Authors: Brenda Jackson
s much as he wanted to, Drey could not dismiss the impact on his senses of the kiss he had shared with Charlene. He felt a tight squeeze in his chest when he thought about what she was doing to him. And he didn’t like it one bit.
He hadn’t been able to walk out the door quick enough. Temptation had been nipping at his heels to go back inside of his home and pull her into his arms for another round. It had taken everything he had to get into his car and drive away. Even now he was fighting the urge to turn around and go back.
When was the last time a woman had taken such a toll on his libdo? Probably never. He had invited Charlene into his home, totally unprepared for the degree of attraction he had for her. He’d been very much aware that he wanted her before, but what he hadn’t been prepared for was his lack of control around her, where at every opportune moment he wanted to drag her into his arms and kiss her senseless. He was not one who easily succumbed to passion, but he had today. If he could have had his way he would still be kissing her.
No, he would have escalated things to another level by now. At some point she would have made it to his bed and he would be inside her this very moment. The mere thought had intense desire flooding all parts of him, especially one that was destined to explode if it didn’t get some relief.
It didn’t take long to reach his mother’s house, and for a few highly charged moments he remained in his car, trying to bring a semblance of control back to his body. After taking several deep breaths he cut off the ignition and calmed the wild flutterings in his stomach.
He had an investigation to complete and he could not lose sight of the fact that somehow his own mother might be involved. The last time he had been here she had dropped a bombshell that had rocked his entire world. And now he wanted to know everything, hear the entire story. He wanted her to explain just how thirty-three years ago she had gotten involved with a married man.
Drey had done the math. Harmon Braddock had been married at the time he and Daiyu had been involved. For the life of him, Drey could not picture his mother as a home-wrecker. His parents had shared a beautiful marriage. She had been completely dedicated to his father. She had taken Ronald St. John’s death just as hard as he had and over the years since then, she had not gotten serious with another man, although he had known there had been a few who’d been interested. Just as Charlene had stated, his mother had been and still was a very beautiful woman.
He glanced around. The approach of winter hadn’t stopped his mother from spending time outdoors in her garden. The last time he was here the plants had looked a little sickly. Now they looked alive and vibrant, which meant although his mother had avoided him for the past few days, she had managed to tend to her garden.
He thought about why he was here. It seemed the one woman he loved most in the world had been keeping secrets. Secrets he was slowly unraveling.
Getting out of the car, he moved up the walkway toward the Cape Cod-style house as his mind filled with memories of other times he’d taken this same path. It wasn’t unusual for him to drop by on occasion to see how she was doing or to see if she needed his assistance. His mother was an independent woman and although he always offered his services, she preferred doing things for herself. He’d always admired that about her.
Taking the keys out of his back pocket, he let himself in as he’d always done. At any other time his mother would be at work, but she had called and said she wanted to finish their conversation, which meant she’d be waiting for him to arrive.
He walked through the house and went straight to the kitchen. He found her there, sitting at the table with her hands crossed on top of it. Her long dark hair hung past her shoulders, and like his, her eyes were dark and slanted over high cheekbones and a rounded face. She was an Asian beauty who looked like thirty-five instead of fifty-five.
“I heard your car pull up,” she said, tilting her head back to look up at him.
He crossed the room to give her a peck on the cheek. “Hi, Mom.”
“Drey. If you’re hungry, I can make—”
“No, I’m not hungry,” he said, taking the chair across from her and thinking that he didn’t want to put anything in his mouth just yet that would diminish Charlene’s taste. He wanted to savor it for a little while longer.
He glanced around the kitchen and saw all the pots on the stove. “You’ve been busy,” he said, when it was quite obvious that she had been. She once told him that she did a lot of cooking when she was nervous about something.
Evidently that was the case now.
Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, he said, “Mom, the last time we talked you shared some things with me. However, I left before you could finish telling me everything.”
He knew that was putting it mildly since he hadn’t given her a chance to tell him anything else. The dam had burst once she had admitted that Harmon Braddock was his father. It was pretty obvious how upset he’d gotten that day upon hearing it. He had walked out angry, mad at the world, especially at her for not being truthful with him for all those years.
“All right, where do you want me to start?” she asked, her voice low and shaky.
“From the beginning. I want to know how you and Harmon Braddock met.”
She said nothing for a moment while studying the teacup. Then she began speaking. “As you know I came to this country at the age of twenty as part of an international exchange program with Stewart Industries.”
“Yes.” He had heard that part before a number of times.
“Well, one week I got to attend a conference for Stewart Industries. Harmon was staying at the same hotel. We met at the hotel bar and I thought he was the most handsome and charismatic man I’d ever met. That week we became involved in an intense affair.”
“Did you know he was married?”
She met his gaze. “No, I didn’t know, at least not at first. Apparently he and his wife were having marital problems. However, once he told me the truth, that he was a married man, I threatened to break things off.”
“But you didn’t.” He wished his words hadn’t sounded so accusatory.
“No, I didn’t break it off. I was convinced that he would leave his wife to be with me.”
“Did he tell you that he would?”
She shook her head. “No. I just assumed that he would. I was young, inexperienced and in love and I thought that he would leave his wife because he was unhappy at the time. He didn’t. After about a few months he ended things between us, and said he and his wife were going to try and make their marriage work.” His mother paused for a moment before adding. “Not long after that I discovered I was pregnant.”
Now it was Drey’s time to pause to absorb everything his mother had said thus far. Then he asked, “Did you tell him you were pregnant?”
“No. I was scared to tell him so I kept it a secret. It was during that time, not too long after me and Harmon broke up, that I met Ronald. He wanted to take me out and I told him up front that I was pregnant, but that didn’t matter to him. Ronald had fallen in love with me and wanted to make my child his own.”
Drey didn’t say anything but he sat there, looking out the window at her flower garden. His gaze returned to hers when he asked, “But Braddock eventually found out about me.” He figured as much since the man had sought him out.
“Yes. I ran into him one day and he saw me pregnant. He put two and two together and realized the child was his. I was still hoping he wanted me and actually told him that I would end my relationship with Ronald if he left his wife. He said it was too late. His wife was pregnant and he was worried about the potential damage it would do to her if she were to find out. So we decided to cut our losses and move on, go our separate ways. I married your father and worked hard to make him a wonderful wife.”
Drey held back his brutal retort that she hadn’t given his father anything less than what he’d deserved. Ronald St. John had been a wonderful husband and father. Had his mother only shared part of her love with him? Had the other been for another man who had used her?
“But Harmon always kept up with what was going on with you, Drey,” his mother said, breaking into his thoughts.
“And how would you know that?” he asked, wondering if this was where she would admit that she and Harmon had picked back up their affair after she’d married, and that in doing so, she had been unfaithful to his father.
“Because he told me he always would,” she replied. “After Ronald was killed and he saw how hard you were struggling with his death, he reentered the picture to be there for you and eventually became your mentor. I wasn’t happy about it, but as long as he kept his agreement and didn’t tell you he was your biological father, I told him that I wouldn’t stop him from building a relationship with you. And he wanted that, Drey. Harmon wanted to get close to you. He felt being your mentor, being there when and if you ever needed him, would be the only way he could have anything close to a father/son relationship with you.”
Drey inhaled deeply, trying to keep his control from snapping. He felt as though his entire life hadn’t been anything but a lie. He’d always liked the congressman, but now he wasn’t sure how he should feel about him. The man had totally used his mother when it had been convenient, and then walked out of her life, only to return years later when his conscience probably had begun bothering him.
And then Drey thought about his siblings. It had been hard to gaze into Malcolm’s face earlier that day without thinking that they were brothers. And how would he deal with Tyson and Shondra when he saw them again? And what about Evelyn, Harmon’s widow? How would he deal with her as well? Her husband had been having an affair while she was pregnant with their first child.
However, as far as he was concerned, the person who had suffered the most was Ronald St. John. His father had loved his wife deeply, only to be given part of her love in return. Drey thought of all those years he had allowed Harmon to be his mentor when he had no clue he was the man’s son. A part of him felt an outright betrayal to Ronald, the only father he’d ever known.
He pushed back his chair and stood, devastated and unable to hear anything else for now. “Look, Mom, I need to go. I’ll talk to you later.”
“No, Drey,” Daiyu said in a firm tone as she came to her feet. “I won’t let you walk out on me again, and I refuse to let you think I didn’t love Ronald, because I did. I grew to love him in a way that I could never love anyone else, including Harmon. Ronald was everything to me like he was everything to you. Your father was my whole world. Even now I miss everything about him. I miss his warm and loving nature, the times we shared together, our special love.”
Drey pulled in a deep breath when he heard the sadness in his mother’s voice. Then he saw the tears that clung to her lashes. He felt like an ass for making her cry. Gritting his teeth, he moved around the table to pull her small frame into his arms.
“I’m sorry, Mom, I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just hard finding out Dad wasn’t my father.”
His mother pulled back slightly and gazed up at him. “But Ronald
your father in every way that counted. He gave you his name and his love. He could not have loved you more if you had been his natural child. He said so many times.”
Drey believed her. He also knew talking about his father had taken a toll on her, but there was one other question he needed for her to answer.
He eased her away from him slightly but maintained an arm around her shoulder. “Mom, do you have any idea why Braddock was trying to reach you the night he was killed?”
She shook her head. “No, but he called several times that week before finally getting me. Our conversation was short because he had a call come in on his other line. He said he would call me back but he didn’t.”
Drey met his other gaze. “Can you think of anything else I need to know?” he asked, knowing the question was still out there as to why Harmon had tried calling his mother that night.
His mother lowered her gaze and pulled completely out of his arms. She went back to the table and sat down in the chair she had vacated earlier. “Yes, there is something.”
Drey lifted a brow. “What?”
“Evelyn Braddock came to see me last week.”
There was a moment of complete silence, shrouded in tension, when Drey came to sit back down at the table. “For what reason?” He leaned closer to his mother.
Daiyu took a sip of her tea before meeting her son’s concerned gaze. “She had heard about Harmon’s calls to Stewart Industries and knew I worked there.”
Drey nodded. “Had the two of you met before?”
“Yes, years before. The night he broke things off with me she was with him. I guess it was their way of showing me they had both come to terms with his affair and were working through it.”
Drey could only think that at the time meeting her lover’s wife had to have been difficult. “What did she say to you last week when she came to visit?”
“She wanted to know about the call Harmon made to me. I told her that I didn’t talk to him. I’m not sure whether she believed me. I could tell she was upset to find out that he had tried contacting me after all these years.”
Deciding he wanted something to eat after all, Drey went to the counter and helped himself to a plate of cookies while asking, “Do you know of anyone at Stewart Industries that Harmon was interested in?”