The Ties that Bind(4)

By: Emilie Rose



Hollister’s eyes narrowed. Something in her tone must have alerted him to the betrayal that still stung when she thought of Todd’s rejection of not only of her but their child. It was one thing to get tired of her, but to ignore his own flesh and blood… She hated him for that.

“He didn’t tell you he was leaving?”

“No. He dropped me off at the emergency room and said he was going to park the car. He didn’t return. I was afraid that— I didn’t know he’d moved out until the taxi brought Cody and me home to an empty apartment.”

“I take it your husband didn’t appreciate you getting pregnant?”

She stiffened. “It takes two to make a baby. Cody was a surprise for both of us. Todd and I were newlyweds, and we’d intended to wait a few years before starting our family, but…things happen.”

“What does he think about you applying for a live-in position?”

“He doesn’t get a say. He’s not a part of our lives.”

“Still married?”

“Divorced. Please have a seat, Mr. Hollister. I’ll pack as quickly as I can.”

“Does he pay child support?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t even know where he is, and if he doesn’t want us I’d rather not have any ties.”

“There are no custody issues?”

“He relinquished his parental rights as part of the divorce settlement.” That he’d been all too happy to do so had killed any tender feelings she might have had for him. “You don’t have to worry about Todd showing up at your home and causing a problem. Excuse me.”

Anna raced from the room before he could ask more questions. She didn’t want to discuss her failed marriage or how badly she’d misjudged her ex-husband. If she wanted to have that conversation all she had to do was call her mother and listen to one of her I-told-you-so rants.

Anna packed Cody’s clothes and his favorite stuffed monkey in a duffel bag. Her life would have been much easier if she’d listened when her parents had deemed Todd a freeloader and forbidden her to see him, but at twenty she’d been flush with the freedom of college, overwhelmed by Todd’s attention and too naive to see anything but what he had wanted her to see—his mesmerizing charm, his amazing musical talent, and the big dreams he’d spun.

That love-struck blindness had peaked when Todd had convinced her to elope right after graduation. And even though her parents had packed her belongings, set them on their front porch and told her she’d have to live with the consequences of her impulsive behavior when Anna had shared the news of her marriage, she couldn’t regret her decision.

If she’d heeded her parents’ advice she wouldn’t have Cody, and her little angel was worth any pain or sacrifice she had to endure.

The most important thing her parents’ and Todd’s betrayals had taught her was that she was better off on her own—just her and Cody. She didn’t need a man, and Cody was all the family she needed.

She carried the duffel bag and the economy pack of diapers to the den and piled them in the toy basket. She hadn’t noticed any toys at Hollister’s. But then she hadn’t been shown the playroom. Perhaps her new boss insisted on keeping the clutter there.

Hollister indicated the loaded basket. “Is all this going?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll take it to the car and come back for the rest.”

“But it’s four flights—”

“I remember.”

Of course he did. He’d climbed the stairs since the elevator was broken. Again. The building wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t all that good either. But it was clean and had been within walking distance of her old job. She knew her neighbors and felt safe here.

“I’ll be ready by the time you return.”

When he left the apartment tension instantly drained from her. She snatched the stack of bills off the breakfast bar and shoved them into her purse. She had a job that would enable her to pay her bills. For now. And with a good reference from Pierce Hollister maybe she could land another position soon after this one.

She quickly packed her clothing and toiletries into her old suitcase. She’d forgotten to ask how he expected her to dress. She hoped her wardrobe of casual dresses and skorts would suffice.

She headed for the den just as a knock sounded on the door. Elle peeked through the opening. “You got the job?”

“Yes, Elle, I did. I start today.”

The thirteen-year-old’s narrow shoulders drooped. “I guess you won’t need me to babysit then?”

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