The Surprise Holiday Dad(3)

By: Jacqueline Diamond

Geoff winced. Attorneys ought to have poker faces, Adrienne thought irritably, despite how much she’d appreciated his sympathetic glance a minute ago.

“I’m afraid that under California law, his rights trump yours,” the lawyer said. “His name is on the birth certificate, and he informs me that he took a DNA test.”

“And then skipped town,” Adrienne replied bitterly. “Where was he when Vicki went off her medication and my mom was dying? I moved in with them for Reggie’s sake. He could have used a father.”

“According to Mr. Hunter, your sister threatened to accuse him of abuse and file a restraining order,” Geoff said. “Since he was a police officer, that could have damaged or destroyed his career.”

Vicki had been capable of unreasonable behavior. Despite a sweet and loving nature during her best periods, she’d been unstable, to put it mildly. That didn’t excuse the man’s neglect of his son. “Surely he’s moved on. Married, with kids?”

“Not married, no kids,” Geoff said. “I hate to mention it, but there’s another issue.”

Oh, great. “Which is?”

“As Reggie’s father, he could claim control over the half interest in your house that his son inherited.” The lawyer paused to let that bombshell sink in.

“He could what?” Adrienne wasn’t sure why she bothered to reply, because she understood what she’d just heard. But it was unthinkable. “I’ll see him in court.”

Geoff raised a hand placatingly. “Naturally, a court will take into account what’s best for the boy. You’re an obstetrician with a steady income and a lifelong relationship with your nephew. And Mr. Hunter is, I understand, between jobs.”

“Unemployed?” Typical of Vicki’s boyfriends. “Naturally.”

“However,” the lawyer continued, “a court battle will be expensive and may not be in Reggie’s best interest. In the worst-case scenario, Wade Hunter wins, insists you buy out his half of the house and takes his son away. And since you’ve become his enemy, he refuses to allow contact.”

Tears of frustration burned behind Adrienne’s eyelids. She’d weathered so much these past few years, standing strong for her sister while taking responsibility for Reggie. Did his so-called father have a clue how hard she’d worked to find trustworthy sitters, to maintain friendships that substituted for family and to nurture her vulnerable nephew?

“An antagonistic attitude isn’t in your best interest or Reggie’s,” Geoff went on. “My recommendation is to reach an agreement with Mr. Hunter to share custody or to gain primary custody with generous visitation for him.”

Adrienne felt an urge to pound on something, except that as a doctor, she didn’t dare risk damaging her hands. Also, it would be childish. “What do you suggest I do next?”

Geoff smiled, clearly pleased at her decision to accept his advice. “He’s driving down this weekend to stay with his father, who lives in town. He’s eager to meet his little boy.”

“If he thinks he can blow into Reggie’s life and then out again...” Adrienne halted. Wasn’t that exactly what she hoped Wade Hunter would do? “Fine. Reggie’s sixth birthday party is Sunday but his real birthday isn’t until next Tuesday. I suppose this man will expect to see his son on his birthday.”

“I’ll find out if he can meet with you and me before then to lay some ground rules. How about Monday?”

Since that was one of her days off, Adrienne nodded. “Early afternoon would be best.”

“If it’s any consolation, he seemed like a rational fellow on the phone.”

Okay, so the man had paid support and sent a few presents. Still, it was hard to adjust her mental image when for so long she had pictured Reggie’s father as a jerk.

And he hadn’t been there for his son. Despite Vicki’s threats, he could have tried harder.

As she left the office, Adrienne considered how to break the news to her nephew. At this age, Reggie spun fantasies about his dad being a superhero who would swoop in to rescue him if trouble threatened. All Wade Hunter had to do was show a little kindness, and he’d capture the boy’s heart.

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