Page 63 of Lavish Loving

“But it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know that now. I didn’t at twelve years old.”


Jennifer pondered all that had been said, her eyes narrowing as she too stared into the past. “Now it all makes sense. That’s around the time you started acting out, so much so that…”

“You sent me off to boarding school.”

“You did that on purpose.”

“It wasn’t planned. But after it happened, I felt the one good thing to come out of it was no more summers in New Orleans. No more chance of seeing Mr. Williams.”

Jennifer gathered London into her arms. Began to slowly rock them. “Clarisse Alana, my dear, feisty, beautiful darling. I’m sorry. So, so sorry that you’ve carried this burden alone for all of these years.”

They held each other for a long, tender moment. When she pulled back, London’s eyes glistened with tears. “Don’t tell anybody, okay, Mom? I don’t want anyone else to know.”

“I don’t think that’s a promise I can make, Clarisse. I’m not sure it would be in your best interest even if I could.”

“Why not? Why does anyone else have to know?”

Jennifer sighed. “Your father and I have no secrets between us. I need to know whether or not this Williams guy is still at the farm. If so, he will be dealt with immediately. But even more than that, sweetheart, it’s my desire to see you totally free. As long as you feel shame for something that was not your fault, you will be in an emotional prison. It’s why assaults like this continue, because victims are too ashamed and embarrassed to speak up.”

A pause and then she continued, “There are others in this family who’ve experienced your same fate.”

“Who?”

“I’ll leave them to share their stories. Right now my focus is you. And I want you to know that in this moment I couldn’t be prouder of the woman you are, that you are my daughter and that you bear the Drake name.”

The conversation ended shortly after that. Jennifer agreed to give London a few days before sharing the news she’d just learned with the family. Back downstairs London and Ace passed on the invite to join the family at the club. Instead, he accepted their offer to spend the night in one of several guesthouses they owned around town and meet Jennifer for lunch the following day to discuss the charity show.

London rode with Ace and directed him to his temporary abode. They pulled into the driveway of a two-story beach-style house with flowering shrubbery and a well-manicured yard. “This is it?”

“Yep.”

He shut off the engine. “Y’all call this a guesthouse? You guys sure know how to treat your guests.”

“Makes it easier when you own a realty company with architecture and construction arms. Come on. Let’s go inside.”

Ace continued to be impressed. London gave a five-minute tour that ended in the kitchen. After pouring drinks, they settled into the living room.

“Still mad at me?”

London shook her head. “It’s crazy. All these years I’ve held on to that secret, feeling horrible about what happened and scared someone would find out. But Mom was amazing. She made me feel…” Tears formed in her eyes. “Her words were like healing waters. They made me feel clean again.”

“Oh, baby.” Ace put down his drink and pulled London into his arms. He pulled away far enough to brush tendrils of hair away from her face. “You are amazing. Don’t ever doubt that.”

“Oh, yeah? I thought I was a spoiled, pampered brat.”

“A little of that, too. But mostly amazing.” A companionable silence filled the room. London relaxed into the embrace, still bewildered that he was in her town and she was in his arms.

“The team’s been worried about you. When you didn’t fly back with us, there was all sorts of speculation. I wasn’t in the mood to answer their questions.”

“Your personal life is none of their business.”

“True, but their main focus was OTB Her and whether you’re still going to represent it.”

“Do you still want me to?”

“Yes. You’re the perfect person for the line.”

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