Wanted: One Mummy
Cathy Gillen Thacker
A happily-ever-after family? Caroline’s made a career out of planning other people’s weddings. But this is the first time she’s been asked to stop one! Jack is certain his mother’s impending nuptials are a big mistake. The take-charge CEO is too smart to believe in happy endings, even if his matchmaking mum and tiny daughter don’t agree!But then his instant attraction to Caroline makes the single father reconsider his views on love and marriage… Could he really be a romantic at heart after all?
“You don’t have a romantic bone in your body.”
With that, Jack swept her into his arms and delivered the kiss to end all kisses. She was so shocked initially she didn’t know what to do. Longing welled up within her, unlike anything she had ever dreamed she could feel. A shiver of need swept through her, followed by an even more magnificent ripple of pure pleasure.
Even while her mind protested, the rest of her—heart, body and soul—surrendered to the sweet surprise of his kiss. And the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, she had really misread this man in thinking that he had no heart.
She leaned closer, emboldened by the ferocity of her response, wanting, needing, to know and experience more …
And just that suddenly, he released her.
Looking down at her with a distinctly male satisfaction, he surveyed her lazily from head to toe. “Still think I haven’t got a romantic bone in my body?”
What better way to add new energy and excitement to your life than by falling in love and making a life-long commitment to another person?
At least that’s the way Jack Gaines’ long widowed mother feels. Sixty-something Patrice is engaged to be married. Jack would be happy for her, if he believed his mother was truly in love with Dutch.
But something seems missing in their relationship. And Jack, burned by his own matrimonial “mistake”, does not want to see his mother enter into an ill-advised union. She’s had enough heartbreak in her life. As her son, it is his duty to protect her.
Enter Caroline Mayer, wedding planner extraordinaire. Although Caroline has ruled out a happy-ever-after romance for herself, she loves fulfilling the dreams of others, by making their wedding the happiest day of all.
Caroline and Jack are at odds from the beginning. He wants to stop the wedding. She wants the nuptials to go off without a hitch. What they don’t expect is to fall in love themselves along the way …
Cathy Gillen Thacker
About the Author
CATHY GILLEN THACKER is married and a mother of three. She and her husband spent eighteen years in Texas, and now reside in North Carolina. Her mysteries, romantic comedies and heart-warming family stories have made numerous appearances on bestseller lists, but her best reward, she says, is knowing one of her books made someone’s day a little brighter. A popular author for many years, she loves telling passionate stories with happy endings, and thinks nothing beats a good romance and a hot cup of tea! You can visit Cathy’s website at www.cathygillenthacker.com for more information on her upcoming and previously published books, recipes and a list of her favorite things.
Cathy Gillen Thacker
“I want you to stop the wedding.” Caroline Mayer knew there was going to be trouble when the bride’s son insisted on meeting with her in advance of her consultation with the “happy couple.” But she wasn’t prepared for the CEO’s blunt demand.
She stared up at Jack Gaines. Caroline had no doubt that the thirty-four-year-old owner of Gaines Communication Systems was used to getting exactly what he wanted. Most men that handsome, wealthy and successful were. But the implacable Texan had targeted the wrong person to put a halt to the nuptials of his equally wealthy and successful mother.
Aside from the fact what he was asking her to do was just plain wrong, the Gaines–Ambrose nuptials could make or break her. If she failed to deliver the most talked about wedding of the year, her career as a bridal consultant would be over, almost before it began. If she succeeded, she would be the new hot wedding planner in Fort Worth. With that would come long-lasting financial security and the realization of all her dreams. She’d be able to buy a home, adopt a child, get a dog, continue to expand her business and save for the future.
Caroline flashed Jack Gaines a droll smile. She wanted him to know with whom he was dealing. “Obviously there’s been a miscommunication.” She paused to let her words sink in. “I’m a wedding planner. Not a spoilsport for hire.”
And that was a shame, Caroline thought. Because although she wasn’t looking to get involved with anyone just now—or maybe ever—she was still a woman who appreciated beauty in all forms, and Jack Gaines was a man who was very easy on the eyes.
Every inch of him, from the top of his clipped dark brown hair and chiseled masculine features, to the toes of his custom leather boots, was perfectly and precisely cared for. His face was clean shaven, his jaw solid, his lips kissable. His powerful six-foot-two frame boasted broad shoulders, an impossibly solid chest and a trim waist. But it was his expressive, silver-gray eyes that really drew her in. This was a man who missed nothing, a confident indomitable male, the kind of man who let nothing stand in his way. The kind she had sworn off, with very good reason, for the rest of her life….
Jack moved to impede any hope of a dignified exit and challenged her with a glance. “Hear me out.”
Caroline shifted the heavy weight of her monogrammed briefcase to both hands and held it in front of her knees. Simmering with a resentment she had no idea how to handle, she held his gaze deliberately and said, “I don’t think that’s going to be necessary. The answer to you is no.” She still planned to say yes to his mother and her fiancé.
He studied her, a thoughtful expression on his handsome face. “Even if doing so would save my mother from a public grief and humiliation she doesn’t expect and surely doesn’t deserve?”
Caroline set her briefcase down. Maybe she could do someone a favor here—although it wouldn’t be Jack Gaines. “What makes you so sure your mother is going to be hurt?”
Jack’s eyes darkened. “She barely knows Dutch Ambrose.”
But plenty of people knew of Dutch, Caroline argued silently. His string of rental properties on South Padre Island was the most sought after vacation venue in the area. Unfortunately, they were out of Caroline’s price range—for now, anyway—but that hadn’t kept her from admiring the glossy photos of the luxurious beach houses in the promotional brochures available in every grocery store in the state. “Patrice must think otherwise, or she wouldn’t have agreed to marry him.”
His expression adamant, Jack folded his arms across his chest. “He’s rushing her into this.”
Somehow, Caroline doubted that. Struggling to ignore her reaction to his nearness, she stepped back slightly. “The Patrice Gaines I’ve read about in the Fort Worth newspapers is not a woman to be rushed into anything.”
Jack twisted his lips into a skeptical line.
Annoyed by his attitude, she went on. “I mean, how many years did your mom hold on to her perfume formula before finally selling out to that big cosmetics company?”
Jack shook his head and scoffed. “Thirty. But that’s not the point.”
Caroline held up a palm, silencing him. “It’s exactly the point. Your mother knows her own mind. And if she wants to marry Dutch Ambrose, then she should—with no interference from you!”
He narrowed his gaze at her. “You’re saying you won’t help me.”
She was going to have to let this job go. Better to steer clear of it than find herself in the middle of a familial contretemps that could ruin an otherwise spectacular wedding day, and along with it, her hard-earned professional reputation.
Her thoughts turned to the memory of another handsome, determined male, and the heartache he’d caused her while claiming to have her best interests at heart. What was it with guys, anyway, that made them think they knew better than the women in their lives, and hence, needed to go all out to protect them?
“Even if I pay you a lot of money?” Jack persisted.
Those words brought Caroline back to the present. She had nothing against the quest for money. She was doing everything she could to make a better, more secure life for herself, too, and like it or not, that meant having money in the bank. But the assumption that she could be bought rankled. She absolutely would not do to someone else what had been done to her. And it was time Jack Gaines found that out!
Caroline propped her hands on her hips and glared at him, making no effort to disguise her contempt. “Let’s get something clear, Mr. Gaines. I will not help you betray your mother. I will not destroy her dreams. And I most definitely will not smile and say one thing to her face and then go behind her back and do something else that will break her heart and simultaneously benefit me. And furthermore, I’m insulted that you would even ask!”
With that, Caroline picked up her briefcase and stalked out.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN Caroline Mayer refused to plan my wedding?” Patrice Gaines demanded later that same day as she looked up from the notepad in her hand. A veteran list maker, Patrice was rarely without paper and pen. Jack cast a glance at his seven-year-old daughter, Maddie, out in the yard, throwing a ball for her accident-prone dog, Bounder. Relieved that at the moment the sweet-tempered and energetic two-year-old golden retriever was not involved in any mischief, or doing anything that would require yet another emergency trip to the vet, and that his equally lively daughter was happily entertained, caring for her favorite “friend and companion,” Jack smiled. At least two members of the Gaines clan were happy.
Jack pushed aside his guilt at his deception and turned back to his mother with a shrug. “I’m sorry, Mom. I asked her this afternoon. She said no.” And a lot of other things he would prefer his mother never hear.