Trapped(7)

By: Beverley Kendall



I stop several feet from her and place the bag and its contents on the driveway. She drops her hand to her side and faces me. She hasn’t said a word and since I can’t see her eyes behind the dark tint of the lenses, I can’t tell if she’s shocked to see me or pissed off. Or both in equal measure.

“Hi, Paige.” After everything that’s happened between us, those words feel ridiculously inadequate but it’s all I have and it’s a start.

Her compressed lips thin even further as she folds her arms across her chest. “What do you want, Mitch?”

Right. Well I didn’t think she was going to roll out the welcome mat. “I got the form you sent.” May as well cut to the chase.

Her forehead puckers. “What form?” she asks impatiently.

My attention is momentarily sidetracked by the guy washing his car next door and the kids across the street screaming and laughing as they jump through the sprinkler in the front yard. Plus I’m hot and I don’t want to have this conversation outside. In public.

“Can we talk inside?”

“I have nothing to say to you. And as you can see, I’m on my way out. I’m meeting someone,” she says in a curt fuck-you tone.

So this is what it’s like being on the wrong side of Paige. I’ve never experienced it and I can’t say the feeling’s sitting well with me.

And who is she meeting?

It’s none of your fuckin’ business, the voice inside me controlled by my brain replies.

“Well can it wait ten minutes? We need to talk.”

“Oh really?” she says, speaking in a way that makes it clear she doesn’t give a shit what I need or want. “You’re asking me if I can wait ten minutes to do what I have to do and yet you’re almost seven months too late for whatever you have to say to me. I’ll say this for you, Mitch, you’ve got a lotta frickin’ nerve if nothing else. But honestly, I don’t have the patience or time to deal with you right now.”

I’m not going to lie. Everything she just said hit whatever emotions in me she intended to trigger. Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment. Regret. She hit the bull’s eye on all of them.

But it’s the dismissive tone in her voice that has me gritting my teeth in frustration and biting my tongue. I have to remind myself why I’m here. Who is important in all this and what I’m trying to achieve.

Inhaling deeply, I blow out a long breath. “I ripped it up. I’m not signing it.”

“Sign what? Mitch, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She’s glaring at me from behind those glasses. I can tell. And from the tone of her voice, I’m starting to believe she honestly doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

My brain is trying to make sense of what’s going on and failing.

A glance over at the guy washing the minivan reveals he’s paying way too much attention to what’s going on on this side of the lawn separating the two driveways. At my look, his gaze snaps back to the window he’s soaping down.

“I am not giving up my parental rights.” I certainly can’t make myself any clearer than that.

For a few seconds, I get the feeling I just shocked her. But then she says, “What does it matter to you? It’s not as if you’re exercising them. It’s not as if you’re even a part of her life.”

I grab the back of my neck and squeeze hard. I expel another long breath before saying, “I came home to change that. I want to see Brianna.”



Paige

To say I haven’t dreamt about this day—this moment—would be a lie. I have. A thousand times. I’ve even practiced what I’d say, how I’d look and how I’d act.

Then why has my mind drawn a blank now that he’s uttered those fateful words?

It’s seeing him, the suddenness of it. He appeared out of the blue, a surprise attack I hadn’t been prepared for. But up to this point, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of handling myself. No histrionics or anything like that.

Then he’d said the words I’d have given my grandmother’s diamond earrings to hear when Bree was born.

I want to see Brianna.

But he hadn’t. Not back then. Not when I needed him to the most.

I’d had to take horse-like prenatal vitamins but Mitch’s deflection had been the hardest pill to swallow.

“Your daughter?” I can’t help the trace of mockery that creeps into the question as I peer up into eyes I used to gladly drown in. Now those eyes and that face I once considered pinch-myself gorgeous doesn’t do a thing for me. Nope, not a thing. “How do you know she’s yours? I thought you needed a paternity test to prove you’re her father?”

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