To Be a Family (Harlequin Superromance)

To Be a Family (Harlequin Superromance) by Joan Kilby

Book: To Be a Family (Harlequin Superromance) by Joan Kilby Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joan Kilby
hand and steadied herself. But she’d had a fright. Her
dark skin paled and she gripped the branch tightly with both hands.
    John focused hard as if he could hold her in place with the
force of his gaze. He forgot to be gruff. He forgot everything except the
overriding need to make his little girl safe. “Stay where you are. I’m coming to
get you.”
    She nodded, her eyes huge. John scrambled up the tree as if it
was a ladder, instinctively knowing where to place his feet and hands, not
caring when he grazed his elbow. Moments later he was level with Tuti. The trunk
swayed with his weight. Legs braced, he reached out both arms. Tuti released her
hold on the tree and dove into his embrace.
    John wrapped his arms around her, feeling her small heart
beating fast next to his. Then he pulled back and cupped her chin to look into
her watery eyes. With a different kind of gruff, he said, “Don’t you ever scare
me like that again.”
    Two fat tears rolled down Tuti’s cheeks.
    John wiped them away with his thumb. “Never mind. You’re safe
now. Hold on to my neck and we’ll go down.”
    Tuti wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his
neck. She clung on so hard she almost choked him. Going down was harder than
going up. Tuti limited his vision and he only had one hand for the tree because
he was gripping her with the other. When he got to the last fork in the trunk he
lowered Tuti into Katie’s arms then dropped to the ground.
    Katie hugged Tuti then handed her back. She said nothing but
her eyes accused him of nearly messing up. Yes, Tuti had almost fallen—possibly
because he’d scared her—but he’d done what he thought was right. He remembered
something his mother had said to him once, “Your father and I raised you the
best we knew how.” He understood that now. Kids didn’t come with a training
manual. Katie, for all her experience with her students, couldn’t feel what he’d
    He kissed Tuti on the forehead and set her on the grass then
crouched till his face was level with hers. “You scared me. I was worried you
would be hurt. Don’t ever do that again.”
    He didn’t expect an answer. Tuti still hadn’t spoken since he’d
brought her away from Bali, despite several sessions with a child psychologist.
But he hoped she would nod to show she understood.
    “Okay, Tuti?” he asked, prepared to stay there till she
    “Yes,” she whispered. “Me sorry.” And then she put her arms
around his neck and hugged him tightly.
    Something broke free in his heart and he held her closely,
struggling not to cry. She’d spoken. Only three words but it was a start. He
glanced up to see Katie touch her fingers to her eyes. Part of him wanted to
draw her into the hug, to make her part of his little family. But she herself
had reminded him she was only Tuti’s teacher. Whatever had happened between them
earlier it was too soon for an overt display of affection.
    Anyway, she’d wanted to walk away. While he didn’t agree with
giving in to everything children wanted, there was a difference between making a
point and not taking a child out of danger. Up until now he’d been relying on
Katie to know what to do with Tuti, bowing to her superior experience. This
time, she’d been proved wrong.
    Her choice of action, as much as Tuti’s recklessness, had
pushed him to rely on his own instincts. The outcome vindicated his decision. He
still respected Katie’s knowledge and ability to relate to children but from now
on, when it came to his daughter, he would trust the only reliable source for
all really important decisions—his gut.

    T HE NEXT DAY after work Katie
wheeled her mountain bike out of the garage for a test ride before going off
road. She’d told John she rode but she couldn’t actually remember the last time.
The truth hit home in the shape of a flat front tire. Inflating it with a
bicycle pump worked—temporarily. Before she was out of the driveway it had

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