Pleasant Hill, Texas
Beau could hardly believe it. His father was sixty years old! The girl sitting across from him in a booth at the Pleasant Hill Cafe looked like a teenager. A very pregnant teenager.
"Everything's going to be okay, Missy," Beau Reese said. "You don't have to worry about anything from now on. I'll make sure it's all taken care of from here on out."
"He bought me presents," the girl said tearfully, dabbing a Kleenex against her watery blue eyes. "He told me how pretty I was, how much he liked being with me. I thought he loved me."
'Fat chance of that', Beau thought. His dad had never loved anyone but himself. True, his father, still a handsome man, stayed in shape and looked twenty years younger. Didn't make the situation any better.
"How old are you, Missy?"
At least she was over the age of consent. That was something, not much.
Her hand shook as she toyed with a long strand of pale blond hair. Though her belly was enormous, the rest of her was a little too thin for someone eight-and-a-half months along, probably from so much worry.
Beau turned his attention to the woman sitting next to her daughter on the opposite side of the booth, Josie Kessler, the owner of the cafe.
"You should have called me, Josie. I can't believe you waited this long."
"I wanted to, Beau, but Missy was adamant. She didn't want to do anything to upset the senator. She really believed he was going to marry her."
Beau shook his head. "You know him, Josie. You've known him for years. Did you really believe that was going to happen?"
An older blond version of her daughter, Josie sighed. "I never believed it. I tried to tell her, but every time I started to talk to her, she got so upset I worried for the baby."
Full-figured now in her forties, Josie's hair had begun to turn gray. Wrinkles formed tiny lines around her mouth from the years when she was a smoker. Neither woman was beautiful, their features slightly blunt and unrefined, but there was a sweet, appealing quality about the girl.
Beau shoved a hand through his wavy black hair and took a steadying breath. "This isn't your fault, and both of us know it. It's no one's fault but my father's."
Though Josie was outspoken and a well-loved fixture in the community, Missy was quiet and shy, exactly the kind of woman his father preyed on, using flattery and attention to woo the unwary into his bed.
Unless he flat-out paid them.
Beau had known Josie and Missy's grandmother, Evelyn, the former owner of the cafe, since he was a kid. Missy was just a child when he'd left Pleasant Hill to attend the university in Austin. He glanced over at the girl, whose face was pale, her eyes swollen from crying. None of the women in the family had much luck with men. Or at least that's how it seemed.
He thought of the DNA test folded up and tucked into the pocket of his shirt. Josie had handed it to him when he'd first arrived. Not that he'd had much doubt her daughter was telling the truth.
"What did my father say when Missy told him about the baby?" Beau asked. "He wanted her to have an abortion. Missy refused."
"I told him I wouldn't do that, no matter what," the girl said, sniffing into the Kleenex. "I told him I wanted to have his child."
"It's a little girl, Beau," Josie said with a wobbly smile. "We both love her already."
A peculiar tightening settled in his chest. As a kid, he had desperately wanted a brother or sister. By the time he was five, his parents barely tolerated each other. His mother had died six years ago, but now, at thirty-five, he was going to have a little sister.
Beau felt a surge of protectiveness toward the young woman carrying his father's child.
He looked over to where she sat hunched forward on the bench on the opposite side of the pink vinyl booth. At the misery in her face, he reached across the Formica-topped table and covered her hand, gave it a gentle squeeze.
"Everybody makes mistakes, Missy. You picked the wrong guy, that's all. Doesn't mean you won't have a great kid."