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Hailey's Vacation Part 4

A heartbroken Hailey returns to her old life when a lawyer calls and changes her future forever.
Hailey went through the packages of gifts that had been delivered in her first week back. Tim was busy and unable to come home on the weekends, so Hailey kept the things in the backpack she bought him. Hailey made one other terrible discovery when she unpacked; her Mother’s Eagle Pride necklace was gone! She called the resort and told them about the lost item. They assured they’d call if they found it, but after two weeks, she knew it was lost. She also asked about Rick, but was told they couldn’t give out guest’s information. Which was why the photograph didn’t identify Rick by name, they didn’t have his permission.

About a month after her return, Hailey was sitting at her desk at work when her phone rang. “Hailey Davidson.”

“Miss Davidson, my name is Evan Donnelley. I’m a lawyer with the firm Madison, Peterson, and Donnelley. May I have a moment of your time?”

“Um, sure,” said Hailey, nervously.

“I’ve been retained by Mr. R. J. Talbott on your behalf, in regards to some back child support you’re due.”

Hailey was shocked. How did Mr. Talbott know about this? “Okay.”

“Miss Davidson, I’ve been in contact with a Mr. Alan Bryant’s attorney and I believe we’ve reached a settlement in regards to your back child support.”

“Really? Even though he’s refused to take a DNA test?”

“Actually, ma’am, he took the test, and came back as your son’s father.”

Hailey gasped. “I’m sorry, did you say he took the test?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“How did you get my son’s DNA?”

“It’s been on file since the first petition for support, ma’am.”

Hailey swallowed hard. Eighteen years of being called every dirty name in the book because she dared to speak the truth and now she had the evidence. “Is it… um… possible… to get a copy of those… um… results?”

“Of course ma’am. Mr. Talbott insisted upon it.”

“Good.”

“Now, there are many forms to sign and it will take most of the morning, if not the whole day and I’d like to schedule it as quickly as possible.”

“How much is the settlement?”

“I’d like to discuss that face to face if, that’s possible.”

“Well, I just got back from a three-week vacation.”

“I understand that, ma’am, but I fear if we wait too long Mr. Bryant might back out.”

“Can I call you back? I need to talk with my boss.”

“Of course, ma’am.”

“Oh yeah, could you also contact Mr. Stewart, the nice lawyer who took my case eighteen years ago?”

“We already have Miss Davidson. He was how we were able to move so quickly. He kept excellent records and has been working with us on your case. If you’d like, we can have him join us.”

“Wow! Yeah, that would be great. So, what’s your number?”

Hailey wrote down the lawyer’s phone number and went to see her boss. She explained to him the mysterious phone call and they figured that she could take both Thursday and Friday off so she could deal with the lawyers and go see Tim. She called Mr. Donnelley back and made the appointment. She told her parents, and they said if he didn’t offer at least a quarter of a million, it wasn’t worth her time. Hailey thought about using some of the money to find Rick, but she knew the money was for Tim first.

Thursday morning, Mr. Donnelley, a handsome, tall, fit, middle-aged man, with greying hair and frameless glasses wearing (what Hailey was sure was) an Armani suit greeted her. With him was Mr. Stewart, the lawyer who had tried in vain to get Alan to do the right thing by her and Tim.

Mr. Donnelley shared that the current settlement was at just over a million dollars and Hailey nearly fainted. They met Alan and his lawyer at noon. Alan looked even more disheveled than he had when he showed up unannounced at her bungalow. He barely made eye contact with her and his lawyer did most of the talking. The agreement was that Alan would make the one-time payment and have no further contact with either Hailey or Tim unless Tim initiated contact first.

After everything was signed and notarized, Alan’s lawyer handed her a cashier’s check for just over one million dollars, and the two men left. Mr. Donnelley and Mr. Stewart escorted Hailey to the bank with an armed escort to ensure it was properly deposited and not a bogus check.

As they left the bank and returned to the lawyer’s office, Hailey asked, “How much do I owe you, Mr. Donnelley?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Mr. Talbott’s orders. I was to take nothing from the settlement. Mr. Talbott has already paid me well for my time, and Mr. Bryant had to pay my fees and Mr. Stewart’s fees on top of that.”

“Isn’t that double dipping?”

“Well, in this case, it’s a percentage of the settlement.”

“Really?”

“Really. Miss Davidson, it was an honor meeting you. You seem like a lovely lady. What are you planning on doing with the money?”

“I don’t really have any plans for it, as it’s really my son’s money. I’m sure we’ll use it to pay for college, and after that I have no idea. Lord knows I could have used this money a lot sooner, but I guess better late than never.”

“When are you going to tell your son?” asked Mr. Stewart.

“Tomorrow. I’m going to drive up and surprise him.”

“Well then, Miss Davidson, I wish you a safe trip and a happy life,” said Mr. Donnelley.

“Thank you, Mr. Donnelley. It was nice meeting you. Mr. Stewart... I don’t know how to thank you for never giving up on me.”

“Seeing this day is thanks enough,” said Mr. Stewart.

Mr. Stewart escorted Hailey to her car, bade her goodbye, and left. Once Mr. Donnelley was sure she had left, he picked up his phone and made a call. “Mr. Tallbot? Mr. Donnelley. Yes… Yes, she just left… Lovely lady, indeed… I think she’s still in shock, not that I could blame her… She’s going up to see him tomorrow… Yes… She said she’s driving up to surprise him… I agree… She will be surprised indeed… Thank you, sir… It was a pleasure to do something for such a nice lady… Thank you, sir… Goodbye.”

Mr. Donnelley smiled as he sat back in his chair, knowing Hailey’s surprises weren’t over yet.

~*~*~*~ 

Early Friday morning, after a shower and a sleepless night, Hailey drove the two hours to see her son at the soccer field and rec center, nervous about what she was going to say. She wore the V-neck t-shirt and baseball cap that Rick gave her, and her favorite jean shorts. She barely slept that night when the shock wore off, and the reality of how Tim wouldn’t have to struggle any more hit her. Her only regret was not being able to call Rick and share the good news about the settlement; how Alan and Mr. Talbott paid for the lawyer. She thought about borrowing some of the settlement money to try to find him, if Tim agreed.

When she arrived at the fields, she saw several groups of kids of assorted ages playing soccer. She parked her car, grabbed the gifts for Tim and her favorite soccer chair, and made the trek to find him. After asking around, she found Tim’s group, and a tree nearby where she set her chair up, and watched quietly. An older Hispanic man walked over and said, “Miss Davidson?”

Hailey looked up and smiled. “Coach Hernandez. Good to see you.”

The coach smiled and shook her hand. “I didn’t know you were coming today.”

“Neither does Tim. I have a something I need to talk with him about, and some gifts I brought back from my trip.”

“Well, he should be taking a break here shortly. And speaking of your trip, how was it?”

“Incredible! Part of me wishes Tim could have gone, but on some level, having some me time was great, as well.”

“Well, if anyone deserves it, it’s you. Oh, and make sure you meet Mr. Talbott before you leave. He’s been here all morning observing the players and the kids; I’m sure he’d love to meet you as well. I know Tim’s been bragging you up to him.”

Hailey smiled. She had met Mr. Talbott before, but decided not to steal the coach’s thunder. “I’d be honored to.”

They looked up and saw Tim’s group taking a break. “TIM! TIM!” yelled Coach Hernandez.

Tim came walking over until he saw Hailey, then he ran. Hailey stood up and walked toward him. They hugged tightly for several minutes. “Hi, Tim!”

“Hey, Mom! What are you doing here?”

“I needed to talk to you about something important, and I wanted to give you the gifts I bought you from my trip.”

“Your having fun was the only gift I wanted.”

“Well, I had a two-thousand dollar credit, so I bought you a few things.”

“Wow! Oh, and you’ve got to meet Mr. Talbott. He’s so cool, and I think you might like him.”

“Oh?” asked Hailey as they walked back to the tree.

“Yeah, I’ve told him all about you.”

“You are sweet and biased my son. Now,” she leaned over and grabbed the backpack, “this is for you.”

Tim took the backpack and smiled. “Oh, thanks! I needed a new one for school.”

“Open it.”

“There’s more?”

Hailey rolled her eyes. “Of course!”

Tim took out the shirt and baseball cap. “Oh, Mom, these are great! Thanks! This shirt is just like the one Mr. Talbott’s wearing today.”

Hailey was confused. The Mr. Talbott she had met didn’t strike her as a t-shirt kind of man. Tim put the ball cap on and smiled. “It looks great on you.”

“Thanks, Mom. This will keep me from frying my brain. Oh, and here’s Mr. Talbott now. R. J. Talbott, this is my mom, Hailey Davidson. Mom, this is R. J. Talbott.”

“My friends call me Rick,” said a familiar voice.

Hailey froze as she felt herself go into shock. She was greeted by a pair of green eyes and black hair. “H-h-hi.”

“Well, I need to get back. Oh yeah, what did you want to talk to me about, Mom?”

“I-I-I’ll tell you at… at lunch,” she stammered.

“Sweet! And lunch is on me this time. Hey R. J., wanna join us?”

“I’d be honored, if it’s okay with your mom, that is.”

“S-s-sure,” she said.

“Great! Oh no, I’ve got to break up a fight. Excuse me.”

Tim ran off as Hailey stared deep into Rick’s eyes. After a few moments, Rick said, “I’ll bet you’re pretty surprised to see me.”

“Boy, am I.”

“I owe you an explanation as well.”

“Yeah. Yeah… Like why did Tim call you R.J.?”

“Because that’s my name, Richard James Talbott, Jr. My dad is R.J. Talbott, Sr., you danced with him at the resort. He was quite taken with you.”

“Wait… it was you!”

“Probably, but please be more specific.”

“The day of the ball, I went to the spa to get my hair and nails done. While I was there these two somewhat catty women were gossiping about one of their husbands golfing with Senior and Junior. You’re the Junior they were talking about.”

“I’m afraid so. I’m sure you also heard some ugly stories about me.”

“More about your ex-wife. Did you lie to me about your divorce, or do they have the story wrong?”

“A bit of both. Sit down and I’ll explain,” he said gesturing to her chair as he set his chair next to hers and sat down. “My divorce wasn’t as pleasant as I let you believe. The truth is, I caught Sally in bed with another man and exploded. She blamed me for being gone all the time, and I called her a whore. Once we both calmed down, we realized there was still Judy to consider. Sally admitted she’d been lonely and I had been rather neglectful, though not intentionally. I was doing the same thing my dad did, and it cost me my marriage. It didn’t take long for the rumor mill to skew the story, so the truth was lost. My family knew the truth, as does Sally’s. The part about her keeping the house until Judy’s on her own was true. I wasn’t about to disrupt my daughter’s life any more than necessary. For the most part, she saw little change except that I stopped coming home.

“The man Sally was with left. He was looking for a free ride, and thought she’d be his sugar momma. He’s since hooked up with a few others. Sally’s now with a very nice man who treats her well. Since we never had an alimony agreement, it wasn’t an issue. I did run a full background check on him because he was going to have contact with my baby girl. I’m so happy to say he’s been a great step-father to Judy. We see each other all the time at her concerts, and other events. And no, Sally has never stopped me from dating, or demanded I not bring women around Judy. That was my doing. I’ve dated a few women as I mentioned before, but none were ever good enough to introduce to Judy, that is, until now.”

“Oh?” said Hailey trembling. “You’ve met someone you feel is good enough?”

“Yeah. About two months ago, on a plane to Regale Litore Maris. I met this amazing single mother named Hailey.”

Tears welled up in Hailey’s eyes. “Really?”

“Really. Which is why I was so upset when I realized I had your napkin. Luckily for me, I was able to find you rather quickly thanks to the full background check I had done on you the day we met.”

“You checked me out?”

“Occupational hazard. I do the same with all the women I consider dating. Plus, I couldn’t believe any man would abandon his child the way that sperm donor did. The court records painted a rather bleak picture, and I realized you sugar-coated the whole thing.”

“Occupational hazard. I’m used to down-playing the whole thing for Tim’s sake. But then, when Alan showed up at my bungalow, you got a first-hand look at the man he was twenty years ago. The man who thought so little of me that he assumed the rumors were true, and that I could and would be unfaithful. I swear to you Rick, I never cheated on him.”

“I believe you. Just like I know the DNA proved he was Tim’s father. My father taught me well.”

“So, if you knew where I was at, why didn’t I hear from you sooner?”

“Because I had something that needed to be taken care of first.”

“What?”

“Getting that prick of a sperm donor to pay you the money he owed you.”

“Wait, you set that up?”

“Well, it wasn’t my dad.”

“But... why?”

“I thought that was obvious, Hailey,” he said taking her hand into his. “I can’t stand deadbeat dads. Not to mention all the horrid things he kept calling you. I understand it was a generous settlement.”

“Over a million dollars. You must let me repay you.”

“You’re money’s no good with me, Hailey Davidson. But I will take a kiss.”

Hailey smiled and kissed Rick softly on the lips. Rick smiled and said, “Now that’s a million dollar kiss.”

“Rick, why didn’t you tell me you were R.J. Talbott sooner?”

“Honestly, at first it was nice just being Rick. So often, I have women throwing themselves at me once they learn my name. I didn’t want to be ‘R.J. Talbott, Jr., son of R.J. Talbott, Sr., self-made multi-billionaire and businessman.’ I wanted to be Rick, single father and businessman on vacation.

"I visit the different resorts annually to make sure the guests are being treated well. So you know, Jake, the limo driver and Wilma, the manager knew who I was, but also know when I’m on vacation, I’m just Rick. I also have another confession. Jake wasn’t late picking you up, he was there for me. I ran off the plane ahead of you to call Wilma and make sure you were upgraded to the private bungalow, that you had the two-thousand dollar credit that would never run out, and that you were allowed any activity or outing you wanted. I watched you board the bus and called Jake, told him to take you off the bus, and give you a ride to the resort ahead of everyone else. That’s why I didn’t come out until after you left. I was afraid he might slip if I rode up with you, and I needed to set a few more things in place before I made my presence known to you.”

“Like what?”

“The ball for one. Mrs. Lee for another. She would have accidentally exposed me to you, and I didn’t want that. I also made sure there was room on the sunset horseback ride for your last week hoping you wanted to do that.”

“So you paid for my dress, the items I bought Tim and my friends, and everything else?”

“Yeah. There was something about you that I couldn’t explain, but I liked. Something special. I knew after our trip to the cove your story about the sperm donor was true, and that your son was working for our foundation. But what impressed me more was that no matter what I did or gave you, you never expected it or changed. Even the necklace and earrings that were way more expensive than I let on.”

“I knew it!”

“Well, I noticed you’re missing something.”

Hailey’s hand went to her chest. “Yeah, I lost it when I left. I called the resort but they haven’t found it.”

“That because it’s not there,” he said as he reached into the pocket of his shorts and pulled out her missing necklace.

“How did you get that?”

“I think it was our last night. The clasp got caught in your hair and you asked me to take it off for you.”

“Oh, right! I remember that now.”

“Well, I must have dropped it in my shorts pocket by mistake. My housekeeper found it when she was doing my laundry shortly after I returned home. She knows I’m terrible about leaving things in my pockets. She’s saved my cell phone and wallet from being washed hundreds of times. I guess it was about two days after I had returned. Judy was visiting, and I had to explain the mysterious necklace. She wants to meet you when you’re ready.”

Rick stood up and put the necklace around Hailey’s neck as she asked, “You told her about me?”

“Yeah. I kinda had to, after she saw the necklace. Besides, I couldn’t get you off my mind and all the phone calls I was fielding about your ex and finding you raised more than a few questions. Oh, and I know you haven’t told Tim about me. There, that’s better.”

Hailey put her hand on the pendant as she said, “Thank you. I was going to tell him until I lost your number. Actually, I’d planned to tell him about you at lunch today. I was going to ask if I could borrow some of the money from the settlement to hire a private investigator to find you.”

“Well, you should know, Tim’s been trying to figure out how to get you up here so he could introduce us. This morning it’s been, ‘You’d like my mom, R.J. She’s a great lady.’ Or, ‘My mom needs a nice man like you to make her happy.’ That boy has a future in matchmaking.”

Hailey giggled. “Did you know Tim was mine?”

“Oh yeah. Didn’t take me long to figure it out. The second I laid eyes on him, I knew. He looks a lot like you.”

“Really. For years all I could see was Alan. Do you know how hard it is to love someone who looks so much like someone you hate? Every time Alan would deny him, it was like he was twisting a dull, rusty knife in my heart. Then he disappeared, and for fifteen years, nothing; until I came to your resort. That night at the ball, I thought it was a nightmare. Then the next day he showed up at my bungalow. And he had the nerve to think I wanted him back.”

“Well, what you didn’t know was that night at the ball, I had my people begin to look into his finances. I know what it costs to stay at our resorts, and I knew if he could afford to stay there, he could afford to pay you back. See, you weren’t alone in the restroom when you spoke with his wife. One of my staffers was in there and overheard the whole conversation. With that information, I was able to figure out how he was able to say under the radar for so long. Of course, his wife came forward that morning he was in the bungalow with you. She found me and told me everything, including how he had gone looking for you. I had Suzette run me down with security on standby. When I saw your door open, I knew something was wrong. Suzette called security and, well, the rest you know.”

“Do you really have a sister?”

“Yeah, she’s a bit younger than me, and I’m sure she knows about you by now. If Judy didn’t tell her, I’m sure my parents did.”

“So, how do we tell Tim about us?”

“What do you want to tell him?”

“The truth. That we met almost two months ago at the resort. We had a wonderful time together. That you defended me to his father. And…”

“And?”

“And…” paused Hailey, afraid to say what she wanted to say. “Rick, what am I to you?”

“Someone very special. Someone I want to get to know better. Someone I could build a future with.”

“I’ve never been a high society gal.”

“Good. Because my first wife was, and you see how well that worked out for me. Plus, the woman I met at the resort was sweet, beautiful, down to earth, sexy, fun, and wonderful.”

Hailey blushed. “Really?”

“Really.”

Hailey took a deep breath. She knew it was now or never and she had to either learn the truth, or forever live in regret. “Rick… I want to tell you something.”

“What?” asked Rick nervously.

“You made me feel something I hadn’t experience before with another man. When I watched your plane leave for New York, I was going to leave you a voicemail before I got on my plane. When I saw the napkin, I was devastated. I’ve only had my heart broken once before and that was when Alan rejected Tim. He didn’t break my heart because I loved him, but because I knew he was hurting Tim. When I called the resort about my necklace, I asked about you, but they wouldn’t tell me anything. I was still trying to figure out how to find you when that lawyer called about the settlement. I decided last night when I couldn’t sleep that I was going to move heaven and earth to find you, and tell you… that…”

“That?”

“I… I- I love you.”

Rick sat dumbstruck. “You what?”

“I love you, Rick. I realized when you left I had fallen in love with you during our time together. However, if you don’t feel the same way abo—”

Rick grabbed Hailey’s face and kissed her hard. He forced his tongue into her mouth, kissing her deeply. When he finally broke free he said, “I love you too, Hailey. Why else would I have done so much for you?”

“R.J., why were you kissing my mom?”

Hailey and Rick looked over and saw Tim standing there with a confused look on his face. Rick and Hailey laughed as Hailey said, “Son, we need to have a long talk.”

Over lunch, Rick and Hailey shared with Tim about how they met, meeting Alan, and how they wanted to continue their relationship. Rick told Tim after the phone number mix up, he’d spent the last month trying to find Hailey and in the process, found him instead. He was hoping she’d come up to visit her son and thus, he’d get a chance to meet her again.

Hailey told Tim about the lawyer Rick had hired to get Alan to pay his back child support, and the settlement they received. She said she was going to ask for some of the money to find Rick, but now that wasn’t necessary. Tim listened quietly to the pair as he ate.

“I have just one question for you R.J., or should I call you Rick?”

“Rick, please.”

“What are you intentions with my mom?”

It’s hard to say who laughed harder between Hailey and Rick. “I intend to make her happy, Tim. That is, if it’s all right with you.”

Tim smiled. “If you break her heart, I’ll kick your ass.”

Tim!” cried Hailey.

“It’s fine Hailey. I’m guessing he’s seen you hurt enough over the years, haven’t you.”

“Yeah. I know she’s tried to hide it, but I knew.”

“I promise to treat her better than she’s ever been treated before. And I want you both to meet my daughter soon. Tim, I plan on taking care of both of you any way I can.”

“Mom, do you like him?”

“Very much so.”

“Fine, you may date my mom. But I expect you two to be practicing safe sex as my mom doesn’t need any more surprises.”

Rick and Hailey laughed hard. “If I provide you with proof I’m clean, may I date her?” asked Rick.

Tim smiled. “I haven’t seen my mom smile this much in years. I don’t need any more proof than that. This just caught me off guard, that’s all.”

“Kinda caught me off guard too son,” said Hailey.

~*~*~*~ 

Hailey paced around the room nervously. Her Vera Wang dress swept along the floor, and the sound of her bare feet echoed and added to her nervous condition. She knew the dress cost more than she made in a month at her old job, but she knew the second she saw it, no other dress would do. It was odd to her to have access to such disposable income, as she now called it, and felt guilty about spending it like she did. She knew this was the way things for her were going to be from now on, though. Tim stepped in wearing white slacks and a green flowered Hawaiian style shirt.

“Mom? Mom!”

Hailey jumped, then smiled. “Sorry, hon. What is it?”

“It’s almost time. Grandpa is just outside. Are you all right?”

“Just nervous, I guess.”

“Mom, you’ve got nothing to be nervous about. Everyone is here and ready. And I can assure you, Rick’s not going to bail out.”

Hailey smiled. “Was it that obvious?”

“Mom, after all you’ve been through, and we’ve been through together, a blind man could have seen it.”

Hailey blew out a breath of air. “Thanks Tim. Now go, I’ll see you shortly.”

Tim kissed Hailey’s cheek and smiled. “You look amazing, and everything will be great.”

“Thanks, Tim.”

Tim slipped out of the room and Hailey’s dad stepped in, wearing the same white slacks and shirt like Tim’s. “You look beautiful, Hailey.”

“Thanks.”

“Ready, kiddo?”

“Ready, Daddy.”

Hailey stepped up and took her dad’s hand. “You know, your mother and I never thought this day would come. Especially after…”

“You and me both Dad.”

“Well, we move forward, now don’t we.”

“Yes, we do.”

They moved toward the door when Hailey stopped, grabbed a small bouquet of white roses, and followed her dad out to the beach. The Regale Litore Maris was closed to the public, and only the wedding guests and staff were there.

Under a small, simple arch with flowers and green ribbons, stood the minister, waiting and smiling. Rick stood to the right side with his best friend and three other groomsmen wearing white trousers and green floral Hawaiian shirts. Tim was standing just past them. Rick’s sister and the three coworkers who took Hailey to the charity raffle were lined up on the left wearing soft green chiffon dresses.

The soft sound of “The Bridal March” came from Judy’s clarinet, who was also wearing the same soft green chiffon dress as the other ladies, and Hailey and her father walked down the aisle. Hailey’s white spaghetti-strap dress flowed and danced in the breeze as her footprints marked her path in the sand. Her hair hung around her face in soft curls with green ribbons streaming from the jeweled comb that decorated her hair. The black diamond necklace hung around her neck the way it had the night Rick gave it to her, and the matching earrings sparkled in the sun. The rest of the guests were family and close friends of the couple.

The ceremony was more than Hailey had ever dreamed of, and Rick had spared no expense to make it happen. The resort was closed for “repairs” for a week so they could have a private ceremony and bring Tim and Judy, who still weren’t old enough to come otherwise. Now they stood on the beach, exactly one year from the day they met on the plane, exchanging wedding vows and diamond and platinum rings.

The only reason they waited was Rick’s desire to give Hailey the perfect wedding and she wanted to get married where they first met and fell in love. To them, the June wedding was the perfect idea and since the resort did need some heavy maintenance that would require shutting down for a few days. Rick extended it for a week. He also paid the airfare for anyone who couldn’t afford the flight to ensure all of Hailey’s family and friends could attend.

After the ceremony, Hailey’s thoughts of the past year swirled through her head. She had met Rick’s dad at the resort, but it was meeting the rest of his family that scared her the most. Rick arranged for them all to meet at his apartment in New York, flying Hailey and Tim up for the weekend. Judy was still there and excited to meet Hailey and Tim. It didn’t take long for she and Tim to bond. Rick’s mother was polite, his dad was cordial, but it was his sister, Elle, who was the biggest shock. She pulled Hailey aside and said, “So, tell me, you looking for a financial windfall, or just a father for your son?”

“Um… excuse me?”

“You know my brother’s rich, and I’m sure you’ve heard about Judy.”

“I knew your brother was a business man yes, and he bragged up Judy quite a bit. But if you think for one minute that I’m interested in Rick for his money, you’re sadly mistaken. And as far as my son goes, he’s an adult now so he doesn’t need a father, he’s got me. And thanks for having such a high opinion of me. Nice to know you decided to give me the benefit of the doubt.”

Hailey started to storm off when she heard Elle say, “Rick was right about you.”

Hailey paused. “What do you mean?”

“He said you were a firecracker,” she said smiling. “He also told me if I tried to scare you off, I’d find out just what a powerhouse you really were.”

Hailey stood stunned. “So this was some sort of test?”

“Forgive me, Hailey. It’s just, you’re the first woman Rick’s introduced to us since Sally, if you don’t count the occasional social date we’d encounter him on. It’s driven our parents nuts that he refused to move on after the divorce and, I won’t lie, I was pissed at Sally for breaking my brother’s heart. But I know now he’s got his share of blame in that. I know it sounds like I was being a bitch, but I was really looking out for his best interest.”

Hailey sighed. “I guess I can’t blame you. Tim did ask Rick what his intentions were with me.”

Elle giggled. “Really?”

“Yeah. He even told Rick if he broke my heart he’d kick his ass.”

Elle laughed. “He didn’t.”

“He did. Even reminded us to practice safe sex so I wouldn’t get pregnant.”

Elle was now laughing hysterically. “How did you react?”

“Shocked. Embarrassed. Impressed. The best part was that Rick didn’t go running for the hills.”

“And why would he? Even a blind man can see how much he loves you, and how much you love him.”

Hailey blushed. “What do you mean?”

“Please. Rick brings you two to New York to meet us all, and you didn’t hesitate to come. And tomorrow I’m hoping to steal you away for a while for some serious retail therapy and girl talk. I’d love to get to know you better.”

“Rick did say you knew how to shop.”

“Honey, I’ve got a PhD in shopping.”

Hailey, Judy, and Elle spent the entire Saturday shopping in stores Hailey had only seen in movies or television shows, and despite her protests, Elle bought her an entire new wardrobe. The following weekend, Rick flew out to California with Judy to meet Hailey’s parents. Instead of the fancy dinner like they had at Rick’s place, her dad barbequed steaks and corn on the cob while he talked with Rick. Hailey’s mom kept her occupied while the men talked.

“Leave them alone, Hailey,” said her mom.

“What?” she asked, her voice rising a few octaves.

“Your father is trying to get to know him. Let’s face it, after Alan, your father never thought you’d ever bring a man home again. Aside from Tim, that is.”

Tim stepped into the kitchen and said, “Grandma. Grandpa said he needs a platter for the steaks and a bowl for the corn.”

“Coming right up,” she said.

Hailey stepped over to Tim and whispered, “How’s Rick doing?”

“Fine,” chuckled Tim. “Grandpa’s talking business with him. Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t think he’s scared him off yet.”

Hailey rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re my child.”

“Here, Tim, you’d better get back out there before your mother grills you like the steaks.”

“Yes, Grandma.”

Tim took the bowl and plate outside as Hailey’s mom stepped up and said, “He’s a wonderful young man, Hailey. And Judy is a darling child. It’s nice to see you so happy again.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

The dinner went better than Hailey had hoped, and her parents adored Rick and Judy. Now she was sitting at the head table with Rick by her side, as a newly married woman. She stared at the platinum and diamond ring set she now wore.

“Hey,” said Rick, snapping her out of her thoughts. “Penny for your thoughts.”

Hailey looked up. “I knew it. Now that we’re married, you’re getting cheap on me.”

Rick smiled. “What’s tying up that beautiful mind of yours?”

“I was just reflecting on how much my life has changed in the last year.”

“It has been pretty amazing, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Thank you Rick.”

“For what, baby?”

“For making all my dreams come true.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Well, I’ll admit I thought my husband was going to be Prince Charming, but you’re way better, as he was a fictional character and you’re the real thing.”

Rick smiled and took her hand in his. “Hailey, don’t you realize you made all my dreams come true too? You’re every super model I’ve ever dreamed of, wrapped up in the perfect woman.”

Hailey leaned over and kissed him. “I’m not perfect, Rick.”

“You are to me, Hailey.”

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

Rick took her left hand and ran his thumb over her ring. “Yes. You’ve told me, you’ve showed me, and trust me when I say, I never tire of hearing it.”

With that, Rick took his new wife’s face into his hands, kissed her lips gently, and reminded himself, this was as much his dream come true, as hers.

~The End~


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