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The Family Man
Melinda Curtis

The Family Man
Melinda Curtis

Uncle Knows Best?Part-time caregiver Thea Gayle is left to care for two young girls who've been abandoned by their father. She turns to the man who is the only family the twins have–their uncle, Logan McCall. But is Logan–a wildland firefighter who is never home–up to the job? Thea has to know, because she won't leave the twins with someone else who is going to let them down.Logan's been in a slump ever since his twin sister died. The biggest mistake of his life was allowing his nieces to be taken away, all because he thought he couldn't raise them on his own. He's going to try to make it right this time, by giving the girls–and Thea–the happiest home he can.

“Uncle Logan lives in Idaho.

In Silver Bend.

We used to live with him.”

Thea’s spirits deflated as quickly as they’d risen. The twins rarely mentioned their uncle. He hadn’t called since she’d begun taking care of them. He hadn’t written to ask about the girls, hadn’t sent them birthday cards. If she had to guess, Thea would say Uncle Logan didn’t care what happened to his nieces.

“Please.” Hannah touched Thea’s hand with one finger before stepping back. The gesture said so much more than the reticent little girl ever would. The twins tolerated Thea’s hugs, but didn’t seek out physical contact.

Why on earth would this uncle in Idaho help them now?

Dear Reader,

We all start our lives in different places and situations. Some of us have the advantage of coming from a secure, loving home. Some of us have a less picture-perfect upbringing. Most of us turn out all right, either through love or our own determination.

Neither Logan McCall nor Thea Gayle was raised in the ideal family. Their families and the amount of love they gave have shaped who these two are. Logan is convinced his harsh upbringing makes him unworthy of having a family, while Thea is not sure she knows what a real family is. He’s heartless. She’s a kindhearted, lonely do-gooder. It will take a lot of determination to turn their unlikely attraction into a lasting love.

I enjoy hearing from readers—about this book or some of my others—either at my Web site (www.melindacurtis.net) or via regular mail (P.O. Box 150, Denair, CA 95316).

Melinda Curtis

The Family Man

Melinda Curtis

www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk)

To Judy Ashley, Sarah Palmero, Anna Stewart and Geri Wells

for listening to me ramble and giving me advice

about the Tin Man in the early stages.

To my family, for showing me what enduring love is all about.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

EPILOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

EVICTED. THEA couldn’t believe it.

“Can we go home now?” Hannah asked as she plucked a dandelion from the sparse grass at her feet. A gentle breeze lifted wisps of blond hair that escaped from her braid.

Hannah, one of Thea’s ten-year-old charges, was perched on the corner of a black suitcase so large she could have fit in it, had it not been stuffed with everything the girl owned. They hadn’t moved beyond the cracked sidewalk, edged with crabgrass, upon which the apartment complex landlord had left them fifteen minutes ago.

“We don’t have a home,” Tess announced in a wobbly voice. She stuck her little chin out, daring Thea or Hannah, her twin, to contradict her.

Swallowing a pang of despair, Thea stepped over her laptop computer and drew Tess to her. Not that the cramped, dark apartment had ever felt like home to Thea. This Seattle apartment was just one in a string of places she’d stayed since leaving home nine years ago. No, Thea hadn’t lived in a place she’d call home in a long time.

Next to Thea, Tess kept her body stiff, staunchly refusing to show any sign that she was comforted in any way. Tess had to be the brightest, most standoffish child Thea had ever come across. And despite Thea’s best efforts these past two months, she’d been unable to break through the barriers Tess and Hannah had erected around their hearts after their mother died.

“Home is where the heart is. You know, where you hang your hat and park your flip-flops.” Thea tried to keep the words light, knowing she failed. Their mom was dead and their dad had gone missing. And since Thea could relate to mothers leaving and dads not caring too much, how upbeat could she be? Still, she had to try. “There’s a better home for you out there. One with a…a backyard…and trees.”

Since she was a kid, Thea Gayle had tried to go through life looking for the silver lining and encouraging those around her to do the same. She wouldn’t let a few minor setbacks—like being evicted or not knowing where her employer was—get her down. At least, she hoped she wouldn’t.

Thea forced her gaze away from the mocking piles of chaos that surrounded the twins she’d been hired to care for. Three bulging suitcases, a laptop computer, several boxes of textbooks and notebooks, two pink scuffed backpacks and one box with the meager remnants of their pantry were scattered in disarray around the porch of what had formerly been their sparsely furnished apartment.

“A house.” Hannah made a wish, blew the white dandelion fronds into the air and shut her eyes tight, adding in a whisper, “A house with a staircase leading up to a magic room.”

“With lots of friends nearby,” Tess added, to Thea’s surprise.

“That’s the spirit.” Thea managed a weak smile before the trio descended back into a lost silence.

“You won’t leave us, will you?” Hannah turned her big blue eyes to Thea, her bottom lip quivering.

“No,” Thea hastened to reassure Hannah. She might only be their nanny, but she cared about them.
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