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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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But she had to admit that things had just become a lot more interesting.

“Let’s hear how everyone has progressed this week. Mrs. North?”

“Dammit, girl. I told you to call me Moxie.”

Reports were given. Items were checked off the agenda. Brynn filled them in on her progress, noting with satisfaction the looks of approval being sent her way. There were few things she loved more than attacking a to-do list and bringing order out of chaos. Another week and she would have this group purring like a finely tuned kitten.

There was just one bump in the road to navigate first.

“Okay folks, we’re making excellent progress. There’s one last item I want to raise. You might not agree with me. That’s fine. But I feel very strongly that the festival should not be held in the village park, charming as it is, but someplace with stronger ties to the family.” She offered her best smile, feigning a confidence she sure as hell didn’t feel as she looked straight over her glasses at Hank. “I propose that the festival be held at the Northwoods Cabins.”

The color drained from his face. So did any traces of warmth.

“Are you out of your ever-loving mind?”

“Quite probably,” she said with all the cheer she could carry off. “But it’s still on the table.”

“What, uh, what brought you to this conclusion?” Janice glanced at Hank.

Brynn ticked off the points on her fingers. “A stronger family connection. A gorgeous location, filled with trees and the river and plenty of places to park. The cabins would make perfect staging areas for the activities—there can be a kids’ cabin with face-painting and games, a craft cabin for the milk-bag crocheting, a history cabin, et cetera. If it rains we won’t need a tent because the activities are already inside. We can do the closing fireworks over the river and use the central area for the stage and picnic tables.” She smiled again. “Plus, it would be a fabulous grand opening for the cabin business.”

“I don’t need—” Hank stopped, seeming to struggle to collect himself before continuing. “Look. It sounds really great, I know, but I— No. Just no.”

“It sounds pretty good to me, Hank.” Moxie sent him the evil eye. “What’s your problem?”

“Other than the fact that Millie and I have to live there while all these strangers traipse through our front yard?”

“You mean the way they’ll be doing once you are officially in business?” Robert’s quiet comment brought a halt to the whispers and mutters that had begun.

Hank looked slightly taken aback, but only for a moment.

“That will be different.”

“How?” Janice spoke with the authority that only a mother could muster. “I think this would be an excellent way to get you accustomed to the comings and goings.”

“I don’t—” He stopped again. Brynn waited. She could convince him to do this, but it had to come from him.

Moxie spoke up. “Henry, when your great-uncle built that house and those cabins, he was as proud of them as he could be. He used to have the whole family out there every year for Halloween. He’d fill the woods with ghosts and pumpkins, have a bonfire, make it a party place. We loved going there.” She shook her head. “Then your uncle Lou took over and it all went to hell. Used to break my heart to see how he let it go to pot. Me, I’m mighty proud to see you bringing it back to life. Lou would have been too dumb and lazy to grab this chance. You’re not either of those. So for the love of Pete, boy, don’t pretend you are.”

Hank closed his eyes. Brynn saw the lines in his face, saw the way his fingers tightened on his pen, and felt a flash of guilt. Was she asking too much?

“Fine.” He pointed the pen at Moxie. “I’ll do it. But you have to swear you’ll have everything and everyone out of there within two days of it being over. I have folks checking in Thursday night and I’ll need time to get ready.”

“I’ll help with that.” Brynn spoke quickly. “I’d be happy to do it. And anything else you might need.”

He arched an eyebrow in her direction. “Gee, thanks, Brynn. But I think you’ve done plenty already.”

* * *

S
ATURDAY
MORNING
FOUND
Hank exactly where he’d been for days: in the Carleton cottage, pounding the hell out of floorboards that needed replacing and sending dark thoughts in the direction of the Wolfe cabin, home of the woman who had made it necessary for him to speed up his timetable by a full week. More, really, since folks would need to get into the cabins ahead of time to set up.

His schedule was a mess. His mood had been launched into permanently foul. He was juggling catch-up and Millie care. And, because life wasn’t exciting enough, his daughter seemed determined to do everything in her power to make his job even more time-consuming.

Like taking off when his back was turned.

“Millie?” He poked his head into every room of the cottage, even though he’d checked each space twice already. It wasn’t like there were many places to hide. Remembering one of her favorite tricks from toddlerhood, Hank opened all the cupboards, hoping to hell he’d hear her familiar giggle with each creak of the hinges.

No go. She wasn’t in the cottage. And since she would have told him if she were simply running home to grab a new toy, he had a pretty good idea where to find her.

He shoved his hands in his pockets as he tramped through the piles of rapidly melting snow toward Brynn’s. He’d been avoiding her since Wednesday’s meeting, not certain he could look at her without his blood boiling. Or, worse, without wanting to take her up on her offer of help. Not because he needed it. Or because he wanted to spend time with her. Just because...well, because she should see, firsthand, the extra work she was causing him.

Yeah, that was it.

He rapped sharply on the door, ready to dispense dire warnings and punishments to his offspring and anyone else who might deserve it. All of the words died on his tongue the minute Brynn opened the door.

She was in a bathrobe. Not a serviceable terry-cloth robe, but a thin one made of something purple and shiny, dotted with red lips, that hugged and clung in so many places that she might as well have been naked. She must have been dripping wet when she yanked it on.

And, God help him, he wanted to yank it off her, right then and there.

He felt like someone had kidnapped all his senses, stripped them of every other memory or association and replaced them all with Brynn. He saw nothing but her curves and the damp patches on her chest where her hair dripped on her robe. He smelled nothing but a slight hint of orange. He felt only the heat surrounding her, tasted nothing but his own sudden lust and heard nothing but—

But his daughter’s muffled squeak.

Millie.
Crap, for a minute there he’d forgotten his own kid.

He shook himself like the dog he was and scraped up something that resembled a brain cell. “Hi. Sorry to interrupt—” that was a lie if ever he’d told one “—but I couldn’t find Millie.”

“Funny thing, that.” She stepped back and walked into the room, which he took as an invitation to follow her. Not that he had much choice in the matter. She was the Death Star and he was caught in the tractor beam that was the picture of everything he imagined beneath that purple haze. “It just so happens that I found a Millie. I was about to text you and ask if you were looking for her.”

He glanced at his daughter, huddled on the corner of the sofa, looking like she couldn’t decide if she wanted to burst into tears or celebrate her rebellion. All of a sudden he dreaded her adolescence in a way he never had before.

“Mills? What’s going on?”

She stuck out her bottom lip. “I wanted to play with Brynn.”

“I know, but you can’t take off like that, kiddo. Do you have any idea how scared I was when I couldn’t find you?”

Yeah, you were terrified until you caught one gander at Brynn in her robe and your brain took a hike south. Real Father-of-the-Year material there, North.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but he could tell she was mostly sorry she’d been caught.

“Sorry alone doesn’t cut it, Mills. You need to...” What? He had no idea where to start. He couldn’t tell if he was simply out of his league, or if his thought patterns had been scrambled even worse when Brynn sat on the edge of the couch and her robe parted, giving him a glimpse of knee and calf and, holy shit, was that her thigh?

She pinched her robe closed and sat straighter, the picture of primness. “You only missed her by a little while, at least as far as I can tell. She wasn’t here when I got in the— I mean, she’s only been here a few minutes.”

Wait a minute. Something wasn’t being said here, probably because Brynn didn’t want to get Millie in any more trouble than she already was. But parenting was a job that quickly taught a man how to read between the lines.

“Don’t tell me she let herself in while you were in the shower.”

Brynn bit her lip, sighed and nodded. “I’m afraid so.” Her cheeks flamed almost as red as the lips decorating her robe. “And, I’d better tell you up front, I wasn’t expecting company when I walked out of the bathroom, so Millie might have received a bit of an anatomy lesson.”

He closed his eyes, but it was too late. His brain was doing an excellent job of filling in the blanks. Worse was the fact that he was suddenly and intensely jealous of his misbehaving daughter.

“Millie,” he said. “Did you let yourself into Brynn’s cabin?”

“I knocked first.”

“Oh, good to know you remembered something. So you knocked and then waltzed on in?”

“No, Daddy. I knocked again. A lot. But I was cold and she didn’t open the door and I knew she was home because her car was right there, so I opened up the door and I waited.” She glanced down, eyes hidden behind her glasses. “But then I had to pee.”

If he got through the next ten minutes of his life, he could get through almost anything.

“Please tell me you didn’t march into Brynn’s bathroom while she was in the shower.”

“You know, maybe I’ll put on some clothes while you guys talk about this.” Brynn rose but Hank slowed her flight.

“Hang on. We’ll get out of here. Millie, you need to apologize. Now.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “I really had to go, Daddy.”

“Mills, it’s more than that. Tell Brynn you’re sorry you let yourself into her place and invaded her privacy. Now.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. Tears ran down her cheeks. But she said nothing.

He glanced at Brynn, who was watching them with a mix of compassion and embarrassment that struck him as so endearing that he was brain-dead once again. Or maybe that was because the top of the robe had gaped a bit when she stood, and now he could see a lot farther down. The top of the sweet hollow between her breasts was plainly visible.

Forget Millie. He was the one who needed to get out of there fast.

“Mills. Say you’re sorry and let’s go.”

“But I’m not.” The words were barely more than a whisper, clogged with tears and thick with emotion, but they came through loud and clear.

“Amelia Jacobs North—”

“I told you I was bored, Daddy.” Her voice cracked. “But you didn’t talk to me. You just kept working. So I left. Because I wanted someone to play with me.”

“It’s not Brynn’s—” he began, but a movement from the other side of the room caught his attention. Brynn was waving in a universal time-out motion.

“Could I talk to you for a moment?” She jerked her head toward the back of the cabin. “In private?”

He probably should make Millie speak before he left her, but on the other hand, this way she’d have more time to feel guilty. Stewing in her own juices, as his mother would say.

’Course, he couldn’t remember a single time when that had worked on him, but maybe it was different for girls.

He was so filled with irritation at his daughter that he barely registered the fact that Brynn had led him down the short hall. They stood in the small alcove between two doors. One stood open. The one to the bedroom, of course, with the giant sleigh bed draped with clothing—probably the things she’d planned to don when she came out of the shower. He caught a glimpse of jeans, something blue and sparkly and a bit of blue lace that he knew had to be a bra.

He closed his eyes, but that which had been seen could never be unseen.

She tugged the door closed, her cheeks pink once again, but her gaze was steady as she looked at him.

“I might be way out of line here, but I have a proposition for you.”

He couldn’t help it. She said
proposition,
and his mind jumped to the precise place it had no business going. Lucky for him, Brynn seemed to have a lot more class than he did. She continued talking as if she hadn’t said some of the most provocative words he’d heard in years.

“I know you’re insanely busy, mostly because of me. I meant it when I said I’d like to help. Since I’m right here, and Millie seems to like me—which is totally mutual, by the way—well, instead of repeating this scenario, why don’t we set up something official. Have scheduled times when she can hang here with me so you can work without interruption.”

Her words worked the miracle he’d thought impossible as his interest went from sixty to zero in no time flat.

“No.”

“Why not?”

He would have barked out something about not needing help, being fine, coping on his own—but she wasn’t accusing, he could see. She was genuinely curious.

That was a new one. His family brushed off his need to do things himself as Youngest Child Syndrome. To have someone actually want to know his reasons—well, it made a difference. Almost as much as the fact that she had crossed her arms and now her breasts were pushed higher and there was more cleavage visible at the opening of her robe and if he didn’t look away in the next three seconds he was going to do something really insane instead of merely stupid.

“When I said that you’re our test case, I wasn’t kidding. Millie needs to learn boundaries. That won’t happen if she’s visiting you all the time. You might have no problem with it, but the next person to stay here might not be as understanding.”

“I get that. I do, and I think it’s very wise of you to take it into consideration. But—”

BOOK: Dating a Single Dad
8.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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