Darla Lowry, my golf course manager, was now a board member. She was the one thing my dad had gotten right. I trusted Darla with my life. With Jace planning on marrying Bethy, Darla’s niece, we were just tying the family knot tighter. Darla was also wise. She was older than me and she had seen this club grow and flourish for over twenty-five years. She deserved a seat on the board. She also deserved the paycheck that came with that seat.
My phone rang and I glanced down to see Braden’s number. I hadn’t talked to her in a few days but she always called when she had any information on Della.
“Hey,” I said, praying this wasn’t going to be something bad.
“I know why she left. There was more to it, just like I said there was. But before I tell you anything I need you to make me a few promises and listen to all I have to say, because I’m not scared of you or your money, Woods Kerrington. I will hunt you down like a dog and bury you. Do you understand me?” Braden was fired up and ready to attack.
“If you can help me get Della back I will walk on fucking water,” I replied.
“Good. I thought so. However, she thinks very differently. She’s of the belief that she has done you a favor. That you wanted to get rid of her and didn’t know how. That she walked away and now you’re relieved and living the good life.”
“What? Why the hell? What the fuck gave her that idea? Did Tripp tell her that? Because I swear to God I’ll kill him.”
“Sit down and take a breath. You did this. Don’t go pointing fingers at other people. First, I have to tell you about a conversation Della overheard the day before she ran off. You had better tell me what she really heard, because what she thinks she heard will get your ass killed, and sexy biker dude will get off scot-free. Capisce?”
“Please tell me what she heard, because I honestly have no idea.”
“Did you have a conversation in the stairwell with your friend Jace that day?”
The stairwell? I sat down in my chair and thought back to before Della ripped my world away. I had talked to Jace that day. About my mom. “Yeah, I did.”
“And . . .”
I wasn’t sure what she wanted me to say. “And what?”
Braden let out a loud sigh. “What did you and Jace talk about?”
Hell, I couldn’t remember. My mother was stressing me out. I was planning on installing the new board. I was going to let Della come back to work and stop smothering her. Nothing that should’ve upset her. “I can’t think of one thing I said that would have made her leave me.”
“So Jace never told you that you had to stop dealing with her crazy ass? And you didn’t say that it was affecting your work and it was easier to work with Angelina? And Jace didn’t say that you had to get rid of the batshit crazy because you had a corporation to run?”
I shot up out of my chair. “What?” I roared.
“I didn’t think so. Didn’t sound like you at all. If someone had called Della batshit crazy you would have beat their ass. Della, however, felt sorry for you for having to put up with her and thought it was in your best interest if she left.”
“Holy hell! I swear to God I never said that. Jace never said that. I would’ve killed him. We were talking about . . . we were talking . . . oh, motherfucker.” I knew what she’d heard. She hadn’t heard everything. She’d just heard enough.
“Please tell me you didn’t just have an epiphany and this conversation did actually happen,” Braden said, warning me.
“No. Of course not. I mean, it did but we weren’t talking about Della. God! Never Della. We were talking about my mother. She had just caused problems for me at the club and I was talking to Jace about how to deal with her. I . . . fuck! I can’t believe she thought we were talking about her. I’m coming to get her. I can’t do this anymore. I have to explain this to her. She has to know.”
“No! Shut it, Kerrington. I told you at the beginning of this conversation that you would do just as I said. I’m not done talking to you and telling you everything you need to hear. So calm down and put your damn keys away. When it’s time for you to come get her, I’ll let you know, but this time I think it’s real important that she come back to Rosemary on her own. She ran. She needs to find her way back. The cavalry can stay put and be patient.”
“I have to see her, Braden!”
“Would you shut up and listen to me? I have information for Della that she needs to deal with first. She thinks she’s going to be mentally ill because her mother and grandmother were. She thinks that staying with you means you can’t have kids because their mother could snap at any time and go insane. She loves you more than she loves herself. So she’s making sure you don’t suffer that ridiculous fate she’s convinced you’ll have with her.”
“We won’t have kids. I just want her. If she’s scared of that, fine. We won’t have kids. I have to tell her I just want her.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you do. Shut up, I’m not done,” Braden snapped into the phone. I fisted my hand around my truck keys and moved to stare down at my truck parked outside. I could get to her in five hours.
“Della was adopted.”
So many emotions ran through me at once, I wasn’t sure if I was going to weep or cheer or fall to my knees and take deep, even breaths. Holy fuck. This was a game changer.
“She was adopted?” I managed to choke out.
“Yep. She was adopted. Her adoptive parents were scared to have kids because they were afraid that Della’s grandmother’s mental illness was genetic. So they adopted a boy from the foster system. He was two when they adopted him. Then a couple years later they adopted a baby girl from a teenager who wasn’t ready to be a mother yet. You know the rest.”
She was adopted. Her fear of being mentally ill like her mother was unfounded. “Does she know?”
“I told her today. She knows. I’ve set up a meeting with her birth mother. She’s a kindergarten teacher. She’s married and has a ten-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. They live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Her name is Glenda Morgan and she wants to meet Della. She said she tried looking for her after her son was born. She realized what she had given up and she wanted to make sure she was okay. But the file was closed and it cost money she didn’t have to get an investigator. Her husband had agreed that with their income tax refund this year they would find her daughter instead of taking a family vacation. So when the investigator I hired found her she was as thrilled as I was.”
I wanted to like this woman, but knowing that her decision to give Della up had been the reason for the hell Della had lived through made it hard for me to forgive her. Where was the guy who knocked her up? Did he not care he’d given up a child?
“What about her birth father?” I asked.
“Glenda has contacted him. His name is Nile Andrews. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s a dentist. Also married, with triplets. All girls. He wants to meet Della, too. His wife is being supportive of his decision.”
A kindergarten teacher and a dentist.
“I’ve seen a photo of her birth mother. She looks like her.”
“Please let me come. I want to be with her through this. She needs me.”
“No, Woods. What she needs is to feel like she’s strong. Like she can handle all of this on her own. She knows she’s not going insane now. That’s big. Real big. She’s lived with that fear for so long. It’s crippled her. She has to find her own strength now. And she needs to come back to you on her own. With the belief that she is strong and worthy of you.”
“Worthy of me? What the fuck does that mean? I belong to her. How can she not be worthy of me?”
“I know this and you know this but she has to figure this out on her own. She had shit for a life. I held her hand for years. Then she left me and within months she had you holding her hand. No one can hold her hand this time.”
“I don’t want her to be alone.”
“This isn’t about what you want, Woods. It’s about what Della needs.”
I pressed my forehead against the window and closed my eyes. I didn’t want her to be right. I didn’t want to wait for Della. But this wasn’t about my wants. Della loved me more than herself. She loved me enough to walk away because she thought it was best for me. It was time I proved I loved her more than I loved myself.
“Okay. But please, keep me updated.”
Braden let out a relieved sigh. “I knew you’d do the right thing. Just so you know, I think you’re worthy of her, and that’s a high bar to reach. You promised to walk on water and I happen to believe Della already does.”