Authors: Karen Rose Smith
When Mom Meets Dad
Karen Rose Smith
Published for Kindle by Karen Rose Smith
Copyright 2012 Karen Rose Smith
Original Copyright 1999 Karen Rose Smith
Original title: Mom Meets Dad
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The bell over the door at the ice cream shoppe dinged as Alex Woodsides entered and waited until his daughter preceded him inside. "Cone, sundae, or banana split?" he asked Kristy as they stepped up to the counter.
"Banana split," she replied with a wide smile, her brown curls bobbing around her face, her green eyes twinkling. At nine years old she looked like him rather than her mother, and Alex had always thought, at least in that instance, fate had been fair.
The teenager at the counter took their orders. Alex remembered his parents taking him for ice cream after the last day of school. It was a tradition...one of those traditions he meant to keep. His father always said, "Tradition makes a man feel secure." At thirty-three, Alex had come to believe his father was right.
A few minutes later Alex sat across from his daughter at one of the round, glass-topped tables. "So tell me what happened to your math grade, honey. Your teacher said you didn't have any problems before the last few weeks. Maybe you and I need to work on it over the summer."
His general law practice limited his time with Kristy more than he liked. But if she needed help with schoolwork, they'd find time for that and other activities, too. He'd never regretted accepting sole custody of Kristy from the moment she was born. She was the joy of his life.
Kristy shoved in a spoonful of ice cream. "I was thinking, Dad," she mumbled as she swallowed. "It might be better if Heather's mom helped me. After all, she's a teacher and all. And I really like her. Since she's home for the summer, she has gobs of time."
Instantly, Alex pictured Amanda Carson, her shoulder-length, honey-blond hair sweeping along her cheek, her blue eyes sparkling with friendliness whenever they had occasion to speak at parent-teacher meetings or when he dropped Kristy off at Heather's. He knew Amanda was a single parent too, and more than once, he'd thought about asking her out. But ever since Kristy's mother had bailed out, he preferred work and his daughter to tempting fate a second time.
"Don't you think letting Mrs. Carson tutor me would be a good idea?" Kristy prodded.
Alex knew he could help his daughter with math, yet his patience sometimes ran a little thin. A teacher might be able to analyze Kristy's problem much faster. "All right. I'll call her when we get home."
Kristy licked whipped cream from her spoon. "Why don't we just stop there on the way?"
He couldn't say no with his daughter looking at him so hopefully. "Sure. Why not?"
As Alex walked up to the door of the compact brick rancher with its carport, its white shutters and pink geraniums planted along the front garden, he compared it to his four-bedroom, two-story Tudor on a two-acre lot only a block away. His gardener maintained a well-kept lawn and trimmed the yews on either side of the front porch into symmetrical roundness. But this little house with its personally cared-for look was charming.
Kristy jabbed the bell and Heather appeared as if by magic. "Hi, Mr. Woodsides. C'mon in. My mom's out back."
He looked at his daughter.
She shrugged. "I told Heather we might stop so you could talk to her mom."
His daughter and Amanda's were together as often as they could manage. They'd probably thought up this idea. He addressed Heather. "Does your mom know we were coming?"
Heather exchanged a look with Kristy, then shook her head, sending her blond ponytail swinging. "Kristy didn't know if you'd go for it."
Her honesty made him smile. "I see. Well, now we'll ask your mom if she'll go for it."
Heather led the way through a living room decorated with rose-and-yellow flowered upholstery and lace curtains, into a kitchen with maple-stained cabinets and a table and chairs to match. The small hutch hosted delicate white china. He'd never been inside Amanda Carson's home before. It was charming.
Heather led them out onto the back porch with its old-fashioned wooden swing and pointed down the yard. "She's having problems with the lawn mower. It doesn't want to start. Maybe you can help, Mr. Woodsides."
Amanda Carson's nine-year-old looked up at him with the same expectant expression Kristy often wore. Just from things Kristy had said, he realized the Carsons were on a tight budget. A lawn mower repair bill was probably an additional expense they didn't need.
"I'll see what I can do," he assured her, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt in deference to the warm weather. In air-conditioning all day at the office and at home, he'd forgotten how warm June could be.
But then he saw Amanda Carson and realized the temperature suddenly felt a lot warmer. She was standing over the lawn mower, a furrow between her brows. Her short cotton blouse tied under her breasts, emphasizing their swell. The skin of her slim waist peeked from between the blouse and her short denim shorts. She'd tied her hair high on her head with some kind of yellow band. This was a different Amanda Carson than he'd seen in the past. She certainly didn't look like a sedate third-grade teacher now!
She looked up when she heard him approach. A smudge of grease on her cheek was as appealing as her long, nicely curved legs. Alex's body stirred, startling him. It had been a very long time since the mere appearance of a woman had affected him.
"Mr. Woodsides! Is something wrong?" She blushed prettily as her gaze passed over his navy dress slacks and white shirt.
Suddenly, he wanted to wipe that smudge from her cheek. Just as suddenly he wanted to touch her skin. "No, nothing's wrong. There's something I'd like to discuss with you. But it looks as if you could use some help. Heather said the lawn mower won't start."
Amanda gave the machine a disgusted look. "I thought maybe if I let it sit a while, I could coax it. But this isn't your problem..."
A sense of chivalry prodded him. "But if I can fix it, it won't be your problem, either. Let me take a look."
Amanda stepped away from the mower and smiled. "I won't turn down an offer like that. How about something to drink?"
Alex forced his attention away from her midriff to the lawn mower. But when she walked to the house, he couldn't keep his gaze from following the sway of her hips. A fantasy popped into his head and he shook it off. He was here for his daughter's sake, and he'd better remember that.
For the life of her, Amanda couldn't figure out why she was disconcerted that Alex Woodsides was crouched in her yard, fidgeting with her lawn mower. She'd probably said twenty words to him since she'd moved to Cedar Grove. Well, maybe fifty.
Opening the refrigerator door, she picked up the pitcher of iced tea. All right. So he'd appeared unbidden in a dream or two. With his tall, muscled physique, his green eyes, his dark brown hair, her libido had snatched him out of the world's population to give her a midnight thrill. She remembered one dream in particular...
With a sigh, Amanda poured two glasses of iced tea, wondering where the girls had disappeared to. It was steaming hot in Heather's room where they usually hung out. Heather was her best reason for dismissing dreams as well as handsome men in her back yard. Hadn't her marriage and divorce taught her anything?
As she took oatmeal cookies from a canister and arranged them on a plate, she glanced out the window. Good heavens! Alex Woodsides had removed his shirt. All she could do was stare as he pulled on the starter rope. Muscular arms. Broad back and shoulders. Slim waist. And when he turned...
She quickly moved to the table with the plate of cookies, but not before she'd glimpsed thick wavy dark hair arrowing down his chest. She'd no sooner carried the glasses to the table when her back screen door opened. Suddenly the man from her dreams was standing in her kitchen--hot, sweated and exceptionally male.
At first she couldn't find her voice. Finally, she managed, "Did you find the problem?"
"Sure did. A gummed up spark plug." He set it on the counter. "Just take that to the hardware store for a replacement."
She gave a sigh of relief. "I thought the mower was on its last legs. Thanks."
They stared at each other for a few moments, neither of them moving. Amanda was too aware of Alex's scent, both male and cologne, and the heat that seemed to rise up between them. She had to break the spell and distance herself.
Drawing in a breath, she motioned to the sink. "If you'd like to wash up, Mr. Woodsides..."
"Alex," he suggested in a voice that shook her almost as much as the sight of his bare chest.
"Alex," she repeated, feeling dazed.
He smiled. "We might as well be on a first name basis, because I have a proposition to make to you."
His smile was as potent as the rest of him. "A proposition?"
"I'll replace the plug for you and give the mower a once over, if you'll agree to tutor Kristy in math. She received a D for the quarter."
"You sound surprised."
"I've overseen their homework a few times when she and Heather were working on it, and she never had a problem. But if she needs help, I'll be glad to work with her."
He turned to the sink and used the soap to wash his hands. Above the running water, he said, "I'll pay you the going rate, of course."
"No?" He reached for the towel on the counter.
He had such large hands. Long, tapered fingers... "I won't take money for helping Kristy."
"Need anything else fixed?" he asked with a grin that said he wouldn't let her do it for free.
All of a sudden, an inspired idea struck Amanda. He could be the answer to a problem she had to solve. "I have a better idea for repayment. You're just the person we need to head a program for Career Day at the elementary school."
Alex's grin vanished. "Why would I fill the bill?"
"Because of your position in the community. You've lived here all your life. I'm sure you have contacts with community businesses. Our committee consists of myself, another teacher, Mrs. Webb, and the school principal."
Alex shook his head. "I don't have that kind of time. As it is I work long days."
Work taking precedence. Echoes of her ex-husband. Only he'd had other diversions as well. Alex probably did, too. After all, he was a good-looking bachelor. But she was sure this man had the expertise to make Career Day a success. "This program will benefit Kristy, too."
"Good. But I don't have to be the one to head it up."
"Look, Alex. Parents say they want to become involved in their child's education, but when push comes to shove..."
Alex's scowl drew his brows together and the muscles in his shoulders tensed. "Don't try to use guilt on me. It won't work. And if this is what I have to do to get you to tutor my daughter, forget it. I'll do it myself."
"I told you I'll tutor Kristy. You asked how you could repay me."
"You're asking too much."
Amanda kept quiet. Often, more battles were won by retreat rather than aggression.
Sounds in the living room alerted Amanda to the girls' presence. They came into the kitchen with smiles on their faces.
Kristy looked up at Amanda. "Are you going to tutor me?"
She would help Alex's daughter whether he helped with Career Day or not. "I sure am." Looking at Alex, she asked, "What time is good for you?"
After he gave her a probing look, he responded, "Kristy stays with her grandparents during the day in the summer. So evenings would be best. Or Saturdays."
"I think if we have a good session once a week, I can bring her up to speed," Amanda suggested. "Give it some thought and let me know what's best for you."
Alex draped his arm across his daughter's shoulders. "We should be getting home. I'll give you a call about the time."
As Alex and Kristy went to the door, Amanda followed. She watched Alex pluck his shirt from a low tree limb, then walk with his daughter out of the yard.
Heather tugged on Amanda's arm. "He's cool, isn't he, Mom?"