Michele Pollock Dalton
Excerpt from "Adopted in Arkansas"
Ready for your next sneak peek into the #heartshomesholidays sweet romance anthology? Cool! Me to.
But, I forgot to tell you yesterday about a very special aspect of this book. Did you know it is helping orphans find their way home? Yup! The net proceeds from the anthology are being donated to Reece's Rainbow to fund special-needs adoption grants for kiddos who are desperately waiting for someone to call "mommy" and "daddy."
Adopted in Arkansas
by Kirsten Osbourne
Derrick stared at the lawyer in shock. “You’re telling me she actually wrote it into her will that I can’t raise her kid if I don’t get married?”
Mr. Peterson nodded. “I’m afraid so. She has a separate sealed letter for you to read on your own.”
“This is a bunch of hooey!” Derrick said, getting to his feet. “Zach has been with me since his parents died, and he’s going to stay with me. Alex’s parents have been off to God knows where doing whatever they want, and they get to show up and take custody of this kid? There’s no way. None. Zach doesn’t even know his paternal grandparents. He’s mine.”
“Not according to your sister’s will, I’m afraid. You have six months to marry if you want to have full custody of Zachary.”
Derrick left the room, letting the door slam behind him. He knew it was childish, but what else could he do? He was just glad Zach was in school and hadn’t had to listen to his mother’s conditions for his uncle to raise him. It made no sense.
In the hallway of the lawyer’s office, he ran into an old friend, a girl he’d known in school. He wasn’t very social these days, spending all his time working and taking care of Zach. “Hey, Beth. Marry me?”
She gaped at him in shock for a minute, before holding up her left hand, and letting him see the diamond on her third finger. “Sorry. I got married last year, and I’m expecting.”
“Of course, you are!” he said. “I’m trying to figure out how I can keep custody of my nephew. According to my sister’s will, I have to be married within six months, or I forfeit all rights to him.”
Beth narrowed her eyes. “I heard about this woman who introduces people at the altar. An old college friend of mine is happily married thanks to her matchmaking. Would you consider that?”
Derrick groaned. “I guess I’d consider anything. This means Miranda’s half of the family farm as well as custody of her son.” When their parents had died, they’d split everything legally between the two siblings. Miranda had been content to leave Derrick to run everything while she lived in Little Rock. Now her half of the farm was up for grabs as well. It was ridiculous.
“Let me text my friend and find out the name of the woman she went through. Just a sec.” Beth’s fingers tapped out a message while Derrick watched in utter disbelief of what he was thinking about doing. Of course, a random matchmaker couldn’t do worse for his love life than he’d done.
“Okay, got a response. I’m just going to read it to you. ‘The company name is Matchrimony, and it’s run by a woman named Dr. Lachele Simpson. Don’t let her freak you out. She’s legit.’ I don’t know what the last part is supposed to mean.”
“I guess I’m going to find out.” He typed the company name as well as the name of the woman running it into the notes on his phone. “I’m going to make a phone call after I pick up Zach from school.”
“Is he doing okay in the new school?” Beth asked. She’d been friends with Miranda, so it made sense that she was curious about her son.
“Not particularly. The schedule is different than he’s used to, and he really liked his elementary school in Little Rock. I guess Harrisburg isn’t the same, but you’d think the smaller city would be easier for him.”
“Well, kids like Zach are really invested in their routines.”
Derrick nodded. “Yeah. They are. Okay, I’m off to hear about what he hated at school today.”
Beth laughed softly. “It’s going to get better.”
“The only way it can go is up!” Derrick walked out to his truck and pulled into the street. It was only a two-minute drive to the school, but Zach was let out five minutes before the other kids because he couldn’t handle the noise that came with locker doors slamming. And Derrick was about to be late for the first time ever picking him up.
When he pulled up to the school, it was only a minute before everyone let out, and Zach was walking in circles on the lawn, talking to himself. As soon as he saw his uncle, he walked to the car, got in, and buckled up. “You’re late, Uncle Derrick. You’re supposed to be here five minutes til three, and it’s two-fifty-nine. What if the other kids had come out and trampled me?”
“You wouldn’t have been trampled,” Derrick said, pulling out of the parking lot. “I’m really sorry I was late. I was meeting with your mom’s lawyer.”
“The lawyer says I get to live with you forever, right?” Zach was already off his game with his uncle being late to pick him up. Derrick knew he couldn’t tell him what had transpired.
“Yup. I get to keep you forever.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want to have to train another person.”
Derrick couldn’t help but laugh a little at that. Zach really did see things differently than other kids. “I want to adopt you. Would you like that?”
Zach seemed to think about it for a minute. “That would be all right.”
“Time for chores,” Derrick said. He knew the kid needed a break between school and homework, and he’d found the best break was chores. It was that or video games, and once Zach got caught up in video games, he was good for nothing else for the rest of the day.
“I know.” Zach took his backpack and dropped it just inside the front door before heading to the barn. He knew what he was supposed to do, and Derrick didn’t need to be there supervising him.
Instead, Derrick went inside and looked up the company Beth had mentioned, calling before he lost the nerve.
Emily sat across from her Aunt Lachele in their favorite little Italian restaurant in all of Manhattan. “I’m excited you thought of me for lunch today, Aunt Lachele. I feel like I only ever go out in the evenings, and then it’s because Mother has dragged me off to some party or another. I wish I could convince her that we don’t live in Regency England.” What she really wanted to do was work in her chosen profession, but she knew her mother would never allow that.
Lachele laughed. “Oh, please. You know as well as I do that your mother firmly believes there’s a right way to doing everything.” She took a sip of her water.
“Her way?” Emily asked, sighing. “I hate this life. I went to school to be a teacher, but Mother freaked out at the idea of me actually teaching. I want to help people. Why did she insist on me getting a college education if I wasn’t going to be able to use it without her freaking out?”
“So you could get your MRS degree, of course. What were you thinking not marrying a frat boy and spending your life as a society wife?” Lachele paused for a moment. “What if I have another way?”
“What does that mean?” Emily was always skeptical where her aunt was concerned. The woman had purple hair, for goodness’ sake. Her mother had always tried to keep them apart at family gatherings.
“You know I have a side business, right?”
Emily nodded. “You do some sort of matchmaking, don’t you? Mother refused to allow me to know too many details about it because I might get ideas. So, tell me everything!” At twenty-four years old, Emily felt that she should be doing more than attending an endless round of parties. She was bored to tears, but anytime she made a move to do anything with her life, her mother lost her mind.
“Well, I introduce people at the altar, after extensive psychological testing.”
Emily choked on her water, laughing. “Are you kidding me? No wonder Mother didn’t want me to know about it. It would be the perfect way to start a new life!”
Lachele smiled. “It sure would. Now, here’s the next part. I met the man I think you belong with. He needs a wife who would be content to be a stay-at-home mother. And that’s more than I’ve ever told another client.”
“I could be a stay-at-home mom. Could I tutor on the side? Something so I don’t feel as if I wasted four years of my life?”
“I don’t think he’d have a problem with it. You’d have to move to him, and it wouldn’t be in New York.”
“I don’t care,” Emily said honestly. “When can we start this psychological test you have in mind?”
Lachele clapped her hands excitedly. “I just know you’re the right person for these two. You have to be.”
Emily all but skipped out of the restaurant an hour later. She had a real plan now. If only there was a way to avoid telling her mother.
She’d do what she could to break it to her gently, but this was a decision she was making on her own. She was going to marry a stranger and move to wherever he lived. Her mother would hate it, but for once, she didn’t care one bit.
Of course, she’d put off telling her mom until necessary. There was no point listening to her mother’s endless complaints that she was leaving her alone with no one to shop with. Maybe her mom would devote herself to doing good deeds for others. At the very thought, Emily laughed to herself.
Her mom would live, but more importantly, so would Emily. Finally, she’d be allowed to live her own life, and not feel like a puppet whose strings were being pulled in whichever way the puppeteer wanted. Emily couldn’t think of a better future.
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