The Surprise Holiday Dad(9)

By: Jacqueline Diamond


“I’d prefer just the two of us.” Seeing her chin come up defiantly, he changed the subject. “How’s he taking the news?”

“What news?”

“About me.” That ought to be obvious, he thought.

She averted her gaze. “I haven’t told him yet.”

Anger boiled up, hot and fast. She hadn’t bothered to prepare his son, leaving Wade to break the news himself. “Did you think about his feelings?”

“That’s all I thought about!” She glanced around, but no one stood near enough to overhear her sharp tone.

“Could have fooled me.”

“You might consider my perspective.” Tension bristled in her voice. “What if you didn’t show up? I’ve spent the past year helping my nephew deal with losing his mom. That’s all he needs, to get excited about his daddy and then be left with nothing.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” he said tightly.

“You accused me of ignoring Reggie’s feelings,” she responded. “That’s not fair.”

Much as he hated to admit it, she had a point. “Perhaps.”

She folded her arms. “Look, Mr. Hunter...”

“Wade.”

“Wade. Until a few days ago, I believed you were a deadbeat who dumped my sister and abandoned my nephew.” Her commanding expression warned him not to speak until she finished. “I understand now that wasn’t the case. But I love Reggie more than anything. I will make whatever sacrifices are necessary to give him a stable, loving home.”

“So will I.” He meant that, even though he wasn’t sure how to accomplish it. Nevertheless, he grasped quite clearly what lay ahead when Reggie hit adolescence. This aunt might be strong—no doubt a lot stronger than her sister—but that didn’t mean she could rein in a young man with roaring hormones and a family tendency to screw up. “He needs a dad. I wish I’d been involved all along, but I’m here now.”

Her shoulders tightened. “We can’t resolve this today.”

“Agreed. Well?”

“Well, what?”

“I’d like to meet him,” he said with strained patience.

Adrienne’s lips formed a thin line before she answered. “Let’s wait for the right moment, okay?” she asked. “So we can do this discreetly, without disrupting the party.”

Since he disliked creating a scene, Wade had no problem agreeing. “That suits me.” In the yard, the children had spread out to experiment with their yo-yos. “Which one is he?”

Adrienne looked astonished at the question and then responded wryly, “The dirt magnet.”

Wade laughed. No question, that was the blond boy vying with a couple girls to spin his yo-yo the farthest. The knees of his jeans were smeared with something brown and crusted, while a large leaf stuck to his hair.

One of the parents in the yard plucked off the leaf and said something about it. Reggie’s mouth formed the word “Yeah?” and he took the leaf, examining its shape.

“That’s Peter Gladstone, my friend Harper’s fiancé,” Adrienne said. “He was Reggie’s coach at sports camp last summer. He teaches biology and physical education.”

“I went to sports camp when I was a kid.” The implication that other men had filled the role of father figure troubled Wade. Still, that was better than no father figures at all. “I suppose it’s good for Reggie to have his coach as a friend.”

“It is.” Adrienne edged away. “I should be out there running the party.”

“Don’t let me stop you.”

“They’re going overboard with the yo-yos.” She waved at a boy swinging his wildly. “Hey! Cut it out!”

Peter moved in and calmed the child. Otherwise, Wade would have been tempted to intervene and possibly assign a dozen push-ups to take the edge off the kid’s exuberance.

“It’s time for the teddy-bear modeling session.” Facing the youngsters, Adrienne cupped her hands over her mouth. “Play-Doh, everybody!”

As the parents shepherded the children toward the tables, Patty spotted Wade. “Hey, Reggie!” she announced in a voice loud enough to halt a fleeing perp a block away. “Look, your dad’s here!”

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