“You never should have left.” His voice was low, menacing.
“I didn’t have a choice. I know you would have tried to stop me if I waited ’til morning to tell you I was going. And I’m not a child, Jake Douglas. I shouldn’t have to ask your permission to search for my own son.”
“I already searched,” he said through his teeth, his fingers biting into her flesh. “There is no reason for you to do what’s already been done.”
“Let me go.” She wrenched free of his grasp. When he lunged for her, she reacted instinctively, lashing her foot out. She caught him just below the knee.
He stumbled, cursing, but managed to snatch her by the wrist. She kicked out again, but missed when he sidestepped, and then spun her around so her arm was twisted behind her back. He held it there with one hand, his other arm hard around her waist.
“Let go,” she shrieked and tried to stomp his toes. He lifted her off her feet, somehow managed to dodge her thrashing legs and wild kicks.
“I searched for weeks,” he said in her ear. “Every day for weeks, from sun up to sun down. What makes you think you could find him, when I couldn’t?”
“I don’t know,” she screamed. “But I had to try. I had to try. He’s my son. I had to look for him.”
“He’s my son, too,” Jake rasped. “Do you think I didn’t look every place I could think of, and then some? Why don’t you trust me?”
“I never said I don’t trust you.” She wriggled, trying to squirm free. “Let me go you fucking bastard!”
He did, and she dropped like a boulder to the ground, landing hard. The shock reverberated through her body, bringing tears of pain to her eyes as it knocked the wind from her. Jake knelt to stare at her while she gasped and wheezed, fighting tears.
“I hate you,” she managed to gasp out. “I hate you.”
His nostrils flared. “Well I’m not too fond of you at the moment, either.” Without warning, he hauled her to her feet. “You’re damned selfish, and more stubborn than a herd of pack mules.”
“And you’re not?” She tore her hands from his, and backed away. “You think just because you’ve made up your mind about something I should agree with you? Well I don’t. You’re my husband, not my father, and I won’t tolerate you making decisions for me. If I want to search every square inch of Texas for my son, I will, and you can’t stop me.”
“He’s my son, too.” His voice was soft, tinged with hurt.
“No. He’s mine. It was my body he grew in. Mine. I labored to deliver him; I nursed him and changed his nappies, and I sang him to sleep. You… you didn’t even know him until he was six months old.”
If there were any way to take the words back, she would have given her right arm to do so, the instant they left her mouth.
Jake’s face crumpled, and the anger blazing in his eyes died, a hot flame extinguished by cold recrimination. His shoulders, square and strong as an ox’s, slumped, and he seemed to age before her eyes, his posture slouching until he stooped like an old man, the laugh lines around his eyes deepening to heavy creases, grief dragging the corners of his wide mouth.
“So that’s how it is,” he said quietly.
She swallowed, and shook her head. “No, Jake, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I didn’t mean it.”
He flinched away when she reached for him.
“Don’t touch me,” he said.
She drew back, bit her lip. Exhaled. “That wasn’t fair. I’m sorry. I am. I didn’t mean it.”
He avoided her eyes. His jaw muscles bulged with each flex of his hands, as he clenched and relaxed his fists. Finally, with a strong exhalation, he looked up.
“Why here?” he murmured.
She followed his gaze. The oak tree’s leaves twirled in the wind, flashing gold in the orange glow of the setting sun. Only the tips of the crosses and headstones were visible beneath its leafy shelter.
She closed her eyes, recalling the names engraved on the stone markers: Connemara Rosita Vásquez Douglas, Jonathan Jackson Douglas, Jackson James Douglas; Jake’s first wife, son, and stepfather. And now there would be another marker to set next to theirs, another son’s: Jackson James Edward Douglas.
A tear slipped down her cheek. “I needed to talk to her,” she rasped.
He looked at her, frowning.
She dropped her gaze to her hands she had locked together. “I… asked her to look after JJ for me.” And with the words, the last of her anger dissipated, sucked away in a windstorm of grief.
My Own is the culmination of Dianna and Jake’s journey to greater love and understanding, but the series doesn’t end there. Book III features Margaret Stewart, Dianna’s former benefactress and current friend from Book I, who, twice widowed, has no intention of ever marrying again. Her heart cannot withstand another loss. But fate has other plans for her in the form of Joe Banner… Learn more here.