A Little Dare. Brenda Jackson
A Little Dare
MILLS & BOON
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To Pauline Hall, thanks for your feedback on the book in progress and for falling in love with Dare.
And most importantly, thanks to my Heavenly Father who gave me the gift to write.
The son Dare Westmoreland didn’t know he had, needed him.
Shelly Brockman knew that admission was long overdue as she stood in the living room of the house that had been her childhood home. The last box had been carried in and now the task of unpacking awaited her. Even with everything she faced, she felt good about being back in a place that filled her with many fond memories. Her thoughts were cut short with the slamming of the front door. She turned and met her son’s angry expression.
“I’m going to hate it here!” He all but screamed at the top of his lungs. “I want to go back to Los Angeles! No matter what you say, this will never be my home!”
Shelly winced at his words and watched as he threw down the last bag filled with his belongings before racing up the stairs. Instead of calling after him, she closed her eyes, remembering why she had made the move from California to Georgia, and knew that no matter how AJ felt, the move was the best thing for him. For the past year he had been failing in school and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Because of his height, he looked older than a ten-year-old and had begun associating with an older group of boys at school, those known to be troublemakers.
Her parents, who had retired and moved to Florida years ago, had offered her the use of her childhood home rent-free. As a result, she had made three of the hardest decisions of her life. First, deciding to move back to College Park, Georgia, second switching from being a nurse who worked inside the hospital to a home healthcare nurse, and finally letting Dare Westmoreland know he had a son.
More than anything she hoped Dare would understand that she had loved him too much to stand between him and his dream of becoming an FBI agent all those years ago. Her decision, unselfish as it had been, had cost AJ the chance to know his father and Dare the chance to know his son.
Crossing the room she picked up AJ’s bag. He was upset about leaving his friends and moving to a place he considered Hicksville, USA. However, his attitude was the least of her worries.
She sighed deeply and rubbed her forehead, knowing she couldn’t put off telling Dare much longer since chances were he would hear she’d return to town. Besides, if he took a good hard look at AJ, he would know the truth, and the secret she had harbored for ten years would finally be out.
Deep within her heart she knew that it was time.
Two weeks later—early September
Sheriff Dare Westmoreland leaned forward in the chair behind his desk. From the defiant look on the face of the boy standing in front of him he could tell it would be one of those days. “Look, kid, I’m only going to ask you one more time. What is your name?”
The boy crossed his arms over his chest and had the nerve to glare at him and say, “And I’ve told you that I don’t like cops and have no intention of giving you my name or anything else. And if you don’t like it, arrest me.”
Dare stood to his full height of six-feet-four, feeling every bit of his thirty-six years as he came from behind his desk to stare at the boy. He estimated the kid, who he’d caught throwing rocks at passing cars on the highway, to be around twelve or thirteen. It had been a long time since any kid living in his jurisdiction had outright sassed him. None of them would have dared, so it stood to reason that the kid was probably new in town.
“You will get your wish. Since you won’t cooperate and tell me who you are, I’m officially holding you in police custody until someone comes to claim you. And while you’re waiting you may as well make yourself useful. You’ll start by mopping out the bathroom on the first floor, so follow me.”
Dare shook his head, thinking he didn’t envy this kid’s parents one bit.
Shelly had barely brought her car to a complete stop in front of the sheriff’s office before she was out of it. It had taken her a good two hours in Atlanta’s heavy traffic to make it home after receiving word that AJ had not shown up at school, only to discover he wasn’t at home. When it had started getting late she had gotten worried and called the police. After giving the dispatcher a description of AJ, the woman assured her that he was safe in their custody and that the reason she had not been contacted was because AJ had refused to give anyone his name. Without asking for any further details Shelly had jumped into her car and headed for the police station.
She let out a deep sigh. If AJ hadn’t given anyone his name that meant the sheriff was not aware she was AJ’s mother and for the moment that was a comforting thought. As she pushed open the door, she knew all her excuses for not yet meeting with Dare and telling him the truth had run out, and fate had decided to force her hand.
She was about to come face to face with Sheriff Dare Westmoreland.
“Sheriff, the parent of John Doe has arrived.”
Dare looked up from the papers he was reading and met his secretary’s gaze. “Only one parent showed up, Holly?”
“Yes, just the mother. She’s not wearing a wedding ring so I can only assume there isn’t a father. At least not one that’s around.”
Dare nodded. “What’s the kid doing now?” he asked, pushing the papers he’d been reading aside.
“He’s out back watching Deputy McKade clean up his police motorcycle”
Dare nodded. “Send the woman in, Holly. I need to have a long talk with her. Her son needs a lot more discipline than he’s evidently getting at home.”
Dare moved away from his desk to stand at the window where he could observe the boy as he watched McKade polish his motorcycle. He inhaled deeply. There was