“Ity I can’t believe it” Hannah giggled as they walked into the living room together.
“What” the other girl asked as if she didn’t already know.
“You. A mom” Hannah flopped onto the couch “of twins.”
“You make it sound like a bad thing” Charity accused.
“Oh no” Hannah gasped “ it’s not that. You’ll be a wonderful mother. It’s just we’re getting old. We’re no longer the kids getting into trouble together. Soon we’ll be the parents chasing down the kids making sure they’re not getting into things they shouldn’t be.”
“Put like that I’m not so much a mom but a fun sucker” Charity tossed a pillow at her best friend’s head. “Just wait until you one.”
“What” she asked innocently “a fun sucker?”
“A mom” Charity giggled “you don’t become a fun sucker until they’re older.” The thought sobered them both up a little. Giving her friend a serious look she asked “what’s wrong?”
Hannah’s shoulders rose and fell “I keep thinking about my half siblings.”
“Are they still blaming your dad for what happened” Charity asked. She knew Eddie would never hurt anyone intentionally.
“Yeah” Hannah’s voice was flat. “They think Dad should have fought harder for them. They don’t seem to understand that he couldn’t. He wasn’t strong enough. Then as they got older it seemed cruel to separate them from Grandma and Grandpa.”
“I know Nana” Charity stroked the long blond strands “I’m sorry.” She knew how much Hannah had longed to be accepted by her half siblings but the older they became the more her half siblings resented her.
Wiping her eyes Hannah sniffed “I’m alright. It’s Daddy I worry about. He’d really like to have a relationship with them and his grand kids.” Shrugging she continued “that’s never going to happen with the way things are.” Charity bit her bottom lip as an idea came to her. Hannah shook her head as if reading her friends thoughts. “That’s never going to happen. At least not any time soon.”
“Why not” she said “then our kids could grow up together.”
“We’re not ready for kids yet” Hannah protested.
Charity gave her a long inquiring look before saying “are you sure it’s we and not him?”
Hannah stared at the floor a little too long to just deny it. She could feel her friend’s eyes watching her. “Donovan wants to wait until we’re a little more settled before thinking about having kids.”
“You could always have a little accident” Charity suggested.
“No I couldn’t do that. Not on purpose” she shook her head adamantly rejecting the idea. “Although I am hoping he’ll change his mind after seeing your two bundles of joy.”
“I knew there was an ulterior motive to your visit” Charity shoved her friend from the couch.
“Hey” she protested “your husband is getting a free computer upgrade thanks to our visit.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry” Charity said contritely helping her up.
“You should be” tugging on Charity’s hand pulling her down to the floor beside her.
“Ow” she cried rolling over on the floor “be careful.”
Sticking her tongue out Hannah ignored her friends threats until they both had to get up to tend to the hungry cries of twins.
“I know what you’re doing” Donovan said stopping to look at the ocean.
“What am I doing” she asked coming to a stop beside him.
Taking her hand he squeezed it tight. “This visit…” turning he peered into her green eyes. A brilliant shade of green, a little pensive and full of concern no doubt wondering what he was going to say next. A smile lit up his face alleviating the concern if not the sadness. “Ryan didn’t need my help with the computer upgrade.”
“Of course he’d day that” Hannah protested “he’s a guy.”
“Meaning we don’t ask for help even when we need it” he asked quietly. He let her hand go slowly turning away. His attempt at a lighthearted mood evaporating to dark.
“Donovan” she called out to him helplessly. She could see the tenseness in his shoulders. “I didn’t mean that….” She bit her bottom lip as he turned to face her. Looking a million years older than he was. “I’m sorry” she said moving towards him.
“No I’m the one who should be sorry” his voice was low. “If I had listened to you we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”
“Where do you think we’re at” she asked running her hands along his chest and around his waist.
He snorted softly “I ruined everything. Our relationship. Marriage.” His voice choked “I almost went to prison.”
He tried to turn away but she wouldn’t let him. “Don’t push me away. I love you.” She brought her hands up to cradle his face “remember our vows? I promised to love you in good times and in bad times.”
“But” he wasn’t ready to let it go yet “because of me there’s been more bad times than good.” He couldn’t quite bring himself to look her in the eyes yet.
“Listen to me” she cried “I don’t want any more of this kind of talk. You made a mistake.”
“If I had listened to you it could have been avoided” he attempted once again to turn away from her.
“I’m done arguing with you about this Donovan” she sighed “it was avoidable yet. But it was still a mistake.”
“I didn’t keep my promise” he buried his toes in the loose sand. “I shouldn’t have been doing what I was doing.”
“What were you doing” she asked him softly her eyes watching him closely. For the past year he hadn’t been able to say it. To admit it. If they were ever going to get beyond this point he had to say it.
Lifting his chin up. The sorrow in their blue depths was almost as bad as being physically hit. “I was hacking. I thought I was helping and it was all a set up.” He gulped letting her draw him close. “I’m so sorry. I should have listened. I should never have broken my promise.”
She could feel the wetness on her bare shoulder from his tears. It had been a difficult year. Not knowing if he’d get off. Fearing the worst. “I love you” she said her voice firm and determined. “I won’t let the past destroy our future.”
Sniffing he pulled back enough to gaze into her eyes. A glimmer of hope brightened his eyes. “Do you mean that?”
Nodding she giggled squeezing him tight. “You’re mine and your stuck with me. You’re everything I ever wanted and I want to start a family with you.”
“Ah that’s why we’re here” he smiled down at her the ghost of his old self shining back at her. “You’re hoping I’ll change my mind….”
Giggling as he lifted her into his arms she squealed “is it working?”
He lost his balance falling on top of her into the sand. Catching himself with his hands he hovered above her breathing hard. “What if I say yes? Do you really want to have kids with a guy like me?”
She lay in the sand silently contemplating his question. When she saw the troubled retreat in his eyes she wrapped her legs and arms around him forcing him to face her. Instead of answering right away she brought her lips up to meet his. Pulling back just enough to say “Yes you silly man I want to have kids with you.”
Giggling as they walked past the resort office Donovan stopped. “I promised Ryan I’d take a look at the computer system we set up to make sure it was running smoothly.”
“Ok” she smiled brightly up at him shoving him a little towards the door. “I’ll see you later for supper then.”
“It’s a date” he leaned down to kiss her. Just as their lips brushed against each others the door opened and Zane stumbled out. His face was pale like he was about to throw up. They watched in horrified silence as he weaved an unsteady course towards the lobby door. “Maybe I should follow him” Donovan suggested taking a step after him.
“Don’t worry about him kid” a harsh voice announced behind him making them both jump.
Turning they came face to face with a grizzled unpleasant sour face of an elderly man. “Donnie Hollis” the man held his hand out to Donovan “I could use a man like you with your computer skills.”
Donovan stared at the man’s hand like it were a poisonous snake. A sinking feeling opened up inside his stomach. Yet another person recognized him from his picture in the papers “I don’t do that anymore.”
“Pity” the older man commiserated “I had a job lined up just for you.” Glancing over his shoulder he smirked “such a disappointment.”
Hannah followed his gaze. Mr Hollis was standing there, chalky white and every bit as shaken as his husband had been when he stumbled past them. “The resort isn’t for sale” she informed the old man.
“Everything’s for sale if the price is right” he shrugged dismissing her. “Your family isn’t in a position to bail anyone out.”
“You” her eyes grew wide as she realized what he was referring to. “It was you who set Donovan up. You wanted us to be financially strapped with legal fees so you could what? Make more trouble here so you could take control of the resort again.”
“You my dear have a shrewd mind beneath those golden locks” he moved to pat her head.
Shaking his hand off she walked past him into the office leaving Donovan behind to deal with him. “Your not welcome here” he said hoping the man would get the hint and leave.
Shrugging Donnie Hollis handed the younger man a business card. “Call me when you change your mind. Someone like you never fully leaves the thrill of hacking behind for long. I could make it worth your while.”
“I don’t do that anymore” Donovan glared at the old man without acknowledging the offer that was made.
“In case you change your mind” Donnie said tucking the card inside the elastic waistband of Donovan’s shorts. “Call me” he said walking away with the stride of a man who knew he had won.
“Is he gone” Charity demanded as Donovan walked into the office.
Closing the door behind him Donovan nodded “yeah for now.” He leaned against the desk “what’s going on? I thought he gave up trying to buy the resort after the last time.”
“Well my so-called grandfather hasn’t given up…” her voice faded as she jumped up and ran to Graham’s side. He was slumped over clutching his chest. “Daddy” she cried watching his complexion change from chalky white to ghastly green.
“Can’t believe….” Graham swallowed finding it difficult to breathe “can’t believe….he’d do that….to me.” He took several gulps like he was finding it painful to talk. “I…I thought” his eyes rolled up inside his head as he slid from Charity’s arms to the floor.
“Daddy” she screamed clutching at him as he slipped from consciousness.
“Call 911” Donovan ordered being the first one to come to his senses. “I think he may be having a heart attack.” Kneeling on the floor he checked for a heartbeat. Finding none he ripped the man’s shirt open, buttons flying everywhere. His long ago CPR course came to mind as he found the spot to begin chest compressions.
“No” Charity sobbed “that’s his favorite shirt.” She attempted to tug the remnants around him. “You’re hurting him” she cried noticing what Donovan was doing.
“Hannah a little help here please” he shouted “get her out of here. She doesn’t need to see this.”
Startled out of her stupor Hannah wrapped her arms around her best friend. “Come on sweetie let’s go outside.”
“I can’t leave him” she protested “he needs me.”
“Donovan and Ryan will take care of him” Hannah assured her. “You want him to get better right?”
Nodding she presented a tear streaked face to her friend. “Nana what will I do without him? I can’t lose him.”
“You’re not going to lose him” she grabbed the distraught girl forcing her to look at her. “Repeat after me. You’re not going to lose him.”
Dragging her eyes from her father Charity repeated “I’m not going to lose him.” She fell forward into Hannah’s arms sobbing on her shoulder.
An hour later they were sitting inside the white sterile walls of the hospital waiting room. Charity jumped up expecting to see her father’s doctor. Her expectant face crumbled upon seeing Zane walking into the waiting room. “Get out” she screamed. “You have no right to be here.” She jabbed a finger in the air pointing towards the door he just entered from.
“He’s my husband” he mumbled “I love him.”
“How dare you” she shouted needing someone to vent her feelings on. “You can’t say that and do what you did.”
Ryan crossed the room to go to her side. Slipping an arm around her he whispered in her ear. Turning she scowled at him “no I won’t sit down. He shouldn’t be here. It’s because of him that Daddy’s here.”
“You don’t understand” Zane cried reaching for her.
Flinching she stepped away from his touch. “No you don’t get to talk your way out of this. You took money from the one man Daddy truly hates.”
“What was I supposed to do” he cried “let his dream of running the resort go up in smoke?”
“The resort was never Daddy’s dream. He only did it for you. You convinced him that running his own resort would prove that Donnie had no hold on him.”
“That’s true” Zane insisted.
“Don’t you get it” she cried “It means nothing. The man he hates most was the man you borrowed the money to buy the resort with. You kept on borrowing money when things started going wrong. Donnie was probably maneuvering things so that the resort would fail so he could come in and scoop it up for little to nothing.” She glared at Zane crossing her arms “how could you betray Daddy like that?”
“What difference does it make where the money came from?” Zane persisted “I borrowed it because I wanted Graham to be happy. I love him. He needed to know he could be a success. I made that happen. The resort will a success.”
“Don’t you dare take credit for Daddy’s hard work.” She nuzzled into Ryan’s arms seeking comfort and support.
“I worked just as hard as him” Zane persisted.
“You spent the money” Charity contradicted. “I remember the arguments. I used to think Daddy was wrong always asking you where the money was coming from. Now I understand. You couldn’t be trusted.”
“You’re blowing this all out of proportion” Zane shook his head sounding more calm than he looked. “When Graham is better he’ll see I was right. He’ll forgive me like he always has. That’s what married people do.”
Charity shook her head clutching at Ryan’s shirt. “That’s not how marriage works. You don’t go behind your partners back and take money from a person you know they hate. You don’t put them in a position to lose everything. You don’t betray them like that and expect to be forgiven.”
“You don’t understand” Zane shook his head “you’ll see. Things will be the way they’ve always been.”
“Come on sweetie let’s get some air” Ryan gently kissed her cheek “he doesn’t understand the magnitude of what he did.”
“I know and that makes it all the worse” she let Ryan him guide her outside.