“Yeah.” I give him a sad smile.
Storm turns away. Walking over to a cupboard, he puts a plate away and closes the cupboard door. Still facing away, he says, “I read some stuff on the Internet…about Jonny. It said…well, it said that…he killed himself.”
My body tenses up.
Storm turns to face me, leaning back against the counter.
I look him in the eyes. “Jonny didn’t kill himself.” I try to keep my voice even. “He had too much to live for. He just…he made a really bad decision that night when he climbed into his car. It was an accident. A tragic accident.”
I want to tell Storm that Jonny would never have even been in that situation if he’d known about Storm, but it’d sound like I was blaming Tiffany for the choices she’d made, and I don’t want to do that.
Shifting on his feet, he glances down at them. “Look…I know there was a chance that you could have been my dad.” His eyes flick back up to mine.
I can’t hide the surprise on my face.
“I overheard Mom talking to Marie one day.”
“I know Mom was wild back in the day.”
I don’t know what to say. What does he want me to say?
Fuck. I’m not prepared for this.
He wraps his arms around his stomach. “I bet you were relieved when you found out that I wasn’t your kid,” he utters. “I know you have this perfect family. You wouldn’t want someone like me coming along and screwing it up.”
I blow out a breath, gripping the edge of the counter with my hands. “Look, Storm, I can’t deny that if you’d been mine, it would have made things difficult for me for a while. But if you’d been my blood, there wouldn’t have been a second when I wouldn’t have wanted you.”
I want to make him feel better. I know he’s hurting, and I want to take that away.
And it’s not a lie. If he had been my son, no matter how much it would have hurt Tru, hurt us all, I would never have turned him away.
“And I know, without a doubt, that Jonny would have been the same, if he were here,” I say, impassioned.
“But he’s not here.”
“No, he’s not. But I am, and so is Bob. And we want…” Taking a pause, I pull in a breath, making sure I word this just right. “We want to be your family, too.”
His expression shuts down, and he turns his face away from me, tossing the dish towel on the counter. “You all right to finish up here? I have homework to do,” he says without looking at me.
“Yeah,” I say, holding the disappointment from my voice. “I’m good. You go.”
Then, Storm walks out of the kitchen without another word, leaving me standing there, knowing I still have a hell of a ways to go with this kid.
I finish up the dishes and head into the living room. Tiffany and Bob are sitting on the sofa, and she’s showing him baby pictures of Storm.
“Everything okay?” Bob asks, a touch of concern in his voice.
Maybe the expression on my face has him worried. Or maybe it’s because Storm isn’t with me.
“Yeah, everything’s fine. Storm’s gone to do his homework.”
“Voluntarily?” Tiffany smiles. “That’s a first.”
“He asked about Jonny.”
“Oh,” she says. “He hasn’t…he hasn’t asked me a thing about him. What did…what did he want to know?”
“What Jonny was like. And…” I glance at the doorway and then lower my voice as I say, “He knows there was a chance he could have been mine.”
“Oh.” Her eyes widen.
“He said he overheard you talking to Marie.”
“Shit,” she says. “Should I go talk to him?”
I shake my head. “He didn’t seem overly upset about it.”
She glances at the door and then says, “Still, I’ll talk to him about it. Tomorrow though. Probably not best to do it today.”
“I also told him that we want to be his family.” My eyes go to Bob.
He lifts his brows. “And what was his response?”
“He said nothing. That was when he went to do his homework.” I say quietly, “Maybe I pushed it a little too far too soon?”
Bob lifts his lips at the corners. “You’ve never been one for patience, Jake.”
Can’t argue with that.
I can feel Tiffany’s eyes on me. When I look at her, I see concern there.
“Look, I don’t know what exactly you want from us. If it’s money to secure Storm’s future, then that’s a given. Anything he needs, he can have.”
“Jonny’s money,” Bob says. “I’m going to put it into a trust for Storm.”
Bob didn’t discuss that with me, but I’m not surprised.
“He doesn’t need all that money,” she tells him.
“I’m an old man. I’m the one who doesn’t need that money,” Bob counters.
“Look”—she presses her hands to her lap—“we just need to lay this out there. I know talking about death makes people uncomfortable, but it’s a fact of life. We’re all going to die someday. Unfortunately, my day is coming sooner than I wanted. I wanted to see Storm grow and have his own children, but that’s not going to happen.”
Her eyes are glazing with sadness, and I feel a tug in my gut.
Bob reaches over and takes ahold of her hand. She gratefully smiles at him.
“I want Storm to be financially secure, of course I do. And I knew I was taking a risk in finding out if he was Jonny’s, with him no longer being alive, and I knew either way, no matter the outcome, if he was Jake or Jonny’s, that would give Storm financial security. But money aside…more than anything, I want him to have a family. Marie has offered to take him, and that would be good because he knows her…but—” She bites her lip. “I know he looks like Jonny…but a big part of me hoped…I’m sorry—” Her tear-filled eyes go to Bob. “But I wanted Storm to be Jake’s son so that he wouldn’t be alone when I die.”
That punches a crater-sized hole in my chest.
“I don’t want him to be alone when I’m gone. I don’t want him to be an orphan. I want him to have a family.”
“He has a family,” Bob firmly tells her.
“He has us,” I say. “And Tom and Denny. All of us—we’re his family.” I push my hand through my hair, and I decide to just go for broke. Like Bob said, patience really isn’t my thing. “Look…” I choose not to look at Bob when I say this, instead just focusing on Tiffany. “Bob and I have spoken, and we both have agreed. If you do, too, then…we want Storm and you to come to live in LA. Bob is moving in with my family and me, and I’ll set you up with whatever you need. You can live out your time there, and it will give Storm time to get to know us, help him settle. Then, when the time comes”—when you’re gone—“Storm will move in with us—my family and me.”
Her eyes widen, tears glazing them. “How does your wife feel about this?”
“Trust me, if I didn’t have her backing, I wouldn’t have said these things right now.”