“Damn, he’s cute!” Jilly Watson stage-whispered across the small lunchroom to her work colleague, Vanessa. The two women were the only females under thirty in the entire law firm and spent their days surrounded by old fuddy-duddies who wouldn’t recognise a stud if they fell over one and it turned around and kicked them.
“I thought you’d sworn off men?” Vanessa asked, one eyebrow raised in question.
“I have,” Jilly confirmed. “But I can still look, can’t I? There’s no harm in looking.”
“No, guess not.”
The lively younger women were a far cry from their stuffy older legal secretary colleagues who’d spent so long working for formal old poncy lawyers they’d forgotten how to bend the rules, push the limits, and break out of routine. The older women were exceptionally good at their jobs, handling the heavy workload easily, and were very professional, but Jilly had struggled to warm to them. And the older ladies firmly believed that there was absolutely no place at all in a law office environment for gossiping, wasting time, tardiness, or ogling the man-candy.
Not that there’d been much man-candy to look at. Until recently, the law firm had been made up solely of the older male partners—men in their late fifties who had been lawyers forever. The young man who came on board just last month had been the talk of the office. Well, the talk of Jilly and Vanessa, anyway. The older secretaries treated the younger man much as they did the older ones—with respectful politeness.
Talk was the young man was the son of one of the partners, although nobody seemed to be certain which partner, exactly. Nor were they certain what role this young man was going to be filling. Was one of the partners retiring? Was the firm expanding? Or had the younger man been brought in simply to break up the monotony of ‘The Establishment’ as Jilly and Vanessa called it?
This legal office was one of the biggest in Auckland, and the lawyers themselves were highly respected corporate and criminal lawyers, but they were snobs. All of them. This office was for the elite. For ensuring smooth completions of million-dollar business transactions. Defending billionaire businessmen and their dodgy dealings. Conveyancing happened here. Property deals. Protecting investments. Suing businesses. Legal wrangling that Jilly couldn’t even begin to understand. She hadn’t been on the job long enough to understand in any detail exactly what these great legal minds did. She was the office junior and mostly filed piles of papers, did photocopying, and typed up invoices, letters, and contracts.
But there was certainly no legal aid here, no defending the poorer side of society. There was no money in that. Or maybe it was about appearances. Maybe a millionaire businessman criminal was different to the standard run-of-the-mill criminal? A better calibre of criminal, perhaps? Or maybe less guilty by virtue of their success? More deserving of leniency because of their wealth? Jilly didn’t know. But she did know that this office didn’t defend people living on park benches.
Vanessa nodded. “He’s definitely cute,” she agreed, coming closer so she didn’t have to whisper as loudly. “Still haven’t figured out what he’s doing here, though. He doesn’t look posh enough to defend the types that come here. Look, his tie is askew, his cufflinks aren’t studded with diamonds, and I’m sure his suit is from Hallensteins. That’s definitely not an Armani suit he’s wearing.”
“But hot damn! He wears it well,” Jilly said. “Look at the way those pants cling to his hips and how huge his shoulders are under that jacket.”
The man in question finished the conversation he was having out in the hallway and entered the lunchroom, glancing at the big gold watch he wore at his wrist.
“I believe lunchbreak is over, ladies,” he rumbled in a deep, authoritative voice. “Janice is on the warpath,” he warned. “You’d best get back to work.”
Jilly groaned. Janice had been here since the beginning, and although she had no authority over anybody officially, she was the big boss’ favourite, having been a loyal staff member for so long, so she held a lot of sway. She’d used her influence to get the last staff member fired—the woman Jilly herself had replaced.
Vanessa thrust out her chest and struck up a flirtatious pose, leaning sexily against the water cooler, but Jilly didn’t. She needed this job. She couldn’t afford to make any trouble for herself. So she put her head down and did her best to hide the fact that the baritone voice had done wicked things to her insides. “Yes, sir,” she mumbled, scurrying back to her desk.
For the rest of the afternoon, Jilly worked her way through the huge pile of filing on her desk. As the youngest, and the newest to the job, she got dumped with all the menial tasks, but the salary here was still better than anything she could make elsewhere, and with it, she could actually afford a decent place to live, proper childcare, and clothes for her daughter. She didn’t have to scrimp and save anymore, or try to somehow stretch every dollar into five. She was making enough to live on, for the first time ever, and she wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardise that. Even if it meant sucking up to Janice and following all the rules.
As she flipped through the papers, filing them in the appropriate places, her mind kept drifting back to the new lawyer. The light reprimand he’d given them had turned her insides to mush. You don’t want a man. Remember? her inner voice taunted her. Her face flamed remembering the way she’d reacted. The submissive demeanour she’d taken on, the way ‘yes, sir’ had left her lips so easily.
She was still thinking about the way his deep voice had made her squirm just the tiniest bit and how, up close, the smallest hint of stubble shadowed his chiselled jaw, when the sound of soft footsteps on the carpet behind her desk made her look up.
It was him! Coming this way! Jilly’s heart skipped a quick, panicked beat and she froze, her feet stuck to the floor.
He was right there, at her desk. No doubt he would expect to be acknowledged. She couldn’t just pretend to not see him and wait for him to go away. She took a deep breath, trying to slow her wildly racing heart.
“Matthew Stevenson,” he introduced himself. “Newest partner to the firm. And you are?”
“Jilly,” she mumbled shyly, taking his outstretched hand, wincing as he squashed it in his strong grip. “Jilly Watson.” Forcing herself to look up instead of at the floor, she met his eyes. He smiled, showing perfect white teeth. She smiled back, but at the same time, she wanted to sink through the floor. None of the other lawyers ever took the time to come and speak to her, and that was the way she preferred it. Being singled out for attention like this made her nervous. Had she done something wrong? Besides going overtime on her lunchbreak… she wasn’t in trouble for that, surely? It had only been a couple of minutes. Had Janice complained?
Dropping her hand, Matthew stepped forward and picked up the silver-framed photo off her desk. “Your little girl?”
She nodded, a proud smile creeping across her lips. “Yes. Lily. She’s six.”
“She’s gorgeous. Like her mama.”
Jilly’s mouth dropped open and she felt her face heat up with an obvious blush.
“I look forward to working with you, Jilly,” Matthew said. Then he put down the photo, winked, and was gone.
Oh, wow. Oh, wow! Jilly’s heart pounded. Had he really said that? Or had she just imagined it? He didn’t speak to all the secretaries under this roof like that, did he? She couldn’t imagine Janice or any of the other ladies tolerating that sort of talk. They ran a tight, respectable ship here. There was no room for flirting, no time for casual conversation, outside of breaks. Professional appearances were everything.
Across the room, Vanessa was staring at her, her mouth dropped open. On the other side, Janice was glaring over her glasses in disapproval. And in between, the secretaries who weren’t tied up on the phone or talking to clients were watching her too. Had they all heard what Matthew had said? I hope not! she groaned inwardly. I’m just here to do a job. Nothing more.
Matthew stayed out of sight for the rest of the day, but later, when Jilly went to refill her coffee cup, Janice made it plain that fraternising with the lawyers, even if it hadn’t been her doing, was against the rules of the office. Not in so many words, of course, but her body language had made it clear. There was to be no more conversation with the new lawyer. Not about anything other than work. That wasn’t the way things worked, here in ‘The Establishment.’
Feeling thoroughly chastised, even though Janice hadn’t actually said a word and she hadn’t really done anything wrong, Jilly kept her head down, concentrated on her filing, and made that one cup of coffee last for the rest of the afternoon. She wasn’t taking any risks. If someone had something to say, they could come to her to say it.
“What did he say? Come on! Give me the goss!” Vanessa was at her desk at thirty seconds after five o’clock. “I want to know everything!”
Jilly just shook her head. “He just introduced himself, that’s all. He didn’t say much else.” Just that you were gorgeous, she reminded herself. “But I’ve got to go. Have to pick up Lily. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”
The rest of the day was a blur as Jilly battled rush-hour commuter traffic on the way to pick up her daughter from after-school care, went to the supermarket to pick up groceries for dinner, fed and bathed her little girl. But later, when Lily was sound asleep in bed and Jilly had the house to herself, the quiet wasn’t peaceful like it normally was. Now all she could hear was Matthew’s voice in her ears, the sexy baritone telling them to get back to work. The softer tone complimenting her daughter’s photo. Telling her that he looked forward to working with her.
His face flashed into the edges of her consciousness, making her heart skip a beat. There was something about him that filled her with excitement, something she hadn’t felt in a very long time, but she pushed it away. She was done with men. Never again would she let another man get close enough to her to break her heart.
You don’t have to worry because he’s not interested in you anyway, the sensible part of her insisted. He was just being friendly. What could you possibly have to offer a man like him?
Jilly topped up her wineglass and picked up the TV remote. Maybe there’d be something interesting on the telly, something to take her mind away from Matthew Stevenson. Reality television, or even a decent cooking show. Mindless entertainment that would make her smile and steal her thoughts. Anything would do, really. Anything to make her forget about the handsome new lawyer at her office.
Flicking through the channels, she decided on a gameshow, propped the pillows up behind her, and settled back to watch and answer as many of the questions as she could.
Getting four questions right in a row, she sighed contentedly. She liked quizzes. If only it would be as simple to distract Vanessa from the grilling she knew would be happening tomorrow as it was to answer the general knowledge questions the telly was throwing at her.
“So what’s the goss?” Vanessa was at her desk first thing, fishing for information. “I saw him here, talking to you. Hell, everyone saw him here talking to you! What did he say? I want to know everything!”
Jilly shrugged. Replaying her conversation with Matthew yesterday was the last thing she wanted to do right now, but if she didn’t, Vanessa would be hurt. And she also wouldn’t leave. Which would be a bad thing. Already, she could feel Janice’s disapproving eye peering this way.
“He didn’t actually say very much at all,” she said. “Just introduced himself, really. And looked at my photo of Lily.”
“So he didn’t tell you who his father is? Who’s retiring? Or whether or not he’s single?”
“Sadly, no. It was a perfectly ordinary, innocent chat. Nothing interesting to tell at all.”
Vanessa pouted. “Shame. I was looking forward to a bit of entertainment this morning. God knows nothing interesting ever happens in this place.”
Jilly inclined her head toward Janice. “The old bat is watching, you know. And she doesn’t approve. You’re going to get yourself in trouble,” she warned.
“Nah, she’s just jealous. Thinks she’s missing out on the scandalous gossip.”
“I wouldn’t mind hearing some scandalous gossip myself,” Jilly admitted. “Things are a bit dull around here. But the gossip will have to come from someone other than me, unfortunately. I’m a single mother. I don’t get up to anything scandalous these days.”
“I’ll have to take you out then, have a bit of fun! Or teach you how to flirt with Mr. Delicious a bit. You had your chance yesterday and you blew it!” Vanessa admonished. She cocked her head and looked Jilly up and down appraisingly. “You’re pretty good looking, you know. When he was standing here, chatting in your space, you should have been working it!”
Jilly didn’t have the heart to tell Vanessa she had no interest in ‘working it.’ She had no desire to attract the attentions of men. She didn’t want them. Men broke hearts. It was what they did. Her life was busy enough, and full enough, raising her daughter. Throwing a man into the mix would only complicate things.
Suddenly Vanessa straightened up and tossed her head, intentionally flicking her dark hair back over her shoulder. “He’s coming! Now’s your chance!”
The same little knot from yesterday tightened in the pit of Jilly’s belly as soft footsteps on the carpet came up behind her.
“Good morning, ladies,” Matthew rumbled in his deep voice. He was wearing a navy suit today, and it looked spectacular on him. Especially with the purple tie that stood out against the white shirt. A matching purple fabric square poked out of his jacket pocket.
“Morning,” Jilly squeaked, as Vanessa met his eye and smiled provocatively. Even to Jilly’s inexperienced eye, the flirtation was obvious.
“Jilly, can you do this photocopying for me, please? I need it done before morning tea. Janice told me you were the person to ask.”
I bet she did, Jilly’s subconscious snarked. That’s all she thinks I’m good for. But she looked up at Matthew and took the pile of papers he proffered, smiling sweetly. “Sure thing. I’ll get onto it right away.”
“Thank you. If you could bring it to my office when you’re done, I’d appreciate it.” He looked at Vanessa, then back at her, and winked. “Don’t you ladies be talking for too long,” he warned. “Janice is watching, and she’s not happy.”
Vanessa snorted. “Nobody cares what Janice thinks.”
Matthew frowned. The knot in Jilly’s belly tightened and a spark of heat shot to her core. Geez, he was handsome when he frowned! She crossed her legs under her desk, pressing her thighs tightly together. God, what was wrong with her? Why were her knickers getting damp over a man frowning?
“My uncle does,” Matthew stated. “Janice’s opinion is very important to him.”
He turned back to Jilly, a stern expression fixed to his face. “So if you could get that photocopying done for me, I’d appreciate it.” Then he turned and walked away.
Vanessa whistled softly through her teeth. “Man, he’s hot!” she gushed. “A bit on the stuffy side, though. The last thing this place needs is another stickler for the rules. Janice has got enough carrots up her ass for everybody.”
Jilly bit her lip nearly hard enough to draw blood to stifle her giggle, but she couldn’t stop her grin. “He seems nice. I like him.”
Vanessa looked at her like she had two heads then shrugged. “He’s obviously not a son, then. I wonder who his uncle is?” she mused. “Janice is the pit bull for all the partners so it could be any one of them. So many questions.” She tapped her finger against Jilly’s desk, glanced in Janice’s direction and stiffened.
Seeing Janice still peering at them over the top of her wire-rimmed glasses with her lips pursed, and keen to avoid trouble, Jilly stood up and grabbed the pile of Matthew’s photocopying, flicking through the pages, her eyes lingering on the sticky neon paper flags that told her how many copies of each he needed. It would be boring work, but easy enough, and it would keep her out of the way of Janice. She clutched the pile of papers to her chest and veered around her friend. “Best I get onto this,” she announced. “Keep the boss happy.”
The photocopying, stapling, punching, and filing as per the instructions on the neon sticky notes took her most of the morning. As she worked, she couldn’t get him out of her mind. What was it about him that attracted her? Was it the way he wore his suit so well; the way the pants hung off his narrow hips and the way his shoulders looked so huge under the jacket? Was it his eyes that seemed to pierce right into her very soul? Was it his voice that rumbled over her and caressed her, the stern tone he’d adopted once or twice making her squirm? She didn’t know. But whatever it was, she wanted more of it.
Timidly, balancing the stack of papers precariously in one hand, Jilly tapped on the doorframe to Matthew’s office and peered into the room. Like the other partners’ offices, a big antique mahogany desk took up much of the space and vertical blinds covered a floor-to-ceiling window. A muted but stunning view of the harbour and Rangitoto Island was visible through the fabric slats. A potted plant stood on the desk next to the window. A peace lily, maybe?
“I have your photocopying.”
Matthew looked up from his desk and smiled, fixing her with those dark eyes that sent a tingle down her spine clear to her toes.
“Thank you,” he rumbled. “If you could just put it here on the desk that would be great.”
Jilly’s heart pounded as she walked just far enough into the spacious room so she could reach to place the documents where he had requested. She felt self-conscious coming in here, like she was invading his personal space or something; like she was crossing boundaries she had no business crossing. Her job didn’t usually entail personal deliveries.
Quickly, she put the papers down and spun on her heel, desperate to get out of there fast. Not only would Janice disapprove of her spending more time than absolutely necessary in Matthew’s office, but Vanessa would want a second-by-second rundown of what his office was like, what he had said, what he had implied, then she’d want to analyse everything and give her more tips on flirting. Besides, Matthew was busy. That much was clear. So the second the papers touched the desk and she was certain they weren’t going to fall over in a big heap on the floor, she turned around and left the room.
Matthew leaned back in his chair and watched the way her A-line skirt clung to her ass, the sexy sway of her hips as she moved. Damn, she was hot! But that wasn’t what drew him to her the most. She was tiny—even in her stiletto heels she couldn’t have been much more than five foot three—and gave off an air of vulnerability and shyness that he found endearing. The submissive way she spoke, accepting his authority so easily, brought out his protective instincts. When she’d said yes, sir in the lunchroom yesterday, he’d nearly lost it. Did she have any idea what that had done to him? No, he conceded, she probably didn’t. She was simply being polite, making sure she stayed out of trouble. Not like the other woman who had been with her. What was her name again? He couldn’t remember. Maybe he never knew. But she was trouble, that one. An outrageous flirt, far too cocky for his liking. He liked his ladies to be sweet, demure. Just like Jilly seemed to be.
She had long strawberry blonde curls that tumbled down her back, giving her a childlike aura. The light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks made him smile. Her daughter in the photograph looked exactly the same. Her daughter… but she wore no wedding ring. Was she attached? Not that it mattered, because he wasn’t interested. He couldn’t afford to be interested. Everyone knew the saying: don’t screw the crew.
He glanced through the stack of papers she’d left on his desk, all neatly put together just as he had requested. She was meticulous, that was for sure. Everything had been done exactly as he had asked. Another thing she had going for her: attention to detail. He definitely wanted to get to know her better. Don’t go there, Stevenson. That’s dangerous territory.
Forcing thoughts of Jilly from his head, he turned back to his work.
“Mummy, I don’t feel so good.” Jilly glanced at the digital clock on her bedside table, the glowing neon green numbers displaying 4.03 a.m. She groaned, reaching out to turn on the bedside lamp just in time to see her daughter throw up in the doorway, vomit spilling all over her pyjamas and the carpet.
No, no, no, this can’t be happening! Frantically, she scrambled out of bed, carefully stepping around the foul-smelling sticky puddle on the floor, and ushered Lily into the bathroom. This was the part of motherhood that Jilly struggled with the most. But putting on a brave face, trying to forget that she’d have to get up in just a couple of short hours, she cleaned up the mess and tended to her little girl, tucking Lily up into bed with her so she could monitor her properly.
Later in the morning, Lily was no better. Her forehead was pale and clammy, she was miserable and sick.
“Don’t leave me, Mummy,” Lily begged as Jilly ran around the house, pulling on clothes, downing coffee, swallowing her pride. She’d have to call her mother. She didn’t want to; the old woman had made it plain what she thought of Jilly having a baby out of wedlock, and her opinions had only gotten louder when Lily’s father had abandoned them when she’d been pregnant and she’d chosen to have the baby by herself.
She’d been a reasonable grandmother since then, showing up with gifts and cuddles when it suited her, but it had always been on her terms. She’d made it clear right from the start that if Jilly was going to ignore her excellent advice and have a baby alone, she could do it truly alone. All by herself. And for the most part, she had. But the timing right now, it just wasn’t going to work. This was a brand new job. A job she couldn’t afford to lose. She’d only been there three months. Not long enough to be eligible for sick leave, or to have accrued any annual leave. And she got the feeling she was already making an enemy of Janice—with Vanessa’s help—so calling in sick with no pay wouldn’t be a good look, either. Not if she wanted to make a good impression at her new job.
“I have to go to work, baby,” she told her daughter sympathetically. “But I’ll ring Grandma, see if she can come and sit with you today. That will be all right, won’t it? Grandma will take good care of you.”
Lily looked up at her with big eyes, her thumb in her mouth, and nodded slowly.
Jilly put down the phone. Surprisingly, her mother had agreed to come with only minimal persuasion, but the very thought of leaving her daughter like this, sick and miserable, and going to work for the entire day, made her heart break into a million pieces. Working when her daughter was well was one thing. But working when she was ill was quite another. As she pulled her cardigan over her shoulders and kissed her daughter goodbye, she was racked with guilt.
Although her parents didn’t live very far away, Auckland’s nightmarish morning commuter traffic meant it took her mother a while to arrive. Which meant Jilly was late leaving. When she walked into the office, seven minutes late, it felt like all eyes were on her. And they probably were, she conceded. Here, rocking up late for work was quite the scandal. Janice glared at her over her glasses, the other office staff looked condescending and superior, even Vanessa raised her eyebrows and tapped her watch, silently berating her. In many other jobs, seven minutes could be easily excused. It wasn’t a very long time, after all. But not in this one. Even in the job interview, Mr. Hutchings, the senior-most partner of Hutchings & Associates, made it clear tardiness would not be tolerated. At all. In fact, he took it so seriously that repeated tardiness fell under ‘serious misconduct’ in the employment contract and was grounds for instant dismissal.
These people were stuffy—Vanessa was right. Years of having to turn up to court on time, she supposed. It wouldn’t look very good if court had to be adjourned because the lawyer hadn’t shown up yet, would it? Her face flaming, Jilly sat down. Fortunately, all the lawyers were holed up in their offices and most likely had no idea she hadn’t arrived on time but still, she felt bad. Anyway, she knew it would get back to them, thanks to Janice. Janice would make sure her tardiness didn’t go un-noted.
Heavy footsteps on the carpet behind her made her want to sink through the floor. She’d only heard him walking a few times, but already she knew who it was.
“You are late, Miss Watson. Care to explain why?”
Inwardly, Jilly groaned. No, I really don’t, her inner voice snarled. I want you to go away and leave me alone and stop drawing attention to me! You’re not my boss, you weren’t the one who hired me, you’re not the one in charge of HR. I don’t owe you an explanation at all! Instead, she straightened her shoulders, or tried to. She felt too embarrassed to straighten them properly and all that really happened was she squirmed uncomfortably.
“I’m sorry,” she squeaked. “My daughter was sick in the night and I had to wait for my mother to arrive to babysit. It won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t,” he growled, but as he said the words, he squeezed her shoulder in a way that she knew was meant to be comforting but instead, confused her. Why was he being both kind and mean? What purpose could a comforting gesture possibly serve when he’d just told her off in front of the entire office? Why not just report her to the senior partners, as Janice would do, for her to be dealt with through the appropriate channels?
Angry tears burned at her eyes. She’d never been more humiliated in her life! Or for a long time, anyway. Who did he think he was, speaking to her like that? She remembered defending him to Vanessa yesterday. He seems nice. I like him. Well, she’d been wrong. Turns out Vanessa’s assessment of him had been far more apt.
For the rest of the morning Jilly kept her head down and worked, stopping only briefly at morning teatime to use the bathroom and grab a quick cup of coffee, which she brought back with her to her desk. She’d work through the rest of her break and for part of lunch as well, to make up for the minutes she had been late that morning. I bet Janice won’t notice that though, she thought bitterly. Or Matthew.
When she heard Matthew’s footsteps approaching again she froze. He was the last person she wanted to see. But the footsteps sounded closer and closer. What did he want this time? Hadn’t he done enough damage?
She looked up. He held another stack of papers out to her. “I need these photocopied urgently,” he commanded, his voice brusque. “Bring them to my office when you’re done, please.”
The kindness in his eyes as he smiled at her was in stark contrast to the gruffness of his tone, but she didn’t return the smile. Instead she stood up and took the papers from him, noting again the way he’d organised them with sticky neon flags and big paperclips. To look at the documents, he was organised, meticulous. But when she looked at him, with the scruffy hair that was a fraction too long for The Establishment, his tie slightly crooked, and the shirt that hadn’t been crisply ironed to standards expected of a high-powered lawyer, he didn’t look organised and meticulous at all. On closer inspection, his cufflinks didn’t even match. They were both silver, but that was where the similarities ended. One looked to be a skull, the other was a disc. Oh, well, he’s halfway there, she conceded, and the thought nearly made her giggle.
She bit back the giggle before it had a chance to even make her smile, and looked at him just long enough to not appear rude.
“Yes, sir, I’ll get onto them right away.” Her tone was cool, professional. Business-like. She already had a mountain of typing to complete, draft contracts that had been scribbled out and changed that needed to be amended, but that could wait. It would have to.
She thinks you’re an asshole. Well done. It was clear from her tone of voice, the forced smile, and the stiff way she held her shoulders that she was speaking to him only because she had no choice. She wasn’t being friendly at all, but very formal. He deserved it, he supposed. Scolding her in front of everybody like that probably hadn’t been his best move, but he hadn’t been able to help himself. Scolding wayward women came naturally to him. Besides, it needed to be done. Janice would report straight back to his uncle, otherwise, and he didn’t want that. Hopefully, after that mild public scolding, Janice would think Jilly had been chastised enough.
“Thank you,” he said to her retreating back. “Appreciated.”
He watched her as she walked to the photocopier then glanced down at the mountain of paperwork she had on her desk already, and momentarily felt guilty. She had plenty of work already, and he’d just given her more. That she’d just prioritised. Why had he singled her out for this? There were any number of legal secretaries in this office; he could share his load around them all. He could, but he wasn’t going to. He felt a claim for her that he had no right to have. She tugged at his heartstrings the way nobody else did. Nobody else came across as quite so sweet and vulnerable, almost timid. Like there was something barely buried that she was deathly afraid of, but wouldn’t admit to.
He’d seen the tears that had sprung into her eyes earlier, despite her doing her best to hide them. His heart had clenched for her then, just as it did now. She needed a daddy so badly, he could tell. It wouldn’t be more obvious if she came with a siren and flashing lights, announcing it to the world. He knew that. But did she? That was the important question. Would she let him take care of her, in every way? He resolved to find out.