“Who was that?” Dad pulled open my door for me because even the most badass of badasses treated his daughter like a lady, and wouldn’t accept anything less from any man in her life.
My dad lumbered up behind the wheel, slapping on a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Maybe Quaid should have given my old man a list of dos and don’ts for proper court wear instead of me. At least he had left the Harley T-shirt at home and had opted for a plain black one in its place. That was totally how Brite Walker dressed to impress. I chuckled a little at the thought as he backed out of the driveway.
“New neighbor. The boys call him Wheeler. He runs a garage down in the warehouse district. Boy has skills when it comes to anything with a motor in it. I keep telling him if he comes across a 1959 Pan-Head, I’ll buy it no questions asked and have him rebuild it for me. He’s a good kid, and my boys like him.”
I lifted an eyebrow. “And he just happened to end up in the house across the street from you?”
My dad chuckled and turned to look at me, but all I could see was my own pale and pinched expression reflected back at me. Definitely not a chick that had her shit together. I wasn’t going to fool anyone.
“The boys may have mentioned he was looking and I may have mentioned there was a for-sale sign in the neighborhood. Kid’s got himself a girl and recently got engaged. He’s trying to settle down and do right. You know how I feel about a good man trying to do right.” He paused and then muttered under his breath so quietly I almost didn’t hear, “Even if he’s doing right by the wrong girl.”
“You don’t like his girlfriend?”
My dad shrugged and turned back to the road. In Brite Walker speak, that meant he more than didn’t care for her.
“The kid works hard, has raw talent when it comes to what he does. The girl seems happy to sit around and take him for a ride. She’s been around a long time and I think the kid doesn’t know anything else. Reminds me of my first wife, and my first marriage, and we both know how that turned out.”
It turned out bad … really bad. Dad had cheated with my mom, knocked her up with me, and left the first wife without a backward glance, even though they had been together since high school and she had waited for him for years while he was overseas with the Marines. He said, time and time again, that he regretted the way things ended with his first wife—she deserved better from him—but he got me out of the deal. I was his great story from that bad decision and I knew he wouldn’t trade me for anything in the world.
I chuckled again and looked out the window as we got closer and closer to downtown and to the courthouse. “It’s not your job to save every single, confused, twenty-something in Denver, Dad.”
He chuckled as well, and wheeled the big truck into a paid parking lot because there was no way to parallel-park the beast on the busy downtown streets. Even badasses hated parallel parking on crowded city streets.
“I’m retired, Avett. What else am I going to do with my time?” I guess he had a point, and as he came around to open my door, I hooked my hand in the elbow he offered, and took a deep breath. My nerves kicked into high gear and my tummy started to tie itself into knots.
“I hope they appreciate you and what you do for them.”
He patted my hand where it had gone clammy against his tattooed arm. “Doesn’t matter if they do, or don’t. I appreciate them and what they do for me.” And there it was. He was giant-sized, he took no shit from anyone, he was grizzly, and he was gruff, but there would never be a better heart than the one that beat strong and true inside of Brite Walker. He was amazing through and through. I knew I had never done a single thing in my short life to deserve him, but I was selfish and greedy enough to know I would never, ever let him go. Even if I knew I would never feel entirely worthy of his loyalty and devotion to me.
His voice rumbled over my head and distracted me from my dark musings. “You ready to do this, Sprite?”
I took a deep breath as he pulled open the door and guided me towards the security line. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”
We didn’t say anything else as we passed through the security checkpoint, the officers giving my dad pointed looks and predictably pulling him aside to run the wand over him before they let us go. We found the tiny room Quaid had instructed us to meet him in outside of the actual courtroom. When we walked in, he was already there tapping away on his phone and looking as sharp and as pulled together as ever.
Today’s suit was black and the shirt under was a charcoal gray. The silk tie knotted at his tanned throat was a pretty royal blue and all of it made him look good enough to eat. The man wore a suit well, but I was curious to know what he looked like out of it. There had been one picture Google was generous enough to share with me of him in his Army fatigues, but he was so young then—a boy, really, and not the tall, imposing man that stood before me now. I wondered if he ever relaxed, if he took the suit off when he got home and rocked a pair of tattered sweats and a stained T-shirt. I doubted it, but I would bet good money that he looked as good in casual wear as he did in a thousand-dollar suit.
His eyes roved over me and he gave a quick nod before reaching out to shake my dad’s offered hand.
“I see you took my advice to heart, Ms. Walker. This will do, this will do nicely.” I rolled my eyes at him when he called me Ms. Walker. For weeks now, I’d been Avett when we were alone in his office, and he had been Quaid. The formal title was a reminder that it was showtime and I better get my act together for the powers that be.
“Thanks. Dad picked it out and I spent forever trying to hide the pink hair. This is the best I could do.” I turned my head slightly to the side so he could see the bun, and if I hadn’t been standing right in front of him, I would’ve missed the barely there breath of what seemed like relief that whispered out of him.
“The work paid off.”
I nodded my head a little and met his chilly gaze with one of my own. “Whatever happens today is happening to me. I’m going to face the music, own up to the fact I messed up, picked the wrong person. Again. And I’m going to do that as me. Me, who has pink hair and won’t be caught dead in a power suit.” I let my eyes roll over his long and elegant frame draped in material that cost more than my dad’s monthly mortgage payment. “No offense.”
Like he would take any. No man on Earth had ever looked as good in a suit as this one did. I mean, I was pretty sure that was an actual fact.