“My daughter’s being taught to hate me.”
The widening of Maggie Lapage’s incredible blue-green eyes told Tom his words came as a shock, and he reminded himself this was about Hailey, not him. He didn’t need to delve into his own fears and frustrations.
“How about you sit back down and tell me what’s going on, Mr. O’Shay.”
He returned to the chair and sat, even though his instincts screamed for him to get the hell out of there. He didn’t need some nosy social worker-type offering sympathy and advice, telling him how to raise his own daughter. Especially not some young thing like the one facing him. To say she was attractive would be an understatement. Her long dark red hair flowed like liquid fire, and with her classic bone structure, full sensuous lips and tall slender figure, she could’ve been mistaken for a catwalk model rather than a children’s counselor.
He rubbed his fingers into his eyes. Who was he kidding? If he didn’t get some help, and fast, he might lose his daughter completely, and he’d walk through hell before he’d allow that to happen.
“I want to help, Mr. O’Shay, I really do.” Her voice was soft and full of compassion. And it made his jaw ache. “But first you have to help me. Please, explain the circumstances that brought you here.”
He drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment before slowly exhaling. “My lawyer told me I needed counseling for my daughter. If I don’t do this, I could lose custody. She mentioned something about Family Justice Counselors. Your agency’s on the list she gave me, so I assume you’re qualified?”
“I’m a licensed mediator, yes. I can work with the courts in high-conflict custody disputes, if that’s needed.” A perplexed frown wrinkled her forehead. “Excuse my confusion, Mr. O’Shay, but did you not say your wife had died?”
“She has.” It took real effort not to come off as frustrated and bitter. “My wife and I had been divorced for about a year before she died. She had full custody of Hailey and I had visitation.” Tom recognized the quick flash of consternation crossing Maggie Lapage’s face, and he rushed to clarify. “It was simply easier that way, not because I’m not a good dad.”
Easier for Deirdre, at any rate. He didn’t get a lot of say in the matter, and he didn’t have the money to fight her at the time. Just as he didn’t have the money to fight her parents now.
The counselor’s inquiring gaze clearly said she needed more information. He heaved his shoulders up and back and tried to formulate a logical explanation that didn’t reveal quite what a fool he’d been.