He ignored her and the choking sound of outrage coming from the hall and focused on Eleanor. She suddenly looked every day of her fifty-eight years. It looked like she’d finally been beaten. Ephraim didn’t have to ask to know why.
She thought she failed. Her granddaughter was unmarried and pregnant. History was repeating itself and she was helpless to stop it. She didn’t want to see another child go through life without a real family, without love.
Ephraim took a knee in front of Eleanor. He took her trembling hand into his. “Eleanor, she’s not Emma. She’s not Emma.”
Eleanor looked so lost. “Eleanor, she’s not sixteen and she’s not alone. You know how much I love her. I’m not one of the men that Emma hangs around with. I wanted to marry her anyway. You need to know that she will be taken care of and want for nothing in this world. Our child will grow up in a loving home with both parents. We will never hurt our child the way Emma hurt Madison. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“You, me, Madison, the baby, Chris, Jill and Joshua are going to stay right here and be a family. The three of us are going to raise them together. I promise you I will be the father to all four children that they deserve.”
Eleanor gave him a watery smile. “You have been a good father to them and I thank you for that. It’s been good for the kids to have a good man around.”
“Thank you, but you’re forgetting the best part.”
“Oh?” She looked confused.
“This will be the first grandchild you get to hold as a baby since Madison. The first of many I hope.”
He watched as that thought shot through her. She sucked in a deep breath. “That’s right.” She grinned hugely. “Can I help with the nursery?” Her eyes brightened with excitement.
Ephraim pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. “I’m sure you, Madison and Jill will do a splendid job.”
“Oh, there’s so much to do!” Eleanor jumped to her feet. “I’ve got to call the girls so we can start on baby blankets and clothes.”
“You can’t do this! She can’t have a baby!” Emma snapped.
Eleanor ignored her as she left the room. He knew when she spotted Madison. “A baby! We’re having a baby!” the older woman cried happily. He heard all the air rush out of Madison’s lungs from the intense hug Eleanor gave her.
“And a wedding! Don’t forget the wedding!” Ephraim yelled. He didn’t want her to forget that part. He was sure Madison would come around eventually.
“I’m so happy! A baby and a wedding!” Eleanor said as she hurried to the kitchen no doubt where she would be making several dozen calls.
“Ephraim, you don’t know what you’re doing!” Emma shrieked.
He turned his attention on her. “Oh, what don’t I know?” His voice was deceptively calm.
“I’m going to tell you this for your own good.” She pushed her thick dyed blonde hair back over her shoulder. She spoke in a calm confiding manner. “She’s done this before.”
“Excuse me?” That was a little confusing and unexpected.
Candy nodded sympathetically. “It’s true. Madison is a pathological liar. It pains me to say this, but it’s true.”
“Enlighten me.” He knew Madison had stopped breathing and wondered how long it would take her to calm down before she stormed into the room.
“Very well, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to, but apparently she’s got you under her spell.” She sauntered over to the couch and sat down. He took the seat Eleanor vacated minutes earlier and waited.
“Since she was very young I’ve had to deal with her problem with lying. She would steal and I would have to of course cover for her. Things got bad when she hit puberty. She slept around with every boy she encountered. Soon she began drinking and doing drugs.”
“I have never seen her take some much as a sip of alcohol since I’ve known her,” he pointed out sharply.
She ignored his tone. “She drinks in secret since the last time she was pregnant.”
Holy shit, this woman was the bitch to end all bitches. He shifted on the couch, trying to focus on what she just said. “You’re saying she’s been pregnant before?”
“Yes, she didn’t know who the father was then either. When she couldn’t get any money from the men she had the baby aborted. That was one of the reasons we came out here. I had to get her away from all of that.”
“I thought you came out here because you were homeless and penniless.”
“That too,” she ground out. “Of course I was penniless. Madison took every penny I brought into the house. It was so hard putting food on the table for my two little ones. Once I got here I needed to get away and clear my head. I know I should have gotten her help.” She added a slight sob to the end of her little act.
“So, what are you trying to tell me?”
She moved down the couch until she was sitting close to him. She reached out and took his hand, he let her. “If she is in fact pregnant the baby may not be yours.”
Candy began running her fingers suggestively up and down his arm. “You think she’s been cheating on me?” he asked in a soft voice.
“I didn’t want to be the one to tell you, but she’s been with so many men since she’s moved here that she’s developing quite the reputation. This baby could be yours.”
He folded his hands together and looked down, ignoring her cold touch. Her hand was now caressing his muscles. “What do you suggest I do then? If she’s been unfaithful to me I won’t stand by her.”
“Oh, and I don’t blame you. You’re such a strong good man. You shouldn’t have to take that,” she crooned.
“What should I do?”
“Well, I think space might be the best option. She’s saved plenty of money and has a good job. You should ask her to move out.”
“What about the baby?”
Candy shrugged. “She’s been cheating on you? Do you really want to see her? If she is pregnant she’ll be fine. She’ll take care of the baby. She’s good at that and you shouldn't have to be hurt by this. It’s not like she’s your wife or anything, thank god. Can you imagine how humiliated you would be if she was?”
“So, you suggest I throw a woman out who might be pregnant?” he asked without any emotion.
She squeezed his bicep to reassure him. “I think it might be best.”
“I can’t believe this.” He shook his head in disbelief. She took it the wrong way which was incidentally the way he intended for her to take it.
“I know. I never thought she would do this again. I hoped and prayed that you would be enough to turn her around, but I was wrong. It’s not your fault. You’re such a good man.” She placed her other hand on his knee.
“What about the kids?” He knew he was speeding up her little game.
“Well, I wanted to move back here anyway. Granted I didn’t know she was playing this game again, but I would be willing to help out with them and I’d be there for you as well.” Her hand moved up his inner thigh where he caught it.
Ephraim chuckled darkly “Oh, Candy, how you amuse me.” He pushed her hand away. He looked her in the eye. “Let’s start with the basics. Madison doesn’t lie. She’s a bad cheater when it comes to games, but she doesn’t lie and she never stole a penny. I’ve never seen a woman work harder to make sure her siblings were taken care of before. She even stretched herself to the max when she took Chris in, but she never once complained.”