Authors: amanda m lee
A MYSTIC CARAVAN MYSTERY BOOK TWO
AMANDA M. LEE
Copyright © 2016 by Amanda M. Lee
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Thirty years ago
can help you.”
Max Anderson felt lost as he regarded the woman in front of him with impassioned eyes and a heavy heart. Katie Denton was the love of his life. He was sure of that. He was also sure that she didn’t love him – at least not in the way he wanted her to. That realization was both frustrating and hurtful, and he had no idea what to do with the overwhelming feelings.
“You can help me, Max,” Katie agreed, nodding her head and causing her brunette ponytail to bounce as she kept her tone even. “You can agree to sign these papers and then … I don’t know … go away.” Katie extended her arm, a file in her hand. “It will be better for everyone if you don’t make a scene.”
Max knit his eyebrows, confused. He was used to being in charge. In fact, he enjoyed being in charge. He wouldn’t have taken the huge risk of starting his own business if he didn’t want to be the boss. That worked out well for him. Mystic Caravan Circus was thriving in a time when other businesses failed. Max took pride in that. He liked being a success. He didn’t like someone telling him he had no say in a situation – especially when it involved his unborn child.
“But … .”
Katie firmly shook her head, biting her lower lip, cutting off whatever argument Max was about to mount. “You’re a good man, Max,” she said. “You really are. You’re strong and you have a good heart. You’re not father material, though.”
Max frowned, shifting his eyes to Katie’s nondescript front door as he decided how to respond. “You don’t know I’m not father material,” he argued. “You can’t say what kind of father I’ll be unless you give me the chance to do the job.”
When Katie called him over for an early lunch visions of an afternoon dalliance floated through his mind. He wasn’t in town often – only once a month or so – but Katie seemed fine with their arrangement … until now. He flew out to be with her whenever his schedule with the circus allowed and she always appeared thrilled to see him. That clearly wasn’t the case today.
Max Anderson wasn’t a man who could settle down. He had a serious case of wanderlust. Katie Denton wasn’t a woman who wanted to live on the road. She found joy in her home and garden. Despite the fact that they had nothing in common Max found she owned his heart. She apparently didn’t feel the same way, and the realization was making Max bitter.
“Max, I think you’re one of the kindest men I know,” Katie said, opting for a different tactic. Max recognized it for what it was, though. She was trying to shine him on and then shove him out of her life. “A father is someone who stays in one place, though. A father is someone who wakes up in the same bed every morning and returns to it every night.”
“I … could do that.” Even as he uttered the words Max knew he they weren’t true.
“No, you can’t,” Katie said, her eyes filling with sympathy. “This isn’t your fault, Max. It was an accident. I let this situation go on longer than I should have because you’re so charming and larger than life. I knew it would end badly. I guess I just didn’t foresee it ending this badly.”
“So you … regret it?” The realization stung. Max loved her, and she regretted being with him. A kernel of anger flared and caused his chest to warm. “If you regret it so much, why did you ask me to drop everything and fly out here? Why didn’t you tell me when I arrived yesterday?”
“I … meant to,” Katie replied, holding up her hands and shrugging. “When I saw you I couldn’t help but spend one more afternoon with you. I knew you weren’t leaving until tomorrow. When I woke up this morning, though, I realized I had to tell you. It’s not fair to lead you on.”
“I don’t understand why it has to be over,” Max pressed, digging in his heels. If there was a chance he could salvage this situation he would gladly take it. “I can send money and make my visits more frequent. In fact … yes … I can come out every other weekend. That’s plenty of time to spend with our child.”
Even though her stomach was still flat Katie, instinctively ran her fingers over her midriff, almost as if trying to calm the new life growing inside of her. “That’s not nearly enough time to spend with a child,” she argued. “Max, I know you don’t understand this because it’s not the life you want to live, but a child needs a father who is going to be there for every baseball game … and nightmare … and to have campouts with in the back yard.
“You would try to be that kind of father,” she continued. “I know you would. You would fail, though. Your heart isn’t in this life. It’s in the circus. It’s on the road.”
Max still didn’t understand. “So you’re choosing a fatherless life for your child instead of one with a part-time father? How is that better?”
“I’m going to tell the baby that its father died, Max,” Katie explained. “I won’t raise a child to sit around waiting for someone to visit when that person should be here from the start. If the baby thinks you’re dead it won’t rely on you.”
“But … I’m the father,” Max said. “I deserve to see my child.”
“This isn’t really about what you deserve, Max,” Katie said. “This is about what the baby deserves. This child deserves a stable life. That’s the one thing you can’t give to anyone – including me.
“I know you love me,” she continued. “You love the circus more, though. That’s where your heart truly is. I don’t want my child coming in second to a job. I can’t have that.”
“But … .” Max tugged a restless hand through his graying hair. “This is not what I want.”
“It’s not about you, Max,” Katie said, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “We created a life and it’s our job to do what’s in the best interests of this child. You dropping in unannounced is not what’s best for my child.”
“But … .”
“No.” Katie’s frustration bubbled to the surface. “I don’t expect anything from you, Max. Somewhere down the road – maybe in a few years – we might be able to introduce you to the baby. You can be an eccentric uncle or something.”
“But not a father,” Max muttered, his stomach twisting. “Why can I be an uncle and not a father?”
“An uncle isn’t the person who is supposed to always be there for you,” Katie answered. “An uncle is someone who loves you but isn’t always there. You won’t always be here, Max. We both know that.
“If you’re an honorary uncle you can stop in for visits when the mood strikes, but you won’t be setting unrealistic expectations,” she continued. “This child will never sit around crying because it’s missing a father. He or she will be excited when their uncle comes to visit every few months, though.”
“And that’s it?” Max prodded. “That’s all you want from me? What about money?”
“I don’t expect money from you,” Katie replied. “I will raise this child on my own. I think that’s only fair.”
“I don’t care about fair,” Max huffed, taking a step from Katie as his heart shattered. Something inside told him this wasn’t the solution to the situation but his pride forced him to beat a hasty retreat rather than remain in Katie’s presence so his ego could take another bruising. “I will send you money every month. I don’t want my child to want for anything.”
Katie’s expression softened and she reached out a tentative hand. “Max, I know you’re hurt … .”
Max jerked his arm away before she could touch him. He was sure he would burst into tears at her touch. “Keep me updated on doctors’ visits,” he choked out, taking a step down the sidewalk. “I … we’ll talk later. I need time to think about this.”
“Max, I need you to sign these papers,” Katie reminded him, shaking the file for emphasis. “These papers give me sole guardianship of the baby. It’s important.”
Max eyed the file for a moment, anger coursing through him. He realized too late that the anger managed to take on a life of its own and he didn’t get a chance to call out a warning to Katie before the file erupted in flames. She quickly dropped it, shaking her hand as she cried out.
“Are you hurt?” Max asked, hurrying back in her direction. “I … didn’t mean to do that.”
Katie narrowed her eyes as she studied her fingers. Max didn’t hide his magical abilities, but he didn’t broadcast them either. Katie was aware he was different. She had no idea he was that different, though. “What was that?”