On a beautiful Thursday morning in June, Madison Snow arranged some mementos and pictures of her son on the credenza behind her desk in her new office at Le Club Laurel Oak–Ocala. She was pleased with the office. It was elegant and comfortable without being ostentatious. She was also pleased to have finally started her new job as assistant to Anne Sutton, the manager of Le Club. The salary was extremely good, and the hours were flexible and could be adjusted to accommodate any meetings at school or other activities for her eight-year-old son, Nicholas. It was important to Madison that she have the time to devote to Nickie’s needs as well as the financial means to raise him. She had remained a single mother. Nickie was the light of her life and the most important person in her world. She didn’t want him to have to do without anything, either material or emotional, since he was already having to do without a daddy.
The door to Madison’s office opened, and the wife of one of the members, entered with a smile. “Hi! I’m Robbie Hamilton. Welcome to Le Club, Madison! Kelly has been telling us about you for some time, and Anne has been really anxious for you to start.”
“Thanks. Everyone has been so nice and welcoming. What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to drop off a check and get a copy of our bill. I seem to have misplaced it,” Robbie said with a smile. The tall, gorgeous redhead appeared to be in her mid-forties and had green eyes and a warm sprinkling of freckles.
“Let me get your file, and I’ll make a copy for you. Did you need anything else?” Madison asked as she walked to the bank of file cabinets, pulled the file, and walked to the copy machine.
Robbie looked around the office. “No, that’s it. It looks like you are settling in.”
“I’m just putting out a few personal things and pictures of my son,” Madison responded with a smile.
Robbie looked at the picture frames behind Madison’s desk, and the color drained from her face. Out of the corner of her eye, Maddie saw Robbie walk closer to the credenza and pick up first one picture of the black-haired infant, and then another of the chubby toddler. Finally she picked up a school picture of the eight-year-old Nickie with his wavy black hair rumpled and electric-blue eyes sparkling. Robbie sat down in the chair next to Madison’s desk, and Maddie could see that she appeared agitated.
“That’s a handsome boy you have there,” Robbie said softly as Madison turned back to the copy machine..
“Isn’t he though? He’s a handful and into everything! Since school is out, he’s spending the summer keeping my dad out of trouble. Or maybe my mom is keeping them both out of trouble!”
Robbie took a deep breath and went on, “What brought you back to Ocala?”
“Well, after Grammatha died, I didn’t really have any ties to New Jersey, and I wanted Nickie to have a good family life. As a single parent, I think that cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents are really a big help in providing a stable environment for a child. I missed my family, and it just seemed like a good time to come home. This job was really the icing on the cake!”
Robbie looked thoughtful and a little strange. Madison gave an internal shrug. People were always drawn to Nickie. He was an extremely good-looking boy with a gleam in his eyes and mischief in his heart. He was sweet and gentle and loved animals. He’s a really great kid! Deciding to have him was the best thing I ever did!
Robbie sat in her car for several minutes and tried to gather her thoughts and steady her hands. She drove the twenty or so miles back to Eden Creek Farm in a daze. She still couldn’t process the pictures she had seen on Madison Snow’s desk. The likeness was so striking that it just could not be a coincidence. The young boy in the pictures was the spitting image of her own son, Michael, Jr., who was now sixteen. Kelly had told her that she and Madison had been good friends and that Madison had left Ocala unexpectedly about nine years ago. That kid is a Hamilton! But who is his father?
Robbie parked her suburban in front of the farm office and walked inside. It was only June, but summer was rearing its hot and muggy head. She took off her sunglasses and looked around for Mike. He wasn’t at the desk in his office, so she took out her cell phone and gave him a buzz.
“Hey, babe! What’s up?”
“Where are you? I’m at the office, and I need to talk to you,” she said a bit breathlessly. Her stomach was churning.
“I’m in the stallion barn. I’ll be there in a few minutes,” he responded. He sounded puzzled at the tone of her voice.
When Mike walked into the office, he took one look at Robbie’s face and said, “What’s wrong? You don’t look good.” He was tall and well-muscled, but not bulky, with longish, wavy, black hair and the startling blue eyes of a Hamilton.
“I was downtown, so I stopped at the club to drop off a check and get a copy of the bill I misplaced. I got to meet Madison, Anne’s new assistant.” She continued, “I also got to see the pictures of her son, Nicholas. Mike, he looks exactly, and I mean exactly, like Mickie—not just a strong resemblance. The pictures on her desk could have come from my desk. Is there something I should know?”
“What! What are you asking? If I’m that kid’s father?” He was clearly astounded.