Tough-guy agent Shawn Jameson work in a
hospital day care? If it would help him to catch an arsonist, he'd
give it a shot. Rumors hinted that Dr. Kelley Stanton had torched
hospital records to cover up a mistake. But the beautiful doc didn't
fit the profile--and Shawn's protective instincts went on red alert.
With her reputation in shreds and her
daughter in danger, Kelley couldn't afford to notice the handsome
day-care worker. Trusting the sexy stranger could be her
downfall--but with their first explosive kiss, Kelley knew it would
be worth going down in flames...
"[Readers]...will enjoy the hero's adventures
with children." -- Cindy Whitsel,
RT Book Reviews
“Okay, sweetheart. We’re here.” Not that Kelley had
any doubt that her daughter Jenny, clad today in a
flowered T-shirt and matching red slacks, knew full
well that they’d arrived at the Gilpin Hospital
KidClub daycare center. As soon as they went through
the door into the main playroom, the blonde
three-year-old had stopped prancing at her mother’s
side and stood still, thumb in her mouth. With her
other hand, she clutched Kelley’s mid-calf black
skirt. Tears filled her brown eyes.
Before the fire, Jenny hadn’t been able to wait to
come here to play. She had always dashed into the
midst of the kids who started their day in this
charming room adorned with bright rainbows on the
walls. Mostly, the little ones congregated at one of
the child-sized tables coloring until it was time for
the caregivers to begin planned activities.
But since the fire, her daughter had demonstrated
every symptom of separation anxiety: tears, protests,
It broke Kelley’s heart every morning. But she’d
spent days home with Jenny right after the fire. Took
her to a kind counselor. When Jenny had started to
recover emotionally, Kelley had returned full time to
her demanding medical practice. Her office was in the adjoining
building, and she spent a lot of time seeing patients in the hospital
itself. She dropped in often to look in on Jenny, staying far in the
background so her daughter, busy playing, wouldn’t notice her.
Once Jenny got used to being there each day, she
seemed to thrive once more, with all the other
children to play with and the excellent staff who
watched over the kids while teaching them things
commensurate with their ages and abilities.
But those first minutes, when she dropped Jenny
“Good morning.” At the gruff, masculine voice,
Kelley raised her gaze from her daughter--until she
stared into eyes the blue of a mountain stream
sparkling in the winter sun. They looked about as
icy, too. But the man behind them was one of the most
gorgeous hunks Kelley had ever seen.
She felt her face grow pink at the direction her
thoughts had veered. But that didn’t deter her mind
from noting the breadth of shoulders beneath an
off-white shirt and leather vest. Or the slim cut of
faded brown jeans. Or the sturdiness of a set
jawline, and short hair that was a cross between dirty
gold and golden brown. And he wore cowboy boots.
“Good morning,” she returned, knowing her tone was
quizzical. Was he the father of one of the half dozen
kids settled at places along the tables? Kelley
forced herself not to look at his hands to see if he
wore a wedding ring. That wasn’t her business.
Besides, a man who looked like him had to be taken.
Either that or he had a bevy of beautiful
women at his beck and call.
Not that Kelley cared. She wasn’t interested in any
man, great-looking or not. In her experience, not one
was worth a fraction of the aggravation he caused.
“And who is this?” The man looked down at Jenny, who
only clutched at Kelley’s clothes all the tighter.
The smile on the man’s face looked as if he had sucked
on a lime.
“This is Jenny Stanton,” Kelley said, her tone
cheerful for her daughter’s benefit. “Are you the
daddy of one of the kids?”
“No, I’m the new teacher.”
What? Kelley stared. He certainly didn’t look like
the other childcare providers, mostly college-age men
and women who studied teaching and needed to earn
money in their spare time. A few were career
preschool teachers. But this man...?
He knelt in front of Jenny. “My name is Shawn,” he
told her. Then he rose. “Shawn Jameson. And you’re
No. Kelley nearly shuddered. She definitely wasn’t
Mrs. Stanton. That implied she was Randall Stanton’s
She hadn’t been his wife for two years now. And that
was fine with her.
It was her turn to force a smile onto her lips. “I’m
Dr. Kelley Stanton,” she told the man. “I’m one of
the doctors on staff here.”
Was it her imagination or did Shawn Jameson’s
straight, thick brows dip just a little before he
resumed his uncomfortable smile? “Very nice to meet
you, Dr. Stanton.” He stressed the word “doctor” but
it did not sound like an apology, which she wouldn’t
have expected anyway. But neither did she expect it
to stop just short of an insult.
Didn’t he like doctors? If so, he shouldn’t be
working in a hospital, even with children. Especially
with children, since many were doctors’ kids. But
maybe she’d imagined his reaction.
“Good to meet you, too,” she clipped out, then knelt,
though she had to extract her skirt gently from
Jenny’s hand. “Okay, sweetheart. Time for me to go,
but I’ll be back for you soon.”
“No, Mommy,” Jenny said in her sweet little girl’s
voice. “I don’t want you to go.”
Kelley inhaled, knowing the scene that was to come.
Hating it, for she always felt as if she were
hurting Jenny. “I have to, honey, but--“
“But we’re going to have a great time here today,
Kelley looked up in gratitude as Shawn Jameson took
Jenny’s hand and tried to gently lead her away.
Jenny began to cry.
Shawn’s blue eyes widened. Surely that wasn’t fear
Kelley saw in them. He glanced at her as if for help,
but she mouthed, “Thanks,” and backed away. Jenny
began to cry even louder.
The other children watched the exchange, eyes huge.
The lower lips of a couple began to quiver,
as if they might cry in sympathy for Jenny. Or
for their own absent parents.
Obviously Shawn noticed, for he looked around
“Hey,” he said, grabbing a pad of paper and some
crayons off the table. He appeared desperate. What
was he going to do? “Do you have any pets at home,
No, Kelley wanted to tell him. Don’t remind her.
Jenny wanted a puppy or a kitten. Having a pet was
even a recommended therapy to help her recover from
the trauma of the fire. But the timing wasn’t right.
If Kelley were a stay-at-home mom, the way Randall
had insisted, there would be someone to take care of a
pet. But that wasn’t reality. It wasn’t what Kelley
wanted either for herself or her daughter. She wanted
Jenny to have a strong role model.
Not the kind of role model Kelley herself had had.
“I don’t have no pets,” Jenny told Shawn, shaking her
head sadly. But at least she was no longer crying.
“Would you like one?”
It was time for Kelley to intervene. The man
couldn’t be allowed to distract her daughter by making
her feel bad about other things.
As Jenny nodded in response to his question, Shawn
said, “Well, then, you shall have one.”
That was it. Kelley began crossing the room toward
them, but Shawn Jameson must have noticed, for he held
up one large hand. Kelley paused, but only for a
minute. If he didn’t stop--
And then she got it. The man, kneeling on the floor
beside the pint-sized table, was using the crayons to
sketch on the pad. In moments, an outline of a fuzzy
spaniel puppy took shape, one with big, sad eyes and a
lolling tongue. And that with only a few strokes on
It was an adorable caricature.
“Here you are, Jenny,” Shawn said. “This is your new
puppy. And--“ He made a few more strokes on the
page. A child appeared beside the dog--a child with
Jenny’s straight, blonde hair and soulful chocolate
brown eyes. She wore a crown, like a princess.
“For me?” Jenny asked in obvious delight. Her tears
had dried, replaced by a big, amazed grin.
“For you,” Shawn replied. “But you’ll have to think
of a name for the dog.”
“Okay,” Jenny replied, her small brows knit as she
gave the matter a lot of thought.
Before she came up with a name, the other kids were
crowding around, looking at her drawing. Demanding,
“Me, too, Shawn. Please. Me next,” all in a chorus
that earned from Shawn Jameson a foolish, pleased
Kelley turned toward the door. No matter what the
man’s qualifications, he had obvious talent in one
direction. And the kids loved it.
Maybe he would work out there after all.