“Quit stressing,” Cami says, narrowing her eyes and sticking her lip out in a pout.
I open the door to the lobby and hold it for her. “Who said I was stressing?”
“I always know when you’re stressing. You get this little wrinkle right here.” She points to her forehead. “Grandma says it’s because you need Botox.”
I grunt. Thanks, Mom. “Grandma might think I need Botox, but the kind of Botox she’s talking about is never a need thing. You get it if you want it, not if you don’t. I don’t. I’m okay with my wrinkles.”
“Good. Because you’re perfect as you are.”
I freeze in my tracks, but Cami spins around and grins. “Who are you?”
Marston’s footsteps grow louder, closer, and tension ratchets tighter in my gut. Please be kind to my girl. Please don’t say anything about her father or our little drunken wedding in Vegas.
By the time I will myself to turn around, Marston is standing in front of Cami with his hand extended. “I’m Marston Rowe. I was a friend of your mom’s in high school, and I’m working at The Orchid as a business consultant for the next couple of weeks.”
My daughter takes his hand in hers and shakes it so hard that I have to bite back a laugh. “Camille Knox. I’m a jack-of-all-trades around here, and I know my mom from when she became my mom.”
Marston laughs, and Cami grins. After nearly ten years of being adorable, she struggles to maintain any semblance of modesty. “A jack-of-all-trades, huh?” He tucks his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels. “This is the kind of thing I need to know about as I evaluate the business. Tell me what all you do at The Orchid.”
Cami begins to tick jobs off on her fingers. “I dust my mom’s office because she won’t let housekeeping in there, and she gets so absorbed with her work she doesn’t even notice when there are dust bunnies piling up on her monitor.”
Marston flashes me a smile. “Is that so?”
I shrug. “Guilty.”
Cami goes to her second finger. “I teach yoga with Savannah on some Saturdays, and I’m actually better at a lot of the poses than she is. She can’t even do full splits.”
“Can you?” Marston asks.
“Yeah, I take gymnastics and dance.” She goes to her third finger. “I help Abbi take inventory when she needs it, even though it’s freezing in those walk-ins.”
The corner of Marston’s mouth twitches into a grin. “That’s important stuff.”
“I also help with the baking sometimes. That’s my favorite, but Abbi’s a control freak in the kitchen, so she doesn’t let me help with much.”
“You are a jack-of-all-trades,” Marston says.
“I don’t do massage because . . .” She shudders. “Just ew. No, thank you. I want to help with the facials—I give them to myself at home with face masks and stuff—but Wren said I have to have a special license for that. And I can’t answer the phones and make appointments until I’m sixteen.”
Marston’s eyes are bright when he turns to me. “Looks like you have an assistant-manager-in-training right here.”
I’m a jumble of mismatched emotions, and I hold his gaze, hoping my eyes can communicate what I can’t put into words. All these years, I believed Marston would see Roman when he looked at my daughter, and I believed that was all it would take to blind him to how amazing she is. Guilt lodges right beside pride in my chest—because she’s so amazing that no one would ever miss it, especially not Marston. There’s another emotion there too, one that begs me to pay attention to how good he is with my daughter. One I can’t let myself examine much. One that won’t matter by the time the divorce is finalized and Marston has returned to his life in L.A.
It doesn’t matter that Marston likes Cami. It shouldn’t matter. Then why do I have this lump in my throat and this pulling sensation across my chest?
“Mom, come on,” Cami says, going for the exit. “We have to go. Julian’s coming over to make us dinner, remember?”
The mention of Julian clears all the amusement from Marston’s face. His shoulders tense, and he finally breaks eye contact.
“You should come too, Mr. Rowe,” Cami says as I step up beside her at the door. “Mom says Julian always makes enough to feed an army.”
I rest my hand on Cami’s shoulder. “Baby, I don’t think—”
“Unfortunately, I have other plans tonight,” Marston says with one more look my way. “But it was very nice to meet you, Cami.”
“You too, Mr. Rowe. If you have any more questions about what I do here, you can find me in Mom’s office after school and sometimes the kitchen.”
Nodding, he holds the front door open for us. “Thank you. That’s very helpful.”
Cami walks out first, and I follow, pausing just outside the door. I dig my key fob from my purse and click the button. “It’s unlocked.”