Wanted: One Mummy
Cathy Gillen Thacker

<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 >>

“I know, dear.” Patrice rounded the counter. She poured big glasses of iced tea for the grown-ups and a glass of milk for her granddaughter. She turned to her son, and told Jack kindly but sternly, “I appreciate the way you let me become part of your household after your divorce, but it’s time we moved on from that. It’s time I went back to living a full life. Time you did, too.”

“Meaning?” Jack said, not bothering to disguise his derision.

“I agree with your daughter, Jack. Maddie needs a mother and you need a wife.” Patrice paused, making sure she had his full attention. “You need to start dating again—with a view toward marriage.”

“SORRY YOU HAD TO hear all that this evening,” Jack told Caroline several hours later, when Dutch had gone into the study to return a few business calls and Patrice had gone upstairs with Maddie to supervise the bath and bedtime routine.

Caroline wasn’t. It had given her a clear view into what was going on with Jack’s family. “It’s not a problem.” She packed up both her business bags, slung one over her shoulder and carried the other in her hands. “I understand weddings can be stressful. For everyone.”

Jack accompanied her to the foyer, held the door for her, then followed her out to her car.

“I’ll do what I can to limit the stress for all of you.” Caroline dropped both bags into the trunk of her BMW, then shut the lid.

“The only way to do that,” Jack muttered unhappily, “is by talking my mom out of this emotionally overwrought, ill-thought-out mistake.”

Caroline had just spent the evening with Dutch and Patrice. And while they didn’t seem to be wildly romantically in love, there was a deep bond between the two, forged by what exactly Caroline didn’t know and didn’t care. All she knew for certain was that these two sixty-somethings were determined to be together and build a life together as soon as possible. Caroline applauded that kind of determination. And she was in the business of making dreams come true.

There was only one thing standing in their way.

And that big lug of a Texas powerhouse was standing right beside her.

“You know what the problem with you is?” Caroline said before she could stop herself.

One corner of impossibly sensual lower lip curved upward. “No,” Jack responded drily, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He leaned closer, aligning their faces so they were nose to nose. “But I have the feeling you’re about to tell me.”

The comedic undertone in his low voice only furthered the flame of her temper. Caroline aimed a finger at the center of his chest, in the place where his heart was supposed to be. “You don’t have a romantic bone in your body.”

He scoffed, rolled his eyes and prodded teasingly, “And you have deduced that because …?”

“For starters?” Caroline stepped closer. This situation had gotten far too personal. And thanks to the unhappy memories Jack’s actions were bringing up, her emotions were out of control. So out of control, she found herself blurting out, “You are the kind of all-thought, no-heart guy who can no more appreciate a night like tonight than he can the validity of someone else’s dreams!”

He looked around, unimpressed. “What’s so special about tonight?”

“Aside from the fact that your mother was planning her ideal nuptials?”

“Aside from that.”

Deciding to help him see the romantic side of life, even if it annoyed the heck out of him, Caroline drawled, “Well, for starters, there’s a black-velvet sky overhead, sprinkled with stars and a gorgeous half-moon.” That alone was enough to bring to mind couples in clinches and hot, passionate kisses.

Ignoring his bemused expression, Caroline pressed on. “Not to mention a warm, humid breeze …” that felt so good, gently caressing their bodies “… and the scent of flowers and fresh-cut grass in the air….” That all added to the wildly reckless feeling of spring.

Caroline turned away from Jack and continued her romantic survey with a wistfulness borne deep inside her. “This neighborhood that you call home is so beautiful, with all the well-kept residences and the peaceful, almost pastoral street.” It was everything she had ever wanted and never had.

She whirled back to face him, almost angry now. She stomped closer, waving her arms for emphasis. “But do you see any of that?” Nearer still. “Do you realize how lucky you are to live here and have family who have always been there for you and clearly love you so much? No. You don’t. You probably look at them, at an incredibly beautiful night like tonight and—”

Caroline never had a chance to finish.

Before the breath left her lungs, 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. And that millisecond of total stillness on her part was all the advantage he needed. The pressure of his mouth parted her lips. His tongue swept inside, and all coherent thought fled. 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…. Because surely it was impossible to kiss with this much ardor, unless you felt …

She leaned closer, emboldened by the ferocity of her own 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, and taunted softly, “Still think I haven’t got a romantic bone in my body?”

Chapter Three

Jack had the satisfaction of seeing Caroline’s jaw open in surprise, a telling moment before it snapped shut. “Sex and romance are not the same thing,” Caroline snapped. “And that kiss was pure sex.”

And then some, Jack thought, feeling the hardness at the front of his jeans. He was pretty sure from the bright flush of color in her face that she was still tingling from head to toe, too. He edged closer. He might not be much good at love, but there were a few things in which he excelled. “Sex can be good.”

“Not between us,” Caroline reminded him sternly. “I am now working for your mother and Dutch Ambrose.”

He refused to bow to her polite but aloof regard. “I’m the one paying the bill.”

“Which makes it even worse,” she complained, even as red-hot sparks arced between them. “Technically, you’re the client.” She angled her thumb at her chest. “And I never mix business and pleasure.”

Jack grinned. The way she had kissed him back just now said otherwise. “What do you mix with pleasure?” he countered, already thinking of hot kisses and soft skin.

“Nothing.” Caroline folded her arms beneath her breasts. She glared at him. “I’m celibate.”

“Could have fooled me with that kiss.”

She leaned closer, curious. “I take that to mean you do fool around?”

The challenging glitter in her eyes prompted his defense. “Not indiscriminately,” Jack replied, inhaling the soft, womanly scent of her. “Although, for the record, I have dated since my divorce. Mainly because I knew at some point Maddie was going to want and need a mommy, the way she is now.”

“So you took one for the team,” Caroline said drily.

That had been about it. He hadn’t been doing it for himself. Jack shrugged, admitting, “There were plenty of women who were interested in my success and wealth. But no one who could deal with how complicated my life has become in recent years.” So that had been that.

Now she was interested. She tilted her head. “Complicated in what way?”

How about every way? Jack thought. “Well, my mom lives with me. And if the marriage goes through, soon Dutch will, too. That alone was a turnoff to many.”

Caroline’s brow furrowed. “I can’t see why if they’d met Patrice and/or Dutch.”

That, Jack thought, had been the family-inclusive attitude he’d been looking for, and never found. He went on to the next item on the list. “Another bummer was the fact that I can’t seem to make long-range or sometimes even short-range plans. Because when I do, something always seems to come up.”

Caroline wasn’t upset about that, either. “Life happens. I have that problem, too.”

They exchanged smiles.

Jack persisted with his wish list. “Anyone I get involved with has to adore Maddie, and be loved by her in return.”

Caroline grinned, enthusiastic. “I can’t see that as a problem.”

Jack went on to the ultimate deal breaker. “And any potential love interest for me must like dogs and accept that Bounder is as much a part of our family as the rest of us. And Bounder can be a handful at times, let me tell you. It seems like she’s always inadvertently getting into trouble of some sort.”
<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 >>