Shallow Page 28

The silence was thick as they stared at each other and then the doors closed without them getting on or saying a word. “What was that all about?”

Payton looked pale. “That was my mother but that wasn’t my father. It was his business partner.”

Oh, shit. Not good. Not good at all. “I don’t know what to say. Are you all right?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think my brain has had time to process what I just saw.”

I tried to think of anything to better the situation. “Maybe you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

“What other conclusion could I jump to? She’s supposed to be at one of her Women’s Auxiliary meetings and I’m pretty sure they don’t hold those one on one in hotel rooms with men.”

Payton’s mom was definitely gettin’ it on with her dad’s partner. “Do you need to go home?”

“I think I have to. I’m sorry I’m screwing up our night.”

I put my arm around her and pulled her close. “Baby, it’s okay. You’re not screwing up anything, but I don’t think you’re in any kind of condition to drive. I’m taking you home and I’ll get Jake and Gabbi to follow us and pick me up at your house.”

She waited by the entrance while I got her purse and made arrangements with Jake. When we started driving toward her house, I had no idea if she wanted to talk or not, so I left that ball in her court. If she wanted to talk we would. If she didn’t, that was fine, too.

We were almost to her house when she finally decided she wanted to talk about what happened. “She’s gonna try to turn this on me.”

“What do you mean? Her affair with your dad’s business partner has nothing to do with you.”

“You don’t know how she is. She’s gonna try to deflect from what she was doing onto me being in a hotel with you.”

I pulled into the driveway and Jake parked on the street to wait for me. “Do you want me to go in with you?”

“No. That would only make things worse, but I truly appreciate it. This is something I have to handle on my own.”

She leaned over and gave me a light kiss. “I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know how things went.”

“No, I can’t wait until tomorrow. Promise me you will call me tonight or I’ll be worried sick.”

“Okay. I’ll call you as soon as I can.”

She gave me another kiss and then hesitated like she wanted to say something. I wanted to take the opportunity to tell her I loved her, but the timing was all wrong. It would have to wait until another time.

21 Refuge


My mother beat me home and was waiting in the living room when I walked through the door. “Your father’s in bed and you will keep your voice down.”

I sat on the couch across from her and waited to see which approach she would take to turning all of this away from herself and she didn’t disappoint me. “Who was that boy you were with?”

“His name is Nick Hawke.”

“What were you doing with him in that hotel?”

“Nick’s father was being honored at a banquet and we went to see him accept his award.”

Her voice dripped with sarcasm. “And his father was receiving his award in a hotel room instead of the banquet hall?”

If she wanted to call me out, I could do the same. “No, Mother, I was going up to that room with Nick to do the same thing you were doing with David.”

“You have no idea what I was doing at that hotel.”

“Regardless of what you may think, I’m not stupid.”

“This isn’t about me or what I was doing because I’m the adult here. I want to know everything about that boy you were with.” There it was. Her deflection.

“I love him and that’s all you need to know.”

“Why haven’t I heard anything about him?

It was pointless to lie. “Because I knew you’d never approve of him.”

“And why is that?”

“He’s from Collinsville. He doesn’t come from money or influence. His dad is a cop and his mother abandoned his family when he was six.”

“From what you’re describing, I would have, too.”

“Mother! How could you say something so cruel?”

She ignored my question. “This is the way this is going to be. You’re never going to see that boy again and you’re going to keep your mouth shut about seeing me and David in that hotel together. Got it?”

My mother was being unreasonable just as I predicted so I stormed to my room to pack a bag so I could go to Tillie’s. She had always been my refuge from my mother and I hoped tonight would no be different.

I needed to talk to Nick. I dialed his number and put him on speaker phone as I drove the short distance to my aunt and uncle’s house. He answered on the first ring without his normal greeting.

“Are you okay?”

No. I definitely wasn’t okay. “It didn’t go well. She did exactly what I thought she would. She turned everything around on me and what I was doing in that hotel with you.”

“Do I need to come and get you?”

I would love nothing more, but that wasn’t going to help matters. “No. I’m on my way to Tillie’s to stay the night.”

“What did you tell her about me?”

I told her the truth, that I loved you. “What could I tell her but the truth?”

“And what did she say?”

“She told me that I was never going to see you again.”

He went silent. “Are you still there, Nick?”

“Payton, that can’t happen.”

“I know. I can hardly stand to go one day without seeing you. There’s no way I’d survive not seeing you at all.”

“What are you going to do? She could make things bad for you.”

That was an understatement. “I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m not going to lose you because of her. I’ll think of something; I always do.”

I was desperate to make this work and I would resort to measures I wouldn’t normally consider. Maybe Tillie could help sort out this mess. She had offered to talk to my mom about Nick. Maybe she could convince her to quit being such a hard ass.

“Well, I’m here and I want to talk to Tillie before she goes to bed.”

“I want you to call me first thing in the morning.”

“I will.”

And there it was. The perfect moment to tell him that I loved him was hanging in the air, yet I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want my first time to tell him to be over the phone. I needed to see his face when I said those three words.

“Okay. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

“Okay.” I love you, Nick.

I sat in my car for a minute just thinking about what would have happened if we hadn’t run into my mother in the hotel. I think I would have given myself to him. Hell, who was I kidding? I know I would have. He had the room the rest of the night and I was tempted to call him back and tell him to meet me there, but that wasn’t gonna fix the mess we were in and would likely only compound the problem.

I saw Tillie standing on the front porch looking toward my car, so I got out before she came to check on me. She met me on the walkway and gave me the hug my mother should have given me when I told her I was in love.

“Oh, Pate. I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

“I knew this was how she would react.”

“I thought you were going to keep your relationship with Nick a secret.”

This is the part where things got tricky. Did I tell her the truth about how my mother knew or did I lie to protect her secret? She certainly didn’t deserve the courtesy, but I decided to keep her secret for now to protect my Dad.

“We slipped up and she caught us together.” That wasn’t a lie, but that didn’t make me feel better because I knew I was telling her a half truth.

“And she forbade you to see Nick?”

“Just like I said she would. I don’t know what I’m gonna do because I have no idea how far she’s willing to go to keep us apart. If I continue to see him, she’ll make my life a living hell.”

“I’ll have a talk with her. Maybe I can get her to change her mind.”

I wasn’t holding out hope and the impact of the night’s events finally caught up with me as tears washed down my face like a breaking dam. My mom was cheating on my dad and I stood to lose the boy I was so desperately in love with. Could things get any worse for me?

“Go to bed and try not to worry. Everything will look different tomorrow.”

Luckily, I had the good sense to throw my necessities into a bag before I jetted out of my house. I changed into the sleep clothes I packed and hung my cocktail dress on the closet door. I crawled into bed and looked at it hanging there before I turned the lamp off. That wasn’t where my dress was supposed to be. It was supposed to be in a crumpled pile on the hotel room floor.

I hoped sleep could claim me quickly so I could put the pain out of my mind, but I stayed awake crying most of the night. I didn’t feel any more hopeful when I woke up the next morning. If anything, I was less hopeful. I reached for my phone to call Nick because I promised I would and because he would want an update on how things had gone with my aunt.

“Hey, Beautiful.”


“I’m glad you called early. I don’t think I slept an hour all night from worrying. How did things go after we talked?”

“Aunt Tillie is going to try to talk to her, but I’m telling you now that she will never change her mind. That would mean admitting she was wrong and she doesn’t do that.”

“I need to see you.”

“Why don’t you come here? I’m the only one home and I’d like to see you before the clan gets back.”

“Okay. What’s the address and I’ll be right there.”

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