Tabetha opened the text from her sister with the woman’s soon to be niece-in-law’s photo in it. With all the wedding planning, Taylor couldn’t get to the school to pick up her fiance’s niece. He was overseas somewhere closing a multi-million dollar deal, and where was the dad? Tabetha wondered in her head tapping the steering wheel trying to hold back her rising anger.
That’s the bullshit that pissed her off. Competent enough to make a baby, but when it came to really stepping up to the plate, dud. Honestly, didn’t make any sense to her.
She pulled up the text when she heard the bing. The only thing the little girl shared with her uncle, Samuel, were those emerald green eyes. Where he had dark hair she had blonde hair. Where he had a long aristocratic nose she had a short cute little button nose. Where he had wide thin lips the little girl had well shaped lips and a defined cupid’s bow. Tabetha started when someone knocked on her door. She rolled down the window.
“Sorry, ma’am, you can’t wait here. It’s a no parking zone.”
“I’m not parking. I’m just waiting.”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Unless you’re a bus, you can’t park, wait, stop, stand, idle, sit or pick your nose in this zone. See the sign?” Tabetha followed the woman’s chubby digit. Then, presented a fake smile while biting her tongue. Oh, the things she could say, but were socially unacceptable. She was in the wrong and just needed to move the hell out the way.
“Sorry, First time picking up.”
The woman’s frowned loosened. “Happens all the time. You can park in the lot right around the corner.”
Tabetha followed the woman’s instructions and parked in the adjacent lot then climbed out of the car. She knew the school was notified she was coming to pick up the little girl, Abby, but she wasn’t sure if Abby would know who she was.
Tabetha jogged up to the front of the building scoring the troves of children rushing out going to their prospective busses, or idling cars in the bus drive as the traffic lady yelled at them too. At least Tabetha wasn’t the only one.
She waved when she saw the girl searching near the edge of the curb. “Abby?” The girl looked her direction shielding her eyes from the sun. She frowned taking a couple tentative steps toward Tabetha. Tabetha cleared the rest of the space taking in the little girls slim figure, and large emerald green eyes.
“I’m Tabetha your uncle Samuel sent me.”
The little girl laughed. “No one calls him Samuel accept grandma and he hates it.”
“Sorry. I should probably know that considering he’ll be my brother-in-law soon.”
The little girl’s eyes lit up. “You’re Taylor’s sister?”
Tabetha crossed her arms. “The one and only.”
“I love auntie Taylor. Why didn’t she pick me up?” The two started walking together toward the parking lot.
“She got caught up with wedding stuff. Uh, if you don’t mind me meddling, where’s your father? I thought he was the one supposed to pick you up.”
The girl’s upper lip curled. “Where is my father? That’s a damn good question.”
“Hey, watch your language.”
The girl smirked at Tabetha from the corner of her eye. “Oh shit!” She stopped walked. Tabetha faced her and crossed her arms ready to scold her again for trying it.
“I forgot my science book. I’ll be right back!” The girl took off toward the school. What were young people coming to these days? Didn’t have any kind of respect for their elders. Just talked any kind of way. She could only imagine the girl’s father. What parent would forget about their child?
She tempered her rage when she heard her name.
“Tabetha?” She turned to find a tall well built man in a suit jacket, tie and dress pants. “Tabetha Knight?”
Her breath was stolen when recognition smacked her like a ton of bricks. She was baffled words were not coming even though she knew they should. “M-marcus Daily.” She loved him since she was in middle school; yet, she hadn’t seen him since they graduated from high school over ten years ago. Her insides moved still captured by his good looks and wide smile.
“Wow, I can’t believe it. It’s been a while.”
Again words should have came but they didn’t.
“I uh recently moved back my mom.” He confessed sadness tainting his fine baritone.
Tabetha blinked and brought her stare to her feet. “She’s sick?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Has been for a while. My brother was looking after her, but his wife got an opportunity overseas that she couldn’t pass up so now it’s my turn.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your mom.”
“Thanks. So goes life for some.” He stuffed his hands in his pocket. “Last I heard you were taking the world by storm. Started your own business making moves.” His smile was a gift from god she was convinced.
“Uh, yeah.” She nodded upset that she couldn’t find one intelligent thing to say. What was wrong with her? She always had intelligent things to say. If not intelligent at least whitty, something, anything.
“You picking up your kid?”
She nodded. “A girl.”
He nodded. “Got a boy divorced about three years ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” But she wasn’t.
He laughed, “I’m not. You still with your daughter’s father, husband, boyfriend?”
She shook her head. “No.”
Somehow his smile grew. “I’m taking Braden for ice cream a place just a block away. You and--”
“Abigail, uh, Abby.”
“You and Abby should join us.” He looked up when a handsome little boy with the same caramel eyes and brown skin called to him. Braden was walking with Abby. That’s when reality came crashing down on Tabetha. What the hell was she doing? This little girl wasn’t hers, until a few minutes ago she hadn’t even met her before.
“Hey Abby,” Marcus put his arm over his son’s shoulders. “I invited you and your mother to ice cream. It’s down the block.”
“Mother?” Abby glanced at Tabetha over her shoulder then mischief flashed across her eyes. “Uh yeah, my mom.” Abby grabbed Tabetha’s arm. “I’d like to have a talk with my mom for a minute.”
“Sure we’ll wait at the corner for a few minutes if you decide to come.”
When they were alone Abby crossed her arms over her slim chest and eyed Tabetha.
“I-I’m sorry I have no idea what came over me. I haven't seen this guy since high school that was over ten years ago and I just froze--”
“Ten years? That puts you around, what late twenties early thirties?’
Tabetha frowned. “What? Uh, yeah thirty-one.”
The girl nodded and tapped her chin. “Listen mom.” SHe emphasized the word. “I’m willing to go along with this but you’ll owe me.”
Tabetha glared. “I don’t like open ended deals.”
“I promise it will be of equal request.” The corner of her mouth pulled up. “Now you’ve got to ask yourself. How badly do you want to stare into those beautiful brown eyes.”
Tabetha raised an eyebrow. Clever, and mischievous. Now she really wanted to meet the father. “What do you know about any of that?”
She rolled her eyes. “Please, I’m not two you know.”
It was a dumb childhood fantasy she knew it, but she couldn’t help wonder what it would be like to know this guy like she’d wanted to so long ago. This is stupid. She coached herself, but time was running out and she had to make a decision. She glanced over her shoulder and met Marcus’s eyes and he revealed a full set of straight white teeth.
“Gah! Fine! But you can’t tell anyone.”
“Your secret’s safe with me, mom.”
It was an hour later when Tabetha dropped Abby off. It seemed Tabetha couldn’t stop finding words the entire ride to her father’s house. The little girl was attentive and sociable and Tabetha rather liked her. Before Abby could put the key in the lock the door jerked open.
“Where the hell have you been!” A scruffy mountain man gruffed out from under days of facial hair growth. Emerald green eyes glared from under long dark lashes. “Who the hell is this?”
“Aunt Taylor’s sister.”
“Who? You don’t have any aunt Taylor.”
The little girl rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “Uncle Sam’s fiance. You are so slow dad.”
“Don’t talk to me like that! You’re the kid I’m the adult.”
“Could have fooled me.”
His eyes darkened. “That’s it you’re grounded!”
She pushed past him and walked into the house before turning to face him. “What kind of adult forgets to pick up their kid?”
“What? Your nanny was supposed to pick you up.”
“Oh, the one you fired?”
“ You fired her for not putting your socks in the right drawer or something lame. ‘Get the hell out and don’t dare come back.’ I think, were your exact words. That was two weeks ago.”
The man ran his hand down his face. “Who the hell’s been picking you up then?”
“Uncle Sam or Taylor. They couldn’t today so Tabetha did.”
“Why didn’t Sam call me?”
“When was the last time you saw your phone dad?”
He turned on Tabetha and eyed her critically. “Do you usually pick up stranger’s children?”
“Uh, I think what you meant to say was thank you. SOmeone manners must of got lost in that beard on your chin.”
The man’s eyes danced with a amusement for a moment. “Oh yeah, thank you for bringing my kid back an hour late. What the hell were you doing for an hour any way. And you young lady, I called that damn phone you begged me to get you and you didn’t answer.”
“Look, I don’t have to listen to this shit--”
“Watch what you say around my kid.”
“THere’s nothing I can teach her that you already haven’t. THe girl’s got a mouth, Mr. Quinn. I’m leaving.”
“The hell are you implying?”
She turned and headed back to her car.
“Tabetha wait!” Abby grabbed her arm and the two faced each other.
“Abigail Marie Quinn get back in this house!”
“I’ll be there in a second.”
“Two minutes.” The man ent inside leaving the door ajar.
“What is it Abby?”
“You still owe me.”
Tabetha grumbled. “Oh that. What do you want?”
She frowned. “What?”
“I want you to go on a date with my dad.”
She must have been hearing things. “What!? Did you miss that whole exchange? No way!”
Abby crossed her arms. “You owe me. You made a promise.”
Tabetha let out a deep sigh. She hated when people didn’t keep to their word like the man that called himself her father. Her mother’s second husband was a slick talking liar and she hated him for it. “Fine. I’m a woman of my word. WHen and where?”
The little girls green eyes glowed. “Tomorrow at Travine’s at 8 o’clock.”
She kept her grumble inside. Travine’s was a really romantic seafood place near the water. What was the little ankle biter up to? Couldn’t be any good. Tabetha hated most that the girl was setting herself up for disappointment. There was no way she’d find common ground with the difficult man Abby called her father.
“Okay, I’ll be there. Good luck getting him there. You should probably leave my name out of it.” SHe headed to her car and pulled off her mind churning.
Did she mention, she hated open ended deals.