He’s a single dad who needs a second chance.
Devoted father Theo Swann will do anything for his daughter. And Poppy wants one thing: a new mom. After the worst marriage ever, another marriage can only be one of convenience, no emotional attachment involved.
Motherhood was never for BeeBee until she met Poppy. Now she’d love to be part of the little girl’s life. If it didn’t involve marrying the super-hot but emotionally scarred father.
With a little bit of magic and some meddling from their friends, this marriage will be anything but convenient.
What Readers Are Saying:
Crazy for Baby
© 2020 Jennifer Skully
BeeBee Barton loved the drive over the Santa Cruz Mountains to Hideaway Creek. A lot of people hated Highway 17, which connected the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Jose in particular, with Santa Cruz and the beach. But BeeBee enjoyed the curving road, the magnificent trees, the gorgeous scenery. She didn’t mind the traffic, and despite what it sounded like on the radio, the accidents weren’t any more common on this road than any of the other Bay Area freeways. It was just that once Highway 17 was blocked, there weren’t a lot of ways to get around it that weren’t also congested.
During the early afternoon, like now, it was perfect, the cars few, the roadway dappled with sunlight.
Twenty minutes later, she pulled her little Volkswagen Bug into Hideaway Creek, the August afternoon warm but not hot like over the hill. Two weeks since she and her friends had returned from their fabulous trip to a French chateau, two weeks since they’d released the two peahens into the Hideaway Creek Cemetery, where they’d become Henri the peacock’s flock or harem or whatever you called it when one peacock lorded it over two peahens. That had been the reason for their trip to France. Lili Goodweather had found a lovely Frenchwoman who promised a peahen for Henri—only to wind up giving them two. And what better way to celebrate the upcoming weddings of BeeBee’s three besties—Lili, Madison O’Donnell, and Opal Smith—than a fabulous trip to a French chateau? As well as for Henri, the poor peacock who had been abandoned in the Hideaway Creek Cemetery with nary a mate in sight
Of course, when Lili released the peahens, Henri had gone all snooty. BeeBee figured by now he was basking in female adulation.
BeeBee lived in Palo Alto, on the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose. She had a special reason for today’s trip. She needed a little help from Lili Goodweather, Hideaway Creek’s resident animal whisper. BeeBee had an animal problem, more particularly, a mouse problem. She didn’t know if Lili, who could talk to cats, dogs, goats, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, snakes, and peacocks—which was how Lili knew Henri craved a mate—could talk to something as small as a mouse, but it was worth the hour drive to find out.
Lili was waiting outside Flowers by Nature, the flower shop owned by Kate Carson, Lili’s boss and another of the ladies who’d accompanied them to France. Wearing a flowered blouse, a gauzy blue skirt, and combat boots, Lili was watering the planter beneath the shady awning outside the shop’s front door.
BeeBee pulled her Bug into the empty parking space in front of the shop as Lili turned off the water and brushed the droplets from her hands. She gave BeeBee a big hug. “It’s been forever since we’ve seen you.”
“It’s only been a week.”
Lili flipped her long black hair over her shoulder. “That is forever.”
BeeBee loved how everything was always and forever and absolutely with Lili. And now Lili would be marrying the love of her life, Tanner Rutland, and become a stepmother at the end of August in a triple wedding with her two best friends, Opal and Madison. BeeBee was one of the bridesmaids as was Opal’s sister Pearl and Kate, Lili’s boss. Though Kate was far more than a boss. She was Lili’s friend, and a friend to them all.
Standing out of the glare of the sun under the awning, Lili crossed her arms. “So tell me about your little mouse problem.”
BeeBee turned, crossed her arms in imitation, and they both stared at her Beetle. “It won’t leave my car, and I’m afraid it’s doing its business in there, and I really don’t want the car to get all smelly. I’ve let the doors stand open. I’ve made loud noises. I’ve even talked to it. But nothing works.”
Lili stepped off the curb and touched the door. “May I?”
BeeBee followed, flourishing her hand. “Of course.”
Opening the door, Lili sniffed. “I smell peppermint.
“I put peppermint oil in a little trap.” She held up her hand quickly lest Lili should freak out. “Not a trap-trap that would hurt it. Just one of those box things that falls down so they can’t get out, and I thought the peppermint would attract it.” She grimaced. “Obviously it didn’t work. But now I call the mouse Peppermint Patty.”
“Cute.” Lili smiled. “But cheese might have worked a little better.”
BeeBee shrugged. She hadn’t wanted rotting cheese in her car either, and the peppermint smelled nice.
As BeeBee hung her arms over the car window to watch, Lili crouched down in the vee of the door and closed her eyes, her brow slightly furrowed. She was doing it, BeeBee knew, communicating with the mouse who’d made the Bug its home. She’d once asked, and Lili explained it as exchanging images in their heads. Of course, animals didn’t speak in words, but they projected pictures. And Lili could interpret them.
She bobbed her head, muttered, “Mmm, hmm,” like someone trapped on the phone with a friend who didn’t stop talking long enough for you to get a word in edgewise. Then finally she looked at BeeBee. “He says he likes your car. It’s warm and comfy and safe.” She added a smile. “And he likes you as a human being, even if you gave him peppermint instead of cheese.”
BeeBee groaned. “I really don’t want to be liked by a mouse if he thinks it’s okay to leave poops in my car. I just can’t have that.”
Lili closed her eyes again, then after a few seconds asked, “What if he promises not to poop or pee in your car?”
“Grrrr. Only if he promises to get out the first time he has an accident in there.”
Lili communicated with a little hum in her throat. “He absolutely promises he won’t have an accident. But he’ll move out if it accidentally happens.”
BeeBee put her fingers to her temples as if she could actually see what Peppermint Patty was saying. Then finally, “Okay, okay, he can stay. But what about his family?”
“He doesn’t have a family.”
“But what if he wants to have a family move in with him?”
“He promises he won’t ever have a family.”
“How can he possibly promise that?” Everyone changed their mind. BeeBee had changed hers. She hadn’t thought about having a family. But then she’d held a baby in her arms, and well, at the age of thirty-five, she fell in love with the little girl and knew she wanted to be a mother.
And mice were programmed to procreate.
“He promises he’ll leave if he ever gets even the slightest urge to have a family.”
“This little guy certainly knows how to make a lot of promises.” And BeeBee threw her hands up in the air in surrender. “All right, he can stay. But tell him not to skitter around my feet or drop down on me while I’m driving. I don’t want to have an accident.”
Lili held up a three-finger scout’s honor salute. “Absolutely.” She rose to her feet. “Problem solved.” Lili dusted her fingers together as if she were dusting off the mouse problem.
“Thank you so much.” BeeBee could only hope Peppermint Patty kept all his promises, but it wouldn’t be Lili’s fault if he didn’t. Mice could be tricky. “When you start Animal Crackers, I’ll definitely give you a testimonial.”
“You’re so sweet. Thank you.” After the weddings, Lili was going to open a clinic for people who needed help communicating with their pets. She’d even do house calls. Maybe someday she’d have her own TV show.
Behind them, two elderly ladies strolled into the flower shop. “New customers,” Lili whispered loudly, just as the door closed behind them. “Gotta go.” Then she rushed inside to help them.
BeeBee closed her car door and stood with her hand on the roof a long moment. Across the street was The Coffee Stain, Hideaway Creek’s specialty coffeehouse, which did a booming business. Main Street was filled with the Hideaway Grocery, Hideaway Hardware, the Copper Penny Diner, a bank, a pizza parlor, a nail salon. And right next to The Stain—locals dropped the word coffee—was the Mane Man, the small town’s only barbershop.
BeeBee heard a whisper of words in her head: The Mane Man doesn’t do women.
She’d done some research since returning from France. Property in Hideaway Creek were much more affordable than Palo Alto, more affordable than almost anywhere on the Peninsula, in fact. While Opal and Madison lived on the Peninsula, Lili and Kate were over here. If BeeBee moved, she’d be trading one set of friends for another. But she would still be going back over the hill often enough to see her two besties. As a beautician, her business was portable, since she went to the houses of her hair and makeup clients. But BeeBee wanted a real home, she wanted to settle down, she wanted to start roots growing in solid ground. That’s where Hideaway Creek entered the picture. Not only was it more affordable, she’d be near Poppy, the little girl she’d come to adore—of course, her feelings had nothing to do with Poppy’s father, Theo Swann. It was just that Hideaway Creek was also more reasonable businesswise.
And the Mane Man was the key to the future she’d envisioned.