I only have eyes for you, p.28
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       I Only Have Eyes for You, p.28

         Part #4 of The Sullivans series by Bella Andre
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Page 28

  Author: Bella Andre

  After Mrs. Sullivan left the room, he’d been coiled into a tight ball of nerves and bravado, expecting Zach to smirk and rub in his stupidity, but all the guy did was shove a chocolate chip cookie into his mouth and open the book to start reading it out loud, spitting chunks all over the pages.

  Zach never brought up his reading problem again, but somehow they always ended up working on reading projects together after that.

  He’d met most of the crew that afternoon in their backyard, with the football to the back of his head. Lori swept into the middle of the group at some point, demanding the attention of her big brothers, wanting to know who the new boy was.

  He couldn’t imagine having six siblings. How great it would be to have someone to play with all the time. And then, from the corner of his eye, he saw one more. She should have looked just like Lori, but he could never get them confused. Not even when they were five years old.

  She was sitting in the corner of the yard beneath a large oak tree, with a big book open on her lap. But she wasn’t looking at the book.

  She was looking at him.

  He’d never seen anyone so still. So calm. Or so pretty. Sophie Sullivan had looked like a princess from one of those movies he snuck into the theaters to see sometimes.

  Sophie shifted on the bed just then, as if she were reaching for something. For him. She frowned in her sleep before putting her arm around a pillow and hugging it close to her.

  Trust.

  If there was anyone he wanted to trust, it was Sophie. But after a lifetime of hiding the truth from everyone, keeping secrets was what he did best.

  Never share.

  Never trust.

  Never give anyone another chance to say you’re nothing but a whore and a drunk’s stupid kid.

  But this time, Jake knew, everything was different. . . because he couldn’t stop himself from loving Sophie. And he’d never wanted anything more than for her to love him back.

  Which meant he would have to tell her soon, have to warn her that their children might not be able to do the one thing that came so easily to her.

  Moving restlessly in the chair, his eyes caught on the book sitting on her dresser nearby. What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

  Reading it tonight would be torture, but that fact wasn’t going to change. There would always be too many words, and he’d always have to work like hell to try to get them to make sense in his head.

  But if anything was worth the pain and suffering of making his way through an entire book, it was Sophie. . . and the children they’d have in the fall.

  Picking up the book, Jake used every trick to keep his brain focused from one word, one sentence, one paragraph to the next. As the minutes turned into hours and he turned the pages one after the other—and the endless warnings and risks of pregnancy rained down upon him—Jake actually found himself wishing he was that ten-year-old kid again, who couldn’t read at all.

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Sophie had slept the night through, but she didn’t feel rested. Her eyes felt gritty, her mouth dry. She knew the reason. Jake hadn’t slept with her, hadn’t wrapped his big, warm body around hers and held her close. Even in her sleep, she would have known if he’d been there.

  But he had never come to join her in the bed.

  Where, she wondered, had he gone? Back to his house to rethink the love he’d offered her the night before?

  She was so lost in her dark musings that she almost didn’t notice Jake sitting in the corner of her bedroom. She sat up in bed so quickly that everything spun for a few moments. “You’re still here?” Her throat sounded as raw as it felt.

  “I’ve been here all night. ”

  He was wearing his jeans from the night before and his hair was standing up on end as if he’d been pulling at it. He looked tense, horribly so.

  Despite the fact that she felt like she was coming down with the flu, she pushed aside the covers and was about to get on her feet to head across the room to him when he said, “Have you had coffee since you’ve been pregnant?”

  She frowned at the strange question. “Yes. ”

  His mouth tightened. “Have you been around cats?”

  Why was he treating her like this? Like she was a defendant on the witness stand. One who had done everything wrong.

  “Yes. ”

  “What about heating blankets or hot tubs? Have you used either of those?”

  Obviously, his random questions must be related. But to what?

  “Why are you asking me these things?” Everything was hurting now, worse than it had before. She leaned back into the headboard, pulling a pillow up over her lap to hold on to.

  He lifted something off his lap. It was the What To Expect When You’re Expecting book. “I just spent the entire night reading this. ”

  Oh no. The doctor had warned them about the book, but Sophie hadn’t thought much of it. Now she saw she should have known Jake would do this, that he was so protective of her—and the twins she was carrying—that he’d let all of the book's warnings spiral completely out of proportion.

  But before she could say anything to calm him, he was up out of the chair, holding the book open. “You’re getting a new doctor. I can’t believe she told us sex is fine. Right here it says twins need tons of extra care when you’re pregnant. ”

  “Jake,” she said in what she hoped was a patient but not condescending voice, “my mother had eight kids. Everything’s been going great so far with my pregnancy. That’s all worst-case scenario stuff. I know what to be careful about. ”

  “Then what about this? Deep penetration can cause bleeding. If you knew that already then why the hell have you let me keep taking you like an animal? I couldn’t have been in any deeper last night. Or in the pool. ”

  She tried not to lose her temper again. “Show me where it says that. ” He only wanted what was best for her, she tried to remind herself, but he looked bigger, tougher than ever as he got up off the chair and held the book open in front of her.

  But when she read the passage he was referring to, she was too tired to keep her irritation with him at bay. “Occasionally. It says deep penetration can occasionally cause bleeding and not to worry about it unless it happens! Can’t you even read? Or do you just make up words to suit your bossy purposes?”

  A wave of nausea mixed in with her frustration, but even as she worked to ride out this horrible new onset of morning sickness, she could feel the air in her bedroom cool by a good dozen degrees.

  In all the years she’d known Jake, she’d never seen him look like this—so cold, so distant.

  “Funny, here I was working out a way to tell you,” he said in a hard voice, “but you’ve already figured it out. ”

  She could hardly breathe with him looking at her like that. “What are you talking about?”

  “I can barely read!” he growled. “That’s what I’m talking about. ”

  Her brain raced as she tried to make sense of what he was saying. Jake McCann had always had her heart, from the first moment she’d seen him playing football in the backyard with her brothers. He’d been larger than life, even with that dark shadow following him, calling to her to clear it away with sunshine. With love. But until this week when he’d insisted they spend time together, she hadn’t known just how hard his childhood had been, or the details of how he’d built his amazingly successful business from scratch.

  And she definitely hadn’t known he had a problem with reading. He’d never mentioned it, had never even hinted at it. Even if the thought had occurred to her, she would have instantly dismissed it because of all he’d accomplished.

  Shaking her head in confusion, she said, “But you just read that entire pregnancy book. ”

  “Ten years with tutors is the only thing that got me through that goddamned book. I’ll never love books, Sophie. Never. ” His expression grew even
grimmer. “You were right, back in the doctor’s office, when you called me an idiot. ”

  “Oh my God, Jake. No. I didn’t mean that, you know I didn’t. ”

  More than ever before, she needed to be able to think clearly to convince him that she loved him. Especially now that she knew she’d said the absolutely worst thing she could have said to Jake.

  “I was scared and stunned that day in the doctor’s office when I said that horrible thing,” she tried to explain, “but I could never think that you were-”

  “Sure you could. Because it’s true. ” He looked more fierce—and bleak—than she’d ever seen him. “Don’t you see why I worked so hard to hide it from you?”

  Pain shot through Sophie at the fact that he hadn’t trusted her with something that mattered so much, that he’d gone out of his way to make sure she didn’t know something so important about him. She had to put her arms around herself to try to keep herself from crying out at it.

  And yet, despite her pain, wasn’t it true that she’d been too wrapped up in her accidental pregnancy, in hopes and dreams and her fears that Jake would never love her back the way she loved him, to uncover Jake’s long-held secret?

  Now she was finally able to put it all together. The fact that he didn’t have any books in his house, no magazines or newspapers either. All those months they’d met to work out various details about the wedding, he’d never written anything down. He always just stored the information in his head, even things she knew she’d forget if she didn’t take notes. That time they’d been talking about his pubs over breakfast, when the conversation had turned to her love of books and she’d asked him about his favorite book, hadn’t he immediately pulled away from her? Not to mention the strange way he’d reacted when she asked him if wanted to read one of the books at story time, the flash of terror in his eyes lingering long enough that she’d almost asked him if something was wrong.

  “I love you,” she whispered. “You should have told me. You should have trusted me. ”

  She thought she saw him wince at the word trust, but then his features blurred before her.

  “You keep telling me you’ve loved me all this time, but you’ve loved a goddamned fantasy. Not the man I really am. Take a look at me, princess. Take a good long look. ”

  Sophie tried to focus on Jake’s face, wished she could get the words out to tell him it wasn’t true and that she did see him for exactly who he was, the good and the bad. And she loved all of him. Unconditionally.

  “I do know who you really are,” she said, barely able to pitch her voice above a whisper.

  “Really? You know me?” He snarled each word at her. “Did you know my father was a drunk and the thing he liked best when he was drunk was to beat me black and blue? Did you know that one day it was so bad I grabbed a knife and made him bleed? Did you know that when he finally drank himself to death I didn’t care, didn’t shed even one goddamned tear for him?”

  She tried to open her mouth to tell him the reason she didn’t know any of those things was because, for all his courage, for all his incredible strength, he hadn’t taken the risk of sharing his life with her and trusting her to love him anyway…but she couldn’t get her brain to send out the right messages to her lips.

  “We both know you can’t love a man like me. I was never going to be a father for a reason. I shouldn’t be one, shouldn’t pass these screwed-up genetics on to a couple of innocent kids. But you couldn’t leave me alone, could you? You couldn’t just let me love you from a distance forever and keep you safe from me. ”

  Forever? Had he just said he’d loved her from a distance all this time and that he’d love her forever?

  “I should have never tried to convince you I was worth marrying. Or that I could hack being a father to two kids. We both know you’re all better off without me. ”

 
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