I miss home.
No matter how long I’m here, there’s still a part of me that wishes I was back in my diner.
I wouldn’t give up my life with Josh for anything, but Christmas is tough.
Pania is in New Zealand. As is her family—who became my family when I was pregnant with Melly.
California just isn’t the same.
But then again, I’m with my husband and daughter, and they’re the most important people in the world to me.
Although, right now, I could kill my husband.
Melly’s in the school Christmas production for the first time this year. Since we’ve moved here, she’s developed a taste for the show biz life. She loves it when her father spends time with other actors and their children, and her own social group has grown because of it.
There are times I still can’t quite believe my life.
But right now, when he promised he would be, Josh isn’t here.
He and Reece were out of town last night scouting a location for their next movie. It’s not something Josh has to do himself, but he likes having hands on involvement in their projects. As he says all the time, the more control he has, the more time he gets to spend with his family.
I fire off another text and sigh.
Me: Are you close?
Josh: I’ll be there any minute.
Rolling my eyes, I tuck my phone back in my bag. That’s what he said five minutes ago and the curtain’s about to rise.
We had to book seats, so at least his is reserved for him. But that’s not going to make it up to Melly when she can’t see her father in the crowd.
I can only hope the lights are bright enough to hide his absence.
I’m not sure I can be too angry—he’s usually here when we need him, but Melly was so keen to perform in front of her father.
My heart sinks as the lights dim and the curtain starts to rise.
Children begin to enter the stage from both sides.
And right there in middle of the front row is my daughter—Amelia Carter.
I’ve got a lump in my throat so big I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to swallow again.
The music starts.
I grin as the kids start dancing.
And then Melly throws her arms open and sings her heart out.
I can barely contain my pride.
That’s my baby.
Tears prick my eyes. I have so many regrets about the years Josh and I were apart, and the biggest one has been that he didn’t
get that time with Melly. Now she’s shining up there on that stage, giving it everything she has, and he didn’t make it in time.
She’s clearly the one in charge as she stomps around the stage and the others follow in her wake.
I laugh as they all dance and sing, but she’s the one I see.
Wiping my eyes, I make a silent promise to myself never to tell her she’s as good as she is.
I’ll never hear the end of it.
As they take their final bow, I shoot to my feet and clap. It takes a moment to register that everyone else’s applause is polite.
I look around.
We’ve been here two years, but there are still a lot of people in this auditorium who don’t know who I am. It’d be a different story if Josh were here. But I’m not ashamed of my reaction as I catch Melly’s gaze and she beams that beautiful smile at me.
Such a performer.
So much like her father.
I sink back down into my seat as the next performance starts. Melly’s in this, but in the background, but she’s still all I see.
It’s feeling more and more inevitable that she follow in her father’s footsteps.
My eyes are glued to the stage for the remainder of the first half, my chest bursting with pride.
And as soon as we hit intermission, the man sitting next to me nudges my arm.
“You should really consider signing your daughter to an agent.” He gives me a crooked smile. “She’s a real talent.”
I chew on my inner cheek. “Thanks. I’ll take that under consideration.”
“And you know,” he continues. “I just so happen to be an agent.”
It takes everything in me not to roll my eyes at him. Josh and I have already discussed this as Melly really does take after her father in all things dramatic. There’s even a role in his latest movie that she’d be perfect for, but instead there’s a casting call out for the character. Neither of us are ready for her to be in the movies—maybe when she’s older.
A card gets shoved in front of me, and I look down at this agent’s details. Jeremy Murdoch.
He flashes a bigger smile at me. One that reminds me of a used car salesman.
“Oh, I have children much younger than that on my books. And there are some great roles out there for children your daughter’s age.” He nudges my arm again. “A casting call went out this week for the new Josh Carter movie. Something like that would be a huge opportunity for your daughter.”
I hold my breath.
I nearly swallow my tongue.
It takes everything in me not to just laugh in this man’s face. Even after living here for a while, and the publicity surrounding Josh and I being reunited, and the photos of us with Melly that are out there, I never assume people know who I am. Let alone our daughter.
“It can’t hurt to get her an agent. The right one could find her the perfect role to launch her career. She’s obviously destined to be a star.”
I zone out as the show starts again, but he’s still banging on in my ear about representing Melly.
And here I am thinking I talk a lot.
I’ve got nothing on Jeremy Murdoch.
But I guess that’s how he does business—talks people into things.
I sigh. Where the hell is Josh?
The one good thing in all of this is that Melly doesn’t seem to have noticed he’s not here. She never once falters as she dances
and sings with the other children.
I couldn’t be more proud.
When the curtain falls, this time the whole auditorium rise to their feet and applaud. My hands soon sting with how hard I clap, and my heart’s in my throat all over again as the children file back out to take a final bow.
And then it’s done.
Jeremy’s still talking.
People around us start milling about and making for the exit.
“Call the number on the card next week and make an appointment.”
“I … I …” What? I’m never lost for words, but maybe it’s the cheek of this guy.
“Believe me, once I get her signed, I can find her—“
In that moment, I feel like a deer in the headlights because I know that voice and it’s the one I’ve been waiting for this entire evening.
Josh breaks through the crowd and slips his arm around my waist.
“Babe.” I squeak.
“Hey. I got here a little late and sat at the back.” He pecks me on the lips. “Then one of the dads got talking so I didn’t come up
during the intermission.”
“It’s okay. I’m just glad you’re here.” I lean against him. “I saved you a seat.”
“I saw.” He reaches out and loops a stray lock of hair behind my ear. “And I saw our daughter.”
“She was amazing.”
His eyes glisten. “She was. She really does take after me.”
“I know. So full of drama.”
He chuckles. “Let’s not tell her how good she was.”
I nod. “Agreed. She’ll want to … oh, there’s someone I want you to meet.”
Turning, I smile widely at Jeremy. “Jeremy, this is my husband, Josh. Josh, this is Jeremy. He’s an agent and he’s really interested in signing Amelia.”
I flick a glance back at Josh. He smacks his lips together and holds out a hand. “Good to meet you, Jeremy.”
Jeremy’s mouth falls open as he shakes Josh’s hand. But before he can start talking, I still have some words of my own to get in.
“He was telling me there are so many opportunities out there for a girl with Amelia’s talents. There’s even a casting call for the new Josh Carter movie.”
My husband takes my hand in his and squeezes it. Jeremy’s mouth could have caught a dozen flies by now. But this is the price
he pays for being so annoying.
“Well, Jeremy. I’m sure you can appreciate that we have Amelia’s representation handled.” Josh somehow sounds calm, but if he’s anything like me, he’s bursting to laugh out loud.
“Of course. Good to meet you.” He blinks rapidly. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get my daughter. Can’t have the kids out too late.”
Josh nods. “Of course. Have a good night.”
I wait until he’s a distance away before I double over with laughter.
Josh squeezes my shoulder and chuckles. “That was naughty.”
“He started talking to me before the intermission even started and didn’t stop. I couldn’t get a word in.”
Josh’s eyebrows rise. “Are you sure about that?”
“Well …” I shrug. “Maybe it was a little bit funny. Especially when he mentioned your movie. I had to stop myself from laughing.”
“I saw your performance too.” His eyes twinkle with mischief.
My eyebrows rise.
Josh bites his bottom lip. It catches me off guard and sends all kinds of tingles down my spine. “For what it’s worth, I think you should win an award for most supportive parent.”
I cover my face with my hands, laughing. “Was it that bad?”
“No, Delaney. It was perfect.”
He slips an arm around my waist, leans in, and plants a soft kiss on my neck. “How about we grab Amelia and get out of here. I’m thinking we go to Lorenzo’s for some pizza. We stuff her full of said pizza until she’s asleep, and then we take some time out for a performance of our own.”
I lean my head against his. “You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”
“Never.” He pops another kiss just under my ear. “Let’s get our girl.”