EXCERPT #1 Darrin loses his wife, Andrea
Darrin Banning was a bastard—and he deserved this. Numb and in shock on this hard, cold winter day, he just stood there outside of the ER doors, peeking through the windows, watching his wife struggle. He watched the doctors deliver his baby, and when it was all over the chief OB/GYN, flustered, exhausted, and seemingly in shock himself, said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Banning. Due to complications from your wife’s labor and the traffic accident…she didn’t make it. I’m sorry. Your daughter is alive but we’d like to keep her in the neo-natal ward for a bit. She’s very weak…”
“My wife is dead?” he said as his eyes grew wide. Darrin’s sister, Reece, placed a gentle hand on his shoulder to comfort him. A car in this very hospital’s parking lot had hit his pregnant wife!
The doctor nodded. Abruptly, Darrin shrugged off his sister’s hand. He was in no mood to be comforted. He had to see for himself that it was true. He rushed into the ER, followed by the doctor, who let him go. Darrin had to see with his own eyes that she was truly gone.
Darrin thought if he just closed his eyes, maybe it would all go away. But as he took her lifeless hand, he knew in his heart it was no dream. His wife, Andrea, was not coming back to him. Finally, all the tears he was holding inside began to stream down his cheeks, and he stumbled into the chair behind him. Uncontrollably, he wept over his deceased wife’s body, memories of his sad past flooding back.
When he was six years old, his parents died in a traffic accident as well. However, he would later discover they weren’t his real parents. He had been adopted, and his biological father was a man named Jordan Edmund Banning III. Jordan was a powerful, influential man in Manchester, owning a newspaper, a radio station, and a TV station. He had earned millions through his media empire and made sound financial investments, but Darrin was to learn his newly discovered father, while worth millions, wasn’t worth much else.
Darrin asked about his real mother, but all his new father would tell him was that she was dead. Darrin also discovered he had two sisters. Sarah was the older one, Reece the younger, and both were “legitimate.”
Ever since his arrival, he had been reminded of his “illegitimacy.” Not by his sisters, who were clearly happy to have a brother, but by everyone else. At the time, Darrin didn’t know what the word meant, just that it was bad and that he would never be good enough in his father’s eyes.
Growing up, he desperately sought his father’s approval, but it was not forthcoming. His father rarely paid his children any attention. Sarah was well mannered, but Reece had grown to despise their father as much as Darrin had. As a teenager, Darrin began to lash out, as did Reece, only Reece was a lot more clever about it. As Darrin grew into a good-looking man and excelled at sports, his demeanor took a negative turn.
He started to get in trouble. His senior year of high school was plagued with drinking and bad grades, things that were overlooked because he was Jordan Banning’s son. Reece tried to talk to him, confiding her secrets to him, and Darrin, moved, confided in her. Reece was always there. She offered advice, usually telling Darrin to chill out, bide his time. His reward would come. Darrin didn’t pay attention to his sister’s advice. His reputation suffered and he didn’t seem to care.
Darrin did well in college, getting good grades, but he did nothing to make people think better of him. His father was convinced that Sarah was the only good child he had, and Darrin let him think it. If anything, Darrin gained focus. He would graduate college and go into the media business himself, proving a worthy adversary for his father. His shyness was often misinterpreted as rudeness, and his desire to have a new girl at every party he attended made people think of him as a womanizer. Darrin respected his sisters, but he honestly didn’t have a desire to be tied down to a woman in a meaningful relationship.
During his senior year in college, Jordan’s health began to fail. Sarah was working for their father at the newspaper in addition to juggling her career, her marriage, and a baby. Reece was an intern at their radio station. Reece confided in Darrin that she thought her father wouldn’t leave her the radio station, which she so desperately wanted, and that she had taken measures to ensure she would receive her rightful inheritance. He remembered stealthily following Reece into their father’s study, a place that was forbidden to both of them. Reece went to their father’s computer and worked her magic. Darrin was stunned to discover that Reece had been embezzling from their father!
As Darrin stood there next to Reece, their father walked in and discovered the crime. Jordan ranted about how he suspected his “no good” kids had been embezzling from him, and Darrin, terrified his father would harm Reece, quickly spoke up and took the blame for the whole thing. Darrin was no angel—everyone thought he was a spoiled little rich boy anyway—so it seemed natural to him to protect his sister and take the blame.
Jordan had his own son arrested like a common criminal. He was determined to teach Darrin a lesson. Darrin was tried, found guilty, and given two years in jail. At Darrin’s trial, Reece decided she could not let this go on and confessed that it was she, not Darrin, who had stolen from him. Jordan had a stroke and died on the spot. Darrin had just turned twenty-three.
When Jordan died, his children found out he had changed his will, giving everything to Sarah. Sarah was disgusted. She loved her siblings very much and knew they didn’t deserve this. She gave them back their original inheritance, putting Darrin’s into a trust until he got out of jail. Reece got her radio station, and Darrin was poised to take over the TV station.
Jail was a sobering experience for Darrin. Darrin learned a true lesson in jail, humility. After all, being a spoiled little rich boy didn’t get him far in jail. He vowed to change. Reece came to visit him often and they would share open, honest discussions about life and what they wanted out of it. He once gave her a list of the top five things he was going to change. He was going to say please, thank you, and you’re welcome a lot more often, phrases that he rarely used. He promised himself to take life more seriously and to be sensitive to the people around him. Reece was delighted at Darrin’s change in demeanor, but she feared that once he got out, his reputation as a spoiled rich boy would precede him and he’d have difficulty showing others how he’d changed for the better.
Darrin held his own with the other inmates, but it was hard to deal with them. His determination to change was obvious to everyone, and he got selected for an early work-release program. His fellow inmates, jealous of his success, beat him up, and he had to be hospitalized for a month. Again, it was a very sobering experience, one which left him with a large scar on his back. It was an incident that would make him believe he was invincible, at least from any physical danger.
For his work release, he worked at the local hospital as a janitor. It was to last six months and then he would be fully released from jail. At the hospital, Darrin met Andrea St. George, “Andie,” as she liked to be called. She was a pediatric resident. She would smile at the handsome, good-looking janitor when she thought Darrin wasn’t looking, but he noticed everything about her. Finally, one day in the cafeteria he struck up the courage to talk to her. A million wild thoughts went through his mind. Did she know him? Did she know his reputation for being a spoiled rich guy? Did she know he had been in jail? He opened with a sentence that would usually prove to be a killer in any conversation.
“You know I’m a convicted criminal…” he began, cursing himself as soon as he said the words. What a loser she must think I am!
“I know who you are,” replied Andie smartly.
“You do? You know I’m Darrin Banning? Spoiled little rich…jailbird?” he said. Again, he couldn’t believe he was saying this! Didn’t he want to go out with her?
“I’ve got a bad reputation…”
She smiled at him. “I know.”
“I…well…it doesn’t bother you?” he stammered.
“No. I still think you’re good looking,” she said, blushing.
Darrin swallowed. Here was this gorgeous, attractive woman, obviously attracted to him, and he didn’t think it was possible! Before they could carry on, she was paged away. Darrin determined at that moment to make Andrea St. George his wife.
A few days later, a man with a gun took everyone in the hospital cafeteria hostage, including Andie. Filled with worry, Darrin, who was also in the cafeteria, rushed the kidnapper, taking a bullet in the arm. He managed to subdue the man quickly, saving Andie and everyone in the cafeteria. After that heroic moment, Andie knew Darrin was the one for her. For Darrin, he proved to himself through his act of heroism that he truly had changed. Their romance blossomed, and Darrin finished his jail term.
He was nervous at first, but Sarah and Reece were there for him. Sarah gave him his inheritance, the TV station. Reece helped him to find a mansion to live in, and Andie agreed to marry him after a sweet yet nerve-wracking proposal.
Andie was beautiful! Tall, thin, and smart, with jet black hair, and she loved him without any doubts or reservations. He was crazy about her. She got pregnant a few months after their wedding, and he couldn’t wait to be a father! With Andie, he felt as if he’d left his college days behind and started a new life. Almost.
Andie’s father couldn’t stand Darrin, and her mother merely tolerated him. In that regard, his past truly haunted him. Andie’s father thought the ill-mannered Darrin, a convicted criminal, was not worthy of his daughter. He tried to make trouble for Darrin and Andie was forced to give her a father an ultimatum: either accept Darrin or she would walk out of his life. Begrudgingly, her father tolerated Darrin for his daughter’s sake. The relationship was edgy at best and sadly, it filled Andie with unhappiness at a time when she should have been filled with delight. She was excited to be pregnant, and she almost miscarried to because of all the stress her father brought on her.
Andie had always wanted children—that’s why she’d gone into pediatrics, to be around them. Darrin heaved. He looked at his wife and thought of his memories. Tonight had been truly tragic. Andie had been struck by a car in the parking lot of the hospital. His daughter, their daughter, was six weeks premature. She had been saved, but his wife was much less fortunate.
Darrin forced himself to get up when the doctor put his hand on his shoulder.
“Darrin, we need to prepare the body. You have to go,” the doctor said softly, moved by Darrin’s tears.
Darrin nodded, got up, and removed the rings from her fingers, vowing to give them to their daughter when she was older. He would name her Katherine Renee Banning, the name Andie wanted her to have. Listlessly, he walked out of the ER and back into the hall. Reece was comforting Mary St. George, Andrea’s mother. John St. George, her father was pacing the hall. When he saw Darrin, he lit into him.
“You bastard! You cold, heartless, bastard!” cried John, getting into Darrin’s face.
Darrin wiped his face and glared back at the older man. “What the hell are you talking about?!”
“Andrea’s dead! Because of you!” cried John in his grief.
“Me? I wasn’t driving the car that hit her!” protested Darrin.
“You have done nothing but bring my daughter down!” railed John. “She should have never married you!”
“Enough!” hissed Reece. “Can’t you see Darrin just lost his wife!” Mary pulled back, and stared at her husband. She understood that he was upset. She was too, but it seemed pointless to blame Darrin.
“She loved me!” protested Darrin, getting back in John’s face. Reece came between them.
“Stop it! Both of you! There’s a baby to consider. A baby who needs her father right now!” cried Reece passionately, glaring at John. She couldn’t believe just how insensitively he was acting right now.
“If you are allowed to raise that baby,” hissed John, glaring at Darrin.
“She’s my daughter! Why wouldn’t I be allowed to raise her?! I’m not perfect, but I sure as hell deserve a chance to be a father to her!” Darrin defended himself in disbelief of how uncivil his father-in-law was acting.
“That’s my granddaughter, and she doesn’t deserve a bastard for a father,” said John, choosing his words carefully. “One mistake from you, Banning, and I’ll…”
“You’ll what?” cried Darrin. He was so raw and angry that he actually contemplated hitting the man.
“I will do everything in my power to protect that baby from you!” he said finally. He then walked away.
“What does he mean, protect Katie? He’s full of it!” said Darrin, walking up to Mary. “You know I loved Andie! We wanted this baby! He’s crazy if he thinks—”
“He’s upset, Darrin,” said Mary, wiping her eyes. “We all are. He’s just venting. Don’t take him seriously.”
Awkwardly, Darrin reached out and gave Mary a hug. Mary embraced him lightly and walked off.
Darrin stood there, shaking. Finally he turned to Reece.
“What am I going to do now?”
Reece let out a deep breath and wiped her own wet eyes. “Darrin, you move on.”
“Move on? How am I supposed to do that? What’s left?” he lamented.
“Love,” said Reece simply.
There was a pause, and Reece saw how lost he was. She tried to explain herself.
“Things happen in life, Darrin. Good things, bad things. When my friend Terry died, I was pretty shaken up, remember?” asked Reece. It was all Darrin could do to nod his head. “Love. It’s all that remains. You build your life back up from that, because you love Katie, don’t you?”
He nodded his head yes.
“Terry was my best friend. I loved her. I remembered that and moved on,” said Reece, biting her tongue. She didn’t want to sound mean or cold, and she hoped she wasn’t. She was drawing on her own experiences and trying desperately to find the words to inspire Darrin to carry on. Darrin ran his hands through his hair and stared blankly at Reece, barely comprehending her. She was trying, but she just couldn’t make herself understood. He leaned into her and hugged her hard. She hugged him back. Yes, he understood that. That was love.