A Little Dare(9)

By: Brenda Jackson

“Yet you want me to believe you would have been ready to become a father?” she asked softly, trying to make him see reason. “All I knew after that night was that the man I loved no longer wanted me, and that his dream wasn’t a future

with me but one in law enforcement. And I loved him

enough to step aside to let him fulfill that dream. That’s the reason I left without telling you about the baby, Dare. That’s the only reason.”

He nodded. “Had I known you were pregnant, my dreams would not have mattered at that point.”

“Yes, I knew that better than anyone.”

Dare finally understood the point she’d been trying to make and sighed at how things had turned out for them. Ten

years ago he’d thought that becoming a FBI agent was the ultimate. It had taken seven years of moving from place to place, getting burnt-out from undercover operations, waking each morning cloaked in danger and not knowing if his next assignment would be his last, to finally make him realize the career that had once been his dream had turned into a

living nightmare. Resigning from the Bureau, he had

returned home to open up a security firm about the same

time Sheriff Dean Whitlow, who’d been in office since Dare was in his early teens, had decided to retire. It was Sheriff Whitlow who had talked him into running for the position he was about to vacate, saying that with Dare’s experience, he was the best man for the job. Now, after three years at it,

Dare had forged a special bond with the town he’d always loved and the people he’d known all of his life. And

compared to what he had done as an FBI agent, being

sheriff was a gravy train.

He glanced out of the window and didn’t say anything for

the longest time as he watched AJ. Then he spoke. “I take it that he doesn’t know anything about me.”

Shelly shook her head. “No. Years ago I told him that his father was a guy I had loved and thought I would marry, but that things didn’t work out and we broke up. I told him I

moved away before I had a chance to tell him I was


Dare stared at her. “That’s it?”

“Yes, that’s it. He was fairly young at the time, but

occasionally as he got older, he would ask if I knew how to reach you if I ever wanted to, and I told him yes and that if he ever wanted me to contact you I would. All he had to do was ask, but he never has.”

Dare nodded. “I want him to know I’m his father, Shelly.”

“I want him to know you’re his father, too, Dare, but we need to approach this lightly with him,” she whispered softly “He’s going through enough changes right now, and I don’t want to get him any more upset than he already is. I have an idea as to how and when we can tell him, and I hope after

hearing me out that you’ll agree.”

Dare went back to his desk. “All right, so what do you suggest?”

Shelly nodded and took a seat across from his desk. She held her breath, suddenly feeling uncomfortable telling him what she thought was the best way to handle AJ. She knew her son’s emotional state better than anyone. Right now he was mad at the world in general and her in particular,

because she had taken him out of an environment he’d

grown comfortable with, although that environment as far as she was concerned, had not been a healthy one for a ten- year-old. His failing grades and the trouble he’d gotten into had proven that.

“What do you suggest, Shelly?” Dare asked again, sitting down and breaking into her thoughts.

Shelly cleared her throat. “I know how anxious you are to have AJ meet you, but I think it would be best, considering everything, if he were to get to know you as a friend before knowing you as his father.”

Dare frowned, not liking the way her suggestion sounded. “But I am his father, Shelly, not his friend.”

“Yes, and that’s the point. More than anything, AJ needs a friend right now, Dare, someone he can trust and connect with. He has a hard time making friends, which is why he

began hanging out with the wrong type of kids at the school he attended in California. They readily accepted him for all the wrong reasons. I’ve talked to a few of his teachers since moving here and he’s having the same problems. He’s just