Read That Boy From Trash Town Online

Authors: Billie Green

That Boy From Trash Town (19 page)

BOOK: That Boy From Trash Town
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Something was wrong. She couldn't read his expression, but there was something about his voice that worried her. It was dull, lifeless, almost as though he had suddenly turned off all feeling.

A shiver took her off guard, shaking through her violently, and although the room was hot, she felt a sudden chill that worked from the inside out.

When he walked into the living room and sat in an armchair, moving as though he were tired, she followed him.

"What are you thinking?" she said, giving a nervous little laugh. "You sound peculiar."

He shrugged. "I was thinking about how he's wasted his life. He's spent the past twenty years standing in the shadows. Not dead, not quite alive."

She sat on the floor at his feet. "It must have been awful for him. Much worse than for me. I didn't know he was alive, but he knew that Mother and I existed. He knew that we were alive, and he couldn't reach us. He blames himself, you know. He made a stupid mistake, so he feels it's only right that he pay for it for the rest of his life. But the biggest mistake wasn't his. It was Mother's."

"No, you're wrong," be said quietly. "Your mother did the only thing she could do under the circumstances."

Her eyes widened in surprise. "You're defending her? She deprived me of a father, but that's nothing to what she did to him. She deprived Daddy of his life. And you're defending her? How can you take her side?"

"I'm not taking anyone's side. I'm simply saying that she was caught in a no-win situation. They both were. And maybe I'm saying the biggest mistake was Lloyd's. Not the embezzling. His mistake was getting involved with her in the first place. He should have known it wouldn't work."

Whitney was suddenly afraid. And the fear wasn't caused just by what he was saying. With his attitude, with the look on his face, he seemed to be intentionally putting a distance between them.

The next moment, he stood up abruptly. "We don't need to talk about this tonight. You're wrung out. You're too emotional."

"Too emotional? Too emotional?" She pushed a trembling hand through her hair. Confusion and a sudden, unexplainable panic were making it impossible to think. "I just got my father back. Surely that entitles me to a little emotion." She rose to her feet. "But this isn't about my father or what happened twenty years ago, is it? There's something else. Something that's eating at you."

He stared at her for a moment, then turned toward the door. "Let's put this off until tomorrow."

"Don't leave." The words were frantic as she moved quickly to stand behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Why does everyone keep trying to leave me? Dean—Dean, you've got to talk to me."

He swung around, his movements stiff and awkward, his dark eyes blazing with anger. Then, as she watched, the fire died and there was no feeling there at all. "I don't know what you want me to say," he said quietly.

"For starters, you can tell me why, in your evaluation of my mother and father's situation, you left out love." Her voice was shaking with intensity. "You implied— You think that Daddy should never have married Mother. But you didn't say a word about the fact that they loved each other. And it wasn't a wimpy little love, either, Dean. It was strong enough, deep enough, to survive twenty years of separation. That means something. Surely that means something. That they— They truly love each other, Dean."

"And where did that get them?" he asked, his voice rough. "In the long run, tins time-defying love you're talking about wasn't worth a flipping, secondhand doughnut. They loved each other in the past, they apparently still love each other, but did that change anything?" He gave a short, harsh laugh. "Their lives are a total mess, but by God they love. Big deal."

His anger was all out of proportion, and she couldn't understand what was behind it. All she knew was that she was so scared, she was shaking with it.

"Love is a big deal," she said in a hoarse whisper. "I love you, and to me that's a big deal."

He laughed again, but it wasn't a laugh born of amusement or happiness. It was filled with anger and regret and something that seemed very close to self-contempt.

"Yes, you love me," he rasped. "And that only makes it worse."

He turned his back on her and before she could stop him, he moved across the room and walked out the front door.

She pressed a trembling hand to her mouth. Dear God, what was happening? The words, the emotions. .. It felt so final, and she couldn't understand how it had happened.

Only minutes earlier she had truly believed they were happy. She thought they were going to spend the rest of their lives together. Now, standing alone in her living room, she felt as though she had lost him, and she didn't know how or why.

Turning back to the empty room, she moved a few steps, then sank down on the floor. She leaned back against the couch, her eyes closed as she finally let the tremors take control.

She didn't know how long she had been sitting there before she felt a hand on her head. Opening her eyes, she found Lloyd kneeling beside her, compassion and love in his eyes as he stroked her hair.

"I saw Dean leave," he said. "I saw what he looked like, and I figured now would be a good time to start being a father." He gathered her into his arms, and pulled her up to sit beside him on the couch. "Don't cry so hard, baby. You'll make yourself sick."

"I love him, Daddy," she said in a helpless whisper. "I love him so much."

He rocked her back and forth in his arms. "I know. I know you do, baby. And Dean loves you, too, but he's running scared right now. He can't think straight. You and I see him as an intelligent, successful man, but Dean sees something different. He said he came from the wrong side of the tracks. He was talking about Trash Town, wasn't he? You don't simply forget a lifetime of humiliation, insults and snubs, Whitney. Take my word for it. There's a part of Dean that will always be that boy from Trash Town.".

He pushed the hair from her forehead and met her eyes. "Dean's talked to me about his past. Not much, but enough for me to know what it must have been like for him. Honey, he's scared to death that someday, somehow, he'll turn into his stepfather."

When she made a noise of disbelief, he said, "You're right.. .you're right. It's crazy. But what's locked inside a person's head isn't always open to reason. Dean knows, he's been taught, that bad boys from the slums don't mix with nice girls from millionaire row."

"That's stupid. It's insane! He can't really believe that. He knows me, Daddy. Better than anyone. He knows there is no one else in the world for me but him. And I know him," she said, her voice not shaking quite as much now. "If he really is thinking that.. .that garbage, then he needs me. He needs me to be beside bin, reminding him of who and what he is—the best man I've ever known or am ever likely to know."

Lloyd looked away from her, and releasing her, he stood up and walked a few steps away, his back to her. "It's like watching a rerun," he said. "She loved me like that. She loved me so much."

Scrambling to her feet, she walked around him, facing him. "lam not my mother! Why can't anyone see that? I'm not even a Harcourt. I'm me. Whitney Daryn Grant. And the only way that will ever change is if I add Russell to the end of it. No other name will work." She drew in a steadying breath. "My love is tougher than hers, Daddy. I'm tougher. I don't give up when things get bad."

She moved away from him, forcing her breathing to return to normal, willing the blood to stop pounding in her temples. When she was calmer, she said, "Maybe if I had been raised like Mother I'd feel the way she does. I can't imagine it, but I suppose any-thing's possible. But the thing is, I wasn't raised that way. They tried to turn me into a Harcourt...you wouldn't believe how hard they tried, but I had Dean. He was there to teach me about life. Real life, not the fake Harcourt version of it.

"If Dean were thrown in jail, if he were disgraced in the eyes of the whole world, where do you think I'd be? Beside him, Daddy. Right beside him. Always." She said the word with such fierce intensity that her voice shook. "Just like I would have been beside you if anyone had bothered to let me know what was happening."

She shook her head. "It didn't work for you and Mother. I accept that. But it has worked for others.

People from different backgrounds make it work every day. If ifs important... if it's the most important thing in your life, you can make it work."

She gave a broken laugh and wiped at the tears with the backs of her hands. "You think it's over, and Dean thinks ifs over, but I know different. I don't give up, Daddy. You might as well know that about me right now. I've been waiting for Dean since I was a little girl and I won't settle for anything less. I'll go after him and I'll stay with him. I'll annoy him and exasperate him and make him madder than hell, but I'll stay. I'll stay and eventually I'll wear him down."

Her laugh was stronger this time. "I can be pretty irresistible when I put my mind to it. Dean knows that. He won't like it, but he won't have any choice in the matter. Because I'll stay with him until.. .until he tells me he doesn't love me anymore."

"Then I guess you'll have to stay forever. . .because I'll never be able to say that, Whitney."

The quiet words had her swinging around toward the door. Dean was standing not three feet away from her, his eyes trained on her face, examining, searching, with feverish intensity.

"You heard?" she asked, raising her chin in a defensive movement.

He nodded. "I heard." He glanced at Lloyd. "I think she means it."

Lloyd smiled. "Looks like it to me. You told me she was a tenacious devil. You would have done well to remember that." He kissed Whitney on the forehead. "See you tomorrow, my Maid Mary."

"Good night, Daddy." Her voice was distracted as she continued to study Dean's face, feeling the gap between them miraculously growing smaller.

When the door closed behind Lloyd, Dean moved closer, his palms turned up in a helpless gesture. "Lloyd was right," he said quietly. "I was running scared, Whit. I was afraid of possibilities. Of what might happen. I was afraid of what the future might bring. God, baby, I was scared to death of losing you someday."

He paused to draw in a deep breath, his head thrown back, his eyes closed. "I had this hellish vision— I could see myself holding on to you, begging you to stay, offering to subtract years from my life if it would just keep you with me."

He met her eyes. "That damned vision took over, Whit. And then, when I was walking away from you, it suddenly occurred to me what a fool I was. I was throwing away your love—the only thing in the world that matters—because I didn't think I could face having it taken away from me at some indeterminate point in the future."

"Stupid... stupid." The words were a caress as she moved into his arms and began to smooth her lips across his face.

"Yes, it was stupid. Maybe what we have together will fall apart someday. Maybe there's pain ahead, but if I can have you until then, it'll be worth it." He framed her face with his hands. "I hope you think so, too, Whitney. There are things you don't know about me. You don't know—" He shook his head. "There are ugly parts, black parts... I don't want you to get hurt. I've always wanted the best for you. Only the best. You have to know right now that living with me, loving me, won't be easy."

Whitney reached up and touched his face, soothing away the troubled lines. Dean's insecurities weren't going to go away overnight. Maybe they would never disappear completely. They would both have to work at keeping the intimacy alive. The intimacy of mind, body and spirit. But she didn't doubt for a moment that they would make it. Loving Dean was an idea she would never give up on.

"I think I can handle it," she told him as she snuggled closer. "I'm made of pretty tough stuff. And I've always liked a problem I can really sink my teeth into." She bit him lightly on the chin. "Loving you... being there when you need me...learning to be the best wife this planet has ever seen... being in your arms every night... having you hold me and touch me and make me go crazy with wanting you... having your babies."

She laughed and there was pure joy in the sound. ' 'You're right, Dean, it won't be easy. But you taught me a long time ago that when something's inevitable, you have to meet it head-on, without complaining, without flinching."

She felt the heat, the need, rising in him, and she pressed her body closer to his. "It's a dirty job," she whispered against his lips, "but somebody's got to do it."

BOOK: That Boy From Trash Town
7.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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