Look at that?! Makes me feel all traditional and romantic and doing good service in the name of single fathers everywhere! Fathers who have daughters, coz as a Daddy's girl myself, I've made my father suffer. Suffer! The things that man has done with patience and a sigh and most probably several cigarettes after I've gone to bed. So this story is for the Dads to daughters. Fathers who will trek with their daughter to Topshop and endure the trauma so they can buy that skirt everyone's been on about. Fathers who will wear earplugs while their daughters sing along loudly and badly to their favourite boyband who they will marry. They totally will marry every member. Not the fat one though. Fathers who will watch that boy from across the street with suspicion because he is not allowed to look in his child's direction. Fathers who will iron school uniforms, do Design Technology homework before it is burned into a crisp, remember a much needed tennis racket and sneak a cheeky champagne to their daughter just so she knows the difference between the fake stuff and the good stuff. Thank you. You don't get enough credit.
Liam McNamara has enough on his plate. As a widowed father to a daughter he doesn't recognise, he really has no time for his mother's interference with his love life. She and her church friend can stop handing out photos of him to the single ladies of the congregation and let him try to be the paternal and maternal figure his daughter so desperately needs.
Abigail Yeboah ignores most of what happens in her mother's church. She's focused on her budding business and she's certainly not interested in playing Evil Queen to Liam McNamara's brat. But when Abigail catches his daughter in an act of vandalism, she finally understands it's not only the child who needs her, but the man.
Abigail carried on clearing down the tables. “I’d like to be home before half eight,” she said. “I’m listening, but I do need this done.”
He leaned over and took the cloth and table spray from her hands. “Hold on a moment.”
His palms were warm and rough around her wrists. It made her freeze. Er...hello? Did she miss a conversation where this was all right? He gently tugged her in front of him, looking her directly in the eyes.
“I’m sorry about Leila’s behaviour. And I do appreciate you being decent, rather than taking her to the police station. It’s what I would have done. I’m sorry for snapping at you. It was uncalled for.”
She carefully pulled her wrists from his grasp and returned to cleaning down the tables. “Don’t worry about it. Nothing was broken.” The sigh that came from him forced her to look up. There was some truth in her mother’s words. The man was lonely. “Do you want to talk?”
“To a professional?” he asked ruefully.
She lifted one shoulder. “To me. I feel like you need to talk to someone who isn’t related to you or your vicar.”
He wavered, rubbing a palm over his beard. “Are you sure?”
No. “I’ve offered, so I’d hope so.”
Bowing his head, he stared at his shoes for a moment. “I’ll drop Leila with my mother. Shall I meet you somewhere in half an hour?”
“Just come back here,” she suggested. “Get a cab, come here. We’ll get on the wine I can’t serve until my licence kicks in. Get a cab home.”
He grinned. “You said the magic word. Wine. My mum was right about you. I’ll see you in half an hour.”
His mother was what? He disappeared, leaving her speechless, holding the cloth and cleaning spray like a doofus. Crap, did she have makeup in her bag? Hurriedly finishing the cleanup, she closed the café and rummaged through her bag to find a bit of blusher and lip-gloss. A little powder toned down the shine on her nose, but nothing was going to rescue the tired T-shirt printed with Books Are Friends or her torn jeans. She brushed a hand over her cropped hair—the cut that made her mother cry for two weeks straight. It did provide endless compliments as to how it emphasised her jawline and the shape of her eyes and drew attention to her mouth. Still, she looked boyish. Hell, Liam had more hair on his head than she did. What was she doing? Why was she getting overexcited about a grieving man?
Just as she thought about how to tell him to keep his widowed arse at home, he strolled back into the café.
“You should lock that,” he said, pulling one of her mismatched chairs from the table and sitting down. “Where’s this wine you promised?”
“Aren’t we bossy?”
“We,” he pointed his thumbs to his chest, “are in need of alcohol. A lot of.”
She bolted the front door, picked up a bottle of Pinot and a corkscrew. “You open that. I’m getting some food.”
He perked up. “Food? What do you have?”
“Goat cheese tarts to start and chicken parmigiano.”
His mouth parted for a moment before he burst out, “Jesus Christ, you fucking angel.”
“Calm down.” She laughed. “Just open the wine and I’ll bring it out.”
In five minutes, she brought out the warm tarts with onion marmalade. The smile in Liam’s eyes was enough to make her feel weak and all too aware of her femininity. “Before you say, this was all made fresh this morning. I just put it in the oven to reheat.”
“This is such a luxury, I can’t tell you.” His praise was all in his groan of appreciation after his first mouthful. “I’m a cheese monster.”
“Good for you,” she teased, taking a sip of wine. “Don’t you cook?”
“I have to. But I’ve been cutting corners recently. Trying to feed a twelve-year-old who thinks you’re Satan out to ruin her life means food needs to be done in fifteen minutes or less. I used to bake.”
Abigail choked on her tart. “You used to what?”
“Bake,” he said, barely pausing in between forkfuls of tart and salad leaves. “Bread, cakes, quiches. We’d do it together.”
Abigail tried not to tense, but the sensation invaded her shoulders. The image of his demon child and his perfect wife all laughing and giggling, throwing flour at each other, did not sit well in her stomach. “Why don’t you? Any more?”
“Come on. Having fresh bread is always an incentive.”
“Nice idea,” he murmured, flicking his eyes up from the plate to rest on her. “What’s happening with your licence?”
Normally, people only ever stared that intently at her to request service or more chocolate cake. “Refused for some unknown reason. Probably because Mrs. Dalbury-Scott’s husband is the local councillor. He deals with licences and she’s called The Library a ghetto.”
The woman had an issue with Abigail ever since she offered a breakfast and tea menu for local schoolchildren at a very reduced price. It was to help out struggling parents who had to rush to get their children to school and themselves to work. More so, it ensured those children ate well before and after a long school day. Apparently, Abigail was simply encouraging riffraff into the area and alcohol would increase the number of ASBOs the council would have to give out. Abigail wouldn’t put it past Mrs. Dalbury-Scott to imperiously command her husband to refuse the licence without thinking. Only to be petty and completely fuck up Abigail’s revenue.
Liam’s brows rose. “Does she know half the kids from her daughter’s fancy school are here every day?”
“Like yours?” she countered.
“Without the egging. I’m sorry about that... You don’t want to listen to me complaining about my child.”
Not really, but if he carried on talking she’d try to ignore what he was saying and instead focus on his voice—deep and smooth and as rich as the wine they were enjoying. “You wanted to talk. So talk.”