“What do you think?” Molly asked, crouching down to watch her babies as they took a bite of the latest batch of brownies she’d made. They were in June’s baking shop, about to wrap up for the day. It was a Saturday, and her kids loved hanging around, trying June’s experiments and also helping Molly perfect her baking.
She wished she’d taken more time to practice growing up, but between classes and cheering it had been a struggle. Academics hadn’t come easy to her, so she’d spent all of her free time studying. When she’d gotten pregnant and got kicked out of the squad, she had a lot more time on her hands, and didn’t even have to pretend to fit in.
“It’s … really … chewy.” Sasha rubbed her neck. “Can I have some milk?”
Molly chuckled. “That bad?”
“June says they have to be squishy and chocolately,” Luke said.
Kissing each of her kids on the head, she took the tray of disaster brownies and threw them into the trash. Another disaster, and another try was coming up.
She didn’t get started, though, as a couple of customers entered. June was in the back, icing up some cookies to put on display.
Molly didn’t dare interrupt her while she piped and flooded nearly a hundred cookies. They sold out, and by the time the first batch sold out, June was ready with the next one.
After serving the latest customers, she went back to her kids and helped them with drawings that they’d started. Once they were settled, she began to stock the fridge and the display cabinet.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the little whore who has a job.”
Molly tensed, putting the last bottle of water in the fridge before turning to see Chloe. It had been a few years since she’d heard from Chloe, who happened to be the leader of the cheer squad, and who’d once been her friend.
Her babies were near the counter, and she hoped they didn’t hear.
She stared at Chloe, who was dressed in an expensive-looking business suit, and the sneer on her face made Molly feel ten inches tall.
Her hands fisted at her sides, and she didn’t have a clue what to say. Chloe hadn’t liked her since Dale asked her out. From that day forward, Chloe made her life hell, which only got worse when Molly came to school pregnant.
“What can I get you?” Molly asked.
“I want nothing from you, skank. Look at you, you’ve not even stayed in shape either. Just a fat waste of space.” She looked toward her kids. “And still bringing bastards into the world.”
Molly stepped up close. Any nerves she felt were gone. “You can say whatever you want to me, but you leave my babies out of this.” She made sure her voice didn’t wobble as she glared at the other woman. She may not be able to stand up for herself, but there’s no way she’d let anyone be spiteful to her kids.
After Sasha asked her what “a skank and a whore” meant a few months ago, she’d stopped her own parents from taking care of them.
“What’s going on here?” Dale asked, and Chloe pulled away, the sneer being replaced by a smile.
“Oh, my, if it isn’t Dale Lewis, still in Winters Fall,” Chloe said.
“I never left.”
Molly looked at his face and wondered if he’d heard what Chloe had said.
Using the distraction to get away, she ruffled her babies’ heads and stood behind the counter, waiting.
“It’s such a surprise to see you here. I didn’t expect that.” Chloe moved toward Dale, and Molly tried not to be jealous as she went to touch him.
Chloe and Dale had been an item at some point in high school, but then, most of the girls she’d known had screwed Dale. She’d not been special.
She’d just been the unlucky one that had the condom break on her. First time having sex, and first time using a condom.
Dale grabbed Chloe’s arm. “How long?”
“How long have you been putting Molly through hell? I had no idea that her own friends had turned on her.”
“What?” All the confidence in Chloe’s face disappeared.
“You, your little clique of girls, you all disgust me. The fact I even gave any of you the time of day disgusts me.” He looked at Molly, then at the two kids. “And if you call my babies bastards one more time, you’re not going to like what I do.”
He shoved Chloe’s hand away, and in her high heels she stumbled. “What?” Chloe looked at Molly, then at her kids.
No one had ever seen the resemblance to Dale before, but when people knew the truth like Trey, June, and even Max, they saw Dale in them.
“That’s right. They’re my kids. Molly is mine. Her babies are because of me. Don’t you ever let me hear her calling her a skank again, because you won’t like what I’ve got to spread about you.”
Chloe rushed away, and Molly’s heart pounded as she looked at Dale. The anger was clear on his face.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said.
Dale went straight to Sasha and Luke’s side. “You okay?”
“Yep. Mommy can’t make brownies,” Sasha said. “I think it broke my tooth.”
He burst out laughing, ruffled their hair, and then moved toward her. The counter didn’t separate them, and part of her was tempted to shout June for help, but she didn’t. She stared at the man who’d given her two precious jewels and crushed her heart in the process. This was what made it so hard to deny him. No matter what they said to each other, she always found herself back in his arms, craving him in ways that she’d never done with another man. No one else could ever match up to him, and she knew it was because she’d fallen in love with him all those years ago. No one else would ever be good enough.
“You had to live with that through high school?”
“Chloe hasn’t liked me for a long time. She wanted you, and when you asked me out on a date, I became public enemy number one. Then of course when I got pregnant, it was a lot more fun for her.”
“I had no idea.”
“It was a long time ago. Don’t worry about it.”
“A long time ago? It was six years.”
“And to some that is entirely another life. Honestly, Dale, it’s not a problem.”
She saw that to him it still was a big a problem.
“You’re not a whore.”
“I know that. Don’t worry about it.”
He reached out and cupped her cheek. “I don’t like it. There’s no way I’m ever going to be able to stand someone calling you that. I won’t allow it.”
She touched his hand where he held her. “It’s sweet of you.” It would be so easy for her to fall for him. Dale had that way about him where he did or said certain things, and she always just swooned. It was her punishment, or at least that was what she always assumed. When it came to him, she’d always found it hard to resist him, which was why she had Luke. After the birth of her second child, she’d been determined to always take precautions, and even though it cost her money to see the doctor, she’d gotten on the pill as soon as possible.
There had been a lot of times since Luke’s birth that she and Dale had hooked up as well.
Pulling away from his touch, she offered him a smile. “Thank you for saving me there.” She needed to put some distance between them.
“Go out with me Friday night,” he said.
“Of course. I couldn’t ask you about last Friday. It’s already gone. Trey and June have already said they’ll look after the kids. Please, Molly, trust me.” He stepped closer to her. “I’m not going to hurt you. Give me this chance, please. I’m not the guy that you once knew. I’m different now.”
She bit her lip and found herself nodding her head before she could stop it.
“Okay. Yes, I’ll go out with you Friday.”
“It’s a date.”