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Late one night, Leslie shows up at Doug? s door to answer his ad, and before he can properly throw her out, she? s won his boys over with grilled cheese and cookies. He soon finds out she? s not just another pretty face looking for a...
Late one night, Leslie shows up at Doug’ s door to answer his ad, and before he can properly throw her out, she’ s won his boys over with grilled cheese and cookies. He soon finds out she’ s not just another pretty face looking for a husband. No matter how hard he resists, Doug can’ t help being drawn to her. Could Leslie be exactly what this family needs?
The five-year-old twins stared at each other before one whispered, "Ooh! Daddy said a bad word."
"I heard that." The deep voice sounded from above the desk.
"Well, you did," Justin asserted.
"Yeah, we heard you," his twin, Gareth, agreed.
They watched as their father sighed and ran his hand through blond hair only slightly darker than theirs. He looked down at them and muttered, "Sorry, guys, I shouldn't have said a bad word, but I'm a little upset."
"How come? We didn't even do anything today," Gareth protested.
"I know. It's not you. It's these blasted letters." He shoved at a pile of papers and envelopes and several fluttered to the floor.
The boys started gathering them up for their father when Gareth found a picture. "Wow! She don't hardly have any clothes on!"
Justin leaned over to see the picture, but their father snatched it from Gareth first.
"Give that to me! Uh, thanks for trying to help, boys, but I, uh, need you to go play or watch TV or or something."
There was a tone in his voice the boys had heard before. A tone that said their father had reached his limit.
"Yes, Daddy," they chorused, their angelic smiles matching the blond innocence on their faces. They tiptoed from the room, pausing only to look once more at their father's flushed face as he stared at yet another letter.
Once they were in the living room with the TV turned on, Justin said, "Do you think Daddy's going to find us a mommy?"
"I don't know. He doesn't seem too happy."
"He didn't even like that picture." He paused before asking his brother in a whisper, though no one could hear them, "Was she really naked?"
"Naw," Gareth assured him. "She was wearing a swimsuit or something. But girls sure are different from us." He glanced down at his flat, narrow chest with a frown.
"Yeah. Curly looks at pictures like that sometimes," Justin added, naming one of their father's cowboys.
Justin thought a littler longer, a mighty frown on his face. "If Daddy doesn't even like to look at pictures of girls, how will he find us a mommy?"
"He's trying to find someone to take care of us instead of a mommy. He said."
"I know. But no one answered that ad. I heard Moss and Curly talking," Justin explained. Moss, their father's foreman, was a great favorite with the twins. "They said Daddy didn't get no answer to his ad. But when Mrs. Meggy's husband changed the ad to one for a wife, then 'every bloomin' female in the country wrote a letter,'" Justin finished triumphantly, having produced a semblance of Moss's drawl as he quoted him.
"But if Daddy doesn't like 'em, it doesn't matter," Gareth reasoned.
"Yeah." Justin slumped against the back of the sofa. "But I want a mommy. Don't you?"
"Yeah. One who makes cookies and tucks us in at night."
The two boys sat in silence, contemplating the idea of having a mother. They were a little fuzzy on the details, but they knew they wanted one.
"But if Daddy won't pick one, how will we find a mommy?" Justin finally asked.
"We could send a letter to the paper, like Mrs. Meggy's husband did."
"We don't know how to write."
"We need someone to help us," Justin said, frowning again. "Someone who will give us what we ask for."
"That sounds like Santa Claus," Gareth said before he straightened, excitement filling his voice. "Hey! We can ask Santa for a mommy for Christmas. She can be our present this year!"
The incessant ringing of the phone had Doug muttering a few more of those forbidden words beneath his breath. He trudged down the hall and into the kitchen to grab the receiver.
"Doug Graybow? Ooh! You sound hot! Wait till you see just how hot I can be, too. We'll be perfect for each other."
"Look, if this is about the ad, it was a mistake."
"But, Dougie, I'm sure you'll be interested in what I have to offer. I'm 38-22-34, have long blond hair and—"
Doug interrupted the sultry voice. "Sorry, not interested." He slammed down the phone and started back to his office. That was the fifth call this evening, interrupting his paperwork. Fed up, he paused by the living room door. Sticking his head in, he said to his sons, "If the phone rings anymore, just tell them I'm busy and hang up. Okay?"
"You mean we get to answer the phone?" Gareth demanded, excited about the new responsibility.
"That's right. But do exactly like I tell you. If they ask to speak to me, tell them I'm busy and hang up."
"Okay," the twins chorused.
He turned away from his grinning sons, a little uneasy about what he'd done, but he couldn't take care of everything and continue to answer those ridiculous calls.
Life was screwy. Four weeks advertising for a housekeeper and not a single call or letter. One week of that stupid ad for a wife, and he was being driven crazy by the calls and, even worse, the letters. The picture Gareth had found was mild in comparison to some he'd received. He blushed just thinking about them.
When he'd come in this evening, his answering machine had been full of suggestive messages, asking him to call. Most left their home numbers. One particularly sexy voice had suggested he call her at a motel in Dodge City, Kansas, so they could discuss fulfilling their mutual needs. Maybe she expected him to drive to meet her so they could "try out" married life.
He settled back in at his desk and, in disgust, swept the letters into the trash. He'd wasted enough time on such foolishness!
Leslie Hibbets switched the TV channel again. The tired, out-of-date motel room in Dodge City, Kansas, didn't offer much in the way of entertainment. But she couldn't leave unless she wanted to risk missing her return call.
Last night, she'd gone to the diner next door for a late meal, discouraged and unsure of her next move. She'd spent the past four years nursing her mother after an accident had killed her father and left her mother crippled. Six months ago her mother had died.
Feeling her life had been put on hold, albeit for a good reason, Leslie wanted to experience life, to find excitement. Instead, all she'd found was loneliness.
Eventually, she wanted to have a family, much like the life she'd experienced as a child. Her parents had provided a loving home for her, a home where she knew her parents loved each other as well as her. In the meantime, she wasn't quite sure what she was looking for.
While waiting for her food, she'd glanced at the weekly newspaper someone had left on the counter. Out of boredom, she'd turned to the want ads. The only one that caught her eye was for that of a housekeeper for a rancher with five-year-old twins.
If there was one thing she could do, it was keep house. She didn't know much about children, but she could cook. Of course, she had no intention of being tied down, she reminded herself. She was free now to discover the world.
A rueful laugh had escaped at such grandiose thoughts. All she'd discovered had been highways with traffic whizzing by and lonely motel rooms. She looked at the ad again. If she took something like this job, on a temporary basis, just until the children started school, it would give her time to figure out what she wanted to do. And she wouldn't feel so so unconnected.
Money wasn't a problem, but she couldn't go forever without a job. Why not earn her keep while she was determining her future?
She'd decided to sleep on her decision. When she awoke this morning, she'd made the phone call to Mr. D. Graybow in Wyoming and gotten the answering machine. His gruff, sexy growl had startled her and she'd hung up. Before she lost her courage, she redialed the number and this time, she left a message, suggesting he call her to discuss fulfilling their mutual needs.
"There!" she'd exclaimed as she'd hung up. She'd sounded cool and professional—she hoped. Now all she had to do was wait for him to call.
By nine o'clock that evening, her patience was wearing thin. The least the man could do was return her call. Impatiently, she picked up the phone and dialed the number in the ad.
She realized a child had answered the phone, probably one of the twins. "May I speak to Mr. Graybow, please?"
Before she could respond, the line went dead. She held the receiver from her ear and stared at it as if it had insulted her.
Irritated, she dialed the number again. The same little voice answered and she hurriedly asked, "Mr. Graybow, please."
"He's busy." Again the line went dead.
With steely determination, she dialed again. "Don't hang up!" she immediately said when the child answered again. "I'm calling about the ad. Has Mr. Graybow hired anyone yet?"
There was no response to her question but she could hear hurried whispering in the background. "Hello?"
"No, he hasn't."
"Well, uh, if he won't interview me over the phone, should I come there? Is he only interviewing in person?"
"Can you bake cookies?"
Leslie smiled at the question. "Yes, I can bake cookies."
"Do you like little boys?"
"Yes, I believe I do." Not exactly a lie. She just hadn't been around little boys that much, except for her neighbor's grandchildren.
"Then you should come."
"I should come? When?"
"But I can't get there until tomorrow. Shall I come tomorrow evening?" How strange to allow a five-year-old to conduct his business. Mr. D. Graybow certainly seemed in need of some help. She ignored the sudden memory of that husky voice on the answering machine.
"Yeah. Tomorrow night. Bye!" Again the conversation ended abruptly.
But this time she had an answer to her question. She was to go to Wyoming to interview for a temporary job as housekeeper.
Of course, it might all come to nothing, but she'd wanted adventure. She wasn't going to retreat at the first offer just because the future wasn't guaranteed.
Twenty-four hours later, her opinion changed. "You are crazy!" she told herself. Leslie gnawed on her bottom lip as she stared down the narrow, deserted road. When it got dark in Wyoming, it really got dark.
Back home in Kansas City, there always seemed to be another house, a store, something around the bend. People passing you on the road.
Out here, there was nothing. She hadn't seen another car in the past half hour. Glancing down at the piece of paper on the other seat, she wondered if she was lost. No, she hadn't passed another road like the one shown on the sketchy map the motel clerk had given her. After she'd gotten a room, she'd headed out to the Bar-G Ranch, as per the child's instructions last night.
She shuddered as a strong wind rocked the car and wet flakes of snow began spitting on her windshield. "Yes, you're absolutely crazy," she reaffirmed. Otherwise she wouldn't have taken a child's word that she should come. But at least she'd had a purpose to her drive today.
A break in the fence on her right that she could barely see in the dark had her easing off the gas pedal. Yes, there it was, just as the clerk had said. She flicked on her blinker and then laughed. Who cared if she signaled? She seemed to be the only driver for miles around.
Not that being alone bothered her. She'd spent a lot of time alone or with her mother for the past four years.
She drove over a cattle guard, but if she'd expected to find a ranch house nearby, she was disappointed. No habitation was within the range of her headlights.
With a sigh, she pressed back down on the gas pedal. She might as well get this over with. If this job didn't work out, she'd have to try to make a rational decision about her future. She couldn't continue to wander around.
Two miles later, she found D. Graybow's house, surrounded by several other buildings. There were lights burning, she noted with a sigh of relief. She guessed they really were expecting her.
She parked the car close to a long porch that ran the length of the house. Warily she climbed the steps and rapped on the door.
No one answered at first. She rapped again. This time she heard voices, children's voices, and then a deeper voice, accompanied by a heavy tread. She recognized that growl.
The door swung open and she stared at a handsome cowboy—tight jeans, boots and all. Of course, his shirt was wrinkled and had stains, his hair looked as if he'd just shoved one of his big hands through it and the scowl on his face was unwelcoming. But he was handsome.
"I've come about your ad."
He couldn't believe it. The letters had been bad enough. The letters and the pictures, he amended. He couldn't believe women would go so far to find a husband. Some of those things had been downright embarrassing. But to appear on his doorstep with no warning?
Something about the voice sparked a memory in him. The sexy voice on the answering machine wanting to discuss fulfilling their mutual needs! He'd had dreams about that voice.
"I realize it's late, but he said to come tonight," she went on, since he didn't speak. "And I just got here from Kansas."
"The ad was a mistake," he snapped. And one his idiotic friends would pay for when he got his hands on them.
The single syllable was full of disappointment. He looked at her, wondering why she would be so interested in marrying a stranger. It didn't make sense to him. She wasn't ugly. In fact, in his book she'd rate a second look with her wide blue eyes, chestnut hair pulled back in a braid and slender figure. If he were interested in marrying again, he hurriedly reminded himself.
A tug on his leg got his attention.
"Not now, Gareth," he muttered. Somehow it bothered him that his children meet a woman desperate enough to answer that crazy ad.
"I said not now!"
The woman was turning away from the door when Justin, Gareth's twin brother, called from the kitchen, "Hurry, it's getting bigger."
The woman stopped and stared at them, a puzzled frown on her face. He nodded at her and started closing the door, anxious to send her on her way. But a look in her eyes stopped him. She was staring in horror over his shoulder.
Uneasiness filled him as he turned to follow her gaze.
With good reason. Black smoke was trailing out the kitchen door.
"Justin!" Doug yelled even as he charged down the hall. The appearance of his towheaded son at the door was a relief, but he didn't have time to appreciate it then.
Racing into the kitchen, he grabbed the handle of the skillet on the burner, the flames in it higher than the ones underneath. As he swung it to the sink, the searing iron of the skillet burned into his hand, and he let loose a bloodcurdling yell.
Posted November 4, 2008
Christenberry is a favorite author, but this book surpasses all expectations. Good read for the holidays--it will make you laugh out loud at the comedy of errors. But the antics and perspective of the two little twin boys as they try to outwit the adults will warm your heart. Rich in imagery, and characters are true to their nature.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 27, 2012
No text was provided for this review.