While going through my files today, I found several novels that are all but completed. Here is one that I particularly like because it involves a child. Stories of children are close to my heart.
I hope you enjoy reading a couple of chapters.
NOT MY OWN
Megan Phillips is an only child, or so she thinks. Estranged from her father for nine years, yet she’s too stubborn to ask why he’d never contacted her.
After her father passed away, she is shocked when she learns she has a half-brother, Adam. A brother she hadn’t known existed, who is now motherless and fatherless. Adam’s future depends on Megan.
But Megan has no intention of accepting the inheritance from her father’s estate, nor the responsibility of his child.
Though Megan has a soft place in her heart for children, will she welcome Adam with open arms, or give up Adam and all rights to her inheritance?
In a couple of hours, life as Megan Phillips knew it, would be forever changed.
She tossed and turned, and at five am, rolled over, popped off the alarm, then burrowed back under the covers. What she wouldn’t give to sleep the morning away, to erase the dreadful memories that floated inside her head. Instead, she kicked back the covers and crawled from the bed’s warmth, tied her hair back, tugged on sweats, then headed out the door for her usual morning run.
The relocation to Helen next week had its drawbacks, but she could do with a fresh start, one without immediate reminders of Brian and Seth that haunted her every thought. At least that’s what several friends had advised. She had yet to believe it herself. How does one simply forget?
No amount of distance could wipe out the memories. She was well aware of that. The house was full of memories. Haunted memories. Everything she touched set off new waves of nausea, or each time she passed by their photos, they reduced her heart to ashes. Still, she wanted those reminders around. Reminders of a kind, loving husband. A priceless gift from God…Her son.
Their deaths had driven her to the edge of collapse, of insanity. She’d lost her reason for living. Nothing or anyone could ever fill the void. Somewhere, and at some time, she’d have to find peace. She couldn’t live this way forever, but finding that peace didn’t seem close enough yet.
Moving forward was her only option, no matter that her mother always said, ‘You can’t run from your problems, sweetheart.’ She wasn’t running, only relocating. She prayed her decision was as it should be, not based on self-seeking needs and one she wouldn’t regret. Megan jogged at a cool down pace, then followed the trail back to the entrance of her apartment a little before six.
At seven sharp she’d applied make-up and paid special attention around the now barely visible scar on the left side of her upper lip. The scar, a reminder of being thrown from the horse her father had bought for her when she was twelve. The phone’s shrill ring whisked her back into reality.
Megan gripped the phone while her pulse soared like a hot-wired sports car.
“Excuse me? Would you repeat that?”
The voice on the other end popped across the lines, stiff and professional. “Bret Evans, Mrs. Phillips. I represent your father.”
Megan’s first reaction was to hang up, instead she fought down the demons, pushing dread deep inside her belly. Instead, curiosity won out. To ignore the call, now that he’d found her, was a waste of time. Mental images of deceit assaulted what contentment she’d found in nine years. Thomas Hall, her father, was about to slip into her life again.
“Mr. Evans, I’m on my way out the door. What can I do for you?” Regardless that the masculine voice on the other end intrigued her, now Megan wished she’d censored the call.
“I’m sorry. I’m not at liberty to discuss this information over the phone. What I can tell you is, it’s urgent that you come to Vail. At once.”
“That’s out of the question.”
“Mr. Hall asked if you’d be kind enough to honor this one request. A number of legalities require your presence.”
After a long pause, she thought they’d been disconnected.
“When can we expect you?”
Megan took offense that a stranger would exude so much control. Still, she reserved the irritation in her voice. “Mr. Evans. Please extend regrets to my father. It’s impossible to get away at this time.”
Or any other time for that matter. Megan despised the day she and her father, Thomas Hall, argued about her future. Their estrangement hadn’t centered on one disagreement though. It seemed they’d always been at odds with each other, especially when it came to his ambitions versus her own goals.
“It’s crucial you be here, Mrs. Phillips.”
Outside, lightning bolted across the sky and rain came quick and hard, giving birth to a vapor rising from the pavement on a cool October morning. Her finger automatically reached to touch the scar on her lip as waves of nausea battered her stomach. She’d felt safe enough, until now.
“I’m sure it is. It always was. You have my answer,” Megan said, then punched the end button on the phone.
Megan leaned against the wall and pressed her fingers into her temples, closeting a moment of despair. She was still dealing with the loss of her husband and son, that was more than enough for any human to endure.
The last person on earth she ever wanted to see again was Thomas Hall.
Two days later, she stepped off a plane in Vail, Colorado.
Despite the sunlight’s warmth spider-webbing across the gray marble floor, Megan felt a chill cut to her bones. Death hung in the air. She smelled it. Felt it. Her senses alive with familiarity.
Each click of her heels inched her closer to the hissing respirator of room 407.
Megan pressed three fingers against her temples, hoping to rid herself of the blinding headache.
Accommodating the Vail attorney’s request, providing closure to a chain of unhappy incidents in her past was not what she’d had in mind. Still she’d come. Facing the man in the bed would be the hardest thing she’d done since her husband and son’s death.
Uncertain of his feelings, Megan moved into the room and stopped beside his bed. She knew his illness was terminal, but was unprepared for what she saw. It was all she could do to keep from crying.
She was stubborn, and couldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her tears. With a smile pasted on her face, she walked forward and braved seeing her father again.
Her breath caught at the blue eyes that once tormented her, staring back glazed in impending death. Anger and resentment passed like a storm in the night over their nine years of separation.
He’d been a virile, yet vain man. The salt and peppered hair that he’d cherished had turned to alabaster.
Thin, yellowed skin folded into crevices of his skeletal form and stilled bony fingers, did little to satisfy her need for revenge. What did it matter that he’d not know she’d become successful in spite of him. Looking at her father now, nothing would matter. He was beyond knowing or caring.
Megan recalled her mother’s words. ‘Time waits for no man. Savor every moment.’ There would be no more moments for them. No more time to ease the pain of separation and the precious time they’d spent apart.
A lump rose in her. She felt cheated of the time they’d lost. Had her stubbornness been worth what she knew now to be the last days, maybe the last hours of her father’s life?
Bret sauntered through the hospital suite’s adjoining room, while Megan sat and stared out the hospital’s window. Snow piled high on the window’s ledge and swirled from the winds that had the temperature dropping at an alarming rate.
Unable to get the husky feminine voice out of his head since their phone conversation, he stared at the petite vision before him.
“Yes.” Megan turned. “Mr. Evans?” A shock of sandy hair falling forward on bronzed skin met her scrutiny.
“Bret. Bret Evans.” He smiled, immersed in the scent of her perfume. When he reached to shake hands, he closed his right hand over hers. From photos of her, he’d known she was beautiful but in person, was even more so.
“Please…call me Bret.”
“Thank you. It’s impossible to speak with my father now. He’s beyond speech.” Bret gazed into her eyes and saw a deep hurt inside.
“I’m sorry. If only you could have gotten here sooner.” Bret didn’t know how she felt, but from the look on her face, she was clearly stunned at her father’s condition. “He asked for you.”
Thomas and Bret had discussed that he and his daughter weren’t particularly close, but he’d omitted the details. That had led Bret to wonder about their estrangement. Something was definitely amiss in their relationship.
Bret reached for his briefcase. “Can we talk?”
Megan glanced toward her father and nodded.
Bret rang for the nurse, then led Megan toward the coffee shop. The mirrored elevator gave Bret a perfect view of Megan’s face. She was definitely a beautiful woman.
“To sum it up, Ms. Phillips, your father retained me as your attorney, at least until his estate is settled. Which is quite large, I’m at liberty to say. I’ll act as your attorney until such time you deem no longer necessary.”
Bret waited and watched Megan, while a hint of pain etched her face. “Your father has a request that will no doubt come as a complete surprise. There is a matter of great importance that must be taken care of before we can get on with executing the will. My apologies.”
For all practical purposes, Megan assumed the brief time they spent together would be on a professional level. She stared into his eyes. They reminded her of a stormy blue sea. And, probably just as dangerous, she thought. Suddenly she was angry that he must see her as someone who would only think of money at a time like this.
“Mr. Evans. For the record, I’ve no intention of accepting anything from my father. I have no need for an attorney. I came here to appease my father and you, since you were both so insistent.”
“Mr. Evans. Whatever monies there are, please distribute between charities of your choice. How my father’s estate is executed is of no concern to me.”
“Perhaps you’ll experience a change of heart after hearing provisions of the will. However there is probate court to consider.”
Bret looked as though he tried to read her mind, but she’d thrown a wall around her.
“You’re the only person he trusts.”
Megan had no reason to believe that line, but if she were to get this over with, she would play along. “Tell me. What is this grand honor?”
“I’m not sure if you were aware your father had remarried. From the marriage there is a child…a boy. His name is Adam. Adam Phillips.”
Megan’s eyes flickered but made no move to comment. A brother, her father hadn’t even bothered to tell her he existed.
When Megan made no move to comment, Bret continued.
“Adam is a well mannered, bright child for his age. He loves his father deeply and hasn’t a clue of how to deal with his grief. His mother abandoned him when he was a year old. So, you see the child has no one else to turn to.”
“I’m terribly sorry. I had no way of knowing.” Suddenly the sound of Bret’s voice, his demeanor, made Megan nervous. Why was he talking of this child when all she wanted was to get out of here?
“Look, Ms. Phillips.” Bret stuffed his hands in his pockets, stared out over the coffee shop and continued. “Please, may I call you Megan?”
The conversation wasn’t going in the direction she’d hoped. This was not good. She couldn’t shake the uneasiness.
“If you wish.”
“There’s no way to tell you except to simply ask you outright. Adam needs a mother, or in your case, a sister. It’s pertinent we go before the judge before Thomas passes. Not that it’s impossible afterward, but the procedure is more simple beforehand.”
Megan gasped. “Go before a judge? A mother for Adam? What on earth are you talking about? What does Adam have to do with me? Surely his mother can be found or there is another family option?”
“Well, you are his sister. And according to your father’s wishes, he’s chosen you to take care of Adam.”
“Quite astounding for a man who hasn’t bothered to call, write or acknowledge the fact that I’m alive—in over nine years. I’m sure you’re aware he disowned me when my mother died.”
“We talked, yes. However circumstances, as has the will, have changed since then.”
“I was young and full of ideas for my own future. Not one he’d built for himself. He was never there for me, and now in death he wants to rule my life? I’m sorry. I can’t do it. I won’t. It’s impossible to mother a child I don’t even know. Besides, I know nothing of raising children. Are you certain there are no other family members?”
“None your father wanted to pursue. Adam’s grandparents could assume responsibility for the boy, but…”
“Well, then. You have your answer, don’t you? The boy has grandparents. I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic to have him live with them.”
“Not quite. You see, they haven’t seen Adam since he was a year old. There were objections from her parents. Thomas was twenty years older than Adam’s mother and her parents grew bitter when she’d married him without their approval. Your father has no desire for his only son to be reared by the grandparents. Who, by the way, had no contact with Adam even when his mother left.”
“Is locating the mother out of the question? How do you know the grandparents wouldn’t jump at the chance to raise their grandson?”
“They don’t care about him. If they did, they’d have made provisions to visit him before now. No. The grandparents are not an option. Your father was adamant that they remain nonexistent in Adam’s life.”
“As I said. The child isn’t my problem…or my responsibility. At least they were aware of his birth. Now if there isn’t anything else I can do for you, I’d like to get back home as soon as possible.”
“I wish you’d reconsider.” Bret spread his hands on the table. “Perhaps you’d meet with me at Thomas’ home this afternoon?”
“And why would I do that? We have nothing else to discuss.”
Megan knew how her father worked and saw that Bret suffered at her father’s hand in not making the custody case easy. Why hadn’t Bret suggested he talk to Megan himself? Explain it all to her. Before, it was too late. Maybe he had, but now—it was too late.
“Adam is looking forward to meeting you, Megan. He’ll be home from school at 3:30.”
“So Adam knows about me? This is heartless. Why wasn’t I told about Adam when you called?” But, she knew. She wouldn’t have come. Would’ve refused to come.
Megan’s temple’s throbbed while her insides shook violently from learning she had family this way. She wasn’t so sure she wouldn’t crumble under pressure, but stood firm in her belief that family always came first. She was strong and would remain so.
Adam was her brother, whether she wanted one or not.
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I wish you Butterflies, Music and Love…