Guarding a secret and playing with fire has never been a good combination.
Four years ago, Holly Scallenger embarked on the most difficult journey of her life. As if being a single parent isn't already stressful enough, Holly also attended med-school, in hopes of heping other pregnant women in a way she wasn't helped. But things don't look so good as she has to embark on a new journey - a journey that would take her back to Boston, back to the man who broke her heart and discarded her and her babies.
Sworn to never fall for him again, Holy is put to the test once more when a chance encounter reunites them.
4 years later
THE SUITCASE SAT open on the bed. The past four years hadn’t been easy for twenty-eight-year-old, Holly Scallanger. She’d lost one child, and raised another on whatever she had.
If it hadn’t been for Jane, her mother, she wouldn’t have known how life would turn out. Her decision to become a doctor hadn’t made life any easier, either. It was with thanks to the Lord that he’d created her with a good head on her shoulders, and placed people in her path who saw talent when it stood in front of them, hence being awarded a scholarship.
If it hadn’t been for all the good that had ventured her way, well, she wouldn’t have had the very suitcase that sat open on the bed that day.
“How many sleepies, Mommy?” the curly black head asked.
Her ice-green eyes made Holly’s heart skip a beat every time she looked into them. Jamie truly looked so much like her dad, but as hard as it was, Holly thanked the Lord every night for having Jamie in her life. The almost four-year-old had been nothing but a blessing, and Holly couldn’t imagine life without her.
“Did you find the calendar?”
Jamie hopped off the bed.
She really should get a haircut, Holly thought. The girl’s black curls almost reached her bottom. Just a trim though.
If there was one thing Holly loved, it was Jamie’s curls. She had them, too, but because of all the pulling and tugging caused by Jamie as a baby, Holly had cut it all off, so short she could barely put it into a ponytail.
Jamie returned with the calendar, one almost as big as she was. She flopped with it onto the bed, out of breath. “Here you go, Mommy. That thing is heavy.”
Holly laughed as she went to the drawer next to her bed, retrieving a black marker, and went back to the calendar. She paged through the first five months until she got to June.
“That’s your birthday date, and I promise I will be here, okay?”
Jamie’s eyes continued to stare at the round circle her mother had drawn, her tiny lips pulled down in a frown.
“What is it, peanut?”
“That is a lot of sleepies.” Jamie looked into Holly’s eyes, her bottom lip now trembling a little.
“I know,” Holly said, picking Jamie up and setting her on her lap. She gave her daughter a big hug. “Remember what we spoke about?”
“I need you to be a brave little girl, and also be good for Nana.”
“You won’t go into the rainbow, too?” Jamie asked with a squeak in her voice.
“I promise. I’m staying as far away as I can from any rainbows, except when I’m chasing one. But I would still keep my distance as nothing, and I mean nothing, would ever take me away from you.” Holly’s heart turned into a knot as she thought about the rainbow.
Jamie was smart, too smart for a three-year-old, but it was to be expected. Her father was a genius, and Holly thought she had a pretty good head on her shoulders, too. She’d gotten it from both sides.
Ever since she was two, she’d asked the daddy question. Holly couldn’t bring herself to tell a two-year-old the truth; Jamie wouldn’t have understood, anyway.
So instead of telling Jamie that her daddy hadn’t wanted her, she did the opposite. She told Jamie that he loved her, but he was stuck in a rainbow. The story evolved as she got a little older and Amelia, Robyn, Grandpa Gus, and all the others made their way into the rainbow, too. Every single one of them lived in a rainbow.
She was grateful that the Peters’ were easy to google, so she ended up printing their photos. She’d stuck them in a book with their names above each respective picture. It was the only thing Holly had been able to do as Jamie’s questions kept on coming. She wanted to know everything.
In the beginning, it had been extremely hard. Holly would end up crying every night before she went to bed. Angry tears would eventually turn into sad ones. Sad where Jake was concerned, because he was missing out on the most beautiful little girl, both on the inside and out.
At the time, she hadn’t thought too much about her story, or even contemplated introducing her to Jake and the Peters’. But Jamie had wanted to know where her father was and what he looked like, and Holly had relented. Now, it seemed to be biting her in the ass.
She had been going to do her internship at Seattle Memorial, but a couple of months ago they had been told that there would be no internship program anymore, because they’d lost their status as a teaching hospital.
Holly and Rodney, her best friend who was gay but one would never say so, had to take whatever was available. She’d almost told Rodney the one day who Jamie’s father was, but was thankful she hadn’t.
As for the rainbow stories, she managed to keep those from him as well; the meaning of them that was, although he knew about them in a whole different way.
Rodney wanted to be a neurologist, and the best one around was Jake. It came as no surprise that he’d fast made a name for himself and became known as the doctor who’d take risks with tumors nobody else would. It all began with that first operation her mother had told her about. The one where he’d scrubbed in with a doctor from China; Dr. Huyo, who’d sort of become Jake’s mentor. He’d even spent a year in China, which made Holly silently wish he’d never returned, but he had. Since then, he’d taken on patients who were close to death and added another twenty-five years to their future.
It was by no means easy to study to become a doctor with the Peters’ receiving awards for practically everything, as well as attending lectures where their names popped up constantly. And it wasn’t just Jake. They were all masters in their chosen fields.
Robyn had reached a huge goal, too. She’d become an oncologist and invented some kind of synthetic colon. She’d also found a cure for pancreatic cancer, and had won the Gillepsy Award.
If Rodney ever found out that the Peters’ were the ones who’d left her in her time of need, and that Jake was Jamie’s father, he would not want anything to do with him. He would only be second best, and Rodney needed to become the best. He deserved to be trained by the best, and he’d been wanting to meet Jake for a long time.
So, Rodney went to P&E, and Holly to Downsend. The distance between both hospitals was only about fifteen minutes, but she would find a way to steer as clear away from P&E as she could. That had been one of the reasons why she hadn’t taken Jamie with her. She now knew what her father looked like, what all of them looked like, and Holly was scared that Jamie would accidentally run into one of them.
Holly breathed deeply just thinking about it all. Jake would be livid with her for having kept Jamie, but had he to meet her he’d also fall deeply in love with the little girl who had the tendency to crawl into one’s heart, dirty feet and all. He would surely take her away.
One thing Holly didn’t have was the money to fight Jake in court, and she doubted very much that grandpa Charles would hand it over in order to fight him, even though her father hated Jake’s guts.
Charles had found out that Jamie’s father was a doctor, the minute she’d told him about her great plan to become one herself.
Everything had stopped.
Charles had gone on to tell Holly that she needed to start paying him back. It was something Charles Scallanger just didn’t understand. He didn’t want that for her, and the only way he could keep her from her goal was to overpower her with the bills. Bills she’d somehow found a way to repay by working nights as a cleaning lady at an up-market hotel. She’d almost paid a tenth off but was convinced that once she became a doctor, it would be easier to pay her father in full. And then, she could finally tell him to stuff it.
Jake would definitely win should she ever come to that crossroad. Even if his case was weak, Jake would always find a way to win.
Though Holly had made up the rainbow story, she would eventually tell Jamie the truth. But for now, her little girl lived in a dream world where her father was some sort of hero, saving lives in a rainbow world.
Jamie’s arms released Holly’s neck, bringing Holly back to the present. The two looked at one another, their noses touching softly.
Don’t cry, Holly, she begged herself.
“Where are my kisses?”
Jamie giggled and started kissing Holly all over her face. She gave her one long kiss on the mouth. “That one counts for ten sleepies.”
Holly laughed. “Okay, but I think you should give me about ten of those and you’ll be that much closer.”
By the seventh kiss, Holly could tell Jamie was really getting bored.
“Two more long kisses and they count for twenty.”
“Okay,” Jamie said, giving Holly the requested quota.
A knock on the bedroom door made both of them look up.
“And where are my kisses?” Rodney asked, walking into the room.
“Uncle Rodey!” Jamie yelled, jumping off of Holly’s lap and into his arms.
Jamie could never pronounce the ‘n’ in his name, which made Holly laugh every time she called him Rodey. He was the father she’d never had.
To Holly, he was the brother she’d never had and one of her best friends. He loved kids, and she was sure that had he not been gay, she would have married him. His mom was African American, and his dad Caucasian, which left Rodney with soft brown skin and beautiful blue eyes. He was handsome, but he didn’t come close to Jake. Still, the guy that one day captured Rodney’s heart would be the luckiest man ever.
Jamie began to get bored all over again, squirmed out of Rodney’s hands, and half skipped and half ran to her room.
“How are we holding up today?”
Holly looked at him, tears glistening in her eyes.
“Come here, sweetheart.”
When she complied, he wrapped his arms around her. “You are leaving her for a good reason. To give her the best future any child could have.”
“I know, but it’s so hard.”
“Of course it is. But think of the end result. It’s only for a year, and the following year we’ll be back, somewhere close to Seattle. Hopefully, the pay will be better and we can finally get a house where she can have a damn puppy.”
Holly giggled through tears.
“It is going to be fucking hard, though,” he admitted.
Holly slapped him. “Watch your language.”
“Ow! Sorry.” He rubbed his chest. “Okay, it’s going to be fudging hard, but she’s going to love you tons when you get back.”
Holly couldn’t help but burst out laughing, while wiping a stray tear from her cheek. “News flash, she already loves me.”
“She loves me more.” He winked.
Only because you don’t say no to her.”
His face scrounged up. “You’re the only one who can tell her no.”
Holly laughed again.
Just then, Jamie ran back into her room. “Look what I made you.”
Rodney crouched in front of her and looked at the picture. “It’s you and mommy, saving lives,” she said in explanation.
“And what is that?”
“That is a kidney, and a heart, and those are brains.”
“Okay…” Rodney gave her a playful, raised eyebrow look, then gave Holly an insane look, which made her giggle. He looked back at the picture. “And that?”
Rodney laughed. “You are watching way too much Grey’s Anatomy with your mother.”
“Are you insane? She’s not watching Grey’s Anatomy until the day she’s twenty-one! There is way too much… coloring in there.”
Jamie’s body bent over as she crouched simultaneously, laughing uncontrollably at what Holly said, but having no idea what it was really about.
“Well, maybe mommy should color in again.”
“Oh, shut up. My coloring days are so over.”
“Are not, you colored in with me last night,” Jamie spoke up, still having no clue what they’d been talking about.
“Cheater,” Rodney teased.
Holly chuckled at his antics. “Fine, I cheated, so what?”
Jane entered the room. “It’s time you guys hit the road, otherwise you are not going to make your first day. You still need to hunt for an apartment.”
Rodney dangled a set of keys on the end of his finger. “I’m way too organized for you Scallangers.” He shook his head in a taunting motion, earning him a slap on the chest from Jane.
“What is it with you women and slapping?” He rubbed his chest.
“Those thanks to daddy?” Holly snorted.
“Whatever. You are going to live like a queen because of my daddy.” Rodney wiggled his eyebrows.
Jane laughed. “At least your daddy pays for things like that.”
Holly rolled her eyes.
“I don’t get your father. He still wants you to pay him back?” Rodney queried.
Both women laughed.
“Grandpa Charles doesn’t suck.”
“Okay, missy, he doesn’t suck that much,” Rodney teased again.
Jamie loved her grandfather, but then she got away with murder every other weekend when she visited him.
Holly blew out a breath and her lips quivered as she tried to push back tears.
Rodney grabbed her suitcase, and Jamie helped by taking hold of the smaller bag.
Holly picked up her handbag and slung it over her shoulder, and then tucked a pillow under her armpit for the long trip.
Both Jane and Jamie walked down to the ground floor where Rodney had parked his Toyota. It was a typical ‘doctor starting out’ type of car; it huffed and puffed when starting it, but it got you where you needed to go.
He placed Holly’s suitcase on the back seat with the rest of her stuff.
She snorted when she thought back to when she’d left Boston. The situation was practically identical, and now she was going back in a similar fashion.
Holly turned to Jamie and crouched down to her level. Her baby had tears in her eyes, so she pulled her in for a tighter than tight hug. To keep her voice from breaking, she cleared her throat. “Remember what mommy told you?”
Jamie nodded, while still in Holly’s arms.
“I’m going to miss you so much, but I promise to speak to you every day over the phone and to chase down every rainbow I can find, okay?”
Jamie smiled and every time she did so, Holly smiled back. How she was going to break the truth to her one day was a conundrum she’d have to figure out. She just hoped that when the time came, Jamie would understand why she’d lied.
“Love you, Mommy. Be good.”
Holly snorted. “You be good, and no ice cream after eight.”
“What we are going to do is none of your business,” Jane butted in.
Jamie giggled. “Yes, it’s our little secret, Nana.”
Jane covered Jamie’s mouth playfully, making everyone laugh.
“I’ll know,” Holly said, closing the door, and then rolling the window down.
“Love you, Mommy.”
“Love you more.”
“Love you more than more,” Rodney said, picking Jamie up. “I’ll see you on your birthday, okay?”
“Promise?” she asked.
“I’ll try my damn best.”
“Rodney!” both Holly and Jane yelled.
“Oops! Sorry.” He glared at Holly. “I’ll try my damn best,” he whispered in Jamie’s ear, but Holly knew exactly what he’d repeated.
She merely shook her head.
“Big kiss, and a biiiiig hug.” He made a grunting sound and Jamie flung her arms around his neck, squeezing tightly.
Jane winked at Holly.
Holly winked back. “Love you,” she mouthed.
“Love you more,” Jane answered softly.
Rodney put Jamie down and climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Drive safe and call me the second you get there.”
“Will do,” Holly promised.
“Last touch.” Jamie snapped her hand out, grazing Holly’s elbow just before the car pulled slowly away.
Holly tried to touch her back, but Jamie had squirmed away, giggling loudly.
“I love you, Jamie!” Holly shouted, halfway down the road.
“Love you more, Mommy.”
Holly watched her little girl until Rodney turned a corner. When the coast was clear, she finally broke down and bawled her eyes out.
GET IT NOW