Roman:A Cold Fury Hockey Novel(8)

By: Sawyer Bennett

We went in.

We had coffee.

We talked some more.

My daughter—at least I believe she’s my daughter—is nothing like me. And I mean that in a good way. She’s down-to-earth; the type of person who could strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I tend to be a bit more reserved, and that’s probably just due to the fact that I’ve always been a businessman first, and just a man second. But I watched Lexi talk to the customers—some of them she knew, others she didn’t—at the curved bar that serves all kinds of coffees and teas, and she was genuinely engaged with all of them. More important, they were engaged with her. Drawn to her, actually.

Lexi is hilarious and witty. She can crack out a joke or whip out a pun during the middle of a deep conversation. Yet when she listens to you, she really listens. I’m not sure I’ve ever told a joke in my life, and while she had me laughing quite a bit, I kept thinking that I don’t remember laughing like this before. It made me realize just how staid my life has become, all work and no play.

Finally, she’s a free spirit. She goes where her mood takes her. While she was incredibly close to her mother, I learned that she was sort of a vagabond-like traveler, having lived in several places across the country. In addition to her hometown of Hartford, Connecticut, which is where I knew her mother, she’s lived in Portland, Tucson, Little Rock, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. She’s always worked in service-oriented fields like the coffee shop or as a bartender. Once she worked as a short-order cook at a diner in Nashville, but she said she was a horrible cook and then laughed about the fact she may have inadvertently given some of the customers food poisoning.

Bottom line: I was entranced by my daughter.

Before I brought her back to her car at the arena, she reached into her purse and pulled out a small box that contained the paternity test. Inside were two plastic tubes with flip caps that held cotton swabs. Hers already held her DNA, and all I had to do was rub the inside of my cheek on the other, mail it, and we’d have verification. I plan on doing that tomorrow and paying for express shipping, although it will be a few weeks before the results will be ready.

I expect they will tell me what I’d already figured out based on the timing of events with her mother and her classic Brannon chin and nose.

Lexi is my daughter.

Now I just have to break this news to my other daughter, and I don’t quite recall ever being this nervous before. Gray and I are close. As close as a father and daughter can be. It’s just been her and me for most of her life, and she’s not just a chip off the old block.

She. Is. Me.

Yet somehow I fear that she’s not going to be as overjoyed at this shocking news as I am, because if there’s one thing that Gray has more than me, is a healthy dose of skepticism as she evaluates things. She looks for the worst. She looks for the chinks in armor. She tries to figure out ulterior motives. It’s all a part of her business acumen, but sometimes that doesn’t necessarily apply to real life.

I know she sure has hell suffered from that skepticism when Ryker and she first started dating, and it held her back a bit from him at first. I only hope that she can keep an open mind about all of this.

With one last tap of my fingers against the steering wheel, I square my shoulders and exit my car. Gray isn’t expecting me, as I figured the surprise of me showing up to her house tonight will be long forgotten once I drop the real surprise on her.

After I ring the doorbell, I hear the pounding of little feet across hardwood get progressively louder, and then Ruby is swinging the door open wide, grinning up at me.

“Pop-Pop!” she exclaims, and then launches herself into my arms. “What are you doing here?”

While I have to say Ryker Evans becoming my son-in-law was an improvement to my already fantastic life, the real joy is that when Gray married him I got two little granddaughters in the deal. Ryker had been raising them as a divorced single dad when he met Gray.

It wasn’t long after Gray and Ryker got married that I was dubbed “Pop-Pop” by Ruby who is six going on twenty-one. Violet quickly followed suit. She’s eight and perhaps wiser than me.

“Dad…Gray…Pop-Pop’s here,” I hear Violet yell as she skids to a halt in front of the door. She also grins up at me, which showcases the tooth she lost on the top middle last week. I thought the tooth fairy should have brought her a hundred dollars, but Gray and Ryker firmly quashed that and she got five dollars instead.

I step into the house, put Ruby down, and then pick up Violet. She gives me a sweet kiss without me asking and I give her a squeeze before I deposit her back to the floor.

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