A Father's Name
Author:Holly Jacobs

Chapter ONE

GARY JOHNSON’S PHONE number flashed as a missed call on Angelina Tucker’s cellphone and she tried to tamp down her annoyance.

Tucker didn’t date often, but when she did, she practiced a catch-and-release program. Unfortunately, Gary Johnson didn’t want to be released and had been calling for days asking for another date.

She’d tried being polite, then tried to joke and pretend she was one of the guys with her let’s-be-buddies pitch. Neither worked. Gary obviously wasn’t getting her not-so subtle hints. She’d have to try something more direct.

The man was so dense it was going to have to be something big. Something like a swift kick or else a restraining order.

Gary’s number on her caller ID had left a sour taste to what was normally her happy Monday mood. She stomped into the garage, not wanting to think about returning that phone call.

“Hey, Lou,” she called by way of a greeting as she made a beeline for the coffee machine.

“What’s on the schedule today?” Lou asked.

“I’ve got to come up with some brilliant idea for the Paradisi bike.” Tucker was building a name for her custom paint jobs on motorcycles and an occasional car or truck. Thanks to the popularity of shows like American Chopper and Pimp My Ride, her air-brushed murals, pictures and plain old pinstriping had taken more and more of her time away from the basic mechanic work.

She took a long sip of her coffee, knowing she needed caffeine in her system before she could come anywhere close to inspired.

She thought about the black custom bike that sat in her paint room as she appreciated a second sip. “Lou, you and the other guys start in on the appointments, okay? I’m going to head back to my office for an hour or so. I have some invoices to get out.”

The only good thing about paperwork was that she hated it so much her mind frequently wandered and got creative to avoid doing it.

“Is your dad coming in today?” Lou asked.

“I’m sure he’ll show up eventually.” She offered what she hoped was a reassuring smile to Lou, but she couldn’t be sure. She wasn’t good at faking it—never had been. She needed to tell the guys the truth soon.

Soon, but not today.

“’Kay, Tuck,” the older man said.

“Way to go, Tuck,” she muttered to herself as she stomped to her office. She had to tell the guys sometime, but not until her dad was ready. And to date, George Tucker wasn’t ready and she wasn’t going to rush him. Lou knew the score without explanation and had pretty much taken over running the floor of the garage without being asked. And she’d taken over most of the hated paperwork. If her dad really did retire, she’d be doing it forever.

That was not the thought she wanted to start her day with, much less a week with.

She needed to speak to her dad about giving Lou a raise. Just one more thing on her to-do list. A list that no matter how hard she worked never seemed to get any shorter.

She slammed open her office door, her Monday mood really shot now, between Gary Johnson and Lou’s innocent question about her father.

“Well, it’s a hell of a thing when a man can’t rely on his daughter’s totally deluded happy Monday mood.” Her father was sitting in a chair, his own cup of coffee in hand.

“What are you doing here, Pops?”

Her father looked so much better than he had a few months ago. Thanks to her very vigilant eye on his diet, he’d lost a few pounds, which the doctors said would help with his heart problems.

“Enjoying the view.” He pointed at the bird feeder she’d mounted in the overgrown mulberry tree outside the window. “I never noticed the feeder before.”

“I put it up years ago.”

“I figured. It’s got a weathered sort of look to it. Guess there are a lot of things I haven’t noticed before. Sorry for that, kiddo.”

“You noticed plenty, Pops.”

“No. I missed some very big things, and even things I did notice—well, some I plain old ignored. Like the fact you were a girl. It was you, me and the guys at the shop. I treated you like one of them. I never pushed you to do girly things. If you’d had a mom, she’d have made sure you didn’t spend all your time around men and car repairs.”

Since her father had been sick, he’d had days of uncharacteristic nostalgia and occasionally, bouts of regret. Tucker wasn’t sure what to do when he expressed such emotion, other than try to reassure him. “Pops, if I really wanted to do girly things, don’t you think I would have done them? I mean, honestly, in my whole life, has anyone ever forced me to do something I didn’t want to do, or managed to talk me out of something I did?”

“No. But the point is, I never gave you a chance to explore what you wanted. I kept you close and here you are in your thirties and still working at the garage. Still living in the same house.”

Her father had bought a nice double-wide trailer and set it up next to the garage, leaving the house across the street, where she’d grown up, for her and her son, Bart. “You could have stayed there and I could have gotten my own place.”

“Not my point and you know it,” he scolded. “I didn’t want to stay there—but maybe you shouldn’t have wanted to stay there either.”

“Are you saying you want me to move?”

“Are you being deliberately obtuse, Angelina?” her normally affable father lashed out. “I don’t want you to move and you know that I always wanted you to work at the shop with me. But I’m wondering now if I was selfish. Maybe all men reach an age where all they can do is look back and second guess their past decisions.”

“Pops, is something wrong? Are you feeling short of breath, or having chest pains?” It was so hard to think of her once unstoppable father as ill and she hated it. She wanted him well again and back to his old self.

“No. I’m fine now, but I guess being sick leaves a man with a lot of time to think. I’m pushing seventy, and I won’t be here forever. I’m worried about you.”

Last Christmas the doctors had found blockage in her father’s arteries and put a stent in. He’d come back to work, but not full-time. He’d wanted to, but she’d put her foot down. The doctor had told her that her father needed a lighter schedule, less stress and a better diet. She’d made it a point on trying to see he had all three, but she obviously hadn’t done a good enough job if he was worried about her. “I’m fine, Pops. You have to know that I love my life.”

“Yeah, but your life has always centered around the job, me and Bart. I’m here to tell you that I’m stepping back from the day-to-day operations of Tucker’s Garage. Actually, that’s a cop-out. I’m not only stepping back, I’ve decided that I’m retiring. Officially. I’m going to leave the business, along with the worries, in your capable hands. And Bart is going away to college in the fall. I guess, I’m concerned about where that’s going to leave you.”

Tucker looked at her father. Finding out her father was mortal shouldn’t have come as a shock, but he’d always been so healthy, so much larger than life. His illness had scared her. He looked better now, but she couldn’t help but worry. Having him retire from the business and take it easy would ease those worries a bit.

“I think it’s a great idea, Pops. Me and the boys can handle things at the shop.”

“We both know that you’ve been handling things for the last five months with no problem, other than there’s been too much work for four people.”

“And we’re not complaining,” she pointed out. “Given the economy, it’s great that our business hasn’t ebbed, but instead has exploded. The guys don’t mind overtime, and I help in the garage as much as my schedule allows.”

“A lot of that increased business has come from your end of things. You need to concentrate on the painting, not the repairs. And now that I’m officially retiring, you’ll really have the business side of things to focus on, too.”

“I can do it all.” To be honest, she had a lot of time to work. Even though Bart was still here, he was wrapped up in his own life and enjoying the end of his senior year of high school, and she encouraged that. She’d been in her teens when she had him, and she wanted to give him all the moments she’d missed out on.

“Now that I’ve decided to retire, rather than just cut back, I think, more than ever, we should find someone to buy into the business,” her father said.

“No.” Since he’d been ill, he’d mentioned selling his half of the business to someone who could help them out. Someone who would have a vested interest in things. Tucker just shook her head. They’d had this conversation—well, fight actually—before. She didn’t want some stranger having a say in the business she’d invested her blood, sweat and paint in, but she didn’t want to upset her father by fighting about it again.

“We could let someone else buy in and do all those things you hate. The things I used to do,” he tossed out, obviously hoping it would make the idea more appealing to her.

“No,” she repeated, hoping her monosyllabic response would get her point across without another out-and-out argument that would send his blood pressure skyrocketing.

“I’d say we could hire someone, but I don’t trust someone who doesn’t have a vested interest. A partner would—”

“Pops, I’ll find a way to make it all work out. It won’t work with another partner.” Hoping to soften her refusal, she added, “Once you’ve worked with the best, it’s hard to settle for anyone else.”

Her father sighed. “I’m not ruling the idea out, but we’ll table it for now. That being said, I am making one last executive decision.” Her father had that look.

Tucker would be hard pressed to define the look to an outsider, but as his daughter, she had no trouble recognizing it. There was a slight compression of his lips. The smallest flaring of his nostrils. He was squinting and reached up to pat his normally rumpled grey hair.

“What decision is that?” She was pretty sure that his look indicated that he thought it was a decision she wouldn’t like. “Pops?”

“I hired someone.”

“Pops, we’ve always done the hiring together.” Even before she’d officially worked for her father, then with him as a partner, he’d had her sit in on interviews. He said he didn’t want her forced to be around someone she didn’t like.

“This one is special. I’ve known the guy for years and he really needed the work. And in the interest of honesty, he’s got a record. White collar, six months in county, still on probation.”

Tucker groaned. “Pops…” She didn’t add anything to it because she knew it was pointless. When her father made his mind up, he was immovable. That’s what his look said. I’m a stone and you can’t budge me. I won’t change my mind. So, she admitted defeat with grace. “When’s he start?”

“Today. Told him to be in by eight-thirty. Wanted to talk to you and smooth things over before he showed up.”

“Yeah, Pops, that’s you, all smooth operatory.”

Her father either didn’t notice her sarcasm, or chose to ignore it as someone knocked on the door and he glanced at his watch. “Punctual. Gotta like that in a new employee,” he said with a grin.

“Come on in,” Tucker called. She expected to see some trouble-hardened man at the door, not… “Mr. Martinez?”

Tyler Martinez was one of the garage’s best customers. He indulged in new vehicles like other people indulged in ice cream. High-end vehicles that fit well with his high-end designer suits, his dark good looks and his power job. But today, there was no designer suit, but rather a well worn pair of jeans and a white T-shirt that emphasized the fact the man worked out.

If the lines beneath his shirts were any indication, he’d been working out more than usual.

Not that she usually noticed.

Okay, so she noticed. A woman would have to be dead in order to ignore Tyler Martinez’s sensual dark features. An image of a panther flashed through her mind and she almost laughed at how cliché that felt.

She pasted on her best business smile. Considering how much money and time Tyler spent at the shop it wouldn’t do to be rude. “Mr. Martinez, I’m in a meeting. If you wouldn’t mind waiting for a few minutes, I’ll come get you and we can go over whatever your current vehicle requires.”

“My current vehicle is a 2002 Ford F-150 that has seen better days, but I’m working on it myself, so it doesn’t require any of the shop’s services.” Tyler frowned at her father. “You didn’t tell her?”

“Doesn’t pay to rush my Angelina,” her father said with a trace of pride in his voice. “She comes around to things in her own time. I did tell her, only I hadn’t told her who.”

Tucker looked at Martinez, then at her father. Her mom-senses were tingling, something that normally only happened with Bart. “Told me?”

“Angel, meet Tucker’s Garage’s newest employee, Tyler Martinez.”

“What the hell, Pops?” She turned to Tyler. “You don’t work in a garage. You work for some fancy investment firm and wouldn’t know a driveshaft from a piston.”

Martinez frowned, his voice had a touch of gravel breaking in its normal whiskey smoothness. “Don’t make assumptions about me, Angel.” He dragged her name out, slow and intimate.

Maybe he thought she’d melt, but instead she felt fired up. “And don’t call me Angel. It’s Tucker, if you don’t mind.” Only her father called her Angelina or worse yet, Angel.

“I do mind, but since I’m an employee, my minding doesn’t count. And to set your mind at ease, a driveshaft transmits torque, and a piston transfers force from the expanding gas to the cylinder—”

“You sound like a freakin’ Autos for Dummies book.” Tucker snorted. “I don’t need an armchair mechanic, I need—”

“Angelina,” her father snapped, “do you really think that I’d hire someone less than capable to work at the shop?”

She might fight with her father in private, but he rarely reprimanded her in public.

Rather than feel chagrined, she was more annoyed than ever. “Pops, it’s obvious that there’s a lot I don’t know, isn’t it? I mean, I came into work today and didn’t know my father—my partner in the business—was quitting. And I didn’t know he’s been interviewing potential employees without me and I didn’t know—”

“Maybe I should leave the two of you to decide if I have a job, or not?” Without waiting for a response, Tyler Martinez left the office and shut the door softly behind himself.

“Now, see what you did, Pops?” Tucker said, feeling a mixture of frustration and embarrassment.

“Daughter, I don’t want to have to pull rank, but…” He left the threat hanging there.

“You wouldn’t.” Annoyance beat out all the other emotions. “You’ve never tried to pull a father-knows-best on me since Bart’s dad.”

“And, I hate to say I told you so then, but…”

Frustration? This went beyond that. Tucker was pissed. Seriously pissed. And it was evident that so was her father. She’d tiptoed around him the last five months, but right now she ignored the fact he had a stent, as well as forgot she was trying to help him avoid stress. “But…?”

“Fine. You want me to finish my sentence?” he said, obviously as raring to fight as she was. “Let’s try this. But I told you Bart’s father was no good, and he was. He left you high and dry, and not to mention pregnant. You were only a teenager. A teenager who had to grow up too quick. I haven’t had to play a father-knows-best card because you’ve lived your entire adult life cautiously. To the best of my knowledge, you’ve steered clear of any more good-looking men, and the men you do go out with don’t last more than a few dates at most. Well, Tyler’s good looking and I know he’s asked you out repeatedly in the past, but I also know he’s a hell of a mechanic. Add to that, over the years, he’s become a friend and he needed my help, so I gave it. Yeah, that means I’m sort of dumping him on you, but you need him.”

“I don’t need any man,” Tucker sputtered.

“No, not like that. I mean, I like Tyler, but I want more than an ex-con for my daughter. No, he’s not only a heck of a mechanic, but he’s got experience handling people. Someone like that should take my place. Lou, Joe and North are great guys, but let’s face it, articulate they ain’t. Tyler is.”

“I’m articulate, Pops. I can do more of the customer interaction if I need to.”

“If you did, you’d be taking time away from your work, and let’s face it, the garage has come to rely on your work. Your painting generates a lot of revenue. It’s helped put us on the map. Hell, I’m a partner who’s retiring, and I’m going to rely on you keeping us on the map. People come from states away to have you customize their cars and motorcycles. You’re an artist, Angel, and that’s what you need to focus on.”

He rose slowly and suddenly looked haggard. “Trust me on this. Tyler will be good for the business.”

Tucker’s anger was replaced by concern. “You sure you’re okay, Pops?”

“Fine. Now, I’m off to celebrate my retirement by going fishing, and I suggest that you go make nice with the new employee and introduce him around, then get started on the Paradisi bike.”

She’d lost. Flat out lost. Most of the time, she’d continue the fight, but in the face of her father’s ill health, she couldn’t.

“Fine,” she said with as much graciousness as she could muster. Her father’s expression relaxed a bit and she knew that giving up the battle was worth it. She’d lose any fight, hire anyone, do anything to keep her father healthy and happy—to keep him with her as long as possible.

“And Angel?” her dad asked.

“Yeah, Pops?”

“I’m turning everything, from this moment on, over to you. I’m not saying we won’t discuss the partner issue again, but I won’t push it on you. As for Tyler, I not only wanted to help him out, I wanted to be sure that you weren’t overwhelmed. I want you to have a life, Angel. I want you to be happy.”

She got up and walked over to her father, then kissed his weathered cheek. “I’m happy, Pops. I only want you to be well.”

“I’m feeling good today. It’s almost summer, the sun is shining, and I’m going to spend my day out on the lake instead of working. That sounds like an excellent day to me.”

She watched him walk slowly out of the office. Worrying about him still weighed on her and the sudden discovery that she was now the official managing partner of Tucker’s Garage only added to it. The title seemed so much more serious than acting managing partner. That title had hinted at the possibility that eventually her father would be back at the helm.

It was time to realize that wasn’t going to happen. But she couldn’t think of what her father’s official retirement implied. She had a new employee to meet and greet.

She’d spent months ducking Tyler Martinez’s date invitations, and now she’d be working with him every day thanks to her father. That was a nasty way to start a week.

Normally, Mondays were her favorite day. They were fresh and full of potential. But this Monday might go down as one of her worst ever on record.

TYLER WANTED TO get up and leave the garage for any number of very valid reasons, the most predominate of which was the fact Angelina Tucker had made it more than clear she wanted nothing to do with him.

A couple years ago, he’d spent months asking her out. She’d been kind with her refusals. She’d even tried some humor. But despite her kindness and humor, she’d made it abundantly clear she wasn’t interested. Eventually, he’d stopped asking and they’d continued an amicable business relationship.

Well, today, it was very clear that she wasn’t interested in having him work here either. In the past, his pride would have dictated him walking out. Now, he had no pride left. He needed a job, and since it was obvious he’d never be able to return to the investment firm, he only had one other skill to fall back on—auto mechanics.

All those years of bringing his vehicles to Tucker’s Garage had made him proud. He was no longer the boy who had grease embedded under his nails. He knew how to repair and maintain his own vehicles, but he didn’t have to.

The phrase pride goes before the fall played in his mind. He ignored it and repeated what had become his personal mantra of sorts. The only constant in life is change. His life was a prime example of that.

He stared out the window at the bucolic scene. The garage sat at the edge of Whedon, Pennsylvania, butting against farmland and woods. Through the copse of budding trees, Tyler could see the cows grazing without a care in the world.

Carefree—Tyler had never experienced that particular sensation. Given his current situation, he doubted he ever would.

“Mr. Martinez?”

He swung around and saw Angelina Tucker at the doorway. “If you’d come with me, I’ll take you out to the shop and introduce you to the guys. I’m sure my father informed you that you’ll be expected to be here at eight in the morning, and we work until five. Occasionally, a customer needs to pick up a car after that, and we take turns staying late. Of course, you’ll be compensated for that. And you’ll be expected to work every other Saturday, from eight until noon. Overtime for that, too. An hour for lunch. We try to stagger our lunches so someone’s always in the shop. I think that’s it. Any questions?”

She looked cute as she raked her fingers through her short, wild brown hair and rattled off the information. Of course, he’d never share the fact that he thought she was cute. Angelina wasn’t interested in him when he’d had money and asked her out. He was pretty sure she’d be even less inclined to date him now. A prison record tended to turn most women off, and the ones it didn’t, well, they weren’t the type of woman who interested him anyway.

“Mr. Martinez?”

He realized he’d been staring at her without responding. “No, everything is perfectly clear to me. Thank you.” She turned and left the room, obviously expecting him to follow. “And I’d like to thank you for taking a chance on me.”

“My father’s the one taking the chance. I’m hoping you prove worthy of it.”

Tyler nodded. “I’ll do everything in my power to.”


She whisked him into the shop, introduced him to two older men, Joe and Lou, and a younger guy, North, who had a huge tattoo on his forearm.

“North?” he asked.

The kid grinned. “Yeah, my first day here, Lou said I was so far out I might as well be at the North Pole. The name sort of stuck.” North caught Tyler’s line of sight and shook his head. “Nah, it’s not about the tat itself. Lou’s is bigger than mine.”

Lou snorted. “That’s what all the girls say.”

North laughed. “Well, his tat is bigger. No, they seemed to think the inspiration for my tat made me a bit out-there.”

He held his forearm out to Tyler. Tyler recognized the Star Trek symbol above the words Live Long and Prosper.

“Some people,” North looked pointedly at his coworkers, “seem to think having a Star Trek tattoo makes you a fringe element. Me, I say it means I boldly go forth. I kind of like the name anyway.” He clapped Tyler’s back. “Come on. You can help me today.”

Tyler followed the kid, and as he walked away he heard Angelina say, “Keep an eye on him, guys. Make sure he learns his way around the shop.”

He glanced back at Angelina and his pride reared its ugly head again. He wanted to go tell her to stick her job and her father’s pity, but he needed this job and he was going to have to suck it up and deal with her.


Tucker glanced at the clock in her paint room and realized it was almost four o’clock. “Hey, Bart, how was school?”

She stood and stretched out the kinks that came from sitting crosslegged on the floor for so long. She should have put the motorcycle on a lift. She flexed her arms and fingers. She’d held the airbrush for too long.

“School was great. First final’s on Monday and the rest come quickly after that. I’m planning on staying in most of the week and this weekend to start study.”

She looked at her son and was, as always, amazed he was hers. Straight A student, good at sports, and cute to boot. Those were all great characteristics. But add to that, he was a nice kid.

He needed a haircut. He hadn’t quite inherited her curls, but when his hair got too long, it fell into waves. She’d make him cut it before graduation.

It never ceased to amaze her that despite the fact she was little more than a kid herself when she had him, she’d managed to raise him to adulthood. She thought it was more a testament to how innately good her son was rather than anything she’d done.

“Nerd,” she teased with good humored affection.

“Yeah, well, you live what you learn. You’re the queen of hard work. Lou said that you didn’t take a lunch break again and he suspects you were working after hours last night. I’m supposed to see to it that you pack it in and call it a day, even if it’s early. And Grandpa said to come over to his house. He cooked.”

Tucker realized her father’s dinner invitation was a peace offering even as she groaned. “Oh, Bart, I’m so sorry. I’m a bad, bad mother. I mean, subjecting you to your grandfather’s cooking is nothing short of torture.”

“Hey, it’s okay. He went to Wegman’s and bought some macaroni salad and there’s tossed salad to go with the steak he’s grilling.”

“Phew.” She wiped her brow with exaggerated relief. “Oh, why didn’t you say so? That’s edible and qualifies me for at least fair-to-middling mom.”

Bart kissed her cheek. “I think you’re higher than that. Not much maybe, but higher than middling,” he joked. “Come on, let’s go get you fed.”

Tucker got up off the floor and studied the bike. It had an RC car on it. Not her first choice for painting, but Mr. Paradisi had three great loves: his motorcycle, his RC car club and his family. He said the pecking order changed daily. “What do you think?”

“I think the Paradisis will be thrilled. You made an RC car look cool. And I love how you worked the gas cap into the remote control picture.”

“Yeah, I thought that was inspired, too. “

They walked out to the front garage and Lou slapped Bart’s back. “Figured you’d talk her out of her hidey-hole. Now, on to supper, boy.”

Tucker loved seeing the guys interact with her son. Bart might not have had a father in the picture growing up, but he had her father, and the guys at the shop. It seemed to be enough for him.

He grinned at the older man. “Sure thing, Lou.”

“Hey, how’s the new guy?” Tucker asked.

“He did a great job today. Knows his way around cars, that’s for sure.”

Tucker couldn’t help but wonder why a guy who knew his way around cars felt the need to have someone else service his vehicles all these years. Even things as simple as new spark plugs or oil changes. It didn’t make sense. She glanced at her son. “Let me check in with him, then we can go. Want to meet him?”


She found Tyler Martinez underneath a 1953 Volkswagen Beetle. She’d always referred to him as Mr. Martinez when he was a customer, but now that he was an employee, that sounded odd, so she called, “Tyler?”

His creeper zipped out from under the car and Tyler smiled for a minute, then his expression froze when he spotted her. “Yes?”

“I wanted to introduce you to my son. Spencer Tucker, otherwise known as Bart, this is Tyler Martinez, the garage’s newest employee.”

“You can call me Spencer,” Bart told him. “Everyone in the real world does…it’s only here in Mom’s mystic workplace that my childhood nickname still haunts me.”

“That’s because you are not a Spencer,” Tucker assured him. She enjoyed falling into their old argument. “I mean, I thought you were when you were born. I looked down and thought, Spencer. But I was wrong. You’re a Bart, through and through.”

“And that, Mr. Martinez, is why you might as well call me Bart, too. Because Mom will pretend not to know who you’re talking about if you call me Spencer. Just like she doesn’t know who you’re talking to if you call her Angelina.” He singsonged her name and laughed as she scowled.

“And that’s the problem with giving babies names at birth. They’re not fully developed. They’re tiny little blobs of humanity. A good name—a true name—tends to become apparent within the first few years. I’m Tucker, he’s Bart. Do you have a nickname?”

“No. Tyler is fine.”

Tucker noted that Tyler wasn’t enjoying her banter with Bart. His face was frozen into an expression of polite interest, but it was apparent he was anything but.

Not for the first time, she felt foolish in front of him. “Well, we’re heading out. See you in the morning.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Tucker,” she assured him. “Not ma’am.”

“Or Angelina,” Bart said, still kidding around.

“No.” She tossed her son a motherly glare of warning. “It’s simply Tucker.”

“Tucker,” Tyler parroted. “See you tomorrow morning, Tucker.”

“Come on, Bart. Let’s go get something to eat, I’m starved.” She clapped her hand on her son’s back, and for a moment, she thought she caught the ghost of a smile on Tyler’s face, but it happened so fast, she couldn’t be sure. His face was once again expressionless as he gave her a nod, then slipped again under the car.

“He seems nice, Mom,” Bart said.

“Yeah, he seems nice, but meeting someone for a minute doesn’t give us enough information to really discover if they’re nice or not. It takes—”

“Another Mom-lecture, ladies and gentlemen,” Bart teased. “You know, I have friends whose parents wallop them when they make a mistake. Sometimes I wonder if that’s preferable to being lectured to death.”

“That wasn’t a lecture,” she protested.

“No, that was your chance to work in one of your famous life lessons, and those are so close to lectures, it’s hard to tell the difference.”

She playfully slugged his arm. “Well, you can rest assured I can wallop you if the lectures don’t work.”

Bart laughed. “Oh, Mom, you try to be tough. And I imagine there are many people who believe you are, but no one who knows you would believe that for an instant. And I know you, Mom. You’re a marshmallow.”

“Take that back. I work in a garage full of guys and I am not a marshmallow.”

“Oh, yeah. You’re like a great big candy bar. Crunchy on the outside, and all soft or mushy on the inside. Maybe that’ll be your new nickname… Candy.” He sprinted across the yard toward her father’s, hollering “Candy” over his shoulder.

“I’ll show you how tough I can be,” she shouted, taking off after him, laughing for the sheer joy of laughing.

And at that moment, chasing after her son as they both teased each other and laughed, Tucker decided it wasn’t such a bad Monday after all.