“I couldn’t sleep. I thought I’d try out the pool. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not. You’re welcome to anything here.” Including me.

Picking up a towel from the chair, she wrapped it around herself. Disappointment filled him at the loss of the view. Why, of all the women he’d known, did this one unassuming female fascinate him so?

Sara sat in the chair then picked up a cup with a tea-bag tag hanging over the edge and took a sip. Her small sound of pleasure filled the air.

“Do you mind if I join you?” For a second he feared she wouldn’t agree.

“Why not?”

It wasn’t the warmest reception he’d ever received but he would take it. Settling on the lounge next to her, he stretched out. It was nice. He didn’t take time in his life to just sit and be. Grant said nothing, knowing he’d already encroached on her time, but he couldn’t bring himself to go back inside. She shifted to get more comfortable and took another drink from her cup.

The croak of a frog and the buzz of a bug joined the other night sounds. They were too close to the city to see the stars as he would have liked.

“I’m sorry your father is putting you through all this. I know you have some harsh feelings toward him.”

“It may not have seemed that way last night but those have eased some since I’ve become responsible for Lily. Maybe it’s that they’re gone or that I have to think of someone other than myself. Or that I no longer have the time or energy to be mad.”

A few seconds went by before she said, “I admire you. It’s hard to change, especially from a direction you were going with such determination, only to reverse and go back the other way.”

He liked her thinking. “I’m not sure I’ve earned admiration.”

“You underestimate yourself. Look what you’re doing for Lily.”

Laughing self-consciously, he protested, “Don’t make me into a hero. I’m afraid I would disappoint you.”

“I don’t know about that. You have a tough road ahead of you.”

“I realize that. I’ll have to make major changes in my life. Do you think I shouldn’t fight for Lily?” He waited impatiently for her response. Why it mattered so much what she thought was a mystery to him.

“Oh, of course you should. I’m just saying it won’t be easy. Ask my father.”

“I’m sure it won’t but I’ll do what I have to do. Are you wondering why I think I should raise Lily?”

“No. It’s enough that you want her badly enough to fight for her. You’re more interested in her welfare than your feelings toward her parents. That’s what being a good parent is about.”

“Thank you for that. You’re a tender-hearted woman, Sara Marcum.” He’d said it with a note of reverence. In his experience, there were few he could say that about.

* * *

Sara had liked being complimented by Grant. Yet something about him said his respect wasn’t given freely. She wasn’t sure she deserved it either. She’d given up Emily. But she had never been hers to keep. Emily belonged to her friends. She had from the beginning. What Sara could carry the blame for was letting herself care too much. Allowing herself to think of Emily as hers. That wasn’t going to happen with Lily. She couldn’t think of Grant as hers either.

Unclear what had brought him down to the pool, she was still glad to listen. Apparently he needed to talk. He was confiding in her about his concerns. With each day they seemed to get more wrapped up in each other’s lives.

Even if she desired that relationship all the time, she couldn’t have it. Couldn’t take the chance of hurting him and Lily when she left. She knew the agony of being left behind all too well. Once again she would know pain but it didn’t matter. The decision had been made. At least her father would have a roof over his head for her sorrow. Practical things were what she needed to concern herself with, not matters of the heart. She would get over that, eventually.

“Thank you for helping me. It’s mighty supportive of you,” Grant said.

She liked hearing his voice on the night air. “I’m not sure being supportive is my most useful trait. Sometimes it gets me into trouble. Like getting married for a house.” She grinned. “What do you consider your best trait?”

“I don’t know. I’m known for putting my mind to something and making it happen. Maybe that’s the reason that I’ve never understood why I couldn’t please my father.”

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