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Now-successful attorney Taylor Bishop had grown up the son of a single mother, having to fight for everything he'd ever gotten. But upon his mother's death, Taylor learned that it hadn't had to be that way. That he had a father?Gus McBride. One who was going to pay for all his years of neglect. Taylor would see to that. If it was the last thing he ever did....
But Taylor hadn't counted on what he would find in the tiny town of Liberty Hill. That though his father might be gone, ...
Now-successful attorney Taylor Bishop had grown up the son of a single mother, having to fight for everything he'd ever gotten. But upon his mother's death, Taylor learned that it hadn't had to be that way. That he had a father—Gus McBride. One who was going to pay for all his years of neglect. Taylor would see to that. If it was the last thing he ever did....
But Taylor hadn't counted on what he would find in the tiny town of Liberty Hill. That though his father might be gone, he might still find the family he'd always wanted. Not to mention, in beautiful innkeeper Phoebe Chandler, the love of his life. And the true meaning of home...
Even before he'd been old enough to understand the meaning of the word, Taylor Bishop had known what he was. There was, after all, no avoiding the truth in the poverty-ridden neighborhoods of San Diego where he'd grown up. Dozens of kids were running around the street without fathers, and like recognized like.
Still, he hadn't understood the implications of the label until he was six and one of his school friends told him his mother must be a slut - otherwise his father would have married her. Outraged, his six-year-old pride stung, he'd defended his mother's virtue and his absent father's honor by punching his friend in the nose. All his bravery earned him was a split lip.
That was the day he'd begun to hate his father.
Thirty-five years had passed since then, and nothing had changed. He still hated his father ... and he didn't even know his name.
That, however, was about to change.
Seated at his mother's kitchen table, her personal effects spread out around him in the small home she'd finally managed to buy after scrimping and saving for years, Taylor stared down at the sealed letter she'd left for him in her safety deposit box and knew without even opening what it said. After all this time, when it was too late for him to ask her any questions, she wasfinally going to tell him about his father.
"He's a good man. That's all you need to know."
Every time he'd asked his mother about the mysterious stranger who had sired him, the answer had always been the same. She'd promised to tell him the whole story one day, but she never had. Why? he wondered, scowling at the letter addressed to him in her neat handwriting. Had she thought that he would think less of her because he was obviously illegitimate? That he somehow blamed her for the fact that his father had been nonexistent in his life? Surely she had to know better.
For a moment, pain squeezed his heart at the thought that she might not have known how much he loved and admired her, but with a muttered curse, he quickly shook off his doubts. What the hell was he doing? Of course she'd known how he felt about her. As far as he was concerned, she'd been the best mother in the world. She was the one who'd been there for him as a child, the one who'd worked two jobs so that he could have the things he needed when he was growing up. Yes, money had been tight, but she'd done the best that she could, and he couldn't fault her for that. She'd been a single mother with no one to help her. When she lost her job at one of the local hotels because she refused to work nights and leave him home alone, she'd had to go on welfare for a while just so they could eat. Still, she'd held her head high and made sure he did, too. And as soon as she'd been able to find another job, she went off government assistance because, she'd claimed, there were poor people out there who needed it more than they did.
How could anyone not love a mother like that? He'd adored her. She taught him to be proud of who he was, to work honestly for what he wanted, to believe in himself and the future. Those things would get him through life, she'd claimed, not his father's name.
So why was she telling him now? he wondered with a frown. When she'd died unexpectedly last week of an apparent heart attack, the last thing he'd been worried about was his father's name. She was the one he loved, the one he cared about, and he would have gladly given up any chance of ever knowing anything about his father if he could have just had his mother back for five minutes.
That, however, was impossible. All he had left of her were her things ... and a letter that had the power to change his life. His square-cut face carved in grim lines, he was half tempted to trash the thing, but it was the last communication from his mother. For no other reason than that, he had to read it. Reaching for it, he tore it open and began to read.
To my dear son,
You'll never know how much I love you.
You've been the greatest joy of my life, a blessing
I thanked God for every day. I know how difficult it was for you, growing up without your father, and
I'm sorry for that. But your father wasn't the un-feeling monster you think he was, dear. He was a good man who had no idea you even existed. His name is Gus McBride, and when we met, he lived in Liberty Hill, Colorado.
We met in Cheyenne, Wyoming, when I was there one summer visiting my grandmother. I never believed in love at first sight until I met him. He was in town for a rodeo and we had one wonderful night together. That was all, dear. Just one night. I fell in love with him, but please don't blame him because he didn't return my feelings. He was still in love with the girlfriend he had broken up with the month before. She was all he talked about, but I foolishly thought I could make him fall in love with me. I was wrong. When he left town the next morning, he probably went back to her.
Two weeks later, I returned to my parents' house in San Diego. A month later, I discovered I was pregnant. You must understand, dear, that times were different then. My pregnancy was scandalous to my parents, and their main concern was that I get married as soon as possible. They didn't care that Gus didn't love me. All they wanted was his name so they could force him to marry me. They didn't understand that if he'd known I was pregnant, they wouldn't have had to say a word to him - he would have insisted on marrying me. He was that kind of man. And if he'd loved me, I would have agreed. But he didn't, so I kept his name to myself - which is why your grandparents disowned me.
Please don't feel sorry for me ... or hate them, Taylor, dear. If I could have turned back the clock and done things differently, I wouldn't have. The night I had with your father was magical, and you were his gift to me. I never regretted it. It's important that you know that. You and I had a wonderful life together. When you remember me, remember that.
Grief squeezing his heart, Taylor sent up a silent prayer, asking her to forgive him for not respecting her final wish. He couldn't. Because in spite of the love he and his mother had shared, when he thought of her, it was the hardness of her life he remembered. And Gus McBride of Liberty Hill, Colorado, was responsible for that, he thought grimly. Somehow, some way, he was going to make him pay for that.
Excerpted from Always A McBride by Linda Turner
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.