Love Rebooted by Mara Bright

Chapter One


since the last day of my senior year of high school, so when a little girl with perfect braids and crooked teeth walks in, I don’t immediately peg her as Wyatt’s daughter. However, when Wyatt follows her, all muscles and sharp bone structure, I know that I will have to play it cool to hide both how attracted I am to him and how much he had hurt me in the past.

“Arianna,” he says, surprised.

“You recognize me?” I comment, though I don’t know why he wouldn’t. True, I have less acne, but my wavy brown hair, doe eyes, and busty figure are all the same.

“You recognize me too, or else you would sound much more confused. Besides, how would I forget about you?”

I tell myself it doesn’t matter, because that was a long time ago and we don’t owe each other anything.

The part that hurts though isn’t seeing him. I’ve looked at pictures of him on social media from time to time (more often than I would like to admit); what hurts is that his daughter is here. A daughter he chose to have with someone other than me.

“What brings you back into town?”

“Well, I don’t know if you heard, but Gina passed about a year ago, and I need extra help with Parker here. Your brother, being my childhood best friend and all, offered for he and Lace to help me if I just moved a little bit closer.”

They have three kids of their own, all boys, but Lace is a perfect mother (whether we get along or not) and has always wanted a daughter, so I bet, if she were to be honest, she’d admit she was thrilled.

“Did he recommend you here?” I ask, trying to see just how much of a matchmaker my brother is trying to be.

“Yes, he did. Said it was the best one in all of Savannah. Didn’t tell me that you work here though.”

“Work here?” I snort. “I own the place.” I motion to the pre-k room we’re in now, the perfect place for his little daughter, who is probably four or five. Pictures that the kids colored cover the walls and knocked-over block towers litter the floor. “There are also baby and toddler rooms, as well as after school programs. Room for—” I pause and realize what I am here to focus on when I kneel down to see the girl.

“What’s your name?”


“Well, Parker, I think you’ll really like it here.”

“Will some of my drawings go on the wall?”

“Sure, if you want them to,” I answer. She wasn’t on Wyatt’s social media anywhere, and I realize that he is probably trying to protect her from all that. I do get it. But I also wonder if it would be easier for me to see her now had I seen her before. I stand up. “Did you have any questions, Wyatt?”

“A whole list actually, but if you own it here certainly you can have an employee help me while you get Parker settled.”

“For the first day, I like to stay close to the child to see if they have any needs in particular to watch for,” I explain. “It can help to have someone who has a few degrees in child development to look into it.” I know he is highly successful and I want to prove to him that I am too, even if I still have student loan debt. “But I can send someone else to answer your questions.” His look is stormy, and I think he is annoyed not to have the owner at his disposal, but I’m annoyed he’s even here. More than that I am annoyed that Hudson suggested him to go here without even warning me. He knows how close Wyatt and I used to be, dating until senior year of high school, and I don’t know how I will get through to him just how much I don’t want him to play matchmaker. He’ll probably say that isn’t what he’s doing, but I think at the very least it is what Lace is doing. If I were someone else, I’d say it’s probably that she’s bored at home with those kids all day, but I know just how hard that can be.

I call over one of my senior staff and get them started while I say, “Parker, why don’t we come play? We’ve got some musical instruments, a little grocery store, and a huge dollhouse. What do you want to play with?”

“My mom played the violin,” she says, and I wonder, for a silly moment, if that is what made Gina so much better than me.

“Well, we don’t have a violin, but we have a guitar and a keyboard.”

“I like the keyboard,” she says, so we go to the corner, and I turn the sound as low as I can while still being able to hear it. That’s why keyboards are my favorite instruments for the children; the guitar someone will have to watch them with, it’s less hardy, and we all have to hear the music.

I need to focus on Parker. That’s what I tell myself even as I keep glancing at Wyatt, his suit crisp and tailored. He’s probably going straight to work, but it still seems silly to me that he would look so uptight at a daycare. Other people dress up, so I don’t want to judge him so early just because he looks nice. It’s not really about him at all though, is it?

“I know where ‘C’ is,” Parker says. “Like in the ABCs.”

“Oh yeah?” I ask. “Why don’t you show me?”

She starts out a model girl, so eventually I do go back to the office a few hours later, during naptime, to try to get done what I can. My workers can handle it here if I am being honest, and I need to talk to Hudson.

As soon as the door is closed, showing my collection of child-rearing books and even an adoption flyer shoved in the corner, I’m pressing the dial button. He answers right away. “Before you get mad,” he starts.

“It’s a little late for that,” I say.


“I mean I’m not mad, I’m furious. You know what we were in the past. It’s not even that he’s here, I’m a professional, my problem is that you didn’t tell me.” He sighs, and I can almost see him run his hand over his face, a gesture Hudson does so often to the point of being comical. “I should have told you.”

“Yes, you should have.”

“I just didn’t want you to say ‘no.’”

“Do you really think I’m that unprofessional?” I ask. “That’s almost worse than not telling me in the first place.”

“It’s definitely not that I think you’re unprofessional, I just—”

“Did Lace suggest this?”

“No, it was all me, why?” he asks. “Oh, you mean just because she’s tried to set you up on a blind date or two? I don’t think this is a chance for you to hook up with him, he just lost his wife.”

“She doesn’t exactly have the decorum to care.”

“Arianna,” he snaps, and I realize that I have never been so over-the-top annoyed with his wife before, at least where he could hear it.

“I’m sorry, you’re right. I’m mad, but I’ll get over it.”

“Good, because it’s not as if you can kick him out.”

“It’s you, not him, I want to kick out,” I say.

“Well, luckily the boys are with Lace. I offered for him to have Parker to stay with her, but he was having none of it, even when we said he could pay her. It would be a lot on her, to add a whole other person, and when he asked for someone, my mind went straight to you.” That’s even nicer than I expected him to be, so I don’t want to start anything that I don’t actually want to finish if he’s going to be so nice to me. I’ve always fallen for the kill-her-with-kindness trick.

“Well, thank you, I suppose.”

“You suppose?” he asks, and I can hear the smirk in his voice. We’ve been inseparable our whole lives, so we know each other well.

There is a knock on the door, so I say, “Listen Hudson, I better go, but don’t do something like this again, okay?”

“Okay,” he says with a small laugh.

“Come in,” I call out.

Jennifer, one of my employees, comes in and says, “There was just a bite. It wasn’t serious, but we’re doing up an incident report and I thought you might want to know.”

I sigh. “It wasn’t Sean, was it?”

“No, it was Parker. I don’t want to think she’ll be a hard kid, but I guess we should keep our eyes on her.”

“She’s gone through a lot of stress lately,” I say, “but let me go talk to her.” When I get out two of the kids are still up: Parker, and the boy I’m assuming she bit, Sean. “Parker,” I say, walking over to her and kneeling down, “is there something you want to talk about?”

“He was snoring.”

“Oh, that sounds annoying, but you can’t bite someone for that, can you? Some people snore.”

“Can we play grocery store?” I can tell that she’s barely listening, and I wonder if there is more around it. “Parker, we can’t bite people, we have to behave while we’re here if we want to play grocery store or just play with any of the other kids at all.”

“Because people don’t want to play with us if we bite?”

“Exactly. And I want you to like it here, and you’ll like it a lot more if you have friends here.”

“Can we play grocery store now?”

“After you go apologize to Sean.”

She does and we play, but I know we’re going to have a rough time with Wyatt when we work this out. I’m pretty sure he is the type of father to think his daughter is perfect.