Description, Excerpt, Reviews
He was desperate…
Neurosurgeon and widower Paul Thorpe’s thirteen-year-old daughter needs help. A genius in the operating room, he’s clueless as a father. Then he catches a segment on TV about a woman who conducted a successful eight-week boot camp to help teenage girls find their awesome…
He makes her an offer she can’t refuse…
Psychologist and life coach Bronte McPhee is too busy building her Finding Your Awesome empire to take time for romance. But she can’t turn down the money Paul offers. She and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel travel to the chillier climes of Wisconsin. After all, she’ll be back in Georgia soon.
But she’d forgotten that in eight weeks, anything could happen….
Bronte stood in front of the impressive double doors with carved fleurs-de-lis and oval frosted-glass inserts, and it didn’t impress her one bit. The door handle turned, and she straightened, eager to see the homeowner, though she and her two friends—the Three Sisters by Other Mothers—had Googled the heck out of Dr. Paul Thorpe, so she had a pretty good idea that he was good-looking, in a nerdy way, as well as wealthy.
The normal woman’s dream.
Only she wasn’t normal. Not since that summer night when she was twelve. The night that had started out with laughter—
The door opened, and she wiped thoughts of that night from her mind to concentrate on the man in front of her. The Internet pictures of him hadn’t lied about his looks—but they hadn’t told the whole truth, either. He was on the thin side, his unruly hair the only untamed thing about him. The dark brown eyes behind his thick, black-framed eyeglasses were piercing, intense, as if he were trying to see into her soul.
She gulped, and she was not a gulper. Nor a fan of intensity. She liked smiles and looseness. Fun and laughter. No way was Dr. Paul Thorpe a fun guy.
Sure, he had problems. His wife had been dead for over a year and a half, and his daughter needed her help badly. But a smile wouldn’t break his face.
She was here to teach his daughter how to be happy, but maybe she’d give him a little happy training, too. After all, a child took her cues from her parent.
“Come in.” He stepped back. A man of few words, but she’d known that from their phone calls. Too bad, because he had the kind of voice she liked to listen to: a tenor with a bit of a rasp. Smooth and fuzzy.
And sexy. Though that hadn’t convinced her to come to Wisconsin to conduct her eight-week Finding Your Awesome Boot Camp. The high five-figure amount he was paying her had been the real convincer.
She stepped inside, holding out her hand. “Nice to meet you in person, Dr. Thorpe.”
He shook her hand, and she had to admit his grip was just right. She supposed surgeons were good with their hands.
That was something that the Three Sisters had speculated about, too, amid bursts of laughter. Nothing much was taboo between them.
He looked down at Nell, the thirteen-inch-tall Cavalier King Charles spaniel standing at Bronte’s right, her mouth open in a doggy smile, her tail wagging, happy to meet a new human.
“Hailey will enjoy the dog,” he said, no inflection in his voice.
“Don’t you like dogs?”
He bent his long legs and held out his hand for Nell to sniff enthusiastically before giving his fingertips a lick of approval. Rising, he said, “I work too many hours to be a responsible dog owner. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog to leave it alone all day.”
Yet it was okay to leave his motherless daughter alone?
She stopped her thoughts. He must care, to bring her here. As if she were his daughter’s last hope. And he hadn’t balked at the ridiculously she’d quoted, hoping to discourage him.
She hadn’t wanted to do this. She’d been looking forward to a visit with Ruby and her daughter in Nashville for two weeks, sleeping on the sofa bed, writing her boot camp book during the day and either babysitting or going to clubs with Ruby at night. After that, she’d planned on going to her condo in Atlanta and working on the book and setting up more boot camps for next summer. She had plans … big plans.
But her stint here was just eight weeks, and she couldn’t justify turning down such a lucrative offer. To top it off, he’d said she might be the only one who could help his daughter.
His buttoned-down emotions were a lie. On the phone, she’d heard the desperation in his voice, and she knew how it felt for fear to tighten your throat and freeze your mind.
But not today. Not anymore. Today she focused on the awesome, and by the time she left, so would Hailey. Maybe her too-serious father would learn a few tricks, too.
“I’ll bring my suitcases in. I’m eager to meet Hailey.” The sun was shining outside, and the leaves on the trees were turning colors. She guessed that Wisconsinites thought this was a nice day for late September. But she was used to the warmer air of Georgia and wished she’d worn a light jacket.
“I have to be back at the hospital soon,” he said. “Let’s talk before you collect your suitcases.”
He turned and led the way. A man who was used to being followed. As she trailed after him, past a living room with a soaring ceiling, she stuck out her tongue at his back.
A giggle from the living room caught her attention.
To her right, a young girl was standing by a living room window, her brown hair curly. Though she was overweight, with the hint of a figure, that didn’t take away her beauty with her creamy complexion and big brown eyes.
The girl stopped laughing, her smiling lips flattening, a worried look on her face that was a distress call to Bronte. Instead of catching up to Dr. Thorpe, Bronte headed toward the girl, her arms out.
“You must be Hailey. We’re going to have fun together.” She took Hailey’s right hand in both of hers and beamed at her.
The girl’s eyes widened.
“Say hello to Miss McPhee,” her father said.
“Bronte. Call me Bronte.” Something shuddered inside Bronte that a thirteen-year-old who was already a couple inches taller than her had to be told to speak to her.
“Bronte,” Hailey half whispered, half murmured. Then she glanced down. “A dog.” Her voice lilted, full of wonder, as if she were looking at the tooth fairy.
Bronte let go of her hand. “That’s Nell. Will you take care of her while I’m talking to your dad?”
Hailey nodded vigorously. Her expression looked a bit dazed. It wasn’t the first time Bronte had seen that look on a child’s face. Or the face of an adult who was surprised to be pleased.
Her throat tightened. Every child should expect to be pleased. At least once a day, but more was better.
Every adult, too. She woke up each day expecting good things to happen.
She’d accepted Dr. Thorpe’s offer reluctantly, but as she left Nell and Hailey, she was glad she’d said yes. Fiercely glad.
They needed her here—the girl and her father—whether they knew it or not.