Bad Boy's Bridesmaid(259)By: Sosie Frost
I sometimes wished it too.
I pulled the papers from the folder I carried and wished they hadn’t trembled.
“Granddad.” I laid the first report before him. “This is the fire marshal’s findings from the arson. He determined the cause was electrical.”
“I remember, Jo-Jo.” He didn’t look. “I know.”
I had to do it. My throat closed as I revealed the second paper. He squeezed my hand tighter.
“I talked to Delta. She works at the insurance firm. You remember?”
“She found the original files from the investigation.” I pointed to the words at the bottom of the page. Could I even say them aloud? “When they first worked on the case, the state fire marshal didn’t know our family. He and the adjustor wrote that it looked like…insurance fraud.”
I waited. He gave me nothing else. I sighed, pulling the lighter from my pocket.
“A few weeks ago, I came home and found that someone had been in my apartment. They left this lighter.” I tapped his hand. “Yours?”
“I just wanted one cigarette, Jo-Jo. If I did it anywhere outside in this blasted town, someone would have snitched. I had your apartment key and...”
“You shouldn’t smoke. You’re on oxygen.”
“Did you come here today just to chastise me?”
No. But it was easier that way. Granddad went still. I pulled the last paper. My stomach turned, both dread and the baby’s morning sickness.
I handed him a copy of his will, highlighted with the one change he approved two days before the fire. “This was your revised will. You…gave Maddox your electrical company.”
“That I did.” Granddad smiled at me. “Josie, I had to make sure you’d be taken care of. You know I never…approved, but this worked hard to prove himself to you. I honestly believe he loves you, and I wasn’t leaving you with nothing. He had to provide for you.”
“I set the fire,” he said.
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it needed to be said. I nodded, tucking everything back into the folder.
He held the photograph, rubbing his finger over the frame. “Couldn’t bear to see this gone.”
“You loved that shop. I loved it. It was Nana’s wish we kept it open. Why did you burn it down?”
“We needed the money,” he said. “I got in trouble at the track and…”
“Granddad, I could have made more money. Worked more hours. Mortgaged the property.”
“I wasn’t taking it from you. I wasn’t making you work through the best years of your life to make up for my mistakes.”
I didn’t understand. “But the insurance money wasn’t enough. We couldn’t pay your debts and rebuild the candy shop.”
Maddox voice rumbled a low warning. “Sweets.”
“We could have handled it,” I said.
Granddad patted my hand. “No, Jo-Jo.”
“It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if we’ll ever have the money to reopen.”
Maddox called for me again. “Josie. Listen to him.”
I turned, facing the man who helped raise me, love me, and taught me everything I knew.
He swallowed. Hard.
“Jo-Jo, I never meant to survive the fire. I wanted you to collect the property insurance and my life insurance. I set the fire for it to be the end. Maddox saved me, and…”
I blinked tears I didn’t realize I cried. He wiped them away.
“I let Maddox take the blame,” he said. “I did this to us, Josie. And I am so, so sorry.”
“But…” I lowered my head. “Why?”
“I wasn’t saddling you with more debt. I couldn’t.” He cleared his throat to hide his own tears. “You didn’t need me anymore. I’m old. I’m a burden.”
“That’s not true.”
“Granddad, I’m pregnant.” I didn’t think shocking him into a heart attack would help, but his eyes widened. A smile peeked through a year of silent grief. “Don’t you think I want you to hold your great-grandbaby? He or she deserves to know you, and you should be there for him.”
“No. We’re going to get through this. We’ll figure out what we can do, together, to right this.”
“Maddox can’t be held responsible anymore,” Granddad said. “I won’t let him carry a record. He needs to provide for you…and the baby.”
Maddox agreed. “I will, but you have to come forward.”
Granddad pulled me into a hug. “I don’t want you implicated in this, Jo-Jo. I’m an old man, and I’ll take responsibility for my actions. You…” He kissed my forehead. “You have a baby on the way. You’ve got a family of your own. And you deserve every opportunity for a good life.”