A Father's Name
Author:Holly Jacobs

Chapter TWELVE

AT THE END OF THE NEXT day, Tyler had Mrs. Kovalski drop Jace off at the shop for him. He had the baby settled on his hip as he walked across the lawn to George Tucker’s and knocked on the door.

“Hey, Jace,” Angelina’s father said as he opened the screen door and scooped the baby into his arms. “Come on in, Tyler. What’s up? You need me to watch Jace?”

“No. Well, yes, but not now. Now, I’d like to talk to you.”

George went to the kitchen table and sat down, indicating the other chair across from him. “Sounds serious.”

“It is,” Tyler assured him as he took the seat.

George handed Jace a spoon and the baby happily beat the table as George said, “Shoot.”

Tyler had spent the better part of the week mulling. He’d talked to Mr. Matthews again and had finally acknowledged there was nothing he could do to stop the ADA from clearing his name. He looked at Jace and part of him still worried about the baby. He wanted to be sure that Jace understood what his father had done and why.

If Mellie and Jason had done anything differently, then Jace might not be here, Mr. Matthews had said. In my book, that makes them both brave. Doesn’t negate Jason’s mistake, but it does make him human. And maybe that’s what Jace will need. A father who was brave and human.

Somehow, Tyler would see to it that Jace understood it all. That he knew about his father, mistakes included.

“I don’t want to get into specifics yet, Mr. Tucker, but you hired me when everyone else ignored me. You gave me a chance to rebuild my life. And now, my name is going to be cl…cleared.” He stumbled over the words. “I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it is what it is. I have a chance to go back to my old life, or…”

“Or?” George asked as he gently guided Jace’s spoon back to the table top and away from his face. When Tyler didn’t answer immediately, George repeated, “Or…”

“Well, it’s the or I want to talk to you about.”

An hour and a half later, Tyler left George Tucker’s house and he had a plan.

TUCKER GENERALLY AWOKE on Mondays with optimism. The upcoming week was a blank slate. It could be something amazing.

She stared at the tank of the Sportster she was hoping to finish today.

Saying goodbye to Bart on Friday had been tougher than she’d imagined, but she’d talked to him yesterday and he was having a great time. The orientation weekend had been fun, he’d assured her. Knowing that made letting go easier. She’d spent the last eighteen years preparing for this day. The fact that it had arrived and he was adjusting wonderfully meant she’d done her job right.

She knew that her relationship with Bart would change. He’d grow up, move out and find a life for himself.

She simply hadn’t expected the rest of her life to be in upheaval as well.

“Hey, honey, I talked to Bart last night,” her father said as a way of announcing himself.

She set the spray gun down and turned around to face her father. “I’m glad he called you. He sounded good, didn’t he?” She climbed to her feet and smiled.

“Yes, he did,” her father agreed. Then abruptly he said, “I wanted to talk to you about my selling off some of my shares.”

Her mind was full of Tyler, about how she was going to approach him and confront him. The last thing she wanted was to pick up this fight again. She’d thought after their last discussion her father had given up. “Pops—”

“No,” he held out a hand, “hear me out. I have an investor in mind and all I want you to do is meet the person. It would do my heart good to know you at least gave this a listen. You have the final say, but Angel, I think this could be a match made in heaven. Everything I wanted for you, and maybe everything you wanted, even if you didn’t know you wanted it,” he finished cryptically.

“Pops, It’ll do my heart good? That was pretty low. And I’m sure that I know exactly what I want and a partner isn’t it.” Her father simply waited, not responding, and Tucker sighed. “If I meet with the investor and say no, you’ll back off? Not just back off, but drop the subject entirely?”

He visibly relaxed. “Yes.”

“Fine,” she said, feeling like a wimp for caving.

Her father smiled and said, “After work then?”

“I had plans after work today.” Plans that involved Tyler. She still hadn’t come to any actual concrete plans other than showing up on his doorstep and saying I love you, then outlining why his past and her past didn’t matter—only their future did.

“Can you put your plans off until after the meeting?” her father asked. “It really is important, or else you know I wouldn’t ask.”

Tucker snorted. “Yes you would.”

“Yeah, you’re right. But we’re on. Today, after work. He’ll meet you in your office.” Her father turned to leave her paint room.

“Pops, you didn’t tell me who my mystery meeting is with.”

“I know,” was his cryptic response. “He’ll be here at five.”

TUCKER THOUGHT ABOUT changing before her meeting with her father’s secret buyer, but opted not to. After all, whoever it was wanted to buy into the business. They shouldn’t have some unrealistic idea about who she was.

She glanced down at today’s green T-shirt that read, Only the Wind is Allowed in My Face. That definitely set the tone for the meeting.

She glanced at the clock. Five to five.

She opened up her computer, but knew she wasn’t fooling anyone. She couldn’t concentrate on the forms in front of her.


Tucker saw Tyler in her doorway. His jeans were neatly pressed, and his workshirt was not only equally pressed, but also pristine, despite the fact he’d worked all day. Even now, without his high-powered business suits, he was as impeccable as ever.

Back when he’d asked her out—it seemed decades ago—she’d joked with Eli that he was designer suits and the only designer she knew was Jacqueline Smith at K-Mart. They were ill-suited both figuratively and literally.

And yet.

Tyler Martinez was a perfect fit for her.

He didn’t think so, and she suspected it was going to take some serious negotiating on her part, but somehow she’d make him understand. But not now, with her mysterious potential partner coming in. “Ty, what’s up?”

“I was hoping to talk to you.”

She glanced at the clock. It was five on the dot. “I have a meeting in a few minutes. Can it wait?”

“No, I’d rather tell you now,” he said.

“Come in and close the door then. We may have to cut this short, though. Pops’s surprise should be here any moment. I could come over after my meeting?” They’d definitely have more privacy at his house than here. And even though she didn’t have a specific script in mind, she knew what she wanted to say to Tyler should be said in privacy.

“If we’re interrupted, I’ll go. But I want to start now, before I lose my nerve.”

Tucker scoffed. “Yeah, like that’s going to happen.” She pointed to the couch, and followed him over and sat on the other end. “You’ve never been someone prone to nervousness.”

“This is different,” he assured her.

She wanted to kick herself—or maybe kick him. She had so much to say to him, but not here. Not like this. For now, she’d listen. Later, she’d shake some sense into him. “So, talk.”

“Do you remember that registered letter?”

“Why no, Tyler, it totally slipped my mine,” she teased, but when he didn’t laugh, she immediately quit doing so. “Yes.”

“It was…” He shook his head. “Okay, let’s start at the beginning. My father was a drunk. We’ve sort of covered this, but I want to say it all. I don’t remember a time he didn’t have a drink either in his hand, or close at hand.”

“I’m sorry,” Tucker said. “But you’re nothing like him.” She’d tried to reassure him of that before, but she didn’t think he believed her.

“He was a mean drunk.” Tyler continued. “And he was a mechanic when he was sober, but by the time I was twelve or thirteen, he was rarely sober enough to work, which meant he got fired from every garage he worked at. He started doing repairs out of the garage at home, I ain’t workin’ for no one else ever again, he told me, as if he had a choice, as if he’d been the one to walk away rather than the one fired. Problem was, he didn’t do the work, so I took care of the cars at night. It kept us afloat.”

“Oh, Tyler, I’m sorry.” She prayed that whoever her father was sending over was late.

Tyler nodded. “Jason, Mellie and I were friends. Jason’s family took me in. I lived with them my senior year. They’re the ones who saw to it I went to college. We were all in college together. I was best man at their wedding. Jace’s godfather…”

The story tumbled out. Mellie’s illness, Jason’s embezzling money from the firm to pay for her treatment.

“He thought he could pay it back before they found out. He was going to sell everything and…”

Suddenly it all made sense to Tucker. She’d been right, Tyler hadn’t done what they’d said he’d done. “Before Jason could pay it back, they discovered what he’d done,” she supplied.

“I was part of the team that found the discrepancies. And I was the one who figured out it was him. I went to him and when he confessed—”

“That’s when you punched him.” Everything. All the bits and pieces she’d learned about Tyler fell into place finally.

“I would have sold everything to pay for Mellie’s treatment. If he’d come to me, we could have figured out an option that wasn’t illegal.”

“But he didn’t, so…” She waited for Tyler to tell her what she already knew.

“I went to my boss that night and told them they should stop the investigation. It was gratifying that he didn’t believe I did it. Not at first. He asked me point blank if I’d done it. I told him to call the cops. I told him I couldn’t confess until the prosecution came up with a deal. But I assured him that I was willing to pay restitution.”

“Couldn’t. I’m sure you phrased it that way,” Tucker said. “Couldn’t confess, not wouldn’t.” Tyler nodded.

“But your boss, he didn’t catch it.”

“No. He didn’t catch it. And when the police came, I wouldn’t talk to them, but I instructed my attorney to make a deal. I wouldn’t contest charges, that I’d willingly pay all the money back and serve whatever time they thought fair with only one condition, that they proceed immediately. I wanted the case expedited. I wanted my conviction established.”

“So they wouldn’t look too closely at the evidence and realize what happened,” Tucker continued.

“Mellie was dying.” Even after all this time, Tyler tripped over the word. “She was the bravest woman I ever knew—willing to put off her own treatment for the baby’s sake. She deserved to have her husband at her side. The baby deserved a father he could be proud of.”

“And you? What did you deserve, Tyler?”

“No one expected me to make anything of myself. I was Deacon Martinez’s kid. My fall from grace wasn’t news to anyone…it was inevitable.”

“So why are you telling me all this now?” Tucker asked.

“Mr. Matthews, the judge in my case, and the ADA are clearing my name. They think there’s a chance I could have my old life back. My job—”

“The money and the cars?” It would all be his. He’d be back in his designer suits, living in some swank apartment. He’d leave Tucker’s Garage in a New York minute, there was no doubt in Tucker’s mind.

He’d leave the garage, and he’d leave her. Tucker didn’t know what to say, so she simply said, “Congratulations, Tyler. You’ve been great here at the garage, but we both know you belong somewhere else.”

“Where I belong, now that’s a question,” he said slowly. “It’s why I’m here, talking to you.”

“Sure it is.” She wanted to scream. She felt so frustrated. Part of her wished she’d made her case to him first. Part of her was thankful that she hadn’t made a fool of herself. “You know we wish you all the best. You don’t have to worry about giving notice.”

“I wasn’t worried about giving you notice. You see, I have a proposition for you.”

Tucker went from feeling devastated at the thought of losing Tyler to insulted in the space of a heartbeat. “Wait a minute, you think that if you get your old life back, I’d be interested in dating you? You told me I deserve better, and now that you’ll have things the way they once were, you think that makes you better?”

“No.” He reached across the couch and took her hand. “Although figuring out that I don’t want it all back does.”

She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

“Everyone thinks the governor will pardon me. That I’ll be totally exonerated, and able to get it all back. That’s what the lunch was about a week ago. I’ve been thinking it over ever since. Mulling, Mrs. Matthews calls it.”

“Mulling.” Yeah, Tucker could see that. “So, what have you decided after a week’s worth of mulling?”

“I don’t want it back. Right before my lawyer called and told me I really needed to meet with the judge and ADA, I’d been thinking how much I enjoyed it here at the garage. I’d been good at my old job, but I’d never experienced much happiness while doing it. Here, I like it all. I like working on a car, and then standing back and realizing I’d done that—fixed it. I took something that was broken and made it better. It’s tangible. And I like the people I work with. I’m happy here.”

“So, now that your name is going to be cleared, you’re going to do something that makes you happy?”

“I’m going to try. Although, it’s not completely up to me.”


“It’s up to you, Angel.” He squeezed her hand, and before she could pull away, he gave a small tug, moving her closer to him on the couch. “I went to your father and asked if he’d consider selling me his part of the business. I’d like to be your partner.”

“My business partner?” she repeated stupidly.


“Oh.” She pulled her hand from his and felt even more stupid. She’d told herself that she was going to make him think she’d finally admitted that she did indeed deserve better. And she did. She deserved the best. And even before she’d heard his story, she knew Tyler Martinez was the best.

Of all the men she’d ever known, he was the only one she’d ever felt this way about.

She’d hoped that he was going to admit it himself—admit they belonged together.

The fact that he simply wanted a business partnership hurt, but it didn’t change anything. She was going to fight for him—even if it meant fighting Tyler himself. If she were his business partner, she’d definitely have more time to win him over to the idea they belonged together on a permanent basis. “Really, my business partner?”

“If you’ll have me. You’d own the controlling percentage and you’d also have a partner who likes doing the accounting end of things.”

“Won’t our previous relationship make things awkward?” she asked.

“Ah…about that. I know you deserve more than me. More than I can give you. But I’m hoping you’ll give me the opportunity to grow into the man you deserve.”

Tucker clued in to what he was saying and her heart lept. She tried to keep from smiling as she said, “No.”

“No? You don’t want to give me the opportunity?” He nodded, as if he’d expected it. Then his head jerked up. “I’m not backing down on this. I’ll fight for you.”

This time Tucker couldn’t manage to hold back her grin. “Tyler, you are such a dork. You don’t need to fight for me. You’ve already won. I simply meant I’m not waiting around for you to grow into a man you think I want when you’re already exactly the man I want right now. A man who, when he gives himself, gives his whole heart. Look at what you did for Jason and Mellie. That’s what I want. I don’t want you lecturing me about who I should want. The kind of man I deserve. I want you. I want to come home to you every night. I want to build a family with you.” She leaned across the couch and kissed him. “I want you to be my partner in the garage…and in life.”

She kissed him again. This amazing man who had the biggest heart of anyone she’d ever met.

“I love you, Tyler Martinez.”

“I love you, too, Angel.”