“He’s not O?”

“Not that I know. There are no O-types in the family at all, actually,” she said. “Why are you asking this, Abby?” She turned her attention to the hallway where I’d just come from. “What happened in there?”

Jake was as eager to hear my answer as she was. “Because, Bethany,” I smiled and took Jake’s hands in mine, “Owen’s not Georgia’s father, after all.” Once I said it, he smiled, too – genuine happiness on his face.

I just smiled back and gazed into those beautiful teary pools of sapphire blue

The eyes of my daughter’s father.


GEORGIA WAS SLEEPING PEACEFULLY in her room after a six-day stay in the hospital. We had brought her home just a few hours earlier. During the day, I’d watched Jake’s eyes darken as the sun faded into the horizon, and I knew he was preparing himself for what he needed to do.

I had no intentions of stopping him.

I sat on the seawall, my legs dangling over the edge, staring into the darkness. The sun had set hours ago. A blanket of stars lit up the sky. Jake sat next to me with his arm around my waist, holding me close. I could live in the strength of his arms.

“She’s okay,” he whispered. I had a feeling he was reassuring himself as much as he was me.

“We’re all going to be okay,” I said. For the first time in my entire life, I believed it. “I need to move, though. I got a letter in the mail from the property management company. It said something about the investor deciding to use the house for himself personally. I have thirty days. I didn’t even know they could do that. I guess I should have read the lease more carefully. You want to take him out?”

“It depends,” he said, smiling down at me.

“Oh, I thought this was a ‘no questions asked’ kind-of request, but I’ll bite. What does it depend on?”

“On whether or not you want me to kill myself.” He handed me a white envelope with a cashier’s check inside for nine-thousand six-hundred dollars. “It’s all the rent money you’ve paid.”

It all clicked. “You’re the investor. You bought Nan’s house.” It wasn’t a question. “When did you do this?”

“I knew the bank had to sell it at some point so I kept an eye on it. I made my bid before I’d even left town. Figured you’d want to keep it no matter where we ended up going. It took those money fucks almost a year to accept my offer, and almost as long to close the damn thing. When it was finally mine, I had it all fixed up for you. Then, I realized you probably wouldn’t have accepted it from me as a gift after what I’d done.”

He was right. “Nope. I certainly wouldn’t have.”

“I didn’t even know about Georgia then, or I would’ve put some cool kid shit in here, too.” He kissed me on the nose and continued. “I made sure I had personal approval of the new tenants. I had only two flyers made—one they posted in the window of the office, and the other I was going to have Reggie give to you personally. You were so quick to sign the lease that I never had to go with Plan B.”

Even when he was gone, he was protecting me, looking out for me.

“You were all I thought about, Bee, the whole time I was gone – this whole four years. When I finally worked up the courage to call Reggie a few years back to ask him about you, I was scared to death he’d tell me you’d packed up and left town, or shacked up with someone else... or gotten married.”

That broke my heart a little. “You thought I was with Owen.”

“It crossed my mind. Makes me sick to my fucking stomach that I ever considered it a possibility.” He ran his fingers under my jaw and pulled my face to his, pressing his forehead against mine. I loved it when he did that. “But when Reggie told me that you weren’t with anyone, that you were still living in the apartment and working at the shop, I made myself believe it was because you still needed me. But you didn’t. You had it all sorted out long before I tried to step in and help. Reggie never told me about Georgia though, probably because he didn’t know how I would react. The bastard. I owe him a punch in the fucking jaw for that.” He laughed.

I didn’t know what to say about it all.

Jake continued. “I came to the conclusion that if I couldn’t be with you myself, I was going to at least try and give you everything I could to make you happy, even if it was from a distance —even if I wasn’t going to be part of it. I’m just sorry it took me so long to do it.” He brushed his lips over mine. “Turns out you were okay without me after all.”