Cole Cameron's Revenge(8)

By: Sandra Marton

"You're right," he said softly. "That's why I'm not offering you money."

"Well, that's something. I meant it when I said-

"I want you to marry me, Faith."

She'd gaped at him, certain he'd lost his mind. "Marry you?"

"That's right."

"Are you crazy? I don't want to marry you. I don't love you. I don't even know you."

"That makes two of us. I don't love you or know you and, frankly, I don't want to marry you, either."

"Then, why..."

"For the child, that's why. You owe him a decent life."

Ted took a long, dismissive look around the trailer before locking eyes with her again. "Unless you prefer this."

"I grew up just fine without your big house and all your money," she replied fiercely.

"Yes," Ted said, "you did. But don't you want your child to have more? Don't you want him to be legitimate?" He leaned forward, reached for her hand. "Tell me you love that baby enough to let me do the right thing for you both."

"You think what you're suggesting is the right thing?" Faith tried to tug her hand from his again but he wouldn't let her. "I'd sooner marry the devil than marry a Cameron."

Thinking back, she knew she hadn't quite pulled it off. Her words had tried for bravado but her voice had quavered with despair.

"Cole asked me to look after you," Ted said quietly.

To this day, she hated herself for the way her foolish heart had jumped at those words.

"Did he?" she whispered, then answered her own question. "No. No, he didn't. Cole doesn't give a damn about me. He proved it by leaving without so much as a goodbye. He never even tried to get in touch with me, right after the night we'd the night we'd-

"Faith." Ted stood up. "My brother did what he had to do."

"Oh, yes," she said, rising to her feet. She gave a quick laugh. "He certainly did."

"And so will you, if you're half the woman I think you are. You'll marry me, take the Cameron name, raise your baby as a Cameron-"

"And what about you?" She stared at Ted in bewilderment. "Assuming I were to agree to such an insane thing-which I won't-but if I did, what would happen to your life? I-I'd never live with you as a wife should. Never, no matter how-"

"I know that. And I wouldn't expect it." Ted cleared his throat. "I'm going to... I'm going to trust you with something. Something you should know." He swallowed hard. "I've ..I've never been interested in women. Not the way a man should be."

The truth took a long moment to sink in. When it finally did, Faith stared at him, speechless.

"Nobody knows," he'd said quickly, "not even Cole. And nobody ever will, not in Liberty. I'll be an exemplary husband. And, I promise you, I'll love Cole's child as if it were my own. Just don't make this baby pay for what you feel toward my brother."

"I hate your brother," she'd said, and despite everything, the enormity of the lie had clutched at her heart.

"But you don't hate your baby." Ted had flashed the gentle smile she'd come to know so well over the ensuing years. "You'll be doing me a favor, letting me enjoy a child I'd never otherwise have. No, don't say anything. At least agree to think it over."

She'd thought it over, trying to concentrate on the logic of it instead of on the pain of her broken heart. Then, one morning her mother found her retching into the toilet. She whispered the question Faith had feared for weeks, and Faith nodded her assent.

"Your father mustn't know," her mother had said, trembling. "You'll have to do something, Faith, but not in this town. You'll have to do it far away from here."

A day later, she'd phoned Ted and accepted his proposition.

They'd been married at Town Hall while her mother stood by sniffling into a fistful of tissues. Ted put a thin platinum band on her finger, kissed her cheek and moved her into his house. He sent Cole a letter telling him about the marriage, but Cole never replied. And Isaiah never said a word to her, right up until his death.

Neither did anyone else in town, but she saw their knowing smiles. When she began to show, their smiles grew more obvious. She knew people were counting the months and assuming she'd managed to snare a Cameron in the oldest way possible.

"Don't mind those busybodies," Ted would say when she'd come home from the market or the library with her face red and her temper high. "Just go on with your life."

She had. And, once Peter was born, her days were filled with the sweet joy of caring for him. He was the love of her life, the one good thing Cole had given her, and when Ted suggested finding Cole to tell him he had a son, Faith's "no" was adamant. Cole hadn't wanted her; why would he want to know he had a son?

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