USA Today Bestselling Author
When Jackie Monroe finds out the man she’s been seeing for the last three months has been leading a double life and is married, it nearly destroys her world. Giving up on men, love, and any chance of having a relationship or a family, Jackie dives into her career as a child psychologist. One of her specialties is forensics child custody evaluations and she’s appointed a case where a man is fighting to have full custody of his one-year-old daughter.
At first glance, the case appears to be a simple one, but soon, Jackie learns nothing is at it seems and she finds herself not only putting her job on the line, but her heart.
Alston Walsh never wanted to be a father. Hell, until six months ago, he didn’t even know he was a father. But when me meets his little girl for the first time, he falls instantly in love. And when he sees first-hand how his ex-girlfriend is living and raising his daughter, he takes matter into his own hands. He will do whatever it takes to make sure little Coralie is removed from her mother’s home and placed, permanently, with him, including retiring from the Military and taking a job that will keep him stateside.
But what he doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with the woman who has the power to crush his heart and take away everything he holds dear.
One of the things I really love about these books is the camaraderie between the siblings. In the prologue of this book we get a glimpse of Hawk and Kennedy, now married and expecting a child. This is where Jackie finds out the man she’s dating is still married and living with his wife. Seems these women have pretty bad instincts when it comes to men. I base this on Kennedy’s relationship prior to Hawk.
Now Jackie has sworn off men for at least another six months. While waiting in line with her sister Rose, the subject of her brother Fitz’s latest instagram post comes up. Not half naked this time but it’s a picture of him licking a jello shot off a woman. They get their order just in time to witness the cute guy who had been in line before them slam his coffee down and make a mess, muttering an apology before storming out. This becomes important later.
Jackie’s boss hands her a new case, as a child psychologist she would be looking out for the child’s best interest in a custody case. The mother had made some serious accusations regarding the father, however she couldn’t back them up with any evidence. The child has also had several hospital admissions that seemed a bit mysterious.
Jackie is surprised when she meets Alston Walsh, it appears the angry man in the coffee shop is her client’s father. The initial visit goes well and there is a supervised visit scheduled for the next day.
This is a favorite scene.
“My role is to make a recommendation to the judge about what is best for your daughter. If I were you, I’d stop trying to insert your opinions into my process. I’m very good at my job. You need to trust the system,” Jackie said. “Now, I’d rather you and Alston not cross paths this morning. He’s scheduled to be here in twenty minutes. His visit is for two hours. You can come twenty minutes after that to pick her up.”
“I don’t like this one bit.” Kari set a diaper bag down on the ground. “I left a detailed note inside. Please don’t give her anything other than the food that is in the bag.”
“We’ll be just fine, won’t we?” Jackie bent over and lifted Coralie into her arms, resting her on her hip.
Coralie immediately started twisting at her hair. “Baba.”
Kari handed the little girl her bottle. “You be a good girl.” She kissed Coralie on the forehead. “I will be on time, if not a few minutes early.”
“Let’s get you all settled.”
Coralie fussed a little bit as her mother disappeared, but not too bad, especially when Jackie set up a blanket filled with all her toys and a plate of cherries along with a sippy cup of juice.
Jackie made herself comfortable on the floor, leaving the door open. She held out a book for Coralie, who crawled over and plopped herself on Jackie’s lap. Jackie laughed. “I guess you want me to read this one.”
The sound of knuckles tapping on the door startled her. She glanced over her shoulder. “Look, Coralie, it’s your daddy.”
“Hi, baby,” he said, immediately getting down to her level. “How are you?”
Coralie shied away a little, grabbing ahold of Jackie’s arm and almost hiding her face behind it.
“Remember me?” He pulled out his phone, tapping on the screen. He held up a picture of him and his daughter.
Coralie reached for the phone and giggled.
Jackie made a mental note that Coralie seemed to be more timid around men than woman. Not necessarily abnormal, just an observation. “How are you this morning?”
He swiped at his face. “Better now.” He reached out and tapped on Coralie’s thigh. “Guess what Daddy brought?” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small pocketbook. “Grandma sent this. It’s pictures of our entire family that she had made into a baby book.”
Quickly, Jackie glanced at it, noting that each page had an image or two with names. “That’s very sweet.”
“That’s my mom.”
“And what a great idea to help a child remember or get to know family.”
Jackie knew what she was going to make for her niece as a gift for her first birthday, when it came around.
As gracefully as she could, she rose and made her way to her desk. “I know this is awkward but try to pretend I’m not here.”
“Okay,” he said as he stretched out on the floor, resting his head on his hand. He fiddled with a puzzle that Coralie had been playing with.
Jackie sat in her leather chair and focused on paperwork while observing father and daughter. It was a refreshing sight to behold. Most fathers in this situation were uncomfortable and often looked to her for guidance on how to interact with their kids.
Or they felt self-conscious with her in the room and it showed in the behavior.
Alston was able to truly ignore her presence and enjoy his daughter to the fullest, right up to the point where she laid her head on his lap and fell fast asleep.
“Well, at least the visit is almost over,” Jackie whispered, helping him put the sleeping child in the stroller.
“I wouldn’t mind sitting and watching her sleep for hours if that meant I could be with her longer.”
“Well, the good news is, I’ve got a nice schedule for you. The judge just sent it over this morning. I’ve sent it to yours and Kari’s attorneys while you and Coralie were playing.”
“Can I ask what it looks like?”
“Of course,” Jackie said, waving her hand at the sofa and chairs. She made herself comfortable on the couch. “You will have your daughter two nights a week and every Saturday. I have to tell you that you will need to tell me what you plan on doing and where you plan on going, and I can show up at any time.”
His jaw slacked open. “Are you serious?”
“Do you have a problem with that?”
He shook his head, running his hand over his face. “God, no. Absolutely not. I mean, I’d like more, but it’s a start.”
“One more thing. For now, I’ve recommended that I be the one to be the go-between. So I’ll pick up Coralie and bring her to you.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Is that normal?”
“No. Not always.”
“Because I think it’s best for all parties considered.” She glanced at her watch. “Unfortunately, Kari will be here in about ten minutes. I think it’s best if you leave now. I’ll be in touch tomorrow, okay?”
He nodded. “I’m at your mercy.”
She stood and stretched out her hand. “I wish you wouldn’t think that way.”
“What the hell is he still doing here?” Kari’s voice bounced off the walls, startling Coralie who jolted from her nap.
Alston bolted into action. He reached into the stroller and lifted a screaming Coralie into his arms. “Shhhhh, it’s okay,” he whispered, patting her back, and she immediately calmed down.
“Give her to me,” Kari demanded.
As gracefully as possible, Jackie stepped between Kari and Alston. “Kari, please, let’s not upset everyone.”
“His visit is over. I want him away from my daughter.” Kari held up her phone. “Give her to me now, or I’ll call the police.”
“There’s no reason for that.” Not only was there no logical explanation to bring in a third party, Jackie couldn’t understand why Kari would go to such a drastic measure for a non-issue. “We were just finishing up.”
“I was about to leave.” Alston kissed Coralie. “Daddy loves you. Don’t you ever forget that.” He handed her to Jackie. “Thank you for today. I can see myself out.” He strolled right past Kari without even giving her a second glance.
She, on the other hand, glared at him as if her eyes were machine guns waiting for someone to pull the trigger. “If something like this ever happens again, I’ll have you fired.” Kari snagged the stroller and stomped out of the office with Coralie waving frantically over her shoulder.
“Well, that was weird,” Jackie mumbled. Nothing that happened today that warranted that kind of response. And Jackie hadn’t found anything in the short three-week fling that Coralie’s parents had that would warrant that kind of bitterness.
Something else was going on here, and Jackie was determined to find out what.
Talty, Jen. Color Me Smart (The Monroes Book 2) Kindle Locations (622-678). Jupiter Press. Kindle Edition.
Now things are going to get interesting, as Jackie keeps running into Alston. Her ex showing up doesn’t help either. Jackie is attracted to Alston and he to her, but she really shouldn’t do anything about it until the case is settled. The fates, however, have other ideas and their attraction sparks into some sizzling heat.
Plenty of suspense and intrigue as this story unfolds and Jackie and Alston find their Happily Ever After with Coralie.
5 Contented Purrs for Jen!
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Welcome to my World! I’m a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance.
I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.
I’m currently enjoying the next phase of my life…the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.