Home > Built (Saints of Denver #1)(15)

Built (Saints of Denver #1)(15)
Author: Jay Crownover

“Not a sibling . . . a son.” He stopped in front of me as the words dropped like a bag of bricks between us. “There is a possibility I fathered a child as soon as I got out of prison. I might have a five-year-old son out there.”

I felt my jaw drop a little and I was glad I had taken a moment to add some artificial color to my face because whatever heat had worked into my cheeks by being around him had surely leached out with his revelation.

“A possibility, but you don’t know for sure?” It was what I would ask any client in the same situation. “Is someone coming after you for child support?”

He shook his head and picked the pacing back up. “No. It was a one-night deal and the mother didn’t even know who the father was until the baby was born. She passed away recently and the little boy is currently with Child Protective Services. The woman’s friend tracked me down claiming I’m the boy’s dad and begging me to keep him out of foster care. I don’t really remember the girl or the sex, but I do recall the day since it was the day of my release and the timing fits. The little boy just turned five according to the friend that found me.”

I frowned and fought the urge to get up and grab his arms to get him to stop moving so that I could talk to him without having to crane my neck.

“So a stranger dropped all of this on you with the mother out of the picture and you just bought the story at face value?” He had to be smarter than that.

My skepticism finally brought him to a halt as he stopped in front of me and looked down at me. I sucked in a surprised breath that whistled through my teeth when he bent down slightly and held his phone under my nose for inspection.

“No. I thought she was nuts and threatened to throw her off my jobsite until she showed me a picture of the boy.” I stared in shock at the image on the phone of the mini Zeb. “That kind of proof made me listen to what she had to say.”

Without thinking, I snatched the phone out of his callused hand and touched a finger to the adorable little face looking back at me on the screen. “He looks just like you.”

Zeb snorted. “I noticed. Which is why I’m here.”

I couldn’t stop looking at the little boy, so without looking up, I asked him, “There are no other relatives? No grandparents or aunts and uncles who could take him in while we figure out paternity?” I winced when I realized I said “we” like this was a problem we were going to find a solution for together. For all I knew, Zeb just wanted some advice or the name of another good attorney. The thought of anyone else helping him navigate the tricky family court system made the hair on the back of my neck rise up.

“According to the friend that brought the information to me, the mom was living a pretty dangerous lifestyle. She hadn’t been in contact with her family for years. The little guy has no one, and if he is mine then I need to do the right thing by him and I need to do it as quickly as possible.”

I gulped and handed the phone back when he stuck his hand out for it. I put my own hand to my chest because my heart was beating so fast I thought maybe he could see it through my skin and layers of clothing.

“That’s very admirable, Zeb.”

“No, it’s not. If he’s mine I should’ve been taking care of him all along. He shouldn’t be in this situation because I was too drunk and disgustingly miserable to use a condom one time. It’s not his fault that his mom was an addict and made terrible decisions. No kid should have to suffer because of the shitty choices the adults in their lives might’ve made. He deserves better than this.”

I agreed with him, but I also thought he was being kind of hard on himself. I knew far too many men who, were they in the same situation, would have ignored the revelation of a child they fathered and pretended like nothing had happened.

Since the conversation had turned serious so fast I no longer felt comfortable sitting down while Zeb loomed over me. I got to my feet and took up his original pose leaning against the glass-topped desk. I set my hands down next to me so I could rap my fingernails against the surface. It was another unconscious habit I had that my father had abhorred. He hated it so much that I had a burning memory from when I was fourteen of him scolding me, chastising me, and sending me to sit in my room during the middle of a fancy dinner party he had held at our house when his firm won a major case. It was mortifying to do a walk of shame in front of his colleagues and their families over something so small, something so seemingly insignificant. My father had ignored me, glowered at me for days on end. He told me I wasn’t fit for company, and that I had no manners and that he had raised me better than that. His disapproval crawled all over me like angry bugs whenever I did something he didn’t like. I learned to behave like nothing he said or did bothered me. I shivered a little as the image of his sneer and scowl whispered across my memory. I immediately stopped tapping my fingernails.

“So what do you want to do here, Zeb? Do you want to find out for sure if the child is yours, and if he is do you want to try to appeal to the state for full custodial rights? What’s your plan?”

He moved so that he was facing me and we stared at each other for a long, silent moment. He took a step forward until the tips of his worn Red Wings were almost touching my brightly colored toes. He dipped his chin down so we were eye to eye, and I stopped breathing as he reached out and put his hands on top of mine. He towered over me, but my breasts still hit the center of his chest and he was bent just enough that all the parts of him that I dreamed about in the dark were pressed tightly against me. I could see a thick vein on the side of his neck throbbing. This was the closest I had ever been to him and I could tell the proximity was going to do nothing for my sleeplessness. He was everywhere and yet not close enough.

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