Betrayed (Whiskey Nights #4)

By: Suzannah Daniels

He stood with his arms akimbo. “Why the hell would I tell my mother anything about where you work?”

“That’s what I want to know.” My voice was louder this time, rising with my anger.

“Jess, where the hell is this coming from?”

I walked toward him, pointing at him in fury. “I trusted you, Paxton!”

“I haven’t said anything to my mother about where you work.”

“That’s kinda hard to believe seeing as how you’re the only person I told.”

He cupped my shoulders with his palms, but I shrugged away from him. “Jess.”

“Good grief!” I smacked myself in the forehead with my palm. “How could I ever have been so foolish as to think, for once, something in my life might actually be headed in the right direction? I knew things between us weren’t perfect, but I thought they were actually going pretty well considering the last few years.”

I motioned toward him. “I mean you were actually talking to me. That alone was a miracle.”

Joseph started crying, and I immediately closed my eyes, knowing that I was the one who woke him. What was I doing? I didn’t want noisy arguments to rouse my son from sleep.

I sank down on the foot of the bed and buried my face in my palms, trying to keep my composure. Where was my will to be strong now?

Joseph squalled louder, and I silently counted to ten, so I could subdue my anger and tend to my son.

“It’s okay.” I heard Paxton’s soft whisper, and I looked up to see him lifting my baby from the crib. He rubbed his back and talked softly in his ear.

Joseph buried his face in Paxton’s shirt and wiggled his head from side-to-side as if he were rooting into his chest. “Shh. I got you.”

Joseph lifted his head, gazing at Paxton’s face, and let out a soft sigh of contentment.

“It’s all good, Baby J. You can go back to sleep.” Paxton gently patted his back.

Joseph’s tiny fists rubbed his eyes, and then he reached for Paxton’s face. “Da, da, da, da.”

I had the urge to assure Paxton that he was only babbling, that I had never even used the word, daddy, around him, but melancholy weighed heavily on my shoulders, and I felt no need to calm Paxton’s worst fears.

Paxton’s large palm skimmed Joseph’s hair. “I got you, little man. Go back to sleep.”

It was as if Joseph actually understood his words. He laid his cheek against Paxton’s chest and yawned, his eyes fluttering closed once again.

Had this happened before I’d spoken with Paxton’s mother, I would have thought it one of the most beautiful moments I’d ever experienced. But instead of feeling hope that Paxton would accept me and my baby, it intensified the pain of knowing what I could never have.

Our argument was put on hold as we both knew that doing so was the best thing for Joseph. While Paxton continued to soothe my son, I crawled onto the bed and laid my head on the pillow, turning my face away from Paxton. I closed my eyes and listened to his soft, soothing voice. This scenario was so very different than the night when I had first called Paxton to come and pick up Joseph.

Despite everything, I smiled as a tear rolled down to the bridge of my nose. A myriad of emotions churned within me. Hope that Paxton could accept my son blossomed in my chest, but at the same time, despair wound its ugly, cold tendrils around my heart as I replayed his mother’s words over and over in my head. Having pity for you and your son will never equate to love. Were his soothing words to my son nothing more than pity? He will never accept your son. Neither will his father and I. My son’s acceptance into a loving family was the one thing that I wanted the most.

The room fell silent, and I assumed that Joseph had fallen back to sleep. A few moments later, Paxton walked around the bed and sat beside me, resting his hand on my waist. I loved the feel of his hands on me, even a simple touch when we were both fully clothed. He gave me a gentle squeeze.

“Jess, I swear to you,” he said, keeping his voice low and calm, “I never told my mother where you worked.”

“Then why would she call me a stripper?” The rage I’d felt a moment ago had fizzled into gloominess.

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