He’s a single dad and a world famous rock star, and she is his daughter’s kindergarten teacher…
A brand new emotional standalone romance is out now from Lauren Runow, and you can read an excerpt right here.
I enter the multipurpose room that’s lined in pink and white streamers and balloons for the father-daughter dance.
This is my favorite school event, and I offered to help make sure things run smoothly just so I could take part.
I remember attending this same dance with my father. It was my best memory as a little girl. Every year, my mom would buy me a dress that I could twirl around in and even take me to get my hair professionally styled.
I make my way to the registration desk, lining up the papers that list who has paid before people start to arrive.
“Do you need any help?” Cindy asks as she approaches the table.
I hand her half the stack of papers. “Do you want to help me check people in?”
“Sure.” She sits down next to me. “I think we need to start a mother-son dance.” Since she has two boys, the statement makes sense.
“I don’t see why you can’t organize something like that. Do you think your boys would want to come, all dressed up?”
Her head drops back in laughter. “No way. We’d have to do a glow night or a carnival or something like that. But I think it’d be fun.”
“You should do it. Let me know if I can assist.”
She brightens up, proud that I agreed with her suggestion. It’s not often that we see eye to eye on things.
As people enter, I admire every dress worn by some of the sweetest girls around. Some even have corsages on their wrists.
When Cailin steps up, she introduces me to Linda’s husband, Wayne. I don’t bring up anything about how it’s nice that he could bring her or the fact that her own father isn’t here. That little spark I normally see in her eyes is gone.
By six thirty, the place is full. Our PE teacher tries his best to DJ. Sights of dresses twirling around on the dance floor bring me so many happy memories.
A father dressed in a form-fitting gray suit holds his hand up high as his daughter spins. His expression is priceless as he watches his little angel having a fun time.
Wayne is doing the best to accommodate Cailin, but I get the feeling he’s out of his element. When they dance, he’s not holding her like the other fathers do. He’s questioning where to put his arm, and his posture is stiff.
As I walk around the room, making sure everything is going okay, I catch Cailin doing a little dance that signifies she has to go potty. Wayne’s eyes widen as he nervously looks around, so I swoop in and offer to take her.
The night progresses, and poor Wayne doesn’t fit in the groups of young fathers who begin to line the walls as the girls start to play with their friends. He’s tucked in the corner on his phone, but when he hangs up, he heads straight to Cailin, leaning down and pointing to the door.
I follow his finger and am shocked when I see Adam—the Adam Jacobson—standing at the door in tight jeans with holes and a black shirt that clings to his body, revealing tattoos that cover both arms. His hair sticks up straight, and the black gauges in his ears stand out in our clean-cut, country community.
Cindy is talking to him, and by her expression, I can tell she doesn’t recognize him.
Why am I not surprised?
When she motions to Principal McAllister, I rush to the door, making sure he doesn’t say something he’ll regret before he realizes who just crashed our party. He’s close to his seventies, so I wouldn’t expect him to recognize Adam.
He takes pride in knowing who all the parents are here at Markham Elementary and is quick to make it known when people aren’t welcome. Since he doesn’t know Cailin’s father is a rock star who’s on tour, he has no clue who the man is that just walked in without a student on his arm.
Cailin is making her way to us as I step in front of Principal McAllister.
“Hi. You’re Cailin’s father, right? So glad you could join us.” I reach my hand out to him.
Principal McAllister gives me the side-eye for cutting him off but thankfully keeps his mouth shut once he hears me say it’s Cailin’s father.
Adam reaches his hand out to mine, securely gripping it. “You must be Miss Russo.” His crystal-blue eyes stay locked to mine, and his lips tilt up into a slight grin.
I’m glad Cailin jumping into his arms breaks our moment, so I can gather myself better.
“Daddy, how are you here?”
He wraps his arms around her, hugging her so tightly that she giggles his name as he bounces her up and down. “I couldn’t miss my little girl’s first dance,” he says when he pulls back to look at her in the face. He sets her down. “And this dress!” He motions for her to turn around.
“Do you like it?” she says, holding out the sides for him to see better.
“I love it, but you’re missing one thing.” He takes the small box he’s holding and opens it for her, revealing a beautiful dahlia corsage.
Cailin jumps up and down, clapping her hands. “Is that for me?”
Adam removes it from the box and places it around her wrist. “Now, it’s perfect. So, my lady”—he holds out his elbow to her—“may I have this dance?”
I turn to the rest of the crowd, only to see the spectacle they’ve created. Most of the parents here are my age, and though they might not like rock music, thanks to apps like TMZ, they know exactly who Adam is, especially after the riot that just occurred.
Adam seems unfazed by the buzz around him. I’m amazed he can act like no one cares that a huge rock star just entered our small-town elementary gymnasium. He swings his daughter around, holding his hands out to her as she steps on his feet, and they dance like it’s something they’ve done a thousand times before.
Whispers progress, and before long, cell phones are removed from coat pockets, and pictures are snapped. Worry of his secret getting out grips at my stomach, but when I see the way he’s looking at Cailin, it calms my nerves.
Right now, he’s just a normal dad who wants to dance with his little girl. Nothing should stop him from having this memory with his daughter.
“Who is this guy, and why are people freaking out that he’s here?” Cindy ruins the sweet moment when she snidely crosses her arms in front of herself.
“You don’t recognize him?”
She scrunches her face. “Why would I know what that is?”
Yep, that’s why we aren’t friends anymore. I need that reminder of how judgmental and snobby she really is every once in a while. The whole town is like this. My sister, Emily, is the only friend I have who lives here. She’s not as bad as some of the people, but she definitely has her moments.
This is just another reason why I need to make a plan for something else in my life—quickly. Thank God I have Maggie even though she lives on the opposite coast. I vent to her often, and she keeps me sane. I promised her this was my last year teaching here, and I plan on keeping that promise. I’m ready for what’s next.
I try to hide my irritation. “He’s a famous rock star. You should look him up. He’s the lead singer of the band Devil’s Breed.”
She flips her hair my way in an instant. “You really think I’d listen to a band with the word devil in it? Please don’t tell me that’s his daughter. How did we let someone like that in this school?”
I open my eyes wide to her. “In this public school, where everyone and anyone in our city is welcome to attend? You don’t have to be so rude. You don’t even know the guy, and his daughter is a sweetheart.”
She rolls her eyes. “Of course you would stand up for something like that. When will you grow up, Sarah?”
With a huff, she storms off to talk to the other teachers and, I’m sure, to try to start a gossip train.
I shake off her negative energy and turn my attention back to the sweet dance happening in front of me.
The song ends, and Cailin pulls her father by the hand over to where I’m standing. “Daddy, this is my teacher, Miss Russo,” Cailin says with so much pride that I can’t help but smile.
He picks her up with his left arm and sticks out his right one to me again. Tingles fly through my body when our skin meets.
“Yes, we met when I first got here. Thanks for taking care of my little girl.” He tickles her after he drops my hand.
“Please, call me Sarah.” I kick myself internally.
Adam looks back to me, pausing for a brief moment before repeating my name breathlessly, “Sarah.”
It rolls off his tongue in a raspy baritone that makes it sound more like a song lyric than just five letters, and I swear, my heart skips a beat.
I’ve never asked a parent to call me by my first name, and the expression on Principal McAllister’s face proves he heard me. I know he’s waiting patiently for me to fill him in on why people are taking pictures and acting weird toward this man, but he’ll have to wait a little longer because I’m currently being held hostage by the smoldering stare of a rock star.
This man, who has seen the world, is looking at me like I just might be the bluest ocean or the brightest star and he’s mesmerized by my existence. It’s intense and hypnotic, and if I’m not careful, I might just believe it’s more than what it is.
Adam turns back to Cailin. “Thank you for the dance, Sugarplum, but I have to get going.”
She pouts, and I can’t help it when I ask, “You can only stay for one song?”
He sighs as he places her down on the ground. “I have a show in”—he checks his watch—“two hours in Arizona.”
“Arizona?” I spit out in surprise.
A grin covers his face, and he glances down at his daughter. “Yep. I couldn’t miss this beautiful girl’s first dance, so I hired another band to perform before me to buy time. I have a private jet waiting to get me back in time.”
My eyes open wide in both shock and awe. The love this man has for his daughter has no boundaries.
“But only ten more days, right?” Cailin asks.
“That’s right. We have a few shows in Arizona, then LA and Vegas, and then I’m home.” He leans down to give her a hug.
“Yay!” She holds her arms up in celebration.
“Give me some love,” he says, and the two rub noses.
“I love you, Chestnut,” Cailin says with their faces inches apart.
He laughs before saying, “I love you too, Sugarplum.”
He holds up his pinkie finger to show his nail painted black, and Cailin matches his movements, showing her purple one.
Witnessing such a personal moment warms my heart.
“And you”—he stands, facing me, making me feel bad for invading their personal time—“Sarah … it was nice to meet you.”
“It’s my pleasure, Adam. I mean, Mr. Jacobson. I mean—”
He smirks. “Just Adam is fine.” He turns to the people still staring at us before turning to me and whispering, “I guess the cat’s out of the bag.” He glances down at Cailin in admiration. “Totally worth it. I couldn’t miss her first father-daughter dance. There wasn’t a better way for everyone to find out anyway. Bye, baby girl.” He rubs his finger under her chin.
“Bye, Daddy. Love you mucho.”
“Love you mucho more!” he yells back as he walks away, making Cailin laugh as she waves her tiny hand good-bye.
I inhale a deep breath, calming my nerves.
I knew his tour was ending soon, but hearing it’s only ten days away makes my stomach flip.
Will he be bringing her to school every day? How will the community react to having him here?
So many things fly through my mind.
But the biggest one of all is, How am I going to breathe knowing my own broken dreams are living just down the street?
I’ve been able to survive here, going about my life, with no memories or reminders of what was lost. It’s such a different world that I’ve tried to forget it even exists. How am I going to deal with it smacking me across the face every day?
I turn to Cailin, who’s still grinning from ear to ear as she watches her dad hop in a car waiting for him.
I guess only time will tell what happens. I just hope I have enough strength to pull through again.