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- Marry Me, Maddie
The set-up: Sophie and Rafe have just met. They’re in her new studio after her signboard has flown
up in the wind and damaged his car. Because he’s so much taller than she is, he has offered to hang
up some display lengths of fabric. He has also offered her the chance to decorate his huge home.
He reached over to the settee, rummaged in his jacket pocket, and produced a card in return. Black.
Printed in silver. Rafe Blackhawk Severino, with a phone and cell number. On the reverse were
“Blackhawk?” It was curiously right for him. Dark and predatory and different, all the things he was himself.
He smiled and she saw wolf, not hawk.
“Cherokee. My grandfather was John Blackhawk.”
Sophie blinked. “Faye said you were Italian.”
“My father’s Italian, but he’s a fair-haired northerner, almost Swiss. I’m something of a mongrel. A throwback to my grandparents.”
She just couldn’t help but ask, “Well how on earth did you get a Cherokee grandfather?”
Instantly she imagined him in fringed buckskins, his midnight hair long and plaited, his cheekbones decorated with stripes of ochre. He looked sensational.
“He was a Marine, stationed here in New Zealand in 1942. Up the coast at Paekakariki.”
“And? There’s got to be more to the story than that?” She struggled to banish the devastating warrior image from her brain.
“And he met a pretty Maori girl called Matakino at a military dance...”
He sighed and shrugged his big shoulders. The fine cotton shirt lifted and fell. “John left her pregnant with my mother. Died on Okinawa, so I never knew my grandfather from anything but a snapshot.”
He pushed Sophie’s card into his trouser pocket and turned for the next bolt of fabric.
Had she asked too many questions? The following two display lengths went up in total silence and she saw conflicting emotions chasing each other across Rafe’s expressive face.
But on his next trip to floor-level he said, “Children should be with their parents. I was never with mine.”
His black eyes meshed with hers. It was definitely not the right moment to admit she had a daughter she’d been unable to continue caring for.
“Never with your parents?”
“Not after my brothers were born.”
She saw the shutters slam down on his lively eyes. So he knew he had brothers? And he knew who his parents were? Why had they not all been together?
“Family circumstances can sometimes make things difficult,” she hazarded, thinking of Camille’s constant colicky crying, and her own furious studying, and Adrian’s hang-gliding smash, and the endless hopeless hours she’d sat at his hospital bedside.
“Children should be with their parents,” he repeated, more softly this time.
She nodded, and reached for the fifth length of fabric. Yes, Camille should be living here
in Wellington with her, not stuck in a small town down in the South Island with her granny where
the house prices were so much lower than the capital city. It was the best compromise she and her
mother had been able to arrange.
She ached to share cuddles with her tiny daughter every morning instead of only on
Sundays. Wanted to admire each colorful painting Camille brought home from kindergarten, to
praise her efforts and make her big blue eyes light up.
Instead, a couple of Camille’s past daubs greeted her each day—stuck to the refrigerator door with the awful bright pink plastic flower-magnets that were a birthday present from her absent child. They never failed to tear at her heart and remind her of the less-than-adequate mothering she gave her precious daughter.
But maybe now, if she secured some work from Rafe, she could at last retrieve her and make their lives normal? It mattered so much she hardly dared imagine it.
Camille back where she belonged?
Her mother finally able to reclaim the freedom she’d so generously given up to care for her grand-daughter?
And the weight of guilt lifted from Sophie’s own over-burdened shoulders? It was everything she’d slaved the last three years for. Everything.
She unrolled the last bolt of fabric and handed it across with slightly shaking hands. Then she stepped back so Rafe could climb the ladder for the final time.