Authors: Kathryn Kelly
“Everything’s going to work out with you and your rock star, Georgie.”
I want to believe her so bad, but I don’t. I can’t. That would be setting myself up for an even harder fall than the one I suffered when Sloane pushed me away. Nothing has ever worked out for us.
That won’t change anytime soon, especially after this.
I stand in Bryn’s nursery. It has a cream and yellow scheme. Yellow is a happy color to me, representing the brightness of daytime, and we all need a little sunshine in our lives.
Slowly I turn, taking in everything to make sure nothing’s out of place. Bryn has to have perfection.
On three of her walls are one-of-a-kind paintings. The fourth one, closest to her bed, is a photo of Sloane. I intend to raise her so she’ll know who her father is, but won’t hold his absence against him. Or blame herself, as children sometimes do.
All of my scrapbooks and band paraphernalia are lost, left in my suite at Mom and Dad’s house. She’s probably destroyed everything by now. Either way, I won’t have the items to share with Bryn.
The photo of Sloane on her wall isn’t my all-time favorite of him. The one where he’s on the magazine cover, arms spread, back to the camera, and offering the full effect of his back piece. The phoenix rising from the flames.
This picture is recent. He looks leaner and his blue eyes are sadder. I’d love to know what’s going through his mind.
More than anything, I wish to speak to him. After six days, the coverage is non-stop. Grandma has guards all over the grounds. ID is required to get on the property though I can’t escape the whir of helicopter blades at all hours. I haven’t ventured outside in days. All they’ll have to do is catch sight of me and my huge belly, and they’ll know the truth.
Before I allow that—
I cringe at Grandma’s call. I saw her briefly the day after the news broke, just long enough for her to tell me about her security measures. She still doesn’t quite believe this isn’t my doing.
the all-powerful one. All she has to do is use it to obtain the truth.
. Believing I’m so desperate for Sloane I’d stir up this shit storm, is easier on her conscience. Having me here has been hard, I guess. It means her loyalties aren’t one hundred percent in Mom’s corner. Now, she has a reason to turn her back on me.
“Georgiana,” she says again as she floats into the nursery and freezes. Motionless and speechless, she stares at me like I’m a just landed interplanetary being. Grandma’s skin is spookily white as if all the blood has been sucked from her body.
Grandma’s eyes fill with…
Awful images jam through my head. We expect Josh at any moment. Grandma loves him. No one has an issue with my brother. He’s one of the few reasons she’d cry, but only if… “Josh! Is Josh…has something happened to him?”
“He’s okay,” she croaks. “He stopped at the country club for a drink with a friend.”
“You’re scaring me. What’s wrong? Why are you acting like this? Is Mom and Dad okay?”
She closes her eyes, then draws herself up and stiffens her spine. Her never-before-seen vulnerability vanishes, though she remains pale. For the first time, I notice the e-tablet in her hand. So focused on her, I missed it.
She slides her finger on the screen and hands it to me, before adjusting her cashmere, button-down sweater situated on her shoulders.
“She’s a whore, to put it simply.”
A man’s voice blares from the tablet, interrupting my consideration of Grandma’s attire. I’ve never had a formal introduction, but I know Sloane’s father. He witnessed that awful day in Denver, in Sloane’s study.
“My son has never touched that girl,” he says and holds up a document. “It’s all here. Her drug use.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Mason, Sloane is well known for his excessive lifestyle, especially where women are concerned,” the reporter states.
“You’ve hit upon the exact word. The key word.
. Not a little two-bit hussy. She’s a crazed fan and we will bring charges against her for defamation of character.”
“You’re doing the same, aren’t you? Defaming this young lady’s character?”
“I’m appealing to my son’s fans on his behalf. I have documented proof of Miss McCall’s behavior. DNA results will be released as soon as her baby is born. Not only will Sloane be exonerated, but she will have to wait for the results from
different men, to identify her child’s father.”
“Your accusations against this young girl are as serious as her accusations against your son. If she is indeed, a crazed fan, what does Sloane say?”
“What can he say? Unfortunately, he’s a public figure and will be targeted by all types. This
—” He sneers those words— “is meaningless and useless to Sloane. He made the mistake of visiting her in her hospital room, which those photos show. His only crime is reaching out to her as a fan of his. What a mistake! If he never sees her again, it’ll be too soon. How did she repay his kindness to her? By destroying him. Or attempting to. He’ll rise from this, as he has every obstacle in his life.”
“Well, there you have it. Rand Mason, Sloane Mason’s father, responding to reports Georgiana McCall is pregnant.”
Everything Sloane worked so hard for, all he’s sacrificed to remain with the band he founded, is…
meaningless and useless
Because of me. As I am to him.
Utterly crushed, I back away, shaking my head in denial.
“Rand isn’t going to get away with this, Georgie,” Grandma says in a calm, frigid voice. “Believe me.”
I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
“You’re my granddaughter,” she snaps. “Don’t fall apart over his lies. They’ll win if you do.”
She’s thinking about winning when I’ve already lost?
The minutest hope Sloane would find his way back to me kept me going. One day, he’d love me. I never foresaw he’d ever despise me. For any reason. Sloane went out of his way to keep me at his side.
As I turn, pain shoots through me. My emotional hurt becomes a physical one. Panting, I stumble to the rocking chair and drop into it.
Sloane’s career is gone. His music meant so much to him. He loves it, always has,
his sister Steffie introduced him to it.
My head swims and my pulse thumps frantically.
“I want to talk to him,” I whisper, sniffling.
Agony in my stomach and back makes me cry out.
“Grandma!” I cry. “It hurts.”
“You’re stressed.” Her hand touches the top of my head.
I groan. “Do something.”
“I think you’re going into labor.”
As if my body needs to hear those words, water suddenly streams from me.
Hands clenched together and resting in my lap, I keep a bland smile on my face as Mother introduces me to Reed Hamilton, the eighteen-year-old she’s chosen as the father of Georgie’s daughter. The brat isn’t yet born. Georgie has been in labor for so long Mother left her and called this emergency meeting with Reed and me. Questions abound in my head. Most especially, why she’s ignoring
want that Jane and Joe take the whelp off of our hands. The way Mother is going about this hints she wants to spare Georgie heartache.
The maid holds out a tray to me. “Another scone, ma’am?”
“I’ll have more to drink. Nothing more to eat.”
Conversation pauses as I respond. Scowling at Mother’s lifted brow, I thrust my glass to the maid and wave her away. Reed sits next to Mother on the settee in her small, informal receiving room. They’ve been chatty natties, planning for introductions between Reed and Georgie and how best to handle questions from any of his friends and family who are in the dark. Basically, everyone in his piss-poor little world.
“You aren’t my daughter’s type,” I say with certainty. He’s handsome, but he’s too clean-cut, with his dark blue blazer, light blue shirt, red necktie, and tan slacks. Straight out of an Ivy League school. Sniffing, I lift a brow. “Not Georgie’s type at all. If I may say so, Mr. Hamilton,” I add crossly at the displeasure on Mother’s face.
Reed flushes and lowers his lashes, hiding his brown eyes, though I caught his irritation. “I understand, ma’am. But Mrs. Sanderson wanted us to meet.” He waves his finger between him and I, as if my opinion matters. “So you’d put your mind at ease that I would never betray your daughter. Mrs. Sanderson understands the excitement of having a first grandchild.”
A small smile plays on Mother’s lips, but she clears her throat and gives Reed a meaningful look. He shifts in his seat. I don’t understand the exchange. However, some of my tension seeps away and I nod, too closely watched not to acknowledge the words. Mother really believes a part of me cares about Georgie. Of course she has this boy here for my benefit. I get it now. She thinks I’ll regret removing the child from my daughter’s life. Unless my granddaughter served some purpose for me, I want nothing to do with her.
“I’m not prepared to be a goddamn grandmother. I’ve found a couple who will adopt my daughter’s brat. While you seem like a nice young man, no one will ever believe Georgie slept with you. She doesn’t have the intelligence to choose someone so normal.”
I toss my hair over my shoulders. It isn’t my intention to draw Reed’s gaze to my mouth when I lick my lips, but he watches me. His stare slips to my breasts, displayed in a modest V-neck dress.
Empowered by his heated regard, I straighten my shoulders.
Mother uncrosses her legs and rises to her feet. “If you’ll excuse my daughter and I, Reed.”
Alarm races across his face, but she doesn’t care, her look skewering him into following her threatening order couched as a polite request. His face flames red as he stands, his erection pressing against his slacks.
“My office, now!” she hisses. “Wait for me there until I take care of Cassandra.”
Swallowing, he scratches his nape. Not a strand of his wavy brown hair is out of place. I didn’t know Parnell when he was Reed’s age, but somehow, he reminds me of my husband. The way he dresses, perhaps, with such care and looks at me as Parnell once did. The moment Reed lopes away and closes the door, Mother goes on her verbal assault.
“I’ve had enough of your games, Cassandra.”
“Games? Me? I’m not the one who’s hiring a surrogate father for Georgie’s baby.”
“Stand-in, not surrogate,” she corrects. “Sloane Mason was more than happy to plant his own baby in her.”
Whatever high I’d gotten from my interaction with Reed, craters at her reminder. Rage builds inside of me as I imagine Sloane fucking Georgie and coming in her. He used a condom with me. What became of them when he stuck his dick in her?
“He made her pregnant on purpose.” Georgie allowed him in her pussy, but she’s still under-aged. He’s losing a lot because of her. “That’s not important,” I continue in dismissal. “I want to know why we haven’t moved forward with the adoption?”
“Do you have any feelings for her at all?”
Certain this is a trick question, my head spins as I search for the best way to respond. I come up blank. “Why?” I ask carefully.