Unforgiven, p.3

Unforgiven, page 3

 part  #5 of  Wilde Brothers Series



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  She shoved her key in the lock of Samuel’s one-bedroom condo. It was only five hundred square feet, and what little she’d moved in had made this small space cramped and overcrowded. Her clothes were crammed into the small closet with Samuel’s, piled on his dresser, and the living room was so small that the sofa, easy chair, and love seat were almost touching one another, with books and papers piled on the bookshelf, leaving little room to walk around. No, they really had to consider sooner rather than later the need to move.

  She closed the door and hung her keys on the hook. If she could only get Samuel to use the hook. He was so disorganized at times, and she more often than not would pick up his keys and hang them up from wherever he tossed them. He was coming in from work later and later every night.

  She noticed the message light on the phone flashing. It couldn’t be the doctor, as she’d just left the lab. Work, maybe, but then, she’d taken the day off. It was hard to work with the nausea and the slight headache she was feeling, and she was tired, shaky. She wanted to lie down and sleep for a few hours, but then she would be thinking endlessly of who called.

  She peeled off her short trench coat and hung it in the closet, then slipped off her shoes. Squatting down, she lifted the black loafers and put them on the second shelf of the shoe rack, which also belonged to her.

  Cramped spaces became junkyards quickly without some type of logical system of organization. She glanced at the kitchen table, which also served as a desk. Her notepad laptop and case of pens were neatly stacked, whereas Samuel’s mail, papers, and whatever receipts he’d pulled from his pocket spilled all over the surface. She sighed as she grabbed the phone and listened to the voicemail. She started sorting his papers into a neat pile when the first message played.

  “Jill, if you get this message, it’s Jeff here. Carl is meeting with the VP of finance tomorrow, and he needs your final report. I know he said he didn’t need it until Friday, but the meeting was moved up. Hope you feel better. Call me back.”

  “Great.” She deleted the message. She wanted to lie down, but that would have to wait. She needed to finish that report. She’d already compiled all the data; she just needed to input everything into a spreadsheet, do a final summary, and then email it off. She figured it would take most of the night to finish, but then she’d be done.

  Next message: “Jill, sorry to leave you like that—ah, call me when you hear back from the doctor.” She heard a woman in the background saying something to Samuel. “Uh, listen, I’m going to be late, so don’t wait up. But call me as soon as you hear from the doctor.” He hung up then like he always did, without a goodbye. Short, sweet, and to the point.

  The story of her life, especially as of late.

  Before she could put the phone down, it rang again. “Hello?”

  “Jill.” That was all he said before her knees started shaking.

  She pulled out the kitchen chair and sat down. “Jake.” She was about to ask how he was, if he was still seeing that girl…what was her name? Oh yeah, Chris, the cheerleader.

  “I haven’t heard from you or Samuel and wanted to see how the baby is doing.”

  Of course it was the baby, the baby that could be his.

  “Fine, good.” She should tell him she had been in today to see the doctor, but she knew Samuel wouldn’t be happy. No, he’d be furious she was even talking to Jake now.

  “I was just reading up that there’s a blood test you can have now that will show who the father is. It’s just a matter of you giving some blood and then Samuel and me as well.” He sounded so distant, not the close confidant he had always been, someone she had leaned on. She missed him.

  “I guess you want to know.” Of course he did. She had known about the test, too, but if she was being honest, she was afraid to find out who had fathered the baby. If it was Jake, she feared that would be enough for Samuel to finally walk away for good.

  “Yeah, Jill, we really need to know. For all of us, Jill. If this is Samuel’s baby, then I’m out of your life for good. If it’s not…”

  He didn’t have to finish. She knew he was the kind of man who wouldn’t walk away, and that was what scared her. She wasn’t sure whether it was having him out of her life for good or the idea of seeing him and being part of his life that bothered her.

  “I know, you said you won’t walk away, and you won’t let Samuel be the father.”

  “No, Jill, not if it’s mine.”

  She sighed. “Okay.” She was tired of fighting the inevitable anyway.

  “Great. Do you want me to arrange it?” He sounded suddenly very happy. Obviously he wanted to move on.

  Jill swallowed back a wave of nausea. “You know what? I had a blood test today. I’ll talk to my doctor, see how to arrange it.” She swallowed back the rising bile. “I—”

  She never finished. She dropped the phone and stumbled to the bathroom as she was hit by a strange dizziness, and her vision blurred before she reached the bathroom and lifted the lid on the toilet. She threw up.


  Chapter 5

  “I knew you were going to do this to me, you jerk.” Erin was dogging his heels into his office, chewing his ass out for being ten minutes late for the deposition. She closed the door as Samuel tossed the file on the desk.

  “Look, I’m sorry. I could have run the whole way and walked in all sweaty, but I’m sure none of you would have appreciated that.” No, that kind of thing was frowned on in any sort of professional situation.

  “I told you you’d be late and not to go.” She let out a very unladylike growl. “I didn’t know what to do and wasn’t prepared to lead the deposition. You left me sitting there with my thumb up my ass.”

  Evidently, she still hadn’t calmed down from when he’d hurried in ten minutes late to find the opposing counsel with his client’s husband waiting at the conference table, checking his watch, looking rather annoyed. Thankfully, Erin had kept Samantha in his office.

  “You handled it, so knock it off. It’s done.”

  She was shaking her head. “So, everything okay with your wife?”

  He pulled out his chair and sat down, glancing at the notes he’d made from the husband’s lawyer’s questioning. “Yeah, fine. Good. She has to have some tests, but I’m sure it’s nothing—and she’s not my wife. We’ve been through this.”

  “Oh, yes, you’re just having a baby together. My father would roll over in his grave and have a few choice things to say to you. But then, he was from the old country and believed in traditional values,” she added, as if he hadn’t guessed.

  “Erin, I don’t care what your father would’ve thought. This is the twenty-first century.”

  She widened her eyes behind her glasses. “I’m just saying, you’re having a baby together, so get married, already.”

  Why was he even having this conversation? “It’s not that simple. I asked her, we stood before a justice of the peace. She just didn’t go through with it.”

  “Oh,” she said, glancing away. “Well, that changes things, then, doesn’t it?” She appeared surprised. “What did you do?”

  Why wasn’t she dropping this? “Why do you think it was me?”

  “Oh, your pleasing personality, maybe.” She smiled at him, and he noticed how straight her teeth were.

  “You were right about the husband’s lawyer. Chess Kerkwell really did focus everything he had on the financial issues.” Samuel wondered how he’d missed something so vital that Erin had honed in on.

  “She gave her husband control of the business and financed it. He was selling boats, and she paid no attention to what he was doing, and he pissed it away, made some flaky deals, mismanaged everything. Receivables were questionable. I’d be mad. She trusted him, and he burned her.”

  Samuel was shaking his head, thinking of the young blond their client had married, ten years younger than her. Handsome, a man women fell all over. Samantha had, at forty-eight, what many had lost: she was in great shape, good looking, with dar
k hair and blue eyes. And she had been composed even when Chess Kerkwell tried to rattle her.

  “So why didn’t you cross examine her husband?” Erin said. “I don’t understand how you could mess up like that.”

  He’d seen Erin’s face when he’d said they had no questions, surprising the hell out of everyone—but he had his reasons. “Need to control the evidence and what was said. This is a disturbing case, and sometimes the best strategy is to not have a record of what the husband said, considering this is really coming down to a he said, she said.”

  “Is it, though?” Erin said. “There’s the doctor’s report of her bruising.”

  Samuel sat down in his chair, folding his hands over his middle and leaning his head back, thinking. “No, anyone could make the argument about rough sex. They’ve been married, what, five years? Look at him. Look at her. I mean, no kids, healthy sex life, who’s to say we’ll get the truth of what kinky stuff really went on in their bedroom?”

  “What does that have to do with the fact that he raped her? A woman says no, it stops. End of story.”

  “Yes, but there are, as you pointed out, a lot of holes in this case, so sometimes it’s better to control the evidence, which is exactly what I did.”

  She was shaking her head when his phone rang. He stared at her, and she shook her head again, pulled open the door, and left.

  He picked up the phone. “Samuel Wilde,” he said, watching Erin as she strode back to her desk, stopping to talk with an investigator who had placed something there.

  “Samuel, it’s Jake.”

  Well, that was the last person he wanted to talk to, the one person he held responsible for the tension between himself and his brothers. “What do you want, Jake?” He couldn’t believe that at one time they had been so close, living blocks away from each other, hanging out together almost every night—until Jake had taken his girl.

  “I’m calling about Jill. I just called her, and she doesn’t sound well. I don’t know what happened, but I heard her in the background being sick, and she didn’t come back on the line. I’m concerned. Is everything all right?”

  “Yeah, she hasn’t been feeling well, is all. We were just at the doctor, and they’re running some tests. I’ll check on her.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Hang on, why are you calling Jill?” Had they been talking again behind his back?

  “I called because I think it’s time we find out whose baby this is. I’m done with the wondering and would think you would be, too. I have a life and a girl, a great girl, and I don’t want this hanging over our heads anymore. If it’s yours, we’re done, and Chris and I can get on with our lives and put it aside. But if it’s not, I think it’s time plans were made.”

  “What do you mean, plans were made?” He wasn’t sure what Jake was talking about, but he was sure it didn’t mean waiting on the sidelines.

  “Samuel, I wish you and Jill well, I do, but if this is my kid, I’m not going to be just a part-time dad, especially since Chris and I are living down in Arizona.”

  “You can’t possibly be talking about taking a baby from its mother,” Samuel said. “Seriously, Jake, is this where it’s going to go?”

  “Look, Jill agreed to the test. I did some homework. It’s just a simple blood test: you, me, and Jill. She said she’d talk to her doctor, as she had a blood test today. Look, let’s just deal with this first, find out whose it is.”

  It was reasonable and made sense, but he wasn’t in any mood to be reasonable. He was still stuck on the fact that Jill was sick and must have hung up. “Look, I’ve got to go. I need to call Jill.”

  He didn’t wait for his brother to respond as he hung up and dialed his home number. The phone rang one, two, three times. No answer. She couldn’t have gone out. Maybe something was really wrong. He was starting to sweat when the fifth ring took it to voicemail. He didn’t leave a message but hung up the phone. He pushed back his chair and opened his door.

  “Natalie, can you come in here for a second?” he called. He waited for his secretary to come in, and he pulled on his coat, packed up his laptop, and stuffed the notes from the deposition in his attaché case along with the client file.

  “Yes, Samuel?”

  “I’ve got to go out. Jill’s sick. I’ve got my laptop and the client’s file. I may not be back today, but I have my cell phone in case you need to get a hold of me.”

  “What should I tell Mr. MacGregor when he gets back?”

  “Tell him I had a personal emergency and I’m going to be working from home for the rest of the day.” He wasn’t sure how his boss would respond, but he hoped he’d understand. After all, Samuel was the only junior associate at the firm with a number of billable hours that rivalled the partners’ combined total, and it was time they recognized his value.

  As he stepped into the elevator and pressed the down button, he started worrying. He’d directed so much of his anger toward his family, all the hurt and rejection he was feeling, toward Jill, and now, because of him, she was run down and not feeling well. No, it was time he figured out his priorities. He wanted Jill, or he thought he did, but he needed to figure out what was more important, his brothers or his girl, who was carrying a baby that could be his or Jake’s.

  Even though taking up with Deena had sent Jill Jake’s way, the fact that she had allowed another man to touch her, to bring out of her those soft sighs that he knew so well when he was buried deep inside her, was eating him alive. The fact that it had been his brother made it that much worse. Losing Jill had been bad, but losing his family, his brothers, was killing him.


  Chapter 6

  “Jill,” he called to her as he shut the door behind him. The apartment was quiet, but then, Jill didn’t make a lot of noise. Even when she worked, the only thing he’d hear would be the occasional soft sigh and the click of the keyboard. But not today.

  He lifted the strap of his laptop case over his head and dropped it on the sofa as he walked into the bedroom, and the first thing he saw was Jill sitting on the bed, pillows propped behind her, holding her laptop, with earphones plugged into her ears. She didn’t even see him standing in the doorway, she was so engrossed in what she was doing and whatever music she was listening to. His worry from moments before turned to anger.

  “Jill!” he barked, and this time she jumped, looking up, her eyes widening as she pulled the earphones from her ear.

  “What are you doing here?” She appeared surprised. “You said you would be late.”

  “Well, funny thing. Got a call from my brother, you know, Jake, and he tells me he called you and you were talking to him one moment and then you were gone. He was pretty sure he was hearing you being sick, and then you never came back on the phone. You disconnected and then didn’t answer again. He was worried, I’m worried. I called, too, and you didn’t answer, so what was I to think? So I raced home, and I’m in the middle of a really big case. Why the hell didn’t you answer the phone—and what are you doing, talking to my brother again, anyway?”

  She firmed her lips. “Would you like me to answer your demands in order?” She crossed her arms, giving him a look he’d never seen before.

  He just stood there and then gestured in frustration.

  “Fine,” she said. “Let me see. Yes, I was sick. It’s called being pregnant. I didn’t feel like talking to Jake, so I hung up. I saw he called back again, and I didn’t answer because I know how much it upsets you when I speak with him, so, to keep the peace and not upset you, I’m continuing to walk on eggshells around you, thinking all the time, ‘If I do this, will it upset Samuel?’ or ‘If I do this, will he finally be happy with me?’”

  He couldn’t believe what she was saying, making him sound like such an asshole.

  She shrugged. Her expression seemed so resigned. “I have a project I have to finish today, and I like listening to music at times. It relaxes me and drowns out the background noise of this empty place, so no, I didn’t hear the phone ring. And just to
set the record straight, I’m not talking to your brother all the time. This is the first time I’ve heard from him since I saw him in Phoenix to tell him about the baby, so stop making it sound as if I’m carrying on with Jake. I’m not. He called to ask about getting the paternity test done now. Of course he wants to know. He’s apparently been doing his own homework, and we don’t have to wait until the baby is born.

  “He wants to get on with his life and not have this unknown hanging over his head, and he’s right. We need to do this now. Pretending this isn’t an issue and not wanting to know is something we have to stop. I was—no, I am afraid of finding out it’s Jake’s and then learning how you’ll really feel, because deep down I’ve always been afraid that you’ll walk away again. I can’t live like this anymore, waiting for the other shoe to drop, hearing you say you want me but living with your moodiness for months, not missing the way you look at me when you think I’m not watching. I wonder if it’s just a matter of time before you’re done with me forever. I’ve been so afraid of that, so afraid to find out.”

  Her voice betrayed how hard she was trying to hold herself together, and then a tear slipped down her cheek. She shut her eyes for a second as if to pull herself together. When she opened them, they were filled with despair and something else, as if she’d lost the will to fight for him. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said. “If you decide to walk away, then just do it. Maybe it’s for the best, because I can’t live with this, knowing I’m responsible for driving a wedge between your family, between your brothers, who didn’t even come to the wedding.”

  Why was she saying this, doing this, now? It had to be the pregnancy, that surge of hormones making her crazy.

  “Jill, you came back to me after bedding my brother. You never should have been with him, never. He was my brother, Jill!” He slammed his fist on the dresser. Before, she’d have probably jumped, but she just watched him, resigned. She was calm now like she’d never been before.

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