Untimely Alliances

“I’m sorry. What did you say?”

 

Earl Taylor cleared his throat and spoke slowly. “Mr. Lindsay left a will. In it, he bequeathed the majority of his estate to any surviving child and the mother of that child.”

 

I stared at him in disbelief. This man had to be kidding me. Then a thought occurred: “Wait a minute. Eric and I were separated at the time of his death. Why would he do something like that?”

 

“I’d say this was probably before you separated. When he came to me, he was preparing for a future with you.”

 

“What do you mean a future?”

 

He paused a moment to pull out a handkerchief and wipe his forehead. He shoved the damp cloth back into his jacket pocket and smiled apologetically. “Is it me or is it a little warm in here?”

 

“It’s you,” I flatly replied. “You were saying?”

 

“Oh, yes, I was saying that before Mr. Lindsey’s untimely death—God bless his soul—he had planned to propose marriage.”

 

I gulped. Marriage? Eric and I had gotten close, but marriage?

 

“Wow! I had no idea.” And I really didn’t. Eric and I hadn’t ended on the best of terms. I still harbored guilt about how I’d treated him back at Yanni’s place.

 

I looked at Mr. Taylor a moment, which seemed to make him more uncomfortable. “Exactly how much do you know about my relationship with Eric?” I asked.

 

“What do you mean?” He looked sincerely puzzled.

 

“Exactly what I said—what did Eric tell you?”

 

He smiled. “Well, Ms. Lovesome, when a man comes in asking to change a will, he doesn’t have to say much—that says it all.”

 

I returned the smile, my thoughts on the good times Eric and I had shared. Like the day I brought the basket of food over to his house and ended up sleeping next to him on the couch. And how he loved my biscuits.

 

I rubbed my hand against my stomach, and that’s when I remembered what I needed to tell Mr. Taylor. “I’m not sure if the baby is Eric’s,” I said in almost a whisper.

 

The puzzled expression returned to his face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know—how?”

 

“Oh, that part’s easy,” I said, with a nervous giggle. “All you have to do is have sex with two men and be a little confused about dates.”

 

By his expression, I could tell he didn’t know whether it was safe to laugh. “We can always test to find out,” he said, not missing a beat.

 

“Yeah, we could do that, or we could just let it go. Give the money to Vincent and be through.”

 

He shook his head vigorously. “Mr. Lindsey gave specific instructions. The only way Vincent can get anything from the estate is if he somehow gets custody of the child—the money goes with the child. And with you alive and healthy, I don’t see that happening.”

 

So that’s why Vincent had come into town, pretending he cared about the baby. All he cared about was the money. The bastard. He knew. All this time, he knew.

 

“Mr. Taylor, I can’t take the money. Really, I don’t want or need it. I’m sure you can find some kind of loophole where Vincent’s concerned.”

 

“To do so, would call into question my character. I’m sorry, ma’am, but I can’t do that.”

 

“May I ask a simple question?”

 

“Sure,” he replied.

 

“Does Vincent know the contents of Eric’s will?”

 

“All he knows is that a child of Eric’s would be the sole heir. He walked out of my office before he heard the rest.”

 

“That sounds like Vincent.”

 

“Who are you, sir?”

 

I jumped at the sound of Alex’s booming voice. Mr. Taylor looked as if he’d completely taken leave of his skin.

 

“Alex, this is Mr. Earl Taylor. Eric’s attorney,” I quickly explained. “He’s been trying to reach me for weeks regarding Eric’s last will and testament.”

  

“What does that have to do with you?”

 

“Mr. Taylor, anything you have to tell me, you can say in front of my fiancé,” I said, eyeing Alex.

 

“Nice to meet you,” Mr. Taylor said, extending his hand. The two shook hands and Mr. Taylor quickly filled Alex in, right down to the possibility of DNA testing. On the way out the door, he handed Alex his business card and they shook hands once more.

 

Alex squatted beside me after the attorney’s departure. “So, I guess we’ll be getting the DNA test after all, hunh?”

 

“I guess so, but I don’t feel right taking Eric’s money.” I gave him a worried look. “And, not to mention, we both said some horrible things before he died.”

 

“People lash out when they’re angry. It doesn’t mean he would have held it against you.”

 

“But I just don’t feel right about it. I mean, the same day Eric plowed through Yanni’s gate and to certain death, you and I had sex. Do you really think he could forgive something like that?”

 

Alex’s eyes swept my face. “The way you say that, it sounds more like you can’t forgive yourself.”

 

“Well, maybe I can’t.” I turned my head. Looking at him had suddenly become hard. I couldn’t get the last moments of Eric’s life out of my head. How I had held him. How I had begged him not to die. How he had died anyway—all before I ever got to say I was sorry.

 

Alex’s hands on my shoulders only added to the grief and guilt that had seized me. The tears came so hard and fast, I shook from the sheer effort.

 

“Go ahead and cry, baby. It’s okay,” Alex said, his voice soothing, “you’ve been holding this back for a long time. It’s not healthy for you or the baby—you gotta get it out of your system.”

 

“I need time, Alex,” I sobbed, “and I didn’t realize it until now. I also need Eric’s forgiveness.” The baby kicked furiously. I rubbed at my belly, which had begun to ache. As the dull throbbing grew, I massaged deeper, my mind miles away, to another day and time.

 

I looked up to the ceiling, wondering if Eric was looking down on me. A pain sprung from the bottom of my pelvis. My hand stretched out reflexively to quell it.

 

Slowly, I turned to look at Alex, tears still filling my eyes. “I think it’s about that time.”