Finding Forever

By: Melody Anne

“Most likely a bill collector,” she almost growled. She tossed down the washcloth and made the short trek to the front of the house just as the oven timer started buzzing. Was bad timing the story of her life? Oh, well. She was sure whoever was at the door wouldn’t take too long.

The shocked gaze from the stranger now confronting her reminded her that she must not look her best. But who cared? No one in this whole universe would call her a high-level homemaker, but at least with flour in her hair it appeared as if she were trying. If it was another visit from social services, maybe they wouldn’t threaten to take the kids away again.

But as her vision began to clear, she gazed at the man’s features. There was no way this man was either a bill collector or a worker for social services. No freaking way.

He was tall, at least three inches above six feet, with dark hair, blue eyes, and high cheekbones that looked as if they’d been sculpted from clay. Damn!

She hadn’t felt this stirring in her gut in a long time. And it was in no way welcome. Just because a good-looking man — well, to be fair, a great looking man — was standing on her doorstep, it didn’t mean she had to go all weak in the knees.

And she wouldn’t.

How could she, anyway? The guy didn’t look happy. His jaw was clenched and his lips couldn’t have been pressed together any tighter if they’d been sewn shut.

“Are you Whitney Steele?”

Should she deny it?

The well-dressed man spoke with an accent she couldn’t place. This didn’t bode well, and the situation was growing weirder by the moment.

“Yes.” Her tone of voice clearly told him to make it quick.

“If you have a moment, Ms. Steele, I need to speak with you about something important.” The stranger seemed absurdly formal, but what else should she have expected from a guy in a suit like that?

“I don’t know you, so to say you have something important to talk to me about makes no sense. Besides, I’m baking right now,” Whitney said. Her cookies were probably burning already.

He ignored her words and kept speaking. “I’m here on behalf of Frederick Felton, the paternal grandfather of your niece and nephew. He’s greatly grieved to learn of the passing of his son, and he wishes to see his grandchildren.”

Whitney looked at the man for several heartbeats. What in the world was he talking about?

“Is this some kind of a joke? Because if it is, I don’t think it’s very funny. My niece and nephew have been through hell this last year, and they don’t need to go through anything else. I know for a fact that they have no other family. My brother-in-law said all his immediate family members were deceased.”

“I can assure you, Ms. Steele, that the children’s grandfather is alive.”

Her oven timer continued to buzz, and she was torn. Should she simply slam the door in the man’s face and go back to her baking, or invite him in? He certainly didn’t look like a pathological rapist. So good manners — and curiosity — won out.

“Step inside, please. I need to take care of that timer.” She turned toward the kitchen just as smoke began filling the air. Another batch of cookies wasted, dammit, she couldn’t afford this! She turned back toward the man. “I’m sorry, but did you already give me your name?”

“No, I haven’t,” he said coolly and confidently.

Something in his eyes told her this man wielded power like most people wielded forks and butter knives.

“As I’ve invited you into my home and you’re spouting off what you seem to think of as good information, then the least you can do is give me your name,” she told him.

“I’m Liam Felton.”

“And …” Dealing with this man was slow and painful, like removing nails from a board.

“I’m the children’s uncle. I very much want to know them too.”

Whitney wanted to blast him with a brutally mocking remark, but she held herself back. “If you want to continue this conversation, you’ll have to follow me.” With that, she made her way to the kitchen to pull out the blackened cookies and switch on the oven fan. Once that was done, she turned back to the man who had followed her reluctantly.

“Ms. Steele, my time is valuable. I would appreciate your full attention,” Mr. Felton informed her.

“And do you think my time is any less valuable?” she asked incredulously.

He looked away before meeting her gaze again. Of course he thought that, but he was smart enough not to say it.

“I’m sorry to be so direct. It’s just that my father and I were unaware of the children until just a few days ago. We were quite devastated to learn of Vincent’s death, but elated to learn of the children. As I’ve said, we’d both very much like to meet them.”

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