The Texas Cowboy's Triplets(10)

By: Cathy Gillen Thacker

Dan grinned. “It was an easy crowd to impress.”

Beginning to relax, Sharon grinned back.

From across the showroom, Walter Kline glared at them impatiently. Sharon stiffened. “Let me know if you have any questions about financing options,” she said, loud enough for others to overhear.

“I will,” Dan promised.

“Me, too,” Kelly said, though she had no intention of buying a new vehicle at this time.

Sharon headed off. “I’ll call my sitter.”

She and Dan collected the kids from the interior of the family-size SUV. “Can we get this car?” Matthew asked excitedly.

“It’s cozy.” Michelle sighed.

“I like our old one,” Michael countered. “It’s red!”

“So do I,” Kelly said.

In fact, her whole life was so cozy and complete right now, with her kids, nice home and job, she hated to rock the boat by changing anything. Never mind bring someone new into it. So what if she didn’t have a love life? In the past, romance had ultimately brought her nothing but unhappiness, so she was better off without that complication.

Much better off.

Although, she couldn’t help but admit having Dan as a very good platonic friend, spending time with him on weekends, hanging out, kids and all, held a definite appeal.

“Want to meet somewhere for lunch after you pick up Shoshanna?” he asked as they walked out to their respective vehicles.

Kelly decided a little adult company while she supervised four kids might be nice. “Why don’t you come by my place?” she asked. “I’ll whip something up.” She figured she owed him that much.

“Sounds good.”

They left the dealership. Shoshanna had already talked to her mom about the change in plans and, looking intrigued by the possibility of a playdate with her preschool classmates, went willingly with Kelly back to her home.

Which made Kelly wonder.

Was Shoshanna without friends or an opportunity to make any outside the school day because her mom was working such long hours? Could that be part of the little girl’s unhappiness, too? Guiltily, Kelly realized she hadn’t done much to welcome the child to Laramie outside the school environment.

She could do better, as well.

* * *

“SO YOU THINK that’s all it is,” Dan said. He had returned to Kelly’s house, and the four kids hit the playroom while she bustled about the kitchen, putting together a quick meal. “You think Sharon is worried about keeping her new job and Shoshanna is picking up on that?”

Although they were out of earshot, Kelly had a good view of the children. They were getting along nicely and having fun, so she began to relax. “I had the feeling Sharon’s boss might fire her if she didn’t comply.”

Dan kept an eye on the kids, too, as he moved back to watch her add chopped celery and apples to the chunks of roast chicken already in the mixing bowl. Quietly, he reflected, “Sadly, that wouldn’t surprise me. Walter Kline is not from around here. He came in when the family that owned the place for years sold it back to the automobile maker’s corporation. From what I’ve heard around town, he’s putting enormous pressure on all the salespeople.”

Kelly whipped together a mixture of plain yogurt, lemon juice and honey. “So Sharon came here for a more low-key life than she had back in Houston, and ended up in what could very well be worse straits.”

She watched Dan turn to look at Shoshanna, who was trying on some of the dress-up clothing. Big floppy hat, heels, a long strand of pearls and some clip-on earrings. Michelle had on her favorites—a pint-size princess gown and jewel-encrusted crown. Both girls were grinning and preening before the play-mirror. “Sharon’s little girl sure seems happy and engaged today.”

She did, Kelly noted in satisfaction.

Dan hung around for another hour. Long enough to partake in chicken salad sandwiches, and chips and fruit. Then help with the cleanup as the kids retired again to the playroom, this time to build structures out of wooden blocks. Shoshanna was smiling and talking as readily as the triplets.

“Feel better?” Dan asked.

Kelly hung up her dish towel to dry. “I do.” Maybe she’d been projecting some of her own childhood fears and troubles onto the child.

She watched Dan drain the last of his iced tea. “It’s possible she just needs time to adjust. And more of an effort from me and some of the other moms to include her in activities after school hours.”

She walked him to the door, realizing how much this felt like a date, albeit a family one. Resisting the urge to step in and give him a big hug for fear how that would be seen, she smiled instead and said, “Thanks for asking me to go today. I feel a lot more at ease.”