The SEAL's Secret Heirs(6)

By: Kat Cantrell


Was it so wrong to want a man who doted on her as her father did with her mother? She wasn’t asking for much. Flowers occasionally. A text message here and there with a heart emoticon and a simple thinking of you. Something that showed Grace was a priority. That the guy noticed when she wasn’t there.

Yeah, that was dang difficult, apparently. The decision to stop actively looking for Mr. Right and start going to museums and plays as a party of one hadn’t been all that hard. As a bonus, she never had to compromise on date night by seeing a science fiction movie where special effects drowned out the dialogue. She could do whatever she wanted with her Saturday nights.

It was great. Or at least that was what she told herself. Loudly. It drowned out the voice in her heart that kept insisting she would never get the family she desperately wanted if she didn’t date.

In lieu of a Happy Professional Single Girl cake, Grace settled for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from the vending machine and got back to work. The children’s cases the county had entrusted to her were not going to handle themselves, and there were some heartbreakers in her caseload. She loved her job and thanked God every day she got to make a difference in the lives of the children she helped.

If she couldn’t have children of her own, she’d make do with loving other people’s.

Her desk phone rang and she picked up the receiver, accidentally knocking over the framed picture of her mom and dad celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary at a luau in Hawaii. One day she’d go there, she vowed as she righted the frame. Even if she had to travel to Hawaii solo, it was still Hawaii.

“Grace Haines. How can I help you today?”

“It’s Liam,” the voice on the other end announced, and the gravity in his tone tripped her radar.

“Are the girls all right?” Panicked, Grace threw a couple of manila folders into her tote in preparation to fly to her car. She could be at Wade Ranch in less than twenty minutes if she ignored the speed limit and prayed to Jesus that Sheriff Battle wasn’t sitting in his squad car at the Royal city limits the way he usually did. “What’s happened to the babies? It’s Maddie, isn’t it? I knew that she wasn’t—”

“The girls are fine,” he interrupted. “They’re with Hadley. It’s Kyle. He came home.”

Grace froze, mid-file transfer. The manila folder fell to the floor in slow motion from her nerveless fingers, opened at the spine and spilled papers across the linoleum.

“What?” she whispered.

Kyle.

Her first kiss. Her first love. Her first taste of the agonizing pain a man could cause.

He wasn’t supposed to be here. The twin daughters Kyle Wade had fathered were parentless, or so she’d convinced herself. That was the only reason she’d taken the case, once Liam assured her he’d called the USO, the California base Kyle had shipped out of and the President of the United States. No response, he’d said.

No response meant no conflict of interest.

If Kyle was back, her interest was so conflicted, she couldn’t even see through it.

“He’s here. At Wade Ranch,” Liam confirmed. “You need to come by as soon as possible and help us sort this out.”

Translation: Liam and Hadley wanted to adopt Maddie and Maggie and with Kyle in the picture, that wasn’t as easy as they’d all assumed. Grace would have to convince him to waive his parental rights. If he didn’t want to, then she’d have to assess Kyle’s fitness as a parent and potentially even give him custody, despite knowing in her heart that he’d be a horrible father. It was a huge tangle.

The best scenario would be to transfer the case to someone else. But on short notice? Probably wasn’t going to happen.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Thanks, Liam. It’ll work out.”

Grace hung up and dropped her head down into the crook of her elbow.

Somehow, she was supposed to go to Wade Ranch and do her job, while ignoring the fact that Kyle Wade had broken her heart into tiny little pieces, and then promptly joined the military, as if she hadn’t mattered at all. And somehow, she had to ignore the fact that she still wasn’t over it. Or him.

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