A Sweetheart For The Single Dad (The Camdens Of Colorado Book 8)

All Is Fair In Love And War!

How can a woman complete a task when the subject looks like him? Lindie Camden must keep her eyes on the prize to win Sawyer Huffman as a client and amend their familial dispute that dates back generations. But when she’s hit with the single dad’s gentle heart and his oh-too-kissable mouth, her idea of “the prize” shifts all too easily…

She expects to volunteer in the community center wearing that? There was no denying Sawyer’s appreciation of seeing Lindie in her figure-hugging clothes, but he’s less impressed with the reason behind the outfits. Despite the initial success of their seductive ploy, he won’t allow the Camdens to weasel themselves into business with him. Because the only kind of deal he wanted to make with Lindie involved white lace…and promises…

As far as she was concerned, Sawyer Huffman already had three strikes against him.

The bad history between their families, their professional conflicts and a child.

And that counted him out as a relationship prospect regardless of his appeal.

It was just that he did have appeal.

So, so much appeal…

But she wasn’t going to let that get to her. No way, no how.

Because as determined she was to get this job she’d been given done, she was even more determined about that!

* * *

The Camdens of Colorado:
They’ve made a fortune in business.
Can they make it in the game of love?

Dear Reader,

Lindie Camden’s softheartedness has caused problems for her and she needs to toughen up. But attempting to get to know Sawyer Huffman through his involvement with a community center full of needy kids isn’t helping.

Sawyer Huffman may be gorgeous and incredibly sexy, but he’s also the Camden family’s biggest pain in the neck. His own payback mission pits him against every Superstore the Camdens want to open because once upon a time a Camden damaged his father’s business in order to steal his father’s fianceé.

Fix the problem and make peace—that’s the job Lindie has been given. But what happens when the only thing that fixes the problem is for Sawyer to get the girl now? And when that girl is Lindie?

Keep reading to find out!

I hope you enjoy this latest installment of the Camdens. I know they’re always happy to have you back!

Wishing you the best always,

A Sweetheart for the Single Dad

Victoria Pade

Victoria Pade
is a
USA TODAY
bestselling author. A native of Colorado, she’s lived there her entire life. She studied art before discovering her real passion was for writing, and even after more than eighty books, she still loves it. When she isn’t writing she’s baking and worrying about how to work off the calories. She has better luck with the baking than with the calories. Readers can contact her on her
Facebook
page.

Books by Victoria Pade

Harlequin Special Edition

The Camdens of Colorado

To Catch a Camden

A Camden Family Wedding

It’s a Boy!

A Baby in the Bargain

Corner-Office Courtship

Her Baby and Her Beau

A Sweetheart for the Single Dad

Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys

The Maverick’s Christmas Baby

Northbridge Nuptials

 
A Baby for the Bachelor

The Bachelor’s Northbridge Bride

Marrying the Northbridge Nanny

The Bachelor, the Baby and the Beauty

The Bachelor’s Christmas Bride

Big Sky Bride, Be Mine!

Mommy in the Making

The Camden Cowboy

Montana Mavericks: Striking It Rich

A Family for the Holidays

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

Chapter One

“Y
ou’re a Camden. Shall I guess which one?”

It was late on Monday afternoon, the last day of August, when Lindie Camden went into the recreation room of the Wheatley Community Center and someone stepped up behind her to speak those words.

The voice was male, deep and rich. The tone was slightly confrontational, slightly facetious, and so low that no one else was likely to hear despite the fact that there were a number of other adults and children all around.

Lindie wasn’t sure whether it was good or bad that she’d been sort of recognized. She was on a mission today from her grandmother to connect with Sawyer Huffman and attempt to take the thorn out of the lion’s paw once and for all.

She’d tried calling to request an appointment to see him. But she’d been informed that Sawyer Huffman was not interested in hearing anything a Camden might have to say.

Undeterred, at lunch she’d gone home to change into her tightest pencil skirt, a sleeveless silk top with a cowl neck that flowed with some intriguing folds in front, and a pair of four-inch, come-and-get-it spiked heels.

She’d left her long, espresso-brown hair to fall loosely to the middle of her back the way she would wear it to go clubbing. She’d applied shadow, liner and mascara to her cerulean-blue eyes. She’d dusted her cheeks and her thin nose with a hint more color. Then she’d added her favorite rose-hued lipstick to lips that were naturally full. All to present herself at the offices of Huffman Consulting and hopefully lure him into meeting with her, appointment or not.

That scheme had at least gained her information from a young male intern that Sawyer Huffman had left for the day to volunteer at the community center in Wheatley, a suburb about twenty minutes outside Denver.

The intractably determined Lindie had come straight here and told the person at the front desk only that she was looking for Sawyer Huffman. She’d been informed that he could be found in the recreation room at the chess tables.

It was the chess tables she was looking for when the near-whisper had come from behind.

Lindie turned to face tall, not-too-dark but very, very handsome Sawyer Huffman himself.

The arch nemesis of Camden Superstores.

And the son of a man who had been a victim of some underhanded actions on the part of the previous generation’s Camdens.

As one of Camden Incorporated’s most outspoken opponents, Lindie had seen Sawyer Huffman’s picture in newspapers and magazines; she’d seen him interviewed and in news reports on television. It had been obvious that he was attractive.

But he was a lot more impressive in person.

Standing six-foot-three, he was a big guy all the way around. There didn’t seem to be an ounce of fat behind the suit pants and dress shirt he was wearing. He had a broad chest and shoulders, thick forearms showing from beneath sleeves rolled to his elbows, and massive hands that grasped muscular arms he crossed over his flat middle.

He was kind of daunting even though she didn’t see any anger or resentment on his gorgeous face. He had light brown hair that he wore short on the sides and only a bit longer and carelessly kept on top. His finely angular features included just-high-enough cheekbones, a sharp jawline and a nose with just enough of a ridge in the bridge to give him a roguish air.

His lower lip was fuller than his upper and there were the sexiest little parentheses at their corners, drawn there at that moment by his questioning Cheshire-cat smile. He also had a slightly crooked crease in the center of his square-ish chin and amazing crystal-blue eyes. Eyes filled with curiosity now as he gazed down at her, waiting for her response.

“I’m Lindie,” she said simply.

“I figured. A phone call this morning asking to meet with me and now you’ve tracked me down here? Are you the family assassin?” he asked, the thought seeming to amuse him.

“Not today. I left all my weapons at home” was Lindie’s comeback.

Her clothing choice wasn’t lost on him because his glance dropped for a split second before he said, “I’m not so sure about that.”

Then the tone that had held a mingling of admiration and suspicion became more businesslike. “I came here to run a chess tournament for these kids, so I don’t know what you’re up to but—”

“I’m not
up to
anything. I’m representing my family’s company. We’d like to improve relations with you and to hire you. But since you wouldn’t see me at your office—”


Improve relations
with me?
Hire
me?” he repeated as if she were out of her mind. “Neither of those things is ever going happen,
Ms
. Camden. It’s my
job
to be your adversary. A job I created and have no intention of changing.”

“Lindie. I’m just Lindie,” she corrected.

“It’s my job to be your adversary,
Lindie
,” he reiterated as if she might understand it better that way.

Huffman Consulting represented several of Camden Superstores’ competitors—major grocery store, home improvement and department store chains. Every time an area was targeted as the site for a new Camden Superstore, Huffman Consulting went to work to present the downside on behalf of their clients in an effort to raise community support to keep out the superstore.

Through pamphlets, phone calls, news reports, petition drives, websites and contact with big and small local businesses and homeowners, Huffman Consulting spread the word that the arrival of a Camden Superstore lowered property values, drove out small businesses, increased traffic congestion and police calls, and caused any number of other evils.

The campaigns often either kept the Camdens from opening a store at all, or caused lengthy, expensive delays while the company’s PR team worked to combat the campaign and win over the communities.

“If Camden Incorporated became one of your clients it would be your job to represent
our
interests, as well,” Lindie said reasonably.

“You want me in bed with the enemy,” he countered.

Ooh. That put a saucy image in her head that came out of nowhere and shouldn’t have been there!

Lindie shoved it away and reminded herself that this was solely about business.

“What we want is not to
be
your enemy,” she said. “It’s only recently come to our attention that some...questionable
things
were done years ago to your family. We understand that that’s probably left you thinking badly of us and wanting to get even. But we’d like to clear the air and compensate you by way of our business—always worth a substantial amount of money.”

“What is this? The Camdens’ own twelve-step program? Are you on the admit-wrongdoing-and-make-amends part?”

In truth the Camdens
were
trying to make amends to people who had been wronged by Lindie’s predecessors. But they also didn’t want that widely known and inspiring false allegations.

So Lindie ignored the questions and said, “Give me a chance. Get to know me and Camden Incorporated
through
me. Let me get to know you and where you’re really coming from. Then maybe we can find common ground and work together.”


This
is where I’m really coming from,” he said with a gesture around the community center. “Areas like this eastern side of Wheatley that are left behind when a Camden Superstore comes to town. When jobs are lost and businesses close and buildings go vacant. When resources are drained away to the more prosperous parts of town. When parents have to take jobs farther away from home so their commute is longer and more time is taken away from their kids. Kids who are ultimately left with less supervision, leading them to get into trouble. Kids who need somewhere to go that isn’t an empty house or apartment.”

Okay, the man didn’t pull any punches. But Lindie could take them.

Before she’d thought of something diplomatic to say he added, “You want to get to know what I’m after? Pitch in here. Volunteer. Learn firsthand what the Camdens leave in their dust. Make some
real
amends to people you’ve done harm to right now.”

It was a dare. A dare he clearly thought Lindie wouldn’t accept.

He couldn’t have been more wrong. Jumping in to help was her middle name. Sometimes to her own detriment.

But her goal today was strictly to connect with him. To get some time with him. That was the only hope she had of turning him from an enemy to an ally.

So rather than immediately accepting his challenge, she wanted to make sure it would get her what she needed.

“Do you ‘pitch in’ here? Volunteer—beyond your chess tournament today?” she asked.

“I have connections to Wheatley and this community center happens to be my pet project, so, yes, I volunteer here.”

“What kind of connections? Do you live in Wheatley?”

“I live in a loft in lower downtown Denver. But my son lives here.”

“You have a son?” she said, hoping to build some rapport even as she took particular note of that fact for her own personal reasons. The fact that he had a child helped put him all the more securely in the wouldn’t-date-him compartment and she thought that that should help her concentrate on the work at hand.

“I do have a son,” he answered. “Sam. He lives in Wheatley with his mother and her new husband. For now.”

He seemed compelled to add that last part, though it was under his breath. Unsure how to reply, she merely said, “You’re divorced?”

“As a matter of fact I am. But not from Sam’s mom. She and I were never married.”

Divorced, with a child with a woman from a different relationship. The man seemed to have quite a history.

“Does your son use the community center?” she asked.

“He’s four and in the preschool program here. But the center is also important because if the older kids have a place they want to spend time, it keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. Ultimately that makes things safer and better for Sam. Plus, there’s the park the center just acquired next door—he’ll like that when it’s in shape.”

“So other than the chess tournament, what do you do as a volunteer here?” she persisted.

“I come in every Thursday afternoon—today is a special occasion for the tournament—and spend time with the kids themselves. Other than that I do whatever I can. Right now we need community involvement in cleaning up the park. So tomorrow I’m going door-to-door with flyers to get the word out. The most immediate project is rehabbing the park itself—work on that starts Friday afternoon at one. Schools around here are having an early release that day, so we’re doing a lunch for the kids, then putting everybody at the center to work and hoping for outside help, too.”

“So this week you’ll be here tomorrow handing out flyers, then again on Thursday and Friday?” Lindie summarized for clarity.

“Are you setting up a timetable to stalk me? Because if you’re around here, I’ll get you involved,” he warned.

“Let’s say I’m fine with that. What would you get me involved doing? Could I hand out flyers with you? Do whatever you do with the kids on Thursdays? Work by your side on the park cleanup?”

“You want to be my shadow?” he said as if that amused him once more.

“I was just thinking that I could kill two birds with one stone. If volunteering gives me the chance to talk to you, I’m happy to volunteer.”

“Talking to me isn’t going to do you any good.” Another warning.

“I can be very persuasive.”

“Ah. The Camden persuader not the Camden assassin. I can relax.”

“Because I obviously had you terrified.”

He laughed. “You can tag along tomorrow. It’ll give you a look at the realities of the decline your company causes. When it comes to the park cleanup, sure, we can work side-by-side as long as you’re willing to do anything I’m doing.”

“And what will you be doing?” she asked, sensing the need to be wary.

“Oh, it’ll be down and dirty...” he threatened with a whole lot of innuendo.

He was trying to rattle her and was succeeding. But she wasn’t sure if it was because she didn’t know what he might throw at her, or if it was the instant image that flashed through her mind of getting down and dirty with him in a way that had nothing to do with park cleanup. A way that was totally inappropriate and not at all businesslike.

But she refused to let him see that he was having any impact on her composure whatsoever and said matter-of-factly, “I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty.”

He smiled. “Said like a true Camden,” he taunted.

Lindie raised a defiant chin but that only made him grin before he went on. “When it comes to Thursday, though, what I do with the kids is time I spend with them. If you want to come around, figure out something you can contribute to them yourself.”

“Such as?”

“Go with your strengths. If you’re a math or science whiz, or great with essays and writing book reports, you could help out in the quiet room—homework gets done in there. There’s an art center if you draw or paint or sculpt or any of that stuff. Sometimes there are girls’ basketball or volleyball pickup games—”

His gaze went down her legs to her spiked heels and his smile turned appreciative before he looked back at her face. “You might have to invest in a pair of tennis shoes for that, though,” he added as if he doubted she owned anything that everyday.

Then he motioned to the room they were in. “There’re usually kids in here looking for somebody to play chess or checkers or a board game. Or there’s a kitchen—we have some budding chefs who might appreciate a few lessons in there. Or you can help make sandwiches and snacks. There’s always plenty to do. But on Thursdays it’s the kids I’ll be with, so don’t think you can horn in on that.”

Still, if she was in the same place at the same time he was, she thought she could find the opportunity to talk to him.

Just as she was plotting, a woman approached them, apologized for interrupting and said, “Do you think at the break you could talk to Parker Cauzel, Sawyer? He has some bruises on his arm that he’s trying hard to hide. I don’t know if something happened at home or—”

That took all the amusement out of Sawyer Huffman and before Lindie even knew she was going to say it, she asked, “He could be being abused?”

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