The Guardian's Heart
Nominated for Book of the Year 2013 By LASR Case Thomas is always in control whether it’s on the basketball court, the lab where he works, or in his love life. He thinks he has everything all figured out. All that changes when his parents pass away during his last year of college and Case is thrown into fatherhood when he becomes temporary guardian to two adorable twin toddlers. Weeks later, exhausted and running out of time, Case must decide if he's ready to become a father to these children, or give them up and move on with what's left of his life. Then he meets Gabbie Vaulst.
Gabbie is amazing with the kids, owns her own business, and has all the right curves in all the right places. She can tell Case is attracted to her, but does he really love her or is he just settling for a surrogate Mom who can wrangle his new kids? Knowing that she's falling in love with him, she chooses to push him away until his world straightens out. Can Case prove to Gabbie, and himself, that his feelings are real? Or, is this sudden family too much for both of them to handle?
The odds, as well as members of their past who've come out of the woodwork, are against them, but when kids are involved, all bets are off.
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Genre: Contemporary | Interracial Romance
White Satin Romance
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
Gabbie heard the sound of plastic packages falling in the row behind her. A frustrated groan started to escalate, which peaked her interest. Curiosity, being her downfall every time, made her wander into the next aisle to see a frustrated guy juggling diapers, as a small child, no more than three, used the dropped bundles as building blocks.
Normally she let the chips fall where they may, but this young guy was obviously not a father—or if he was, he was in way over his head. He looked the same age as her with his shoulder length dreads pulled back with a binder, and thick-framed dark glasses. With his striking light caramel color skin and a goatee that was starting to turn into a beard, the man stood at least six-two. What seemed to catch Gabbie’s attention the most was his firm build under a University of North Dakota T-shirt and sweatpants.
Gabbie bit at her bottom lip thinking, if he looks this hot in couch potato clothes, what will he look like dressed up?
Or better yet, undressed.
The little boy at his feet came up to his knee, with round cheeks and was a little darker than he was. The boy had a slight Afro and, when he looked up at her, she saw the deepest mahogany eyes she’d seen in her life.
The man’s frustration grew; he tossed a package of Pampers toward her and she caught it with one hand. Thank goodness for all those years behind the plate in softball, she thought.
“You know the no-shopping-cart-theory doesn't work when you have a toddler.”
“Huh,” he replied absently, “I didn't see you there,” he apologized.
“You've obviously never worked in retail and had to clean this crap up.” Gabbie bent down on one knee in front of the little boy. “Hey you, what's your name?”
“We're fine, really,” the man said right as the little boy cleared the bottom shelf of its merchandise. “Charlie, no,” he yelped.
“Charlie, huh? You made a mess, Charlie, and you need to help me clean it up. What if someone did that with your toys?”
Charlie’s big eyes, with the longest soft lashes she’d ever seen, looked at her trying to get out of the work. Gabbie scrunched her face in disapproval and Charlie started to put the diapers back on the shelf with his chubby hands, one bundle at a time. Gabbie placed a few on the shelf, but let Charlie do most of the work since he’d made the mess.
“How'd you do that?” the flustered man asked.
“He's a good boy. He's just testing your limits. Uncle? Or does his mom take him shopping?” Gabbie fished for information. God she hoped he wasn't married.
“He's my...I don't know...I'm his guardian.”
“That sounds ominous,” she replied.
Gabbie restocked the last bundle on the shelf then picked up Charlie, placed him in her virtually empty cart, and buckled him in. Charlie protested at first, but one raised eyebrow from Gabbie stopped him cold. She then grabbed size four Huggies and tossed them in the basket.
“What else do you need, Guardian?”
“I don’t even know. Look, he's my brother. My parents were killed in a car wreck two weeks ago. I had one diaper left and...” The man shook his head in despair.
“I’m so sorry. I work with kids every day. Hey, at least he’s a boy and not a girl. You’d have to deal with hair and all that stuff.”
“Girl? Oh shit, Claire.” The man ran frantically up and down the aisles crying out her name.
Gabbie frequented this Walgreens more than she wanted to admit. Something about the crappy As-Seen-On-TV aisle drew her in every time. She headed straight towards the toys and found a little girl that looked the same age as Charlie with definite dad hair pulled up into two lopsided ponytails. She sat with a smashed open package of Oreos as her chubby fingers thumbed through a picture book.
“You must be Claire,” Gabbie said as she looked at the little girl with chocolate crumbs around her mouth. True to two-year-old form she smiled at Gabbie and held a half-eaten cookie up for her. “Thank you, but you can keep it.”
“Oh my god, Claire, you can’t run off like that,” the man said as he tore down the aisle and picked her up, to which she squealed in protest. “Come on lil’ bit.”
“Claire, be nice to your brother,” Gabbie said in a calm voice.
To that, Claire looked at Charlie and passed him the half-eaten cookie, which he took with gusto.
“Thank you for finding her,” the man said, dropping the remains of the cookie package in the basket. “You must be ready to call DHS on me.”
“No, not yet. I don’t even know your name.”
“I’m sorry, Case, Case Thomas,” he said, hugging Claire closer to his chest and extending his right hand, which Gabbie shook. His hand was soft, but had worn calluses.
“Gabbie Vaulst. You know what, how about a few happy meals on me. There’s a McDonalds with a Playland about three blocks from here.”
“No, you’ve done enough.”
“I insist, Guardian, and we need to get you some diapers too I suspect,” she said to Claire.
“Right, but teach me how to choose what kind?”
“That’s simple,” she said, pushing back to the baby aisle with Case right on her hip. “First, don’t get your diapers in a drug store; they don’t have big enough packages. Boys get racecars or sports equipment. Girls tend to have princesses or little animals on them. Other than that look at the weight and figure out if they’ve out grown the last size you got.”
“You have kids.”
“Me? No. I run a daycare with my friends. As for size, well you gotta know their weight, but I’m pretty good at that since I’m always lifting kids. You know they’re pretty quiet. How old are they?”
“They turned two last Christmas and no they’re not quiet, are you, Double Trouble?” Case teased as he nuzzled against Claire’s ear. Gabbie was touched.
Charlie blew some spit bubbles at them and Claire giggled at her brother. When Gabbie picked up a package of diapers for Claire, she fell backwards in Case’s left arm, as she squealed, “No baby.”
“Wait, were you guys getting potty trained?” she asked the kids. “You go to the potty?”
Charlie smiled and clapped his now chocolate crumb covered hands. “Potty, potty oooosss...”
“Diapers are for nigh-nigh only. You two are a big boy and girl aren’t you?” Gabbie smiled at the two cherub-faced kids who both seemed delighted a stranger could tell how big they were.
“I have to potty train them now,” Case said with utter fear running across his face.
“It looks like they were in the middle of training. You might want some Cheerios for Charlie.”
“‘Cause boys like something to shoot at.” She smiled at Case and added two packages of pull-ups to the cart.
“You know, I really could use a Happy Meal,” Case said, then sighed. “I may be dumb, but I ain’t stupid.” His eyes locked on hers and she caught her breath. “You may save me from myself.”