Her face tensed. She didn’t like scenes, and Rhett had caused a major one. Maybe she should be in his room giving him a damn lecture on growing up. I wanted her to love me. Saying I didn’t care was a lie. She was my mother, and I’d tried to make her happy. I’d just never been able to.

She shook her head as if that didn’t matter. “Rhett isn’t the Lawton heir. You are. It’s different for you. And Rhett always expected that it would always be his one day. I think your father thought he’d win in the end. But the will is ironclad. Your grandfather made sure of it. This is all yours when you turn eighteen.”

Eighteen? I’d be eighteen next month.

“You mean my father made sure it was ironclad. If we are going to admit my paternity, then we at least need to claim it and stop acting like the dick you’re married to is my father. I never wanted him for a father. The only good thing about this is he’s not.”

My mother frowned again. “The rest of the world needs to believe he is. It’s the only way to save face.”

“Whose? Yours?” I asked with a snarl. I didn’t care about saving fucking face. It was Lawton.

“Yours too. Don’t think for a moment that the truth wouldn’t put a damper on your life. You’d be the Lawton bastard. Do you want that? A girl from a good family won’t marry you with that taint in your past.”

“Thank God for that. Never did much care for the cotillion bitches.”

“Gunner! This is serious.”

I nodded. “Yes, it is. You screwed around with your father-in-law and made a baby, then lied to that baby his entire life. It’s pretty damn serious. Now I’d like to go to bed. It’s been a long night. “

“I didn’t screw around with him.” Her voice had taken a hysterical tone. “He raped me!”

This shit just kept getting worse.

The Name Lawton Means Nothing



Turning in circles in the middle of a large open field I’d never seen before in my life, I couldn’t enjoy the flowers and beauty surrounding me. Because there was this odd tapping noise that I couldn’t find.

Tap, tap, tap.

Then a pause

Tap, tap, tap.


The pattern was driving me crazy, and I wanted to yell at it to stop.

Then I woke up.

Tap, tap, tap.

There it was again, and this time I was in my bed and that noise was coming from my window. I threw the covers back, stepped out of bed, and walked over to the window to peek through the curtain. Either there was an animal out there annoying me, or someone was being polite before they broke into the house and murdered us all. Whichever it may be, I was checking it out.

Gunner wasn’t who I expected. I had really been leaning toward a bird on the window. I unlocked the top and quietly slid it up.

“Hey,” I whispered, wondering if I might still be asleep. If so, at least the tapping had stopped.

“Tree house,” he whispered back, nodding his head in the direction of the tree house.

“Now?” I asked, confused. It had to be at least two in the morning.

“Please” was his simple response, but it was enough. Something was wrong.

“Let me put on a hoodie and some shoes.”

He nodded, then tucked his hands in his pockets and waited.

If I got caught sneaking out with Gunner, I was done for. Nonna trusted me. I had that back. If she caught me, then I’d lose that trust. And I needed it. I needed her trust . . . her love. But for Gunner I would just about do anything. Another risk I was willing to take. He wouldn’t have come here if he didn’t need me.

I blindly reached in my closet, not wanting to turn on my lights and draw attention to myself. Nonna was a heavy sleeper, but she was across the hall. This house wasn’t big. Feeling my way, I found a hoodie and a pair of flip-flops.

Gunner was still at the window waiting on me when I got both items on my body. My hair was probably a mess, but I didn’t have time to worry about that. I doubted that was a concern of Gunner’s anyway. This had to do with his brother, I was sure.

Slipping the window up as far as it would go, I threw one leg out and then ducked my head, maneuvering the rest of my body out until my other leg could follow. “I’ll leave it open,” I said as quietly as I could.

His hand slid over mine and squeezed it. Without any more words we walked out into the darkness toward the tree house. I tried to wait for him to say something, but when we were far enough away from Nonna’s that we could safely talk, he still hadn’t spoken.

So I did.

“What time is it?”

“About two thirty.”

He had brought me home by eleven. That had been my curfew. I’d known he was going back to face Rhett, if Rhett was even awake still.

“Things go bad with Rhett?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Not really. He was asleep when I got back.”


Then why was I sneaking out of the house?

“You okay?” I was trying to give him enough space to tell me exactly what was going on without prying.

“I am now.”

That was nice. Really sweet actually. I liked it.

But I still wanted to know why I’d just snuck out.

He stood back and motioned for me to go up the tree house ladder first. So I did. Only because it was so dark out, he couldn’t see my butt that well.

When we were both inside, I turned to ask him what this was about, and his hands circled my wrists and tugged my body against his. Then his mouth covered mine, and I didn’t care anymore about sneaking out and what was wrong with Gunner. I just wanted this kiss. The softness of his lips. The smell of the soap he used rose from the skin on his neck. I couldn’t get close enough.


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