“Make one. I want to go with you.” Cole said firmly, leaving her no room to argue.

Luke expected her to do just that, but he watched in stunned fascination as Lucie locked her gaze with Cole and nodded her head.

Then Cole turned his attention on Luke, and he saw the concern written on the other man’s face. He also recognized Cole’s understanding of the situation. Lucie had to be punished for her actions, but Luke couldn’t bring himself to call the police.

Turning his attention back on Lucie, Luke forced the words out. “How do you propose we handle this situation? I don’t want to call the police, Lucie, but I don’t know what else to do. You’ve cost me a lot of money, and, unfortunately, I’m not the only one who knows about this.”

Tears began to fall from Lucie’s eyes and Luke felt like a total shithead, though he had no reason to feel guilty. He sensed Cole’s body tense, and he felt the other man’s sudden need to protect this woman. He again wondered if something had happened between these two or if he was just imagining things.

“Please don’t call the police. I’ll pay you back. I promise.” She sobbed, her eyes pleading with him.

Luke sat silent for a few minutes, letting her fidget as she waited for him to respond. He wasn’t going to call the police. He never intended to call them, but he did intend for her to pay the money back. That was the least he should do in this situation. Based on the way Cole was reacting, Luke got the impression that Lucie Werner wasn’t going to have to worry about any doctor’s bills.

“We’ll work out a payment plan.” Luke stated, glancing up at Cole and then back to Lucie. “I need to talk to Logan, and then I’ll get back to you.”

Lucie nodded her understanding and then her eyes darted back to Cole who stood up from his perch on the desk.

Luke watched, still fascinated by the way Lucie reacted to Cole and the way she stood from her seat as Cole nodded his head in the direction of the door.

What he wasn’t happy with was the inexplicable jealousy that he felt watching the two of them.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Cole shut the door to Luke’s office as he followed Lucie from the room. Admittedly he was astonished at what just happened. Both by the fact that Lucie had been stealing from Luke and by Luke’s reaction to the entire situation. Had he really just let her walk out without any sort of finite punishment? The changes he noticed in Luke were astonishing, and he wondered if Sierra had to do with it or if Luke was just getting soft in his old age.

“Lucie, wait.” Cole called out to her as she began descending the steps that would take her to the main bar area. “We need to talk.”

Lucie stared back at him in disbelief, and he wanted to smile. This woman was a total enigma. So totally devoted to her daughter, the single mother had worked for years to provide the support the little girl needed. Cole was pretty sure that no one other than him knew the full story, or the fact that Lucie opted to be a single mother all on her own. Her daughter, Haley, had a father. And Cole knew who that man was, but he also knew Lucie didn’t want anyone else to know. Especially the father.

So, for years Cole sat back and kept his mouth shut. He’d also sat back and thought he and Lucie had become friends. Apparently she didn’t think so.

“What is it that you think we need to talk about?” Lucie asked, both fear and wariness etched into her features.

She knew Cole had the ability to blow the whistle on her. To share with the world, and Haley’s father, the entire situation. What she didn’t know was that Cole would never do that. Although he tried to encourage her to. It killed him to sit back and watch the man, a very good friend of Cole’s, unknowingly go about each day oblivious to the fact that he had fathered a child.

And yes, Cole was absolutely convinced that Haley’s biological father had no idea he’d given in to urges that resulted in the birth of that beautiful little girl.

“I’ll stop by your place tonight so we can discuss this. Make Haley’s appointment and let me know when it is. I’ll be there, and we’ll take care of the money issue.”

Lucie peered back at him, and he could see her need to argue, to turn down his generosity. Surprisingly she didn’t, and Cole understood how desperate she must be because Lucie Werner had never accepted anything from him or anyone else.

Watching her intently, Cole saw the way her brain churned overtime as she tried to come up with a feasible excuse. When she opened her mouth, closed it again, before nodding her head in defeat, Cole rested a hand on her shoulder.

“It’ll work out, Lucie. I promise.”

With that she turned and walked away, not glancing back. Cole had never made a declaration like that one before, but based on the changes he was seeing, he had never been more certain that things would actually work out.

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