The Buried Secret by Jen Talty
Two years ago…
“What the hell is this?” Treyton Jefferson shoved two pieces of paper in his father’s face and glared. His entire life he’d looked up to his father. Admired him. Trey had done everything he could to make his dad proud. He believed they had the kind of father-son relationship that most kids only dreamed about.
And in a matter of a five minutes it all faded to black.
Lies and betrayal so deep that Trey no longer understood the man he’d called father.
Worse, he didn’t understand himself.
“It looks like a letter. Addressed to me. And a note from your mother to you.” Andrew Jefferson took the papers and blew out a puff of air through his nose. “Where’d you find this?” His father ran a hand across his bearded face and leaned back in his big leather chair.
Trey eased into one of the wingback seats and rested his elbows on his knees. “In a box of things that Mom left for me.”
His father set the letters on the top of his desk and arched a brow. “Mom died a year ago and you’re just now going through that stuff?”
“I couldn’t bring myself to do it until now.”
His father nodded. “When she got sick, she wanted to confess. I didn’t. She told me she’d written you a letter explaining everything and I looked high and low for this when she died. I never wanted you to find it.”
“So it means exactly what I think it does.” Tears burned Trey’s eyes. He knew he’d been adopted. He didn’t care about that. Genetics didn’t make a bond between parent and child.
Love did that.
And his parents loved him more than most.
“You have to understand what Mom was going through back then,” his father said.
Trey stood and turned his back to his father. He couldn’t look at him. “Did she know when you handed me to her?”
“No,” his father admitted. “She didn’t find out until you were sixteen.”
“Jesus, Dad. You bought me from some crazy country doctor who probably stole me right off someone’s front porch.” The crazy vision of a baby snatcher that danced through his head like a horror movie taunted him like a bad dream. Being a doctor, he’d seen a lot of strange things, but he never expected to be at the center of one of those odd stories that were told at the water cooler. “That’s criminal.”
His father slammed his fist on the desk. Three books flopped to the floor. “Turn around and face me,” his father commanded.
Trey did as requested.
“It wasn’t like that. No one stole you from anyone. Just because it was an illegal adoption doesn’t mean that the parties involved weren’t completely aware and in agreement. Not to mention doing what was best for you.”
“Do you know my birth parents?”
His father shook his head.
“Then there is no way to know that because you were only thinking about yourself.”
His father flattened his hands on the desk and rose slowly as his face turned red. “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, son. You have no idea what your mother had to endure.”
“I’m a doctor, Dad. I have an idea of what it’s like not to be able to—”
“It wasn’t that we couldn’t get pregnant. We did that ten times.” His father held up both hands and wiggled his fingers for effect. “Ten times,” he repeated softly.
Trey opened his mouth to say something, but he had no words. This he’d never heard before and his heart broke into a million pieces.
“Your mother had eight miscarriages and two stillbirths. After she lost the last baby, she had complications and she had to have a hysterectomy.”
The last part he knew, but not the circumstances, and that just made Trey’s heart hurt even more.
His father arched a brow. “Yes, son. We lied to you about why she had to have that surgery and why she couldn’t have children. She was utterly heartbroken. All she ever wanted was a family. A little boy or girl to raise. She was a mother without a child, and I was desperate to give her one. So when I met Doctor Allison and he had told me he could make it happen and quickly, I took it.”
“His office was on a fucking winery. That’s really sketchy, Dad.”
“He rented desk space there. That’s not where he saw patients. And it’s not like he adopted out a lot of children. He did this only for special cases.”
Trey couldn’t believe he was going to even ask this next question. “What does that mean, exactly?” He held his father’s gaze. He needed to know if he would be truthful, or if he was going to lie. “What made you and Mom, and me for that matter, so unique that it had to be done illegally?”
“Doctor Allison helped either the really rich and married who needed to help their mistress and didn’t want anyone to know. Or a young teenage girl who got into trouble and the family wanted privacy in dealing with the situation and also wanted to ensure that no way could anyone find out in the future.”
Trey rubbed his temples. “First. That doesn’t make any of this okay. Second. How do you even know this is true? That doctor could be lying through his teeth about how he came by the babies he placed.”
“He helped a friend of mine who got his mistress pregnant. They were able to do the adoption quickly, quietly, and without anyone finding out.”
“Wow. That’s supposed to make me feel better.”
“Yes. Actually, it is.” His father eased back into his chair. “Perhaps what I did was illegal in the eyes of the law. But the woman who gave you up did so because she couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of you and wanted someone who could. Doctor Allison had a good vetting process, and I used my resources to make sure he wasn’t the kind of person you’re thinking he was because I didn’t want to make my Callie a whole woman at the expense of someone else.”
Trey’s father was the owner of a large cable news company and Andrew Jefferson had a unique reputation. Most people with the kind of power he had tended to be ruthless and went right for the jugular when covering stories.
But not Trey’s father.
There were many in the business that didn’t think Andrew would make it or that his channel would ever succeed because he was seen as soft.
But really, he just had a big heart and he wanted to tell the news and cover the stories from the perspective of the person sitting in their living room watching it. Not from those in need of ratings.
And thus far, it had been paying off.
So, Trey had to believe his father had looked into this Doctor Allison, but that still didn’t change that this adoption was illegal and his father had just admitted there was at least one more.
Which meant Doctor Allison had probably been doing this kind of thing on a regular basis.
“When I expressed interest in finding my birth parents, you asked me not to for Mom because of how that would make her feel. I respected that. But Mom’s not here anymore and you were only concerned about me uncovering this.” He tapped the paper. “I want to know where I come from.”
“I’m begging you not to pursue this. There was a reason your birth parents opted to go through a private adoption.”
“You mean illegal.”
“Call it what you want,” his father said. “You start poking around this, you could possibly destroy lives.”
“You’re being dramatic.” Trey took the paper, folded it in threes, and tucked it in his back pocket.
“Am I?” His father clasped his hands and rested them on his desk. “I own a national media company that has a news channel. Imagine what happens if you find out that one of your birth parents was a politician’s mistress or you dig up someone else’s case and turn someone’s life upside down.”
“You’re only concerned about protecting your—”
“You’re damn right I am. This story breaks, I’ve got to cover it and how ironic would it be that I’d become the story. But the reality is, I don’t give a shit about it from yours and my perspective. I do care about protecting anyone who gave up a child and all the babies that were adopted out. You could set off a chain reaction that could have serious consequences,” his father said. “You’re my son. I love you. If I thought we could do this quietly and it wouldn’t cause anyone else pain, I’d help you.”
“I’ll ask you again. Do you know who my birth parents are?” Trey asked.
“No. I don’t. And that’s the truth,” his father said. “And I don’t know anything about them either except what’s on that piece of paper. However, I’ll give you all the other paperwork I have if you promise me you’ll keep this quiet. I don’t want to hurt people.”
“Neither do I. But I need to figure this out. I can’t let it go.” Trey slumped back into the chair. “I tried to find Doctor Allison. He passed away fifteen years ago. He hasn’t had a working office in Candlewood Falls in thirty years and there isn’t a single person related to his practice that I can find.”
“Sounds like a dead end, son.”
Perhaps his father was right. Trey’s life had been picture-perfect. His mother had been kind and loving and honestly, he wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to have raised him. His only regret was that he wished he’d had more time with her.
God. He missed his mom.
She’d been his rock. She’d been the one who had encouraged him to follow his dreams and go to medical school.
The only reason he wanted to know about his birth parents was simple biology and to maybe thank them for giving him this wonderful life.
“I miss her too, you know,” his father said quietly. “I would have done anything for my Callie.”
“I know that, Dad.” Trey swiped at his cheeks. “Are there any other buried secrets I need to know about?”
“That’s the only one your mom and I have. I promise.”
Trey would have to let that secret stay buried. If only he’d opened the box a few months earlier.