Three Little Words(9)

By: Susan Mallery

He didn’t say anything. He kept his gaze steady and determined. She was no more threatening than a Kalashnikov, and he’d faced plenty of those in his day.

“Fine,” she said, her voice small. She pulled a key from her jeans pocket and dropped it into his palm. He closed his fingers around it.

The part of him that knew his family wanted to ask if she’d made a copy. He figured he would wait to see if that turned out to be a problem. For now it was enough that she wasn’t going to pop in when he least expected her.

“You probably want me to go,” she whispered.

“Mom, don’t be a martyr. I love you. I’m home. Can’t that be enough for now?”

She sniffed, then nodded. “You’re right. I’m glad you’re home and staying in Fool’s Gold. I’ll give you a couple of days to settle in, then call. We can go to lunch or you can come over to dinner. How’s that?”


She rose. He did the same. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. They headed for the door. She opened it and stepped onto the small landing at the top of the stairs. He’d nearly breathed the sweet air of freedom when she turned back to him.

“Did you get a chance to look at those files I sent you?” she asked. “There are several lovely girls.”

“Mom,” he began, his voice warning.

She faced him. “Honey, no. You’ve been on your own for too long. You need to get married and start a family. You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

“I love you, too,” he said, gently pushing her out the door and closing it before she could say anything else he would regret.

“I want you married, Ford,” she yelled through the closed door. “I have the applications on my computer, if you want to go through them. They’re on a spreadsheet so you can sort them by different criteria.”

She was still yelling when he reached the bedroom and closed that door, as well.


ISABEL TURNED HER CART down an aisle and knew a lack of inspiration would be a problem later. If she didn’t figure out what she wanted for dinner, she would be starving in a couple of hours. Ordering a pizza at eight-thirty, then eating the whole thing was very bad for her hips and thighs. Remembering that the women in her family eased toward pear-shaped as they aged, she headed for the produce section and virtuously chose a bag of salad. Great. She had salad and red wine and a very small container of ice cream. Disparate elements that did not a dinner make.

She started purposefully toward the meat section, not sure what she would do when she got there. As she turned the corner, she nearly ran into another shopper.

“Sorry,” she said automatically, only to find herself staring into a pair of dark eyes. “Ford.”

He smiled. It was the same slow, sexy smile he’d used before. The one that made it hard for her to catch her breath. Telling herself that he tossed that smile around like empty peanut shells at a ball game didn’t make her chest any less tight. Which was so very strange. She’d never been one to quiver in the presence of a man.

“Hey,” he said. He raised his basket. “Food shopping.”

“Me, too.” She glanced at the package of steaks and the six-pack of beer. “That’s your idea of dinner?”

“You have ice cream and red wine.”

“I have salad,” she said with a sniff. “That makes me virtuous.”

“It makes you a rabbit. And hungry.” The smile turned to a grin. “I saw a grill on your patio the other day. Why don’t we pool our resources?”

A tempting offer. “You want the wine and the ice cream.”

“True, but I’ll eat the salad, just to be polite.”