In the end he hadn’t liked the person he’d become while they were together, and had been searching for a way out of months. Breaking off an engagement with the daughter of the current Governor wasn’t something a guy could just do without ramifications-at least according to April’s father.
Maybe this hadn’t been the best idea.
“This is probably a surprise for you,” April said, toying with her still full glass of wine.
Carter forced his smile wider. “I’m not opposed to having dinner with old friends. We didn’t end our relationship on bad terms, you know.” His mother had been thrilled when she found out he was having dinner with April while he’d wanted to strangle the person who had told Leah his business. Leah had made it perfectly clear that she wanted him to get back together with April. That he and April would have the most beautiful babies together. As the oldest, it was Carter’s duty to provide grandchildren as soon as possible.
That perfect smile of hers slipped, becoming brittle. “Maybe you didn’t but I did.”
He blinked. “Excuse me?”
She glanced around the dining room. Patrons talked, drank and ate, ignoring them. “I know you cheated on me, Carter, and I think you should finally come clean about it.”
“You’re out of your mind,” he said, then took a deep breath. “I’ve never cheated on anyone. Never will either.”
She shook her head, brittle smile staying firmly in place. “Daytona, after party. Cute blonde, wearing a racing jumpsuit. Big brown eyes staring at you with hero worship. You took her back to her hotel room because she’d gotten sick.” She made little air quotes.
There was only one cute blonde that fit that description: Melanie Ann Smith. He’d invited her and his sister, along with his brothers to the race and the party afterwards. “Melanie? Oh, come on, I’ve known her since she was eight.”
When April remained silent, he added. “She’d had too much to drink and so had my sister. No telling where the two of them would’ve ended up without my help. My God, April, you were there.”
Hair the color of caramel was tossed over a slender shoulder.“Yeah, and I came to see what was taking you so long.”
The implication that he’d been found guilty and convicted without a trial turned his body hot with fury. “And?”
“I saw you scoop her up in your arms and she snuggled all against you before you smiled at her and walked inside. Like y’all had done that before.” April laughed. “Who am I kidding? You had to have done that before, because you sure as hell never smiled at me like that.”
Jesus H. Christ. A f**king smile made him guilty? “Well, if you had stuck around, then you would have seen me come out about thirty seconds later—alone.” He picked up his napkin from his lap and threw it on the table. “I give women a whole lot more than thirty seconds of pleasure and you know it, having been on the receiving end.”
“I’m pregnant,” April said and his mouth fell open. There was a gasp and his head jerked up, finding Melanie, only a few feet away, staring at him. Her face was pale and he’d never seen her eyes so big. Hell, he’d never seen her looked so crushed, not even when he and April had announced their engagement.
“Isn’t that convenient,” April said, her voice smug. “I think she’s in love with you.”
Melanie in love with him? A crush, maybe, but that was a long time ago. “No. She’s just known me forever and…” He watched Melanie run outside. Fuck. But he couldn’t go after her. Not right now. He directed his attention back to April. “I’ll do right by you and”—he swallowed—“the baby.” The response was automatic, taking responsibility for his actions something that had been taught to him for as long as he could remember.
“I’m four months along.” April’s eyes narrowed. “We haven’t slept together in eight months, Carter. It’s not yours. The father is daddy’s new campaign manager, Ned.” She shook her head and muttered, “Why is it that the pretty ones are always so stupid?”
Relief coursed through him and he tried to feel remorse or even like an ass, but he couldn’t. And he didn’t give a shit about her stupid remark. Thing was, he couldn’t imagine his entire life tied to April. The baby, he wouldn’t have minded at all. Only he or she would be used in campaign ads, whether he liked it or not.
“So, why are you telling me?” he asked.
“Because I cheated with Ned in retaliation, and that’s why I quit screwing you before we broke up.” April lifted her glass of wine, then set it back down and picked up her glass of water.
Rubbing his temples, he exhaled. “Let me get this straight: You thought I cheated on you, so instead of talking to me and finding out the truth, you decided to screw another man to get back at me, but kept everything quiet.” Her logic made his head hurt. “And your problem is?”
“Ned is married.”
“Of course he is.” Carter pinched the bridge of his nose, then dropped his hand to the table. “Again, why are you telling me this?”
“Daddy’s willing to make it worth your while to claim it’s yours.” She pulled a check out of her purse, placed it on the table and slid it over to him.
The amount of zeros made him blink. It was a damn good thing he had morals, and the millions he’d accumulated over the past few years didn’t hurt things. “To avoid a scandal?”
April gave him this look and in that second he could see fifty years worth of that look. He shuddered. “Think of what it could do for you, to be married to the daughter of the Governor. Maybe translate into a run for office.”
“You don’t know me at all.”
“We were together for three years, Carter. Of course, I know you,” she snapped.
“Really?” he asked, his brows rising. “What’s my favorite television show?”
“You don’t have one.”
“It’s Golden Girls.”
Frowning, she said, “Give me another one.”
Yeah, she hated to be wrong. Ever. “Favorite beer?”
“Ale Brown Nights.”
Well, she was bound to get one right. Plus, they had been a major sponsor of his. “Favorite cake?”
“Yellow, with buttercream frosting.”
Melanie’s voice slipped inside his head. Brought your favorite…German Chocolate… As upset as she’d looked, he hoped like hell she hadn’t driven off somewhere. “Nope.”