“Jesus.” So his father had an affair. It shouldn’t surprise him, but it still did. At least it was better than the alternative. “Do you know what Erin’s last name is?”
A muscle ticked in his father’s jaw. Realization entered his eyes. “Sophia had a daughter.”
“That’s right. And Erin knows her mother used to work here. She remembers her coming home crying the last day she came here.”
His skin paled. “I… cared for Sophia. A great deal.”
“Apparently not enough to continue employing her. Or to keep your hands off her so she wouldn’t feel pressured.”
“She wanted what we had together. Call me wrong but I believe that.”
Blake shook his head. “Then what happened?”
“Your mother found out. She didn’t confront me, though. She confronted Sophia while she was upstairs. It was… very ugly.”
“No shit,” Blake said, disgusted.
“I put a stop to their confrontation but I…” His father sighed, looking more tired than he’d ever been. “I let your mother throw Sophia out of the house. I didn’t stand up for her. I loved Sophia but when it came out, I chose to keep my wife and standing rather than be with her. I was a coward.”
Blake agreed but he was too sick over the whole thing to say so. In the end he understood the irony of him accusing his father of wrongdoing. Blake had fought his attraction to his young maid, knowing it was too improper, that she was too young and beautiful and good for him. And in the end he had given in to his desire—just like his father.
But there were differences too. Blake wasn’t married. He hadn’t broken any vows to be with Erin. And when
it came to defending her against anyone, he would fight a fucking army.
Something about that poked at him.
He cocked his head. “Frankly, I’m surprised you didn’t have your investigators look into her and find this out for yourself.”
“I did,” his father admitted. “I ordered a report. A brief one. I didn’t want to intrude.”
“Of course,” Blake said dryly.
“Well, if it makes you feel better, I didn’t actually read it. I was away on travel until just two days ago. Your mother read it, I believe.”
If that was true, then his mother knew about Erin’s connection to Sophia Raider.
And he’d left Erin alone.
Erin’s first date came in her junior year. Already she was a late bloomer. Her other friends had already been asked—but they also had time to hang out at the mall for hours and attend the football games. Erin worked between ten and fifteen hours a week with her mother. So when one of the cutest boys in school had not only noticed her, but asked her to a movie Saturday night, she’d spent fifteen dollars on a cute new top and wore her favorite jeans.
The night went perfectly. They laughed together, they held hands. She fell as quickly as it was possible to fall, then they drove out to the make-out point. She was still on board. She wanted him to kiss her, to touch her. She didn’t want to have sex.
“Come on, Erin,” he’d said, frustrated. “I paid for the movie and popcorn. And now you’re acting shy?”
She’d been torn between shame and anger and a desperate wish for acceptance. So she’d let him pull off her new top and her old jeans and have sex with her.
That had been her first time.
Ever since then she’d tried to live honestly, to say no when she really meant it, to only say yes when she wanted to. And definitely never to accidentally trade sex for money, letting herself be bought. She’d always wanted to have sex with Blake. And she believed he’d always wanted her.
It was hard to remember that in the face of the Ice Queen calling her trash. “You come from nothing. You are nothing. Scars or not, he could make a good match. So why would he want a young, pretty girl who’s accomplished nothing?”
Her cheeks burned. Is that what had happened? Had she let him pay for a movie and popcorn—and then spread her legs? No, she didn’t believe that. “I don’t know why you’re trying to come between us, but it won’t work.”
“I’m not trying to come between you, I just want to be honest with you. Women like you, you get ideas about men like Blake. That they’ll marry you, that they’ll leave their families for you.” Bel stood up, looming over her. “But they won’t.”