Chapter 24

Cass stepped out of A.J.’s vehicle still in shock at how fast things were moving.  Two days had passed quickly as they readied for the trip out here.  Now she stood in front of a sprawling home with a neatly trimmed lawn.  The place wasn’t garish or over done even though some of the homes surrounding it were.  The sun was beginning to set and she was relived in a way that they had already eaten dinner.

“Is this your house?”  Annie signed as she followed Kevin around like a pet puppy.

“Yes,” Kevin answered as he looked at her face.  “Do you swim?  I have a pool.”

Annie shook her head from side to side.

“I’ll teach you while you are here.”

“Hold up guys,” A.J. spoke to Cass and Kevin.  They both turned to look at them.  Just as they did, the front door flew open and two women filled the frame.  They both yelled, “Surprise.”

“Shit,” Kevin hissed as he quickly turned to Cass.

“Who are those people?”  Cass’s lips formed a tight line. 

Annie stood behind Kevin.

“Uhhh...  That is Leighanne, Brian’s wife.”  Kevin leaned forward to Cass’s ear and whispered.  “The other one is my Mother.”

“MOTHER!”  Cass shouted.

Kevin’s head tilted to the side and he winced.

A.J. wanted to laugh and leave Kevin hanging but Kevin didn’t have any idea anyway.

“Your Mother is here?”  Cass backed up one step. 

Kevin latched onto her upper arms not wanting her to retreat.  Someone had some explaining to do on why his Mother was here.  “I don’t know why they are here.  I really don’t... I...”

A.J stuck his head between the two of them.  Turning his face towards Cass, he addressed her.  “He didn’t know; this was Leighanne’s idea.  A little ‘Meet the Family.’”

Cass’s head poked around from behind A.J. to see Annie being led in the house.  “Kevin, you go get Annie.  You better make damn sure they understand that she doesn’t know a thing yet.”

Kevin took off running up the front walk. 

A.J. giggled as he raised his sunglasses, he smiled at Cass.  “I’m keeping you around, you’re the only one that can make Richardson haul ass.”

Cass wasn’t going to be pacified as she walked up the walk.  An arm dropped around her shoulder.  “Relax Cass, I have it all under control.  I won’t leave you.”

Cass took a deep cleansing breath before she entered the house.  It was bad enough that she was plagued by bad thoughts and outcomes over this surgery.  Inside she still hadn’t reconciled that her and Kevin would have to try and get along for Annie’s sake.  It was becoming increasing difficult for her to maintain clear thoughts.  Over the last five years she had spent hating Kevin to a great extent, now he seemed to be her savior. 

A.J. gave her a little push into the house.  He fully understood why Cass was reluctant, Kevin’s family were a loving lot but the word suffocating came to mind.  Cass had been dropped in the middle of who knows what, but A.J. had insisted that he stay.  From the beginning, he had promised himself and her that he would be there to support her.

Cass watched as Kevin had Annie up on his hip as he walked around the room.  He introduced her to his Mother, Leighanne, and his Aunt Jackie, as his new friend Annie.

A.J. coughed, none to discreetly, Kevin turned.  “Everyone, I would like you to meet Cassandra Jo Collins, Annie’s Mom.”

Cass gulped anticipating an onslaught of obscene and nasty glares.  Instead, she received warm smiles and a ‘nice to meet you.’

Kevin sniffed exaggeratedly into the air, his eyes narrowed as he looked at Annie.  “Ya know what?  I smell cookies.”

“Me too,” Annie jumbled out.

Cass saw the looks pass over their faces, the noise that Annie made when she spoke had stunned and then seemed to embarrass them.  Her anger flickered and her heart thumped madly.  The women were judging her Annie on her abilities or lack of right off the bat.

“Calm down, it just different than what they are use too,” A.J. spoke softly from behind her. 

Cass lowered her head, now she was flustered and self-conscious; she was judging them just as they were judging Annie.

Kevin walked directly towards her, handing Annie off to A.J.  “A.J., why don’t you take Cass and Annie into the kitchen and try some of my Mom’s cookies.”

A.J. left, Cass didn’t budge.  Her arms crossed as she looked at the three women on the other side of the room.  “You can’t bribe me with cookies, I’m not five.”

Kevin’s hand came up, his index finger and thumb rubbed his eyes.  “Want a beer?” was the best he could come up with.

“Cassandra, A.J. explained that Annie doesn’t know that Kevin is her Father.  We will abide by your wishes, but to be honest, how long is that going to last?  Kevin is famous.”

“Oh,” Kevin uttered in shock, his mouth still formed in a tight little ‘o’.  Mom wasn’t holding back. 

“It will last as long as Annie is not out in the public eye.  Annie is having surgery the day after tomorrow.  I will decide when and if Annie will find out, not you, not the press, and certainly not your son.”  Cass quietly left the women with their mouths hanging open.

They had watched Cass, Annie, and A.J. go outside on the patio in the backyard.  Questions began to be fired at him faster than he could answer them.

“Cass is very direct Mom and she still is kind of... um....”

“Pissed...  I mean if I slept with a guy and he called me a Mistake, I would be more than pissed,” Leighanne smiled.

“Thanks for the input and the party,” Kevin said snidely.  “A.J. has big damn mouth.”

“Just trying to help,” Leighanne huffed.  “A.J. didn’t tell me Bri did.  Besides, Brian is off with Nick, Howie, and the kids.  I thought that we could have a little get together that’s all.”

His Aunt Jackie leveled a glare at him.  “What would your father say?  Really, Kevin that was a terrible thing to do and you were still married at the time.  Weren’t you?” 

Leighanne answered for him, “Yes, he was.”

Kevin looked out the door.  There would be no escaping this, he might as well face it and get it out of the way.  A.J. was grinning as he talked to Cass.  Cass was laughing as Annie splashed her with water from the pool.

“I thought you had enough sense to use birth control...  Now look what you have to deal with.” 

Kevin’s head craned as he stared at his Mother.  “I did, it didn’t work.  Now, I would appreciate if ya’ll would just go home and leave us alone.  We have a busy day tomorrow and the surgery is the day after tomorrow.”

“Are you asking me to leave?”  Anne looked at her son hurt.

Kevin was sending Leighanne a laser glare.  “Yes I am.  I wanted this to go smoothly.  Cass has some feelings that she isn’t dealing with very well.  Having strangers on top of her is not helping.  I don’t want to offend you because I love you but we really need some space right now.”

Anne closed her eyes tightly, the words stung a little and it was her own fault.  She had misgivings from the beginning but had not exercised her authority.  Now she felt guilty for insinuating herself in her son’s life at this very moment.  She knew Cass did not want to go to Lexington when she was speaking to Kevin on the phone at the Doctor’s office.  Anne was making all the arrangements for Kevin.  He refused to rely on a manager or assistant to do something so personal for him.  His private life was not an open book and this is how he kept it that way.

“Well I never...” came from Aunt Jackie.

“Not that you know of,” Kevin spoke under his breathe as he smirked at Leighanne. 

Leighanne dropped her head remembering what had happened and how this all started.  Leighanne had been snooping in Brian’s mail.  Without a word, Leighanne stood up and headed for the door.

“Leigh...”  Kevin stopped her.  He turned her so they couldn’t see her.  “I know that you were doing this for the right reasons.  Thanks,” he kissed her cheek.

“I’m sorry, I just wanted you to have a family too, I know how bad you’ve wanted one.”  Leighanne sniffed.

“I’ll have my family, it’s just going to take me a little longer.”

“With Cass?”  Leighanne looked shocked.

“Umm, well maybe not Cass.”  Kevin’s nose wrinkled at the odd remark.  “She would like to kill me most days.”  Kevin smiled a genuine smile.

“You need to make it up to her.”  Leighanne patted Kevin’s arm.

“In time.... maybe,” he winked.  “We’ll see.”

Kevin’s mother and Aunt Jackie joined them at the door.  “I’m sorry Kevin, we didn’t mean to cause a stir.”

Grabbing his mother, he hugged the hell out of her.  “Dear, I’m old, you’re crushing me.”

“Sorry Mama, I’m just thankful that I have you.”  Kevin squeezed her again as she melted against him. 

Anne left with a good feeling inside, her son would be just fine.  Her new granddaughter was the spitting image of her father except her hair was curly.  Obviously, the curls came from her Mom.  Cass seemed candid and harsh but under the circumstances, she could see why.  Twenty-twenty was worth a million.  Tonight she would go home and say a prayer that the young lady that had given birth to her granddaughter could find it in her heart to forgive her for her callousness when next they would meet.

Kevin grabbed a cookie and headed outside.  Retrieving Annie, they headed back into the house together. 

A split second later both Cass and A.J. jumped when they heard Annie scream.  Barreling into the house, they almost tripped over the child at the end of the hallway.  Annie was jumping up and down and screaming at the top of her lungs.

Kevin stood in the hallway with an index finger in each ear trying to block out the racket.  He was wearing the biggest smile plastered on his face. 

Annie dragged Cass into a room.  Cass’s hand immediately covered her mouth and tears welled up in her eyes.





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