Written with Regret (The Regret Duet #1)

There was no sign of life at all except for the little girl crying under my arm, her body trembling at my side as she waited for me to give her a count of three so I could guide her to safety.

A safety I wasn’t positive I’d be able to find for either of us.

But dammit, I was going to try.

I lifted my head up and looked around, barely catching sight of his back as he kicked a path through dead bodies. He was far enough away that he might not see us if we were quiet.

I looked back to the girl. She was on the verge of losing it. I had to get her out of there. Fast.

“It’s time,” I whispered.

Her green eyes flashed open, dread and second thoughts blazing within.

“We got this,” I lied, praying with my whole heart that it was true. “Kick your shoes off so they don’t make any noise.”

Her forehead wrinkled, but she followed my direction.

“On the count of three, run as fast as you can, but don’t make a sound. Got it?”

She nodded, but she didn’t look convinced. I wasn’t positive she was really with me at all. If I ran and she didn’t follow, there would be no turning back for her. If she hesitated, even the slightest bit, I’d have no choice but to leave her behind.

We had one chance to get to that pizza shop and then out the back door. I had to make the most of it, and I hoped like hell I could make the most of it for her too.

Wrapping my hand around her wrist, I sucked in a deep breath and sent up one last silent prayer, but it wasn’t to a god at all. It was to my mom.

And then, on an exhale, I whispered, “One, two, three… Go.”





CAVEN


Hope turned to sludge in my veins in the span of three hours.

The cops had tracked down Marina Chapen—a known working girl in the area. She told the cops that a redheaded woman had given her the baby and paid her to deliver it to my apartment. She was supposed to hand the baby to me directly, but she’d panicked when she heard all the commotion inside my apartment. Apparently, fifty bucks was the going rate to have someone drop a baby on a doorstep. A real bargain considering that Marina was now facing child endangerment charges and I was waiting on my eight-hundred-dollar-an-hour lawyer to meet me at the police station.

“What if the baby is mine?” I asked, pacing a path in the small conference room we’d been escorted to.

“Then you…take care of it?” Ian replied from his chair, cool and calm, his long legs crossed ankle to knee.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“You allergic to diapers or something?”

I stopped and planted my hands on my hips. “This is not a fucking joke. You know the shit I lived through.” I ground my teeth as the vise in my chest clamped down, making it difficult to breathe. “I can’t raise a child… I just can’t.”

His voice got low and serious. “You’re not your dad, Caven.”

He was right, but that wasn’t what scared me.

“I’m not saddling a kid with that. My old man’s blood dies with me. End of story.”

Once upon a time, my dad had been an amazing man. Or at least I’d thought he was. I remembered playing with him at the park and throwing a football in the backyard while he grilled burgers.

But then my mom got sick and everything changed.

And when I say everything, I mean, my entire life. Past, present, and future.

At first, he started numbing the pain with booze, but that only made him angry. Trent took the brunt of his abuse, but there was always more than enough left over for me. When the alcohol wasn’t cutting it anymore, he moved on to pills. I’d never forget listening to my mother throwing up in the bathroom because she was in so much pain. Meanwhile, my father was passed out on the couch, high as a kite after raiding her stash of medications.

After that, she started hiding them. This enraged him more than anything else. According to several of his rampages, she was going to die regardless of if she had the medicine or not. He was the one being left behind to raise two worthless boys. Those pills belonged to him.

The woman was so frail that she could barely walk, but my father had no problems choking her unconscious until she told him where she’d hidden his next fix.

Honestly, I was relieved when he started disappearing for days at a time. Those were some of my favorite memories: sitting at my mother’s bedside, talking about everything under the sun.

But the abuse didn’t stop after she died. If anything, it got worse. Actually, it didn’t stop until one day, seven years later, when he died.

But he’d made sure to drop me and my brother in Hell before he left.

I’d sworn to myself I’d never have a child. No shred of that man should ever be passed on to future generations. It was bad enough that I had to carry a piece of him like a boulder strapped around my neck. If I thought about it, I could feel the burn of his DNA inside me. At least I didn’t look like him. Trent wasn’t so lucky. But, thankfully for both of us, the apple had fallen pretty far from the tree.

If that child turned out to be mine, there wouldn’t be a day that passed where I wouldn’t worry that I’d put her at risk of being part of that rotten and decayed tree as well.

I laced my fingers together to hide the shake of my hands and rested them on the top of my head. “I can’t do this.”

“Maybe you won’t have to,” Ian said, plucking invisible lint off the leg of his slacks.

God, why hadn’t this happened to him? He was the responsible one. Hell, knowing him, he’d have set up a nursery in his spare bedroom the minute he’d woken up and realized he hadn’t worn a condom. Just in case.

Not me. The extent of my reaction had been to hit the doctor for an STD panel. A baby had never even been on my radar.

I shot him a glare. “We’re currently panicking about what happens if it is my baby. Could you please keep up?”

He sighed. “Relax and let’s be rational here for a second.”

“Nothing about this situation is rational!” I shouted, my voice echoing off the paneled walls. “If the baby is mine, why didn’t she say something over the last nine months? She knew where I lived. My apartment doesn’t look like much, but she knew about Kaleidoscope. She knew I had money.”

“She robbed you the last time she saw you. My guess is she thought you’d call the cops if she showed back up.”

“Oh, I absolutely would have. But a simple, ‘I’m pregnant and the baby is yours,’ while she was being hauled away in cuffs would have gone a long fucking way in me not having a nervous breakdown right now.”

He barked a laugh, but I found not the first thing funny.

“You fucking suck at this.”

“We can both be flipping our shit over the possibility of you being a father.” My stomach rolled at the F-word—not the four-letter kind. “Relax, Caven. Take a deep breath. No one is dead or dying. It’s a baby. Not ideal. But not exactly cause for you to give yourself a heart attack.”

I sucked in a deep breath and willed my heart to slow. “You’re right. We don’t even know if it’s mine.”

“There you go. What’s your gut telling you?”

“Mexico. Start a new life, buy a tequila distillery, and never look back.”

He chuckled.

If only he knew how serious I was.

There was a knock at the door, then a plain-clothed officer with a round face and a salt-and-pepper beard, wearing his badge on his hip, came in followed by my attorney, Doug Snell.

I rushed toward them. “What’s going on? Have they found Hadley?”

Doug shook his head.

I turned to the cop. “But you’re looking, right?”

Ian’s hand landed on my shoulder. “Cav, stop. Let the man talk.”

But I couldn’t stop. I needed them to find Hadley. And I needed her to come back and tell everyone that this was some kind of joke and the baby wasn’t mine.

More, I needed that baby to truly not be mine.

Everyone settled in chairs around a small conference table.

Everyone but me.

My heart was beating at a marathon pace and my mind was sprinting in circles; there would be no relaxing.

“We’re looking, okay?” the officer, who identified himself as Detective Wright, said as he flipped a file folder open. “According to the doctor at the hospital, the baby appears to be in good health, but given her age, they want to keep her for a few days. So this gives us a little time to get things figured out.”

Her.

It was a girl.

Dear God. I really couldn’t handle this.

“Her age?” I questioned. “How old is she?”

“Doc estimated she was born sometime earlier today.”

Ian cursed under his breath, but I couldn’t do anything but grit my teeth and shake my head. I didn’t want to acknowledge the way my stomach churned at that revelation. Anger was an easier emotion for me to process. But for fuck’s sake, who abandoned a newborn? The poor kid could have died in that chilly hallway or been stepped on by any number of people leaving my apartment.

Fucking Hadley. Such a waste of a beautiful woman.

“We’ve been searching the hospitals and birthing centers in the area, but judging by the hack job on the umbilical cord, I’m not expecting to find any answers.”

previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ..46 next