The Texas Cowboy's Triplets(9)

By: Cathy Gillen Thacker

“What’s ’vise?” Matthew asked, tucking his hand in Dan’s.

Michelle took his other.

“Advise me means to tell me which one is best,” Dan explained patiently.

Michelle rolled her eyes as she skipped down off the porch. “That’s easy, Deputy Dan! The pink one.”

Michael latched on to Kelly. She placed her hand on his shoulder. “I don’t think they make pink SUVs,” Kelly said.

Michelle harrumphed. “Well, they should.”

“No, they shouldn’t,” Michael disagreed.

And they were off.

Since Dan was going to need his pickup truck to get a trade-in price, and all the safety seats were in her SUV, they both drove to the auto mall.

As planned, they parked at the dealership where Sharon was the new financial manager.

As Dan ambled over to help the triplets onto the ground, she couldn’t help but think what a good daddy he would make one day.

Assuming he ever chose a wife, that was.

Given his recent “one or two and done” dating history, it seemed in doubt.

Inside the air-conditioned building, couples and families milled about. The triplets, who had never visited the inside of a showroom, were in awe of all the shiny new vehicles. “Wow,” they breathed in unison.

Behind them, a man approached. “Going to get Daddy a new car or truck for Father’s Day?” he said.

Dan and Kelly and the kids turned to face him. “Whoops. Didn’t recognize you from the back,” the gung-ho salesman said.

Dan extended his hand. “Hey, Pete.”

“And who is this lovely lady?” the salesman asked. “And three adorable kids?”

“Kelly Shackleford. Her triplets, Michael, Matthew and Michelle.”

“Deputy Dan is going to be my mommy’s new husband,” Michelle announced. “’Cause she needs one.”

Kelly blushed bright red.

“I see,” Pete said.

Bored, Michael looked up at Dan. “Can we climb inside one of them?”

“Check out the eight-passenger Suburban.” Pete walked over to open it up. “Perfect for the man with a big family.” He winked.

While the kids scrambled inside, Pete launched into a spiel about features. Kelly looked around. She’d only met Sharon Johnson a few times since the single mom generally used the car pool lane drop-off to leave and pick up her daughter from school.

“So what’s your time frame for buying?” Pete asked as the kids climbed into the rear row and practiced sitting and looking out the windows from that perspective.

“Most likely the end of the month,” Dan replied. “I’m in no hurry.”

They talked about competitors.

“What about financing?”

“Sharon Johnson’s in charge of that. Actually, here she comes now.” Pete waved her over.

Guilt at more or less spying on another single mom filled Kelly. Halfway there, Sharon was waylaid by the dealership’s sales manager. Kelly couldn’t make out what was said, but she could tell it wasn’t welcome news. Sharon appeared to be first taken aback, then upset.

Dan gave Kelly a look. Was this it? Work stress traveling from mom to child?

Sharon’s mouth tightened, and her face went from almost white to beet red. Kelly didn’t stop to think. Seeing another woman in need, she moved across the floor to interrupt what appeared to be a pretty thorough semipublic dressing-down. “Hey, Sharon!” she said, moving in to give the stunned woman a warm hug. “How great to see you today!” She moved back to address the white-haired sales manager. “I don’t believe we’ve met, though.”

“Walter Kline.” Abruptly turning on the charm, he shook Kelly’s hand. “Glad to have you out here today.”

Another salesperson approached, a sheaf of papers in his hand.

Walter glared at Sharon, a look even Kelly could read. “Figure it out,” he snapped, turned on his heel and strode away.

“Everything okay?” Kelly asked.

Sharon sighed and ran her hands through her short, perfectly coiffed auburn hair. “I only have a sitter until noon. They just told me I have to be here until closing or later.”

That was definitely a problem, and one Kelly fully sympathized with. “Could I help? Maybe pick up Shoshanna, take her to my place for a playdate?”

Sharon paused. “I don’t want to impose.”

Kelly waved away her concern. “We single moms have to stick together.”

Dan ambled up to join them.

Sharon shot him a curious look. Briefly, Kelly made introductions. “So you’re the sheriff’s deputy who spoke at the preschool,” Sharon concluded.

Dan nodded.

“You made quite an impression. Shoshanna told me all about your rescue of the two kittens caught in the hole in the trunk of that tree. And, of course, your herd of miniature goats.”