After an extended silence, he spoke. “So, was I horrible to you? Did I treat you badly?” His low voice was quiet, his eyes focused not on her but on something through the windshield ahead of them.
Sabine silently groaned. Somehow she preferred the yelling to this. “Of course not.”
He turned to look at her then, pinning her with his dark eyes. “Did I say or do anything while we were together to make you think I would be a bad father?”
A bad father? No. Perhaps a distracted one. A distant one. An absent one. Or worse, a reluctant one. But not a bad father. “No. Gavin, I—”
“Then why, Sabine? Why would you keep something so important from me? Why would you keep me from being in Jared’s life? He’s young now, but eventually he’d notice he didn’t have a daddy like other kids. What if he thought I didn’t want him? Christ, Sabine. He may not have been planned, but he’s still my son.”
When he said it like that, every excuse in her mind sounded ridiculous. How could she explain that she didn’t want Jared to grow up spoiled, rich but unloved? That she wanted him with her, not at some expensive boarding school? That she didn’t want him to become a successful, miserable shell of a man like his father? All those excuses resulted from her primary fear that she couldn’t shake. “I was afraid I would lose him.”
Gavin’s jaw still flexed with pent-up emotions. “You thought I would take him from you?”
“Wouldn’t you?” Her gaze fixed on him, a challenge in her eyes. “Wouldn’t you have swooped in the minute he was born and claimed him as your own? I’m sure your fancy friends and family would be horrified that a person like me was raising the future Brooks Express Shipping heir. It wouldn’t be hard to deem me an unfit mother and have some judge from your father’s social club grant you full custody.”
“I wouldn’t have done that.”
“I’m sure you only would’ve done what you thought was best for your son, but how was I to know what that would entail? What would happen if you decided he would be better off with you and I was just a complication? I wouldn’t have enough money or connections to fight you. I couldn’t risk it.” Sabine felt the tears prickling her eyes, but she refused to cry in front of Gavin.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of you handing him off to nannies and tutors. Buying his affection with expensive gifts because you were too busy building the family company to spend time with him. Shipping him off to some boarding school as soon as he was old enough, under the guise of getting him the best education when you really just want him out of your hair. Jared wasn’t planned. He wasn’t the golden child of your socially acceptable marriage. You might want him on principle, but I couldn’t be certain you would love him.”
Gavin sat silent for a moment, listening to her tirade. The anger seemed to have run its course. Now he just looked emotionally spent, his dark eyes tired. He looked just like Jared after a long day without a nap.
Sabine wanted to brush the dark strands of hair from his weary eyes and press her palm against the rough stubble of his cheek. She knew exactly how it would feel. Exactly how his skin would smell...an intoxicating mixture of soap, leather and male. But she wouldn’t. Her attraction to Gavin was a hurdle she had to overcome to leave him the first time. The years hadn’t dulled her reaction to him. Now, it would be an even larger complication she didn’t need.
“I don’t understand why you would think that,” he said at last, his words quieter now.
“Because that’s what happened to you, Gavin.” She lowered her voice to a soft, conversational tone. “And it’s the only way you know how to raise a child. Nannies and boarding schools are normal to you. You told me yourself how your parents were always too busy for you and your siblings. How your house cycled through nannies like some people went through tissue paper. Do you remember telling me about how miserable and lonely you were when they sent you away to school? Why would I want that for Jared? Even if it came with all the money and luxury in the world? I wasn’t about to hand him over to you so he could live the same hollow life you had. I didn’t want him to be groomed to be the next CEO of Brooks Express Shipping.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Gavin challenged with a light of anger returning to the chocolate depths of his eyes. “There are worse things than growing up wealthy and becoming the head of a Fortune 500 company founded by your great-great-grandfather. Like growing up poor. Living in a small apartment with secondhand clothes.”