Authors: Brenda Jackson
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Copyright © 2003 by Brenda Streater Jackson
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First Hardcover Printing: May 2003
First Trade Paperback Printing: April 2004
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To the love of my life, Gerald Jackson, Sr. and to my sons, Gerald Jackson, Jr. and Brandon Jackson.
To Cindy Clay for letting me pick her brain on a subject where I have no experience—getting back into the dating scene.
To my aunts, Jennie Bell Mercer and Josephine Cooper. Thanks for always being there for me.
To my Heavenly Father. I’m everything I am because you love me.
It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in men.
abriel Blackwell had a low tolerance level for women who constantly tripped on excess emotional baggage, and the one sitting across from him had bags packed so heavy he wondered how she was lugging them around.
After listening to her moan, weep and groan for the past hour, he’d just about had it. There were only so many burdens a mortal man could take from a woman who refused to see the light of day because her lover of the past two years had made one mistake too many.
He lifted the wineglass to his lips and took a sip as he continued to listen to her whine. Since this was their first date, she was evidently clueless that this was not the way to go about establishing a new relationship with someone. When he’d picked her up for dinner, he’d been truly impressed since she definitely was a looker who had everything in all the right places. For once he had thought his mother,
who’d harassed him into going out on this blind date, had finally done something right. It didn’t take long for him to change his mind and decide that instead, she’d definitely done something wrong. En route to the restaurant when a certain song by Luther Vandross began playing on the car’s radio, the woman had begun crying her eyes out over what she’d tearfully described to him as “painful memories.” Evidently the pain only got worse, because she’d been sobbing ever since. Several times he had offered to take her back home, but she’d refused, saying that at some point she had to get on with her life. And each time he’d come close to telling her that she was exhibiting a piss-poor job of doing so.
He knew of very few men who needed or wanted the stress of getting involved with someone who couldn’t regain control of her emotions and let go. He’d found out the hard way three years ago that some women actually enjoyed bemoaning a lost cause. He had fancied himself in love with such a woman. After they had dated exclusively for ten months, she broke things off between them the moment her ex-lover returned to town and decided he wanted her back. The scars from that encounter had been slow to heal.
“I guess I’m not making a good impression tonight with it being our first date and all, but I can’t help it,” the woman said, breaking into Gabe’s thoughts as she sniffed into the handkerchief he’d given to her earlier.
When he didn’t say anything, she continued by saying, “I can’t believe I’m still upset over the fact that he left me. He was nothing but a total jerk anyway.” A few minutes later she added, “But still, after what we used to mean to each other, you’d
think he would have the decency to at least return my phone calls.”
Gabe lifted a brow, wondering if she really thought a jerk would actually do something decent. Then, belatedly, what she’d said caught his attention. “You’ve tried calling him?” he asked, more in astonishment than interest. She had spent the past hour telling him how she’d discovered the guy had hocked her jewelry to pay his gambling debts, as well as the fact that he’d been carrying on an illicit affair with a woman in the office where he worked. As far as Gabe was concerned, the man had two strikes against him. She was definitely better off without him and had said so herself several times during the course of the evening. Yet in the same breath, she’d just admitted that she’d tried contacting him. Gabe determined she was a glutton for punishment and was taking obsessive love to an all-new high … or in his opinion, a very disgusting low.
“Yes, I’ve been trying to reach him for the past two days, ever since I found out about my condition,” she finally answered as fresh tears appeared in her eyes.
Gabe inhaled sharply, almost choking on the wine he’d just sipped. He cleared his throat and shifted uneasily in his chair, then inquired as calmly as he could, “Your condition?”
Red, swollen, tear-soaked eyes met his gaze. She again put his handkerchief to use as she sobbingly replied, “I’m pregnant.”
The next day
Joella Blackwell looked at her son and said calmly, “The situation you described doesn’t sound like a major crisis to me, Gabriel.”
Gabe shook his head in disbelief, clearly stunned. After a brief moment of recovery, he was almost certain he had misunderstood his mother’s response, so he decided to tell her again.
“I said the woman who you talked me into taking out last night announced over dinner that she’s pregnant.”
And just in case his mother still didn’t get it, he clarified by saying, “She’s going to have a baby, and before you give me an all-accusing stare, just remember that last night was our first date and under the circumstances it was definitely our last.”
Joella Blackwell raised a dark brow as she continued the task of setting the table for dinner. Christopher Chandler, Gabe’s best friend and business partner, whom she considered her surrogate son, and his wife and their ten-month-old son would be coming, and she looked forward to seeing them. She was pleased that at least one of her
had finally put aside his whoring ways to marry and start a family.
“I know what being pregnant means, Gabriel. All I’m saying is that at least she was honest and up front with you. So the way I see it, to decide you won’t be seeing her again is acting rather hasty. I would think you could put the issue of her pregnancy behind you and move on.”
Gabe leaned in the doorway that separated the kitchen from the dining room, wondering if his mother actually thought such a thing was possible. But then, he knew she really did. Everyone who knew Joella Blackwell was well aware that she had a soft, loving and forgiving heart. She was a good Christian woman who saw good in everyone and believed a positive spin could be derived from any negative situation. In this case, she was dead
wrong. “You’re expecting too much if you assume I’ll consider asking her out again,” he finally said.
Joella Blackwell shrugged. “I see no reason why you shouldn’t. Being pregnant is not the end of the world. Men date pregnant women all the time.”
Gabe frowned. “Yeah, and usually when they do it’s because they have a vested interest, like being the father of that child. Don’t you see the problems that can develop if I become involved with Keri Morton?”
“No, I don’t see the problems since she’s made you aware of her condition. It’s not as if she’s trying to pass the child off as yours. I think you’re being too judgmental. Your name may be Gabriel, but you’re far from being an angel yourself.”
Gabe shook his head. “I happen to like children, no matter whose they are, but there’s a lot more to it than the pregnancy issue. She’s still hung up on her baby’s father.”
“She actually told you that?”
“She didn’t have to. She talked about him enough over dinner for me to tell, and I refuse to get involved again with a woman carrying around excess emotional baggage. And trust me, Keri Morton is up to her ying-ying in it. I’m not interested in dating a woman with issues.”
Joella Blackwell didn’t say anything for the longest moment. She remembered how a few years back Gabe had fallen in love; a woman he had practically offered everything—his time, his money and most important, his heart. The day before he was going to ask her to marry him, she broke off things between them to get back together with her old boyfriend and had even had the gall to send Gabe an invitation to their wedding. Since that fateful time,
he had refused to date women who he thought had personal problems they couldn’t let go of. What she’d tried to get him to see was that everyone had some sort of issues. No one lived a completely carefree life.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect woman, Gabriel.”
Gabe met his mother’s gaze. “I’m not looking for one, but any relationship I get seriously involved in again has to be uncomplicated and straightforward.”
Joella shook her head. “I hate to disappoint you, but there’s nothing uncomplicated or straightforward about any woman. God made us unique and he gave us emotions and I do thank him for that. Otherwise, this world would have ended long ago if it was left up to a man. Your gender on occasion has shown to be rather heartless. And heaven forbid if anything has to be done. Men take forever to do nothing. Women are known not to beat around the bush. And we are a nurturing breed. We’re sensitive, understanding, and luckily for the male, we’re also compassionate. That’s the reason we can’t let go of things as easily as a man. Then there are some of us who can’t seem to let go at all. They’re the ones in need of more personal growth and healing, along with tender, loving care. But in due time they’ll learn there is life after a love that’s ended.”