Stuart gives me a steady look. “You go home and tell Tru.”
Fear curls in the pit of my stomach. Resting my elbows on my desk, I run my hands through my hair. “How do I tell her this?”
“Gently. You tell her gently, Jake.”
“This is gonna hurt her—badly.”
“It will, but she’s strong. You’ve both gotten through worse.”
I know he’s referring to Tru’s car accident—when she almost died, when I was close to losing her.
I can’t lose Tru, no matter what.
Tru, JJ, Billy, and Belle—they are everything to me.
My life is perfect. Fucking perfect. I have the woman of my dreams and the best kids a man could ask for. And now this? It’s going to rip all of that apart.
When I woke up this morning, surrounded by the most important people in my life, little did I know I’d be hearing this potentially, life-changing news a few hours later.
I guess I can never escape my past. It was destined to come back and haunt me in one way or another.
“I’m gonna go make these calls.” Stuart stands. “Anything I can do before I go?”
I move my eyes back to his face and shake my head.
“It’s going to be okay, Jake. You’ll do this DNA test. We’ll find out that he’s not yours, and then everything will go back to normal.”
“And what if…” I can barely bring myself to say the words because, yeah, there is hope in me. “What if he’s Jonny’s?”
“Then…” A small smile touches his lips. “Then, our world is about to get a whole lot brighter.”
And if Storm is not Jonny’s and he is in fact mine, then my world is about to get a whole lot darker.
Standing in the doorway, I watch her…the first, last and only woman I will ever love.
She’s barefoot in the kitchen, hips swaying to the sound of Etta James’s “At Last,” as she softly sings along while uncorking a bottle of wine.
And my heart fucking breaks at the sight.
It breaks because I know I’m about to break hers.
I’m about to put a crack in the life we’ve built together.
I just pray to God that fissure isn’t too deep that we can’t keep it together.
She turns, seeing me. “Hey!” She looks a little surprised. “I didn’t realize you were home. What are you doing, standing there, watching me?” The smile on her face is warm and wanting and everything.
She is everything.
“So, the kids are at Mum and Dad’s. I thought I’d get the wine ready.” She starts to walk toward me, her feet padding softly across the floor.
When she reaches me, she places her hands on my chest and pushes up on her toes. “Hi,” she whispers on a smile before pressing her lips on mine.
She tastes like heaven.
I have to tell her. But first…
I take her face in my hands, and I kiss her hard. I kiss her with the force of every year that I have loved this woman.
I want her to feel how much I love her…before I hurt her.
“Wow,” she whispers, her breathing unsteady. “I guess you really want me, huh?”
God, I want her.
The teasing smile on her lips should be inviting, but all it does is hurt, making this so much harder.
I rub the tips of my fingers across her forehead, brushing back her hair. “We need to talk.”
“Can it wait? We have a children-free night, and—”
“It can’t wait.” My tone is firm. Before I lose my nerve, I take hold of her hand and lead her over to the breakfast stools, the stools where my kids eat breakfast every morning.
God, I feel sick.
I can feel Tru’s eyes on me, but I can barely look at her.
She sits up on a stool. “So, what do we need to talk about?” Her voice is unsteady.
I hear the waver, the nerves in her tone.
I’m nervous, too—no, scrap that. Nervous doesn’t even touch it. I’m fucking terrified.
Swallowing down, I unbutton the top button on my shirt, loosening the collar with my fingers. Then, I meet her eyes.
“We had a call today from a lawyer.” Pausing—well, more like delaying—I swallow down.
Tru’s eyes, hawk-like, are watching me. It’s almost like she’s trying to read the words on my face before I say them.
I take a deep breath and force the words out. “It’s about a woman…and a kid—a boy. The woman, his mother—she’s claiming that…well, that he’s…mine…or Jonny’s.”
I watch as my words hit her. It’s like a physical strike. She recoils back as her hand reaches for the counter, gripping it.
Shock morphs into hurt, and pain pulls at her features.
I force myself to hold steady even though all I really want to do is break down and grab her, hold her, tell her how sorry I am.
“How old is the boy?”
That’s the first thing she wants to ask me? It’s not what I expected her to say.
Then, it hits me why she’s asking that.
She wants his age, so she’ll know if I’ve cheated on her during the time we’ve been together.
Anger wells inside me. But getting pissed off with Tru right now is neither wise nor necessary. It’s not like I’m in the position to kick off with the moral high ground.
I have just dropped the bombshell that I’m being sued for paternity.
“He’s thirteen,” I say through gritted teeth.
I see a small amount of relief briefly flicker through her eyes.
Smoothing her hands down her thighs, she blows out a breath. Then, she shifts to the side and gets up from the stool. On her feet, she walks across the kitchen. She turns off the music. Then, she stands there, her hands pressed on the counter, facing away from me.
“Tru…talk to me.”
“What do you want me to say?” She spins around, her face now hard. Anger flares in those eyes I love so much, pain dancing around the edges of them. “Congratulations? Am I supposed to congratulate you on becoming a father again?”
“Don’t…” I angrily work my jaw, looking away from her. “I’m not a father again. I’m only a father to our children, the only children I have.” I bite each word out.
“Not according to this woman!” she yells, throwing her hands up in the air. When they come back down, they slap against her thighs.
“An accusation. That’s all it is, Tru. It’s not even an accusation. It’s just a…”
“A, what, Jake? What is it? All I’m hearing right now is that you could have another child with another woman!”
“He’s not mine. I know he isn’t.” I stare steadily into her eyes. “And it’s not just me she’s claiming against. It’s Jonny, too.”
“And that’s just fucking great! This woman is claiming that either you or your dead best friend knocked her up all those years ago. I mean, what the hell? You fucked the same women—actually, you know what? I don’t want to know!”
She presses her hands to her ears, violently shaking her head for a moment. Then, her hands drop, and her eyes lower to her feet.
“Why now? What does she want?” she whispers.