shifting in her seat, she stabbed the fried chicken. “This smells delicious.”

Was he right? Would her parents still have perished if she’d been home? Would she have died trying to rescue them?

Plenty of people had suggested the same, but it was his words circling her mind, his voice she heard, his woodsy scent invading her sense of smell, his love… No. He never uttered the strong word.

Setting the dish on the coffee table, her hand closed around the cold, wet glass of water.

“Tastes even better.” He frowned with a nod toward the untouched plate.

“I’m really not that hungry.” Because fear ate at her gut, leaving behind a pile of rocks.

Telling him about her parents was hard, but the real problem lay with the secret she still harbored. Maybe once she got that off her chest the anxiety would ebb to a minimum. He deserved to know, but would the information matter? The outcome remained the same. Would he want to know? Would he even care?

The syllables ran around her brain, but failed to make the journey past her lips. If she didn’t say what weighed on her mind, her conscience was sure to eat her alive. Worrying over how he’d react, she gnawed on her bottom lip.

“I can hear you thinking.” He set the half-eaten food next to hers. “What’s up?”

Mentally requiring space, she stood. Maybe she should just blurt it out and let him decide what to do with the information. Blurting probably wasn’t the most ladylike way of dealing with the situation.

“I told you what happen when I arrived home…but not everything.” The knot of nerves fisted tighter in the base of her stomach, and she twisted her fingers together. “I caused my mom and dad a lot of grief…”

Trent lifted a hand, growling as he stood. “I’m here to listen all you need me to, and I may not have known your parents, but I’m sure they’d want you to be happy.” He rotated his left arm. “Do you think mine were pleased with everything I did?”

Watching him work the limb, she ignored reasoning and trudged on. “After the fire, I lived with my aunt. She told me my mom prayed and prayed I’d turn out okay. She cried because of me.” The daily sermon hovered around Jordan’s selfishness and what her shenanigans cost everyone, what her bad judgment cost the whole family.

“Sounds like a great aunt,” he mumbled.

Jordan lifted her gaze to his. “My relatives are very religious, and I’m the sinner of the bunch.” She looked down at the floor. “The black sheep.”

Strong hands grasped her arms, not quite digging in, but enough to grab her attention.

“Look at me, damn it.”

She couldn’t. “You don’t understand.”

Trent gave a small shake. “What warped sense of faith did your aunt believe in? Families stick together in times of tragedy, not blame one another. I should know. I’ve tried my parents’ patience plenty, not to mention my brothers’.” He slipped a strand of hair behind her ear. “We were young adults having fun, and enjoying each other in the process.” His lips teased her in a quick, sensual kiss. “End of story.” Thumbs rubbed back and forth, causing a ripple of heat to the surface. “You need to let this go and forgive yourself.”

Her hands landed on his chest to put a few inches between them, but got caught up in soft fabric molding the muscular plains. “I tried for weeks to find the cabin, to find you…” She searched his face for reassurance and the strength to continue.

“The bonfire was at Charlie’s, our neighbor on the main route. His access road leads to our woods. That’s the way I drove you to the shack.” Warm hands dropped away, leaving emptiness behind.

Taking in the tilt of his head, the tenderness of his gaze, the way he smiled that sexy half-grin, renewed every second of the past. Renewed her faith in him.

Stay on track. Focus.
The words swirled on her tongue. Instinct told her to trust him, and holding on to that glimmer of hope, she plunged on.

“After that night, I changed my ways. I signed up for college like my parents wanted, I stopped partying…” She rambled, but couldn’t stop the flow. “…but it was all too late. My parents were still gone. I had no idea how to reach you. I wanted to find you, to tell you—”

He seized a hold of her, clenching his jaw. “I know, but you have to stop beating yourself up over this. Tomorrow, maybe you should go talk to someone. I’ll go with you if you want, but this can’t continue.”

Realizing he thought she was talking about her parents again, tears burned behind her eyes, and she fisted her hands, digging fingernails into her palms. “I stopped drinking and took care of myself. I don’t know what went wrong. The doctor said the situation couldn’t be helped. I’m sorry, Trent, I…I lost your baby. She was stillborn.”

Trent reeled back and stared in disbelief. Had she just said

As the impact of her statement sank and settled heavy in his chest, he inhaled a shallow breath, feeling as though he’d been punched in the gut. This wasn’t about her parents anymore. This was about Jordan and him. And a baby. Jordan carried
baby. She gave birth to
baby. Was that even possible? Of course, they made love, but he used a condom every time—in the back of his pickup, in the cab of the truck, the shack, and…the pond.

The pond
. She dove in to cool off, things got heated, and…

Having a hard time wrapping his brain around the concept, or what any of the information meant, he needed to hold on to something solid and threaded his fingers into the silky strands of raven black hair as his lips brushed across her forehead. His body sidled toward her, seeking some sort of contact without any conscience thought. The warmth from her body heated his.

“And yes, I’m sure you’re the father, because you’re the only man I’ve been with, other than my first time.”

He froze. The admission stunned him, and this time he stepped back. How could that be? “No one else?” he asked, surprised at the rawness of his own voice. This was all too much to take in.


“You mean even since…”

“No.” She grabbed his shirt front in her fists, her gaze on his. “I have never had sex with anyone other than you, okay. There. Happy now?”

“Never? Not in the past six years?”

She had to be lying. No one went that long without—


He sucked in much needed oxygen. “Damn, darlin’, you really know how to knock a guy out of the saddle.” He rubbed a hand down his face, taking a second to absorb it all. How was it possible this woman only had sex with him? How was any of this possible? Too many thoughts tumbled into his head to sort. Too many denials. No way could this be true. How…? Why…? Only him? She only slept with him…

The fact no other man had touched Jordan since, and the very idea of her having carried his child crippled him.

“Please don’t hate me. My aunt told me it was God’s way of punishing me. That I was a sinner and deserved what happened.”

As shocked as he was, the plea gripped him like a vice around his chest. Though this would take him a while to grasp, none of it was her fault no matter what she believed.

“Your aunt needs her head examined.” He’d love to call the woman and give her the name of a few shrinks. Maybe take a side trip and beat the hell out of the ex Darcy talked about. Then again, he should thank the guy. Because of him, Jordan came back to Texas. Had she really not had sex with the live-in boyfriend? He shook his head in an attempt to collect his thoughts.

The baby. He needed details. “What happen with the baby?”

She rested her forehead on his chest for a minute, then her gaze rose to his as her palm pressed against his heart. “Labor was long, and right before entering the birth canal, she rolled and came out breach. The doctor tried to help, but…she died from asphyxia, a lack of oxygen.”

The words tumbled out with a dry eye, and other than a slight crack in her voice, were void of emotion. During all the confessions, not one tear fell, but she couldn’t hide the tremor that shook her body or the slight quake of her hands.

Trent imagined she cried plenty over the years. She was strong, brave, and honest. To overcome such heartache by herself and come out on top proved a true testament to her strength. These little breakdowns caused, no doubt, by months, years of listening to the all-holy aunt, but he planned to undo the manipulation the witch instilled.

“Darcy didn’t know about the baby?”


Needing something solid under him, he sat on the sofa. As if the strength left her body, she sank down beside him, and he stifled a groan as his shoulder thwacked the back of the couch. The nuisance stiffened more and more. A lot of truths were coming out tonight, and as much as the truth pained him, he admitted the doctor may have been right. His non-compliance prolonged the healing of the injury. But he’d worry about that later.

“When are you going to tell me what happen? I mean, what led up to rotator cuff surgery?”

Not able to shift gears so quick, he mumbled, “Hazards of being a cowboy.”

“Uh-huh. Somehow I doubt that.”

Not wanting to discuss any part of the past involving April, he went back to the matter at hand. “You said,

“Yes. We had a baby girl.” She pushed herself from the couch. “I’ll be right back.”

Even as boggled as his brain was, he still admired the graceful way she sashayed out of the room. How should he act when she returned? Should he question her? Doubt her? She gained nothing by claiming to have given birth to his child…his daughter.

Wow, talk about a stampede stopper. The whole turn of events felt foreign, and his mind spun.

“Here.” She reentered the room and handed him an envelope. “I could never bring myself to throw them away.” Raising a slender shoulder, she continued, “They were taken about three weeks before she was born.”

Wondering if he should break the seal, Trent flipped the paper over in his hand.

“I think it’ll end some of your disbelief.”

He slid the seam open. Slipping two fingers inside the fold, he extracted a couple of black and white photos, and his Adam’s apple lodged in his throat. Although he was able to make out almost every detail, he still asked, “What exactly am I looking at?” He glanced from the image in his hand to the woman beside him. Cold fingers clutched his forearm.

“They’re sonograms of our daughter. It’s amazing how far they’ve come and how much detail they’re able to pick up.” Her gaze cast downward. “She looked almost identical when she was born.” A sad smile framed her lips.

Covering his hand with her own, longing crossed her beautiful face, and he knew then and there he’d give her the world if he could.

“I’d give her the moon.”

Nick’s words echoed in his head, robbing him of speech. He swallowed the emotions and inspected the next picture. Although taken at a different angle, the photo didn’t look much different from the first.

“You can’t tell by these, but she had the same birthmark as you.” She shrugged. “Guess that’s something else you’ll have to take my word for.”

Jordan had traced the outline on his thigh a night long ago, telling him the shape reminded her of a horseshoe. As a young boy, he accused his parents of branding him and his brothers with the symbol, but found only he and his father sported the mark.

He rubbed a thumb over the image. His mother still had ultrasounds of his brothers and him, but none this graphic.

The very concept of this woman having his child inflicted a strange protectiveness to fill his chest. She swore to having his baby, yet only the single proof remained, two black and white pieces of film. The infant died during birth, therefore none of this mattered. But the idea of a baby…

He needed air, time to think. “I have to go.”

Trent stood and placed the photos back in the envelope. Slim, cold fingers wrapped around his.

“Take them with you.”

The confusion he suffered reflected in her expression, making him feel like a heel for rushing off, but the mass of tangled barbed wire in his brain required straightening without distraction.

“Thanks.” He stared into her open, honest features. “We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

BOOK: Explosive Memories
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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