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Mitch Gallagher had a lock on my heart from the moment I began to write him. So alone, so haunted, so noble…he finds himself unwillingly sheltering a woman who broke the heart of the old man who’d saved him, but unable to turn her away for the sake of her small son. Here’s an excerpt:
Mister,” the whisper tickled his ear.
Mitch opened his eyes to see frantic blue ones.
“I can’t find the bathroom.” Davey was bouncing on his toes, holding himself.
“Unh—” Mitch groaned and sat up. “Go out on the porch.”
“What?” Blue eyes goggled. “The bathroom’s on the porch?” He was shifting from one foot to the other.
“You ever pee outside?”
If he weren’t feeling the effects of the night’s frequent interruptions, he’d laugh at the kid’s expression. Heaving himself up from the bed, he stood.
“You don’t got any pajamas on.”
Mitch reached for his jeans and slipped them on over the briefs he didn’t usually wear to bed. “Nobody invited you in my room.”
“I was—I didn’t know—”
Mitch quelled his irritation. Shrugging on a shirt, he sat down to pull on socks, shaking out his boots in a habit that was years old. “Go on outside.”
“It’s dark out there.” Davey was rocking back and forth now.
Mitch jerked on his boots and sighed, picking Davey up under one arm like a sack of feed and heading for the front door. “Where’s your shoes?”
“In my room.”
“Watch where you’re standing, and don’t walk around barefoot anymore.”
“Something will bite me?”
“This isn’t the city, kid.” He set the boy down after checking the porch for undesirables. “Okay, go ahead. I’ll show you the outhouse later.”
Davey looked confused. “Here?”
Mitch sighed again. “Yeah, here. Unless you want to wait to get your shoes, then head around to the back of the cabin.”
“Mom wouldn’t like this.”
“Mom’s not watching.”
“I’m not looking.” Mitch leaned against the support post with his back turned and listened to the aspens whisper. Very quickly, another sound joined the night.
“Wow, look how far I can hit.”
Mitch couldn’t help a grin at the boy’s delight. It brought back memories of boyhood competitions with his brother. Soon the sound stopped. “You ready?”
Davey walked back to his side. “It’s cold out here.”
“You got any warm clothes?”
“I guess. In the car.”
“We’ll have to make do, then.” He couldn’t leave Davey alone here while he retrieve them, not with her so sick. “Come back inside.”
Davey didn’t move. “What if I step on something bad? I can’t see where I’m going.”
Mitch swooped him up and settled the boy on his back.
“Wow, you’re really tall. My dad’s not so tall.”
“Where is your dad?”
The small body stiffened. “I don’t know.” The voice turned faint and confiding. “He doesn’t like me.”
A tiny corner of Mitch’s well-guarded heart opened. Welcome to the club, kid. My dad hates me. “Your mom loves you. That’s good enough.” Be grateful you have one.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Warm breath whistled across his ear. Sturdy little arms tightened around his neck. One foot brushed Mitch’s arm. It was ice-cold.
“Let’s get you back to bed.”
“I said you can call me Mitch.”
“Okay.” A pregnant pause hovered.
Babysitter… nurse… cook… what else would he have to become before he could get the woman out of his cabin? “Not sleepy?”
Soft hair brushed against his neck. “Uh-uh,” the boy whispered. “Is that okay?”
Poor kid. Not his fault his mother was heartless. Or that his dad didn’t care. Mitch had been alone since he was sixteen, except for Cyrus Blackburn. This little guy was alone in a strange place with a strange man and a sick mother.
“Yeah.” He squeezed one chilled foot in each hand. “That’s okay. Let me check on your mom and then we’ll fix some breakfast.”
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