Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(78) by Susan Mallery
Sally Chasley smiled. “Don’t worry, Elissa. We charge fees on a sliding scale basis. Right now the most important issue is dealing with your problem. You said you’re being harassed by your ex-husband.”
“No. Neil and I were never married. We were living together, with me paying for everything. He uses drugs, sometimes heavily. It gets expensive. Anyway, I got pregnant and he wanted me to have an abortion. I refused and I left.” Ran was more like it, Elissa thought grimly. She’d run for her life and Zoe’s.
“And then?” Sally prompted. “Did you get in touch with him after the baby was born?”
Elissa shook her head. “I saved money until I had enough for a bus ticket, then I came here.”
Sally frowned. “You didn’t discuss the baby with Neil? You didn’t talk to him about child support or getting involved in his daughter’s life?”
“I told you, Neil wanted me to have an abortion.”
“I know, but a lot of men panic at the thought of a baby. Especially a first child. But once that child is born, many of them change their minds. They want to be fathers.”
“Neil is only interested in his next fix.”
“Has he physically threatened you?”
Elissa didn’t like the direction of the conversation. “He beat me up when he found out I was pregnant.” Would that be enough? “He finds me and demands money. If I don’t pay him, he says he’s going to insist on being in Zoe’s life. Isn’t that extortion or something?”
Sally sighed. “Elissa, the law takes the rights of both parents seriously. Neil reacted badly one time. He hit you one time. It happens.”
Elissa couldn’t believe that. “How many times does he get to hit me before it’s not okay? What about his chronic drug use? I don’t want Zoe exposed to that.”
“Nor should she be. However, Neil still has the right to see his child. You could make a case for supervised visits. He would have to earn your and her trust.”
“I’ll never trust him,” she said flatly. “He doesn’t care about Zoe. He’s using her to get money from me.”
“You’re letting him,” Sally told her. “Stop paying. If what you’re saying is true, he’ll go away. If he pursues his parental rights, then perhaps you’re misjudging him. The bottom line is you can’t prevent a parent from seeing his or her children without cause. Not liking him isn’t sufficient grounds.”
It was her worst nightmare come true, she thought bitterly. No doubt the very sensible and clueless Sally would refuse to help her draft documents offering Neil a large sum of cash to relinquish his rights as a father.
“Thank you for your time,” Elissa said and stood. “If you’ll just tell me your hourly fee, I’ll pay you for your time.”
“Elissa, don’t go. Let’s talk about this more.”
“I don’t have anything else to say.”
ELISSA DROVE HOME Thursday after work feeling as if she’d been drop-kicked off a cliff. Both her body and her spirit ached and she suspected she only had herself to blame.
The meeting with the lawyer had been a disaster. Sally had offered nothing constructive. The idea that Neil was actually interested in Zoe was beyond stupid and it terrified her that a reasonably intelligent professional would even consider it. Did that mean the courts would lean that way, as well? If push came to shove, could Neil get visitation rights?
If only he would go away for a few years, she thought. He was known to disappear for months at a time, but she didn’t think she was going to get that lucky. Him finding her at the craft fair meant he suspected she had resources and therefore cash. If anything, his appearances might become more frequent.
She pulled up in front of her apartment and climbed out of her car. Zoe came running toward her.
“Mommy, Mommy, I love school so much!! We made a little book about our summer and I brought mine home to show you. And I brought my lunch today but tomorrow is tacos. Is that okay? Can I buy lunch tomorrow?”
Her daughter flung herself at her. Elissa caught her and held her close. Okay, whatever else might be screwed up in her life, Zoe was exactly right. She was worth any price, any hardship and there was no way in hell Neil was getting his hands on her.
“So you had a good day, huh?” Elissa asked as they walked toward the apartment. “Were you good for Mrs. Ford?”
“Oh, she’s not here,” Zoe said happily. “She’s playing bridge. Walker is with me.”
Elissa stopped on the bottom step of her small porch. Shame and embarrassment rose up inside of her. Her face burned, her throat got tight and she wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear.
She hadn’t seen him since Monday night when she’d used sex to shut him up and get him out of the apartment.
After he’d left, she’d felt awful. Cheap and mean and disgusting. Seven years ago, she’d used her body to get a job after she and Mitch broke up and afterward, she’d felt so horrified with herself she’d vowed to never do anything like that again. But when backed into a corner, she’d taken the easy way out.
She hated herself for what she’d done and she was terrified to know what he must think of her. Sure, she’d known there could never be anything between them—he’d made that clear on multiple occasions—but she’d liked knowing they were friends and that he at least respected her. Now all that was gone.
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