Daddy's Little Matchmakers (Love Inspired)

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9780373877171: Daddy's Little Matchmakers (Love Inspired)
About the Author:

RITA and Carol award nominee Kathleen Y'Barbo is the best-selling award-winning author of more than forty novels, novellas, and young adult books. More than one million copies of her books are in print in the US and abroad. A recent nominee for the 2012 Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, she has a BBA from Texas A&M University's Mays Business School and a certification in Paralegal Studies, A tenth-generation Texan, Kathleen Y'Barbo has a daughter and three grown sons.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The call came in a full fifteen minutes before Amy Spencer's lunch break ended. As a temp, she had no obligation to go beyond the requirements of the job she would have only until Friday. And yet, how could she ignore the phone when it was the first time the thing had rung all morning?

Reluctantly she set aside the remains of her sandwich and the novel she'd likely finish before the end of the day. "Vine Beach Gazette, Classifieds Department," she said as she reached for her water bottle and took a sip.

"I would like to place an ad to sell my sailboat."

Much as the distinctly male voice stated his desire firmly, there seemed to be the slightest bit of hesitancy there. This gave Amy pause to check the caller ID.

Eric Wilson. The new veterinarian who'd bought the clinic across the street from the Gazette. Handsome, single and the father of three little girls who sat beside him in church every Sunday.

"So," he continued, "how would I go about placing an ad?"

Scrolling to the correct place on her computer screen, Amy read him the particulars. "You can either go online and do it yourself or I can take down the details and place it for you. Or you could come in and place the ad and pay for it then." She waited a moment. Nothing but silence and the occasional bark of a dog on the other end of the phone. "Dr. Wilson?" she finally asked.

"Yes, I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I was just trying to decide."

"Whether to sell, or whether to place the ad yourself?"

"Actually, I—" An eruption of high-pitched squeals interrupted his statement. "Girls, please. I'm on the phone," he said before returning to her. "Thank you for the information. You've been a great help but I'm afraid I'm going to have to—"

And then the line went dead.

Amy hung up the phone thinking of what sort of chaos three daughters might bring into the life of one single man. Having grown up the only child of older parents, she had nothing to compare.

Rising to step away from her desk, Amy tossed her sandwich into the trash and grabbed her book. With the sun shining, the sea breeze blowing and the heat of summer not yet unbearable, she decided to spend the remaining ten minutes of her lunch break reading in the shade on her favorite park bench.

Beneath the canopy of green leaves, she scooted to the far end of the bench and settled into a comfortable position. From her vantage point, she could see the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the whitecaps rolling up on Vine Beach a quarter of a mile to the south. She could also witness comings and goings in both directions on Vine Beach's primary north-south thoroughfare, aptly named Main Street.

With little to recommend Vine Beach beyond the smattering of beachfront rentals and the tiny harbor, the main traffic on the street consisted of locals. No one seemed to mind, though members of the local Chamber of Commerce met on occasion to debate ways to bring in more traffic. As yet, nothing had come of these meetings so the city remained a sleepy coastal town.

Across the way, Amy spied the elderly beautician unlocking the garishly pink doors of Ima's Beauty Shop and waved. Ima returned the gesture before slipping inside. Next door a painter was putting the final touches on the new sign on the Wilson Animal Clinic's front window. She thought of Eric Wilson's call and wondered which of the several dozen boats at the harbor was his.

Another check of her watch and Amy set aside her novel to lean back against the bench to look up through the canopy of oak leaves at the brilliant blue sky above. Returning to Vine Beach as an adult had been much different than she'd expected. Every summer for as long as she could remember, Amy had spent as much time as she could with her grandparents in their cottage by the beach.

Roses flourished on the arbor and the garden always provided enough to make porch salad, but her favorite memories were of sitting with her grandmother on the swing beneath the arbor. Her sandy toes barely brushing the ground, she could while away the hours watching the waves and the occasional sailboat heading for shore. At night she slept with the window open to the ocean breeze and dreamed salt-tinged dreams about happily-ever-afters beneath the upstairs rafters.

Never had she expected to live there, albeit temporarily, as an adult. But when her grandmother's hip surgery required she have a caregiver, Amy stepped up to the challenge. After all, Mom and Dad had only kept her employed at their shop in Houston out of love. All three of them knew there wasn't near enough work for three florists.

And thus when the call came regarding the surgery, Amy gladly spent the spring caring for her grandmother, tending the garden, the roses and her precious nana in equal parts until all were blooming. Nana's choice to move into Sandy Shores, the new assisted-living community out on Harbor Drive, had surprised Amy. Until, that is, she visited and saw her grandmother had landed solidly in her element. Always the social butterfly, Nana loved being in the middle of everything, something she couldn't manage at home.

Amy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Nana no longer needed her and, as of tomorrow, neither did the Gazette. Was it time to move on? And if so, where would she go?

Across Main Street, the painter completed his work on the clinic door then stepped back to admire the finished product. "Eric Wilson, DVM," she whispered as she read the words beneath the sign.

Amy's thoughts again shifted to Dr. Wilson. Everything she knew about the man came from her grandmother, Nana Spencer, whose knowledge of all things related to Vine Beach was arguably more extensive than any data uncovered by the reporters at the Gazette. And according to Nana, the veterinarian, a widower of undetermined length, had moved to Vine Beach to take over Doc Simmons's practice upon the older man's retirement and to see that his girls were near his late wife's family.

A car door slammed, drawing her attention to the parking lot beside the animal clinic. There she saw the object of her thoughts walking toward what was likely the back door of the clinic. He looked busy—possibly distracted by whatever boisterous behavior had caused him to end their call so quickly—as he ran his hand through thick dark hair. He lifted his head, and their gazes met awkwardly across the distance. At least she thought he saw her. For a second Amy wondered if she should acknowledge him. The vet waved, solving the problem of how to respond, so she did the same.

Checking her watch, Amy gathered up her novel and rose. Four more hours of work, and her temporary job at the paper would end. Then she'd be forced to decide whether to allow the temp agency to place her elsewhere or perhaps to pack her things and move on.

Surely there was work for a trained florist somewhere.

Trained florist. More like a girl who'd picked so many flowers as a child that her mother finally taught her how to make something pretty of her mess. Amy giggled at the thought. "You have a nice laugh."

She jumped, dropping the novel as she whirled around to see Eric Wilson crossing Main Street. Scrambling for the book, she tugged at the edge of her blouse and tried not to allow her embarrassment to show.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

His worried expression made her smile in spite of her flustered state. "No, it's fine. Really." She lifted her hand to smooth back her hair and promptly dropped the book again.

The vet leaned to reach for the novel and so did Amy. Before either could accomplish the task, their heads bumped. Wincing, Amy felt the heat rise in her neck. As she took a step backward, Eric retrieved the book.

"I'm sorry," he said again as he thrust the book toward her. "Seems I've now got two reasons to apologize."

"No, really." Amy took the book and held it tight against her chest. "I'm fine." She glanced down at the smudge of brown decorating her blouse and saw the source: a nasty smear of dirt in a matching color on the novel's back cover. She quickly flipped the book around and adjusted its location to cover the spot then slowly lifted her eyes to meet his stare.

An awkward moment passed and then he reached to offer her his hand. "Eric Wilson," he said. "I'm new to Vine Beach." He gestured to the clinic behind him. "Bought the practice from Doc Simmons a few months ago." A pause. "And you're Amy. The classifieds girl."

Amy shook his hand as she pondered the statement. The vet must have noticed her expression of confusion for he hastened to add, "I called back and someone told me Amy the classifieds girl was at lunch. Sitting in the park. Reading a book. And so, since I was on the cell and could plainly see that there was a woman sitting in the park next to the newspaper office reading a book, I…" He released her hand and took a step backward then looked away. "Anyway," he finally said, "I wanted to apologize for hanging up the call so abruptly. Things just got a little noisy and then the dog got loose and, well, I really hadn't intended for them to overhear, anyway."

"Happens all the time," Amy hastened to say as she tried not to study his handsome features or notice the slight hint of what might be tiredness in his eyes. His lovely eyes, she amended.

"Especially lately," he said softly. "What I mean is, the girls are getting settled into their new home and new school, which means things have been a little…"

"Noisy?" she supplied.

"Yes," Dr. Wilson said on a long exhale of breath. "They're good girls, and I'm very glad I've got my mother here to help. But managing three girls while trying to get a vet practice off the ground has been an adventure."

"Your daughters are ad...

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