Definitely Daddy’s Hart

The Harts come to terms with Jonathan’s imprint on their daughter….

Ms. Klienert could see J.J. Hart staring out of the classroom window from where she stood at the front teaching a math lesson. The girl had been sitting like that for about ten minutes now, leaned forward on her desk with her chin in her hand. Ms. Klienert had introduced two new math concepts this morning, but it seemed  J.J. was a million miles away. Of all the children in the classroom, the Hart child was the one that gave her the most challenge. It seemed she never paid attention, but still she was the brightest child in the fifth grade class.

Parents paid top dollar to have their children attend that academy in Bel Air, but money did not automatically ensure their offspring would be among the brightest children. The administration was eager to keep the Hart tuition in their coffers, but as a teacher, she felt a serious injustice was being done to this bright child. Her parents were feeling it too, of that she was becoming more and more sure.

Lately, the inquiries from Mrs. Hart as to why J.J. was able to whip through her homework assignments in minutes were becoming more frequent. Where was the challenge, she wanted to know. This school year, J.J. simply outpaced all her peers by leaps and bounds. Her mother currently had a request in to meet with the curriculum director to discuss why J.J. was able make perfect to near-perfect scores on every single test she took in all of her academic subjects.

Ms. Klienert was at a loss as to what to do to challenge her in the classroom.

As a remedy, the curriculum director and the Headmaster suggested pushing the child up to the next grade level. But J.J. was small in size, and outside of her above average intelligence and a subtly heightened level of social maturity brought about by her personal and familial experiences, in every other way she was a typical ten-year-old girl. Her parents, especially her father, were not in favor of mixing her in with older children for the sake of fixing educational shortcomings.

Although he hadn’t said anything to that effect, she could sense Mr. Hart was unimpressed by the exclusivity of the institution. At Parent’s Night he had been charming and friendly, but she could tell he was seeing right through the dog and pony show being put on for the parents.

Ms. Klienert wanted so badly that night to pull the Harts off to the side to tell them this was not the program for their daughter. She knew of a pilot gifted and talented program being offered in the upcoming fall semester at one of the local public schools that might better suit their daughter. But she needed her job and feared what would happen if someone found out she was recommending another program to one of the brightest and wealthiest students in the Academy. She figured anyway, that the Harts probably wanted J.J. to continue to attend a private school.

Yesterday, Mrs. Hart had come in to share her journalistic skills with J.J.’s class by helping with the fifth grade yearbook project. Watching her work with the children, Ms. Klienert wondered if Mrs. Hart’s true purpose for volunteering her time was to get a firsthand picture of what was actually going on in the classroom. After all, she was famous as a writer for her copious research skills. Hands-on was her style.

She could tell that Mrs. Hart had not been very impressed with the children’s writing skills as she patiently helped the students on brainstorming for ideas, proofreading, and editing their work to get it ready for the publication. J.J. was an excellent writer, but Ms. Klienert was certain that her proficiency had more to do with her mother’s guidance at home than with her formal education.

The Headmaster had made a complete spectacle of himself by fawning over Mrs. Hart. It was obvious that he found the woman to be physically attractive. Even Ms. Klienert and the other female teachers had to grudgingly admit in the staff lounge later that the woman was gorgeous. But the children, especially the boys, had noticed the Headmaster’s behavior also.

J.J. alone did not participate much in the yearbook activity.

“I get her to be with her all the time,” was her explanation for not taking part. “You guys go ahead and have fun today.”

She submitted the section for which she was responsible to her mother and returned to her seat to read a book.

Sure that J.J. had not heard a word said about reducing fractions, she decided to offer her a challenge, and perhaps to embarrass her into at least acting like she was part of the class. She went to the board and wrote out a complex mixed fraction problem that should have been way over her head. The other children in the room, watching her, silently slid down in their seats or bowed their heads, hoping she would miss calling on them to go to the board to the problem out.

J.J. was still looking out of the window, watching as heavy machinery moved dirt in preparation for building the new wing onto the school.

“Miss Hart?” Ms. Klienert called.

J.J. jerked to attention. “Yes!”

“Come to the board, please. I’d like for you to complete this problem and then reduce your answer.”

J.J.’s best friend, Marnie sat next to her. “Go ahead,” she whispered, “she’s just trying to catch you slipping.”

“Duck soup,” J.J. whispered in response as she slid from her seat.

She approached the board and looked at the problem a moment. Then she picked up the Dry-Ease marker, quickly worked the problem and after considering it a moment, reduced the answer. After returning the cap to the marker and blew on the end of it before placing it back on the board’s ledge.  She went back to her seat to resume watching the machinery out of the window.

Ms. Klienert  praised the child for being correct and ignored the titters of laughter behind her as she sheepishly erased the board.


“I enjoyed your mother the other day, J.J. She made writing seem like fun,” a classmate named Thaddeus said over his soup. “I really didn’t like writing too much before, but when she said to  close your eyes, think about what you consider to be fun, and write about what you see in your head, it wasn’t so hard to do. There’s a lot of stuff in my head.”

J.J. simply nodded. She chose not to discuss her parents at school. She continued to eat her lunch as the others at the table with her talked.

“I think the Headmaster enjoyed her too,” snickered Blake Taylor. “He stayed in our room a lot longer than he ever visited us before in the classroom.”

Marnie looked over to check J.J.’s reaction. Her friend had unusually strong feelings about her parents, especially her mother. The adult Harts were taboo subjects if you weren’t on extra friendly terms with J.J. At that moment, Marnie couldn’t tell by her face if J.J. was bothered by Blake’s comments.

“Is she going to come back, J.J., to help us?” asked a girl whose name also happened to be Jennifer. “She was working with me on the picture captions when the time ran out.”

“I don’t know,” answered J.J. “She set that up with Ms. Klienert herself.”

Uncomfortable with the topic, she didn’t look up from her sandwich when she answered.

“Hey J.J., did you know my father used to know your mother a long time ago in New York?” Blake said from where he sat across the table from her. “He said he used to date her.”

He and a couple of other boys at the table pointedly watched J.J. for a reaction.

Some of the kids, particularly the boys disliked that J.J. Hart, a girl, was the smartest person in their class. It was also curious to some that she never talked about her parents. It wasn’t like it was a secret to anyone. Everybody in the school knew who her parents were and everybody at the school had folks with money. How could anybody not know who her father was and what he did for a living? J.J. was an oddball. She never discussed anything about what she did or what her family had. In all the time she had been in the school, and of all the times everybody was aware she absent due to traveling out of the country, J.J. never talked much about anything personal. She had plenty she could and should be bragging about, but she didn’t share too much of anything about her personal life. In fact, she didn’t talk much at all lately.

Blake took her silence for her getting to be extra stuck-up and full of herself.

Marnie, seated next to J.J., their elbows touching, felt her friend tense up at Blake’s words, even though she continued to eat her food as if she hadn’t heard him.

Remaining quiet, but her senses accelerating, J.J. grew felt hot all over. It was mounting anger and to her it was like hot lava heating up inside a volcano. She hoped her face wasn’t flushed. In an effort to control it, she closed her eyes and pictured herself at the table playing cards with her father and assumed that demeanor, the poker face.

As she tried to stay calm, she wondered where Blake was headed with this, wishing fervently that he would drop it, just leave it alone before he went too far.

Blake elbowed the boy next to him and nodded devilishly toward J.J. who, sitting with her head down, he took for being cowed by his teasing.

“I heard my dad and his cards buddies talking at the table about how lucky your dad is that he gets to sleep with her every night.”

“Blake!” Thaddeus cried, as the others at the table jerked to wide-eyed attention. “That isn’t funny! Shut up!”

Marnie, instinctively leaned in toward J.J., could feel how tense and rigid J.J.’s body had become. Nobody laughed. They were all just children, but they could tell Blake was crossing the line of good taste and that things could escalate into something ugly.

J.J. Hart was not one with whom one wanted to toy. She was sort of serious and quiet and hard to gauge. The other children outside of Marnie tended to give her space. She was well liked, but also well-respected among her peers in that fifth grade class.

Marnie, one eye on Blake and the corner of the other on J.J., thought, “Blake, you’re going to know in just a minute how far too far is. Say one more thing to her.”

“All I got to say,” Blake brashly continued  as if he could hear Marnie’s mental challenge, eyeing J.J. the whole time, “is if my dad dated your mom, then he got busy with her-all night long!”

Before anybody at the table could do anything, J.J. leapt up with a force that sent her chair flipping to the floor behind her and was across the table where she pounced down on Blake like a wildcat, knocking him backwards out of his chair and onto the floor. Once she had him down, she straddled him, pinning him down, and by the time any adult could get to them and pull her off, he was helpless to her punching his lights out.

When he was finally helped up from the floor, dizzy and dazed, Blake’s nose ran red and his left eye showed signs it would shortly sport a serious shiner. As the lunchroom attendants held her back, J.J. sent everyone seated with her at the table a look and drew her finger across her tightly closed lips. The message was crystal clear: “Don’t Say Anything.”


Jonathan had just returned to his office from a board meeting. It was one of those dull meetings where everyone agreed with what he said. He preferred a meeting with some bite to it; one where somebody would oppose him and they would either do something creative to get him to see it their way, or he got to exercise his charm to make them see it his way.

He was just getting situated at his desk when his secretary knocked and then came in. She was walking fast, and she appeared troubled.

“Mr. Hart. You received a call from your daughter’s school while you were in your meeting. I thought you’d want this message right away. They said they were unable to reach Mrs. Hart.”

“Yes, she’s out of the city for the day on a story. What’s wrong? Is J.J. sick?”

He was up already, putting the suit jacket back on that he had just taken off.

“No sir.” Deanne cringed and hurried to say, “Um, the office person said that she’s been in a fight.”

He was already headed for the door and pulling his keys from his pocket.

On instinct, he asked, “Did they say if she won or not?” while looking back to her on his way out of the door.

“No Sir, they didn’t.”

“Well I’ve got my money riding on J.J. How about you?” He started out of the door, and then stepped back in. “Look, if Mrs. Hart happens to call, just say I was called away. J.J. and I will have to come up with a good explanation for this one.”

Deanne was left shaking her head. Mr. Hart was the best boss and the funniest, most laid-back Dad. Mrs. Hart was elegant and sweet, but she didn’t take any prisoners when it came to personal responsibility. J.J. Hart couldn’t have come to a better-balanced set of parents than the Harts.


Jonathan arrived at the school and proceeded straight to the main office. As he approached the front counter, all three secretaries practically knocked each other down to come from behind their respective desks to wait on him.

“May I help you?”they asked in unison, hopeful grins on each face.

He couldn’t help but be amused.

“Yes, I’m Jonathan Hart. I’m told there’s been some trouble with my daughter, Justine Hart- J.J. Hart.”

The one who must have been the head secretary moved in front of the other two, waving them off.

“Yes, Mr. Hart, J.J. is in the inner office. Please step this way.”

As he passed through the office, following the woman, he could feel the eyes of the other two burning holes through the back of his suit.

           Jesus, is this what men put women through?

She opened the door, and J.J. sat just inside. In a wooden chair with the heels of her penny loafers hooked on the rungs and her chin in her hand, he could tell right off that she was still smoldering with rage.

Upon hearing the door open, she looked up. Without waiting for a by your leave from anyone, she immediately ran to her father. He dropped to one knee to hug her and to check her over, noting the tiny russet colored spatters on her rumpled white blouse .

“Are you alright? What happened?”

She had been crying. The streaks were still evident on her face. Her entire uniform was disheveled and her ponytail a mess. Tears welled in the corners of her eyes as he looked at her. This was bad; J.J. didn’t cry often. He wiped at her face with his handkerchief and visually checked her over. Other than being angry, she did not seem to be hurt.

“Tell me what happened,” he said to her again.

She leaned into him and hissed into his ear, “I kicked Blake’s ass, Daddy, that’s what happened.”

“Why?” he asked, not so much shocked by what she said as he was by the finality of her tone.

“It doesn’t matter,” she answered,  lifting her chin and looking away. “It was justified, and I took care of it. They can do whatever they want to me now.”

He looked into her eyes and swore he could see himself as a small angry boy reflected somewhere way down deep inside of them. His own mean streak looked back at him, the one harbored way down inside and only pulled out when it concerned Jennifer, J.J. or Hart Industries.

“Come on here,” he said taking her by the hand as the secretary beckoned for them to enter the office of the Headmaster. “Let’s go see what they want to do with you.”


School administration sent J.J. home with her father for the rest of the day pending an investigation. A later call from the school revealed no one seemed to know what caused J.J. to attack the boy; at least nobody would admit to knowing. Even the little boy involved in the altercation confessed he had provoked J.J., but he would not be specific about what he had done or said. His parents did not want to pursue the matter once the boy admitted his part in the incident. Jonathan suspected the parents not wanting to pursue the matter had to a lot to do with who J.J,’s parents were, in addition to their boy admitting to having instigated it.

It occurred to Jonathan that Marnie had to have been somewhere nearby when the incident happened. J.J. and Marnie had been joined at the hip since before first grade. He called her mother and asked her to stop by with Marnie on their way home. But when Maureen brought Marnie by the house after school, Marnie claimed to have not heard what the boy said very clearly. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the two girls as they exchanged a brief knowing look and single nod.

Fifth grade and solidly in cahoots.

For the first time in their lives together, Jonathan dreaded Jennifer coming home. She would never understand this, and this wasn’t one of those things he and J.J. could sweep under the carpet from her as they sometimes attempted to do. As many times as he asked her why she had the fight, that was how many times J.J. refused to tell him what happened. She was as stubborn as they came, as stubborn as he and Jennifer put together.

J.J. had come in from being sent home and stomped up to her bedroom. Changing out of her uniform, she balled it up and stuffed it into the trashcan. Pulling on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, she threw herself across her bed contemplating what lie ahead for her when her mother finally got home. Although she loved her mother and lived to please her, she knew that Jennifer Hart would not be pleased about this situation. She had beaten a boy up and had gotten sent home from school on top of it. What a mess!

When he came to her open door to check on her, her father could see the fate the school uniform had met at her hands.

“What’s that all about?” he asked, pointing to the corner by her desk.

“I’m not going back,” she declared, her face in the covers.

“Says who?”

“Daddy, please. I don’t want to go back there. It’s not a good place for me, and I can tell you know it isn’t. You only make me go there because that’s where my mother thinks I should be. I do not want to go back there.”

He went over and pulled the skirt, blouse, sweater, and the shoes from the can and put them on her chair.

“So now you’re a quitter,” he said. “You play the winning hand, and then you push back from the table with all the chips and quit the game.”

J.J. popped up into a sitting position. “I am not a quitter. I don’t quit. I’m just sick of that place. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody comes from the same place, does the same things, and everybody wants to be in your business. And I’m not bragging or anything, but I’m smarter than everybody else in the class, and people don’t like me because of it.”

She pointed at him. “And you, my mother, and Ms. Klienert know that’s true.”

She dropped her hand into her lap and continued, ” I sit there and I have to keep my mouth shut to not seem like I’m trying to be the teacher’s pet or something. When I get my papers back, I always have high scores, and then people say it’s just because of who’s kid I am. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it all!”

By that time she was yelling. Looking to her him, she was teary-eyed with her rage once again.

Then she took a deep breath to calm down before asking, “Daddy, don’t you ever get sick of people being nice to you just because you’re Jonathan Hart, CEO of Hart Industries? Don’t you resent that sometimes? I mean, you’re a really nice guy, but people see your position first and they’re nice to you because of that, not because of who you really are. Well, that’s how they are at that school. They treat everybody nice because of how much money their parents have, so you know I get treated extra nice. It’s all so fake. I just hate it.”

She flung herself face forward onto the bed.

He had to admit there was genuine merit to what she was saying. It was just surprising to him that she was perceptive enough to see it at ten years of age. He came and stood over where she lie prone on the bed.

“J.J., let’s just wait until your mother comes in. We’ll sit down, the three of us and we’ll discuss this.”

“Daddy,” she said into the duvet, “once she finds out I’ve been fighting, she won’t want to talk about anything. She’s going to be so mad and so disappointed in me. That’s how she is about this kind of stuff. She won’t be okay with this at all.”

“She’ll be alright when I tell her that you won.”

J.J. stiffened for a moment, then pushed up to be able to look into this face. For the first time since he picked her up and brought her home, she smiled.

Her father smiled back at her, pleased that he could make her feel better. She was a contender if ever he saw one.

Then it hit her again barreling down on her like a Mack truck traveling at full speed down a deserted highway; Jonathan Hart might be O.K. with this but there was still Jennifer Hart to deal with later on. The brake lines on that Mack truck had been cut and it was racing out of control, heading straight for her. Her mother would never understand about her fighting- not in a million years. Her smile faded.

“That I won the fight just might just make it worse,” she lamented putting her face back down into the covers. “For me and for you.”

The resulting feeling of dread was overwhelming, almost nauseating.


Jennifer pulled into the front of the house. She had been on the highway for two hours and was glad to finally be home. She initially contemplated checking into a hotel and waiting until morning to try to get back once she finished her business, but she wanted to get home to her family. Aside from missing them, it wasn’t good to leave those two alone for too long.

Tomorrow, instead of sending J.J. to school, Jonathan would allow her to play hooky. He would take off from work and the two of them would be up in Valentine soaring through the California skies all morning. They would end up in Nevada in the afternoon to have some sort of junk food for lunch. Then later, after she got all over the two of them for being AWOL all day once she got the call from the school, he would spend the evening downing bicarbonate of soda and trying to charm her into forgetting their transgressions. That very last part could actually be fun if she played it out right, but it was not to be this time; she was home.

Jonathan was not a strong believer in the notion of traditional school being the only place to get an education. He had little respect for the ‘stuffed shirts’, as he referred to the administration that ran J.J.’s academy. His love of life, people, excitement, and his ability to find fun in anything had been reborn in his daughter. He felt she learned more from them, and from being out in the world than anything she learned in school where they were “spending all of that money for her to be bored silly”. After that visit the other day, she had become even more convinced that he might just be right.

Lately she noticed J.J. seemed somewhat withdrawn and introspective. She did her homework in minutes and put it away rather than bringing it to her to look over like she used to do. It was always correct and they both knew it would be perfect when it was checked over by the teacher. It was frustrating that the child was not being offered more of a challenge since it was obvious she was cake-walking her way through what she was being given. She hoped the meeting with the Curriculum Director would result in some resolution to the problem.

She also noticed J.J. rarely talked about anything that went on at school any mores, not the work, not the teachers, and not the children with whom she interacted each day, except of course for Marnie. On the day of her classroom visit, J.J. had not actively participated in any aspect of the project. Ms. Klienert told her lately J.J. seemed apathetic about everything. Her grades were still excellent, but there was no enthusiasm behind anything she did in class. She got the feeling Ms. Klienert wanted to say more about the situation, but for some reason, she held back on it.

Laying her head on the headrest she took several deep cleansing breaths before gathering her things and getting out of the car.


The house was oddly silent. It was still relatively early and she expected J.J. would be waiting for her. She was slightly disappointed when she and Third did not come running down the stairs at their usual breakneck pace at the sound of the door closing.

“Jonathan! J.J.! I’m home.”

She hung up her jacket, went to her desk to put her laptop and briefcase down. As she was reentering the foyer the two of them came down the staircase together. He had his arm around J.J.’s shoulder as if giving her moral support.

Something was wrong.

“What’s happened?” she asked.

Together they could be like two naughty children. Guilt was all over their faces as they approached her. He kissed her and then put his arm around her too, leading them both in to the great room.

“Family meeting.” Was all that he said.



J.J. immediately dropped her head.

“You climbed over a table to jump on a boy. I cannot believe it. Weren’t you wearing a skirt today?” Jennifer’s was mortified. “In front of everyone, you fought a boy? What on earth for?”

J.J. continued to look down at the floor, but wringing her trembling hands.

“Justine Jennifer Hart, I am waiting for an answer.”

She would be waiting, J.J. determined, because she had no intention of ever telling her what that weasel Blake said about her. Whatever her mother wanted to do to her, she could do. If the story being told depended on her telling it, never in a thousand million years would her mother ever know why this fight took place

Finally, knowing she had to say something, she whispered, “I’m only going say I had to do it, and that he deserved it. But I will not tell you what caused it. You can punish me however you want; it’s okay.”

Although she was nervous about refusing a direct request to answer her mother, she was firm in her stance and serious about taking any punishment doled out. Anything would be easier to take than repeating Blake’s filthy words back to her mother. She continued with her explanation in a slightly clearer voice, “You don’t have to worry about the incident that happened today happening again because the problem was handled the way it had to be handled at the time. People will take advantage if you let them. I didn’t let him.”

Then sighing a deep sigh, gathering all the nerve she had left, J.J. looked her mother in the eye. “And I wish you would consider not making me go back to that school. You and Daddy know I’m not learning anything and that I’m way ahead of everybody else. I can’t stand being there. The situation is making problems for me in a lot of ways.”

Still locking eyes with her mother seated on the couch across from her, she asked clearly and directly, “Why exactly are you making me stay there?”

Jonathan, watching the two of them, cringed as Jennifer’s face went deep red. This time it was the mother who dropped her head. He could see her lips moving ever so slightly as her foot rhythmically tapped the floor; she was counting, trying not to lose her temper with her obstinate daughter.

“J.J.,” Jennifer finally managed to say in the low, carefully controlled tone she had cultivated over her years as mother to this child, “you go on up to your room. I’ll speak with you further in the morning.”

J.J. got up slowly and started out, but she stopped behind the couch to speak to the back of her mother’s head.

“Mama, please believe me, I really did have to fight him; I didn’t have any other choice. Sometimes that’s all you can do with certain people because that’s all they understand” She started away again, but turned back one more time. “I hope you believe me.”

When her mother didn’t say anything in response, she finished. “Well, good night, both of you.” And she went out of the room and up the stairs.

Jennifer pulled her head up to turn to look at Jonathan who sat next to her.

“Is she really only ten?” she asked.

“Yep” He said, nodding his head. “She gave him hell too. I saw him. Bloody nose. Black eye. The works. She didn’t have a scratch on her!”

Her eyes grew wide. “Jonathan! I cannot believe you are condoning this You are actually siting there, proud of her!”

He leaned back on the couch, pushing out his chest and extending his arms across the back of it. The smug expression on his face confirming his feelings to her.

“Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, darling” he explained, “Just like she said, that’s all some people understand. We weren’t there to help her, and she held her own in the way she thought it had to be handled. We don’t know what happened, and I’ll tell you this much; nobody else is talking either. She’s silenced everybody. And if she isn’t telling you what happened, I’m willing to lay odds it had something to do with you.”

“What makes you say that?”

Jennifer found herself hung up on J.J. had coercing all the witnesses into silence. What sort of ten year old had that kind of power over others?

“You are the only subject that she would be passionate enough about to fight somebody over like that. I’m telling you, Jennifer, she beat that boy as if he’d insulted her soul. She only loves you like that.”

At that point, she sat all the way back on the couch too. This was all so much to take in. Then there was still the issue of the school itself.

As if he were reading her mind, he continued, “Jennifer, I don’t get too involved in her schooling. I usually leave that stuff up to you. But Deanne was telling me about a new program they’re starting here in Los Angeles that her sister is interested in for her child. J.J. can finish the school year where she is, but I want her to test for this program. It’s going to be a school for gifted and talented students and it opens in the fall. They’re going to take kids from all backgrounds from all over the West Los Angeles School District. They’re piloting the program at the middle school level and these kids that start in the fall will charter the program into high school. I had Deanne call and make an appointment for J.J. to be tested. She’ll get in. If it’s geared to advanced kids, I’m hoping she’ll be better challenged over there. At best she’ll be exposed to all kinds of kids. She’s certainly not getting any of that where she’s enrolled now.”

“Isn’t that going to be a public school?”

Jennifer’s personal educational experiences had always been with expensive private schools. She had never, ever considered public education for J.J.

Jonathan’s personal and educational background had been very different from her’s. While he started out in private, parochial school, his placement there had been due to circumstance, not parental choice. Once he was able to make the move, he switched to public school and thrived there.

“Our daughter, judging from her personality, is going to be a public person. She may as well get to know her own environment as well as she’s getting to know the rest of the world we’ve been showing her.”

Like father, like daughter.

For a long time, probably since her daughter was an infant, Jennifer had quietly, and objectively as possible, recognized J.J. was much brighter than average. This year she could see her taking off completely from her academic peers. Along with that intelligence, J.J. was also still fearless and headstrong. The combination, Jennifer sensed, would be risky if it weren’t properly channeled. At this point, she was willing to try anything to keep a handle on it. Gifted program at a public school? So be it.

“Well, Jonathan, I’m telling you two this much. For the next two weeks, she’s inside, no playing out back, no friends over, and no plane rides with you or with Frank. She is going to be punished, if for nothing else, unladylike behavior. I will not have any daughter of mine acting like some street brawler under any circumstances.” She closed her eyes, shuddering. “In a skirt, no less.”

He grinned. “She’s really good, Jennifer: a featherweight contender.”

“Jonathan, you really must stop treating her like she’s a boy.”

“I don’t treat her like a boy. I treat her like J.J. We do the things she likes to do. That’s who she is, and I’m not having her pigeon-holed because she’s female. She’s one heck of a girl and I love her just like she is. But now, if you want, we can go upstairs and I can treat you however you think a girl should be treated, and we can do things that you like to do. I love you just like you are, too and I can prove it.”

When she turned to give him the eye, his face was pure mischief.

He and his daughter were incorrigible.


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