Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(29) by Susan Mallery
“They’re so pretty.” Zoe’s voice was reverent. “I have all new clothes for school. Mommy made a lot of them, or she bought stuff at Wal-Mart. I even have new shoes. Want to see?”
Zoe ran toward her bedroom. She returned seconds later with pink athletic shoes.
“Pretty,” he told her. “Just like you.”
She beamed. “I have a backpack, too. And pencils and paper. I’m learning to write my letters. I know most of ’em from Mommy helping me read, but now I’m writing them. And…” She paused to add the right drama to the announcement. “Mommy said we’re asking Santa for a computer for Christmas.”
He wondered how many hours of jewelry making and selling a computer would cost Elissa. She’d only just gotten a new rear tire to match the one he’d bought. He knew prices had come down, but she would have to save for months. It was already late August.
He knew buying one for her was out of the question. She’d already made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with him. She’d had a fit over a fifty-dollar tire. She’d kill him in his sleep if he bought her a computer.
But he wanted to. He wanted to step in and make her life easier. The money meant nothing to him.
“Are you a handsome prince?” Zoe asked.
Walker stared at her. “What?”
“There’s always a handsome prince,” she told him. “In the stories. I asked Mommy when we’re getting ours, but she says they’re not real.” She glanced around, then lowered her voice. “I think she’s wrong. I think they are real. You’re nice and you used to be a soldier. That’s almost a prince.”
Without meaning to, he could suddenly see through Zoe. Behind her were his men and behind them, a tank. He’d seen this before, the overlaid images, and he’d learned to ignore them until they went away.
The need to run nearly overwhelmed him. Damn, he had to stay away from this kid. Elissa was right to break things off. A prince? Him?
“I’m not a prince,” he said.
“I think maybe you’re selling yourself a little short.”
He turned and saw Mrs. Ford standing in the entrance to the kitchen.
“Hello, Walker,” she said.
“Ma’am. How are you feeling?”
She held up her left hand. There was a small bandage covering the cut. “Better than the last time you saw me.”
“Buffy and Angel work things out?”
She laughed. “They’re trying. Thank you for asking.”
He shifted uncomfortably. “I didn’t mean to come in. Zoe wanted to show me her new clothes.”
Zoe nodded vigorously.
“I’m sure she did,” the older woman said. “You, of course, wouldn’t want to refuse her.”
He shrugged. “I know Elissa would have preferred…” He hesitated, not sure what to say in front of the kid.
“Things have gotten complicated,” Mrs. Ford said. “She told you?”
“She left me a note saying we were…” He looked at Zoe again. “I understand. She’s busy and has her own life.”
“Ah, so that was the explanation.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. “Meaning?”
“You’re a resourceful man, Walker. You figure it out.”
What? “Figure what out? Did something happen?”
“I don’t know.” Mrs. Ford touched Zoe’s head. “Why don’t you put your new shoes away, dear? You want them to be perfect for your first day of school.”
“Okay. Then do you want to have mac and cheese for lunch?”
“I would love that.”
Zoe took off down the hallway. Mrs. Ford turned back to him. “Elissa is scared. I’ve seen her worried, tired, concerned, but never afraid, and I don’t like it.”
He didn’t like it either.
“Who or what scared her?” Mrs. Ford asked. “She won’t tell me. But about a week ago, a stranger came calling. An older woman.” She paused. “I loathe that term, older. However, she was. A few years younger than me. Very beautifully dressed, and her car—it was lovely.”
Walker went cold, then he got mad. “Silver? A Jag?”
“I’m not familiar with car types, but yes, it was silver.” Her gaze narrowed. “You know her?”
“I have a good idea who she is.”
Zoe ran back into the living room. “I put them away.”
“Good for you,” Mrs. Ford said. She looked at Walker. “Can you fix this?”
ELISSA PACED the length of her kitchen. The living room was bigger and therefore more satisfying in the pacing department, but Zoe was playing and Elissa didn’t want to upset her by appearing agitated.
Still, she couldn’t help wanting to scream her frustration. She’d only moved back that morning, taking a quick break between breakfast and lunch to move her stuff back from Mindy’s house. Zoe had been in the house less than five hours before she’d invited Walker in.
Her daughter had told her all about his visit. How he’d admired her new clothes and shoes and had told her she was pretty. Even if Elissa managed to inoculate herself against his casual charm, Zoe was falling hard and fast.
Under normal circumstances, that would have been enough reason for worry, but with the threat of job loss or eviction hanging over her head, the pressure was really on.
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