Eric: A Coming of Age Romance
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Did you hear the rumor about the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who intentionally got pregnant with her wealthy boyfriend’s baby?
Ginny Adair hasn’t had it easy. So for her, there isn’t much worse than being pinned against a bathroom door by her boyfriend’s identical twin brother, who is wearing nothing but a towel. Except, maybe the fact that on the other side of the door their mother is delivering news Ginny's too scared to tell Eric.
Because the gossip swirling around the small town is true. And soon enough everyone is convinced the high school girl sunk her claws into one of the Kingsbrier Quintuplets to dupe steadfast Eric Cavanaugh out of his trust fund.
Now Eric is paying the price with his family. His infamously misbehaved sisters and brothers are wondering if they misplaced their confidence in him, and Eric’s solid plan to take over the family business is on shaky ground. Not to mention, Ginny’s stepfather actually wants to get his hands on Eric’s inheritance.
Graduating should have meant Eric and Ginny were stepping into the future. But will having a baby change the course of their lives and prevent them from taking those steps together?
Release date: May 2, 2016
Print pages: 214
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Eric: A Coming of Age Romance
Chapter 1 —Colton
Around town, they call us the Kingsbrier Quintuplets. On the technical side, we’re not Kingsbriers. Our daddy, Ross, married the incorrigible Miss Rose Kingsbrier six years before we were born. It’s only because we live on the plot of land that holds our momma’s family name that we’re not referred to as the Cavanaugh Quintuplets. Though, each of the five of us has had it pounded into our heads to answer to either name when it’s called.
Daddy doesn’t care one iota his progeny are better known by his wife’s maiden name. I figure he’s damn proud they don’t call us anything worse—especially me since I have a knack for getting into scuffles at school and on the football field, back alleys, and I’ve thrown down in pasture or two. Lately, he’s been nostalgic, remarking about the no-nonsense way Momma managed to raise five babies and giving all the credit to her.
Even I’m aware of when to mind my manners in public, and I’m smart enough to know Momma couldn’t have done it on her own. It’s not easy keeping five kites flying at once. Hold the string too tight and it flounders. Give the line too much slack and you never know where you’ll be chasing off to trying to find it or what tree you’ll climb to get the kite back unscathed. I’d like to see any other parents manage as well as mine did. We haven’t made it easy on them.
Kingsbrier, the property, is a sprawling Texas ranch. The house is low on the horizon, cut into a rolling hill, so it looks to only be one story. Wide wings of bedrooms flank either side of the Tudor home my grandfather built. An enormous pool hides behind the left wing. To the right, where our rooms lay, are immaculate gardens. Acres of green grass cut off where a grove of trees was planted long ago. A stable, several outbuildings for storage, and residences—once used to house occasional staff members—are spaced across the vast property.
This land was Rose’s inheritance from her oil-rich father who passed when us quints were little. It was a windfall Ross had little need of as Daddy is a self-made man in the construction business. There was no silly prenuptial agreement. Ross simply told Grandaddy he was disinterested in Momma’s fortune. The bulk falls to us when we turn twenty-five.
Determined to instill a work ethic in his kids, Ross is about to cut us off and we’ll have to figure out life’s hard knocks on our own. The five of us have always known about this, but for as down to earth as our parents made our upbringing, ask me how intimidating it is for a kid raised in a mansion? Over the next seven years, we’ll either forge paths our own or fall and be trampled. I’m thinking he hopes we’ll learn to pick ourselves up, brush the dust off, and keep going.
As cocky as it sounds, the Kingsbrier quints have been proving people wrong since the day we were born. Hell, it may be a family trait. Grandaddy wanted grandchildren to carry on his legacy. After years of trying, Rose and Ross agreed to fertility treatments, figuring maybe they’d wind up with twins.
What they got was a pair, a spare, and a spare, and yet another spare. Eric and I are a set of identical twin boys. Of the other three babies, only one was supposed to be a girl; my sister Brier. However, Daddy tells the tale that he’d already decided not to underestimate his children when our mother had managed to stay pregnant for so long with all those buns in the oven. So, when a second daughter—whom they’d spent months referring to as Davy—made a grand entrance as baby number four, displacing the birth order for Eric and me, and making me the youngest, he wasn’t shocked.
Now, with five eighteen-year-olds ready to leave the nest, it’s anyone’s guess what’ll happen. Or maybe not.
Plenty is predictable around this house. Like how Brier came home before curfew from the party we were at celebrating our high school graduation, which is this afternoon. She pretended to go to bed and then snuck back out for one last hoorah in case the discipline hammer falls on all of us. I’m pretty sure B knows what I’ve overheard this morning.
Cotton-mouthed from too many beers last night, I slunk down the stairs after the enormous wooden front door shut. Being hung-over in front of our mother is not something I advise.
Momma is standing outside, inspecting the front garden. Judging by her demeanor, Mrs. Rose Kingsbrier-Cavanaugh believes the rumor is true.
“I’m too young for this, Ross.” She points a manicured finger at her long blonde hair. For as long as I can recall, it’s only ever down around her shoulders at daybreak. “The lot of them may give me white streaks, but this color is not from a bottle.”
Daddy kisses her and I spy a moment of solace passing between them. I should feel worse for spying on them from the dining room window. But I don’t. Neither looks as if they’ve slept a wink and if they did, it was fitful. The fact that only four of the five of us quints were in our rooms this morning when my parents awakened is the least of their problems.
Those big life lessons? From what I’ve garnered over the past few minutes, someone’s about to learn them. Thank fuck it’s not me.
Daddy heads for his truck and turns over the engine. Ross Cavanaugh isn’t one to abandon a situation, but he’d agreed to muck out the stalls and feed the horses in Daveigh’s absence this morning. Even I’ll admit the second of my sisters deserved a little time off. That girl is the single one of us everyone counts on. Had Daddy balked, asking Daveigh to do her part anyway, she would have put on her work boots and driven down the road without reservation. Even assured Daddy’s taking care of her chores, it surprised me Daveigh wasn’t up with the rooster, sitting in the kitchen to watch the sunrise when I popped in there to fill a mug with raw eggs for protein.
Momma shakes her head, touching her temple. Lord, I do not envy my twin brother this morning. Part of me considers warning him.
Upstairs, I turn on the shower and crack the door seam between the Jack and Jill bathroom connecting Eric’s room to mine.
“I’m going to miss you.” Ginny, his girlfriend, pulls Eric’s arm over her.
She’s nestled in his bed. Eric plays with her long, dark blonde locks fanning in halo against his pillow. Ginny should have left at least an hour ago so our mother doesn’t find her there. None of the rest of us quints are quite so clueless to consider barging into the room without knocking first. But today morbid curiosity fascinates me about their relationship instead of being envious he’s found the one person to make him happy.
At first, Ginny slept here nearly every weekend. Recently it’s become a lot more. Like a lot, a lot. She has a stepsister who lives in Maine and parents who believe she’s spending all these nights with friends. I keep my mouth shut because it’s fun to have something to hang over Ginny’s head. On a good day, I scare the bejesus out of her. What can I say? It’s something I enjoy doing and keeps Ginny on her toes, reminding her I’m not Eric.
Before sliding the door shut, I spy his high school soccer trophies displayed on a bookshelf. Eric plans to stay at Kingsbrier after graduation. Those will have to go. His Nickelback and Evanescence posters hang on the wall over her collection of Toby Keith and Tim McGraw compact disks. Yup, those are staying. Although, we might wind up using them for target practice.
“What’s the saying about loving someone more when they go away and come back? Besides, your college is an hour from here. We’ll see each other all the time. We have the entire summer before you leave, right? Colton’s out of here as soon as the ink dries on his diploma.”
Tell it like it is, brother. I chuckle under my breath. The walls here are fucking paper thin, but I get it. He’s my other half. The person who keeps me grounded. Little does Eric know he’s about to get grounded for the next eighteen years. I doubt he’ll have the chance to miss me.
“What’s with the sad look all of a sudden, Sugar? Got something on your mind? No worries, okay. Someday I’m going to make you Mrs. Cavanaugh. After you go and get an accounting degree.”
Or maybe sooner. Or maybe not at all.
My brother is a good guy and I’m a dick for wanting to see this play out.
“What if I didn’t go? Or what if you came with me?” I hear Ginny’s voice tremble with hope. She’s about to lay it on the line.
“You have to go, and I’m right where I’m supposed to be. My daddy’s construction business is my life. I’ve known it since I was a kid.”
Damn, I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I want to keep listening, but I need a shower and if I don’t get wet soon, I’ll regret it when Brier drags her ass home and hogs all the hot water.
I jump into the tub, rubbing the soap between my palms. I scrub my face with the lather and use the fresh woodsy scent on my pits, and my cock, and what the hell, in my shaggy blond hair too since it gets the job done quicker.
“You up, Eric?” Momma calls through the locked door to his room. “I need to talk to you.”
Ginny has no time to get dressed let alone shimmy out the low window. Instead, she wraps the top sheet around her. From behind the curtain, I see him shove her clothes underneath the bed while she flees into the bathroom. She presses her ear to the door, trying to catch what the voices were saying.
She shouldn’t do that. It muffles them.
“It has been a long night, so let’s cut to the chase, Eric. There is a rumor around town Ginny was at Richardson’s Market this week—”
“Lotsa people go to the grocery store, Momma.” The springs squeak as Eric flops down on his bed.
Concentrating on the door, Ginny hasn’t heard the shower cut off.
“What’re you eavesdropping on, gorgeous?” I can’t help myself and lean my body in, pinning Ginny to the wood, and blocking her in place with my meat hooks.
My mohawk shag of white-blonde hair is dripping wet. I was nice enough to wrap a towel at my midsection. Otherwise, I’m bare-chested, peering down the gap between her breasts, and licking my lips with anticipation.
I catch Gin in a stare, making her wonder what my intentions are towards her. I mean, the way we’re standing here with nothing but my twin brother’s bedsheet separating us leaves little to the imagination. And I’d like to know what the hell she was thinking when she devised this plan.
Chapter 2 —Ginny
I’m pinned against the bathroom door by Colton. He doesn’t particularly like me. He doesn’t seem to like anyone except his brothers and sisters. But that’s the least of my many problems right now. Eric’s mother is delivering the news I’ve been to chicken to give my boyfriend.
I love Eric and, for both of our sakes, I need to hear what’s being discussed in my boyfriend’s room. I’m not sure what Miss Rose actually knows. I do know it had been stupid going to a local store. Brier would have had a better plan. Brier always finds a way to make it look like she keeps her nose clean.
“I don’t know who y’all think you are fooling. Ginny’s tennis shoes are right there and I’ll bet you the bright pink stain on the heel is from stepping on my azaleas.” Rose notifies her son.
We’ve been found out. Moreover, I’ve been found out. I forgot I stepped on a fallen petal climbing through the window last night in my cheap white tennis shoes.
Planting a different bush under each window is how Miss Rose intended to catch every sneaky child in this house. It doesn’t explain Brier’s absence, but the rest of us went to bed sure that girl weaseled her way out, yet again, without using the front door.
Rose raises her voice, “Colton, for heaven’s sake, let your brother’s pregnant girlfriend be. Ginny, get your butt out here.”
I let out a long-held breath. While Eric is built lean and muscular through construction work, his twin brother is massive from playing football and weight training. Being near Colton clothed is intimidating enough, I don’t want to consider our proximity given the lack thereof.
My jaw drops. Pregnant. Eric knows I’m having a baby.
Colton’s light eyebrows raise. He laughs menacingly under his breath, mocking, “I have no use for my brother’s leftovers.” Turning to walk toward his own space, he adjusts the towel, flashing me his ass. “You know he’s broke, right? We don’t see a penny until we turn twenty-five. Good luck raising that thing, cuz there ain’t no changing my grandaddy’s will.”
Tears prick behind my eyes. I’ve only cried once so far because there is no sense in denying this situation is all my fault. If Colton’s reaction is the ugliest of any I have to face, I’m glad for it to be over. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one to tell Eric, which makes me more upset and anxious. I’ve been trying to find a way to break the news to him. What I did was wrong.
The idea of being apart from Eric has been tearing me up for months. There had been times recently I’d fancied the two of us living in an off-campus apartment in Beaumont, with our collective things intertwined in the truest sense; His cowboy boots next to my Doc Martens. It had been fleeting. Eric intends to stay here. I never wanted to force him away from the life he saw himself living, but I am guilty of throwing it off track.
Eric doesn’t need to leave town to find himself, he knows who he is. Come July, he’s moving out of this gigantic house and paying rent to live in one of the stablehand apartments. He plans to work his way up in the family business. There are concepts he’ll never acquire in a classroom, things Mr. Cavanaugh will teach Eric, and he’s a capable learner. Eric isn’t fool enough to believe he won’t need some sort of higher education to round him out. He’s taking a few courses here and there and it’s why he’s pushing me to go away without him.
Good men like Eric are hard to find. I would know. My Daddy had been one of those men. His death when I was eight hit the community hard. My mother’s second husband plays to everyone’s sympathy. His public face is a show, the private one enough to make my fingers curl into fists. Everyone thinks he’s upstanding and that we live a lovely life. One similar to the kind the Cavanaugh’s have, without the luxury. I could do without any extravagance if it allows me to regain some of the security I felt when my mother and real daddy had been married.
I’ve compared our love story to my parents’. Eric played dumb to get me to help him in math class. I was quick to unravel his scheme. A boy can’t know how to read a blueprint with levels and not have an idea of geometry. Eric is the quiet one who keeps to himself and it’s doubtless I’d have fallen for his shy smile without him even placing designs on me. He’s not watching the world pass him by; he’s a keen observer with a soul older than his years.
All the girls in are aware a Kingsbrier son is a catch, but despite Colton’s nasty remark, I’ll love Eric when he’s dirt poor. Maybe someday I’ll forgive Colton for his harsh words too.
Other than the same blonde hair and green eyes, for twins they are no more alike than any of the other Kingsbrier siblings. Perhaps their bond is because they once were identical and it’s why Eric talks more about Colton than their oldest brother, Adam, who is much nicer to everyone.
The truth about the baby hasn’t left the tip of my tongue. I haven’t swallowed it down or spit it out. Day after day keeping the secret from Eric burns regret into my soul. There have been countless times I’ve stumbled trying to tell Eric. I was almost there before his mother interrupted. Then he’d gone and done it again, making the situation all about his brother enlisting in the Navy.
In the end, it doesn’t matter anymore why I lost my nerve. Why I snuggled down one last night into the softness of his sheets, lost in the sensation of our bodies moving together when I knew today I’d have to face the music. Eric deserved better than being lied to. That’s what I’ve been doing since I realized the tests from Richardsons Market weren’t lying and the disappointment in myself set in. I’ve sent both of our dreams up in smoke.
When I hadn’t plucked up the courage to tell him this morning, I convinced myself it was only to wait until after graduation today. I don’t want to burden Eric’s shoulders with the weight I’ve been carrying all these months. I was giving him one last opportunity to enjoy a carefree life and reap the reward of his hard work.
Paralyzed in place since Colton shut the door to his room, my stomach churns and my hands shake. I put on the blue robe that smells like my boyfriend before opening the opposite door. I expect to find Rose Kingsbrier-Cavanaugh with her arms crossed and tapping her foot, waiting for an answer as to how I could have done this to her baby boy.
His momma’s hospitality makes Kingsbrier feel much more like home than my own. It isn’t the sprawling house, but the people in it. The way they act and interact with each other. The sibling squabbles, the noise, the lot of them in the kitchen, pitching in to make a meal. Each knowing his or her task and everyone chipping in. Sitting down to dinner and feeling like a family.
The house I was raised in wasn’t warm or inviting, and my actions are more than a betrayal of Eric’s trust. They take from the very idea of what it’s like to be accepted by the Cavanaughs altogether.
Slowly, I close the bathroom door behind me, hesitating before I turn to face the matriarch of a family whose members once loved me. The room is empty except for Eric who sits on the bed with his hands cradling his head. His mother has gone and my boyfriend was the first to take the blame for the doubt I placed in Miss Rose’s heart.
“I was about to tell you,” I say softly, knowing it isn’t necessarily true.
He looks across the room at me as if we’re perfect strangers. “Were you?”
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