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'I assume you know why you're both here,' the solicitor said, looking at Emmy and then at Dylan.
Of course Emmy knew. Ally and Pete had asked her to be their son Tyler's guardian, if the unthinkable should ever happen.
If. She swallowed hard. That was the whole point of her being here. Because the unthinkable had happened. And Emmy still couldn't quite believe that she'd never see her best friend again.
She lifted her chin. Obviously today was about making things all official legally. And as for Dylan Harperthe only man she'd ever met who could make wearing a T-shirt and jeans feel as if they were a formal business suithe was obviously here because he was Pete's best friend and Pete and Ally had asked him to be the executor of their will. 'Yes,' she said.
'Yes,' Dylan echoed.
'Good.' The solicitor tapped his pen against his blotter. 'So, Miss Jacobs, Mr Harper, can you confirm that you're both prepared to be Tyler's guardians?'
Emmy froze for a moment. Both? What was the man talking about? No way would Ally and Pete have asked them both to be Tyler's guardian. There had to be some mistake.
She glanced at Dylan, to find him looking straight back at her. And his expression was just as stunned as her own must be.
Or maybe they'd misheard. Misunderstood. 'Both of us, Tyler's guardians?' she asked.
For the first time, the solicitor's face showed an expression other than smooth neutrality. 'Did you not know they'd named you as Tyler's guardian in the will, Ms Jacobs?'
Emmy blew out a breath. 'Well, yes. Ally asked me before she and Pete revised their wills.' And she'd assumed that Ally had meant just her.
'Pete asked me,' Dylan said.
Which almost made Emmy wonder if Ally and Pete hadn't spoken to each other about it. Though obviously they must've done. They'd both signed the will, so they'd clearly known that both of their best friends had agreed to be there for Tyler. They just hadn't shared that particular piece of information with either Dylan or herself, by the looks of things.
'Is there a problem?' the solicitor asked.
Apart from the fact that she and Dylan disliked each other intensely and usually avoided each other? Or the fact that Dylan was mar-riedand Emmy was pretty sure that his wife couldn't be too pleased that her husband had been named co-guardian with another woman, one who was single? 'No,' she said quickly, and looked at Dylan. This was his cue to explain that no, he couldn't do it.
'No problem,' Dylan confirmed, to her shock.
Good? No, it just made everything much more complicated, Emmy thought. Or maybe it meant he intended to fight her for custody of the baby: family man versus single mum, so it was obvious who'd win. But she didn't have a chance to protest because the solicitor went on with the reading of the will. 'Now, obviously Ally and Pete left financial provisions for Tyler. I have all the details here.'
'I'll deal with it,' Dylan said.
Immediately assuming that a flaky, air-headed jewellery designer wouldn't have a clue what to do? Emmy knew that was how Dylan saw hershe'd overheard him say it to Pete, on more than one occasionand it rankled. She'd been her own boss for ten years. She was perfectly capable of dealing with things. Whereas he was so uptight and stuffy, she couldn't even begin to imagine him looking after a baby or a toddler. Given that Ally had always been diplomatic about Dylan's wife, merely saying that she worked with Pete, Emmy was pretty sure that Nadine Harper was from the same mould as Dylan. A cold workaholic who wouldn't know what fun was if it jumped out in front of him and yelled, 'Boo!' And not the sort that Ally would've wanted caring for her son.
But the solicitor was off again, going through the details of the arrangements made in the will. Emmy had to ignore her feelings and listen to what the man was telling her before she got completely lost. This was important.
And then at last it was all over.
Leaving her and Dylan to pick up the pieces. Together. Unthinkably.
She gave the solicitor a polite smile, shook his hand, and walked out of the office. On the doorstep of the building, she came to a halt and faced Dylan.
'I think,' she said, 'we need to talk. Like now'
He nodded. 'And I could do with some coffee.'
There were shadows under his cornflower-blue eyes, and lines at the corners betraying that he hadn't slept properly since the crash; for the first time ever, Dylan actually looked vulnerableand as if he hurt as much as she did, right now. It stopped her from uttering the kind of snippy remarks they usually made to each other.
'Make that two of us,' she said. On the sleep front, as well as the need for coffee. Vulnerability, no way would she admit to. Especially not to Dylan Harper. No way was she giving him an excuse to take Tyler from her. He and Nadine were not taking her place.
'Where's Tyler?' Dylan asked.
'With my mum. She'll ring me if there's a problem.' She lifted one shoulder, daring him to criticise her. 'I didn't think the solicitor's office would be the best place for him.'
Another first: he was actually agreeing with her. Maybe, she thought, they might be able to work something out between them? Maybe he'd be reasonable? A baby wouldn't fit into his busy, workaholic lifestyle. It'd be tough for Emmy, too, but at least she'd spent time with her godson and would have some clue about looking after him.
'Shall we?' she asked, indicating the cafe across the road.
At the counter in the cafe, Emmy ordered a latte. 'What would you like?'
'I'll get these,' Dylan said immediately.
She gave a small but determined shake of her head. No way was she going to let him take charge. 'I offered first.'
'Then thank youan espresso would be great.'
'Do you want anything to eat?'
He grimaced. 'Thank you for the offer, but right now I really can't face anything.'
She, too, hadn't been able to choke much down since she'd heard the news. It seemed that the situation had shaken him as much as it had shaken her. In a way, that was a good thing. Maybe they could find some common ground.
'If you go and find us a table, I'll bring our coffee over,' she said.
And she was glad of that small space between them. Just so she could marshal her thoughts. Right now, she didn't want to fight with Dylan. She just wanted her best friend back. For everything to be the same as it had been, three days ago. For Pete to have taken Ally on a surprise anniversary trip to Venice, for them to be happy and for Ally to be texting her to let her know they were on their way back and couldn't wait to see their little boy and tell her all about the trip. For them to be alive.
Emmy paid for the coffees, and carried them over to the quiet table Dylan had found for them in the corner.
'So you had no idea Pete had asked me to be Tyler's guardian?' Dylan asked.
Typical Dylan: straight in there. No pussyfooting around. Though, for once, she agreed with him. They needed to cut to the chase. 'No. And you had no idea that Ally had asked me?'
'No.' He spread his hands. 'Of course I said yes when he asked mejust as you obviously did when Ally asked you.' He sighed. 'I know you shouldn't speak ill of the deadand Pete was my best friend, the closest I had to a brotherbut what the hell were they thinking when they decided this?'
'They're bothwere both,' she corrected herself, wincing, 'only children. Pete's dad is nearly eighty and Ally's mum isn't well. How could Pete and Ally's parents be expected to cope with looking after a baby full-time? And it isn't going to get any easier for them over the next twenty years. Of course Pete and Ally would ask someone nearer their own age to be Tyler's guardian.'
Dylan gave a pained sigh. 'I didn't mean that. It's obvious. I mean, why us?'
Why ask two people who really didn't get on to take care of the most precious thing in their lives? Good question. Though that wasn't the one uppermost in her mind. 'Why you and me instead of you and your wife?' she asked pointedly.
He blew out a breath. 'That isn't an issue.'
'If I was married and my husband's best friend asked him to be the baby's guardian if the worst happened, I'd be pretty upset if another woman was named as the co-guardian instead of me,' Emmy said.
'It isn't an issue,' Dylan repeated.
Patronising, pompous idiot. Emmy kept a rein on her temper. Just. 'Don't you think this discussion ought to include her?'
'You're the one who said we needed to talk.'
'We do.' She switched into superpolite mode, the one she used for difficult clients, before she was tempted to strangle him. 'Could you perhaps phone her and see when's a good time for her to join us?'
'No,' he said tightly.
Superpolite mode off. 'Either she really, really trusts you,' Emmy said, 'or you're even more of a control freak than I thought.'
'It isn't an issue,' Dylan said, 'because we're separated.' He glared at her. 'Happy, now?'
What? Since when had Dylan split up with his wife? And why? But Emmy damped the questions down. It wasn't any of her business.
Whereas Tyler's welfarethat was most definitely her business.
'I guess it makes this issue a bit less complicated,' she said. Especially given what the social worker had suggested to her yesterdaysomething Emmy had baulked at, but which might turn out to be a sensible solution now.
She took a sip of coffee. 'Maybe,' she said slowly, 'Pete and Ally thought that between us we could give Tyler what he needs.'
He narrowed his eyes at her. 'How do you mean?'
'We have different strengths.' And different weaknesses, but she wasn't going to point that out. They were going to need to work together on this, and now wasn't the time for a fight. 'We can bring different things to his life.'
He folded his arms. 'So I do the serious stuff and you do all the fun and glitter?'
Emmy had been prepared to compromise, but this was too much. And this was exactly why she'd disliked Dylan from practically the moment they'd met. Because he was judgemental, arrogant, and had the social skills of a rhino. Either he genuinely didn't realise what he'd just said or he really didn't careand she wasn't sure which. She lifted her chin. 'You mean, because I work with pretty, shiny things, they distract my poor little female brain from being able to focus on anything real?' she asked, her voice like cut glass.
His wince told her that he hadn't actually meant to insult her. 'Put that way, it sounds bad.'
'It is bad, Dylan. Look, you know I have my own business. If I was an airhead, unable to do a basic set of yearly accounts and work out my profit margins, then I'd be starving and in debt up to my eyeballs. Just to clarify the situation for you, that's not the case. My bank account's in the black and my business is doing just fine, thank you. Or will you be requiring a letter from my bank manager to prove that?'
He held her gaze. 'OK. I apologise. I shouldn't have said that.'
'Good. Apology accepted.' And maybe she should cut him some slack. He'd said that Pete was as close to him as a brother, so right now he was obviously hurting as much as she was. Especially as he was having to deal with a relationship break-up as well. And Dylan Harper was the most formal, uptight man Emmy had ever met, which meant he probably wasn't so good at emotional stuff. No doubt lashing out and making snippy remarks was his way of dealing with things. Letting it gothis timedidn't mean that she was going to let him walk all over her in the future.
'OK, so we don't get on; but this isn't actually about us. It's about a little boy who has nobody, and giving him a stable home where he can grow up knowing he's loved and valued.' And this wasn't the first time she and Dylan had had to put their differences aside. They'd managed it for Pete and Ally's wedding. When, come to think of it, Dylan's wife had been away on business and hadn't been able to attend, despite the fact that she worked with the groom and was married to the best man.
Emmy and Dylan had put their differences aside again two months ago, in the same ancient little church where Ally and Pete had got married, when they'd stood by the font and made their promises as godparents. Dylan's wife had been absent then, too. So maybe the marriage had been in trouble for a while, and Pete knew what was going on in Dylan's life. Which would make a bit more sense of the decision to ask both Dylan and Emmy to be Tyler's guardian.
She looked Dylan straight in the eye. 'I meant every word I said in church on my godson's christening day. I intend to be there for him.'
Was Emmy implying that he wasn't? Dylan felt himself bristling. 'I meant every word I said, too.' 'Right.'
But he couldn't discern an edge in her voiceat least, not like the one that had been there when he'd as good as called her an airhead. And that mollified him slightly. Maybe they could work together on this. Maybe she'd put the baby first instead of being the overemotional, needy mess she'd been when he'd first met her. Emmy wasn't serious and focused, like Nadine. She was unstructured and flaky. Something Dylan refused to put up with; he'd already had to deal with enough of that kind of behaviour in his life. No more.
'Look, Ally and Pete wanted us to take care of their baby, if anything happened to them.' She swallowed hard. 'And the worst has happened.'
Dylan could see the sheen of tears in her grey eyes, and her lower lip actually started to wobble. Oh, no. Please don't let her cry. He wasn't good with tears. And he'd seen enough of them in those last few weeks with Nadine to last him a lifetime. If Emmy started crying, he'd have to walk out of the cafe. Because right now he couldn't cope with any more emotional pressure. As it was, he felt as if the world had slipped and he were slowly sliding backwards, unable to stop himself and with nothing to hang on to.
She dragged in a breath. 'We're going to have to work together on this and put our personal feelings aside.'
'Fair point.' They didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. And at least she was managing to hold the tears back. That was something. 'We'll work together.' Dylan was still slightly surprised at how businesslike she was being. This wasn't Emmy-like behaviour. She'd been late the first three times they'd met, and given the most feeble of excuses. And he'd lost count of the times he'd been over at Ally and Pete's and Ally had had to rush off to pick up the pieces when yet another of Emmy's disastrous relationships had ended. It was way, way too close to the way his mother behaved, and Dylan had no patience for that kind of selfishness.