The Surprise Holiday Dad(7)

By: Jacqueline Diamond

“And if he takes my little boy away, I don’t know what I’ll...” Adrienne broke off.

“He can’t!” Stacy protested.

“Unthinkable,” Harper added. “If you need money for a lawyer, we’ll help.”

“So will we.”

“Thank you.” Adrienne struggled to regain her composure. “I already have an attorney. Unfortunately, he believes Wade has a case.”

“What kind of case?” Harper’s eyes narrowed.

“It turns out Vicki didn’t tell the whole story.” Adrienne explained about the checks and gifts.

“Sending money isn’t the same as being a father.” Stacy’s hand dropped to her abdomen, visibly enlarged with triplets due in four months. “I don’t know how I’d get through this pregnancy without Cole.”

“A real dad does whatever it takes to protect his kids,” Harper said. “Look how far Peter was willing to go to have children.”

A widow with a young daughter, she’d donated eggs so that Peter—himself widowed—could have a child by a surrogate. Unexpectedly, the two had fallen in love and were now due to be parents next June. They’d been overjoyed to learn that the surrogate was carrying twin boys.

Adrienne glanced toward the interior of the house, expecting to hear the bell, which she’d turned on high for today. No one had arrived yet, though, giving her a few more minutes. “I haven’t even told Reggie his father might be here next week.”

“When are you planning to break the news?” asked Peter.

“As soon as Wade actually shows up. He’s driving down from Northern California.” Adrienne wanted Reggie to enjoy his party without stewing about his father.

“Good plan,” Stacy said. “Considering he’s been the invisible man until now.”

Harper folded her arms. “Maybe he’ll conveniently get lost on the way.”

That would be a welcome break, Adrienne thought. “Just as long as he signs that legal waiver.”

The bell jangled. “The happy hordes descend,” Stacy murmured.

Through the window, Cole waved. “I’ll get it.” Wearing a checkered apron and a dab of chocolate icing on his cheek, he didn’t look like a world-famous men’s fertility expert.

“Thanks,” Adrienne called.

She might as well relax and enjoy the party. No sense dwelling on what next week would bring.

* * *

WADE SUPPOSED HE shouldn’t be surprised to find a man playing host at the front door. Yet the lawyer hadn’t mentioned that Adrienne had a husband or fiancé.

Patty’s family had already gone inside, followed by several other groups. The mild-looking fellow kept the door open for Wade, announcing, “Hi. I’m Cole.”

“Wade Hunter.” No sign of recognition crossed the man’s face as they shook hands.

Cole’s forehead wrinkled. “You were, uh, invited, right?”

“Do lots of little boys have stray men crashing their parties with gifts?” Wade wasn’t sure why he felt cranky toward this guy, except that he’d stolen the father’s place today.

“Sorry. It’s just that we haven’t met.” Despite the apologetic tone, Cole remained blocking the entrance.

“You know all Dr. Cavill’s friends?”

“Not exactly,” the man conceded. “My wife probably does. Stacy. She’s a surgical nurse at the hospital. Do you know her?”

Way to act like an idiot, Wade. “Afraid not.” He decided to cut to the point. “I’m Reggie’s father.”

Still looking puzzled, Cole moved aside. “I didn’t realize... Come on in. The party’s in back.”

The scents of chocolate and cinnamon reached Wade the instant he stepped into the foyer. Quite a charming change from his father’s place, as were the bouncy music and cheerful voices drifting from the depths of the house. His mood lifting, he followed Cole.

Glancing into the living and dining rooms that opened off the hall, he saw comfortable, well-maintained furniture, with bouquets of flowers that he guessed came from the yard. Everything appeared tidy and fresh.

With a twist of longing, Wade recalled the house where he’d lived before his mother left. More modest than this one but just as inviting, it had smelled of lemon oil and baking. He’d hurried in after school each day, eager to eat his snack and spill the day’s events to Mom.

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