Dave Baxter is so intent on seeing his young son off to camp that he doesn’t even notice Ken Singer, the man with the bat strapped to the duffel bag, until he starts to see stars. When he regains consciousness, he has trouble noticing anything else. The attraction between the two single dads is immediate and intense. Will they be able to join forces to raise their boys, or will they end up going it alone?
The scene at the bus station verged on chaos. Parents, children and stacks of luggage clogged the waiting room. Things looked even worse out in the parking lot. I nodded at a couple of familiar faces while I helped Michael unload his gear. My tie with these people was a simple one—we were all single parents. I had been awarded primary custody of Michael when I got divorced and we had both needed help adjusting to our new circumstances. The group had been a lifesaver. Now, four years later, I maintained my ties with the club because they offered lots of activities for the kids. Today, the crew was off to sports camp for two weeks and they were all wild with excitement.
I had been put in charge of guarding the luggage while Michael conferred with his buddies about seating assignments. I was so intent on thinking about how much I was going to miss having him around that I didn't even see the overloaded parent lumbering my way until it was too late. The bat strapped to the duffel bag slung over his shoulder caught me right behind the ear and I went down like a felled tree. I must have passed out, because when I opened my eyes, Michael was straddling my chest, his eyes wide with terror.
“Dad! Dad!” He pressed his palms against my cheeks. His little hands were warm. “Daddy, are you okay?”
“Hey, squirt. Did you get the license number of that truck?” I tried to grin, but grinning hurt.
“It wasn't a truck, Dad. It was some big dumb guy who wasn't watching where he was going. I know which one he is. Let's go over and pound on him.”
“Let's not,” I countered. “Tell you what, if you'll get up, I'll get up.” He nodded and stood. Just as I was about to push myself up from the asphalt, a face appeared behind Michael. The face, punctuated with intense azure eyes and equipped with all the standard features, merged out of the fog under an unruly thatch of auburn hair. Beneath the face was a body—a body that even baggy khakis and an over-sized sweat shirt couldn't hide.
“I'm really sorry about this.” The guy knelt beside me and put his hand on my chest to prevent me from sitting up. “Do you think you should move?”
“I'm fine.” I flashed what I hoped was a reassuring smile. In truth, I was more embarrassed by the gathering crowd than hurt by the blow. “Seriously, I'm not seeing double and my ears aren't ringing. Trust me, my head's harder than that.”
“If you’re sure.” I nodded. The man extended his hand. I grasped it and he hauled me upright.
Michael stepped in front of me and turned on the stranger, his fists raised. He was in full pit bull mode “You better be careful, mister. My dad's a champion boxer. Nobody knocks him down and gets away with it.”
The man hunkered down until he was eye to eye with my son. “I am really sorry, young man. I would never have hit your dad on purpose. I hope you can accept my apology.”
“Michael. Don't be rude. It was an accident.” I put my hands on his shoulders. “Okay?”
“Okay, Dad.” He turned and looked up at me. “You better not be hurt. That's all.”
“I promise.” I tousled his thick, sandy-blond hair. “Why don’t you start hauling this gear over to the bus?”
Michael busied himself with his gear and I turned my attention to the man who had accidentally cold-cocked me.