A humble heart, p.8
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       A Humble Heart, p.8

         Part #1 of Hollywood Hearts series by R. L. Mathewson
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  “I don’t want juice!” Cole cried.

  “It’s okay, little man, mommy will take care of this,” she promised. She moved to the side and allowed Deana to comfort them. They remained fixed on the couch, refusing to leave the room, probably afraid their father would run like hell the second they did. She couldn’t blame them, he did have a history.

  She folded her arms over her chest and focused on Jeff.

  He looked pissed, but not over his kids. It was over this woman. She forced herself to remain calm. “Jeff, what is going on? This is your scheduled visitation week.”

  “I know but something important came up,” he said.

  “You came all the way to California to tell your kids you weren’t going to spend time with them?” she asked, feeling really confused. A phone call or e-mail would have been a hell of a lot cheaper and would have hurt a lot less for the kids.

  “Yeah, well and for our honeymoon. We eloped yesterday!” he said cheerfully.

  Dana’s eyes went to their left hands, sure enough they were each wearing matching gold bands. “Why the rush?”

  she asked, trying to sound normal and not pissed that he was pulling this crap on her kids.

  Jeff looked guilty. “Well, I had this week already planned for vacation and Bea wanted to come out and shop and stuff. So she-I mean we thought we should get married and make this our honeymoon.”

  Elizabeth cried louder. “Jeff, this is your court ordered visitation. You aren’t even supposed to have her around the kids. You only have a week with them, the Judge said it was important that you make this week about just you and them, no interference.” She remained calm.

  “Don’t be such a bitch,” Bea snapped. “He’s allowed to get married.”

  Dana snapped her attention to Bea in an instant.

  “Watch your mouth in front of my kids.”

  Bea rolled her eyes. She placed her head on Jeff’s shoulders and batted her eyes. “Jeff, are you going to let her talk to me that way?”

  He swallowed loudly and nodded. “Show my wife some respect,” Jeff said firmly.

  Dana was flabbergasted. He chose this woman over his own kids. It was more than obvious. What wasn’t obvious was why. The woman was fatter than Jeff and she looked cheap. All of her clothes were too tight and she was literally hanging out of them. She must be good in bed or stroke his ego. That was the only thing Dana could come up with because it certainly wasn’t her winning personality that held Jeff.

  “Jeff, do not try fronting to me for her benefit. We both know I’ll tear you down to size,” she said harshly. Jeff flinched and then slowly nodded. He knew she wouldn’t play any games when it came to her kids.

  “Mommy?” Cole said.

  She looked back to see him sitting in Deana’s lap.

  “Make him be with us, peese!”

  “Jeff, you need to tell them. I want to go! We have reservations,” Bea said coldly.

  She ran her hand through her hair. This was beyond frustrating. There was no way her kids were going to bed without crying themselves to sleep tonight. Tomorrow would be even harder.

  “Jeff-” She was cut off by the sound of the doorbell chiming. She sighed heavily, hoping whoever it was would be easily sent away. “Excuse me,” she said. Jeff and Bea took that as an invitation to sit down on the love seat.

  She yanked the door open to find Edward standing in the doorway with flowers, two teddy bears and a large box of chocolate. She was slightly confused. He stepped inside and kissed her cheek. Make that she was pretty sure she was delusional. She heard Jeff and Bea gasp the very second his lips connected with her cheek.

  ********

  Without a word he stepped inside. His eyes took in an overweight man with a nasty looking woman on his side. He suppressed a laugh. He was more shocked than anything that something like him had landed Dana in the first place, but his attention quickly focused on the two crying children on Deana’s lap. This was wrong. He knew the kids were excited to see their father. There was no way they would be crying right now not unless it was tears of joy and they certainly weren’t that.

  Edward walked over to the kids and knelt down. “Hey, guys. I have these two teddy bears that need a home and I was thinking that you two would be perfect to take care of them. Could you do me a favor and take care of them for me?” he asked them gently.

  The kids nervously reached out and took the teddy bears from him. “Thank you, Uncle Edward,” Cole and Elizabeth said through quiet sobs.

  He felt his heart break. It had only been a few weeks since he met them, but he loved them a great deal and didn’t like seeing them hurt. If Jeff was the reason he was pretty sure he was going to strangle the man, but first he needed them out of the room. It was clear that they needed to leave.

  “Cole and Elizabeth, I bought these pretty flowers for your mommy. Can you do me a favor and help Deana put them in a vase?” He handed the flowers to Elizabeth who hugged them. She gave him a weak smile. He handed Cole the box of chocolates. “Do me another favor and check out these candies and make sure they taste good, okay?”

  Cole nodded. “I will, Uncle Edward. Don’t worry,” he said seriously, earning a smile from Edward. He kissed them both on the forehead. “Okay, off you go,” he said, standing up.

  Deana mouthed “thank you” to Edward before she followed the kids out of the room. Then he turned his attention to the adults. Dana stood in the middle of the room, watching the kids leave. Jeff was wrapping an arm possessively around his girlfriend as if Edward wanted any of that. The woman was licking her lips, staring at him, making him wish for lead underwear.

  “Dana, are you okay?” Edward asked. He took her hand into his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

  She nodded. “I’m fine.” She sighed and looked back at Jeff. “Okay, what’s going on for real now?” She tried to pull her hand away, but Edward refused to release her. After a few seconds she held his hand just as firmly.

  Jeff seemed to be having a hard time taking in Edward holding her hand. “How long has this been going on?” he demanded in a jealous tone.

  Before Dana could answer, Edward spoke up. “That’s none of your business. Focus on what she asked you. I want to know why those kids are upset.”

  Dana answered him when Jeff wouldn’t. “Apparently they eloped yesterday and they wish to use this week as a honeymoon and don’t want the kids to interfere with that.”

  Edward narrowed his eyes on Jeff. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’re really going to break their hearts like that?”

  Dana put a hand on his chest, trying to calm him down.

  “It’s okay, Edward. I’ll handle it,” she said soothingly. He looked down at her and nodded. Before she could say another word he led her to the couch across from Jeff and sat her down, keeping a firm grip on her hand.

  “Okay, Jeff, there’s something more. Spill it,” Dana said.

  “Well, it’s just that we were thinking, you know since we live in Massachusetts and I can only really afford to see them once a year,” Jeff started to say.

  “Jeff, you get three weeks of paid vacation a year, you don’t pay child support or alimony and I take the kids to New England at least three times a year to see family, and all three times you were too busy to see them,” Dana said tightly.

  “Why should he have to pay child support? You’re rich,”

  Bea said bitterly.

  “Bea, I really think we should allow Jeff and Dana work this out with as little interference as possible,” Edward said calmly. Bea didn’t respond, but stared at him openly.

  “Well, see Bea likes it if I take my vacation time so we can spend time together. As for money I have a wife to support now so I won’t be able to come out here again.”

  Dana pulled her hand free from Edwards and dropped her face into her hands. “Oh my God, please tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re about to do.” Edward put his arm around her shoulders. He didn’t know what she thought, but he was sudd
enly nervous for her and the kids.

  “Jeff and I think it would be better if he were to sign over his rights since he is not an active part of their lives. We live so far away and we feel it’s not fair to the kids to keep this up. A clean break is best for everyone,” Bea stated in a bored tone.

  Dana dropped her hands into her lap and stared at Jeff.

  “You are really willing to give them up? Never see them again for her?”

  Jeff didn’t speak, but Bea sure as hell did. She pulled out a packet from her oversized purse. “Here, we already filed for termination of rights. It’s all set,” she said coldly.

  Edward reached out and took the papers, ignoring Bea’s fingers caressing his. He looked at the papers and felt a punch in the gut, this was no joke. “What the hell is wrong with you, man? Those are your kids! They’re great kids!” Edward said, coming to his feet.

  Jeff stood up and shrugged indifferently. “I never wanted kids in the first place,” he said casually. “They were all her idea.”

  “You son of a bitch!” Edward snapped, taking a step forward. Dana’s hand was the only thing that held him back.

  She placed a hand on his bicep and gently pulled him back.

  “Jeff, think about this very carefully because once you leave through that door that’s it. I won’t put those kids through this hell. I told you when we divorced I didn’t want any drama,” Dana said calmly.

  Jeff took a step forward and reached out to take Dana’s hand. Edward shot his hand out protectively and stopped him. Jeff stepped back and sighed. “Look, Dana, you’re doing a great job with them. I have to be honest, I never felt like a father and never wanted them. I can’t go on pretending for their sake. I know it sounds selfish, but that’s how I feel.”

  Dana bit her lower lip. “You know what? You’re right.

  You are selfish. You can leave now. Do you want to say good bye to the kids?”

  He shrugged. “What’s the point?” He took Bea’s hand and left without another word, leaving Dana and Edward stunned.

  “Oh my God,” Dana mumbled as her legs gave out.

  “Whoa.” Edward grabbed her around the waist and led her to the couch.

  “I

  .I can’t believe he just did that,” she muttered.

  He put his arm around her, expecting her to break down. What he didn’t expect was for her to take a deep breath and stand up. The look of determination on her face was awe inspiring. “I’m sorry you had to see that, Edward.

  Thank you for coming by, it was a nice gesture.”

  Edward stood up. “Hey, it’s okay.” He reached out for her and she didn’t back up when he took her hand into his.

  “What are you going to do?”

  She shook her head gently. “Move on and help them get through this.”

  He watched her for a long moment trying to figure her out. She was strong, unbelievably strong. His heart broke for those kids. He couldn’t imagine the pain they were about to experience. He was thankful that he never had to experience anything like this, if his father had abandoned them his heart would have broken instantly.

  Edward pulled Dana into his arms and hugged her. She reluctantly hugged him back. “It’s okay. You’re not alone,”

  he whispered in her ear.

  “Thank you,” she said against his shoulder.

  “Where’s Daddy?” Cole asked.

  They broke apart and watched as Cole and Elizabeth walked into the room. Cole’s face was covered in chocolate, giving the illusion of a goatee. Elizabeth’s expression was stressed as she looked past them, searching for her father.

  “He left, didn’t he?” she asked softly.

  Dana dropped to her knees in front of Elizabeth. “Yes, sweetie, he did. I’m sorry.” She kissed her small cheek.

  Edward watched the little boy take it all in. A small tear rolled down his face. “That’s fine, Mommy. I don’t like that woman.” He was trying to sound brave for his mother.

  Edward realized this little three year old boy was trying to be the man of the house for his mother and sister. It wasn’t fair.

  He dropped to his knees next to Dana and took Cole into his arms. “You know what I was thinking, buddy?” he asked the little boy.

  “What, Uncle Edward?” he asked, taking a deep breath to calm himself down.

  “I was thinking it would be fun to go to the carnival over on Maywood and then maybe go for some burgers and fries. Does that sound like fun?” he asked.

  “What’s an ‘arnival?” Cole asked.

  Edward laughed softly. “Well, they have lots of fun rides, games and junk food!”

  Cole smiled for the first time since Edward walked into the house. “Really?”

  “Yes, would you please go with me to the carnival?” he asked, knowing they needed a man to want to spend time with them.

  Cole looked to his mother. “Can we?” he asked excitedly.

  She nodded. “That’s sounds like fun.” She looked at the kids and frowned. “I have only one request,” she said.

  “What?” he asked, hoping it wasn’t to invite someone else along.

  “We have to take my car because of the car seats,” she said to his relief.

  “Okay, but I’m driving.” He picked up Cole and headed for the bathroom. “Let’s clean you up, little man.”

  Chapter 5

  “Mommy, can I ride on that?” Elizabeth pointed to a ride that made Dana wince. It consisted of a cage that held screaming people who were pulled a hundred feet up into the air like an elevator and then dropped suddenly to the ground.

  “No sweetie and promise me that when you’re older if you go on something like that, that you’ll never tell me about it so I can sleep at night,” Dana said.

  “You’re no fun, Dana,” Deana said. When she heard they were going to a carnival she giggled and invited herself along. Apparently she loved them. Edward wasn’t as upset as he thought he was going to be, because Deana liked to take the kids on the kiddy rides and whisked them away when she saw something fun, leaving him alone with Dana.

  “Aunt Deana, can we go on that?” Cole asked, pointing to a kiddy train.

  “Oh god, yes! Let’s go!” Deana grabbed the kids’

  hands and took off like a bat out of hell.

  Edward stepped closer to Dana. “Wow, she really loves kiddy rides.”

  She laughed softly. “No, well yes, but she really loves kids. She lost her stepson three years ago to leukemia and a year after she lost her husband. It was really tough on her, made tougher when she found out she couldn’t have kids.

  She really adores Elizabeth and Cole. She’s like a second mother to them. She gets all excited when it comes to stuff like this. She sees it as a second chance.”

  He shook his head lightly. “I’m sorry I didn’t know. She’s really great with them.”

  Dana beamed. “Yes, she is. I was fortunate that she was available when we moved to California.”

  “Dana Mathews?” a man asked, drawing their attention.

  Dana smiled at the older man. “Could I bother you for your autograph? I’m sorry to bother you on your date. I’m just such a huge fan of yours that I couldn’t help myself,” he said sheepishly.

  “Don’t worry about it. Do you have something you want me to sign?” she asked.

  Edward was glad she didn’t argue the date point. He handed her a pen, making sure his fingers brushed hers.

  He liked the blush that crept up her face. He liked it a lot.

  She signed the back of a business card. Dana turned it over and read it. “Playground Specialists,” she read out loud.

  “Yes, ma’am, that’s my company. We build playgrounds for the city, schools, and businesses,” he said proudly.

  “They keep us very busy, but it’s a lot of fun, especially the first day the playgrounds open to the public and we get to see the kid’s faces.”

  Dana looked over the card again. “I’ve actually heard of you. I’ve been meaning to cal
l you for the last month. There isn’t any chance you build playgrounds on residential property is there?”

 
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