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Authors: Kris Fletcher - Comeback Cove 01 - Dating a Single Dad

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BOOK: Dating a Single Dad
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“And that’s bad?”

“Yeah, it is. Mills already asked me when she could get her ears pierced just like Brynn. She’s going to have a hard enough time saying goodbye when the time comes. Can you imagine if she saw me going out with Brynn? Hell, she had me married off to her friend Tish’s mom a dozen times before they moved. One dinner with Brynn, and Millie would be planning the wedding. I’m not gonna do that to her.”

There. She couldn’t argue with that one.

For a moment, it looked like he had won. She folded the shirt silently, let it drop into the hamper, grabbed a handful of socks and spread them across the top of the washer. With expert speed, she began matching them.

“All right, then,” she said at last. “Forget Brynn. But you need to make an effort, Hank. It’s past time.” She swept the paired socks into the hamper and picked up two singletons, one pink and one brown, dangling them in his face. “Because if you don’t wake up and get moving, my boy, this is how you and Millie are going to end up.”

* * *

Hank pulled into the driveway leading to the cabins, killed the engine and tried to muster up the energy to get out of the truck and walk into the house. When he picked Millie up from after-school care she had announced that her backpack wouldn’t zip anymore, her shoes were too tight and she needed a white T-shirt for tie-dye day on Monday. His choice had been to try to cram the store run into an already packed weekend, or get it out of the way immediately. He’d opted for door number two. Not a bad choice, but now it was dinnertime, they were both tired and grumpy and he’d forgotten to pull something out of the freezer that morning.

Great. Another Friday night of Kraft Dinner and ketchup with a side of guilt.

Compounding his frustration was the fact that, while Millie was more than happy to tell him about the items she needed, she had spent the entire shopping trip tap-dancing around any discussion of school itself. He knew better than to ask a simple
What did you do today?
He drew instead on his mother’s ancient lines:
Did you read any good books?
Who did you play with at recess? What did you draw in art?


Well, not a total nothing. She gave an animated reenactment of Curious George’s antics. But all other questions were met with shrugs, silence or sudden declarations that she wanted a telescope.

His mother said that Millie had too many other interests to think about school when she wasn’t there. Her report cards said she was attentive and contributed to classroom discussions. But his gut told him something was wrong.

“Hey, Mills. I was thinking—do you want to have a friend over this weekend?” Maybe she was just lonely, what with her best friend moving away. Maybe he could juggle the jobs, let Millie have an hour or two, maybe do some eavesdropping in case she let something slip with a classmate. “We could get a pizza and you could invite—I don’t know. Who do you like to play—”

“Daddy! Is there another car at Brynn’s place?”

He peered through the dying bits of daylight, unsure if this was a true question or an attempt at distraction. But sure enough, there was a second shape in front of the Wolfe cabin.

“Guess she has company. But about this week—”

“Oh! Maybe it’s Casey! She told me Casey was coming!”

“Who is Casey, and when were you talking to Brynn about him? Her? Whatever.” More important, might this Casey be a potential playmate?

“You know. Casey is her little boy. Not
little boy, but her... What’s that word? Not like uncle, or cousin, but...”


“Yes! That’s it! He’s her nephew. And he lives at a camp but he likes to play with her, and she was going to see him a whole lot while she’s living here, because the camp is... I don’t remember. Somewhere close.”

“And when did you get all this information?”

But his words were lost in a burst of movement as Millie opened her door, scrambled out of the truck and took off.

“Brynn!” She raced down the path between the trees. “Hey, Brynn! Can I come see Casey, please?”

“Millie,” he called helplessly. So much for that attempt at conversation. With a curse he slammed his way out of the truck and followed his daughter.

Millie barely avoided smacking into the man walking away from the cabin. “Whoa, kiddo.” The man laughed and stepped off the path. “Careful. You don’t want to slip.”

Millie nodded and scooted around him, aiming for Brynn, who was standing in the doorway with a kid in her arms. Millie crashed into her legs, causing Brynn to stoop and hug Millie to her. Hank groaned. He was never going to get her home now.

The man who had almost been Millie’s punching bag caught Hank’s eye. “Let me guess. That’s Millie, and you’re Hank.” He extended his hand. “Sam Catalano, Brynn’s brother. Good to meet you.”

Hank nodded and stuck out his hand, wishing he’d thought to pull on his gloves. His hands were probably like ice. Of course, if this guy was the hockey player, he was probably used to that. “Sorry about my daughter’s manners. She’s on a quest to set a new speed record from my place to here.”

“She’s off to a great start.” He grinned. “So, has my sister made your life a living hell yet?”

“Yeah, I’ve had to call the cops three times for her wild parties.”

“Excuse me?” Brynn said. “Hank, it was only one party. And Sam, remember, your night out with your wife depends on me babysitting, so you should watch your mouth, mister.”

“Oh, hell, she’s right. I’d better get out of here before I say something wrong and piss her off. Nice meeting you, Hank.”

“You, too,” Hank said, but his attention was already on the scene in front of him. Brynn’s nephew was squealing on her hip and Millie was chattering at top volume, yet Brynn still radiated calm while smiling at him. Nothing extraordinary. Just two adults sharing a moment in the midst of some kiddie insanity. But something about it felt so warm, so welcoming, that he was hit by the most ridiculous sense of longing he’d had in ages. It was almost like he was seeing the Ghost of Should-Have-Beens.

But that was ridiculous. And probably due to the amazing smells tickling his nose as he drew near.

“Hi, there.” He pointed toward Millie, but spoke to Brynn. “Sorry. She saw the car out front and figured that was her own personal invitation.”

“Well, of course it is. I told Millie to pop in anytime, and I meant it. That is, assuming it’s okay with you,” she added quickly.

“Please, Daddy? Please? Can I have a visit, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please?”

He wanted to say yes. Millie needed friends, true. But they should be her age, and local. Permanent. He couldn’t let her start thinking that everyone who stayed in the cabins was there purely for her enjoyment. She had to learn—they
had to learn—how to be friendly and helpful while maintaining the boundaries they needed to make this work for everyone involved.

“Mills,” he said gently. “We have to have dinner.”

“Why don’t you join us?” Brynn nodded at the toddler clinging to her like a monkey. “It’s just me and Casey, and I’m sure he would rather play with another kid than with his decrepit old auntie.”

She didn’t look decrepit, not that he could say that to her face. In a Leafs jersey that hung midthigh and something that looked like the leggings Millie wore beneath her lab coat, Brynn looked casual and relaxed and limber.

Dangerously limber.

“That’s a great offer, but—”

“Oh, Daddy, please!”

“Mills, come on. You have homework, and I’m in the middle of some things, and we have—um—plans.”

Brynn shook her head. “But you have to eat anyway, right? And seriously, you’d be doing me a favor. I learned how to cook by feeding hungry males, and I still don’t know how to make anything less than army quantities. If you don’t stay I’ll be eating spaghetti and meatballs for the next two weeks.”

Ah, hell. They
have to eat. If he didn’t have to spend time cooking, he might be able to work ahead a bit, freeing up that hour or so he wanted to give to Millie and a playmate. And since he would be helping Brynn...

“Okay.” He raised a hand to stifle Millie’s squeals. “But I wasn’t kidding—we have to be rude and scoot fairly quickly. Duty calls, and all that crap.”

Brynn gave him the kind of assessing look that made him feel distinctly uneasy, as if she had other plans that couldn’t be revealed yet, but she nodded quickly and stepped back to allow him entry. “You’re right. That’s horrifically rude. You’ll have to apologize by coming again another time when you can stay longer.”

Millie clapped her hands. “Oh, yes! We can do that. Right, Daddy?”

“We’ll talk,” was all he said as he stepped inside and shrugged free of his jacket, hanging it from the wall pegs already sporting a bright red parka and a tiny blue snowsuit. He looked from the suit to Millie and shook his head.

“Hard to believe she was ever that small.”

“And Casey’s a big guy. Right, squirt?”

Casey nodded slowly. Big blue eyes checked Hank out from head to toe. Apparently satisfied, he patted Brynn’s cheek.

“Casey blocks. Pease.”

“Good manners, bud. Millie, there’s a bunch of toys in the bedroom. Could you take Casey in there and show him around?”

The smile on Millie’s face was bright enough to ease his worries, at least for the moment. “Oh, yes! Come on, Casey!” She held out her hand. Miracle of miracles, Casey grabbed hold and followed her down the hall while Millie talked about the rooms, the work and whether they might be able to make something explode that night.

As her voice faded, Hank realized that, thanks to his own weakness, he was now alone with Brynn and would have to make conversation. Dammit. Ian could talk about anything, Carter and Cash put Millie to shame, but the small-talk gene had skipped him.

Still, he needed to say something.

“This, uh, really is nice of you,” Hank said as Brynn headed back to the kitchen area.

“My pleasure. And, like I said, army quantities.” She lifted the lid of a slow cooker and gave a stir. He caught sight of deep red sauce, inhaled the warmth and felt like he’d walked into a sixties sitcom. “Without help, I’d be eating this three meals a day for a week. No hardship, but my jeans wouldn’t be too happy about it.”

He couldn’t help it. That was a comment that begged a man to check out the curve of her hips. She might not be wearing jeans at the moment, but he remembered the way they’d fit her on move-in day, the way they had hugged as she lifted and hauled, and he had to agree that any action that spoiled that view would indeed be a sin.

“So are you settling in okay? Have everything you need?” He glanced around the space, which already felt cozier. “You’re kind of our test case for this cabin-rental thing, so if I messed up anything, let me know. Don’t be shy.”

Oh, that was rich—
to not be shy. Pot, meet kettle.

She laughed as she opened the refrigerator. “My brothers would tell you that shyness is the least of my issues. Everything is great so far. This place really is adorable—not just my cabin, but all of it. How long have you been here?”

“A few months. My sort-of uncle Lou finally admitted he couldn’t keep up with things anymore and let me buy it off him.”

“So it’s been in the family a while.”


“That’s so cool. We moved a lot when I was little, and my brothers were more into taking things apart and destroying them than preserving them.” She pulled grated cheese and salad ingredients from the shelves and handed them to him. He took them automatically. “It’s nice to see things being passed down through a family. Traditions, heirlooms. Things that last.”

He couldn’t hold back the snort. “The only things that were lasting around here were the river, the rocks and the foundations. Lou should have admitted defeat years ago. I still don’t know if I’ll have everything up and running by May.”

“Given what I’ve seen of your work thus far, I have no doubt that you’ll do just fine.”


“Total truth.” She held out a bottle. “I need a beer. Care to join me?”

He meant to say no—after all, he still had a full night ahead—but what kind of host would he be to refuse? Or, for that matter, what kind of guest?

The bottle was halfway to his lips when she made a small sound.

“Crap! I always forget. Would you like a glass?”

“No, thanks. This is fine.”

“You’re sure? I’m a horrible hostess—sorry. I never remember the gracious touches when I’m off-duty.”

It was so unexpected—the organizational queen forgetting something—that he felt himself relaxing. Maybe even grinning. “You’re feeding me and you made my kid happy. I can’t think of anything more gracious than that.”

A slight hint of pink rose in her cheeks, spreading down her neck to the creamy bit of skin visible in the vee of her jersey. It was an intriguing sight, for sure. He could swear there was a little freckle at the point of the vee. Or maybe it was a fleck of sauce. He couldn’t tell. Neither could he pull his gaze away. Because even though he couldn’t see it, he was suddenly very aware that the opening of the jersey was a few tiny millimeters above the sweet line of cleavage, a part of the female anatomy he had always found highly alluring.

She turned slightly to grab a bubbling pot from the stove, breaking his concentration and making him realize, with embarrassment, that he’d been staring a bit too intently for a little too long at a particularly dangerous zone.

And he’d been worried about Millie overstepping

“Did your brother play for the Leafs?” Okay, lame line, but it sort of excused his blatant perusal.

The slight quirk to her eyebrows told him how much she bought it. But instead of giving him the lecture he deserved, she simply dumped pasta into the colander in the sink.

“No,” she said. “He was all over the place for a while, but didn’t really hit his stride until he landed in Detroit.”

“So you wear that to harass him?”

BOOK: Dating a Single Dad
9.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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