A Baby for Mommy Read online





  Emily stood motionless, hardly able to believe

  She felt it again. The tiniest movement, a fluttering deep inside…She caught her breath in shock, moisture flooding her eyes.

  Dan’s hand lightly touched her arm. “Emily?” he said. “What’s wrong?”

  The tears she’d held back spilled from her lashes and rolled down her cheeks. And still she couldn’t move, couldn’t bring herself to speak. There it was again…the slightest movement. The fluttering of life. Wanting to hang on to the sensation, this tiny baby Emily already loved so very much, she closed her eyes, savoring the sheer exhilaration of the experience.

  “Emily?” The tenderness in Dan’s voice forced her to meet his gaze. “What is it?” he said softly.

  Emily placed Dan’s hand on her lower abdomen, holding it firmly against her. And there it was again, the push against her skin from deep inside.

  A smile as radiant as any Emily had ever seen spread across Dan’s face. “The baby,” he murmured, shared joy sparkling in his eyes.

  Dear Reader,

  Guys like to help each other out—whether it’s by fixing a car, working together on a business deal, or providing moral support. When they are friends, they are there for each other. No questions asked.

  THE LONE STAR DADS CLUB is one of these unofficial yet highly effective groups. The five Fort Worth, Texas, men have known each other for years. They’ve seen each other through accelerating careers, good and bad marriages, and divorce. They share a love and concern for each other’s kids. And figure there is no problem they can’t handle together.

  Dan Kingsley is the architect of the group and the kind of guy who likes to find solutions to life’s thorniest problems by thinking outside the box.

  Emily Stayton is a personal chef, with a baby on the way. The single mom-to-be has learned the hard way to leave work at work, and never get too involved with a “client.” It’s a promise she has no problem sticking to, until she meets the sexy dad and understands the complex nature of his problem.

  Emily accepts Dan’s challenge to bring peace and tranquility to mealtimes at his house—with the caveat she will be moving on as soon as the job is done. She doesn’t count on getting close to his three kids, or having him take such an interest in her baby. And she really doesn’t count on what happens between the two of them!

  Happy Thanksgiving—and happy reading!

  Cathy Gillen Thacker

  A BABY FOR MOMMY

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Cathy Gillen Thacker is married and a mother of three. She and her husband spent eighteen years in Texas, and now reside in North Carolina. Her mysteries, romantic comedies and heartwarming family stories have made numerous appearances on bestseller lists, but her best reward, she says, is knowing one of her books made someone’s day a little brighter. A popular Harlequin author for many years, she loves telling passionate stories with happy endings, and thinks nothing beats a good romance and a hot cup of tea! You can visit Cathy’s Web site at www.cathygillenthacker.com for more information on her upcoming and previously published books, recipes and a list of her favorite things.

  Books by Cathy Gillen Thacker

  HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE

  1029—PLAIN JANE’S SECRET LIFE*

  1054—HER SECRET VALENTINE*

  1080—THE ULTIMATE TEXAS BACHELOR**

  1096—SANTA’S TEXAS LULLABY**

  1112—A TEXAS WEDDING VOW**

  1125—BLAME IT ON TEXAS**

  1141—A LARAMIE, TEXAS CHRISTMAS**

  1157—FROM TEXAS, WITH LOVE**

  1169—THE RANCHER NEXT DOOR†

  1181—THE RANCHER’S FAMILY THANKSGIVING†

  1189—THE RANCHER’S CHRISTMAS BABY†

  1201—THE GENTLEMAN RANCHER†

  1218—HANNAH’S BABY††

  1231—THE INHERITED TWINS††

  1237—A BABY IN THE BUNKHOUSE††

  1254—FOUND: ONE BABY††

  1262—MOMMY FOR HIRE

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Epilogue

  Chapter One

  Dan Kingsland’s mind should have been on business. The catered outdoor buffet at the construction site of One Trinity River Place was to celebrate a huge accomplishment, not just for his own architectural firm, but four of his closest friends. Grady McCabe was the enterprising developer who’d put it all together. Travis Carson was the contractor building the three-block office-shopping-and-residential complex in downtown Fort Worth. Jack Gaines owned the electronic and wiring company that would install all the networks, phones and satellite systems. Nate Hutchinson helmed the financial-services company leasing seventy-five percent of the office space.

  Instead…all Dan could think about was the incredible lunch being served, picnic-style, to the 150 high-profile guests milling around outside the sleek stone-and-glass skyscrapers culled from Dan’s imagination. The food commemorating the end of Phase 1 was literally the best he had ever tasted. And it was all being prepared by one woman, using three portable outdoor stoves and what looked to be an equally portable Sub-Zero fridge.

  Dan savored another bite of perfectly seasoned potato salad. Maybe if they could eat like this at home…

  Grady McCabe gave Dan a wry look. “We all know what you’re thinking. Emily Stayton is not the answer to your problems.”

  Dan turned his gaze back to the dark-haired beauty in jeans, boots and traditional white chef’s coat. The young culinary artist certainly looked like the solution to his dilemma. He’d lived in Texas all his life and had never had barbecue this good. The fact that Emily Stayton was literally glowing with happiness while she worked made it all the more amazing.

  Dan shrugged. “The woman can cook.” More important, she handled the multiple demands on her time and attention with aplomb, bringing good cheer and relative calm to the hungry crowd at the portable buffet tables.

  “Of course she can cook—she’s a chef,” Travis said, lifting a brisket sandwich to his lips. The father of two preschoolers, he was always stating the obvious.

  “She worked in the best restaurants in the area before deciding she wanted more flexibility in her schedule, and then she struck out on her own as a personal chef,” Jack Gaines added with the factual precision of a guy who had founded an electronic-systems company and was single-handedly bringing up his seven-year-old daughter with seemingly none of the problems Dan was having with his own irascible brood.

  “Great,” Dan said, already imagining what it would be like to have this woman in his kitchen, whipping up one incredible meal after another. “That ought to make it all the easier to convince her to come and work for me.” At this point, money was no object. He just wanted a solution to the problem that seemed to be growing larger every day. And if he had to think outside the box to get it, well…wasn’t that what he always did? Solve problems in whatever creative way necessary?

  “Not so great.” Nate Hutchinson held up a cautioning hand. The only one of them with no pressing familial obligations, he made it his business to know all the beautiful, unattached women on the local social scene. And their caterer fit the bill, if the lack of wedding ring on her left hand was any indication. “Emily’s leaving Fort Worth.”

  Frowning, Dan glanced back at the white catering van with the bright blue Chef for Hire logo on the side. “When?”

&