Mr. Hampton’s expression softened, no longer the eagle-eyed lawyer, now more a sympathetic friend. “I assure you, sir, there is no need to be embarrassed. Our company is very discreet, and we’ve handled many similar cases.”
What type of situation did he refer to? It’d been over a year since he’d seen Josie. Why would she contact him now? Oh, God, did she have AIDS and had just found out? What if he’d given the disease to Annie? Nausea roiled in his stomach.
“Josephine Lawrence died in a car crash two weeks ago.”
Josie dead? The nerves in Stu’s scalp tingled and shot down his spinal cord. He’d never wanted Annie to find out about his one-time indiscretion, but he wouldn’t wish death on Josie either. “I’m so sorry to hear that. I didn’t know her well, but did know she was a valued associate at her company.”
“Yes, it’s been a great shock to her co-workers and to her mother. And that’s why I’ve called you here today. She left you the sole custodian of her child.”
His heart hammered in his chest. Why would she leave him custody? “I didn’t know Josie had children.” They hadn’t exchanged more than five words that night—that he remembered. “Why . . . why would she give custody of her child to me? We barely knew each other.”
Mr. Hampton removed a 5x7 professional photo from the folder and laid it in front of Stu.
Stu gasped for breath and pulled at his tie.
The lawyer hit a button on his phone. “Mrs. Keller, please bring Mr. Rayburn a glass of water.”
Within minutes Stu was downing a bottle of water. He looked up at the young woman and flashed her a weak smile of gratitude.
Stu picked up the picture and studied the baby girl—copper wavy hair, the same shade as his, blue eyes and a smile that would draw honey from miles away. Tears sprang to his eyes. He wanted to speak. His mouth moved, but no words came out.
Mr. Hampton stood and strode to his side. “This is a shock of course. We’ll give you a few minutes to digest the information. DNA tests can be conducted.”
Stu caught the attorney’s coat sleeve and shook his head. “No need for tests.”
Due to our road trip, I probably won't be home until Thursday or Friday so I won't be able to begin my contest until then. I must learn to use Rafflecopter and I need to find the perfect 1st prize. I love to give away jewelry that has meaning to my stories, so I'm thinking this story calls for a charm. I'll also give away a paper copy and at least one ebook.
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