Every Wednesday, Gertrude Quinn and her cohort of meddling old ladies met for tea. Her husband, Harley, usually made himself scarce during that time, having no interest in listening to their gossip and intrigue. But today was different; today he was stuck lying on his back under the main kitchen sink, tightening a leaky drain pipe.
With his head stuck inside the cabinet and surrounded by bottles of cleaning solution and old sponges he’d had to pull out to work under there, he couldn’t hear everything, but he heard enough. The six of them considered themselves rousing successes for managing to find love for two of the grandkids, and had already meddled in a few other romances around Quinn Valley.
But this? This was the last straw.
They were talking about Andrew.
“It’s high time that boy was back among his family, Gertie,” one of them—sounded like Nellie—said as she stepped over Harley’s outstretched legs to place her teacup beside the sink. “He’s been thumbing his nose at you for far too long.”
“Nonsense!” That sounded like Betty, and Harley liked that she was defending the boy. “He’s obviously got his knickers in a bunch over something that happened, and he just hasn’t forgiven you for whatever it was.”
Gertrude gasped. “I would never do anything to push away one of my grandbabies! Why, Heather’s stayed away just as long as Andrew, and she’s keeping two of my great-grands away from me. I only have three, you know.”
In the darkness under the sink, Harley rolled his eyes. Gertie loved to brag about how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren they had, and her friends knew it.
Maude must’ve been standing way over by the door, because her voice was faint when she said, “You know the sure-fire way to bring that boy back to the family. Make him fall in love. Thanksgiving is coming up. Just let him know how much you want to meet his new girlfriend, and he’ll come back home.”
“He hasn’t got a new girlfriend, as far as we know,” Ruby reminded her friend.
Even Harley could hear his wife’s sly grin as she said, “Not yet he hasn’t!”
This was the last straw—he wasn’t going to let her and her friends meddle with Andrew. “Now see here!”
When he pulled himself out from under the kitchen cabinet—joints creaking and cracking—two of the ladies gave little shrieks of surprise.
Don’t see why. It’s not like I’ve been hidden, what with my legs sprawled all over the kitchen the way they were.
He frowned fiercely and shook his monkey wrench in his wife’s direction. “You’ve meddled with everyone else, but you leave Andrew alone. That boy’s hurting.”
“Yes, dear,” Gertrude said calmly, “and we know how to fix him.”
“By making him fall in love?” Harley snorted. “That’s a fool idea.”
Andrew was his oldest grandson, and the most like him. The boy and his sister—who were both considerably older than Libby’s other kids—had spent their summers on the ranch with him when they were young. He’d been the one to teach the boy to wield a nail gun and a torque wrench, and Harley had been unbearably proud when Andrew had been accepted into that engineering program. And when he’d decided he didn’t want to design stuff after all and had come back to Idaho to work at River’s End Ranch, Harley had crowed for days, reminding everyone the boy had got all of his mechanical know-how from his old gramps.
But something had happened when Heather’s kids were young, and now neither of them ever came back home. Even when Harley and Gertrude spoke with Andrew—on the phone for his birthday and Christmas, for instance—he was stilted and awkward with them.
Harley sighed. He did miss the boy though, and maybe Gertie was right; love just might bring him back into the fold. Or, at least, it would allow Harley the chance to see his grandson again if, say, Andrew knew he was expected to bring his new girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner.
Maybe Maude had a good idea there.
Harley shook the wrench again. “It’s a fool idea alright, to try to go about it the way you meddlers have been with Roxie and Ryder. No, Andrew needs something different.”
Gertrude blinked innocently at him, the way she had for all these years whenever she knew what he was trying to say. “A different touch, you mean?”
Heaving himself upright, Harley glared at the wife he loved so much. “A man’s touch! I’ll make sure Andrew brings his girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner!”
“Oh really, dear?” Gertie smiled sweetly. “How are you going to manage that?”
A plan was already beginning to form. “I’ll show you, woman! Hand me the phone.”
As the six ladies cleaned up—and began to do the dishes, thanks to the pipe which no longer leaked—Harley looked up the number for one of the numerous hotels in town. He punched in the extension for the manager, a man he’d played golf with for almost twenty years, and muttered impatiently until the man picked up.
“Steve! It’s Harley. Listen, I heard around town you’ve got an opening for an engineer, right?” Without waiting for the other man to answer, Harley pushed on, “Have you thought about that Lester fellow over at the Quinn Hotel?” A pause while the other man protested. “Yeah, I know he’s working for my son, but Bob says Lester is a valuable employee and a good engineer, and I think you need him. I’ll even chip in some for his hiring bonus.”
As he and Steve worked out the details, Harley caught his wife’s eye and winked. With Bob’s engineer leaving, he and that cute assistant of his would be forced to find a new chief engineer.
And if they didn’t know who to ask, Harley could quickly recommend a name…