Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Teacher's Billionaire by Christina Tetreault ♥ FREE EBOOK ♥ (Contemporary Romance)




This is a Contemporary Romance. It contains love scenes.

Callie Taylor's life is turned upside down when she learns the truth about her birth following the death of her mother. Not only is her father alive, but he's none other than presidential candidate Senator Warren Sherbrooke.

Billionaire and confirmed bachelor, Dylan Talbot, is devoted to his family. When his stepfather Warren Sherbrooke receives a letter from a past love telling him they have a daughter together, Dylan is instantly suspicious. In order to keep the media vultures away and protect Warren's political aspirations, Dylan convinces Warren to let him handle the situation.

As Callie and Dylan spend time together, they can't resist the feelings that blossom between them. However, when Callie learns the real reason he has been spending time with her their fledgling romance is put in jeopardy and only complete honesty can save it.

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS BOOK WAS UPLOADED. HOWEVER, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOME READERS PURCHASED THE BOOK PRIOR TO THAT EVENT.



Chapter 1

“Done.” Callie Taylor stretched and then tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear before packing her materials back into her large tote bag. After spending an afternoon correcting papers, she couldn’t wait to sample the brownies she’d grabbed on the way home that afternoon. An unexpected knock on her apartment door stopped her, and she grinned as her border terrier, Lucky, bolted off the living room couch and flew across the kitchen’s tile floor.
Without a second thought, Callie followed the dog and pulled open the door. She expected to find another one of the local children selling candy bars for the school fundraiser. Already, several children from nearby homes had come by, and she’d bought candy from each of them. She just couldn’t say no. At this rate, she would have enough candy to last until next spring. But it wasn’t a child standing on her threshold.
“Mrs. Lee! Come on in,” Callie greeted her mom’s closest friend. Although she’d spoken to the older woman many times over the past few months, she hadn’t seen Mrs. Lee since her mom’s funeral three months earlier.
“How many times do I have to tell you? Call me Helen. ‘Mrs. Lee’ makes me feel ancient.” Mrs. Lee’s usual warm smile canceled out the stern tone in her voice.
“I’m sorry. I’ll try. Promise.” Callie closed the door behind her guest. “Ignore the mess. I’ve been working on school stuff. Do you want something to drink? Some tea or coffee?”
“Hot tea sounds perfect.” Helen pulled out one of the colorful, mismatched wooden chairs at the table and sat.
Callie put the teakettle on the stove and then stuffed the last of her school materials in her bag, the whole time wondering what brought Helen by so unexpectedly. A sweet old-fashioned lady, Helen believed in calling before she visited even her closest friends. Whatever the reason behind her visit today, it must be important. And if her unexpected visit wasn’t odd enough, now she remained silent at the table. Normally, she was the energizer bunny of conversation. She just kept going and going.
“Would you like a brownie? I stopped at Rosie’s earlier.” Callie placed a cup of tea and a napkin in front of her visitor.
“No, thank you. I’m all set, but feel free to have one.”
Callie grabbed a brownie and then sat down at the table.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m here.” Helen mixed sugar into her tea, but didn’t look at Callie. “I would have called first, but I feared I’d change my mind again before I got here. I got halfway here early last month and turned around.” She put down her spoon and reached for her napkin.
Callie watched as Helen folded and unfolded her napkin and hoped the woman would expand on her cryptic statement.
“A few days before your mom died, she asked me to do her a favor once she was gone. Ruth wanted me to mail a letter she wrote.” Helen kept her eyes focused on her tea as she spoke. “I finally mailed it Monday morning.”
She’d never heard of such an odd request, and Callie couldn’t help but wonder what the letter had been about, or why her mom hadn’t asked her to mail it. “Oh? Who was the letter to?”
Helen remained silent for several seconds, and Callie thought she wasn’t going to answer. “Helen?”
Reaching across the table, Helen took hold of Callie’s hands. “Before I say anything, I need you to understand that Ruth loved you more than anything. She made the decisions she did because she wanted to protect you.”
A growing sense of dread crept through her body, and Callie nodded at Helen’s odd statement.
“She didn’t even tell me the truth until she gave me the letter to mail.”
Callie heard the hurt in the woman’s voice. Her mom and Helen Lee had been friends almost their entire lives, and she couldn’t imagine them keeping secrets from each other.
After taking another deep breath, Helen continued. “She even made me promise not to say anything to you, but now that I’ve mailed the letter, it doesn’t seem right that you don’t know.” Again Helen paused.
“I know my mom loved me, Helen. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
Helen squeezed her hand. “Callie, your father is alive. The letter Ruth asked me to mail was to him. Your mom never told him she was pregnant.”
Callie heard the words, but her brain just wouldn’t let her process them. It couldn’t be. “You must have misunderstood her. Mom told me my dad died in a car accident before I was born.” Callie’s voice grew louder with each word. Maybe Mom had kept secrets from her, but she’d never lied to her. If her father was alive, Mom would’ve told her.
Helen squeezed Callie’s hand again. “I didn’t misunderstand, Callie. Your father is alive, and by now, he has gotten your mom’s letter and knows you’re his daughter.”
Pain exploded in her chest as anger and betrayal sliced through Callie’s heart. How could her mom have kept this from her? Yanking her hands away, she stood and walked away from the table. Without warning, tears began to flow down her face and her body trembled as Helen’s words reverberated in her head.
“Why...?” Callie asked as confusion and pain washed over her. “Why didn’t she tell me? Why didn’t she tell him? And why bother now?”
Helen walked over and embraced Callie in a motherly hug rather than answer right away. Instead of comforting her, Helen’s show of affection caused a fresh round of tears to erupt.
“She wanted to protect you. Ruth thought if you knew, you would try to contact him, and she was afraid you wouldn’t be accepted in his world.” Helen’s voice remained soft and loving, much like it would be if she spoke to her own daughter.
Callie pulled away to find some tissues. “Who is he, and why didn’t she tell him when she was pregnant? Why bother telling him now? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Sighing, Helen moved back to her chair and sat down. “At the time, she wanted to protect him. Sometimes people make bad decisions concerning those they love.” Helen paused and took a sip of tea. “Sit down and I’ll tell you everything your mom told me when she gave me the letter.”
***
Dylan Talbot loosened his tie as he climbed the wide mahogany staircase—his footsteps muffled by the thick Persian runner. He didn’t know what to expect when he walked into his stepfather’s study. Earlier that afternoon, his mother had called insisting he come to the family estate in the Hamptons as soon as possible and talk some sense into her husband. Something she’d never asked him to do before.
Both his mother and stepfather, Warren Sherbrooke, sat in Warren’s study when Dylan entered. After placing a kiss on his mother’s cheek, he moved to the leather wingback chair across from the matching leather sofa.
Thankfully, his mother got right to the point. “I’m glad you’re here. Maybe you can get Warren to see reason. He won’t listen to me.” Elizabeth Sherbrooke sat uncharacteristically wringing her manicured hands. She was normally a cool and collected woman. For something to get her so riled, it had to be serious.
Dylan focused on the man, who was like a father to him. Warren had treated him like a son from the moment he had married Dylan’s mother after his parents’ divorce when he was four. If he’d ever had any doubts about how his stepfather felt about him, they’d disappeared when Warren had decided to enter politics and handed the reins of Sherbrooke Enterprises over to him. In addition to some charitable foundations, Sherbrooke Enterprises controlled the Sherbrooke Hotel chain, which was one of the largest hotel chains in the world.
“Will one of you tell me what’s going on?” Dylan asked when Warren remained silent.
“I received this in the mail yesterday.” Warren handed Dylan a pale pink envelope. “It’s a letter from a woman I knew a very long time ago.”
Mum couldn’t be jealous. Everyone knew Senator Warren Sherbrooke loved his wife. Theirs was one of the few true love marriages in D.C.
“She claims her daughter is Warren’s child,” Elizabeth said when her husband didn’t continue.
Dylan opened his mouth, but snapped it shut, unsure of what to say. People might call his stepfather many things, but an unfaithful husband wasn’t one of them.
Curious, Dylan pulled out the handwritten letter and scanned its contents. “Whoever this woman is, she must be lying. She must be after something.” He fully expected Warren to agree, but instead, his stepfather shook his head.
“Ruth Taylor wouldn’t lie about something like this.” The conviction in his stepfather’s voice rang out loud and clear.
“People change, Warren. You haven’t spoken to this woman in over thirty years.”
“If she was after something, Elizabeth, she would have come forward long before now. I don’t know why she waited to tell me about this, but I plan to find out.”
Dylan leaned forward in his chair and rested his elbows on his knees. Despite what Warren said, he had to agree with his mother. In his personal opinion, Warren put too much faith in people. While he wouldn’t disagree that there were good, honorable people in the world, he didn’t think there were many of them. At least, he hadn’t met many in his thirty-three years.
“Perhaps she waited for the most opportune time,” Dylan suggested. “When she learned you’d decided to run for President, she might have decided this was the best time. Maybe she thought you’d be willing to pay her to keep quiet rather than let the media get this information.”
Warren pulled a single white sheet of paper out of the priority envelope on his desk. “This note came with Ruth’s letter. According to it, Ruth passed away three months ago. She left the letter you’re holding with a friend named Helen Lee. Helen mailed it to me.” He passed the second letter to Dylan. “So Ruth has nothing to gain by telling me now.”
“I’m assuming Mum’s upset because you want to meet this supposed daughter.”
“I am not upset because he wants to get to the bottom of this. Just that he wants to do it now. If the media or Richardson gets hold of this information, it could hurt his campaign. And it might not be true.”
Now he understood why his mother was so adamant about stopping Warren. Even before Warren had announced his intention to run for President, the media and public had scrutinized the Sherbrooke family. As a family that had originally amassed its fortune in the 19th century while rubbing elbows with the Vanderbilts and the Astors, it gained additional public notice when Warren’s grandfather joined the political arena in Washington. Warren, the son of a famous actress and a business tycoon, drew even more attention to the family when he’d married Dylan’s mother, the daughter of an English aristocrat.
“I think it would be better to wait until after the election in November. It has been this long already, so a little longer won’t matter. Don’t you agree, Dylan?”
Nothing like being put on the spot. For a moment, Dylan remained silent, mulling over how to reply. “You have a tight schedule for the next several months. It might be wise to wait and, in the meantime, hire someone to learn more about this...” Dylan glanced down at the letter again. “Callie Taylor.”
Warren tapped his fingers on the desk. Something he did when he was deep in thought.
“My mind’s made up. I’ve already put a call into Marty to see about rearranging my schedule,” Warren said, referring to his campaign adviser, Marty Phillips. “I know you’re all against it, but this is something I need to do. I need to know the truth. I won’t be able to let it rest until I do.”
Dylan stood and walked to the large bay window, which provided an excellent view of the manicured lawn and ocean. Dylan knew when Warren made up his mind about something, changing it was nearly impossible. So convincing him it would be better to wait until after the election to make contact with this woman was unlikely. That didn’t mean, however, that he couldn’t intervene and help defuse the situation.
“Instead of going to see her yourself, why don’t you have someone arrange a private meeting?” Dylan turned back around to face Warren. “Maybe she could meet you here or at one of your other houses. Then there would be much less chance of someone seeing the two of you together, and virtually no chance of the media or Richardson getting wind of this.”
While not ideal, the plan was better than Warren’s.
“This isn’t some woman we’re talking about. This is my daughter!” Warren jumped to his feet. “I’m not going to send a hired messenger to meet with her. She deserves better than that.”
Obviously, his stepfather didn’t entertain the idea that this was all a lie. In his mind, Warren believed Callie Taylor was his daughter, and for Warren’s sake, Dylan hoped it was true, that this wasn’t some kind of scheme to get money from the family.
Regardless, that didn’t mean Dylan planned on blindly accepting the fact. “What if I go and see her?” Playing messenger didn’t rank high on his list, but it would help protect Warren from any possible negative media attention.
“My schedule at the end of the month is light.” At least lighter than usual. “I’ll talk to her and set something up for you.”
By the way his mother nodded, he assumed she agreed with his idea. “What do you think?” he asked.
His mother smiled for the first time since his arrival. “I agree with Dylan, and I know Marty will approve. Let Dylan handle this for you, Warren.”
She hadn’t said it, but he suspected his mother thought the same thing he did. He’d always been a shrewd judge of character. A face-to-face meeting with Ms. Taylor might be enough to prove whether or not she was Warren’s daughter or just someone out for something. Maybe this Callie Taylor learned of her mother’s past relationship with Warren years ago and decided to use it to her advantage now. She could have written the letter and mailed it herself. Obviously, his stepfather hadn’t thought of that possibility.
Several seconds passed before Warren reluctantly nodded. “Do it, but if you don’t make it happen, I will.”
Dylan didn’t care why his stepfather agreed to his plan. He just wanted to take care of the problem and keep it all from the media.
***
Sighing, Callie rubbed her temples and looked back at her work. Half a stack of science tests remained uncorrected in front of her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t focus. In fact, she hadn’t been able to focus on much for the past five days, not since Helen Lee dropped the bombshell about her father in her lap and turned her entire life upside down.
After spending her whole life believing her father had died in an accident, Callie didn’t know how to feel now that she knew the truth. If that wasn’t enough, he was also an exceedingly rich and powerful man who might be the next President of the United States. News like that would mess with anyone’s head.
“You should have told me.” Callie touched the gold locket around her neck. The same locket her mom had always worn because it had been a gift from Callie’s father, or at least that was what her mom had told her. Who knew, maybe that was a lie too?
Callie clenched her jaw as anger toward her mom flared. It happened every time she thought about how her mom had kept the truth from her. Callie hated lies and secrets. She knew from personal experience that nothing good ever came from them.
Through the open window, Callie heard a car pull into the driveway behind her apartment building. The noise sent Lucky straight to the window for a better look. Not long afterward, a strong knock on the door sent Lucky bolting across the floor. Thankful for the distraction, Callie followed at a somewhat slower pace.
She didn’t know whom she’d expected when she opened the door, but it wasn’t the large and exceedingly well-dressed, dark-haired Adonis standing on the other side. Like a brainless ninny, she stood and gawked at the gorgeous man standing on the landing. An occasional reader of The Star Report and Celebrity magazines, she’d seen plenty of pictures of business executive Dylan Talbot. In fact, months earlier, he’d been voted one of the most eligible bachelors in the United States.
The man standing at her door could be his identical twin. They say everyone has a twin. Her brain just wouldn’t let her consider the possibility it was him, because that would mean only one thing, Warren Sherbrooke sent him.
“Miss Taylor?” the gentleman—dressed in a dark gray suit Callie suspected he hadn’t picked up at the local mall—asked.
“Can. . . can I help you?” She’d hoped maybe he’d come to the wrong apartment, but if he was asking for her by name, that wasn’t possible.
Lord, you might think she’d never seen a handsome man before. Not this handsome, I haven’t.
The man offered her a friendly smile that transformed him from gorgeous to downright heart-stopping. “I hoped to have a word with you. Warren Sherbrooke sent me.” The man’s deep voice and slight English accent washed over her as his words sent her stomach plummeting.
Since her conversation with Helen Lee, she’d tried not to think about Warren Sherbrooke and her unknown family. She was having a difficult enough time dealing with the fact her mother had lied to her for thirty-one years. Unfortunately, it looked like she could not ignore Warren Sherbrooke any longer.
Under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t let a stranger into her apartment, but this didn’t fall in the normal circumstances category. “Please come in, Mr…” She paused, accepting the fact the man was Dylan Talbot and not just a look-alike. Warren Sherbrooke was married to Dylan Talbot’s mother.
The man pulled open the screen door. “Dylan Talbot,” he said, extending his hand to her once inside.
Her friends would never believe Dylan Talbot had been to her apartment. She wouldn’t blame them. If they told her one of the country’s most desirable men had shown up on their doorstep, she wouldn’t believe it either. Actually, she would probably laugh at them.
So not important now. Focus on why he’s here.
He’d mentioned Warren Sherbrooke. Obviously, her father had received the letter her mother wrote him. Did he believe it? And if he did, why hadn’t he contacted her himself? Why send someone else?



Chapter 2

Dylan shoved his hands into his pants pockets and studied the woman in front of him. He already knew a fair amount about her. After his meeting with Warren and his mother, he used Sherbrooke Enterprises’ HR system to run a background check on Callie Taylor. Not that it turned up anything worrisome. She was an elementary school teacher who had done her undergraduate at Boston University on a sports scholarship. The only outstanding debt she had was a small student loan from UMass for her Master’s degree. She had no criminal record, not even a parking ticket. Still, that didn’t mean she didn’t want something from Warren.
“You look confused, Miss Taylor.”
When Callie didn’t reply, he continued. “My stepfather, Warren Sherbrooke, received a letter last week from your mother claiming you’re his daughter. Warren believes it’s true and wants to meet you. He sent me to arrange a meeting.”
As he spoke, Dylan watched the woman. Although he had his doubts, he couldn’t deny the family resemblance. Her eyes were the exact same shade of sapphire blue as Warren’s, and her visual likeness to his half-sister Sara had initially taken him aback. Like Sara, Callie had a pretty heart-shaped face with large eyes and delicate features. Unlike Sara, however, the woman in front of him had dark mahogany hair and lush full lips. But it wasn’t the family resemblance that surprised him the most; rather it was the utter shock on Callie Taylor’s face.
“He wants to meet me?” Callie whispered loud enough for him to hear.
“Are you feeling well, Miss Taylor?” All the color drained out of her face and he feared she might faint. “Maybe you should sit down.” Without waiting for an answer, he guided her to a painted kitchen chair and pulled it out for her.
Giving him a weak smile, she sank into the seat and rested her elbows on the table. “I didn’t think he would contact me.” Callie paused and Dylan sensed she was trying to regain her composure. “Mrs. Lee told me about the letter she mailed him, but I didn’t think he would want to meet me.”
“Helen Lee?”
Callie nodded.
“There was a note included from a woman named Helen Lee.” Dylan opened his suit jacket, and pulled out an envelope. Before he’d left the Hamptons, Warren had given him copies of both letters. “Warren wants to see you as soon as possible. He would’ve come himself, but he’s campaigning out West.” He thought his words would bring a smile to her face. Instead, she merely continued to stare at him as if he had grown three heads.
Callie laughed nervously. “Meet him? I don’t know if I can do that right now.” The words came out slowly, as if she was deliberately thinking of the correct response. “Until several days ago, I didn’t even know my father was alive. I’m not sure I’m ready to meet him, Mr. Talbot.”
Her admission surprised him. Neither he nor Warren had considered the possibility that she hadn’t always known the truth, or what Warren believed to be the truth, which was something Dylan couldn’t help but start to believe himself, given the family resemblance.
“Now isn’t a good time anyway.” Callie ran her tongue over her bottom lip. “It’s getting close to the end of the school year. That’s one of the busiest times.” As she spoke, she stroked her dog’s head. The dog sat pressed up against her leg, his eyes never leaving Dylan. “I need some time to think about all this.”
Dylan nodded. If what she said was true, he could only guess what must be going through her mind. Still, he needed to get this meeting set up before Warren took matters into his own hands. “I’m scheduled to be in Boston until Friday on business. If you decide you’re ready, you can fly back to New York with me.”
Callie shook her head, her long dark ponytail swinging back and forth. “That’s nice of you, but I know I won’t be ready by then. Maybe when school is out in June.”
Dylan knew his stepfather didn’t want to wait any longer than necessary. Getting him to wait till now had been a challenge, but he couldn’t physically force Callie to fly back with him. However, he might be able to change her mind. When he chose to be, he could be quite persuasive, especially when it came to the opposite sex.
“My cell phone number and office number are on here.” He handed her his business card. “I’ll be back to see you before I leave Boston. If you change your mind before then, call me.”
Without a word, Callie accepted the card. “I’ll definitely think about it, Mr. Talbot, but I don’t think I’ll change my mind.”
“Warren wanted you to have this. It’s a copy of the letter your mother sent to him. Perhaps it’ll help you make your decision.” Placing the envelope on the table, he took a step toward her. “From the sound of the letter, your mother wanted you to meet Warren.” He added the last comment about her mother hoping it would help change her mind. Though he disagreed with Warren’s decision, he’d promised his stepfather he would set up this meeting. He planned on doing just that before he left the state.
“Why don’t we go out for dinner tonight? I can answer any questions you have about Warren or the family. The more you know about him, the easier it will be to make a decision.” The way he figured it, the more time he spent with her, the more time he’d have to sway her decision. Once he set up the meeting between her and Warren, he could wash his hands of the situation.

He was a wealthy politician who sent others to do his errands. What more did she need to know? If he was that anxious to meet her, the least he could do was come himself. Yet, she couldn’t complain about his choice of messenger.
In fact, Callie doubted any woman would complain about finding Dylan Talbot on their doorstep. And as tempting as most would find his offer for dinner, she had to refuse. Not only did she have work to complete, but she didn’t need Warren Sherbrooke’s messenger trying to force her to make a decision she wasn’t ready to make. Even if the messenger was drop-dead gorgeous.
If and when she decided to meet her father, it would be when she felt ready. While she didn’t know when that would be, she knew it wasn’t this weekend.
“I appreciate the offer, Mr. Talbot—” Before she could complete her sentence, Dylan interrupted.
“Please, call me Dylan.”
Uncomfortable with calling him by his first name, Callie ignored the interruption and continued. “Tonight isn’t a good night. I have a lot of work to do.” She maintained eye contact as she spoke, but it wasn’t easy. She’d always found it difficult to lie to someone while looking them right in the face. This fact had always made it nearly impossible for her to lie to her mother. Evidently, her mother hadn’t shared the same problem.
Dylan raised an eyebrow, suggesting he didn’t believe her, but otherwise didn’t comment.
I’m not really lying. There are things I need to finish tonight. “Actually, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave, so I can get back to work.”
“Since you have so much to do, I won’t keep you any longer tonight, but I’ll be in touch.”
His tone remained polite, but she suspected he was being a bit sarcastic. Not that she cared at the moment. He planned to leave, and that was all that mattered.
“Have a nice evening, Miss Taylor.” Dylan walked back to the kitchen door.
“You too. Have a safe drive back to Boston.” Just because she wanted him as far away as possible didn’t mean she had to be rude.
Once Dylan left her apartment, she stood and paced between the table and the counter. In general, strangers made her uncomfortable, but Dylan Talbot gave the word uncomfortable a whole new definition. Usually, after meeting with a person a few times, she felt at ease with them. In this case though, Callie suspected she could spend a month with him and still be uneasy.
She pushed Dylan Talbot and his lovely English accent from her thoughts. Not an easy task. She’d always loved the sound of an English accent, regardless of the person speaking.
So Warren Sherbrooke wants to meet me. She’d never expected that, but now that she found herself confronted with the fact, she wished she had someone to talk to. Another person’s opinion might help her sort some of this out. Unfortunately, her closest friend, Lauren, wasn’t around. She’d gone to Cape Cod to visit family for the weekend. Who else could she trust? She didn’t want the world finding out about the situation. Right away, Callie thought of Helen Lee. The woman already knew the truth about her father. She was the perfect choice.
She pulled up Helen’s number in her contact list and hit call. “Mrs. Lee, it’s Callie,” she said when the other woman answered.
“What have I told you about that, Callie? It’s Helen. How are you doing? You’ve been on my mind.”
How had she been? Confused? Hurt? Shocked? “Still a little in shock.” Callie finally settled on. “You said if I needed to talk again, I could call.”
“I’ll help in any way I can. You know that,” Helen answered in her soft motherly voice.
“It’s about my father. I’m still not sure I want to meet him. Yeah, he’s my father, but. . . it’s just so strange, you know? At first, I didn’t want to contact him because I thought he would deny I’m his daughter, but he sent someone here today to set up a meeting with me.”
“That’s a good sign. So when are you meeting Warren?” Helen’s voice took on an upbeat tone. “He seemed like a great man when I knew him, but I was a little worried he wouldn’t believe Ruth’s letter after all these years.”
“Even if he does believe Mom’s letter, that doesn’t mean he’ll accept me.”
Helen made a tsking sound. “Why wouldn’t he, Callie? You are a wonderful woman. He should be proud to call you his daughter.”
Although she didn’t know more than what the media said about the man, she did know he was one of the richest men in America. “I doubt he has many school teachers in the family,” Callie said, unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She knew from her personal experiences in high school that the wealthy often looked down on those without huge bank accounts matching their own.
“Ruth always only had good things to say about him, and like I said, when I knew him, he seemed like a great man. If I were you, I would give him a chance. What is the worst that could happen?”
Callie had other reasons for not wanting to meet him, but she didn’t want to share them with Helen or anyone else. At some level, she felt if she never met him face to face, she could almost convince herself that nothing had changed. Somehow, ignoring the truth made it easier to keep at bay the anger she felt toward her mother for lying.
Callie had considered her mom more than just a parent. She’d thought of her as a friend too. She never doubted her mother felt the same way. At least not until several days ago.
“So you really think I should meet with him?” Callie asked instead of telling Helen the whole truth.
Again, Helen sighed. “Only you can decide that, but I do think it is what your mom wanted. Why else would she have told him after all these years?”
“Maybe you’re right. Thanks for listening.”
“Anytime, Callie. Really.”
For a solid hour after getting off the phone, Callie worked, or at least tried to work, on correcting papers. Unfortunately, her eyes kept getting pulled back to the envelope that Dylan left. He said Warren wanted her to have a copy of the letter Mom had sent him. Dylan seemed to think it might help her make a decision. Could he be right? Then again, should she even read it? Mom had sent it to Warren Sherbrooke, not her. If her mom had wanted her to know what it said, wouldn’t she have sent her a copy too?
Read it. See what it says, a little voice repeated over and over again. If Warren wanted her to have it, then it was okay to read it.
Callie picked up the letter and opened the envelope. Before she changed her mind, she unfolded it. She almost cried at the sight of her mom’s familiar handwriting. After taking a deep breath, she started reading.
Dear Warren,
I hope this letter finds you well. Several times in the past, I’ve sat down and started this letter only to tear it up. This time I’m determined to finish it and tell you all the things I should’ve a long time ago because I may not get another chance.
First, please know that I never stopped loving you. Not a single day has gone by that I have not thought of you. The years we spent as friends and the months we spent together as much more meant the world to me, and I have always cherished them. So many times since our last night together, I’ve wished that I handled things differently. Honestly, I’d go back and change things in a heartbeat if I could.
A year after I left you, I almost reached out to you so I could correct my mistake. I even had my overnight bag packed and my train ticket for New York booked. The afternoon I was to leave, I spotted a picture of you and Elizabeth on the cover of The Star Report. The two of you looked so happy and perfect for each other that I didn’t want to interfere, so I never made the trip.
I hope you believe me when I say I made the decisions I did back then because I thought it was the right choice for everyone.
The remainder of this letter is difficult for me to write, but you have a right to know the truth. Actually, you had a right to know a long time ago. It was wrong of me to keep the truth from you.
Warren, we have a daughter together. Her name is Callie Taylor. She’s grown to be a wonderful, caring woman. I couldn’t ask for a better daughter. Every time I look at her, I am reminded of you and the wonderful friendship we had. She looks a great deal like you. She even has your blue eyes. Callie lives in Slatersville, Massachusetts, and she teaches at Reagan Elementary School. I am including both her home address and her email address in this letter in case you want to contact her.
I know I’m asking a lot, but I hope you can somehow forgive me for my actions. I never meant to hurt you. Even if you cannot do that, I hope you will make Callie a part of your life.
Love always,
Ruth
Callie wiped the tears from her cheek and then folded the letter back up. So many unanswered questions and emotions bombarded her that Callie knew she’d never get any more work done tonight. After putting the letter back in the envelope, she turned her attention to Lucky, who sat near her chair.
“How does a walk sound?” Lucky stood and started whining. “I’ll take that as good.”
***
“So you’re telling me your father is alive?” Lauren McDonald said louder than Callie would’ve liked. The two of them were in Callie’s classroom eating lunch the following day. Lauren wasn’t only Callie’s closest friend, but also a fellow teacher at Reagan Elementary School.
While she hadn’t intended to tell Lauren about her mother’s secret yet, she couldn’t keep the information bottled up any longer. She simply needed to talk more. Her conversation with Helen hadn’t been enough, and she trusted Lauren more than anyone else.
Tucking several strands of ash blonde hair behind her ear, Lauren rested her chin on her hands and leaned forward. “Why didn’t she tell you before?” She didn’t give Callie a chance to answer her first question before continuing. “You guys seemed so close. It’s hard to believe she kept this from you.”
Tell me about it. “I wish I knew all the answers.” Callie frowned. “The only thing I know is Senator Warren Sherbrooke and my mother were involved thirty-two years ago.”
A sudden gasp escaped from Lauren. “You didn’t tell me he was your father!”
“Yes, I did.” Callie thought she mentioned it, but the look on Lauren’s face said otherwise.
Lauren shook her head adamantly, causing her long pink earrings to dance wildly. “What else did you forget to tell me, chickie?”
She’d left out Dylan Talbot’s visit too. “My father sent someone to my apartment.” For some reason, she didn’t want to mention Dylan’s name. Maybe it was because she still found it hard to believe he’d really been in her apartment. “My father wants to meet me, or at least that’s what his messenger said.”
“So when are you going to see him?”
Callie shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, maybe never.”
Lauren’s light brown eyes grew wide. “Why not? It sounds as if he’s sincere. I don’t think it’d hurt to give him a chance. Worst case, he turns out to be a jerk and you wasted a few hours of your day. There are worse things than that.”
Lauren made it sound so simple, and maybe if her emotions weren’t involved, it would be. Unfortunately, she couldn’t turn her emotions off.
“You might be right, but I’m not ready. I can’t explain it. Something tells me now isn’t the time. Besides, I can’t take time off now, you know that. Once school ends, I’ll reconsider.”
“If you say so.” Lauren frowned. “But I think you should give him a chance, Callie. Meet with him at least once. You could end up having a great relationship with your father and his family.”
Callie and Lauren finished their lunches and threw away their trash in silence. The students were due back from recess at any minute.
________________________________________
End of this sample Kindle book.



       




I wrote my first story with characters similar to those in the Sweet Valley Twins books at the age of 10 on my grandmother’s manual typewriter. As I got older my stories and characters became more mature. During my freshman year at UMass Dartmouth, I read my first romance novel and fell in love with the genre. I have been writing romance ever since.

Today I live with my husband, three beautiful daughters and two dogs in Massachusetts. Whenever I have a free moment you’ll find me either reading a romance novel or working on my most current story.

        



@cgricci http://goo.gl/ALBQEP pic.twitter.com/N5M9cZlDxU

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