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Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the universe decides to tilt your world on its axis.
I had a plan, and I was moving forward until the day my world was flipped upside down.
It’s a challenge I wasn’t prepared for, but one I had to face.
How do you combine the life you thought you had to the one you’re living?
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Sitting in the grass in the backyard of Ridge and Kendall’s house, I’m watching Knox show me his new ninja skills. This kid, he’s a trip.
“Sef, see?” Knox asks.
“I see. You’re the best ninja ever,” I praise him.
“That’s whats my mom tells me.” He grins and kicks the air again, making me laugh.
“Finley!” I hear a female voice call out.
Looking up, I see a little girl with dark curls racing toward the pond. A woman, I assume is her mother, is chasing after her, but she’s got a pretty good head start. There’s a fence around the pond to help protect the kids, but I still jump to my feet and cut her off at the path. Bending, I lift her into my arms, and big green eyes stare at me. She’s frozen in my arms. “The water is dangerous,” I tell her. She’s not very old. She’s about Everly’s size, so I’m guessing around two.
“Thank you,” the woman says, reaching us. She holds her hands out for the little girl, but she makes no effort to move. Instead, the girl points her finger and touches the scruff on my face, making me laugh. “I’m so sorry. She’s not really been around many men. I’m Mara.” The woman introduces herself. “This is Finley, my daughter.”
“Hi, Finley,” I say, keeping my eyes on the little girl, not wanting to scare her, especially since I’m a stranger who just scooped her into his arms. “My name’s Seth. Can you say Seth?” Green eyes just watch me.
Tearing my eyes away from the little girl, I look toward her mother and my breath knocks out of my chest. From a distance, I could tell she had the same dark curly hair as her daughter. What I wasn’t prepared for were her matching big green eyes. Finley’s are beautiful. Her mother’s… they’re striking. Like a force of lightning straight to my gut. “I—” I clear my throat and try again. “I’m Seth.”
“Thank you for your help.” She gives me a kind smile.
“No worries.” I force myself to look away from her before I reach creeper status. Or worse, her husband comes around the house and beats my ass for the thoughts racing through my mind. Although, Mara said she’s not been around many men. A quick glance at her finger shows no ring. “The water is dangerous, sweetheart,” I say to Finley again.
“You don’t go near the water without Mommy,” Mara adds. “Let’s go grab some juice.” Mara holds her hands out for her daughter, but she doesn’t reach back. Instead, she lays her head on my shoulder. Wide-eyed, Mara’s gaze flicks between her daughter and me. “I-I’ve never seen her like this. Not with a stranger or a man.” She stares at me as if me holding her daughter is a miracle or something. However, the way she bites down on her bottom lip and shifts from foot to foot, tells me she’s nervous.
“You want some juice?” I ask Mara’s daughter. She nods her little head. I look up at Mara. “Let’s go get some juice.” I turn back to Knox. “Knox, buddy. I think the ninja needs some juice. Gotta stay hydrated,” I tell him.
“Yeah, juice,” he agrees, and takes off running for the deck.
“I can take her,” Mara says when I follow him at a much slower pace.
“It’s okay. You’re my new buddy, huh?” I ask Finley. She doesn’t answer. She’s perfectly content to just rest against my shoulder. Leisurely, I take my time heading to the deck.
“Amelia and I went to college together. We were roommates,” Mara offers after a beat of quiet.
“We all grew up together,” I explain.
“Yeah, that’s what she said. She’s trying to get me to move here. That’s actually why I’m here. For a job interview.”
“What field?” I ask.
“Lots of drama.” I laugh.
“You could say that. What about you?”
“I work with Ridge, so does Tyler, Mark, and Kent.”
“Are you a mind reader?” I ask her playfully.
Reaching out, she points to the logo on my T-shirt. Her eyes rake over my arms in my cut-off sleeves before bouncing back to my face. “The shirt gives it away.” She smiles and her green eyes sparkle.
Once we reach the steps of the deck, Mara says, “Thanks for your help.” This time she doesn’t give Finley a choice. She reaches out and takes her from my arms. I wave at her, and she gives me a smile over her mom’s shoulder.
I stand still, frozen in time as I watch them walk away. I’ve never felt an attraction like this. Not ever. She’s a single mom from what I gather, and I know that’s a big deal. Hell, I like kids, love them actually. My friends are collecting them lately. I’m not sure if I’m ready to plunge into late-night feeds and stepping on LEGOs. No, as much as I’m attracted to her, and her beauty, I have to sit this one out.