“I understand that,” I began and he took a step toward me his scowl deepening. “No. you don’t. You don’t understand a goddamn thing boy. You’ve never had a woman you loved more than life itself nor have you held a precious baby girl in your arms that is a miracle and knew that your life would be to protect her. You do not know what that is.”

He was right there. I nodded afraid if I said anything until he was ready for me to he’d break one of the bones in my face. I liked my face the way it was.

“She is just like her mother. Kind, sweet, smart, and when she loves, she loves with everything she has. That’s a lot for a man to handle. A lot for him to cherish. I didn’t realize it with her momma right away and nearly lost the only thing I had worth living for. Her dad wanted me dead. I don’t blame him.”

Grant got in my face his shoulders wider and his arms thicker than my own. “If you fuck with my baby girl’s heart I won’t give one rat’s ass who your parents are. All I’ve seen you do is fuck around. Play games. Enjoy women. But that girl up there,” he said pointing for emphasis. “She’s not the kind you do that with. Because I will tell you right now,” he then pointed his finger in my face. “She has to love you, or you wouldn’t be here. She would have never climbed on your bike and rode off like she did. That was not Lila Kate. She was acting on feelings for you. So either you have the same feelings for her, or you make a clean break and get the hell out of town before I can find you. Do I make myself clear?”

This was my turn to speak. “Yes sir,” I said. “I know all those things about her. It’s why I kept my distance for so long. But when she left, I knew I was going to lose her or any chance with her. I had to make a decision and I went after her. I told myself it was to protect her, but I knew deep down what I was doing. I love Lila Kate. I don’t need anyone else.”

Grant’s scowl eased some but he still didn’t look convinced. “I like you. I like your family. But I can’t just trust anyone with my baby girl. Don’t know if I ever will. I won’t stop watching. I won’t back off. You hurt her, expect me to come after you.”

Jesus. It was a wonder Lila Kate had ever had a date in high school. I was expecting him to get his gun out of the truck and start waving it around any minute. “I will never hurt her.”

He didn’t look like he believed that. “Your past ain’t pretty boy. It could come back to haunt you. If it were up to me, she’d leave you alone. Find a guy who didn’t make it his goal to fuck the entire female population in this town. But it’s not up to me. She’s a woman. It’s her choice. But I’m her daddy, and if you fuck this up there will be no place safe for you. I’ll find you.”

“Daddy!” Lila Kate’s voice called out, and I glanced over my shoulder to see her standing at the front door in her pink fluffy heart robe with a very unhappy frown on her face. Luckily, it was directed at her father. Not me.

She took long strides toward us. “This had better not be what I think it is,” she said.

He shrugged like it was no big deal. “I’m your father. I was just coming to visit and found Cruz leaving your apartment. Making sure he was clear on some things.”

Like the fact he was going to murder me if I hurt his daughter. I didn’t mention that though.

“I don’t need you to threaten the men in my life daddy,” she told him.

“Men?” Grant and I both said in unison. There were no other men.

She rolled her eyes at both of us. “Oh, good grief. The ‘man’ in my life. I am an adult. I can have whoever I want sleep over. I can date whoever I want. And I can love whoever I want. You have to trust me to take care of myself.”

“I do,” he said giving her a charming smile that I sure as hell hadn’t been given. “Just making sure Cruz was on the same page as you. That’s all.”

Lila Kate put her hands on her hips. “And what page is that?”

“That he was as serious about this as you are.”

“And that is what I am saying. It isn’t your business.”

“You’re my daughter, and that will never change. I’ll make shit my business when it comes to protecting you for as long as I am alive.”

Lila Kate sighed and gave me an apologetic look. “Are you having a change of heart now?” she asked me.

I smirked. As if Grant Carter could make me stop wanting her. “No. Not even close.”

Her eyes went soft, and for a moment I forgot her father was even out there with us ruining a perfectly good morning. Our quiet breakfast was not going as planned.

“Jesus,” Grant muttered. Then he walked over and hugged Lila Kate. “I can’t help it you know,” he whispered.

“I love him,” she said her gaze shifting to me.

“And that makes him the luckiest man other than myself that I know.”

Lila Kate grinned up at her father then.

I had been expecting this. I was glad it was over. Now I just had to make sure the Kelsey shit was done. That was one time bomb that threatened everything. If I lost Lila Kate over her, I would gladly let Grant put me out of my misery.

MOM HAD CALLED me to meet her for lunch at the club today. I’d been so busy I hadn’t seen much of her. Between getting the studio ready and spending time with Cruz, my days were packed. I was just about to walk inside the main building at the club when my phone vibrated. When I checked, it was a text from Eli.

He was good about checking on me once a week if not more. Cruz wasn’t crazy about our friendship, but he allowed it. If he knew I’d had drunken sex with Eli, I doubted he’d be okay with it. That was before us so I figured it wasn’t important to discuss.

I didn’t ask about all the girls he’d slept with before me.

I stopped walking and replied. Another two weeks and it will be open for business. About to have lunch with my mom. Text back later. I dropped my phone back into my purse and looked up to see Kelsey standing a few feet in front of me.

Her eyes were red and swollen from crying. It was so unlike her. She was always so businesslike, I couldn’t imagine her as emotional. Her gaze was locked on me. Almost as if I were the source of her pain. I glanced around me to see if there was anyone else around but it was just me.

“I need to speak with you,” she said her voice hoarse with emotion.

She was upset so it wasn’t like I could say, “No thanks. I have a lunch date with my mom.”

“Can you come in my office?” she asked.

I nodded again, and she turned and headed in that direction. I glanced around one more time. I didn’t want to go to this woman’s office but I also didn’t see a way out of accepting her request unless I was rude.

The door was open as she walked inside. Reluctantly, I followed.

She stood at the door and closed it after I entered. I wished she’d left it open. Something about her made me nervous.

“I’ll be brief. There is just something you need to know. I tried handing it with Cruz but he isn’t cooperating. He’s,” she paused and teared up again. “I’m sure you know how cruel and selfish he can be.”

That got my attention. “Cruz isn’t either of those things,” I said in defense of him. This woman’s issues with his position at the club needed to be dealt with by Woods.