Sledge: The Hockey Player's Secret Baby (15 page)

BOOK: Sledge: The Hockey Player's Secret Baby
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The sound of a scuffle echoed through the room. I waited to be exposed. Anxiety twisted my stomach into knots. Fucking Sledge had given me the most amazing high. My father’s presence plunged me back down into the pits of anxiety and depression. What I wouldn’t give for a pill or two or three.

“I won’t stand by and let this happen again. My family won’t be torn apart by that girl’s selfish, sinful-”

“What do you mean ‘a repeat of last time’?”

“Just let me in,” my father said, avoiding the subject.

“I’m with a lady friend of mine,” Sledge said, as if he was talking to one of his friends. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to her. If I see Bobbi, I’ll give you a call, coach, I promise.”

There was a loud bang as the door slammed shut in his face followed by the click of the lock. Sledge walked around to the couch and sat beside me.

“He’s gone now,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I whispered.

“What’s he going to do? Knock the door down?”

“He might.”

Sledge gave me a wry look as if I was joking. I wasn’t. “What did your dad mean when he said he wouldn’t stand by and ‘let this happen again’?”

I sat up and readjusted my clothes. “He forced me to break up with you when he found out we were having sex. You know how religious he is. He was embarrassed and full of righteous anger. I was forbidden from talking to you ever again.”

This wasn’t exactly a lie. I simply neglected to admit that my dad discovered Sledge and I had been having sex when I became pregnant.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was forbidden. And I was a dumb girl who thought her father was a god. You know how everyone treats him. No one ever dares cross him. I was too scared.”

Sledge put his hand over mine. “You could have told me. I would have figured something out.”

“Like what? What would we have done? You didn’t have money at the time. You couldn’t support the both of us. I would have been disowned and thrown out onto the street.”

“I could have gotten a job.”

I shook my head. “No. If you’d gotten a job back home, you never would have left. You would have stayed behind for me, then your chance at the NHL would disappear. Staying with me would have ruined your life. It still might,” I said with a sigh.

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing.”

I straightened my clothes and rose from the couch. Sledge grabbed my hand and pulled me back down.

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“This was a mistake,” I said. “I shouldn’t have come here. I shouldn’t have kissed you, or…”

I looked back at the couch where we’d just had sex. Heat still radiated between my legs. Sledge’s eyes narrowed.

“You’re not leaving until you tell me what’s going on. You’ve been acting so strange. One minute, we’re laughing having a good time, the next you’re a nervous wreck. You act like being with me is the end of the world.”

“I’m under a lot of pressure. My father came up here to take me home. It’s like he said, I’m selfish and sinful. He thinks I’m an embarrassment. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to leave school.”

I broke down. I buried my face in my hands, trying to hide my tears. Sledge pulled me close.

“It’s not the end. You know I would never let anything bad happen to you. If this is about money-”

“No,” I said quickly. I didn’t want him to think I was trying to shake him down for cash. “I’m fine. I’ll get a student loan and a job. Astrid says the university has good job placement program. I’ll figure it out. It’s my responsibility. It’s just that I’ve never been alone like this before.”

“You’re not alone.” He wrapped an arm around me. I didn’t fight. I let him pull me to him. “I’m here for you, Bobbi. Just let me take care of you.”

I wanted to, more than anything.

“I wish this last year never happened,” I said.

“So do I. We should have been together. It was always the two of us. You were my best friend, then you ghosted me and I thought… well, that doesn’t matter now. If I’d known your father was behind it, I would have killed him.”

“And ruin your future?”

“What kind of future did I have without you?”

I was taken aback by his response. I looked down at my hands. I’d betrayed Sledge more deeply than he’d ever know. I was ashamed to be in his house.

“When I was First Overall Draft Pick, when I signed my first contract, got my first check, won my first big game… it was all hollow. I’ve been empty without you.”

“You deserve so much better than me,” I said.

“Why do you think that?”

“I’m not who you think I am.”

“We’ve known each other since we were kids, Bobbi. What secret could you possibly be hiding?”

I felt like a knife had been plunged into my gut.

“Could you make me another drink?” I asked.

“No. What is this? Since when do you drink?”

My phone started to ring. Grateful for a distraction, I jumped up to answer it. I pulled my cell phone out of my bag and checked the ID. It was my aunt. I was hoping it was Astrid, but I was relieved to see that it wasn’t my father.

“I have to take this,” I said. Sledge grabbed the phone from me and answered it. “Hey!” I protested.

“Listen to me,” he said to my aunt. “Stay away from Bobbi. You don’t have any authority over her anymore. She can do what she wants. If you come near her again, I’ll kill you.”

Sledge hung up the phone.

“You know that was my aunt, right?”

“What? Shit. I thought that was your dad. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“You snatched the phone away from me so quickly that I didn’t have the chance to.” He handed the phone to me. “Call her back and I’ll apologize.”

Sledge ran his hands through his hair and across his scruffy beard. I dialed her number but didn’t hand the phone over to Sledge.

“Bobbi?” she said, answering on the first ring.

“Yeah. I’m sorry about that. It was a misunderstanding. I-”

The sound of a baby crying in the background stopped me midsentence. The sound was loud and close to the phone. No way was it coming from the television.

“I’m calling to tell you that my decision is final. I won’t be coming to your house on the weekends anymore.”

I did my best to continue on as if I suspected nothing. Meanwhile, my mind raced. Why did my aunt have a baby at her house? She never mentioned anything about babysitting. Her friends were too old for children and as far as I knew, none of them had young grandchildren that visited. If they did, my aunt would have told me.

“You’re making a mistake, dear. You don’t want to go to war with your father. I don’t know who that young man was on the phone earlier, but if he’s led you to believe he’ll take care of you, then well…” She chuckled. “I hope you’re not stupid enough to believe the promises of some boy. They’ll say anything to get in your pants, then once the deed is done they run. I would think you of all people would understand that.”

I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Was she under the impression that the father of my baby had abandoned me? There was no telling what sort of lies my father had fed her.

“You’re right,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’ve been a bit disoriented these last few days.”

Sledge gave me a hard look. “Let me talk to her,” he said.

I turned away from him. “Daddy is usually right about these things,” I said to my aunt.

“Of course he is. You need to go home and cool off for a few days. You’ll see reason once you’ve had time to sleep on it.”

“Yes. I’m sure you’re right,” I lied. “It’s good to talk to you. Again, I’m sorry about that earlier phone call.”

“No problem, dear. I’ll see you this weekend.”

“Of course,” I said brightly.

I hung up the phone. I had to get to my aunt’s house immediately. There was something fishy going on.

“What the hell was that?” Sledge asked, more lost than ever.

“I need to borrow your car.”

“Where are you going?”

“I need you to trust me.”

I hoped that was good enough reason not to answer Sledge’s question. Judging by the look on his face, it wasn’t.

“Please? I won’t be long.”

“I’ll drive you.”

“I need to go alone.”

The muscle in his jaw tensed. “Bobbi…”

“I know. You don’t want to be kept on the outside of things. I get it. You want the truth. I just need you to trust me. I need to talk to my aunt alone. I’ll come right back and tell you everything. I promise.”

“Okay.” He walked into the next room and returned holding his keys. “It’s the silver Jaguar on the first floor of the parking garage. I parked near the elevators.”

“Thanks.”

I rose up on tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. Sledge turned and our lips met. I kissed him then pulled away. Sledge wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me close. He wasn’t going to let me get away that easily. He kissed me hard. For a breathless moment, I thought he’d never let me go. I didn’t want him to. Then he was pushing me away.

“I still love you, Bobbi. I always have. Don’t forget that.”

I stared at him dumbly. A million competing thoughts raced through my head. I didn’t know how to respond. I took the car keys from him and turned away. I walked out the door without looking back. I was afraid to. What if I saw the passion in his eyes and confessed everything? It would break his heart. He would hate me forever. I pushed on. I had to get to the bottom of my aunt’s secret. I left Sledge’s place with a new found determination.

14

 

 

 

 

 

I pulled up in front of my aunt’s house. The lights were on inside. I sat out front and waited. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but I felt like I was on a stakeout. Her shadow moved in front of the living room window. All of the windows were covered with drapes. I couldn’t see her, but I could see her silhouette. She moved slowly, pacing back and forth across the living room. What was she doing?

Enough of my stakeout. I was going to surprise her and get the truth. I didn’t bother knocking. I walked straight into her house. She was standing in the living room wearing an old plaid skirt with a long sleeved bloused. In her arms was a baby. First her eyes went wide with shock, then they narrowed.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

The baby in her arms fussed. She patted its back. My mouth fell open. The baby’s back was to me, but I recognized the mop of blonde hair. The room spun. I took a step back and collapsed onto the couch.

“You shouldn’t be here,” she said a bit hysterically. “Your father will have a fit, Bobbi.”

She carried the baby past me into the bedroom. As she passed I caught a glimpse of his face. The hazel eyes and square, masculine face belonged to Sledge. It was him. My baby. There was no denying it.

Spots formed in front of my eyes. My chest was tight. I was on the verge of passing out. In the distance, the baby cried. I needed to comfort him. Some instinct inside me pulled me to my feet. My baby needed his mother.

A door slammed and my aunt reappeared, blocking me from going to the baby. Her arms crossed in front of her chest. She stared me down hard. I’d never seen this side of my aunt before. I was used to dealing with the sweet, but somewhat feeble woman who liked to play cards and dominos. The woman who stood in front of me reminded me of my father. They shared the same withering gaze.

“You need to leave, Bobbi.”

“I’m not going anywhere. That’s my baby.”

“The baby’s not yours anymore.”

“He’ll always be mine. There’s nothing you or my father can do to change that.”

“Get out of my house.”

“Not without my son.”

I started to push her aside. She grabbed my arms and forced me back down onto the couch. I was surprised by her strength. So much for the feeble old woman I’d grown accustomed to. My aunt was much stronger than she looked.

“Sit down,” she said.

I obeyed her orders but not without protest. “Why is the baby with you? He was supposed to have been adopted into a loving family.”

“He was adopted into a loving family: ours.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t, you foolish girl. You’re nothing more than a child. You went and got yourself knocked up then left the responsibility of being a parent to everyone else.”

“No, that’s not what happened. My father forced me to give the baby up for adoption. I wanted to keep him.”

“Regardless,” she said. Her lips were so tight that her face had turned pale. Clearly, she didn’t believe me. “The baby is being cared for by more capable adults.”

“Who? You? Why haven’t I seen signs of the baby before? Where was he on the weekends when I was with you?”

“The baby was always going to stay in the family. We didn’t want him being handed off to strangers. Who knew how they’d raise him. What if he wasn’t brought up in a Christian home? What if his adopted family were monsters?”

I shook my head in disbelief. The idea of my baby being secretly raised by my aunt was more unsettling than the idea of him being raised by strangers. Most adoptive parents are loving people. My aunt was something else.

“How could you keep this secret? You had to know I’d find out eventually,” I said.

My aunt shrugged. “You’re just a child. You’ll do what we say.”

It was an unbelievably dismissive response. “You can’t honestly believe I’d just take your word for gold and move on with my life, that I would blindly follow your orders forever?”

“Well, you have been, haven’t you? You never once questioned anything. You never suspected anything was amiss. Like I said, you believe what we want you to believe.”

If she wasn’t an old woman, I would have hit her. “What right do you have to do this?”

She rolled her eyes. “I’ve fed and cared for that baby while you were out partying. Don’t lecture me. I’ve taken on a great responsibility.”

“That’s impossible. I’m here every weekend. I’ve never seen any sign of a baby.”

“Since I’m forced to babysit you on the weekends, the baby stays with some ladies from the church. They care for him while I make sure you don’t spiral any further down the path of immorality.”

“You self-righteous bitch.”

My aunt’s eyes doubled in size. She laughed. “You self-centered little girl. You have no idea how much work goes into being a mother. I’ve sacrificed everything to take care of your baby.”

“I never asked you to do that, and don’t pretend like you’ve given up your life for me. You have no life. You don’t work. My father supports you. All you do is gossip with your church friends and watch TV all day.”

My aunt’s hand cut through the air quickly. She slapped me so hard tears welled up in my eyes. I grabbed my cheek.

“Don’t you ever speak that way to me again.”

I’d always thought of aunt as feeble and basically nice. Now I saw that the same rage lurked inside her that was inside my father. How could she keep this secret from me for so long? Then I thought of Sledge. The secret lives people hide can be devastating. I couldn’t help looking at my aunt’s two-faced behavior and seeing myself. Shame faced, I looked away.

“You don’t even love him,” I said weakly.

My chest felt tight. I thought my life couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong. This was worse than anything I’d ever imagined. My son wasn’t in a loving home; he was being raised by a woman barely capable of taking care of him who saw him as nothing more than a burden.

“Did you even name him?” I asked.

“Of course we did. We named him after one of the strongest, fiercest men I know: your father.”

My stomach dropped. The idea of naming my baby after the man who’d taken him from my arms and sent him to a loveless home made me rage. I jumped to my feet. My aunt blocked my path. If I had to knock her down, I would. If she broke a hip, I didn’t care.

Light filled the room; a car door slammed shut. Someone had pulled into the driveway.

“That will be your father,” my aunt said.

Things had just gotten worse. I couldn’t fight off the two of them. Even if I managed to get the baby out of the house and away from my aunt, where would we go? I couldn’t raise a baby in a dorm. I’d have to go to Sledge. I couldn’t imagine the look on his face when I showed up on his doorstep carrying a baby- his baby.

There was no other choice. Sledge had to learn the truth. It would rock his world, but I had to do what was best for the baby. My pregnancy was as much Sledge’s responsibility as mine. If our lives suffered, then we’d just have to live with it.

I had to move quickly. I would grab the baby, run out through the back patio, then jump in Sledge’s car. I suddenly realized I didn’t have a car seat or diapers or formula. I’d figure it out later. What was important was getting the baby out of that house.

I made a move to run past my aunt. I faked to the left then ran to her right. Behind me I could hear a loud knock at the door. Odd. My father usually just barged into my aunt’s house. He saw it as his house since he paid for it.

The knocking caught my aunt off guard too. She paused long enough for me to dart into the guest room. She didn’t chase me. I heard her casually walk to the door. She was taking her time. She knew my father would take control. It never occurred to her until she opened the door that it wasn’t my father knocking.

I threw open the guest room door to find my baby. He was crying and red-faced. His little hands were balled into fists. He was alone in his crib with a plain white blanket. There were no toys in the room or stuffed animals. Did he live like this all the time? Nothing to play with, no one to show him affection. The only one to comfort his cries was my aunt. The thought gave me a chill.

I went to the crib and looked down at him. He didn’t seem real. His face was soft and round, but I could see the underlying bone structure that in later years would resemble his father’s. I touched his arm carefully. I was afraid he’d disappear if I picked him up.

“What are you doing here?” my aunt said from the living room. Her voice broke the spell. I had to move quickly.

I wrapped the blanket around him and scooped him up into my arms. He was heavier than I thought. Almost a year old, he was chubby and long. He’d be tall like his daddy.

I clutched him to my chest and felt his warmth. Life pulsed through him, new and energetic. I wanted to cry. There was no time for that now though. I searched the room. On the floor against the wall was a car seat. I put the baby down in it and secured it tight. I picked up the car seat and went to the door.

“I’m looking for Bobbi.” Sledge’s voice stopped me in my tracks. I stood in the doorway. Sledge came to me then stopped ten feet away. His eyes were fixed on the car seat.

My lies crumbled.

I watched Sledge’s eyes turn from confusion to understanding. He knew the baby was ours.

“You can’t be here. I’ll call the police,” my aunt threatened.

Sledge ignored her. He dropped to his knees and pulled back the blanket to get a better look at his baby. I was frozen in place. I didn’t dare speak or move. The baby looked up at Sledge; they shared the same hazel eyes. There was a commotion at the door.

“Thank God you’re here,” my aunt said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with this girl. She’s brought this boy into my house and-”

“Quiet,” my father said.

Darkness fell over Sledge’s eyes. He jumped to his feet. Silently, he crossed the space between himself and my father.

“Leave right-” Those were the only words my father was able to get out before Sledge silenced him with his fist. I clutched my hands to my mouth in shock as Sledge laid into him. Blow after blow fell onto my father. He managed to throw one swing at Sledge, but missed. He was the kind of man who was used to being obeyed without question. Fighting wasn’t something he was prepared for. Sledge knocked him to the floor, then jumped on top of him.

My aunt screamed: “I’m calling the police!”

“Sledge, please,” I said.

He stopped and looked at me. The baby had started to cry again. His eyes went to him.

“Let’s go,” he said to me.

With trembling hands, I picked up the car seat. I took a step towards the front door. My father lay before it, blocking the path. A sick wheezing sound came from him as he tried to breathe through his broken nose. He didn’t try to get up. Either he was too wounded or too afraid. I clutched the car seat to me. I was too afraid to step past me. Even now that he was broken, I still found him terrifying.

“Bobbi, let’s go,” Sledge said.

When he saw the look on my face, he took the car seat from me and wrapped an arm around my waist. I jumped over the top of my father quickly and ran outside. Sledge’s driver waited in a black sports car. He looked up when Sledge and I appeared.

“We’re going back to my place,” he said to his driver. The man nodded. To me he said: “Give me the keys.”

I handed them over mutely. Sledge opened the Jaguar’s door and put the baby in the back. He secured the car seat like he’d done it a million times. Sledge had a younger sister that was born when he was fifteen. He had a lot of experience taking care of her. Still, I was impressed by how naturally he handled the baby.

I stood on the lawn watching. Sledge finished and turned to me. I didn’t dare move. I had the sickening feeling he didn’t want me to come.

“Get in,” he said harshly.

I obeyed his orders quickly. Now that I’d been exposed, I didn’t want to do anything to further to hurt him. I looked back at the house as we pulled away. My father was on his feet. He stood in the doorway, glaring at us as we drove away. This wasn’t over for him. Not by a long shot.

BOOK: Sledge: The Hockey Player's Secret Baby
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