Rival Page 81

I narrowed my eyes, challenging him to say something. Anything to account for himself.

But his eyes had dropped to the desk with my first words, and they had stayed there.

So I continued, straightening my shoulders more. “I love Fallon. And I love this house. I want you in my life, but if you’re going to throw your weight around like it matters, then you can go to hell.” I paused, coming up in front of the desk. “We don’t need you. But I do love you, Dad.”

My jaw tightened, and I blinked away the sting in my eyes.

He raised his eyes, and it was a look I’d never seen before. They shimmered with tears, but they were hard. My father wanted to fight. In his head he worried about my education, Fallon and me having jobs, dealing with marriage when we were still growing up, but that’s what he didn’t notice.

I’d stopped growing up when Fallon left.

And I started again when she came home.

You have to have something to love. Something to fight for to make living a goal instead of a job. Fallon wouldn’t keep me from tomorrow. My father had done that.

I held his stare, ready for whatever he wanted to throw at me, but he should know better. If he didn’t support us, we were doing it without him.

Finally standing up, he ran his hands through his hair and tightened his tie. I watched him as he went to his safe, dialed in the combination, and took out some papers. Returning to his desk, he signed the document and handed it to me over the desk.

I hesitated. It was probably a new will leaving me in the cold or some such bullshit.

“I’m keeping the other two-thirds of your trust and doling it out as was already planned,” he explained. “But here’s a wedding gift . . . if we can fight hard enough to keep it.”

Confused, I unfolded the papers again, and a sliver of a smile escaped my lips.

“The house?” I asked, surprised.

He’d given me the deed to the house, but it wasn’t in my name. Excitement and confusion rushed through my very clouded brain.

Did I want the house?


Forever and ever and ever?

Hell yes!

I loved it here, and so did Fallon. If we could keep it in Caruthers hands, we would. But what did this mean for my father? I didn’t necessarily want him gone.

Kind of.

No, not really.

“Patricia’s trying to take the house. I’m sure you know.” My father’s eyes clouded in an expression I was more familiar with. “But I’ll drag her through court for as long as I can. It may take a year, but I’ll win. The house is in my name, but as my wife, she has rights to it until a court says she doesn’t. I’ll transfer the house to you officially when I take away that threat.” He stood up straight, reaching out his hand to me. “But the house is yours for all intents and purposes. I know you and Fallon—and Addie—love it here, and I want you to have your home.

I took his hand, and the furious flow of blood through my veins relaxed. I wasn’t sure if my father was really giving up, if he was just that tired of drama, or if he was bluffing.

But when I looked at him, I saw his relaxed eyes turn bleary, and before I knew it I was yanked in for a hug.

“Whoa,” I grunted against the crush of his arms and almost laughed. I wasn’t sure if this was a joke or if it was supposed to be funny, but rare and weird things are funny. To me.

But as I tried to catch my breath, I kind of realized that my dad wasn’t letting go. His arms were as tight as steel around me, and I couldn’t remember the last time he’d hugged me.

And I don’t think it was ever this tight.

I found my arms slowly wrapping around him and returning the embrace.

“Katherine’s right.” He stepped back and squeezed my shoulders. “You can’t stay away from her, can you?”

“If you could go back with Katherine and redo things—”

He nodded. “Then you and Jared would’ve been stepbrothers a long, long time ago,” he finished, understanding.

“I won’t live with those regrets. I’m doing this, Dad.” I held my position. “We’ll be fine.”

Fearing the breakup of his marriages or contending with Katherine’s alcoholism in the past were things my father had let get in his way. From him I learned that mistakes can be dealt with. Loss of time can’t.

He slapped me on the back and let out a heavy breath. “So where’s Fallon?”



Katherine had come into the kitchen shortly after me, and I wished I could shrink away.

Until she came up and hugged me.

I held my breath, completely confused.

Yeah, hi. I’m the girl that nearly threatened to expose your affair on TV, and I’m solely responsible for your boyfriend’s divorce chaos right now. But sure, I’ll take some hugs!

Once she let go, I sank into the barstool as she dug out all of the fixings for sundaes from the refrigerator.

There were lots of questions I wanted to ask her. She was, after all, having an affair with my mother’s husband. I should despise her. Or at the very least dislike her. I definitely shouldn’t respect a home-wrecker.

But for some reason—or many reasons—I felt like my mother was the sleazy one out of the group.

And one thing could not be denied about Katherine. A nearly eighteen-year affair was love.

She was very beautiful, too. And young. Still young enough to have more kids.

“I’m surprised you’re so calm about this.” I picked at my vanilla and caramel sundae.

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