Wanted: One Mummy
Cathy Gillen Thacker

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Jack exhaled. “Seriously, Mom, when Cinco de Mayo falls on a Saturday, it makes for a wild and wacky weekend.”

That was true. The entertainment industry went all out to celebrate the festivities. Special deals and parties abounded. The occasion was so joyous that no one wanted to be left out.

Patrice gave her son a maternal look that would have quelled even the most unruly son. “Excuse me. How long have I lived in Texas?”

Sensing fireworks about to erupt, Caroline held up a silencing palm and interjected. “You don’t have to hold your wedding in the city.” Where—Jack was right—holiday traffic and congestion could be a nightmare to navigate. “You could have it at a private ranch, for instance. Under a tent.”

“Sounds lovely!” Patrice brightened. “And I really like using Cinco de Mayo as a theme.”

“It would make for a lively reception,” Dutch said.

Patrice clapped her hands together. “Then it’s settled.”

Jack wrapped several stacks of corn tortillas in foil, and put them in the oven to heat. He shook his head but said nothing more, merely went to work chopping up a stack of fresh green poblano peppers and sweet yellow onions.

“We also need to talk florists.”

“I’ll leave that up to you,” Patrice said. “Although I’ll be in on the selection of flowers. I’m very particular about scent.”

Caroline could imagine.

Maddie sashayed up to the table, Bounder by her side. “I want to talk about cake!” she said.

Caroline couldn’t help but grin.

Patrice wrapped her arm about her granddaughter’s shoulders. “I’m sure Caroline brought pictures of some.”

“I certainly did. These bakers I think are particularly excellent.” Caroline brought out the brochures with the color photographs.

“I like that one.” Maddie pointed to a cake topped with the traditional bride and groom, then looked up at Jack, serious, intent. “Daddy, when are you going to get married? So I can have a mommy, like all my friends.”

THE SILENCE FELL in the room so suddenly, Caroline could have heard a pin drop.

Jack looked … uncomfortable, to say the least. He slid the sliced veggies into a sizzling skillet. “Maddie, we talked about this.”

Curious, Caroline wondered what exactly had been said. Nothing, it appeared, to Maddie’s satisfaction, judging by the pout now on the little girl’s face.

“Savannah’s daddy married Alexis, and she got a mommy, and she’s going to have a little brother or sister, too! Kayla, Ava and Tommy’s daddy got married, and they got a new baby! Mia and Sophie’s daddy got married, and they got two brothers, Tucker and Tristan. So when is it going to be my turn?” Maddie demanded, upset, propping her little hands on her hips.

He seemed temporarily at a loss. Which was not, Caroline figured, a usual state of affairs for the sexy CEO.

Maddie glared at Jack, waiting.

Patrice lifted an elegant blond brow. “Good question,” Jack’s mother murmured, unsurprised by the outburst. Which meant, Caroline noted, the question had been asked before. Many times. Just not in front of Caroline.

Jack came around the counter to kneel in front of his daughter. “I told you, honey. I was married once, and it didn’t work out very well.”

Maddie sighed loudly. Her eyes took on a truculent sheen. “You got a divorce and Mommy left.”

Jack nodded, confirming this was so, then explained, “Mommy had been married before. And she realized she still loved Cody and wanted to be married to him. So because I wanted her to be happy, I gave her the divorce she wanted and Mommy went to live with Cody again.”

“In Costa Rica, which is very, very far away,” Maddie repeated, as if this had been told to her many times before. “And she couldn’t take me with her because it was better for me to stay here with you and Gram.”

Jack nodded. “Right.” He patted his daughter comfortingly on the shoulder.

Maddie’s lower lip shot out even farther. She stamped her foot. “But how come I can’t go see her just for a visit?”

Why not? Caroline wondered, too.

Jack looked at his mother for help on that one. Patrice interjected with maternal sweetness. “You will, darling, one day. When you’re older and can travel that far away. In the meantime, you’re here with us, and we all love you very much.”

“I know.” Maddie sighed glumly, only partially mollified. “I love you, too.”

Appearing to think the crisis had been averted, Jack rose and went back to his chef duties.

Maddie climbed onto a stool at the counter. She rested her elbows on the counter and cradled her chin in her palms. “I know you and Mommy can’t get married again, Daddy—because Mommy is married to Cody now. But I still want a mommy now.”

“The only way I can give you an actual mommy is to get married.” Jack lifted a meat platter out of the warming oven and set it on the counter. The familiar, homey scent of mesquite-smoked brisket filled the room.

“Then get married!” Maddie advised, as though it were just that simple. Her opinion stated, she slid off the stool and took Bounder out in the sunlit backyard to play.

“MADDIE MIGHT HAVE a point,” Patrice said, a moment later.

Feeling as if she were in the middle of a family drama she should not be witnessing, Caroline started to rise. “Perhaps I should step outside, too,” she offered cordially.

“Nonsense!” Patrice patted Caroline’s forearm and wordlessly directed her to resume her seat. “You’re going to be around a lot the next few weeks. And this isn’t going to be a secret.”

Still feeling like this was far too intimate a situation for her to be witnessing, Caroline reluctantly sat down.

Jack began to carve the hearty slab of beef into long thin strips. “What isn’t going to be a secret?”

Patrice glanced through the bay window to make sure Maddie was out of earshot. “The fact that although Dutch and I will still make our home here with you and Maddie, the two of us will also be doing a fair amount of traveling. It’s possible we may even be gone weeks or months at a time.”

The plan sounded reasonable to Caroline, given the fact the couple was well-off, in their early sixties and Dutch was newly retired.

“Does Maddie know this?” Jack asked calmly.

Caroline began to see the problem.

For the first time, regret showed on Patrice’s elegant face. “I thought we would talk to her together.”

Worry clouded Jack’s eyes.

He wasn’t only protective of his mother, Caroline noted, but all the “women” in his family.

“I’d rather not talk to Maddie at all.” Jack piled shredded cheese, vegetables and mounds of tender sliced brisket onto serving platters. He paused to give his mother a long, guilt-inducing glance. “I’d rather you stay here and keep your traveling to a minimum, at least in the beginning.”

Caroline could see why Jack was concerned, given how much of a change this would be for his daughter.
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