by Lynne Marshall
“Will you be my dad?”
Ask me anything but that.
Once upon a time, Dr. Daniel Delaney had it all. But he lost it in the blink of an eye, and he won’t let himself fall again—not even for his dedicated new assistant, Keela O’Mara, and her adorable, lonely little girl, Anna. Resisting a starry-eyed four-year-old is tough enough. Denying her perfect, loving single mom may be more than Daniel can handle…
Keela’s phone rang and she stepped inside her office to answer it. With the copier going, Daniel couldn’t hear the conversation, but as he gazed through the large office window, he noticed her brows were lowered. She said something else, then glanced toward the ceiling in a frustrated manner while listening. Just as his copies were done, she hung up, her shoulders slumped and her usual smile inverted. “Thanks for the too-late heads-up,” she raised her voice to the phone on her desk.
No sooner had she stepped into the hallway than a little girl barreled through the doorway from reception, an older woman at her heels. Keela’s face lit up when she saw the child. “Hi, Anna,” she sang, bending and giving her a hug.
Up until now Daniel had just seen pictures of Keela’s daughter on her desk. That, he could handle, but seeing her in person sent a painful jolt straight through his chest. He flinched, then quickly got a grip, though thanks to his recent history, looking at her felt like slowing down at a car accident. Man, she was small, with the kind of little-kid smile that belonged on a billboard. A junior version of her mother’s. He diverted his gaze to the paperwork in his hands.
“Thanks for dropping by on your way to your appointment, Mrs. Jenkins.” Acting upbeat seemed to be second nature to Keela, but this time it didn’t ring true.
Daniel stacked his handouts in a huge pile and started for his office, and shortly afterward the woman left, leaving Anna behind. He tried not to notice.
He’d just plopped the copies on his desk when he felt someone behind him. Keela stood at his office entrance, an anxious expression on her face, her daughter at her side. “I need to ask you a huge favor,” she said. “My ex-husband was supposed to take Anna for the afternoon and evening, but he only just now called and canceled, and Mrs. Jenkins has an appointment to get her hair colored.”
Daniel dreaded what he suspected was coming. His usual, nearly daily struggle with his loss had lightened up lately, thanks to the distraction of responsibilities with the clinic, but the mere sight of the impish little girl managed to decimate in a few seconds what progress he’d made over the past year. Slipping into defense mode, he went practical.
“You can leave her in your office if you need to.”
“Uh, no, she’s only four.”
“I’m almost five.” The child’s tiny hand shot up, all five fingers worth, which clawed at his achy heart. He had to admit the kid was cute, with loads of curls and big brown eyes, but…
“She needs supervision.”
No. No. No. Not a good day for this.
Text Copyright © 2018 by Lynne Marshall HARLEQUIN®SPECIAL EDITION
Lynne Marshall has been traditionally published with Harlequin as a category romance author for more than ten years with over twenty-five books, and more recently with TULE Publishing, she has also gone hybrid with self-publishing. She is a Southern California native, has been married to a New Englander for a long time, and has two adult children of whom she is super proud. She is also an adoring grandmother of two beautiful little girls, a woman of faith, a dog lover, a cat admirer, a meandering walker, a curious traveler, and an optimistic participant in this wild journey called life.
“3 winners will receive their choice of one print book from Lynne Marshall’s Home in Heartlandia series: A DOCTOR FOR KEEPS, HER PERFECT PROPOSAL, and FALLING FOR THE MOM-TO-BE (if US, winner will receive their book signed)
Ends March 7th”