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I snorted. “She attends all the functions, yet she’s somehow forgotten to attend her own life,” I muttered.

The senator sighed. “Your mother…she blames me for…well, everything,” the senator said. “It’s hard for her to be around for too long. She get’s restless.” And for a mere flash of a second I felt almost bad for him. For one tenth of a millisecond thought I saw a tiny glimpse of a man who wasn’t a senator at all, but a frustrated husband with an unhappy wife.

He almost seemed…human.

Again his eyes focused on me and he continued. “You see, Ray, when you were pregnant with Samuel, we took every precaution possible not to alert the media of your ‘condition.’ And back then I didn’t carry the weight that I do now, so it was easier to keep things hidden. But now that you’re back, from Paris for the summer, as I have led them to believe, it will be good for you to show yourself. They’ve spotted Samuel, and multiple outlets have contacted my office inquiring about who he is. Some reporter from the Times even went as far as to look up his birth certificate. So now it seems as if we have a situation on our hands which requires a…delicate touch.”

He wiped his mouth with his linen napkin and set it down in the middle of his empty plate. “And, of course you don’t remember, but we’ve had in-depth conversations about what was best for our family. And for your new family.” The senator gestured to Tanner and then toward the couch. “Now is a better time than any. You don’t need to make a big spectacle about it, just a courthouse visit. Something on paper to make the media see this union and Samuel as legitimate. You don’t have to live together, not if you aren’t ready. It’s just the documentation we need now to deter any campaign supporters from deflecting.”

“You want us…to get married?” I asked. My hand curled tightly around the napkin in my lap. Tanner’s hand reached under the table and covered mine.

The senator cleared his throat. “If you don’t, there is a big possibility that I lose the election, because my campaign is heavily based on conservative family values. Over the years, I’ve spent a great deal of time garnering support because of those values I stand by. If you don’t make this little family of yours something legitimate, I run the risk of looking like a fraud and letting down all the people whose asses I have been kissing since day one. This could snowball into the fastest decent into political nothingness this state has ever seen.”

“I don’t understand how my decisions would affect your campaign. It’s not your life. It’s mine,” I argued.

“No, of course you don’t understand,” the senator said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “But understand this, even if my campaign survives the teen pregnancy scandal, it would never survive a torrid affair with a convicted felon ten years your senior. I wouldn’t survive until the end of my term, never mind the end of the election.” He folded his hands over his plate. “But if you do this, if you marry Tanner, then they won’t have a need to look any deeper and hopefully the name Brantley King will never be part of the equation.

This is where the senator and I disagreed. I wanted nothing more than for Brantley King to be a part of my equation.

“What about what Tanner wants? You didn’t even ask him.” I stated.

Tanner remained quiet, pushing around the pasta on his plate.

“Just think about it,” the senator said, rising from the table. He nodded and left the room without another word.

Tanner was still holding my hand under the table. I used taking a sip of water as an excuse to pull my hand from his. I shook as I raised the glass to my mouth, the glass clanking against my teeth.

Panic set in suddenly and I dropped the glass I was holding when my chest tightened to the point of constricting my breathing. With my hands clasped around my throat I watched as the glass bounced off the wooden table and crashed on the floor, shattering into a million little sharp pieces, the water running like a river into every nook and seam of the floorboards.

The senator wanted me to marry Tanner in order to help his campaign and career. Tanner wanted to marry me because he was eager to pick up where we’d left off before I’d lost my memory.

But what did I want?

I wanted Sammy. I wanted King. And I wanted Tanner in my life, but wasn’t yet sure of how he would fit.

But none of that mattered. Because if I married Tanner, even on paper, there was no doubt that he wouldn’t live long enough to make it to our first anniversary.

With King I was strong, willful, and determined. I liked who I was when I was with him.

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