The Texas Cowboy's Triplets

By: Cathy Gillen Thacker

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.”

“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.

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