Authors: M. Leighton
ALWAYS WITH YOU
A BAD BOYS Serial Novel
Copyright 2015, M. Leighton
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This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and storylines are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
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Love didn’t come easy for Cash and Olivia. Forever will come even harder. But true love doesn’t give up, not even when dreams are crushed and reality isn’t quite the fairy tale you expected it to be.
When Olivia married Cash Davenport, it was her dream come true. Cash was everything she wanted
everything she needed, all wrapped up in jet-black eyes and an irresistible smile. She thought since she’d finally found the ideal man, their life would play out like a fairy tale. And, for a while, it did.
Until she found out that another woman, a woman from Cash’s past, has given him the one thing that Olivia can’t—a child.
For Cash, seeing their baby growing inside his wife would only make a perfect marriage more perfect, but all he really needs for true happiness is the love of his life—Olivia. She wants to give him a child, though, and when she can’t conceive, it puts a strain on her that Cash can’t seem to alleviate. That strain explodes when Sophie Marks, Cash’s old flame, shows up at their door with a little girl in tow. A little girl she claims belongs to Cash.
After all this time, can Sophie be trusted? Or has she returned with the sole intent of destroying the only real happiness Cash has ever known.
**This is novella number two which consists of June’s free installments from my website. To tune in to more FREE Cash and Olivia, sign up for my
exhausted. After getting so pleasantly ravaged by Cash in an out-of-the-way bathroom, we curled up on a blue vinyl waiting room sofa for an hour. Little did I know, that was to be my very last few minutes of rest for the next forty-eight long hours.
When they finally let me in to see my father, he was calm for about ten minutes. After giving me the paternal smile that I love so much, he drifted off to sleep. When he woke up about another ten minutes later, a crazy person emerged. He was a maniac. Violent, combative and completely disoriented, it took three nurses to subdue him. His primary nurse had to call and get orders from the doctor to sedate him and, if that didn’t work, to restrain him. When they managed to get him calmed down, his blood pressure started to drop and he developed some sort of abnormal heart rhythm, which created a whole other kind of chaos. While he did great
the surgery, the “after” part—the medication, the staff, the environment in general—doesn’t agree with him at all.
Cash hasn’t left either. He came back to see me several times. Against the rules, of course. Only one person at a time is allowed back in the rooms with patients, but no one was very interested in testing Cash’s temper when he became adamant about checking on his wife.
I think with a weary smile. It soothed my soul just to see his shadow darken the door and I know that if I were to go out to the waiting room, I’d find him out there legs spread, fingers laced over his stomach, slumped down in a chair with his head resting against the back. Waiting. Being nearby in case I needed him. I
need him, as much as I need my next breath, but he can’t be in here right now. Just knowing he’s out there, however, brings me more comfort than I ever would’ve thought possible. Still, we’ve both been here too long and only one of us needs to stay. Dad is stabilizing more and more with every hour that passes. There’s no reason for Cash to stay.
I glance over at my father’s thin face, at the frown still furrowing the pale skin between his brows, and I get up to go find my husband. He can’t keep this up. One of us will have to be functioning and coherent when it’s time to bring Dad home.
I lean over the bed and bend to kiss my dad’s stubbly cheek before I tiptoe from the room. I stop by the nurse’s station to let them know I’ll be right back and I make my way through the double doors to the waiting room down the hall. As I expected, Cash is lounging blearily in one of the chairs. He rights himself and is on his feet within a heartbeat of seeing me walking toward him.
“What is it? Is something wrong? Did something happen?” he asks, rapid-fire, as he quickly approaches me. His big hands cup my shoulders as though he’s ready to bring me against his chest at the first sign of distress. I can’t help smiling.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to tell you to go home. Get some rest. Now that Dad’s doing a little better, they’ll transfer him to a step-down unit pretty soon.”
“I’m not leaving until you do,” he says, his voice bearing that ring of finality it has when his mind can’t be changed.
you to do this. Dad can’t go back to his house right away. At least not alone. And I’d prefer to have him here with me, in town, closer to the hospital. Can he stay with us at the condo for a few days?”
“God, Olivia! Why would you even ask me that? Of course he can. He’s your father.” I like that he seems insulted. I knew he’d say yes, but I’d never take advantage of his love for me by not even asking. It’s his life, his time, his home, too.
“Because I love you. And I care about your feelings. That’s why.”
He makes a light growling sound and pulls me against his chest anyway. “Woman, you don’t even have to ask. Anything you want…anything you need…if it’s within my power to give it to you, it’s yours. You know that.”
I sigh into the clean scent of his skin and close my scratchy lids. “I know that.”
“Good,” he says, kissing the top of my head several times before easing me back. “So what can I do?”
“Go home. Get some rest. And maybe move that chair that sticks out right there at the door. I don’t want there to be anything in his way when we bring him home.”
“Done, done and done. But on one condition.”
“You go home and sleep first.”
“I’ll sleep in the room.”
“Like you’ve been sleeping in the room? Which is not at all?”
“He’s doing a lot better. I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight. If I can’t then I’ll let you give me a break tomorrow. Deal?”
I can tell by his heavy exhalation that he doesn’t like it, so I add on, “Please. I just don’t want to leave him yet. Just…not yet.”
His features soften and I know he’s reading between the lines. If for some reason my father should take a turn for the worse, I want to be here.
He reaches up to stroke his fingertips down my cheek and then he kisses the corner of my mouth. “For you, I will.”
“Call me if anything changes, okay?”
“I will,” I agree. Then, with a gulp, I broach the subject I find myself less and less anxious to broach. “You probably need to run by and check on the club at some point, too.”
“I’m not worried about the club. Gavin’s got it all under control.”
I nod. I have no doubts that Gavin does, but what about the matters
the club? I clear my throat. “What about…what about the little girl?”
“What about her?”
“You should probably check on her. And maybe on where to get the test. You know, when everything opens back up.” I add the last to try and sound casual. I feel anything
“Please don’t worry about them. You’ve got enough on your mind without adding that to the mix.”
worry about them, Cash. I just feel…uncomfortable. On edge. I just want to know if she’s yours and then we can go from there.”
“I agree, but right now, you and your father are
the most important
things. They’ll be fine at Dual. The test can wait another day or two. I don’t even want to think about them until you can come home.”
I nod again. “Did you get our stuff?”
“I did. It’s all at the condo.”
“Good. Thank you. I just…I wanted it out of there. I know that sounds silly, but I don’t want her near our stuff. The thought of her going through it or something…” I shudder in response. But then I look up at Cash’s expression and rush to add, “Not that I think she’s a creeper. The type of person to go through our belongings or anything.”
His smile is tight. God, I hate bumbling through a discussion about his ex and the could-be daughter. I feel like I’m never on the right side of some sort of imaginary line.
“Well, you go on then. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”
Cash holds my eyes for several long seconds. Then, with a tenderness that he might use with a tiny wounded bird or a newborn baby, he pulls me back into his arms and holds me. Like he knows I need to be held. Just like this. Just by him. It doesn’t really change anything, but maybe…
…it doesn’t have to.
walk into Dual, I expected to see Sophie behind the bar. Gavin has been keeping me posted on the schedule and how she’s progressing. I knew she’d be working tonight. What I
expect to see was the line in front of Sophie’s end. It appears she’s become quite the popular bartender here.
I stop and move to stand in the shadows right inside the door so that I can watch her for a few minutes, unnoticed. She handles the bottles competently, pours beers like a pro and runs the register like she’s worked here for weeks rather than just a couple of shifts. I watch her laugh and tease and flirt, and I’m reminded of the Sophie from my youth. She was captivating back then. Back before I knew better than to fall for a pretty face and a hot lay. We used to be friends. Good friends. Because of our parents. And then we became more. I loved her, I guess. As much as a teenager can love anyway. But even as I see the traits of the old Sophie coming out, I’m still all too aware of something just beneath the surface. Something different. Dark. Calculating.
As if she can feel my eyes on her, all the way from across the room and into the shadows, she looks up through the crowd and pins me with her stare. Her smile widens and she gives me a sassy wink before returning her attention to her customers. She didn’t get to see my frown.
“She’s got a way with the cocks, mate,” Gavin says from my right. I don’t jump or start when I hear him. I felt him move up beside me in that oddly liquid way he has. Like he was trained to sneak up on people. Which he was. I’ve gotten used to it, though. I can pick up on it, on whatever small way he disturbs the air around him when he moves.
“So it seems,” I say in a low voice.
“Took to the bar like a duck to water.”
“So you said.”
“Keeps the women engaged, too.” As if to give credence to his words, a group of women squeal and throw back a row of shots Sophie laid down. She high-fives them all.
“So I see.”
“Still don’t trust the bitch,” Gavin admits, drawing my eye back to him.
He’s grinning in his relaxed way.
“Me either.” After a short pause, “Any word from your friend?”
“He’s on his way. Shouldn’t be long now.”
“I hope he can get some answers. If there are answers to be found.”
“If anybody can, it’s Jason.”
“King. Jason King. Although I’m pretty sure that’s not his real name.”
“So it’s like that?”
Gavin nods. “It’s like that.”
“But you trust him?”
He gives my question considerable thought before he answers. “Yeah, I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have asked him to help.”
“What’s this gonna cost you?”
I nod. With men like Gavin, a favor could mean anything. It could mean something illegal, dangerous, even life-threatening, yet he doesn’t blink to offer it to help me. “Well if there’s anything I can do…”
“I know, boss. I know. I wanna know, too, though. I don’t like anyone coming ‘round and messing with my mates, right?”
I half smile. “Right. But you know I’ve got your back, too.”
“Of course,” he says, tossing me a look that says I’m being ridiculous. Within seconds, he’s smiling again, clapping me on the shoulder. “Got time for a drink?”
I don’t. Not really. But damn if I don’t need one. “Yeah, sure. Why not?”
As we start off toward the crowd surrounding Sophie’s end of the bar, I call up to Gavin, who is walking slightly in front of me. “How’s the little girl? Have you seen her today? Isabella?”
“Yeah. Had lunch with her as a matter of fact. Sweet kid.”
“You had lunch with her?”
“Yeah, so Sophie could go to the store and get some things.”
“How’d that go?”
He shrugs. “Quiet. She’s a very quiet little girl. Doesn’t talk or laugh much. Just…quiet. Seems sweet, though. The main thing is that she got fed and I didn’t let her run with scissors.”
I try to smile, nodding my thanks. Still, I feel like a douche that my club manager is spending more time with a girl who could be my daughter than I am. I glance toward the back of the club, to where Isabella is. “You think she’s still awake?” I glance at my watch. It’s only 10:30. Of course, that might be late for a little girl.
He shrugs. “I doubt it. She takes some medication that makes her sleepy. Sophie says she goes to bed early.”
“Medication? For what?”
Again, he shrugs. “I didn’t get a full medical history on her, man.”
As we near the bar, my mind is still on the little girl that now lives behind the club.
“What’ll you have, handsome?” Sophie’s voice interrupts.
I focus on her, on her smile and her face and her twinkling blue eyes, and I wonder for the hundredth time what’s going on inside her head. Sophie was always a clever girl and her father was downright devious. I know what her upbringing was like
but what was it like when her family moved to Canada? Where they were basically exiled. “Earth to Cash,” she says, leaning across the bar to touch my hand.
I frown down at the contact and then back up at her. “There were others here before us.”
Her smile doesn’t fade. “But the boss always comes first. Or at least he always did,” she adds with an impish wink.
“Nothing for me,” I snap abruptly, irritated at the way she persists in turning things in a more suggestive direction.
“I’m just teasing. Can’t you take a joke?” she asks, looking slightly wounded. “You used to have a good sense of humor.”
“I’m not the boy you knew.”
“You think I don’t know that?” she asks, turning a less bright smile on a man to my right and asking what he’d like. She goes about making his gin and tonic deftly as she continues the conversation with me. “I came here hoping for peace. For our daughters sake. Can’t you at least try to be civil with me?”
“Civil? I’m letting you live here, work here. You’ve invaded my life. How much more civil would you like me to be?”
She turns glassy eyes to mine. “Maybe just nice then. Friendly. Like we used to be.” Her chin trembles beneath her forced smile when she slides the drink to her customer and takes his money.
“Things will never be like they used to be, Sophie. You might just have to get used to that.” I rib Gavin with my elbow to get his attention from a guy he’s talking with. “I’ll be right back.”
Without another word or glance in Sophie’s direction, I head to the office and, from there, to the door that leads to my apartment. My hand hovers over the knob for several seconds before I opt for knocking. I mean, she
a little girl. She needs privacy, especially from strange, grown men.
I brush my knuckles lightly over the wooden door, listening closely over the muted thump of the music for signs of life on the other side. I closed the office door, which is double-insulated, as are all the walls of the office and apartment, so it’s surprisingly quiet. The music can still be heard, but it’s more a soothing thump than an irritating noise.
“Who is it?” I hear a tiny voice call.
“It’s Cash, Isabella. Did I wake you up?”
There’s a long pause. “If I say no, will I get in trouble?”
I grin. This might be the first time I can actually see this little girl being mine. “No, you won’t get in trouble.”
After another pause, I hear the rattle of the knob just before the door swings open. Isabella looks out beyond me, like she might be looking for her mother, before she steps back and lets me in.
I leave the door open, both for her comfort and for propriety. She
a little girl after all and I
a perfect stranger to her. And we have
to determine whether she’s my daughter. I figure it’s better to be extra cautious right now.
The television is on and tuned in to the Disney channel. Isabella climbs back onto the bed, but doesn’t get under the covers. I sit in the chair across from her, keeping a good distance between us.
“Not sleepy, huh?”
She shakes her head.
“Did you take your medicine?” I ask. She eyes me warily, not answering one way or the other. It occurs to me that she might be afraid I’ll tell on her, so I lean forward until my elbows are resting on my knees and I lower my voice. “I won’t tell your mom if you didn’t.”
She considers me for a few more seconds before she speaks. “It makes me feel funny.”
“Funny how? Like sleepy?”
“Yeah, but it makes me feel sick, too. And I don’t feel good the next day.”
I frown. Maybe she’s experiencing side effects that could indicate a need to change to another drug. “What’s the name of the medicine? Do you know?” She shakes her head again. I shouldn’t have even asked that. She’s nine for God’s sake. “Do you know what your condition is? The name of it? Why you have to take the medicine?”
Again, she shakes her head and again, I feel like the worst parent wannabe in the world. How do I engage a nine-year-old girl that I’ve just met and may or may not be my daughter?
Then it hits me. Something my mom used to do with me when I couldn’t sleep. “I have an idea. Stay right there.”
I get up and walk into the small kitchen. We left all the cabinets and the fridge stocked. There was no reason to take it, but honestly, it never even occurred to me. All I had on my mind was Olivia and her father.
I take down two glasses and a saucer and pour two glasses of milk. Then I spread out a handful of Oreos on the saucer and carry it all back into the bedroom. I hand Isabella the glass without the saucer on top. She takes it hesitantly. I sit in the floor in front of the bed, facing the television, and I hold up the saucer of cookies. “Here, have a cookie. It’ll make you sleepy. Oreos and milk make magic when you put them together.”
Isabella takes one, but she’s frowning as she does. “I’m nine. I’m too old to believe in magic.”
I nod. “I get it. But just try one and see. See if you don’t get sleepy.”
She watches me as she takes a bite of cookie and chews, chasing it with a sip of milk. I do the same, only I dunk my cookie in the milk before I take a bite. She watches me carefully. When she’s finished, I offer the saucer again and she takes another Oreo. This time, she dunks it in her milk, just like I did, and brings the dripping circle to her mouth, biting it in half. Chocolatey milk runs down her chin and she grins, but doesn’t stop chewing. I dunk another cookie and pop the whole thing in my mouth. She giggles around her Oreo, her teeth black in between, her chin still stained with run-off.
Isabella pulls her feet up under her and scoots closer to where I lean against the bed, dunking the second half of her cookie in her milk. It’s a little thing that feels
Like we’ve reached some tiny yet significant milestone. Her ebony eyes glisten happily in the bluish light of the television and, for the first time, part of me hopes that this little girl is mine.
We finish the cookies and I set the saucer and our glasses aside. I leave my eyes focused on the television, but my attention is on Isabella. She watches the show intently, eventually leaning to one side to take her feet out from under her. She plays with her toes for a few minutes and I see her yawn twice.
After about ten minutes, she pushes her legs out behind her and stretches out on her stomach, resting her chin on her folded hands. I turn my head just enough to watch her without being detected. I take in her long, long eyelashes, her button nose, her softly rounded chin. She’s a beautiful little girl. Could I have had a part in making her? Or does she belong to someone else?
I watch the lashes blink slower and slower, her eyes get heavier and heavier until her head lists to one side and settles along her forearm. She looks like an angel, her cupid’s bow lips parted just enough to puff warm air at me.
I want to take her in my arms and hold her for a few minutes, to watch her sleep and feel the weight of her against my chest. But I don’t. It’s not time for that yet. Instead, I move silently to my feet and pull the end of the comforter up to cover her with, leaving her undisturbed as I exit the room to stand quietly, thoughtfully in the office outside.