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Holly Thompson was struggling to get by. Between trying to pay her bills and taking care of her six-year-old niece, she worried if she’d have enough money for their next meal.
But when she saw an ad in the paper, she realized maybe there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Bryant Sommers was a hotshot NHL player. He had everything anyone could want, even though he had no one to share it with. And he was happy with that.
But he had to prove to his manager that he was committed in all aspects of his life—including being in a relationship.
That’s where Holly came in.
What started out as a business arrangement turned into so much more.
And now all he could think about was claiming Holly.
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I stared at the ramen noodles I stirred in a pot on the stove. This was the fifth night in a row ramen and nuggets were for dinner. I looked over at the kitchen table and saw my Sophie coloring, and a wave of guilt hit me. I was so not suited to be this little girl’s mother. She was a beautiful light, and I was a screw-up. She deserved so much better.
When I looked at my checking account this morning and saw the balance, I just wanted to shut down and cry.
A little more than fifty dollars to my name.
Christmas was coming, and I could barely afford to feed her a proper meal.
Out of nowhere, small arms wrapped around my waist.
“I’m sorry about dinner,” I whispered, defeated.
“Why, Mommy? It’s going to be yummy.” Her sweet voice brought tears to my eyes.
My job was to uplift her, and here she was trying to make me feel better. I looked down at her adorable face and felt my heart expand.
When my sister showed up at my doorstep four years ago with a baby in her arms, I never knew she would give me the best gift I ever could have received. I was barely twenty years old then and only in my second year of college. One look at Sophie’s chubby cheeks and big blue eyes and I fell madly in love.
So, I did what any good parent did… I decided to go to school part time and work two jobs so I could take care of Sophie. I was lucky to have Mrs. Miller across the hall, the nicest old lady on the planet. She saved Sophie and me. She was the one who helped me potty train her, who took her while I ran around trying to keep our heads above water. I didn’t know what we would if she weren’t in our lives.
“Holly?” As if Mrs. Miller had heard my thoughts, the sound of her coming through the front door was clear.
“Mrs. Miller. Come on in. Are you hungry?” I smiled at the frail old woman. Even though Sophie and I didn’t have much, I was more than glad to share my meal with her. I owed her everything.
I turned around to properly greet her when I noticed a large casserole pan in her hand. The look of complete relief on my face must have been noticeable, because my wonderful neighbor smiled gently, marched over to the oven, and turned it on.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but Sophie and I are so very grateful.” The tears sprung from my eyes at the sheer amount of kindness and grace she had given the two of us over the years. I was convinced, had it not been for her, we might have been thrown out on the street a time or two.
“Oh dear, you are my family. This is what family does.”
“Is that lasagna?” Sophie whispered in disbelief.
To a child her age, who was so used to living day-to-day and forced to eat meals based more on cost than flavor, she was smart and noticed everything.
“Why yes, it is, little miss.” Sophie ran over to Mrs. Miller and wrapped her arms around her so tightly I thought she would break some bones.
Looking at my little girl and how appreciative she was of a simple meal made me both proud and a little sad. Sophie was the best. She was loving, kind, and patient. At that moment, I knew I had to do whatever was necessary in order to make sure I could put that smile on her face more often.
“Okay, Sophie, put your toys away, come say goodnight to Mrs. Miller, and let’s get ready for bed.” Sophie jumped up and ran over to Mrs. Miller.
“Thank you for supper. It was yummy. Mommy said I can have some for lunch tomorrow. I am so excited.” Mrs. Miller smiled and wrapped her frail arms around Sophie and squeezed her to her.
“Oh, Sophie Girl, I will be sure to make it for you whenever I can. I love you, sweet girl. Sleep well and tight, and make sure those bed bugs don’t bite.”
Sophie grinned and ran off to the bathroom.
I smiled at my neighbor. “Mrs. Miller, will you stay for a tea or coffee?”
“Yes, dear. I would really love that.” I walked over and looked at Sophie in the bathroom. She was already in her pajamas and brushing her teeth without even being told. I was so blessed with her. She never had a phase where she behaved badly. She always did what she was told and didn’t complain. I never understood why my sister didn’t want Sophie in her life, because this little girl was my entire reason for being. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her.