A Better Father

From superstar to super dad …

Becoming a single dad was never hockey star Sam Catalano’s game plan. Now he’s turning his world upside down to give his two-year-old son, Casey, the best life he can. And buying his own childhood camp seems like the perfect way to do it. At least until he comes face-to-face with his new assistant director, and old camp flame, Libby Kovak.
Sam can’t afford to be distracted by Libby or the constant reminders of the passion they shared. His only priority is protecting Casey and making the transition as smooth as possible. But Sam’s starting to believe that the most valuable thing he can give his son, and himself, is a life with Libby in it.

“Sam, a devoted father, is a character every woman will love in Fletcher’s well-paced read about the power of love and forgiveness.” – RT Book Reviews

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SAM POCKETED THE PHONE and Casey’s stone before mounting the steps to the office two at a time. He didn’t know what kind of reception he was going to get when he walked across the kid-worn planks of the porch and stepped through the door, but whatever happened, he would undoubtedly deserve it.
With a quick check that his collar hadn’t crept up on him, and a deep breath of the mild June air, he gave a sharp rap and opened the door.
He found himself in the middle of a knotty pine office plucked straight from his memory, right down to the unforgettable mustiness of ancient wood tickling his nose. If not for the computers perched on the pair of battered metal desks, he would have sworn the past twelve years had bypassed this room.
Two women occupied the space. Myra MacLean stood near the window with her hands clasped, a nervous smile lifting the wrinkles from her face. She always made him think of the great blue herons that nested along the banks of the river with her long skinny legs and an even longer, skinnier neck. Three or four decades of eating Cosmo the cook’s famously decadent chocolate whipped cream cake hadn’t put an extra inch on Myra.
But it was the other woman who made him brace himself, the one standing in front of a table loaded with binders shooting looks of incredulity from him to Myra.
Her hair was a darker red than when he had first dared twist her curls around his fingers. Disbelief widened her hazel eyes and parted the lips he still tasted in occasional dreams. Sam had figured out long ago that Libby’s lips were what God had in mind when He decided that people should have a mouth. The kind of lips that made a promise.
“Hello, Sam.” Myra’s grin faded and her cheeks flushed as she glanced toward the other woman. “I’m sure you remember Libby Kovak.”
Like he could ever forget her.
Libby snapped that gorgeous mouth shut, slapping on a mask of politeness that was far too indifferent to fool anyone.
“Sam. Well.” She hesitated, then moved slowly from behind the table and extended a work-worn hand. “Imagine seeing you again.”
To tell the truth, he had imagined it. Many times.
He took her hand more by reflex than thought. Her palm slid into his, melded to him, and even while the rational section of his brain reminded him to grip, shake, release, another, more primitive part of him urged him to grip, tug, pull closer. This grown-up version of Libby was even more magnetic than the girl he’d left behind. Sure, he’d caught glimpses of the woman she’d become in the pictures on the camp’s website, but in those shots she was usually buried in a sweatshirt, hugging a kid, or hiding behind a clipboard. In person she seemed…softer. More feminine, though maybe that was because she was wearing some floaty kind of skirt that swayed with her every movement.
In their years together, first as campers, then counselors, Sam had seen Libby in tight jeans, short shorts and a bathing suit that made his mouth go dry. On one memorable night he’d seen her clad in nothing but starlight. So how could he still be amazed at the way the simple swirl of a skirt turned her legs into an invitation?
“Libby.” His voice stuck somewhere between his throat and his mouth, so he coughed and tried once more. “Hello, Libby. It’s been a long time.”
“Hasn’t it, though?” She pulled her hand away from his.
Damn. He thought he’d let go about three or four heart-thuds ago.
“What brings you to our neck of the woods?” She shot an unreadable look at Myra as he lowered himself onto a battered orange plaid sofa. “Just passing through?”
Her I hope was unspoken but most definitely not unheard.
He glanced at Myra for the assist. This was her cue. But Myra avoided his gaze while seating herself at her desk, leaving him gripping the arms of the sofa and readying himself to say the words.
When Sam had first looked into the camp a couple months back, he’d been astonished to find Libby listed as the assistant director. That hadn’t been her plan. Last time he saw her, she’d been days away from heading off to university, to teaching, to a life beyond the small tourist town of Comeback Cove. Even though he knew that life had thrown a curve into those plans, he had never imagined that the curve was really a circle leading her back to camp.
But once he got past the hope she’s okay stage, it had been a no-brainer to imagine how she would react to his appearance. And once she learned the reason why he was back, well…
He shuddered.
Live the goal.
“Actually, I—”
“Oh, my goodness.” Myra placed a hand to her heart, her tone far too bright to be spontaneous. “Where are my manners? Sam, would you like something to drink? Coffee, tea, hot cocoa?”
“I’m fine, thanks.” Good as a drink might be, he doubted that Myra stocked whiskey in the camp office.
“Well.” She folded her hands together again and risked another beseeching kind of look at Libby, who had perched on the edge of a chair as if ready to bolt at any moment. “Have you had a chance to look around, Sam? There have been many changes since you were last here.”
Twelve years would do that to a place. A person, too, he though, assessing the wary cast to Libby’s posture.
“We have year-round programming now, thanks to Libby’s efforts. We’ve added more cabins and expanded the dining hall and enclosed the craft building. Libby overhauled our curriculum and rewrote the staff and parent handbooks, and just last year she added an orienteering piece to the—”
“Myra,” Libby cut in, “I’m sure Sam doesn’t need to hear that. After all, he’s just here for a trip down memory lane, right?” The look she leveled at him was half daring, half desperation. “Right?”
He could curse in six languages but as far as he could tell, none of the words were adequate for what he was feeling at that moment. He took a second to breathe, slowing his heart in preparation for the hell that was about to be unleashed, when Myra finally decided to do the right thing.
“Libby. Dear. Sam’s not passing through,” she said with a heavy sigh. “He’s come to buy the camp.”