Her Sister's Secret
Jenny Eglington's dying sister begged her not to tell Roland LaPierre she bore him a son. When, at the end of a year, Jenny couldn't find Roland, she believed her promise to her sister and her love for Danny made him hers. Now Danny is six, and Roland is back. Jenny must deal with guilt and an attraction to the man who has the power to destroy her life.
Jenny glanced at the envelope, and a wave of unease swept over her. Ms. Jenny Eglington and Guest. Where had she seen that bold, masculine handwriting before? She read the words on the enclosed card:
You are cordially invited to a reception at Eglington Lodge to mark the opening of Hallmark Transportation’s new Detroit terminal on Saturday, the 18th of July at 4 p.m.
She frowned. The real estate agent must have worked fast to rent her old house during the three days she’d been away in New York City. She couldn’t very well phone him right now to find out, for it was eleven o’clock at night. But she could take a look to see if there were lights on in the house. She stepped outside the coach house where she and her small nephew had lived since they’d been forced out of the family home.
Across the wide expanse of lawn, her old home nestled amidst a profusion of oak, maple and spruce trees. One of the finest homes in Michigan, the gray stone house stood tall and proud, as though in defiance of the fact that the Eglington name had long since been ground into the dust. Light shone from its leaded glass windows, and traced golden fingers across the grass.
The heavy stone in her chest dissolved. Obviously, someone had moved in. Business people who wanted her to come to a reception tomorrow. She went back into the coach house and closed the door.
“Mom,” Danny called. “Mom.”
Hearing Danny’s anguished cry, she dashed to his bedroom.
He sat amidst a pile of twisted bedclothes, his brown eyes glistening with tears in the soft glow from the night-light. “Oh, what’s the matter, lovey?” She dropped to the side of the bed and held him close. His narrow shoulder blades felt like mountain ridges, sharp and thin. Too thin. In that moment, like so many other moments since her rash promise to her dying sister, she despaired in her role of single parent.
“I dreamed you hadn’t come back from New York yet.”
“Of course I’m back, sweetie. Don’t you remember me reading you a story when you went to bed?”
“Yeah, I remember now.” His warm breath caressed her neck. “You were gone three whole days. I don’t like it when you go away for so long and Mrs. Stevens stays here.”
“I know you don’t, honey, but sometimes I have to travel for my job.” Smiling, she held him at arms’ length. “The big house is rented so we’re rich again.” Well not exactly rich, but she could at least make mortgage payments.
“And will we be moving into the big house?”
“One day, sweetie.” She rubbed a tear from his cheek. “Now, how about trying to get back to sleep?”
He lay on his back, and she tucked the covers around him. She pressed her lips to his cheek. “Good night, darling,” she whispered. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.” He yawned and turned onto his side.
She moved to the window. The moon was a gold medallion set amidst a sprinkling of stars. It cast its ghostly light across the lawn, and painted a silvery path on the waters of Lake St. Clair and on the weeping willows bordering Peche Island. She gazed past the island toward the Canadian shore. Canada. Roland LaPierre’s country.
The thought of Roland sent icy fingers down her spine. She shivered and took a deep breath, willing herself to relax. She had no reason to fear Roland. He didn’t live around her anymore. If he knew her sister had borne him a son, he would have claimed him by now.
She remembered the time Danny had questioned her about his daddy.
“Your daddy went away before you were born,” she’d told him. She knew that eventually she’d have to tell him that her deceased sister, not she, was his natural mother.