The billionaires obsessi.., p.5
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       The Billionaire's Obsession, p.5
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         Part #1 of An Heir At Any Price series by Holly Rayner
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  I woke up to my alarm the next day, still reveling in the afterglow of that magical night. I smiled all day at work and Rose and Myra knew something was up, but I made them wait all day before finally giving them the details. They seemed as excited to hear about it as I was to be present for it. That was the great thing about my friends.

  I still hadn’t allowed myself to think about the problems the feelings I was beginning to have for Aiden were going to cause to my emotional health. I was still floating on a high and I didn’t want to ruin it just yet. I was slapped in the face with reality every day. I figured a tiny bit of denial or delusion, whatever you wanted to call it, wasn’t going to hurt anyone. As I was leaving work that day he called to tell me he had meetings all evening but he’d like to see me for breakfast the next day. I agreed and hung up once again euphoric only at the sound of his voice.

  After my shower and dressing in my pajama’s, that evening I sat down and called my mother. She’d never called me back the day before and I felt like I needed to at least check in. I got her voicemail again. There was something in the back of my mind that told me I should get in a cab and go over and check on her, but I talked myself out of it. I had done that many times before, and every time it had ended with finding her either drunk or passed out. I wasn’t in the mood tonight to see her either way. I wanted one more day at least to live in my fantasy world where I was finally the star. I fell asleep on the couch and dreamt of Aiden. In my dream we were on the beach and I was wearing a white dress and flowers in my hair. It was a wedding, and I was the guest of honor. I woke up to my alarm, startled.

  When I got my bearings back I had no choice but to admit to myself that I was getting in too deep emotionally and I had to look at that whether I wanted to or not before I allowed my heart to get broken.

  I fixed my coffee and took it out on the tiny little balcony on the back of my apartment. Sitting down in the old lounge chair I sipped my drink and thought over my situation. Aiden was gorgeous, that was a fact. He was also rich, kind, generous, intelligent….and wounded. He was deeply wounded and that had made him wrap a cocoon around his heart. What his wife had done to him, first cheating and then taking away the baby had left scars in him that ran too deep for someone like me to heal. He seemed so normal on the surface, but before I went any further, I needed to force myself to think about this rationally. What he was asking me to do, legal and acceptable or not, was odd to me. He was the city’s most eligible bachelor. Why not just work on finding a woman building a relationship, getting married and starting a family? Because he was afraid that it would all turn out the way it had before. With this plan, he was the one in control. He called all the shots and although it left him with no relationship, it left him with a baby…someone to give his wounded heart too. In the long run no matter how happy that baby made him, he’d still be left unable to trust and with a yearning in his heart. At least that’s what I thought.

  I thought about going through with this, trying to help him at least mend a part of his heart. I thought about spending nine months with a child in my belly. That thought didn’t bother me. I was actually a little excited about the prospect of creating a life. I’d always wanted to have children…Then I did what I had been avoiding…I forced myself to picture walking away. I made myself think about what a child created from Aiden and my own genes would look like. I thought about the tiny little hands and fingers and toes that he or she would have. I could see big, dark eyes looking up at me, looking for security and comfort in its mother’s arms. I thought about putting the baby into Aiden’s arms and walking away from them both, never to turn back. I thought about years down the line how I knew I’d still be wondering and yearning to see it, and I knew that I couldn’t do it.

  I got up and got another cup of coffee. Taking it outside again I sat down and thought about Aiden’s wounds and wondered if they could be healed if he were to fall in love again. I wondered if having a woman in his life that adored him and would be loyal and dedicated no matter what could chip away at those scars until they were eventually gone. I came to the conclusion that I believed to be the correct one although it wasn’t what I had wanted it to be: Aiden was like a bird with a snapped wing. He could be fixed, his wounds weren’t fatal, only crippling. But by what or whom he could be fixed was another story. I really didn’t think I was capable of doing that. I wasn’t strong enough. I’d been trying to change my mother for years, and look at her…

  I showered and dressed and decided that I would tell him at breakfast. My chest ached at the thought of having to give him up. I’d let myself get too attached. But it had to be done and I was going to do it this morning if I had to beat myself into it. The longer I dragged it out the more at risk my own heart became. I don’t believe that having a baby for him will heal him and I don’t believe he would ever fall in love with me. If I walk away now, I’m doing us both a favor.

  I had just picked up my purse and was ready to leave for my breakfast date with Aiden when my phone began ringing. I felt sick to my stomach when I looked at the caller I.D. It said, “Memorial Hospital.” I knew it was about my mother before I picked it up.

  “Hello.”

  “Hello, is this Holly Valentine?”

  “Yes,” I said.

  “Miss Valentine this is Bridgette Baxter. I’m a social worker here at Memorial Hospital. We have your mother here and you’re listed as her emergency contact.”

  “Yes, what’s happened? Is she okay?”

  “I was hoping you could come down and we could talk in person, you, me and the physician. Your mother is okay, for now physically, I don’t want you to worry about that. But we really need to talk about a long term plan.”

  “Of course,” I told the lady. “I’ll be right down.” I called Aiden then and got his voicemail. I left him a message that I had to take care of a family issue and I would give him a call when I was finished. Then I called a cab and headed to the hospital to see what kind of trouble my mother had gotten herself into now.

  ~

  Chapter Seven

  ~

  I arrived at the hospital with a sense of De Ja Vu. I had done this so many times before and each time it left me with a headache, sick to my stomach and angry all over again at the situation my life is in through no fault of my own. I usually wasn’t one to feel sorry for myself, but my time with Aiden recently had shown me another whole side to life and that had made this one that much bleaker.

  I went to the admission counter and told the woman who I was and who I was here to see. A few moments later a woman a little older than me in a nice business suit and heels came out to greet me.

  “Holly?”

  “Yes, Miss Baxter?”

  “Yes, please, call me Bridgette. Do you mind if we go talk before you see your mother?”

  “No, that’s fine. She’s okay?”

  “She will be,” Bridgette said. I followed her down a long corridor and into an office that said her name and LCSW on the door. She was a licensed clinical social worker. I couldn’t help but wonder what I might be if I’d had the chance to go to college. I had the grades, I probably could have easily gotten a scholarship if I’d applied…but my dad was sick and someone had to take care of my mother.

  I took the seat Bridgette offered me and before we began talking a middle-aged man in a white lab coat joined us. Bridgette introduced him as Dr. Easton. He was the doctor caring for my mother.

  After exchanging pleasantries he said, “Miss Valentine, your mother was apparently found by a friend of hers, passed out in her front yard. She’d been drinking, I’d say from the blood alcohol level for at least twenty four hours.”

  I thought of myself at the spa and at dinner and then the opera. I’d left her alone, was I to blame for this? The doctor was still talking and I made myself focus and listen.

  “Her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. We had to give her several bags of electrolytes and fluids due to her severe dehydration. I’ve ran l
ab tests and a CT of her abdomen and although I spoke to her already, I feel compelled to speak to you as well and she’s given us permission to do that. Her liver is barely functioning. Her body is beginning to build up toxins that her liver should be filtering out. She has varices in her esophagus; do you know what that is?”

  “Broken veins?” I asked.

  “Yes, basically. They come from long-term and repeated use of alcohol. They can cause internal bleeding and lead to all kinds of other life-threatening issues. She has a severe ulcer and from her labs it appears that she hasn’t been eating well at all because her nutritional state is so poor. Her blood glucose however, likely from the alcohol intake, was alarmingly high. We will need to test her for diabetes, and if she doesn’t have it now, it’s likely she will in the near future if she keeps going at this rate. She has other physical issues as well, all related to long term excessive use of alcohol. Her blood pressure is unstable, she may have an arrhythmia…I can have the nurses get you some printed information on all of them. The bottom line however is that if she doesn’t stop drinking, the next time this happens she might be found dead. She won’t be around long at this rate. ”

  My mind was reeling. I of course knew my mother wasn’t healthy. She was too thin and her skin always looked bad. If I wasn’t mistaken, she’d also started losing some of her hair. Her teeth were almost all rotten and she refuses to go to the dentist. She was a mess and I knew it, I just hadn’t been aware how bad off she really was until now. I suppose I hadn’t thought of how that poison she insisted on using in copious amounts was destroying her insides as well.

  “So what do we need to do for her?”

  “Medically, I can prescribe some medications and dietary supplements for her to treat the symptoms, but she’s going to have to stop drinking or nothing is going to help her for very long. I have to get back on the floor. I’ll let Bridgette go over the rest with you. She’ll give you my office number before you go in case you think of any questions.”

  “Thank you, doctor,” I told him.

  “You’re welcome Miss Valentine. I’m sorry to be the bearer of such grave news.” It was bound to happen. On really bad days every time the phone rings I think this is going to be the news, or worse.

  Once he’d left Bridgette said, “Dr. Easton and I had a talk with your mother about all we just went over with you. She agreed that she needed to stop drinking but expressed that she was sure she wouldn’t be able to do it on her own. She tells me that she’s been through rehab before, but that it would be hard for you to pay for it now. I’ve done a little research and I’ve found three rehab centers in the area that take her insurance as long as the share of cost is taken care of.”

  My mother had Medicaid, but because of a small pension check she gets every month from my father and the home she now owns since his death, they gave her a high share of cost. An ER visit usually runs me around $2000.00 and that’s just our part. I can only imagine what rehab was going to cost on top of the bill she had already racked up here. Bridgette didn’t look like a woman who often worried about money.

  I heard myself saying, “Whatever we need to do to get her help,” and then I started trying to figure out in my head how “we” were going to do that. The only solution I could come up with was accepting Aiden’s offer. I couldn’t see any other way out. If I didn’t, I’d be drowning in the medical bills my entire life.

  “Would you like to see her now?” Bridgette asked me. I wanted to say no. I was angry with her, hurt, disgusted…but as usual I didn’t.

  “Sure, thanks.”

  ***

  The room was dark, just the way she liked it. She had undoubtedly already yelled at some poor nurse for opening the blinds and they hadn’t made the same mistake twice. The thick, velvet curtains pulled tight across the window left it void of light. I switched on a small fluorescent lamp near the door so that she wouldn’t complain about it getting into her eyes. She looked like she was sleeping. Her face was more peaceful than I’d seen it in a long time. The fluids they gave her went far in making her at least appear healthier. I remember when I was a little girl, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Now sometimes I don’t even really recognize her. I sat down on the chair next to her bed.

  “Mom?”

  Her eyelids fluttered but she didn’t open them. I called out to her again and her peaceful face turned into a scowl.

  “Go away.” She grabbed the sheet on the bed and turned on her side away from me.

  I was suddenly incensed. She had no one to blame for this but herself yet here I sit feeling guilty and worrying about her and the bills…all the things she should be worrying about and she had the audacity to speak to me that way. I was about to do something I was very unsure of in order to secure both of our futures. That should have been her job, or at least our job together. She’d put us both right here though, I wasn’t going to take the blame for that. Getting angrier I stood up and pulled the sheet back off of her.

  “No, I will not go away. As usual, I’m paying for this little excursion. You have no idea what I am going to have to go through to pay for it. The absolute very least you could do is express some real remorse for a change. I feel like I’m raising an obstinate child most of the time and I’m sick of this, all of it. I’m going to pay these bills, and you are going into rehab when you leave here.”

  My mother opened one eye slowly and then after a few seconds she opened the other. She groaned I was sure it was a headache. If she’d been at home she’d have a beer or vodka in her hand by now. She used to tell me that the best way to get rid of a hangover was to treat it with a vodka chaser. Ah, the lovely things a mother teaches her child.

  When she pulled them fully open, I could see that she had tears in her eyes. It wasn’t fazing me though, I knew it as just another of her well-practiced manipulation techniques.

  “Holly, I don’t want to go to one of those places. I want to stay home. I’ll miss it and you…I can stop. I don’t need to be put in one of those cold, scary places. The people are mean and I don’t sleep because I want to be home in my own bed so badly…Please tell me that I don’t have to go, Holly.”

  “You can’t do it by yourself, mother. You’ve tried before, it doesn’t work. If you refuse to go to rehab, I walk away.”

  “What does that mean?” she said, looking truly confused.

  “That means exactly what I said. I walk, Mom. I’m not doing any of this with you anymore. This is the last time. You get into rehab and get some help and I’ll pay for it. You walk out of here and go home, I stop paying for it all. But mostly, I stop seeing you. I have no desire to ever see you like this again. I’m through.”

  She was looking at me with hurt and shock in her eyes. I’d never threatened to walk away before, and she knew that without my help she would be homeless by now. Her face changed and she looked like she was going to argue again. Either the look on my face stopped her, or there was something left in her pickled brain that told her this was an okay deal.

  “Okay, Holly. When do I go?”

  “Soon,” I told her. “I’ll let you know after I make the arrangements.”

  I got up to head for the door and I heard her say, “I love you.” I loved her too, God help me. I couldn’t stop and turn around though, I didn’t have the energy.

  I walked down the hall and through the lobby and out the double doors into the fresh air. I stood there for a minute, gulping it in. I felt like I had been starving for it. Once I got enough air in my lungs and my hands stopped shaking I took out my phone and called Aiden.

  “Hello?”

  “I decided to do it,” I blurted out. I was afraid if I didn’t just say it that I wouldn’t.

  “You decided to have my child?” he said, to clarify.

  “Yes, I can meet you now to go over the contract if you have time. I just had a few more simple questions.”

  “Great, Holly! Thank you. Are you at home? I’ll send my driver.”
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  “No, just tell me where to meet you and I’ll be there.” He didn’t argue, he gave me the address of his attorney’s office and when I hung up I noticed my hands were shaking again. I called a cab and headed towards my destiny.

 
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