A Taste of Honey

Oberon: Book Four

 

“Nick...what is all this stuff?”  Dan Cavanaugh leafed through the folder his wife’s cousin had thrown at him--a folder full of photos and surveillance reports and investigator’s notes, over a decade’s worth of confidential information--all of it pertaining to him.  He looked over at the other man, feeling nauseous and disoriented.  The sky above was just as brightly blue as it had been a couple of moments earlier, the late September sun was still shining, and the multitude of green plants that surrounded the two men radiated with life, but Dan’s world had gone suddenly dead cold and gray.

“Dunno.  I was hoping you could tell me,” Nick Greco answered.  Dan glanced at him sharply.  His shrug seemed just a little too casual.  And he was using his cop voice, too--never a good sign.  “We found it in Paige’s apartment.”

Paige Delaney.  Dan swore silently.  Yeah, that figured.  Hadn’t he always known she was trouble?  Small wonder that someone had finally decided to kill her.  “Jesus.  That woman was nuts.  So, what’re you saying--she was stalking me?”

“Could be.”  Nick eyed him curiously.  “You really didn’t know anything about this?”

Dan stared at the photos again.  “Hell, no.  And I tell you, it’s a damn good thing Lucy never got wind of it, either.”  He could just imagine what his wife would have done had she known.  It scared the shit out of him.

“There’s still something else you gotta see,” Nick said quietly.

Dan rifled through the rest of the papers, wondering what could make Nick look so grim, and then stopped  when he found it.  “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  This is some kind of joke, right?”

He stared in disbelief at the birth certificate in his hands and sixteen years dissolved in an instant--

“You’ll have to marry me now, Dan,” Paige had insisted, all those years ago.  “I’m pregnant.”

Dan remembered how he’d laughed.   How often did a man get to hear that twice in one night?  He wondered whether she really was pregnant, at all.  Not that it mattered, of course; because even if she were, it wasn’t his child she was carrying.  He had no doubts on that count.  Not possible.

“Jesus Christ, Paige,” he said, trying to joke, “How many pregnant women do you think I can marry at the same time?”

“But, Dan--”  she protested, before he cut her off, laughing again, this time at the thwarted expression on her face.

“Ah, c’mon, Paige, knock it off, already.  You don’t really expect me to fall for that fairy tale, do you?  I mean, I think I’d have known it, if I’d actually gone and knocked someone up.  Now, d’you mind?  I have to finish packing.  I’ve got a plane to catch.”

He’d tried to stay civil, but his good humor had faded quickly in the face of her threats to go to Lucy with her news.  He’d gotten angry then, and issued a few threats of his own.  Shortly afterwards, she’d left his apartment.  For sixteen years he hadn’t heard another word about this supposed child of theirs.  Until right now.

“It’s no joke.  I checked.”  Nick paused to light a cigarette.  “It’s a certificate of live birth, sure enough.”

“And she really went ahead and listed me as the father?”  Dan felt his mind balk as it tried to wrap itself around the concept.  “I don’t freakin’ believe this!”

“So, you’re saying you’re not the father?”  Nick’s voice was a little too cool, a little too noncomittal, as he tossed the match aside.  “But you knew she was pregnant, right?”

“Yeah, I mean--well, she said she was.  But I thought--”  He glared at him.  “Hell, yes I’m saying I’m not the father.  I was always real careful about stuff like that.”

“Still…accidents happen, don’t they?”  Nick said, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Not to me they haven’t,” Dan answered resentfully.  He and Nick had been friends for a lot of years.  Friends?  Hell, they were family!  And after all this time, he would have thought he earned a little of the other man’s trust.  He didn’t deserve to have his word doubted.  Especially not about something like this.

“So, uh, how d’you explain Seth, then?”  Nick asked, sounding almost apologetic.  Dan flinched slightly at the mention of his son’s name.

“Ah, that was different.”  He rifled through the papers a few moments more, pausing to shake his head over a copy of the adoption records.  Jesus.  Three last names?  That was a helluva moniker to stick on one little girl.  “She wouldn’t marry me,” he muttered as he heedlessly stuffed the papers back into the folder.  “I had to do something.”

Nick gaped at him for several seconds.  “You’re saying you got Lucy pregnant...on purpose?” He asked at last, and Dan could tell how little he liked that idea.  Almost as little as Lucy would, probably.  If she ever found out.  “So that she’d have to marry you?”

“It wasn’t like that.  Not exactly.”  Dan squirmed a little, suddenly realizing that okay, maybe it had been like that, after all.  “But--oh, hell.  She’d already left me once, Nick.  I couldn’t let her get away again.  You know what that’s like.”

And if I had it to do over, I’d do the same damn thing again, he thought, stubbornly.

“Yeah,” Nick admitted, after a moment; although he was still looking none too happy.  “Yeah, I suppose I do.  So...what do you plan to do about this, then?”

“Do?”  Dan frowned.  “What do you mean?  What d’you want me to do about it?”

“Well, from what I’ve learned, this was an open adoption.  The girl knew Paige.  Apparently they’ve been having regular visits.  So probably she knows about you, too.  But if you think you’re not the father, you oughta--”

“I’m not the father,” Dan insisted again, as he got to his feet.  “Which is why I’m not going to do a God damn thing about any of this.  It’s got nothing to do with me, Nick.  And it’s gonna stay that way.”

Nick looked at him wearily.  “Dan, think about it.  This is not the kind of thing you can keep a secret forever.  And if she’s not your child--”

“No, Nick.  You think about it,” Dan snapped.  “You know your cousin.  And you know how Lucy always felt about Paige, too, for that matter.  Christ, they hated each other!  If she ever found out about this?  If she ever learned that I’d been with Paige, even though it was before we were married, and even though it meant nothing to either one of us--?”  His voice trailed off as he thought about it himself and everything inside him twisted into knots.  He could never make her understand.  And, even after all this time, he could still lose her.

“I still say you ought to tell her.  Before she finds out some other way.”

“No way.”  Dan shook his head.  “No possible way am I gonna risk throwing away sixteen years of a happy marriage just because some bitch I barely knew lied on some damn birth certificate form.  Here.”  Dan tossed the folder back at Nick.  “Take it back.  I don’t ever want to see this shit again.”

“What do you want me to--”

“Burn it,” Dan snapped.  He stared at his friend sullenly.  “It’s what you should have done in the first place.”  It’s what I would have done for you, Dan thought, feeling just a little betrayed.  It’s the least I would have done.

“No, I mean...about Lucy, what--”  Nick tried again, and again Dan cut him off.

“This has nothing to do with Lucy.  And I’m counting on you not to bring her into it, either.”

“You mean you’re asking me to help you keep secrets from her now.”  Nick sighed, but he sounded resigned as he stubbed out his cigarette.

“And what secret would that be, Nick?”  Dan raised his eyebrows, “That sixteen years ago Paige Delaney had a child and I wasn’t the father?  Yeah, that’s a real news flash, all right.  I can see where Lucy’d really need to know about that.”

“Shit.  I just hope you know what you’re doing.”  Nick shook his head.  “Because, you know, if you’re wrong about this...”

“Yeah, yeah,”  Dan answered, shivering slightly, as he felt a sudden chill.  “I know.”

If he was wrong, he was maybe making the second biggest mistake of his life...

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