Chapter 16

Cass placed her feet on the ground stopping the motion of the swing.  “So what did you want to talk about?”  She had a feeling A.J. was going to ask her what she had been thinking about before he interrupted her.

“I dunno,” A.J. shrugged his shoulders as he slid closer to Cass.  Inhaling deeply he smelled the faint scent of lavender on her and the quilt.  Casually he placed an arm around her shoulders.  Softly he stroked her upper arm.  “What do you wanna talk about?”

Cass looked at him questioningly, A.J. had been had been following her around for days.  He was watching her and shooting questions at her continuously.

“You never told me what happened with your hands the other night.”  A.J. began to rock the swing slowly. 

Cass became slightly flustered, she didn’t want to explain to him that her brain had taken a vacation that night and she could have gotten herself killed.  “I did something stupid, I guess it was okay that Kevin was there.”

A.J. became pensive and his body tensed slightly next to her.  Expelling a breath, he loosened back up as fast as he had tightened up.  Now something was eating at him even more, “Why were you and Kevin fighting in your office yesterday?”

Cass’s mind flared at the incident yesterday.  Yesterday had been an all round bad day.  The first half was worse than the second.  As she thought of the expression on Kevin’s face and how angry he had become over the sheet of paper in his hand, she giggled loudly.

“What is so funny Miss C.J.?” 

“Kevin was in my office going through my desk.  I was mad as hell, he had no right to do that.”  

“That is funny?”

Cass turned her head towards A.J., “No, that part was ugly.  He went through my bills totaled them up and wrote a check for money I owe on this place.  I told him he was just trying to buy Annie from me and I tore the check up.  I let him pay for her hearing aids the other day, she needed them.”

“Ouch,” A.J. scrunched up his face.  “You have to understand Cass, I don’t think he was trying to buy Annie.  I think he was trying to be responsible the only way he knew how.  You won’t let him do anything else.  Kevin has as much pride as you do.”

“If I accept that money then he has a hold on me.  I won’t let that happen A.J., never.” 

A.J. nodded, “I understand but Kevin isn’t into blackmail.  Maybe he’s just trying to take care of you and Annie, you know, to make things right.”

“Ha,” was the only reaction he heard from her.  The sky was pitch black for an instant and then lit up like the light of day.  “A.J., Kevin knows I’m going to lose this place if things keep going they way they are going.  I’m mortgaged to the hilt, but I won’t let him buy Annie’s love. “

A.J. glanced at her, her face was hard and unyielding at first, but it seemed as if it had softened.  A.J. was on to something or getting close.  The rain started to make a pinging noise against the metal porch roof.  “Maybe he doesn’t want Annie to lose the only home she has ever known.  Don’t you want to be taken care of Cass?”

A soft sigh came from her, “Not by him.  He hates me, I hate him.  We had sex and out of that came Annie.  I love my daughter.  He told me I was a mistake, I can’t get past that.”

A.J. felt his stomach drop; now he knew that Cass still held feelings for Kevin, she just refused herself permission to feel them.  A.J. knew they could be friends but nothing more.

Cass placed her head on his shoulder.  “I was really upset when I found out I was pregnant.  I didn’t know what to do.  Abe rode my butt for days saying I should call Kevin.  I didn’t even tell him it was Kevin but he knew.  If I had known that he had made all those tapes just to bring Kevin back here I wouldn’t have allowed it.”

A.J. absently stroked her red tresses trying to imagine what it was like for her.  How sad it must have been, she should have been happy.  “Did the small town gossip shit get to you?”

“No, not really, nobody really cared.  I have some good friends and they defended me.  They made up some bullshit story and I stuck with it.”  A little titter escaped from her, “That was why Kevin was so angry all afternoon and evening at me.”

A.J. was baffled, he had to ask, “So what has that got to do with Kevin?”

Cass shot A.J. a quick look just as the sky flashed with a streak of lightening.  “They told everyone that I could never love another person except Gage, so I became artificially inseminated via a sperm donor.”

“So, that seems believable, I guess.”  A.J. turned to face her.

A broad smiled cast over Cass’s face, “Kevin found Annie’s birth certificate yesterday, and he didn’t particularly like having the father part being listed as a ‘sperm donor.’  He was very upset and told me I had better fix it or he would.”

A.J.’s eyes grew in astonishment, “OH!”  He bit back his laughter.  Kevin was all ego and male.  If he had fathered a child, he would be damn sure his name was listed with full credit if that is what he wanted.  A.J. knew this was what he wanted from the beginning; especially after all the questions over the last few years.

Cass shivered, “A.J. would you hold me?”

“Sure,” he smiled as he wrapped both arms around her.  A.J. turned sharply to the left thinking he had heard something, peering into the darkness, he didn’t see anything.  Turning back to her,  “Cass, can I ask you one more question?”

“I bet I know what it is,” she answered as she snuggled closer to him.  A.J. was like an old blanket or teddy bear.  He could always make her feel better and safe.  She could hear his heart beating in his chest wildly.

“Then answer it,” A.J. whispered on her temple.

“Remember the night he was picking on me because I was listening to Garth Brooks.  I loved that song The Dance.  You told him to knock it off and leave me alone, that if he didn’t back off you would do something about it.”

“Uh-huh,” he murmured in her hair.

“After you and Nick left to go in to town, Kevin came to my bedroom door.  He asked if he could come in and I let him.  He said he wanted to apologize and then it happened... it was just a kiss.”

A.J. didn’t say a word as he looked over the top of her head out into the pasture.  His hand resting on the side of her head.  He had known all along that Kevin was attracted to Cass; he just didn’t recognize that Kevin would step out of the bounds of his marriage to get what he wanted.  A.J. suffered from a flicker of jealousy. 

“And?”  A.J. prompted.

“Don’t make me go into details, that’s what guys do,” Cass poked him in the gut with her elbow.

“Was it good Cass?”  A.J pulled away as he asked the question.  He wondered to himself if he really wanted her to confirm his suspicions.

Heaving a sigh loudly, Cass debated her reply, why not, she thought to herself.  “It was extraordinarily different Alex.  I hadn’t felt that alive since Gage died.  I learned something that night, certain things in life should not be a competition.”  Pausing slightly she continued,  “Please don’ t be upset with me.  I had feelings for you too, but they weren’t the same.  Kevin just needled me constantly.  I thought I could beat him at his own game, I didn’t.”

A.J. let the words sink; his two friends belonged together.  Nevertheless, it was like trying to pull polar opposites together.  “I’m not upset Cass, we’ll always be friends.”

A.J.’s head whipped around to the screen door.  He thought he had heard something again.  “I’m going in, you coming.”

“No not yet, maybe in a few,” as Cass sat up and allowed A.J. to pull away from her.

Kissing her on the top of head, “Don’t stay out here too long, you’re going to get sick.”

“I won’t,” she smiled at him as she wrapped her arms around herself.  The door softly closing behind him, she closed her eyes and her mind drifted back to that night Annie was conceived. 





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