“You’re wearing the Valentinos!” Tracy shrieked, half-dashing, half-dancing to us, clapping her hands, Elvira following her.

I gave her a hug and then she moved to Hawk to kiss his cheek as I gave Elvira a hug. Elvira didn’t move to Hawk to kiss his cheek, she just nodded to him, stepped back and gave me an eye sweep


“Girl, you are hot!” she declared. “That dress is hot. Those shoes are hot. And that expression on your face that says you just got you some is hot!”

I froze. Hawk chuckled and pulled me closer.

“Told you,” he whispered in my ear.

Before I could reply, Meredith and Dad approached, Gus and Maria bearing down behind them.

“Hey sweetie,” Meredith said as she got close and gave me a hug.

“Sorry we’re late,” I told her while hugging her and she stepped back but kept hold of my upper arms.

“It’s still cocktail hour. We don’t sit down for twenty minutes so you’re not late,” she smiled and turned to Hawk while Dad turned to me.

After Dad, I got hugs from Maria and Gus then everyone assumed their places in our huddle, Gus staring at me with a wicked grin on his face.

“Nice dress,” he observed, his meaning clear, I closed my eyes and Hawk chuckled again.

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Moving on!

I turned to Dad and Meredith. “Can we give you your presents now?” I asked.

“Sure, honey,” Meredith replied and I opened my dark gray, satin clutch with its crystal clasp while juggling the large, manila envelope.

I pulled out the smaller, white envelope and handed it to Dad.

“Season tickets to the Broncos,” I announced and Dad stared at me. “Forty yard line. Hawk knows someone.” That was when Dad turned his stare at Hawk. “Happy anniversary, Dad,” I finished.

“Holy f**k,” Dad muttered.

“They’re from me and Cabe,” I replied, even though Hawk knew someone, I bought the tickets. This caused a fight which I won. Hawk could spoil me but I put my foot down about spoiling Dad. It cost a whack but the simple matter of fact was; Dad was worth it.

“I don’t know what to say,” Dad whispered.

“Don’t say anything and give me another hug,” I smiled at him.

He turned his eyes to me but he didn’t smile. He lifted his hand and cupped my cheek and the expression on his face caused tears to sting my eyes. He had a daughter he could not see in protective custody and a daughter who had gone through hell because of her. That said, I was alive, breathing, wearing a fantastic dress and fabulous shoes, happy and I loved him enough to get him season tickets to the Broncos, something he’d always wanted. His eyes hit mine and I knew from the look of them that he was counting his blessings and I could see that the Broncos tickets weren’t high on that list but I definitely was.

Then he dropped his hand and shook Hawk’s, clapping him on the shoulder at the same time.

Again, moving on.

I handed Meredith the manila envelope. “That’s for you.”

Her brows drew together, Dad looked down at her and she opened the clasps on the envelope.

“It’s just a formality,” I stated, suddenly feeling nervous. “And it was Cabe’s idea. I mean, really, it happened on your wedding day when you let me walk down the aisle with you. I’m just making it official.”

She pulled out the papers and looked at me. “Making what official?”

“Those are adoption papers. If you sign them, I’m legally your daughter.”

Everyone sucked in breath but Meredith’s mouth dropped open and her eyes got big. I could usually read Meredith, heck, anyone could but I couldn’t read that. I didn’t know what to expect when I gave the papers to her but I’d daydreamed about it a lot. I knew she loved me but it was a posh, anniversary party at McCormick’s, she wasn’t going to do cartwheels, she couldn’t, not in four inch heels. But I’d hoped at least for a smile.

Therefore I rushed on. “I know, it’s kinda loopy, adopting a thirty-three year old woman but… um… why not?” I faltered when she just stared at me and I wondered if I’d insulted her. “I mean… I don’t want to imply that I haven’t always thought of you as my Mom but I just want to… I don’t know, make sure you know that, uh… that’s how I feel and it always has been.”

Meredith didn’t move nor did she speak.

“You don’t have to sign them,” I assured her. “It’s okay. Nothing between us changes. I –”

I shut up when she jerked her body toward Dad and whispered, “Find me a pen, Bax.”

She asked Dad but it was Gus who took off, Hawk’s arm curled around my neck and he pulled my front into his side as the tears filled my eyes.

Meredith looked up at me. “Now… sweetie, now I don’t know what to say.”

“Sign the papers, that says it all,” Hawk replied for me but he did it gently.

Meredith looked down at the papers and when she lifted her eyes back to me they were filled with wet.

“This is the best present I’ve ever had,” she whispered.

Tracy emitted a muted sob and I moved away from Hawk and hugged Meredith as a tear slid down my cheek.

“I’ve always loved you,” I said quietly in her ear and her arms spasmed around me. “I think I fell in love with you the first time I saw you.”

“Oh sweetie,” she whispered, holding on tighter so I did too.

We hugged for a long time then I pulled away and Meredith moved into Hawk and gave him a squeeze and kiss on the cheek. Then Gus showed with a pen, she signed the papers, put them in the envelope and when she handed them to me, I handed them to Hawk. He folded the envelope double and slid it into his inside jacket pocket. It was his attorney’s firm that had drawn up the papers and it would probably be Elvira who returned them to be filed.

“I need a reload,” Elvira announced and I looked at her to see her eyes were on Hawk. “And your woman has been here all of five minutes and she doesn’t have a martini glass in her hand. What? You think you can buy her twelve hundred dollar shoes and that gives you the right to slack on bein’ a gentleman?”

Tracy giggled.

But I turned, leaned into Hawk and looked up at him. “Actually, just FYI, giving me twelve hundred dollar shoes totally gives you the right to slack on drink deliveries.”

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