Chapter 13

Kevin walked into Dr. Griffin’s office to find Cass looking out the window with her arms wrapped around herself. 

“Cass you should be happy she’s talkin’ to me,” a smooth southern drawl came from the door.

“I am,” she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her jean jacket.  On a sniffle she turned.  “We have to get her some lunch, we still have a couple of hours till this is done.”

“Not done Cass, just beginning,” he held his hand out to her as she marched by him.  Kevin shook his head; he had never met a woman like Cass in his entire life.  She didn’t buy his charm or act and saw him for what he was, human or less than human in her eyes.  In Cass’s mind, he was right up there with Lucifer himself.

Kevin waited outside in the waiting room giving them both time to be together.  Dr. Griffin, Annie, and Cass came back a short time later.  “Talk to you soon,” she smiled to Kevin.

Kevin nodded an affirmation and Cass smiled.  She didn’t like the implication of the statement.  Cass tilted her head back, “Annie and I will see you when they come in.”

“We’ll call,” she smiled as she went into her office.

“Thanks,” Annie smiled at him.

“You’re welcome, let’s go eat,” a small hand shot out and latched onto his finger.  A little jolt registered in his heart, then a sudden sadness over the simple things he had missed in life.  The first smiles, first laughs, first steps, all the firsts.

At the restaurant, Kevin was on the receiving end of a few looks.  Most of them shook it off as someone who resembled him.  There was no way Kevin Richardson would be climbing around in a ball pit in the middle of Billings, Montana.

Cass sat at the table not wanting to partake in the fun.  She was unsettled as to how much impact Kevin was going to have on their lives.  Questions were spinning in her head on how she was going to tell Annie.  The big fear that eventually Kevin would take her way kept pushing forward in her mind. 

Kevin played but also studied Cass as she sipped her drink.  Normally he would be asking a million questions right now and demanding answers.  A ball bouncing off his head brought him back to reality.  Kevin’s head titled casually as he tossed one back at her, hitting her in the shoulder.  “No throwing the balls, Annie,” he laughed. 

Annie was in her glory; she could do this all day.  She fell backwards and laughed herself silly.  She glanced at her mom, who was sitting and staring at the tabletop.  Annie crawled out of the ball pit.  Going up to her mom, she wrapped her arms around her and gave her a pleading look.

“I’m fine munchkin,” as she placed an errant curl behind her ear. 

Reaching over Annie gave her a kiss and a garbled ‘I love you.’

“I love you too,” Cass grabbed her and pulled her to her, hugging her as hard as she could.

Kevin didn’t want to intrude on the moment so he stood back, with their shoes in hand.  Awkwardly he went to the table, “It’s time to go.”  He couldn’t miss the look of fear in Cass’s eyes, she was afraid, but not of the results, she was afraid of what the results might bring.  Many times Kevin had thought about how they were going to tell Annie; even Cass knew that he would not be happy with her not knowing.  Annie would know and he would be involved in their lives come hell or high water.

The silence in the truck was overwhelming after a tussle over who was going to drive.  Kevin insisted that Cass wasn’t in any shape to drive, “You act like you’re drunk.”  Cass’s retort of ‘I wish I was,’ didn’t seem to alleviate the problem either.

They shuffled into the office of yet another doctor.  They waited impatiently; Kevin paced the office until Cass frowned at him.  Dropping into the seat next to Annie, Kevin again began to read another book.  Both of them became immersed in their own little world.  Cass felt nothing but dread.  Annie had latched onto to Kevin instantly, she wondered if maybe her daughter would leave her to go to the new stranger. 

Cass’s name was called and her head went up.  “You go first, I’ll wait here,” Cass said to Kevin as she grabbed Annie’s hand to stop her from following him.  The anxiety was too much, all the years and one little test and he gets to claim her as his own.

“No, we go together,” as Kevin pulled on her arm removing both of them from the chair.

“You’re not going to do this here,” Cass spat at him under her breath so that only he could hear.

“No shit,” he whispered and then smiled a fake smile at Annie.

They entered the office, the door quietly shut behind them.  The doctor looked at both of them and then Annie.  He handed Kevin an envelope and then one to Cass.  Kevin tore his open like a long lost Christmas gift.  He couldn’t help but feel that his entire sobriety depended on the results of this test.  Sighing loudly, the tears spilled forth from his eyes.  Not making a comment, he promptly got up and left the office. 

Cass was just as emotional as Kevin but with Annie in her presence, she had no choice but to hide it.  “Thank you,” she bobbed her head and escorted Annie out the door.

Cass gently pulled Annie behind her; she had to find Kevin.  She knew he would be upset but she did not expect this type of response from him.  Walking out into the corridor, she found him leaning on the wall softly weeping with one hand covering his face.  Bending down she grasped Annie’s face between her hands.  She carefully mouthed some words to her and then she pushed Annie towards Kevin. 

Annie tugged on his sleeve and he dried his eyes.  Leaning down he looked her directly in the face. 

“Wassup dawg?”  Annie grinned as she moved her eyebrows up and down at Kevin.

Kevin burst into laughter; she was the perfect mimic to him, eyebrows and all. 

Cass covered her mouth to hide the smile.  There was no doubt who Annie’s father was; the results revealed Ninety-nine point Ninety-nine percent Kevin Richardson.  She was still afraid that Kevin might take her away, but at that very second, she felt nothing but compassion for the man. 

“Let’s go home kiddo,” he smiled as he picked her up off her feet.  Kevin had questions, questions galore, he also knew he had to wait to get the answers.  Somehow, tonight he would find time to be alone with Cass.  She had a lot of answering to him as far as he was concerned. 

All the way home Cass heard, ‘Wassup Dawg’ until she thought she would lose her mind.  Annie would say it and Kevin would beam a smile in the rearview mirror.  Cass’s temples began to ache, what had she done. 

Pulling up to the ranch after the long drive, Annie was sound asleep.  Once the car stopped, she woke up and had caught her second wind.  Bolting in the house, she ran straight into Nick.  “Wassup Dawg?” she repeated and giggled when Nick laughed at her.

“Pretty good, now can you do this one?”  Nick cleared his throat, “Kevin suck...”

“NICK!”  Cass yelled as she came in the front door. 

“Oops, you got me in trouble,” he winked at her as she ran upstairs and left Nick to take the heat.

“Checkers Mama!” she squeaked as she came bounding down the stairs spilling the board and pieces all over the landing.  The black and red pieces rolled around the oak floor.

“Oh munch I don’t think he’ll be stopping tonight, he knows we have company.”  Cass watched the crest fallen face.  “I’m sorry but I’ll play with you,” Cass stroked her cheek.

“Not the same,” Annie pouted as she kicked the board.

“Hey now, you don’t treat your things that way,” Kevin stood back and watched the small pout after he had scolded her.

Annie frowned as she began to pick up the game.  “Sorry mama,” she uttered.

Cass turned to Kevin and bit her tongue.  She left Annie to pick up the checkers as she stormed into the kitchen.  A.J. was stirring a pot at the stove as Kevin came flying in behind her.  The guys had promised to look after the house and cook dinner while she was gone.  Cass turned around and glared at Kevin, “Look, just because you have a dick and know how to use it, it doesn’t make you a dad.”

She stomped out the backdoor and slammed it as hard as she could.  How dare he yell at her, he didn’t know how important the checker game was to Annie. 

A.J. dropped the lid on the pot and followed her.  “Cass baby, wait.”  Those same words had been spoken in his own home when he was a child.  His own alarm bells went off in his head.  His mother had been a little more eloquent about it at the time.

Cass stopped and turned to see him.  A.J. opened his arms and she fell into them sobbing.  “I don’t know why I ever slept with that man, I was such a fool.  He’s going to take her away from me Alex.”

A. J. sighed as he swayed her in his arms, “Kev won’t do that Cass, he gave me his word.  I’ll make you this promise, if he ever does I’ll help you fight him.”  His hands stroked the red curls from the tear stained face.  “See you should’ve slept with me,” he whispered to her.

Cass sighed slightly knowing A.J. was trying to make her feel better.  She pulled her head back and knew he was serious.  Turning his head slightly he brushed his lips against hers.  An audible sigh escaped her lips as she felt his mustache scratch her skin.  “I can’t now,” she whispered as she headed to the barn. 

Cass saw the headlights coming up the road on her way to the barn and knew that she could go for a ride on Thunder, undisturbed.  Annie’s checker partner had shown up and this was their time to be together. 

The sky was dark, the night air was cool, and crisp, a light wind had kicked up.  She looked up at the moon, “I miss you Abe, I miss so much.”  Quietly she headed to the barn until she heard a nicker on the wind.  “You’re out there and you are the solution to my problems,” she smiled up at the sky.  “Thanks old man.”





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