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Authors: Loretta C. Rogers

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Forbidden Son

BOOK: Forbidden Son
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He
towered over her, his stare drilling into
her. His eyes seemed to capture
her from hair to high-heeled shoes. Clearing her throat, she tried to appear
businesslike.

“Have
I changed so much that you don’t recognize me, Tripp?” This wasn’t at all the
way she had rehearsed the scene in her head. She didn’t blink an eye—afraid any
reaction might betray her uncertainty.

“Look,
miss, I don’t have time for twenty questions. I meet a lot of people, if—”

She
wanted him to remember, to remember her, to remember—what? That seventeen years
ago she had walked away from him? That she hadn’t had the courage to stand up
to his father and fight for her position in the life of the man she loved. That
for sixteen years she had raised the son he never knew existed. She should
never have left Tripp. So much guilt, for so many mistakes. She had no one to
blame but herself.

She
lifted her eyes to his. “Seventeen years ago, in Charleston, South Carolina, I
asked you to take me for a ride in your shiny white BMW.”

The
silence of the office closed in around her.

Praise
for Loretta C. Rogers

 

“Loretta
C. Rogers’ novels are infused with characters that walk off the pages and into
your heart.”

~Night and Weekend Reviews

“This
author uses her experience to tell a story in a fast-paced, spellbinding way.
Her strong characters are believable and held my interest throughout.”

~Romance Studio

 

 

 

Forbidden Son

 

by

 

Loretta C. Rogers

This is a work
of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to
actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is
entirely coincidental.

 

Forbidden
Son

 

COPYRIGHT
Ó
2012 by Loretta C. Rogers

 

All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or
reviews.

Contact
Information: [email protected]

 

Cover Art by
Rae Monet, Inc. Design

 

The Wild Rose
Press

PO Box 708

Adams Basin,
NY 14410-0708

Visit us at
www.thewildrosepress.com

 

Publishing
History

First Vintage
Rose Edition, 2012

Print ISBN
978-1-61217-000-8

 

Published in
the United States of America

Dedication

 

To
all the military men and women—

Those
who have sacrificed for my freedom

And
those who are still fighting today.

God
bless you all.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter
One

 

Washington,
D.C.

1980

 

Dear
Senator Hartwell,

Seventeen
years ago we—

Honey
Belle Garrett crumpled another sheet of hotel stationery, tossed it toward the
wastebasket, and missed. The numerous wads of paper scattered over the hotel
room’s carpet reminded her of giant dustbunnies.

Dear
Tripp,

Do
you remember when—

She
bent over a fresh sheet of paper and scrawled the few words only to abandon the
thoughts. Frustrated, she pushed from the chair and padded, stocking-footed, to
the bathroom for a temporary escape from the task she dreaded.

She
leaned against the sink to look at herself in the mirror, swallowing
convulsively as she peered at the pale reflection with its haunted eyes.

Dragging
in a deep shuddering breath, Honey Belle wondered how she would explain to a
United States senator that seventeen years ago he’d fathered a child.

Her
child.

His
child.

Now
she was in Washington, D.C. with their son, who in two days would be introduced
as a junior page in Congress.

In
a few short weeks her life had transformed from that of a single mother happily
in charge of her own quiet world, teaching rambunctious third graders and
cheering at football games for her son and his teammates, to that of a woman
who felt as if she were marching toward the gallows. She looked down and saw
her hands were shaking. Strange, she was usually a confident, self-assured
woman.

“Damn,”
she whispered, “what am I doing here? I should have stayed in Georgia.” And
then she reminded herself of the importance of meeting with the senator before
he and her son accidently bumped into each other.

After
splashing her face with cold water, she wearily returned to the bedroom.

On
the desk lay two pictures. She ran a loving finger across the image of her
sixteen-year-old son. The other photo was of his father at the age of
twenty-two. The two were twins, seemingly, and this frightened Honey Belle.
Neither son nor father knew the other existed.

Picking
up the telephone, she dialed the hotel restaurant and ordered a pot of coffee
and a peach turnover. She needed something strong and black to clear her head
while she searched for the elusive words to pen in the note requesting a
meeting with the senator.

While
she waited for room service, she paced back and forth, aware she had a hard
furrow to hoe.

She
answered the rap on the door almost like an automaton. “Who is it?”

“Room
service. You ordered a carafe of coffee and a peach popover?”

Honey
Belle removed the security chain and opened the door. “Thank you.” Handing the
room steward a gratuity for his services, she accepted the tray.

She
placed the refreshments on a table next to a wingback chair, retrieved a stack
of stationery and a pen from the desk, and then, inhaling the rich aroma of the
coffee, settled in the chair and poured a cup. As she savored the black liquid,
she closed her eyes and tried to arrange her scattered emotions into cohesive thoughts.
How could she trust this man not to dupe her?

With
a long sigh, Honey Belle opened her eyes and reached for the popover. “When all
else fails, eat sweets.”

Still
restless, she wandered again to the bathroom and turned on the tub’s hot and
cold water faucets, checking the temperature before she went into the bedroom
for her gown and robe. She found her makeup bag, opened it and removed her
electric razor, then undressed, tossing her skirt and blouse on the bed.

Taking
the razor with her, she returned to the bathroom, turned off the faucets, set a
towel where she could reach it, reached down and tested the water, and then
stepped in, gingerly.

She
liked the way the bath relaxed her, and slid lower into the water. The movement
created warm, undulating waves that washed over her body and brought brittle
memories of a particular nighttime swim at South Carolina’s Folley Beach.

She
drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she ran her hands over her naked
body. It was almost as good at the age of the age of thirty-five as it had been
at nineteen. Her stomach was flat, breasts softly rounded and legs slender. The
sensual movement of the water evoked memories of tender caresses by the man
she’d loved and thought had loved her, too.

Resting
her head on the back of the tub, she closed her eyes, allowing her thoughts to
drift back to the year nineteen sixty-four and a sultry June day in Charleston,
South Carolina. The day she’d met Tripp Harlan Hartwell III.

Her
daydream had rapidly become a nightmare.

She
was considered the poor white trash from the wrong side of the tracks—a high
school dropout who flipped hamburgers for a living, with no real plans for the
future.

Tripp
Harlan Hartwell III was the rich college boy destined for greatness. To say it
was love at first sight for Honey Belle and Tripp sounded like a tired cliché.
The fact remained: they did fall in love, and it was that passion which had set
the course for disaster.

She
soaked awhile longer in the tub, then turned her attention to shaving her legs.
The water grew cold, and she toweled off and slipped into the nightgown and
robe. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she checked the time. Almost nine
o’clock.

With
her son safely housed at the residential hall provided for pages, she had
nothing but time on her hands until tomorrow, when she hoped to meet with the
senator.

She
went to the closet and dug out her suitcase. Unzipping the top, she removed a
scrapbook and a large manila envelope—the same envelope Tripp’s father had
handed her so many years ago—the one that held demeaning pictures of her past.
The pictures he’d used to force her to leave South Carolina.

She
didn’t like having her life turned upside down. Once had been enough. The
insecure part of her feared she was about to open Pandora’s Box, but the mother
part of her was a fierce tigress ready to protect her son against unfathomable
hurts.

She
removed the robe and climbed into bed. Plumping the pillows with her fists, she
propped against the headboard and tucked the quilt around her as if it were a
safe cocoon. Then, almost reverently, she opened the scrapbook.

For
a while, she stared at the handsome face smiling up at her. The face of the man
who’d promised to marry her. The man who’d left her alone and pregnant.
Standing next to him was a person she’d hidden from and feared for seventeen
years. Finally, she said to herself, “There’s no turning back now. This is what
it’s all about.”

She
pushed back the damp tendrils of blonde hair as she turned the page and allowed
her thoughts to drift backward as she relived all the events that led her to
this time and place.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter
Two

 

Charleston,
SC

1964

 

Honey
Belle Garrett was born in rural South Carolina, on the wrong side of the
tracks. In most social circles that translated into
poor white trash.
She
never thought of herself as
trash
, just poor.

Her
daddy worked at the pulpwood mill and her mama flipped hamburgers at the Burger
Bin. As much as she longed for nice clothes and sweet smelling perfume, Honey
Belle knew it took both of her parents’ incomes to keep food on the table and
pay the rent. Every so often, her mother managed to scrape together enough
money to buy a few niceties. All that changed when her daddy had a heart
attack. Sick as he was, he still managed to work a couple of days a week.

The
rental house Honey Belle shared with her parents was old and musty-smelling.
The fans kept the air moving, stirring up dust, and whimsical daydreams.

****

On
a sultry March evening in 1964, Honey Belle had barely finished washing the
supper dishes when her mama called, “Honey Belle, come sit on the back steps
for a spell.”

“Just
a sec, Mama, I still need to wipe the stove.”

When
Honey Belle pushed the screened door open, she watched her mother grimace at
the door’s familiar squeak. Settling on the step, she wrapped her arms around
her knees and waited for her mother to speak.

Delilah
Garrett mopped the sweat from her forehead with a hankie so threadbare Honey
Belle could almost see the moon through the dingy white material. “Lordy, Honey
Belle, it’s only March and hotter’n Hades. Reckon we’re in for a scorcher of a
summer.”

Even
though Honey Belle was an only child, her mother rarely gave her the time of
day unless it was
Honey Belle, do this
or
Honey Belle, I need you to

This
is how she knew something important was about to happen when her mother invited
her to sit with her on the backdoor steps.

“Whaz
up, Mama?”

Honey
Belle’s stomach clenched when her mother’s mouth tightened and she turned a
slit-eyed gazed toward her. “I swannie, Honey Belle. Don’t young’uns speak
English no more?”

Ignoring
the chastisement, Honey Belle concentrated on the stars, and vowed that someday
she would leave South Carolina to seek fame and fortune as an actress in
Hollywood. Lost in the daydream, she vowed to never again wear hand-me-down
clothes or shoes, and she’d have a chauffeur drive her to the ritziest shops.

Her
mother’s words jolted her back to reality. “Honey Belle, there’s an opening at
the Burger Bin. I talked to my boss. He said you could start next Monday. It’s
a full-time job.”

It
seemed the stars exploded and all Honey Belle’s hopes and dreams of a different
life shattered into a million pieces. She shifted uncomfortably on the wooden
step. “I can’t work full time, Mama. There’s still two months left of school,
and next year I’ll be a senior.”

“You’re
sixteen. What with your daddy sick and only working a few days a week, it’s
high time you started pullin’ your weight around here. Why, I’ve been working
since I was fourteen. You ain’t no better, little girl.”

“But,
Mama, if I quit school, I can’t go to college. It isn’t fair.”

Her
mother snorted, her voice a sarcastic sneer. “College? Humph. Big plans for a
girl who ain’t got no money. How do you ’spect to pay for books and such?
Besides, it takes brains, which by the grades on your report card, you ain’t
got.”

An
awkward silence passed between them. Honey Belle silently admitted she was
currently majoring in flirting and boys—especially those on the football team.

She
pushed aside the ache building in her chest to plead her case. “Please, Mama.
At least let me finish out the year. What difference will two months make?”

Even
though it was too dark to see, she knew her mother sat with her legs crossed.
She had a habit of jiggling her right foot. The wooden steps vibrated with the
rapid movement. “I’ll tell you, little girl. It makes the difference between
paying the rent and being set out on the street. It makes the difference
between puttin’ food on the table or starving. It makes the difference in
havin’ enough money to buy your daddy’s medicine. That’s what it means.”

Honey
Belle swiped a finger under her eyes and drew in a deep breath. “What if I
worked after school? Wouldn’t that be okay, Mama?”

Her
mother stood and, in a rare gesture of affection, patted her daughter on the
shoulder. “Doctor said your daddy cain’t work no more. We’re three months
behind on the rent, and Mr. Ellerby said he cain’t tote us another month.”

“I
know things are bad, Mama, but with an education I can get a good job and help
make life easier for you and daddy. Please, Mama, please don’t make me quit
school.”

The
sorrowful sigh her mother heaved pierced Honey Belle’s heart. “I had hopes and
dreams once upon a time. We all do, Honey Belle. Fact of the matter is, life
usually gets in the way.”

As
much as Honey Belle wanted that intimate moment to last, it passed as quickly
as the fluttering wings of a night moth. Her mother’s next words brooked no
nonsense. “You’ll march down to the principal’s office tomorrow and withdraw
yourself from school, or I’ll do it for you. Monday you’ll start the wake-up
shift. I’ll stay with your daddy until you get home at two-thirty.”

At
that moment Honey Belle wanted to throw up. She didn’t bother to hide the groan
that rose from the pit of her stomach. The wake-up shift started at five in the
morning. Her vision had adjusted to the dark. In the moon’s rays, she saw the
steel in her mother’s eyes, and the iron set of her jaw. When she got that look
of absolute stubbornness, Honey Belle knew nothing would change her mother’s
mind. Not even the devil himself.

****

Time
seemed to take wings, and before Honey Belle knew it, three years had raced by.
Three years of baking biscuits and flipping hamburgers. Three years of
eavesdropping on the conversations of high school kids sitting in the fast food
joint’s booths, sipping colas and talking about which college they planned to
attend, the careers they wanted to pursue. Three years of realizing that
dropping out of high school had been a huge mistake.

Never
in her wildest imaginings did Honey Belle Garrett dream she was about to make
an even bigger mistake, one that would change her life forever.

BOOK: Forbidden Son
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