He’s the level-headed middle son. So when the quint's parents cut them off, no one expects Eric to be the first to stumble…Will Ginny’s deception tear the family apart?
Eric Cavanaugh has a plan and he intends to stick to it. About to graduate, Eric’s marked a clear path toward his future. After working alongside construction crews throughout high school, Eric is the sole quint choosing to stay behind to learn the ropes at the family business. Patience paid off when he went after Ginny to make her his girlfriend. Someday down the line, Eric’s going to make the gorgeous blonde with a heart of gold his wife.
When Ginny's forced to admit to the lengths she’s gone to keep Eric will her deceit become the roadblock that tears them apart or the stepping stone to a different life neither had imagined?
The Kingsbrier Quintuplets were not even Kingsbriers. They were Cavanaughs. Their daddy, Ross, married Rose Kingsbrier six years before they were born, and it was only because they lived on the plot of land that held their momma’s name that they were not referred to as Cavanaugh. Though each of the children would answer to that name when it was called at school during attendance.
Ross Cavanaugh didn't care one iota that his progeny were better known by his wife's maiden name. He was proud of his two daughters and three sons. Ross was satisfied with the no-nonsense way that Rose raised those five babies. They were a credit to her. It’s not easy keeping five kites flying at once. Hold the string too tight and it flounders. Give the line too much slack and you never know where you’ll be chasing off to or what tree you’re going to be climbing to get the kite back unscathed. He’d like to see any other mother manage as well as Rose had.
Kingsbrier, the property, was a sprawling Texas ranch cut into a rolling hill so that it looked to be only one story. The house was low to the horizon with wide wings of bedrooms off either side of main house. An enormous pool hid behind the left wing. The right, where the quint’s rooms lay, had immaculate gardens and green grass that cut off where a grove of trees had been planted long ago. A stable, several out buildings for storage, and residences once used to house occasional staff members were intermittently spaced across the acres.
The land was Rose’s inheritance from her oil-rich father who passed when the children were little. It was a windfall Ross had little need of himself as he was a self-made man in the construction business. There was no silly prenuptial agreement. Ross simply told Rose’s daddy that he was disinterested in her fortune. So the bulk would fall to their children when they turn twenty-five, seven years from now. To instill a work ethic in those kids, they were going to be cut off and have to figure out life's hard knocks on their own. Forge their own path or fall and be trampled. Then learn to pick themselves up, brush the dust off, and keep going.
The quints had been proving people wrong since the day they were born. Rose managed to keep those little buns in her oven for thirty-two weeks. The babies were her father's dying wish. He wanted grandchildren to carry on his legacy. After years of trying, Rose and Ross agreed to fertility treatments figuring that maybe they’d wind up with twins.
What they got was a pair, and a spare, and a spare, and another spare; a set of twin identical boys and three more babies. Only one was supposed to be a girl. Ross had already decided not to underestimate his children. When a second daughter —whom they’d spent months referring to as Davy— popped out as baby number four, displacing the twins birth order with her grand entrance, he just wasn’t surprised. Now with five eighteen-year-olds ready to leave the nest it was anyone’s guess what would happen.
The kids were all out late on Friday night. It was a last hoorah before their high school graduation this afternoon. Ross had spent the night trying to rest in bed next to a fitful Rose who was unable to get much sleep.
“I’m too young for this, Ross.” Rose pointed a manicured finger at her long blonde hair. “The lot of them may give me white streaks but the color here is not from a bottle.”
He hoped that daybreak would bring some solace. Only four of the five quints were in their rooms this morning when Ross and his wife awakened. That was sure to throw Rose. Especially since big life lessons were about to be learned. Ross wasn’t one to abandon a situation, however, he’d agreed to muck out the stalls and feed the horses in Daveigh’s absence this morning. She deserved a little time off and one party was not going to be his youngest daughter’s undoing. That girl was up with the rooster, sitting in the kitchen watching the sun rise when Ross filled his travel mug. He could count on the fact that Daveigh was likely the first of the five to come home. If Ross considered asking Daveigh to do her chores anyway, she would have put on her work boots and driven down the road without reservation.
Ross got into his truck and turned the engine over just as Rose walked out of the house to begin inspecting the garden outside the quints rooms. She shook her head, touching her temple. Lord, he did not envy her this morning.
… … … … … … … … … …
“I’m going to miss you.” Ginny pulled Eric’s arm over her. She was nestled in his bed with his warm body heating up her back. She should have left at least an hour ago so that his momma didn’t find her there. His siblings weren’t quite so clueless to consider coming into the room without knocking first. Even his twin, who scared the bejesus out of Ginny on a good day, kept his mouth shut that so no one found out she slept here nearly every weekend. Her stepsister lived in Maine and her parents thought that she was spending those nights with friends.
The idea of being apart from Eric had been tearing Ginny up for months. She snuggled down further taking in the softness of the sheets on his bed, the Nickelback and Evanescence posters that hung on the walls over the collection of Toby Keith and Tim McGraw compact disks, and his high school soccer trophies.
There had been times recently that Ginny fancied them living in an off-campus apartment in Beaumont, with their collective things intertwined. His music, her radio. His cowboy boots next to her Doc Martens. It had been fleeting. Eric planned to stay here. She never wanted to force him away from the life he saw himself living, but was guilty of throwing it off track.
Good men like Eric were hard to find. Ginny would know. Her daddy had been one of those men. His death when she was eight had hit the community hard. Her mother’s second husband played to everyone’s sympathy. His public face a show, the private one enough to make her fingers curl. Everyone thought he was upstanding and that Ginny lived a lovely life. One similar to the kind that the Cavanaugh’s had, without the luxury. She could do without any extravagance if it would just allow her to regain some of the security she felt when her momma and her real daddy had been married.
“What’s that saying about loving someone more when they go away and come back? Besides your college is an hour away. I’m sure that we’ll see each other all the time. We have all summer before you go, right? Not like Colton, who is out of here as soon as the ink dries on his diploma.” There were so few nights like this left on the horizon with every important person in Eric’s life under one roof. He was glad Ginny hadn’t yet tucked herself back out the window. Eric wasn’t ready to let her go.
Ginny forced a weak smile. Eric had gone and done it again, making the situation all about his brother going away. Other than the same blonde hair and green eyes, they were no more alike than any of the other Kingsbrier siblings. She knew they were identical twins. Perhaps that was the draw and why he talked more about Colton than Adam, who was much nicer to her.
Eric played with her long, dark blonde locks that were fanned against his pillow like a halo.
“What you go and looking all sad for all of a sudden, sugar? Got something on your mind? No worries, okay. Someday I’m going to make you Mrs. Cavanaugh. After you go and get that accounting degree.”
He’d played dumb to get her to help him in math class. She caught on to his scheme quickly after finding out that Eric worked for his family’s construction business. A boy can’t know how to read a blueprint with levels and not have an idea of geometry. She would have fallen for his shy smile without him placing designs on her. He was the quiet one who kept to himself. Eric wasn’t watching the world pass him by; he was a keen observer with a soul older than his years. A Kingsbrier son was a catch, but she would have loved him if he was dirt poor.
“What if I didn’t go? Or what if you came with me?” Ginny turned to face Eric. Her hazel eyes searching his face for a glimmer of hope.
“You have to go, and I’m right where I’m supposed to be. My daddy’s business is my life. I’ve known it since I was a kid.” Eric didn’t need to leave to find himself, he had everything he wanted. Come next month he’d move out of the big house, into one of the apartments at the stablehand’s place, and start paying his rent with the salary he’d agreed on with his father. At night, he planned to log-on to the net to get his degree online by taking a few courses here and there. There were things that Ross himself would teach, and Eric was ready to learn, concepts he’d never acquire in a classroom. But Eric wasn’t fool enough to believe he didn’t need some sort of higher education to round him out.
Ginny was ready to lay her heart on the line when a rap came at the door.
“You up, Eric?” Rose called through the locked door. “I need to talk to you.”
Ginny had no time to get dressed let alone shimmy out the low window. Instead, she wrapped the top sheet from Eric’s bed around her. He shoved her clothes underneath while she fled into the bathroom that joined his room to Colton’s. The shower was on. She pressed her ear to the other side of the door trying catch what the muffled voices were saying.
“It has been a long night so I’m just going to cut to the chase, Eric. There is a rumor going around that Ginny was at Richardson's Market this week—”
“Lotsa people go to the grocery store, Momma.” The springs squeaked as Eric flopped down on his bed.
“What’re you eavesdropping on, gorgeous?” Colton leaned his body in, pinning Ginny to the door and blocking her in place with his meat hooks.
She hadn’t heard the shower cut off. Colton’s mohawk shag of white-blonde hair was dripping wet. He was bare-chested wearing only a towel while peering down at the gap between her breasts and licking his lips with anticipation. Then he caught her in a stare making Ginny wonder just what his intentions towards her were. Standing there with nothing but his twin brother’s bed sheet separating them left little to the imagination. While Eric was built lean and muscular through construction work, Colton was massive from playing football and weight training. Being near him clothed was intimidating enough for Ginny, she didn’t want to consider their proximity given the lack thereof. She was more interested in hearing what was going on in her boyfriend’s room and what his momma actually knew. It had been stupid going to a local store. Brier would have had a better plan. Brier always found a way to make it look like she kept her nose clean.
“I don’t know who ya’ll think you are fooling,” Rose notified her son that they’d been found out. “Ginny’s tennis shoes are right there and I’ll bet you that stain is from stepping on my azaleas as she climbed through the window.” The single white Ked with bright pink splotch running up the heel had been forgotten in his haste. Planting a different bush under each window was how she caught every sneaky child in this house. It didn’t explain Brier’s absence, but Rose was sure that the girl had weaseled her way out, yet again, without using the front door. Rose raised her voice, “Colton, for heaven’s sake, let your brother’s pregnant girlfriend be. Ginny get your butt out here.”
Ginny’s jaw dropped as Colton’s light eyebrows creased. He laughed under his breath mocking, “I have no use for my brother’s leftovers.” Turning to walk away he paused. “You know as of tomorrow he’s broke, right? We don’t see a penny until we turn twenty-five. Good luck raising that thing, cuz there ain’t no changing my grandaddy’s will.”
Ginny felt tears begin to prick at her eyes. If Colton’s reaction was the ugliest of any she’d have to face, she was glad for it to be over. Unfortunately, Ginny hadn’t been the one to tell Eric which made her more upset. She had been trying to find a way to break the news to him.
As soon as Ginny realized the tests weren’t lying the disappointment in herself set in. She’d sent both of their dreams up in smoke. Day after day keeping the secret from Eric had burned regret into her soul. He deserved better than being lied to.
Her stomach churned and her hands shook as she put on the blue robe that smelled like her boyfriend before opening the door. She fully expected to find Rose Kingsbrier-Cavanaugh waiting with her arms crossed and foot tapping for an answer to how Ginny could have done this to her baby boy. His momma had always welcomed her with warmth and hospitality, making Kingsbrier feel much more like home than Ginny’s had. It wasn’t the sprawling house but the people in it. The way they acted towards her and interacted with each other. The sibling squabbles, the noise, the lot of them in the kitchen making a meal. Each knowing his or her task and everyone chipping in. Sitting down to dinner and feeling like a family. Her actions had been more than a betrayal of Eric’s trust. It was taking from the idea of what it was to be accepted by a Kingsbrier altogether.
Ginny slowly closed the bathroom door behind her. Hesitating before she turned to face the music. The room was empty except for Eric who sat on the bed with his hands cradling his head. Rose had gone and her boyfriend had been the first to take the blame for the doubt that Ginny had placed in Miss Rose’s heart.
She’d considered telling Eric about the baby while they’d been laying there. It was on the tip of her tongue, and if she hadn’t plucked up the courage to tell him this morning, it would only be to wait those few hours until after their high school graduation. He shouldn’t have had the weight she’d been carrying all these months on his shoulders today. She would have given him one last opportunity to enjoy a carefree life and reap the reward of his hard work.
“I was about to tell you,” she said softly, knowing that it wasn’t necessarily true.
… … … … … … … … … …
“I think you are the worst of all the Kingsbrier’s.” Drew Newhouse ran his palm across the back Brier’s pixie short hair, leaning forward over her back to whisper in her ear. Brier was face down on the blankets layering the grass. She could see condom wrappers plain as day by her face. She might be the worst, but considering what was happening at the house right about now, she was also the smartest…and probably the most relaxed.
The tile in the master bath created an echo and through the wall she could hear her parents talking even when she didn’t try. Her momma hadn’t needed to raise her voice for Brier to know how much trouble found its way to their doorstep. The upside was that it didn’t affect Brier in the least. If anything it made her life of teenage, hormone-induced crime a bit easier.
“You say the sweetest things,” she retorted, bending her leg up to kick her heel into his bare ass. “Now get off of me. It’s way past sunrise. If my momma hasn’t already figured out that I’m not home, she will soon enough.”
Drew pushed his body against hers, kissing her shoulder. Brier was tiny in comparison to him. Heck, even Daveigh had a good three inches on her. But Brier filled out in all the right places and her athletic build was something to marvel at, especially when he got her undressed.
“Couldn’t let that happen. I’d have to make an honest woman out of you.” He rolled over and started fumbling for his blue jeans as Brier rolled over tempting him by touching her breasts. This was the same girl who just said she needed to leave. Everything about her was a paradox.
“After Adam is done pummeling you, I still have two more brothers who’ll want a shot at it. And I suppose that after Ross puts a gun to your head for deflowering me then you’ll still have to realize that you can’t handle me.”
“How can you be so sure?” Handling Brier was one of his favorite things. And not just when they touched. Brier was smart and funny with a mouth that drove him nuts. Okay, some of that was her handling him. She was also cunning, and dared him to cross lines that Drew wouldn’t have considered. Like sneaking right back out right after you’d made curfew.
“Stop arguing me to death and take what I’ll give you.” Brier had been sleeping with her older brother’s best friend for close to two years. She loved every minute of his football player body against hers and the strategy that their clandestine meetings took to get herself out of the house and back in without being caught.
In some respects, she also enjoyed hanging Adam’s man-whore reputation over Drew. Sometimes she’d prick at him that he was guilty by association. If Adam ever found out that Drew was shacking up with his sister —and no one else— then it would be Drew’s downfall in Adam’s eyes. Other times, when Drew got too sentimental for her liking, Brier would remind him that perhaps she had a few more oats to sew and if he pressed too hard she would take up Adam’s persona herself.
The thing was, Brier had never been with anyone else and was realizing she didn’t necessarily want to be, which was a huge problem. Brier was adamant that she wasn’t going to fall in love. That would hold her back. The last thing she wanted was to be a housewife like Drew’s mother and her own, burping babies and baking cakes. Nope, a conceal and carry permit with a cute little Lugar in a Coach bag wouldn’t do for her. Brier wanted a badge and a sidearm.
“You were the one just bitching about being late. Put your clothes on.” Drew tossed a tank top at her, pissed that the night was ending the same way it always seemed to. Just once he’d like to take Brier out on an actual date and then drop her off at home like they were a real couple.
His stomach growled and he realized that he was hungry from being up most of the night.
“Need something to eat?” Drew refused to look at her, having a damn good idea that she didn’t mean anything he could get in a diner. “I hate it when you get like this…I’ll be back. I need to use the loo before I find my clothes.”
Drew heard Brier walk off. He finished getting dressed and sat down on the cracked leather driver’s seat behind the wheel of his car. He was forever waiting for her. It was a damn good thing he was a patient man.
She approached with tight gym shorts, a sports bra under the tank top he’d thrown at her, and Nike’s on. Drew started the engine as she slid into the seat beside him. “You can drop me down the road. I need to work up enough of a sweat to make them think I really was running. Least it’s hot already. Phew!” she said mock wiping perspiration from her brow.
Drew pulled off of the dirt road that intersected Kingsbrier pasture land on to the main county road. He knew the drill. A mile from here he’d pull over, let Brier out, and swing back around into town towards his house to sleep off the rest of the day.
A green truck approached going the opposite direction. There was no time to react as Ross waved to them as he passed going towards the stable.
“He’s seen us together. You gotta come in now.” Brier directed.
“If you were so worried you could have ducked.” It dawned on Drew that this may just be the moment he’d been waiting on.
“I’m not worried. No one is going to question why you are even around. It’s our lucky day. There’s a showdown about to happen. Just follow my lead.”
“And do what?”
“Lie, of course.”
Brier limped into the terra cotta kitchen as Drew moseyed behind her. Ginny had her back to them while pouring scrambled egg mixture into a pan and then she took some tongs, moving around a few strips of bacon frying in the pan next to it. Rose looked up from flipping pancakes on the island griddle.
Brier’s face flattened. Everyone was acting too normal for her liking. “Hi Momma, I rolled my ankle running this morning. Drew picked me up and got me home.”
“What were you doing out so early?” Rose directed the question at the young man, disbelieving.
“I, uh, was hungry —going to ask Adam if he wanted to go to the Grille.” Drew hated lying to her momma.
“There’s always plenty to go around. Give me a minute and we can fix you a plate.” Rose went back to what she was doing.
Drew and Brier exchanged glances. She shrugged her shoulders. Her mother was being as sweet as Lily Anne Newhouse’s peach pie. No one was upset. Hell, Ginny was acting exactly like Ginny would, pitching in while a meal was prepared. Something was not right.
The greasy smell coming off the bacon was making Ginny’s stomach churn. She’d lucked out with barely any morning sickness. It helped mask her pregnancy over the weeks. This was nerves.
Anxiety took root when Eric refused to acknowledge her upstairs. He hadn’t looked at her once when they dressed for the day. She tried to tag-team making the bed when he pulled up the blankets but he just dropped them as far up as they’d gone. Then Eric strode into the bathroom as if Ginny wasn’t there, locking the door behind him.
Walking down the silent hall and circular stairway, Ginny figured that she’d just keep going out the front door. Eric’s silence spoke volumes and she deserved no less than to be booted from this house. Rose was waiting for her in the foyer.
“Come on, sugar,” she said in her take-charge manner, leading Ginny by the shoulder towards the kitchen. “I need an extra set of hands.”
The Sub-Zero next to her slammed Ginny back to the moment. Eric popped the top on a Red Bull, chugging half of it down. He kept up the silent treatment acting as if she wasn’t nearby, making his way to the French doors that led to the morning porch before Rose called after him. “Ginny’s parents will be here after breakfast. Don’t go running off.” The command was given in a polite tone that Eric knew better than to disregard. The glass door swung hard closing after him rattling the heavy-duty panes and causing the antique grandmother clock on the wall to chime faintly. Eric threw himself in a wrought iron porch chair facing the pond. The scraping sound of metal against composite wood was like nails down a chalkboard.
Ginny backed away from the stove as Rose dished plates from the pans the girl had been tending, setting them before Brier and Drew. Back in the walking space, Ginny started to cry. The silent red marks down her face now screaming and visible for everyone to see. Rose took Ginny in her arms as her body convulsed, giving Ginny the chance to let out the emotions she’d been harboring alone.
When Ginny looked up she saw disappointment etched in the lines of Eric’s mother’s face, the wafting bacon and sweet smell of syrup hit her.
“Oh God, I think I’m going to be sick.” Ginny covered her mouth and dashed for the nearest bathroom.
Brier’s eye’s narrowed as she grinned with pursed lips at Drew. Told ya, she thought as the look on Drew’s face registered what was happening.
Copyright ©2016 Jody Kaye
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a creation of the Author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, establishments, event or locales is
coincidental... That's right, I made it all up!
This excerpt is taken from an uncorrected proof of the book. Mistakes are possible... In other words, I'm human too.
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