At that, Don and Anne both turned to see two men following them. They were scraggly and unkempt, looking like they had just left a bar after an all-night drunk rather than at the zoo with families.
"Do I know you?" Don glared at them.
Anne grabbed Grace's hand and instinctively moved behind Don with the little girl.
"No, but we know you, you fucking asshole." One of them spit out as the other laughed.
Don's anger was building and he had no doubt he could take these two. "What did you say to me?"
"I called you a fucking asshole; and I might want a shot of that skinny little bitch you're with when I'm done with you." The other one snarled at Don, both of them stepping closer.
Don was at the edge, closing his hands into fists as he got ready to strike.
"Daddy, let's go!" He suddenly heard behind him and it cut through his rage. Grace was calling him; Grace and Anne were with him!
"Don maybe we should head over to the security station." Anne threw out as she saw the effect Grace's words had on him.
Don slowly turned away from the two and gathered up Anne and Grace before they quickly walked away.
"This ain't over ass hole." He heard yelled out behind him and Anne gently laid her hand on his arm. She could feel how tense he was and wondered why this, of all places, someone would do that.
Walking towards the security office, Don heard the last words but also felt Anne's small hand on his arm. It calmed him and he noticed she kept it there as they walked through the crowd.
When they got there, they reported the incident and left the building. They finished up their tour and were gone soon after. The thought of the encounter was still fresh as they drove home without talking.
As Don drove, Anne could see that he was furious but she decided she had to say something. "That was very brave of you."
Don's head snapped around to glare down at her as she was seated beside him. He glanced in the back seat to see Grace fast asleep after the long walk. "I sure don't feel brave, letting someone talk like that to us." He spat out.
Anne thought carefully about she wanted to say. "Don, brave means many things. It means putting your life at risk to save a comrade in war." She said causing Don's expression to change suddenly. "It also means being strong enough to put your ego aside to do what's best for others."
Don kept his eyes on the road but Anne could tell she was getting through to him. "I have no doubt in my mind, that in any situation, you could have taken care of those two clowns, but what if in the melee Grace had been hurt, would have it been worth it?"
"No," Don said distinctly, "No it wouldn't have been, but still -. "
"But nothing, they could have had a gun or knives. Your daughter is safe, that's what should be important, not your ego."
Don drove for several minutes quietly contemplating her words. He could find no fault, she was absolutely right, there was no question Grace's safety was everything. Finally after a few miles he spoke up. "You're right, thank you."
Anne just nodded acceptance of his answer but she wanted to add one more point. "Don I want you to know, there is still a lot of things about you I worry and question, but your courage has never been one of them."
Don turned to look at her. "Thank you again."
The following Friday brought another meeting with the partners. "I have nothing to report." Anne started. "He takes Grace to school, does his job, picks her up, takes care of her, when they are out he is protective of her, always watchful, no drinking, no negative issues. In fact he has even had his offensive tattoos covered."
"Hmmm . . . so you say no incidents at all?" Brett Langman asked, surprising Anne as he rarely ever spoke during these meetings.
'No, none," Anne answered.
"Nothing at all?" He asked again.
Anne immediately felt uncomfortable, why was he asking again, he seemed to know something. "No, why do you have different information?"
Brett looked at her for several moments seeming to want her to whither under his gaze, finally he looked away. "No, I guess not." He said very dismissively.
"That will be all Miss Summers." Mark Winters said, finishing her part in the meeting.
After she left, a different discussion was brewing. "What the fuck Brett?" Mark asked him, his question coming with heat!
"Look, my guys told me that they had an altercation and that Duncan had been cursing and combative, that they had roughed him up a bit. They said there was a fight."
"So she's lying?"
Brett shook his head, "No, I don't trust her any more than I trust them, but she seemed too certain."
Roger Evans jumped in. "Wait a minute, those two morons that were hanging around last week. Is that who you sent after him?"
"Yeah, why?" Brett asked.
"I'll tell you why, those two couldn't rough up Donald Duncan on their best day, have you ever actually laid eyes on him?" Roger asked.
"No, but they are usually able to handle somebody just fine." Brett answered.
"Well guess what, this ain't fucking usually! Donald Duncan is a damn monster and there is no way on this earth that those two piss ants you sent roughed him up. Just read the fucking file, All-American linebacker, infantry squad leader, Silver Star for bravery, six foot four, two hundred and fifty pounds of fucking muscle and those two told you they roughed him up." Roger finished up his rant shaking his head.
Mark took it all in before turning to Brett. "Look, Roger has a point, if your plan is to get him to lose control and get into a public brawl, you better come up with better opponents than those idiots, I saw them too, they may be tough when it comes to purse snatching but this is going to require a real threat."
Brett was pissed but he knew they were right. "Fine, I'll fix this. I have some other irons in the fire." He said and stalked out.
After he left, Roger turned to Mark. "He does have another point, how much can we trust miss perfect?"
"I don't know, but its something to pay attention to." Mark replied, thinking about the situation. "She may have to be told the facts of life at some point."
Driving away, Anne could not shake the feeling that Brett knew something, that he was expecting more, but what. There'd been nothing to report, the only incident that was unusual was the idiots at the zoo but nothing happened, Don walked away. Could that be it, how could they know? Something was going on but what, and if Brett knew about the zoo, maybe they were being followed, but why? It just didn't make sense. She was just going to have to stick to her charges and keep her eyes wide open.
Anne spent most of the weekend with Don and Grace, she told herself it was to keep a closer watch on them but the truth was she was enjoying being with them. They spent some time at a park, Don displayed a small amount of cooking talent by barbequing and by the end of the weekend Anne was sad to go back to what was becoming a very lonely apartment.
Don and Grace were settling into a routine and the small blips they had were fading. Tuesday evening brought a dinner of chicken nuggets that Don successfully cooked. This event brought cheers from Grace and even Anne who stopped by.
After dinner was cleaned up, Anne was getting ready to go when they were surprised by a knock on the door. Don opened it up to see Mike and Bobby standing there.
"Hey, we gave you a couple weeks, now we want to meet the little girl." Mike said with a big smile, coming into the living room. "Oh we're sorry; we didn't know you had a guest."
"I was just leaving." Anne said, but she was interrupted by Don.
"Anne please stay, I would like you to meet a couple of very important people." He motioned to Mike, "Anne Summers, this is my step father Mike Duncan." Mike showed surprise that Don would introduce him that way but stuck out his hand and Anne took it for a cordial shake.
"Mister Duncan, I recognize your name, it's nice to finally meet you." Anne said, very much in awe of the man she had only heard of. She knew he was a powerhouse; it was hard to believe this mild mannered man was the mover and shaker she had heard so much about.
"Please call me Mike." He replied with a warm smile.
Don then turned to Bobby. "And this is my brother Robert, Bobby Duncan." Again both Mike and Bobby were surprised by the introduction.
Anne again held out her hand. "Sheriff Duncan, if memory serves, we actually met in court once."
Bobby looked surprised and then the recognition came to him. "Oh, so you're the one who-," He stopped suddenly as he realized what he was about to say.
"Who what?" Anne asked politely.
Don quickly saw what was happening so he decided to jump in. "Yes guys, Anne, Miss Summers is from the attorney's office that is overseeing Grace's future."
Anne looked at him warmly, as she realized that he had expressed it to put her in the best possible light.
Mike jumped back in. "Anne please stay, maybe it would be important for you to meet Don's family."
"Are you sure?" Anne asked skeptically.
"We are!" Bobby answered quickly.
Anne stayed and was amazed by the attention that Mike and Bobby gave Grace, and she just ate it up. Within an hour, it was plain she had two more men wrapped around her little finger. But through it all, Mike seemed to be sizing her up, watching her, evaluating her as she played with Grace and chatted with Bobby and Don. Finally, Bobby insisted on taking Grace out to swing, never mentioning that he had bought it.
Mike had given Anne a look that made her stay inside while the rest went out to play. "Anne, I wanted to talk to you for a minute." Mike began.
"Sure," Anne replied with hesitation, unsure if Mike would take this opportunity to berate her for her role in all of this.
"We stayed away so they could get used to each other, but I wanted to ask you, how is he doing?"
Anne was taken back a bit by his question and the honest sincerity in his tone. "He's doing good Mike, he can't cook a bit, but he's trying." She said with a smile.
Mike smiled at that and then continued. "I have crews working here and they have been reporting back that he is doing a great job, he's calm, professional, helpful, and everything I have prayed for."
Anne looked at him and could see the pride in him at those words. "Mike, Don told me his story and your part in it. I think you should be very proud of him."
"Well, I didn't do much but what I could." Mike replied.
"Maybe, but I think Grace is a big influence too." Anne threw in.
Mike hesitated and then seemed to look deep into her, and then he turned and looked out the window at Don pushing Grace on the swing, then back at her. Anne grew a bit uncomfortable at his gaze as she felt that he could see right into her soul. Finally he spoke very carefully, "under it all, that is one of the finest men that ever lived, he's a tough nut to crack but stick with him Anne and you'll never regret it."
Anne was stunned as Mike turned and walked out the door, joining the others at the swing set. She had been standing as Mike spoke, but now she sank back down into a chair. What was that all about she wondered, what did he see in me that made him think that she would ever 'stick' with Donald Duncan and what did that mean anyway? Turning her head she saw them all outside and she so wanted to join in, but something told her that she should go. Gathering her things she left to return to her apartment.
Thursday was an interesting day for Don, he was working to get the crews working in better rhythm, in order to reduce expensive down time. That had been the big failure of this development, the poor planning of work had left the crews constantly waiting on each other. Since he took over, it was starting to smooth out and results had picked up dramatically.
He was surprised when the foreman for the concrete crew approached him. "Don, you know we should get together for a few beers tonight."
Don looked at him with a strange expression. "I appreciate the offer but I'm busy, thanks anyway." Not only was he supposed to not be drinking, he really barely knew this guy.
"Hey come on, just a beer, what do you say?" He pressed on.
"No thanks, besides I have a commitment." Don replied, he didn't feel the need to explain that his commitment was a very short blonde that talked constantly!
"My wife can watch your kid, it will just be us, we can hit a bar."
Don was taken back a bit as the foreman seemed to know about Grace. "Again thanks for the offer, but I have to pick her up from school this afternoon."
"My wife will get her, don't worry, it's just a beer, nothing more." He seemed to be pleading now.
"No, I better not; she might not be comfortable with that." Don answered, where this was going?
"What's wrong with my wife, you gotta problem with her?" The guy yelled out at Don.
Don just shook his head; he could tell that several guys in the crew were circling the two, trying to figure out what was going on between their foreman and the new manager. Several knew Don or knew of him and they were clearly uncertain why the foreman would be antagonizing him. "Look, I have nothing against you or your wife, I have a daughter that I have to take care of and that is more important than having a beer. I appreciate the offer and maybe some other time."
"Yeah, well it sounds like you just think you're too good to drink with me."
Don looked around, obviously exasperated as several of the foreman's crew started to try to calm him down. "Hey Joe, its all right man we'll have a beer with you." One of them said, trying to get him under control.
"Fuck you and him!"
Don saw him move and braced himself as the guy got closer, but before he could strike, a couple of his crew tackled him and pulled him away from the group. The forman could be heard cursing Don as he was hauled away by several of his crew.
"What the fuck happened Don? " One of the old timers asked. He had worked with Don on and off for the last few years and was happy that Don was around, getting things going.
"I have no idea, one minute the guy is all over me to have a beer with him and the next he's ready to fight." Don answered, bewildered over the whole situation. "I barely know the guy, what's his story?"
His friend looked a bit embarrassed for a minute before he answered. "I'm on his crew now and you know what loyalty is all about."
Don nodded, he did know, loyalty on a good crew is important and problems were kept between the crew. "I understand but my loyalty is to one guy and that's Mike, I can't have a foreman that attacks me for no reason."
"Don your right, we've been friends for a while, and I've been with Mike forever. The truth is that the guy is ass deep in debt and has been having problems. To be honest half the troubles here are with our crew. He's on and off again, and we spend too much time fixing instead of doing it right the first time. But do me a favor, look into it yourself, draw your own conclusions."
"I understand," Don said as he slapped his buddy on the back and left the site. Once away, he called Mike and had him come down, two hours later it was over and the foreman was gone.
Mike called Don to the side afterward. "It seems funny to me about what happened."
"What do you mean?" Don asked.
"Well it only took a few minutes of investigation to see he was a problem so that explains part of the issues on the site, but it's the other I don't get."
"Mike, I'm sorry, I should have seen the issues and dealt with it."
"No Don, you're new at this and you're doing great. You have a lot to learn as you're still in the forest phase; you know the old, can't see the forest for the trees. As a site manager, you have to learn when to spot trouble between the crews and how they all fit together. You're still looking at each team, that's why you didn't see it." Mike answered his apology. "But you'll get it, you've done wonders already, we're really picking it up here in just a couple weeks."
Mike was rubbing his cheek, deep in thought. "But I still don't get why he went from buying you a beer to wanting to fight, just seems odd." He finally said.
"I don't know, I seem to draw that, I guess."
"Maybe, just maybe . . . but still odd." Mike looked over at Don and couldn't help wondering why a guy older, smaller and weaker would get mad enough to want to try Donald Duncan on for size, especially in front of his whole crew. He just couldn't see how getting his ass whipped in front of his guys would work out to the foreman's advantage. Mike thought he better check in here more often, Don seemed to be doing great but still, it was damn puzzling.
Friday afternoon found another meeting of Anne and the partners. The partners sat stoically as Anne delivered her report as usual. "Nothing again!" She said simply.
After they all looked at each other for a few moments, Brett jumped in, "What about anyone he is associating with?"
"What do you mean?" Anne answered.
"Any contacts with anyone, problems at work, anything like that?" He asked cryptically.
Anne, once again, wondered where this was coming from. "None that I saw or am aware of."
"Well who does he associate with?" Roger threw out at Anne.
Anne just sat thinking for a minute before she answered. "Well, he did have a couple guys over to the house one night."
Roger jumped right in, "There we go, maybe we should find out their background!"
Anne looked around at the three men, noticing the expectation on all their faces that they had finally hit on something. Anne smirked. "You mean Mike Duncan and his son Bobby. I don't think the county Sheriff is really a nefarious character and I, for one, have no intention of digging up dirt on Mike Duncan."
"No," Mark Winters jumped in, quickly realizing the gravity of her words. "That is not an enemy I want to deal with in any way. That guy could bury us in a heartbeat!"
"Are you sure there were no other issues Miss Summers?" Brett asked and once again Anne got that feeling that he already knew something.
Thinking like a lawyer she took the easy way out. "Gentleman, I have stated, not to my knowledge."
"That's not an-" Roger started but was quickly cut off by Mark Winters.
"Thank you Miss Summers, that will be all."
After Anne left, Mark once again was at Brett. "How are those irons now?"
"Hey, my guy tried but some of the others there held him back so there was no fight."
Roger just shook his head, "Yeah I'll bet, held him back, he was going after Duncan and he got held back."
"That's what he said!"
"Stop it, this is getting us nowhere!" Mark cut them off. "Brett, step it up, do what you have to."
As what was becoming a habit, Anne returned to Don and Grace after her meeting with the partners. As she came through the door, Grace saw her and launched herself into her arms. "Miss Anne, Miss Anne, Daddy's cooking dinner."
"Is that a cry for help?" She asked, loud enough that Don could hear her in the kitchen.
"Very funny," he yelled back at them.
Anne put Grace down and took her hand. "Let's go see what Daddy is making, we may be going out!"
Don looked at her as she came in the kitchen. He had to smile as he saw her walk in holding Grace's hand; she was a natural mother he thought, which made him suddenly stop what he was doing.
"Hey don't stop, this could be fun to watch!" Anne told him with a laugh, interrupting his thoughts. "So what's on the menu?"
Don gave her that shy smile that was fast becoming a favorite with her. He reached down into the oven and pulled out a pan of something that actually smelled delicious. "Meat loaf!" he yelled out excitedly.
"Did you buy that somewhere and just bring it home cooked?" Anne asked, still giggling.
"No, Daddy made it, I helped." Grace jumped back into the conversation.
Later after they cleaned up, Anne was forced to admit that it was good. "You know Don, if every night was meat loaf night; you may be able to survive on your cooking!"
"Yeah, did you know they actually sell books with cooking instructions in them?" Don asked sheepishly.
Anne couldn't help but bust out laughing. "You mean you never bought a cookbook until now?" She asked between giggles.
Don just shook his head. "Well, I guess it might have been a better purchase a couple weeks ago."
'Ya think!" Anne couldn't resist teasing him again.
Later, Don looked over at her sitting on the couch and the thought he had came back to him. Grace was curled up in her lap and was totally comfortable there. He couldn't help but wonder why pretty and intelligent woman like Anne didn't have a husband and children. What would it take to win her hand he thought, but then he remembered the scene at the restaurant and her face as the old woman thought they were a family. Whatever it would take, he would never have it, that's for sure.
He suddenly felt sad and Anne caught his expression. "Something wrong?" she asked.
Don recovered quickly. "No I was just thinking I don't have anything planned for this weekend for Grace."
"You don't have to plan every weekend Don, sometimes kids just want to be with you." She replied.
"You're right; I guess I just want it to be perfect for her."
Anne didn't know what to say, he was right, he tries every day to make Grace's life perfect. "You are doing fine." She finally told him.
"Thanks" Don replied. "Well she looks like she is about out, do you want to help tuck her in." Don asked as he lifted Grace from her arms.
"No," Anne replied almost too quickly, "I should go."
Saturday came and Don was doing what Anne suggested, they had spent the day at home. They played a game, watched a movie, it was a great time for both of them. He was looking forward to a repeat Sunday when Anne showed up and the three of them spent the day doing the same thing. They walked down to a park and Don grilled some burgers for dinner.
As Monday was a school day, it was early to bed for Grace. Once again Anne stayed downstairs as Don got her bathed, and ready for bed. This time though, Grace refused to go to bed without hugging Anne.
"Miss Anne, Miss Anne, I need a hug" She said as she came down the stairs.
Anne quickly went down to one knee as Grace wrapped herself around her. "Tuck me in, tuck me in, please Miss Anne."
Don was watching from the top of the stairs, and he saw Anne's face as Grace made her request. She looked stricken, so he decided to go down and retrieve Grace himself. He had only taken a couple steps though when he heard Anne give in. "Okay, honey, I'll come up." She said, but Don could hear a slight tremor in her voice.
Don retreated to Grace's bedroom as she came in holding Anne's hand. "You sit there." Grace told her as she pointed to a chair off to the side of the room. Then she pointed at the chair beside the bed. "Daddy has to sit here while he reads me a story."
Don took his seat but watched Anne carefully, she looked shell shocked but why, he wondered. "Daddy, read," Grace blurted out interrupting his thoughts.
Don read her a few pages of the story book as she drifted off to sleep. He kept an eye on Anne but she seemed so fixated on Grace, she seemed to just stare at her the entire time. Finally, he closed the book and kissed Grace on the forehead.
Anne suddenly bolted from the room, she had tried to hold it together but the sight of Don placing a gentle kiss on the forehead of his daughter was too much for her. The memories overwhelmed her and she had to get out of there. As she raced down the stairs, the tears were running down her cheeks. Why, she wanted to scream out, why not me. Reaching the bottom of the stairs she grabbed her purse and headed to the front door only to run straight into the massive form of Donald Duncan.
Instinctively he reached out as she ran into him. She was crying and he saw the fat tears roll down her face. "Anne, what's wrong?" He asked softly but she just ignored him.
Suddenly, she looked up at him and before he could react, she violently pushed away from him, spinning quickly, she ran to the back door and out into the evening air. He followed her to find her standing on the deck looking into the yard at the swing set. "WHY! WHY! WHY!" she sobbed out.
"Anne" he said softly as she turned into him and fell limp against him. Don grabbed her just as her legs gave out. Picking her up as if she were weightless, he held her as if she were a child.
Cradling her, he sat down onto the deck, his back against the wall. He held her tight against him as she sobbed quietly. He held her for several minutes until she wiped at her eyes and started to get up. "No Anne, stay, whatever this is about, talk to me."
Anne wanted to struggle out of his arms but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She felt so warm and protected; she just let herself be cuddled as she tried to regain her composure. She wiped at her tears several times and then just gave up and let them flow. "I can't have a baby." She whispered quietly.
Don was overwhelmed by her admission but just stayed quiet and hugged her even tighter. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, suddenly all the pieces fit. Her collapse in Grace's room, her refusal to come upstairs and tuck Grace in but worst of all, her face when he asked if she had children in the Judge's chambers. Don felt a stab in his heart when he remembered the question and her reaction. "I'm so sorry Anne, I didn't know; I'm so sorry, forgive me." He said quietly.
Anne heard him through her sobs, but couldn't understand what he was saying, was this pity, what was he talking about. "What?" She asked quietly.
"With the Judge, I saw your face, I didn't know or I would have never brought it up, I'm so sorry Anne." Don said gently, squeezing her softly to him.
Anne heard and realized it wasn't pity, he was genuinely sorry for hurting her. She had to let it out she realized, she had to; it hurt too much to keep it in. "I was married." She started low and soft, "to my High School sweetheart. After college I got pregnant, a little girl, I was so happy, we were so happy."
Don just waited as she paused, he knew enough to keep quiet and let her tell her story in her own time. He actually wondered if she had fallen asleep when she continued. "I was four months pregnant, we had decorated the room, bought everything to make it perfect, and then I fell. Oh God, I tried to stay upright, I tried but I couldn't and I fell down the stairs. Oh God, I tried, I tried!"
Don felt her tense up as she worked to get it out. "I woke up in the hospital, they had to take my baby, she was dead, my baby was dead, I tried, oh God I tried not to fall."
Don held her as she sobbed. "They had to do surgery . . . and . . . oh God . . . my baby was gone. All I ever wanted and she was gone because of me, it was all my fault, I killed her . . . I killed my little girl!"
"Anne," was all that Don could get out as he held the sobbing woman in her arms.
"He left me, he wanted children and he left me because I couldn't have them. But I tried, I tried, I tried to save her . . . but she was gone, my baby, gone." Anne sputtered out, her words not making any sense as the pain engulfed her.
Anne shuddered as her crying escalated and her body became racked with convulsions. Her wailing became so mournful; Don could feel it straight into his heart. He just held her, there was nothing else he could do or say to make this better. Soon the crying became lower and then just a gentle sobbing. After what seemed like an eternity of holding her, Don felt her finally fall asleep in his arms.
Rising to his feet, he effortlessly carried her upstairs to the guest bedroom and put her down on the bed. He covered her with a blanket and dropped into a chair. Looking at her, even in her sleep, he saw the pain and anguish on her face. What kind of man would do this to her he wondered. Without thinking he leaned over and kissed her forehead, the same way he kissed Grace every night. "I never would," he whispered to her as he closed the door and went to his room.
Don tossed and turned the entire night, Anne's words kept running through his head, which coupled with what would come of morning, made for a long night. He was up and dressed before his alarm went off. Shutting it off before it rang; he sat down on the bed to consider his options. Should he go to wake Anne, leave her be, pretend it didn't happen, he had no idea what was best. He knew she would be embarrassed because of her breakdown in his arms and he realized that he didn't want her to be. For some reason, he wanted to support her and be there for her.
With a feeling of determination, he quietly left his bedroom and walked down the hall. He entered the room and silently sat down in the same chair he had occupied the night before. She was curled up facing him, her hair looked like a tangled mess and her face was streaked with makeup. Unlike last night, she looked at peace, gone was pain that he had seen only a few hours ago, instead he saw in her the same angel that he saw in his daughter. As Don watched her sleep, suddenly the craziest thought crossed his mind. What would it be like to see her like this every morning? The idea made him smile for a second before reality came to him and his face fell a bit. Once again, the scene at the restaurant came back to him and he knew that she was here because of her job and that was all it was.
Anne must have felt his presence and started to stir. Without thinking Don reached over and brushed a few strands of hair out of her face as he saw her eyes flutter open. "Morning," he said softly.
Anne's eyes opened wide as she realized where she was. She started to throw back the blanket but the sight of Don looking into her eyes stopped her. His eyes were so soft and caring, it made her snuggle down into the bed. "Morning," she whispered back.
"How do you feel?" again his voice so gentle it seemed to put her even more at ease.
But unfortunately the question brought last night's events back to her and he could see her eyes start to moisten and she quickly looked away.
"Hey now, its okay, I guess we both have some things we need to work on." Again, he gingerly brushed her hair from her face.
Looking back to him, Anne just slowly nodded.
"I have to get Grace up, why don't you clean up and come downstairs. I can offer you some toast and jelly or maybe you'd like me to attempt a huge breakfast?" He said with a small grin.
Anne felt the tension leave her and she knew he was trying to lighten the moment. "Toast will be just fine; I think I have enough trouble."
He saw her smile as she said it and he couldn't help himself, he reached over and very softly caressed her cheek.
Anne closed her eyes as she felt his huge hand touch her cheek, and when she opened them he was gone. Lying there, she was warmed by how he had made her feel. He had taken away any embarrassment from the night before and she was so thankful for that. But it was the gentle way he had spoken to her and touched her that made her feel so incredibly special. She had seen him act that way with Grace as he showed how much he cared for her, it struck her that maybe he cared for her too.
Getting out of bed, she dismissed that idea as soon as it came to her. He was probably just being nice so he could keep Grace. After all, that was really what she was doing here, trying to get evidence that he was an unfit father, but she had to admit, that was getting harder every day.
"Miss Anne, did you have a sleep over?" Grace asked with wide eyes as Anne came downstairs.
"Ah," Anne looked stricken as Don smiled at her embarrassment.
"Miss Anne wanted to take you to school and see where you went, so she came early, isn't that right Miss Anne?" Don said with a wink.
"Yeah, that's right, I want to see your school." Anne replied and gave a relieved look to Don.
"Please Anne, sit down, we have yummy toast and jelly." Don added with a grin.
Grace was excited by having them both there and had to be constantly reminded to eat breakfast. She kept a running commentary about her school to Anne who kept asking her questions to keep her going, all to Don's chagrin. The more he tried to get her to eat, the more Anne kept her talking. Finally, Don decided she had enough breakfast and physically picked her up and took her upstairs to get dressed. Anne could hear her giggling the whole way up the stairs.
Don came back down while Grace got dressed and glared at her. "You know you're not going to be invited to any more sleep overs if you don't behave!"
Anne couldn't help it and started laughing at Don's apparent frustration, but he couldn't hold in his laughter either. "Well at least you can help clean up!"
As Don picked up some dishes, Anne helped put away the remaining items. She watched him stack the dishwasher before she gently laid her small hand on his huge arm. "Don, I . . . ah, well . . thank you."
Her hand was still resting on his arm as he patted it gently with his other hand. He looked at her for a long moment and then seemed to want to say something, but instead just nodded.
"Miss Anne, I'm ready to go!" Grace yelled out as she came down the stairs.
Anne gave Don's arm a small squeeze and then turned to the excited little girl. "Well let's go then!"
"Daddy, Daddy, you have to give me my hug and kiss now, cause Miss Anne is taking me to school." Grace said, explaining how it had to be to Don.
Don came over and picked her up and pulled her in to a big hug as he growled like a bear, which set off Grace giggling again. He gave her an exaggerated kiss and then set her back down. Once she hit the ground, she ran to the door. "Miss Anne, we have to go now!"
Anne gave Don a big smile, "I think I have my orders."
After they left Don tried to once again get a handle on the weekend, but then he realized that he had to get to work himself.
The week was going great for Don, without the disgruntled foreman, the crews were really starting to work together. He had done a couple of tours of his home and they were very interested so he turned them over to the sales staff.
Anne was the only worry, she was absent for most of the week and Don was starting to worry that the incident on Sunday night was more than he thought it was. He was surprised that he was missing her as her absence made it better for him; he didn't have to worry about her looking over his shoulder. But he was missing her and he could tell that was Grace was too. She asked about Anne almost constantly and by Thursday she was really sad.
"Miss Anne, Miss Anne," Don heard Grace yell out as he finished putting the last of the dinner dishes away Thursday night.
When he got to the living room, he saw that Anne was down on one knee giving Grace a big hug. Grace was holding on to her for dear life and was in no hurry to let go.
"I'm sorry Anne, you missed dinner." Don said with a smile.
"That's okay." Anne replied coolly.
Don noticed that she didn't comment about dinner and so he went back to the kitchen. He could hear Grace filling Anne in on the events of the week, so he finished up his chores before returning to the living room.
"Grace, time to get ready for bed." Don told her as she sat with Anne chatting.
"Ahwww Daddy, Miss Anne just got here."
"I know honey, let's go up and get you ready and then you can come down stairs for a few minutes, okay?"
'Okay, I will be right back, Miss Anne, don't leave." Grace told her as she ran upstairs.
Don looked at Anne for a second but she didn't return his glance, she simply sat stoically as he went up to get Grace ready for bed.
As he headed upstairs he wondered what was going on but quickly got involved with getting Grace ready. After getting her in her nightie, she ran down the stairs and sat next to Anne and resumed her chatter.
Anne seemed to be distracted as she listened to Grace, she was paying attention but not really interacting very well. Don listened to Grace for a few minutes before announcing it was time for bed.
"Tuck me in!" Grace jumped up and grabbed Anne's hand as if to pull her up.
Don watched Anne carefully as she seemed to mull it over, he could see the conflicting emotions cross her face. Finally she made up her mind. "Sure." She answered and got up.
"Do you want to take care of her Anne?" Don asked carefully.
Anne turned to him, still holding Grace's hand. She hesitated for a second before a small smile came to her. "I would, thank you."
Don simply nodded. "Give me goodnight kiss, Miss Anne will tuck you in." He told Grace who gave a squeal, and then ran to him and gave him a very quick hug and kiss.
He could see she was excited as she ran back to Anne and grabbed her hand so they could go upstairs.
Don had to chuckle as he knew Grace would make sure that Anne did everything just right. He was a bit worried about Anne but maybe this is what she needed.
He sat quietly reading a magazine as he waited on Anne and was relieved to see her come down the stairs with a smile on her face. "Everything okay?" he asked.
"Oh yeah, she made sure I did it all right, she's all tucked in." She replied hesitantly.
"Uhmm . . are you okay?" he asked deliberately.
Anne sat down across from him and appeared to be in thought for a minute or two. "I'm okay. Thank you for your concern."
Don could tell there was something else, so he waited. Anne seemed to be trying to gather her thoughts, he could tell something was coming and it was obvious to him it wasn't good.
"Don this week," she finally started. "I have been doing some investigation."
"Of?" he asked.
"Please understand that it's my job. I was charged with making sure that you would be a good father and to document any issue that calls that into question."
"I checked on your job, who you associate with and really, what you do every day." She said.
Don was getting a bad feeling; she sounded exactly the way she sounded in the Judge's office. "I told you Anne, I have very few secrets."
She reached down into her purse and pulled something out. Holding it up for him to see she asked. "Is this one of them?"
Jan 31, 2018 in romance