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Matched For Love

By´╝ÜTamra Baumann



Lori Went wished she had a clone. Or the money to hire a housekeeper, a handyman, and a cook. Being a single mother was a challenge she hadn’t signed up for. Lately, she felt like the roadrunner in those cartoons competing against that wily coyote, running all the time, destined for nowhere in particular.

Shivering from the January cold, Lori jogged beside her daughter through the doors of the busy cafeteria at Emily’s school in the burbs of Denver. The science fair was in full swing, and they were late.

As usual.

Emily looked a little pathetic holding her project, or what was left of it, as they searched for their assigned spot. The box top holding clear plastic cups filled with her daughter’s lima beans in various stages of growth had spilled some in the car. The sprouts lucky enough to have survived leaned a little like drunken sailors. And Em hadn’t finished gluing on the result cards per the instructions. Hopefully they could hurry and do that before the judges came by her table.

Thankful for her height, Lori peered over other heads and finally found Emily’s name card. When they got to their table and she saw the complex project next to Em’s spot, she pulled up short.

Emily’s face lit up. “Look, Mom. We’re next to Asher and his dad! Hi, Mr. Cooper.”

Asher’s dad, Deek Cooper, glanced Lori’s way and sent her one of his panty-melting smiles. “Hi, ladies, great to see you again.”

“Hi. That’s an impressive display, Asher.” Lori tried to keep the sigh from her voice. Em’s project looked a little lame compared to that.

Deek nodded. “Asher worked really hard on this.” Pride for his son shone in Deek’s big smile. The pure joy on Deek’s face made her lips tilt too. Deek was a nice guy, and all the kids loved him.

Asher’s dad was also the perfect “class mom.” He claimed to have time to help because he worked from home designing video games or some such. Whatever he did, he was very successful and donated tons to the private school both their kids attended. To top it all off, he was the preferred chaperone for all field trips because, apparently, he was fun. He was an amazing single parent and always made her feel a little inadequate.

But really? Could a second grader, all on his own, create a display showing how the first personal computer came up with its answers? Asher was a bright kid. Maybe he had done it all by himself.

That thought made Lori feel even guiltier than she already did. She should have spent more time with Emily on her project. But when would she have fit that in? She had her matchmaking business to run so she could pay the bills her military widow’s benefits wouldn’t cover, along with trying to keep up with her on-line accounting degree classes. There weren’t enough minutes in the day.

Deek bent down to Emily’s level. “Wow. This looks awesome, Emily. Good job!”

The man was a super cute, gym built blond who wore T-shirts with funny sayings, and jeans most of the time. The shirt he had on showed a picture of molecule rings, and it said: Never trust an atom, they make up everything.

Despite her harried day, it made her chuckle.

She’d always appreciated the way those silly T-shirts stretched across his big chest, and it was appropriate for a science fair, but really? It was the dead of winter. A button-down flannel would’ve been more appropriate for the snow still falling outside. But then, he could probably afford the best coat money could buy.

The blond, blue-eyed mini version of Deek, Asher, scrunched up his nose. “Your plants are kinda crooked, Emily.”

Emily looked up at Lori and shook her dark-haired little head in censure. “You drive too fast, Mom.”

When Deek cringed, Lori wanted to crawl under a rock.

“I’m sorry, Em. Let’s see if we can fix them up.” Lori started to take one of the more pathetic plants from Emily, but Deek beat her to it.

His hand, surprisingly rough for a computer programmer, brushed against hers as he accepted a cup from Emily. Then he glanced up and said, “You need to go check Emily in at the registration table.” He turned his focus back to Em. “How about I give you a hand until your mom gets back? The winners go to regionals, right, guys?” Both Asher and Emily nodded. Asher much more enthusiastically than Em. Probably because he had an actual chance to win.

“Oh. Right. Thanks. I’ll be right back.” She knew Em had to be registered. What was wrong with her lately?

Lori shook her head at her forgetfulness and shrugged out of her coat as she weaved through the kids and parents preparing their displays for the judges. When she got to the registration table, her friend Shanan was standing in line. Lori leaned over her shoulder and whispered, “You’re late too, huh?”