Authors: Vanessa Devereaux
glanced at Emily as they drove toward the motel to collect Natalie the
following morning. He smiled remembering the night before all too well. The
unexpected kiss with the woman he’d just met. The way his heartbeat speeded up
when he’d held her body close to his own.
The rush of blood
throughout his body, but especially in his groin.
He hadn’t felt
anything quite like that in what seemed like a lifetime ago. This morning he
felt like a plant that had been left to die, no water, no sunlight. Dry and
decaying, but then some kind soul had come along and began tending to it again.
Natalie made him feel like he was coming back to life.
reached over and turned on the radio and began humming along. His daughter was
one smart cookie.
She’d noticed the
lipstick smudged near his lips as soon as he’d walked into her room to say
goodnight after Natalie had driven away. She’d also pointed out that it was the
same color as Natalie’s. He’d blushed from the neck upwards feeling like a
teenager caught by his parents.
sort thing usually didn’t make feel uncomfortable, but with Natalie it somehow
felt different. He’d only just met the young woman. And yes, she probably was a
good fifteen years younger than him, but he was already smitten. Why had he
word? Surely it was
only his mother’s generation who’d used it. But smitten pretty much summed up
how he felt.
we eat lunch in Missoula?” asked Emily, suddenly stopping her humming.
think that’s a great idea,” said Flynn as he pulled the truck into the motel
want to go up to the room and tell Natalie we’re ready. It’s Room 34. It’s on
the second floor up there,” he said pointing.
nodded. He knew she liked doing that sort of thing because it made her feel
capable and grown up. The teacher at her school had told him that was important
for a special needs child. He smiled as she rushed out of the truck and headed
up the stairs.
tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he listened to the radio but then
he cringed when he heard Emily banging on the door so hard he heard it above
He’d told her lots of times
about doing that, but she didn’t seem to listen. He hoped Natalie didn’t think
someone was about to kick the door down and call the police.
glanced up, just to check everything was okay, and saw Natalie now standing at
the door. She waved to him. He blushed again, remembering their kiss by the
sink and the way his body had quickly reacted.
minutes later Emily and Natalie were heading toward to the truck. Natalie with
her arm through Emily’s and the two were chatting nonstop by the look of
things. How perfect was this. A woman he liked and who actually enjoyed being
why don’t you sit in the back and let Natalie ride up front so she can see more
of the scenery on the way to Missoula,” he said.
but on the way back I want to ride up front with both of you.”
opened the door behind the passenger side and got in while Natalie slid in
beside him, filling the interior with her perfume. He remembered it from last
night and how he’d smelled it until the early hours of the morning.
until the early hours of the
morning when he laid awake thinking about her.
morning,” he said. She had the same shade lipstick on again today. He hadn’t
wiped it off for an hour after she’d left. He’d even stood in front of the
bathroom mirror glazing at it, telling himself it was proof that the kiss had
been real and not something a lonely man speeding toward middle age had made
mother tells me there’s a craft and yarn store in the mall, so that’s probably
a good place to look for boots too,” said Flynn pulling out onto the main road.
can we go to the farmer’s market?” asked Emily scooting forward and resting her
elbows close to where he and Natalie sat.
today honey. Remember they don’t have one in winter.”
love farmer’s markets,” said Natalie, turning around to face Emily. “I go to a
local one every Saturday morning.”
like them too and vegetables are good for you,” said Emily.
smiled and glanced at Natalie who grinned too.
dad, slow up so I can show Natalie where Uncle Shane and Aunt Lacey live.”
eased up on the gas as Emily pointed up the road to their right.
it’s that house down there. Can I stop and see them?”
on the way back.
So how’s the motel room?” Flynn asked
you are think you’ll be in Timber Creek awhile looking for a house?”
Please say yes.
plan on being here for at least a couple of weeks.”
couple of weeks
better than a couple of days. He
was sure she’d fall in love with the place and want to hang around longer.
Yeah, he’d work on showing her all the good things the place had to offer.
my school,” said Emily pointing to a sandy colored brick building to the left. “And
over there is where Nick lives. He goes to the school and he’s in a wheelchair so
I push him when he gets tired.”
a nice thing to do,” said Natalie.
Dad built a ramp on Nick’s house so it’s easy for his parents to push him.”
turned to face him.
“Didn’t take me long.
poor kid wasn’t doing very well and his parents had told Flynn that he might
not have much longer. He didn’t know how Emily would take the news because
other than his youngest brother Ryan dying, she hadn’t had a lot of experience
take him cookies from Gran’s café but he can’t eat the peanut butter ones,”
how often do you work in your gran’s café?” asked Natalie.
smiled again. No one had been this interested in Emily before. Her ditching her
car in front of their place was heaven sent for both him and Emily.
and Fridays, and sometimes on a Saturday, but not today because I’m going to
smiled. She looked really, truly interested in what Emily was saying. The other
women he’d dated only pretended to just to get on his good side, but he’d seen
through them and so had Emily. And in the end the women had ended up making
snide remarks. One had even suggested that Emily be put in a residential home
saw wolves and their babies over there,” said Emily pointing up ahead.
there a lot in the area?” asked Natalie.
on what time of year it is,” said Flynn.
you been to Yellowstone Park because you can see lots of wolves there, oh and
bears too,” said Emily.
turned to face her again. “I haven’t.
How about you?”
but Dad said we’ll go next summer. You want to come with us?”
The thought that she’d be around and that they
might be together as an actual couple.
something I’ll think about,” said Natalie.
then,” said Emily.
Emily liked Natalie too, and that gave him the green light.
couldn’t help but tear up as Emily looped her arm through hers as they made
their way around the mall. If only it could be like this every weekend.
going shopping like mother and daughter and making up for
all the lost time. Flynn had done such a wonderful job with her. If she’d
handpicked someone to adopt her daughter she couldn’t have chosen a better
candidate. And on those Saturday mornings, having the handsome cowboy tagging
along with them would be an added bonus.
girls mind if I leave you for a bit and go and get the truck cleaned at the
wash that’s a block from here?” asked Flynn.
how about I meet you by the information desk in say, thirty minutes?”
watched him walk away, his cute butt in those tight jeans, the short suede
jacket, the boots and most of all, the cowboy hat. She wouldn’t have guessed a
cowboy would have been her type, but there was something about Flynn Malone
that made her heart miss a beat.
finally disappeared out of sight.
I’m on my own with her daughter.
knew it was wrong to think along those lines. He and his wife had been kind
enough to give her baby a home.
He didn’t talk about her. In fact, Natalie hadn’t
seen any photos of her in the house. Maybe he didn’t want to be reminded that
she was gone. And why did he say she was dead when Natalie’s PI had said they
were divorced? Maybe they’d been two previous wives.
suddenly realized that Emily no longer had hold of her arm. She looked around
but couldn’t see her anywhere, just lots of other people milling around in front
of the stores.
minutes alone with her and she’d done the unthinkable. She’d lost her daughter.
Did she know her way around this mall? What if
she couldn’t find her, or if Emily couldn’t find her way back to her? Bile rose
in her throat. As Emily had special needs, should she go to the security office
straight away, and not even bother to look for her?
her hands through her hair she felt hot and cold at the same time. Emily was a
friendly girl and what if she’d gone off with someone who meant to do her harm?
made her way through the throngs of people, looking everywhere but seeing no
sign of her. She glanced in stores hoping to see the blue quilted coat and the
red hair somewhere in the crowd but still nothing. Making her way out into the
center of the mall, she glanced at her watch. Thirty minutes had passed. Flynn
would be back soon and what was she going to tell him? I’m an idiot. I’ve lost
rushed back to where they were the last time she’d seen Emily, hoping for some
miracle and she’d simply be standing there waiting,
Still no sign of her.
to her left, she saw Flynn heading to the information booth. She walked over
there too, taking deep breaths rehearsing how she was going to break the news
walked up behind him, he turned and smiled.
Here goes, and I hope he doesn’t hate me
I’m so sorry. I let Emily out of my sight for just a second and now…”
put his hand on her arm. If only the situation wasn’t so dire, she could
appreciate his touch so much more.
okay. It’s my fault because I should have warned you that if she finds
something that interests her more than what she’s doing with you, she takes off
without warning. Don’t worry I gave her a cell phone and she has my number, her
grans, and also her two uncles’ numbers on speed dial. We’ve always told her if
she gets lost to take a photo of where she’s at, and call one of us so we can
find her. The fact that she hasn’t tells me she’s all right and somewhere she
feels perfectly safe.”
had her baby been so lucky to find Flynn for a dad? Maybe her mother had
handpicked him. Not likely, but either way her and Jon’s daughter had found the
best home a baby could possibly get.
put his arm around her. Just the touch of his body made her legs shake and her heart
pick up its tempo. “Let’s go look for her. I’m betting she’s close by,” he
they searched the stores, but no Emily. A band was playing on a stage at the
end of the mall. Natalie looked their way and there she was all by herself
swaying and dancing to the music just a few feet from the stage.
walked up behind her and whispered in her ear. “She loves music. I think it’s
because I sang to her every night when she was a baby.” An image of Emily small
and fragile being rocked in Flynn’s strong arms sprang into her mind. She would
have loved to have seen it. She watched as two small children joined Emily and
danced with her as she grabbed their hands.
loves children too. Loves being around them, so I’m glad
finally getting a cousin,” he said.
and your wife never had any other children?”
looked down at the ground and then up and shook his head.
you’re never thought about remarrying?”
probably wasn’t the place or time to ask him, but she wanted to know.
too busy with the ranch and Emily,” he said watching this daughter and smiling.
Pure pride was written all over it.