Read Still Here: A Secret Baby Romance Online
Authors: Kaylee Song,Laura Belle Peters
© 2016 by Laura Belle Peters and Kaylee Song
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
or my mother
. May she live a long life after kicking cancer’s ass.
you like to receive an exclusive epilogue to Still Here: A Secret Baby Romance? If so please join our mailing lists.
the groove of his finger as it skittered over my lip, my breath hot on his hand. I sucked in each breath one after the other, reminding myself desperately to breathe.
In and out. Bring air into your lungs.
Hot air. Air that smelled just like him. Musky and sweet and filled with so much promise.
If the taste of him on my lips was a drug it was one I never wanted to give up. I’d stay an addict for all time.
I’d be a junky if it meant that I didn’t have to give him up.
“Are you sure you are ready for this, Rose?” he asked me, his hands firm on my sides. My skin prickled at his touch, the goosebumps raising up against his hands. I could feel him against me. Teasing me, torturing me.
His hands slid up my sides as he positioned me right where he wanted me. He was so close.
I could feel his cock hard against the inside of my thigh. Throbbing right up against me. Warning my body.
Warning me that there was no turning back.]
“I’m sure. I want this, Wyatt.” My breath hitched again, the sweet smell of him filling all my senses and making me dizzy.
Breathe in, breathe out.
I would have it too, all of it. Because he wasn’t going to quit on me. Not now. Not here.
“I want you, Rose.”
I quivered as he said it. Wyatt Graves was my biggest mistake, but I didn’t care. I just opened my mouth and let out a slow moan.
It might be a mistake, but it wouldn’t be a regret.
the steering wheel once. I was fucking pissed.
“What an asshole,” I swore as I turned down the narrow dirt road, making sure not to stick a tire in the ditch. There was barely room for my truck to head down the middle of the old road. Gravel and shit kicked up everywhere, flying off my tires, the ping of rock hitting my undercarriage.
I loved the sound, relished it. To be honest, it was why I kept the old rust bucket around. I wasn’t worried about it getting all dinged up. It was already there. I’d been driving it forever, and it hadn’t failed me yet. It was my form of zen.
If you could call it that.
Zen my ass.
Normally, this ride would be of the calming type. But not when my father was involved. I may have gotten his good looks, and I may have even inherited his playboy attitude, but when it came to business, we were nothing alike.
That motherfucker took no prisoners. I gave a shit about the people I worked with.
The only real time I felt free was when the wind was blowing through the cabin of my truck. No drama. No responsibility. And no fucking people. But not today. My damn father had to stick his nose where it didn’t belong.
He had to come back home to micromanage me.
At least, there was the added bonus that my phone didn’t get service between properties.
Try to tell me how to run things now,
I smirked. He couldn’t. Not out here.
My father had been working my ass hard. Between the sowing season and the new contracts with feed suppliers there was a lot at stake. Our corn and grain were worth more than it had ever been, and with the number of properties in the East turning from farms to housing developments there seemed no end in sight to the rising price of our product.
We practically owned half of Montana.
It was big money. Millions of dollars in revenue a year. I wasn’t in it for this, but he was. This agribusiness was just one aspect of his empire, and it was mine to run.
We owned the land but they lived on it, and they worked it.
All while we worked to acquire new properties, which was what I set out to do today. It was on his order, he sent me out. But not before digging into me to get the best deal possible.
“I’m not in this business to lose money, you know.”
Miranda Shannon asked to meet with me so we could talk about her fifty-three acres of territory. She wanted to keep another 12 for herself, but since her husband passed it had become unmanageable on her own. It was the perfect opportunity, my father said. The kind I should jump at.
Even though I was still sore over love gone wrong with her daughter. Even though she had ties and tangles with my father.
That was my job, to jump when he said jump, to sit when he said sit. I was just his tool to be used.
To come in and swallow up her farm. Then we’d practically own the entire block.
One more piece of land for the fiefdom,
I reasoned. My father was a tyrant, after all.
He had several businesses, but the acquisition of land for agriculture was where he started his empire. Where he made his first millions. It was the world that afforded him the ability to start his own food label, invest in production. He started a business but what he'd really done was begin a damn empire.
Except my father wasn’t the proper kind of dictator. He was the equivalent of Ivan the Terrible or Benito Mussolini. Except handsome. Somehow that made the people around him forgive his angry tirades.
Except me. I was trapped in this job, stuck in this relationship and all I could focus on was work.
Well, work and getting laid. It was pretty much all I had. And right now work was kicking my ass.
It was a simple model. One that started with owning the land, commissioning out the labor and ideally keeping farmers in their homes. We’d take it over, build a farmhouse, and set it up to farm.
I’d already looked it over, it was an ideal property for alfalfa and corn production, and had excellent drainage.
I was coming with my initial offer, but I knew that we could both work out a price that would be mutually beneficial. I grinned. Hell, I’d even thrown in a little bit extra.
Forget what my father said. Branch Graves wasn’t the head of this company anymore. I was. I’d use his empire for good. Be the Luke Skywalker to his Darth Vader.
I’m pretty sure it went against his prime directive. I might be an adult, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t find new and creative ways to rebel.
You want to be an asshole? Fine. But don’t expect me to play along,
I thought as I gripped the steering wheel.
I thought about Mrs. Shannon and all the women in Laurel, Montana like her. They deserved more than my father would give them.
I wasn’t going to fucking screw her over just because he would.
She needed enough money to live on into retirement, and we were always looking to expand.
I pulled into her little cabin driveway to the sound of her big black German shepherd, Sadie, barking.
The face I saw on that porch wasn’t the sweet older woman, no, it was the face of a girl I thought I’d never see in this town ever again. That innocent little number staring at me was the embodiment of regret.
“Fuck,” the harsh word tore out of my mouth. I felt like I’d been knocked down by a linebacker.
Anger, betrayal, regret. It all came flooding back. Rose Shannon. She was everything I’d ever wanted, the answer to all my problems, and she’d just abandoned me. I would’ve followed her anywhere. But she was gone before I had a chance to tell her.
She was the girl who planted a big kiss on my lips before she tore off out of town putting hundreds of miles between us, not once looking back.
I took a staggering breath and then righted myself. I didn’t want to let her know that the sight of her startled me. That those sparkling blue eyes and that little-pouted lip almost knocked me right over.
No one else ever stirred so much in me. Besides the occasional desire to bed them for a night. But Rose was different.
“Thought you were never coming home?” I asked, affecting an amused tone.
That was what she’d said in her last email to me. One entire summer of what I thought was love. But months and months later she gave me a reason for her disappearance, after she had left.
I could tell by the flash of her eyes and the way her lip curled that it got under her skin.
you were never coming home?” Wyatt asked as he jumped out of the truck and looked at me.
Funny how those words bite you in the ass.
I just stood there for a moment. Shocked. I’d been outside, relishing the afternoon. I dug my toes into the sandy dirt of the road. It was filled with gravel and dusty earth, but it was my home. The home I gave up on and ran from.
I wasn’t expecting Wyatt to show up at my door right away. I was sure he’d find me. I’d left him in the cold five years ago. He deserved it, but I knew he’d still be angry.
Knew he would have words to say, but this was insane. I’d been home no more than a day, and he was already knocking on my door?
If only a million dollars would find me just as fast.
“What in the hell are you doing here?” I wanted to come down off that porch and smack him in the face as soon as I saw him.
Wyatt Graves was my biggest regret in this town.
The one decision I made because I was childish enough to think I could change him. To think I mattered.
In the end that was all a lie.
Wyatt Graves was nothing more than a billionaire playboy who took after his father. Women and money. That’s all he gave a shit about. I thought he’d be too busy traveling, or whatever it is trust fund brats did.
I’d left this life a long time ago. And I swore it off, too. Said I didn’t want anything to do with him, or it. I spoke too damn soon.
Five years and I was back, but not because I wanted to be. Because I had no other choice.
Still, this dirt was where my soul sprung up. It was where I learned to ride my bike. It was where I had my first kiss. It was where I cussed and swore, vowing to get out of this shitty little town and never come back.
Like I said, funny how those words always bite you in the ass.
Now it was the place where I had to find myself. And I had to admit, I missed the feeling of grass between my toes.
“I could say the same for you,” I swear to god I wanted to wipe that smirk off his face. The same one he used to have on right before he would lean down and kiss me softly. Slowly.
Just another one of his conquests, I was fresh out of high school, and he was right out of college. I knew it was wrong. I knew it wouldn’t last, but I let it happen.
I let myself be one of his many different temporary acquisitions. Knowing he would break my heart, I didn’t let him have that opportunity. I left him before it could happen. At least that was what I told myself.
Still, standing in front of him, I couldn’t help but think,
he hasn’t changed a bit. Still a cocky jerk!
“I’m here to see your momma.” That gruff voice sent chills down my spine. Feelings I knew I shouldn’t be having. He was still as sexy as hell, if not even more handsome.
Time had been kind to Wyatt Graves. What was a young man had turned into a fully seasoned one. He was rough and hard around all the right edges.
Can’t blame a girl for looking.
“Let me get her.” I turned to open the screen door and as I did Sadie came bounding out, her bark reduced to high pitch whining as her bottom waggled back and forth running right for him.
He bent down and petted her, scratching her rump.
“Traitor,” I mumbled as I stuck my head in.
“Mom,” I called.
“What in the hell are you doing?” My mom called out to me from my place on the porch. She was in the kitchen, her head in the oven as she pulled out a fresh batch of cookies.
“Just thought I’d let Sadie out for you.” The big dog took her pets from Wyatt then bounded over by the orchard sniffing at the base of the apple trees. No doubt she was taking in the scent of the deer who came to rip the bark off and eat whatever they could find. “We have company.”
Come autumn they would have an veritable feast, but right now they had to subsist on the new growth that was starting to spring up.
In all honestly, I had no idea what I was doing, or why. Was it born from a need to feel my roots, or just to feel the warmth of the dirt between my toes?
“Who?” she asked as she set them down.
I looked back at Wyatt, and then I turned to see her on the front porch of the little cabin, the one I grew up in, smiling at me, wiping her hands on her apron. She was still fast when she wanted to be. My dad always said she was slow as a turtle unless she wanted something. Then she was a speed-racing hare. It was just best not to get in her way.
Shoot. Tears started to well up in my eyes, but I blinked them away. I wasn’t going to be reduced to tears. Not now.
“Wyatt? I thought you were coming at ten,” she said as she wiped her hands on her apron.
“It’s fifteen after ten, momma.” I bit my lip and tried not to look nervous. Wyatt just stood there, as polite as could be. I glanced at him and willed myself not to linger over his body.
It was a boyish handsome that had melted away to a devilishly sexy rock hard man. Like I said, couldn’t blame a girl for looking.
I yelled at myself. But it was too late. He saw me, noticed what I was doing. And that smile only got wider.
“Oh, hello, Wyatt.” She smiled at him, but I pushed her into the living room, just for a second.
“Well, that’s rude,” she started to chastise me, but I cut her off.
“Mom, bangs?” I said, holding back a chuckle.
“What? Oh! Thank you.” She pulled the curler out and checked her reflection in the long gun cabinet turned into bookshelves in the living room of her cabin. Daddy’s guns were all shoved into one corner, and her bodice rippers were piled high where guns used to be.
It was funny, but not unsurprising. She never did have much use for all the guns.
“One’ll do me just fine if someone comes to thieve,”
she always used to say. Thieve. I chuckled at the memory.
Looks like it had worked so far.
“Wyatt! I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize the time. I was too busy getting ready for work.”
She worked down at the Green Rustler, the local bar. She bartended more to get out of the house than anything else, but still, it was something to do.
“That’s okay, ma’am. Sadie here kept me company.” He smiled. The dog was plastered right up to his side.
“Ol’ girl always did like you. You bring the papers?” my mother asked.
“What papers, momma?” I furrowed my brow. What was she talking about?
“Making an offer on your momma’s land. Said she’s looking to sell,” Wyatt explained.
I blanched. She’d never sell all this land. This was daddy’s last little scrap. They’d sold the bulk of it, farm house and all when he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Said that they needed money for treatment. And that they were getting too old to take care of it.
Hundreds of acres. They’d parted with hundreds. We only had half of that left. Maybe less. And now she wanted to sell it all? Now, though, was she that desperate?
“No, momma, don’t sell. We can figure it out.” I held up my hand, ready to rebuke the both of them. I wasn’t going to lose this home. I wasn’t going to let him and his father walk away with more of it than they already had.
“What the hell am I going to do with all this land, Rosey? I can’t work it all. Don’t want to. It’s too damn much for me, and besides, I was never the farmer. That was your father. No, I wanna sell it. And I wanna sell it to Wyatt Graves.” My mother could be as stubborn as a mule when she put her mind to it.
One of the biggest agricultural farmers in the freaking state. He’d gobble this land up and then some.
They filled the soil with pesticides and destroyed the environment, and she wanted to sell to him?
“Momma—“ I started, but she shushed me, reading through the letter of proposal he gave her.
“This looks like a fair offer, Wyatt. Your daddy okay it?” I knew his father. He was a tough son of a bitch, and unless someone was getting the raw end of the deal, he wasn’t happy.
“He did. He even upped it after we got the appraisal. But what he isn’t aware of is that I increased the price again,” he winked at me and then handed the paperwork over to my mother.
I can’t believe this was happening right in front of my eyes.
She was selling it all, all my father’s hard work. Everything that was left of him.
“Where you even going to live?” I asked. Had she lost her damn mind? Was she just going to part with everything my father worked for? I wouldn’t let that happen. There was no way in this world I would allow that to happen. Not while I was still here.
I’d left this place for what I thought was greener pastures, but I was home now, and I would make sure that my father’s legacy wasn’t tarnished. What was left of it.
“Oh, I’m keepin’ the cabin and a little bit of the land. Want a garden, and a place for Sadie to run around.” She smiled. “I would never leave this place.”
I looked at her skeptically. What I needed was time. Time to convince her that she didn’t want to do this. We could work the land. Turn it back into a business. I had ideas, business strategies. I just needed her to let me formulate them and show her how we could make this place work.
I couldn’t bear to see it ripped away from us and stripped of all the good soil for some agro-business company that didn’t give a shit about the chemicals and the erosion it brought onto the area.
“You have to give me some time, okay? Let my lawyer look it all over?” I asked my mom.
“It’s a fair offer, Rosey,” Wyatt assured, but I ignored him.
“Please, mom?” I asked.
“Fine. You can have a lawyer look it over. Do what you need to do, but you aren’t going to be able to change my mind. I’m too old to work the land, Rose. I can’t do this anymore. It’s better to give it to someone who can.” All of a sudden my mother looked tired. She looked like the sixty-year-old woman she was. The lines stretching across her face, the sadness in her eyes.
This was hard for her. But I couldn’t just let her give up. Not yet.
“I just want to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of, mom,” I said as I grabbed the papers. “I’ll let you know what the lawyers say, Mr. Graves.” I had to keep it professional. I couldn’t let Wyatt get to me.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Mrs. Shannon.” He wasn’t looking at her, but at me. “Shannons are known to drive a hard bargain. I have no doubt you’ll get the upper hand on this one.”
My mom just smiled sweetly and looked from me to him. “That’s the idea, Wyatt.”
“I have a feeling that the two of you together will drive a hard bargain,” he said. He kept his tone light, his eyes happy.
I wasn’t sure how he could do that when all I wanted to do was smack him across the face.
He was a damn asshole, and he knew it.