Tessa's Temptation(2)

By: Ella Jade



Images of her childhood cabin flooded her mind. Fishing, roasting marshmallows and swimming in the lake were front and center. That place was filled with memories of a good life. The life she’d cherished before everything fell apart.

“Do you still go up there?” the stranger asked. “It’s such a beautiful bungalow. One I think of often.”

“No,” Tess said. “We lost it years ago.”

He looked in her direction and stood as she entered the room. His piercing blue eyes almost sparkled as his full lips curved into a polite smile. She couldn’t seem to drag her gaze away from his chiseled, stubble-covered jawline. She’d never seen such an attractive man before. He was nothing like the guys who hung out in her neighborhood. Everything about him – down to his manicured fingernails – screamed class, intelligence, and money.

Who the hell are you?

“There you are, Tessa,” her father said. “I was wondering where you disappeared to.”

“Tessa?” The man turned in her father’s direction. “This is your Tessa?”

“Isn’t she stunning?” Her father grinned from ear to ear. “All grown up and doing her best to take care of me. But I’m afraid it’s too much for her.”

“I can’t believe it.” The man’s gaze had already come back to devour the sight of her. “You couldn’t have been any more than five the last time I saw you.” He’d given up any façade of speaking to her dad.

“I’m sorry, but how do we know you?” He didn’t look that much older than her. How could he remember her from fifteen years ago and she have no recollection of him?

“Baby girl, this is Chase Carlisle,” her dad said. “I grew up with his mother. When you were three, Chase spent the summer at the cabin with us. How old were you that first summer? He spent two more with us after that year.”

“Fifteen.” He answered without any of his attention straying from her. “You’re all grown up now.”

“That’s what happens when they feed and water us.” She sat down on her dad’s bed not sure how she felt about him being there. “I just turned twenty last week.”

“Happy Birthday.”

“What brings you to see my dad, Mr. Carlisle?”

“Please, call me Chase.” He sat back down in the chair by the small window. “I heard about your dad’s accident. I reached out to him last week and he invited me to come and visit him.”

“It was like you knew we needed you,” her dad said. “It was a sign.”

“Dad?”

“I’m going to be here for a long time, well, maybe not inthis facility –with insurance the way it is, you never know how long you get to stay in a place. I may end in the VA hospital.”

“That’s not definite,” Tess reminded him. “I talked to a case worker. I don’t want you to go there. It’s too far for me to get to every day.”

“It is what it is, Tessa.” He looked at Chase. “My daughter is very independent. She’s been taking care of me for years. She goes to school, she cooks, she cleans, and she works. When her mom and I got divorced this kid stepped up and made sure we didn’t fall apart.”

“It sounds like you raised a great kid.” Chase smiled at her.

“I’m not a kid,” Tess said.

What her father said was all true. When her mother bailed on them ten years ago, he fell apart and Tess had to take care of him. A kid? That day she stopped being one of those.

“Of course not,” Chase said. “What do you need from me, Pat? I owe you a great deal. Is there something you need me to do with a different rehabilitation facility? I can have my attorney look into it. Whatever you need, it’s yours.”

“I need you to take Tessa,” her dad said with more certainty than she had heard him voice in months.

“What?” She turned and glared at her father. “What are you talking about?”

“I know we’re getting evicted,” he admitted.

“I can handle that,” she said. “I’ll figure something out.” Not that any plan had come to her yet. She was too busy trying to convince the landlord to let them stay. She was also scouring the classifieds for a job. She hadn’t had the heart to tell her father the deli had let her go, with all the hours she’d spent here with him, she’d taken too many days off. It was only a matter of time for them to find her replacement.

“No. How can you focus on school and your life when you’re constantly worrying about me and where your next meal is coming from? I can’t help you like this.”

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