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P.I. Daddy's Personal MissionP.I. Daddy's Personal Mission

Private investigator Peter Walsh has his hands full investigating the unanswered questions surrounding his father’s mysterious death. His life takes another unexpected turn when his son starts having trouble at school, and Peter falls hard for his son’s teacher. But teacher Lisa Navarre knows her painful history stands in the way of any future with Peter.

 

 


"This is a heartwarming and engaging continuation of the Walshes and Coltons saga. The characters are real and interesting, the mystery sharply drawn and the romance will melt readers’ hearts as it becomes obvious that not just their happiness, but that of the child, hangs in the balance." -- Page Traynor, RT Book Club


When Lisa turned back to Patrick's father, she met a glare that would freeze a volcano. "You lied to me. You said Patrick had been in an accident. Do you have any idea how worried I was on the way over here?"

Patience. Keep your cool. Let him vent if he needs to.

Drawing a deep breath to collect herself, she flashed him a warm smile. "Let's go to the office where we can speak privately." She motioned down the hall and started toward the front of the school. When Mr. Walsh only stared at her stubbornly for a moment, she paused to wait for him to follow. Handsome or not, the man clearly had a temper when it came to his son.

Lisa could understand that. Most parents had an emotional hot button when it came to their children. Sweet, soft-spoken members of the quilting club became growling mama bears when they thought their cubs needed protecting or defending.

Finally, Peter Walsh fell in step behind her, his long-legged strides quickly catching up with hers. "Why did you tell me there'd been an accident?"

"I didn't," she returned calmly.

"You di—"

"I said incident. With an I. You hung up before I could explain the nature of the problem."

Mr. Walsh drew a breath as if to mount an argument, then snapped his mouth closed. His brow creased, and his jaw tightened as if replaying their brief phone conversation and realizing his mistake.

"I'm sorry if I alarmed you. Patrick is fine, physically." The reached the front office, and Lisa escorted him into a vacant conference room. "Please, have a seat."

Patrick's father crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed a suspicious gaze on her. "Thanks, I'll stand."

Okay. She faced him, squaring her shoulders and staring at his forehead... because looking into those dark eyes was just too distracting. Too unnerving.

Darn it all, she was a professional. She couldn't let this man rattle her.

"Mr. Walsh, I called you because Patrick was disrupting class today and—"

"Disrupting how?" he interrupted, his back stiffening.

"He burped."

Mr. Walsh's eyebrows snapped together in confusion. "Excuse me? He burped?"

"Yes."

He shifted his weight and angled an irritated look toward her. "You called me down here to tell me he burped?" His angry tone and volume rose. "Kids will burp sometimes, lady. It's a fact of life. Maybe you should be talking to the lunch ladies about the food they're serving instead of calling parents away from important business to report their kids bodily functions, for crying out loud!"

Patience. Lisa balled then flexed her fingers, struggling to keep her cool. She made the mistake of meeting his eyes then and her stomach flip-flopped. Good grief, the man had sexy eyes!

"It wasn't just a small, my-lunch-didn't-sit-right burp, Mr. Walsh. It was loud. Forced. Designed to get a rise out of his classmates."

Peter Walsh rocked back on his boot heels, listening. At least, she hoped he was listening. Some parents wore blinders when it came to their kids' behavior. Their little darling couldn't possibly have done the things she said...

Lisa took a slow calming breath, working to keep her voice even and non-confrontational.

"He'd been disruptive all morning— talking, getting out of his seat without permission, making rude noises, even poking the girl in front of him for no apparent reason. The loud belching was just the final straw."

Peter Walsh had the nerve to roll his eyes and shake his head. Lisa gritted her teeth.

"With all due respect, Ms. Navaro—" he started in a tone that was far from respectful.

"It's Navarre, Mr. Walsh."

"Navarre," he repeated, lifting his hand in concession, but his disposition remained hard and challenging. "It seems to me keeping order in your classroom is your job. Send him to the principal's office if you need to, but don't drag me down here every time my son acts up in class... or burps. You shouldn't have to call a kid's parent away from their job to handle a minor behavior problem. If you can't keep a ten-year-old boy in line for a few hours a day, perhaps you're in the wrong profession."

Lisa's hackles went up. She already wondered if teaching children was the best place for her, but for reasons that had nothing to do with her ability to discipline her class. She suppress the ache that nudged her heart and focused on the matter at hand.

"I'm perfectly capable of maintaining order in my classroom, Mr. Walsh." She drilled him with a look that her students knew well, the one that said she'd reached the limits of her patience. "Especially if I have the cooperation of the children's parent in addressing at home any issues that may be at the root of behavior problems."

He scoffed. "My son does not have a behavior problem. He may be having a bad day today, but you know as well as I do that he's not a troublemaker."

"Which, if you'd let me finish explaining, is why I called you to come down for a conference. Usually Patrick is quite well behaved. In fact, since the beginning of school, it seems he's become more quiet, even withdrawn. His grades have slipped in recent weeks. Did you know that? I've sent home his test papers to be signed, but you never sign them. His grandmother does."

"My mother babysits him most afternoons until I can get home from work. My job keeps me on the road a lot and I've had to work longer hours lately, so Patrick's grandmother handles his schoolwork."

"But you're his parent, Mr. Walsh. You need to be involved."

His face darkened, and he narrowed a glare on her. "Are you telling me how to parent my kid?"

Why not? You were just trying to tell me how to do my job! Lisa bit back the caustic retort that would serve no purpose other than make her feel better for five minutes. Then she'd feel bad that she'd lost her temper and kick herself for being reactionary.

"No, sir. I'm not." She purposefully infused her tone with calm and concern, enough to capture the agitated father's attention. She had to be sure he heard and understood the importance of her next statement. "But earlier today, when I warned Patrick that I would have to call you if he didn't behave, his response was, 'Go ahead. Call my dad. He won't care. He's too busy to care about what I do.'"

Peter Walsh jerked back as if slapped, his expression stunned. "That's...crazy! He knows I care about him. He knows I love him! More than anything in this world."

"Maybe up here he knows that. " She tapped her head. "But kids need to see that love and affection in action to reaffirm what you say. He needs to see you express interest in his school work, in his friends, in his life to really believe it here." She moved her hand to her heart.

A muscle in his jaw twitched, and he shifted his glowering gaze to a bulletin board on the far wall. "The last few months have been...especially difficult for my family, Ms. Navarre. I've tried to protect Patrick from most of the fallout, shield him from the worst of it, but..." He heaved a sigh and left his sentence unfinished.

"I read the newspaper. I know about your father's murder, and I'm terribly sorry for your loss."

His eyes snapped to hers. Pain shadowed his gaze, and her heart went out to him. She'd seen a similar sadness in Patrick's eyes too many times since the school year started. "The reason I called you here is not because Patrick was acting out. I can handle disciplining students when it is called for."

Chagrin flickered across his face, and he shifted his weight.

"I called because I'm worried about Patrick. I think the recent events in your family have upset him, and he doesn't feel he can talk to you about it. He feels alone because he thinks you're too busy for him. He's confused and scared."

Worry lined Peter Walsh's face. "He said that?"

"His withdrawal said that. His grades said that. His misbehavior today said that. I've been a teacher for six years. I've seen this before. He just needs reassurance from you that his world is safe, that you care, that he is your priority. Mr. Walsh, more than discipline, what Patrick needs is his father."

Peter squared his shoulders, a bit of his temper returning. Obviously, he took her last comment as an indictment. "I'll talk to him tonight. You won't have problems with his behavior again."

Lisa's heart sank. Had he heard her at all?

Peter Walsh, his square jaw tight and his back stiff, turned to stalk out of the conference room.

"Mr. Walsh, I—"

But he was gone. All six feet plus of seething testosterone and brooding eyes. Lisa inhaled deeply, hoping to calm her frazzled nerves, but instead drew in the enticing scents of leather and pine that Peter Walsh left in his wake.

She had no business thinking of her student's father in the terms that filtered through her head— sexy, virile— but with a man like Peter Walsh, how could she not?

Book Five of the Coltons Montana
November 2010
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
ISBN 978-037327-702-5

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