Big, serious brown eyes were staring right into his from only a few inches away. The child had clambered half over the arm of Derek’s chair to study him at close range, her little rosebud mouth pursed in concentration.
“Uh.” Derek couldn’t look away as the girl reached out one pudgy hand and patted him gently on the cheek. Her scent was soft and sweet and somehow a bit familiar, just enough to keep Derek from shying away. Derek didn’t know too much about kids but he guessed this one was probably three years old or so, head still oversized in proportion to the short limbs and round little belly.
She seemed fascinated with Derek’s beard, eyes widening further under incredibly thick lashes as she petted Derek’s cheek some more, smoothing down the short stubble. Finally she grinned widely. “Good wuff.”
Derek jerked upright, hands clenching on the edge of his seat. Did she just say?…
“CJ!” The child was suddenly gone, lifted up by a strong, tattooed forearm around her little potbelly. “You scared the he— heck out of me! What have I told you about wandering — Derek?”