I nod.

“Thank you. It was really nice of you to come all the way out here, but it wasn’t necessary. How did you get our address by the way?”

He holds up his phone.

“You guys are listed in the on-line school directory.”

I blush. Oh right. Duh, I forgot. I smile tentatively again.

“Actually, my parents aren’t home at the moment. I can have them give you a call when they get back if you would like? I really appreciate you coming by, but again, it wasn’t necessary.”

Michael swallows, seemingly a bit nervous. Who would have thought a man like this gets nervous?

“Actually Tilly, I came to speak with you. Is that alright?”

This time, my heart skips two beats.

“Of course, Mr. Nelson. No problem. Would you like to come in?” I ask, stepping aside to invite him into the house.

I lead him into the family room and grab us some tea, a calming rose-lavender blend. I place a few biscotti cookies on a plate and bring it out as well. It’s something I’ve seen my mom do time and again when she has company over, and guests seem to appreciate the tea and cookies.

I sit down on the far side of the couch and Mike takes the other end. He looks totally out of place in my family’s chintzy living room, with its floral drapes and homey, overstuffed couches. Come to think of it, he’s like a black panther among this mix of English roses, tea, and cookies.

But Mike doesn’t seem to notice. Instead, he fixes me with that deep blue gaze, a mix of seriousness and empathy in his voice.

“So again, I’m deeply sorry about the incident with Sam, and she was way out of line to treat you the way that she did. I hope this was the first incident between you two, and I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it is the last. I want you to understand, however, that what she did is not a reflection of who you are at all.”

I nod.

“I hear you, Mr. Nelson. I’ve learned that bullies often have their own problems, and they’re taking their pain out on others.”

He nods uncomfortably.

“You’re right. You see, my wife and I split up when Sam was sixteen. Eva, Sam’s mother, wasn’t capable of showing love. She was a happy-go-lucky woman who got into a lot of scrapes. The fact that she had a daughter was not on her priority list, and when it came to other people in her life, she was emotionally unavailable. Eva was too caught up in the merry-go-round of her own experiences.”

Michael drops his face to his hands momentarily. I’m surprised to see how moved he is by all of this. He comes off so masculine, and all-powerful in many ways. It’s interesting to see he has a sensitive side when it comes to the women in his life. Meanwhile, he continues.

“Having a mother that couldn’t show affection stunted Sam emotionally. It was a difficult thing to watch play out over the years, and I didn’t even realize it was happening at first. I should have intervened sooner, but once I realized, it was probably already too late. Eventually, I couldn’t deal with the baggage anymore. Our marriage was suffering, and I just couldn’t put up with the mental highs and lows Eva was constantly dragging us through. It wasn’t fair to Sam or to me. I filed for divorce.”

I nod, my heart in my throat. However, I don’t know what to say and keep silent as Michael continues.

“I never thought when Eva left the house, that she would leave our family entirely though. I can understand her wanting to cut ties to me, but not with her daughter. She hasn’t made one single attempt to contact Sam in over two years now, if you can believe it. And of course, these past two years have been crucial to Sam’s emotional development. Sam needed a woman to guide her because she began dating boys, wearing make-up, and dealing with fights with her girlfriends. These are things I have no experience with. She needed a mother. But with her silence, Eva made it clear that she did not need a daughter, and it’s affected Sam negatively. When her mother abandoned her, she built walls that touched the great blue sky to ensure no one else would ever touch her heart again.”

He pauses momentarily and then looks at me, those blue eyes searching.

“Do you understand, Tilly? I’m sorry if I’m coming off as sappy and emotional, but I want you to understand where my daughter is coming from. Sam feels like she’s been abandoned, and she’s been acting up ever since.”

I nod slowly.

“I sort of get it. I just wish Samantha were better able to moderate her emotions.”

Michael shakes his head ruefully, looking down at his hands.

Tags: Winter Renshaw Romance
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