The Texas Cowboy's Triplets(8)

By: Cathy Gillen Thacker

“She died of an accidental overdose five years ago.”

This time he did reach for her. “I’m sorry, Kelly.”

Standing stiff as a board in his arms, Kelly nodded.

He let her go, stepped back. “Do any of your coworkers know this?”

“No.” She met his gaze and didn’t look away. “The only reason I’m telling you is so you’ll help me make sure that Shoshanna isn’t grappling with a similar heartache.”

He took her hand in his and turned it palm up. “You really believe something is going on with that little girl?”

Compassion lit her pretty amber eyes. “I really do, or I wouldn’t have come to you.”

“Then,” Dan decided, just as seriously, “there is only one thing we can do.”

Chapter Three

When Dan arrived at Kelly’s home Saturday morning, she’d had plenty of time to reconsider their hastily made plan.

“You’re sure this is a good idea?” she asked, stepping onto the front porch. Luckily, they had a few moments to talk since the triplets were inside, putting on their socks and shoes. A task that always, no matter how much of a hurry they were in, seemed to take at least ten minutes.

Dan stood with one brawny shoulder braced against a post. In a short-sleeved polo that brought out the azure blue of his eyes, jeans and boots, his short hair neatly brushed, and the barest hint of stubble on his handsome face, he looked like any dad out to do weekend errands with his family.

Except he wasn’t her husband or the triplets’ daddy… He gave her an appreciative once-over, too, and flashed a reassuring smile. “Think of it as an unofficial welfare check on a neighbor we may or may not have good reason to be concerned about. Besides,” he said as he pushed away from the post and came to stand next to her, “it will be fun for your kids. The county auto mall is having a huge Father’s Day sale the entire month of June, and every dealership is participating. The open house today is supposed to feature some great deals. The showroom is air-conditioned. Most kids really like looking at all the different types of cars on display.”

Kelly frowned and ventured a look inside, to see her kids still dawdling over their task. Knowing that asking them to hurry would only slow things down considerably, she sighed and swung back to him. Why did he have to be so handsome? And inherently helpful?

Using her nerves as a shield against her attraction, she frowned. “There will also likely be salespeople bent on making a sale to me.”

His eyes tracked the downward curve of her lips. “So?”

Aware it was that kind of interest that had her heart racing, she pointed out, “I’m not in the market for a new vehicle. My SUV is only three years old.”

He stepped up to the storm door, peering into the house, too. Seeing the kids sitting on the floor, making little progress, he grinned cheerfully, waved and called in, “Hey, buckaroos, hurry up!”

Miraculously, the triplets began to move faster.

“Luckily, I am looking.”

For what? Love? She tabled the ridiculous thought.

“Are you serious?”

He braced his hands on his waist. “Yes. I’ve just been waiting for this sale since it sports the best prices of the year, across all makes and models.”

Kelly surveyed the vehicle at the curb. His truck did look like it was on its last set of tires.

“Then why aren’t you going alone? Since you have a valid reason.”

He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Because I don’t know Sharon Johnson and wouldn’t have a reason to talk to her. Since her daughter Shoshanna is in her class, you do.”

True, but… “You could always ask her out on a date,” Kelly pointed out, wondering what that gentle touch of his would feel like elsewhere.

He dropped his hand. “Cute. No. There’s only one woman I have my eye on right now.”

A delicious shiver of anticipation swept through her, but for all their sakes, Kelly pushed it away. “And she’s not about to date you.” She referred to herself in the third person, too.

Smug satisfaction radiated off him. “We’ll see.”

Behind them, the screen door banged open. To her relief, Michelle, Michael and Matthew came barreling out. “Deputy Dan!” they cried in unison.

“Hey, kids.” He hunkered down to greet them in turn. Giving out high fives and low fives all around. “’Bout time you buckaroos came out to say hi to me.”

“We couldn’t,” Michelle explained. “Till we had our shoes and socks on. Mommy said.”

“What are you doing here?” Michael asked a tad suspiciously.

“I’m shopping for a new pickup truck or maybe a large SUV. I’m not sure. Your mommy has agreed to advise me.”