“Bullshit. Sam would never do that,” I say. If there was one person I know Sam hates more than anyone else, it’s Karen. She was horrible to him from day one.

She smiles smugly. “I pretended I was an insurance provider on the phone and he spilled all your personal info me. Someone should tell that guy he has a big mouth.”

Believe me, I have. He never learns. I plan to give him an earful about it next time we talk.

It makes perfect sense. Karen and her schemes. Some things never change. I would really love to slam the door in her face right now and go back to making love to my beautiful girlfriend who doesn’t deserve to be put through any of this. I can tell Remy doesn’t want to stay, but she does because she wants to be here for me. I don’t want to put her through this anymore.

“Babe, could you make sure I blew out that candle in the room?” I say to her.

She lets out a long sigh of relief and gives me a sympathetic smile. “Sure.”

When she’s gone, I turn back to Karen who watches Remy walk away. “Jesus, Deacon, what is she, twelve?”

“She’s eighteen and far more mature than you ever were,” I snap. “Why are you here?”

I never used to stand up to her. She’s not used to being talked to like this. That self-righteous sneer she gives me says it all. She thinks she can come back here and boss me around like she used to. Well, fuck that. Not going to happen. Being with Remy has shown me how I deserve to be treated.

The look on her face is a mixture between shock and rage. “I’m here to get my daughter.” She spits the words out like they’re poison on her tongue.

They hit me like a punch in the gut.

“No,” Remy says. I look behind me where she’s standing at the entrance of the hall. She must’ve been eavesdropping. She looks terrified. “You can’t come back here after being gone for months and just take her. You have no right.” Her voice is high-pitched, frightened. She’s practically in tears. She and Bailey had formed an instant bond. Remy’s the only mother Bailey has ever truly known.


“I have every right. I’m her mother,” Karen says, her lip curling into a vaudevillian smile.

“There’s no way in hell I’m letting you anywhere near my daughter. No. Fucking. Way,” I tell her.

Her smile is hideous. Evil. She wants to rip my new family apart. Destroy everything I’ve built. Everything I will fight to death for. I’ve never raised my hand to a woman. Never even entertained the idea. But seeing that look on her face and knowing she plans to take my daughter from me …

“You’ll have to take me to court for custody,” I say. “No judge will ever hand Bailey over to you. You’re a drunk and have no stability. You’re practically a stranger to her.”

“We’ll see about that. I’m her mother. Children belong with their mothers and any judge will see that. I have a full time job and an apartment of my own. There’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

I can’t believe she’s doing this. She doesn’t want to be a mother. I know her better than that. So what’s her angle? With the way she keeps looking at Remy, I think I can guess. She probably blew through all the guys she’s been dating—literally and figuratively—and once they saw through her shit, most likely, they dumped her. So, as usual, she comes running back to me. This has happened plenty of times in the past. Like a fool, I always took her back because of my dreams of having the perfect family. Things would be good between us for a while. She would do wifely things: make dinners, do laundry, go shopping. But then she’d always get that itch to go party. One night of going out with the girls led to another night, and another, until it was every night. Then she wouldn’t come home at all.

Now that she knows I’ve moved on, she wants to hurt me. The only way to do that is to go after Bailey. She’s vindictive enough to do it too. I believe that. She’ll fight for custody just to spite me. There’s no way I’m giving my daughter up without a fight.

She shrugs. “I guess I’ll see you in court,” she says and walks away.

I slam the door, feeling sick to my stomach. Remy rushes over and wraps her arms around me.

“Please tell me that didn’t just happen. It’s just a horrible nightmare and we’ll both wake up from it any minute now.”

I rub her back and hold her tight. “I wish I could tell you that’s the case, but it’s not.”

“Bailey is like a daughter to me. I love her so much. That woman will ruin her life,” Remy says.

I sigh. “I know. But Karen’s right. She’s Bailey’s mom. That seems to be important to judges, even though she’s like a toxic mold.”

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