Callie impatiently glances down at her watch. She can see Jenna’s fair head bobbing up and down. The girl is no doubt looking for her no-show father.
She knows she shouldn’t really blame Micah. He doesn’t have a traditional, nine-to-five job. The realistic part of Callie knows he can’t ask terrorists to put their plans on hold so he can attend his little girl’s school presentation. The mama bear part that hurts whenever Jenna hurts isn’t quite so logical.
Jenna’s worked so hard on this presentation. She’s spent hours practicing her speech in front of the mirror. It’ll just crush her if Micah isn’t here to hear it.
When Jenna’s teacher steps in front of the microphone and Micah still hasn’t shown, Callie’s heart sinks. Jenna’s already had her heart broken by Micah too many times to count. Jonas, the uncle Jenna adores but who makes a poor Daddy substitute, pats Callie’s hand sympathetically.
Jenna’s the first one up to speak. Her eyes dart nervously around the auditorium. Her smile widens just as a warm body slides into the seat beside Callie. “Today, I’m going to tell you about my hero. His name is Micah Harkness, and he’s my daddy.”
Micah settles into the chaise lounge beside Jonas. He pops the top of his beer and sighs in contentment. It’s a beautiful late-spring afternoon, and there’s nothing pressing to worry about.
A high-pitched squeal from the vicinity of his pool catches Micah’s attention. He watches with affectionate eyes as Callie tosses a giggling, nine-year-old Jenna into the warm water. He can still remember a time when his daughter was terrified of water.
“They grow so fast.”
Jonas grunts in agreement. He’s watching the same scene as Micah, but his thoughts aren’t on Jenna. He sees Callie and flashes back to the solemn, grief-stricken thirteen-year-old he’d suddenly been responsible for. For years, he’d wondered if she’d ever laugh again. Sometimes, when Micah’s done something particularly thickheaded, he sees glimpses of that girl.
“I just want to wrap her up in cotton to protect her from the world,” Micah continues.
“Yeah, I know how that goes.”
“I think I’d kill anyone who hurt her or broke her heart.”
Jonas chuckles to himself. He’s felt that way a hundred times. If only Micah knew how many he’d come close to having an accident in the field. “Oh yes. I know that feeling well.”