Tempting Love - Haley & Eddie (Crossroads #5)

By: Melanie Shawn

His muted voice drifted up to the window as he called out into the street. She couldn’t make out what he was saying, but she figured he was probably calling in Miss Emily. His eyes lit up as he watched his daughter ride her bike up the driveway. Her heart skipped a beat as a small smile tugged on his full, perfect, panty-melting lips.

Bells started going off in her head. There it was. That was the reason, no matter how hard she tried, she could not get over her feelings for Eddie—because of the way he was with Emily. Haley had always had a crush on Eddie, but while watching him after he’d become a single dad, Haley had fallen irrevocably, madly in love.

Step away from the window, a small voice inside her head piped up. You are dangerously close to stalker status.

Begrudgingly adhering to the pesky little bugger inside her head, she took steps back, stopping in front of the mirror. As she studied her reflection, she tried to look at things logically. To take into consideration what her sister had so willingly and eagerly pointed out—that Eddie “was just not that into her.”

She knew that Krista could very well be right. He might not have any feelings for her. That was definitely a possibility. But deep down in her heart, she honestly believed that…he did.

* * *

“All right, squirt! Let’s bring it in!” Eddie yelled to his daughter as he wiped off the excess grease he had on his hands with a rag.

Changing the oil had taken longer than he’d anticipated. Glancing over his shoulder to the round clock that hung on the far end of his garage, he saw that he had about an hour until he needed to leave. Which meant a quick shower and then a fast and easy dinner for him and Em.

Emily happily rode her bike up the driveway, asking excitedly, “Is Haley coming over tonight?”

“Yep,” Eddie answered as he picked up the wrench and empty container of oil.

“Can I stay up until ten with Haley? I’ll do the dishes all week,” his daughter bargained, her large brown eyes beaming up at him. Her bedtime was firmly eight o’clock on school nights and nine o’clock on weekends.

“All right,” Eddie easily agreed, surprising even himself.

His parenting style normally didn’t include negotiations. If a rule was made, it was not up for discussion. When he found himself raising Emily on his own, he’d read every parenting book he could get his hands on. One thing they all seemed to agree on was that consistency was the key to raising a well-adjusted, disciplined, happy child.

Eddie wasn’t a pushover. When he said no, it was no. Big puppy-dog eyes, begging, crying, pouting—he’d seen it all after almost eight years and he was immune. In life, there were rules and there were consequences. As much as he would love to be able to protect Em from the real world, he knew that wasn’t his job as a parent, especially as a single parent. He had to prepare her for the world, not shelter her from its harsh realities.

After hearing that he was allowing her to push back her bedtime one hour, his daughter squealed with joy, jumped off her bike, and flung her skinny little arms around his waist.

“Thank you, Daddy! I love you!” Emily squeezed him tightly.

As he looked down at the top of her golden hair and felt her tiny arms wrapped around him, Eddie’s heart melted in his chest. These were the moments he lived for. The moments that put all the stress of life, the stress of parenting, and the stress of just plain living into perspective.

Eddie hugged her back. “I love you too, squirt.”

Loosening her grip, Emily looked up at him, wearing a very serious expression as she said, “I’m almost eight. I’m not a squirt.”

“You’ll always be my squirt.” Eddie picked his daughter up off her feet and spun her around several times. She giggled as she held her slim arms snugly around his neck. Setting her down, he ruffled her hair as he instructed, “Go wash up and set the table. I’m making mac and cheese and hot dogs right after I take a quick shower.”

“Okay!” Emily skipped happily into the garage to head into the house. Before she stepped inside, she paused and looked over her shoulder, a huge smile pasted across her little face. “You’re the best dad ever!” she proudly proclaimed before disappearing inside.

Eddie shook his head, smiling to himself. Of course she thought that. He’d given in and broken a rule. Maybe he was becoming a pushover. Or maybe he’d said yes because of the guilt he felt over going out and taking time for himself. Or maybe it was because he’d heard the same desperation in his daughter’s voice when she talked about seeing Haley that he felt every time he thought about their blond-haired, blue-eyed, sexy-as-hell neighbor.

Which was often. Way. Too. Often.

Especially considering the fact that he and Haley could never happen. For more reasons than he could count. Not the least of which was the fact that he was not going to get into another serious relationship, or any relationship for that matter, until Em was in college. He wanted her to have a stable home environment, even if that meant having only one parent. There was no way he was going to have a stream of women in and out of her life.