A Father's Name
Author:Holly Jacobs

Chapter TWO

TWO WEEKS.

Tucker stared at the calendar hanging on the wall next to her desk and was struck by the fact that it had already been two weeks since Tyler Martinez had started working at the shop. He was, on paper, the perfect employee. He was the first one to arrive every morning, and the last one to leave every night. He knew as much about cars as anyone in the shop. He got along with everyone, never caused a problem.

But…

Yes, there was a but dangling there at the end of her thoughts.

Tucker tried to put a finger on it. Tyler wasn’t standoffish. He joked around with the guys, and they all seemed to accept him. He didn’t actually joke around with her, but he was polite.

No, standoffish wasn’t the word she wanted. Maybe, closed book was a better description of Tyler Martinez.

Back when her friend Eli was expecting her son and having man troubles of her own, Tyler had actively pursued Tucker. Tucker had said no, of course. After all, Tyler was a successful businessman, and she worked in a garage. He was a carefree bachelor, she was a mother. He wore designer suits, she wore jeans. They had no common ground.

Maybe day-to-day proximity had convinced him that they weren’t meant to be anything more than a boss and employee. Or maybe prison had changed him. Whichever it was, the man she remembered was gone.

And if he didn’t want to nag her for dates anymore, that was fine with her. She wasn’t looking to date him, though she wished he wouldn’t treat her as if she had a case of playground cooties. Even when she’d said no to dates, he’d laughed off her refusals and told her he’d simply keep trying until she said yes. He’d been open and engaging back then, and somewhere between then and now, he’d closed up tight.

Tucker forced herself to concentrate on payroll in front of her. She didn’t have time to ponder the mystery of Tyler Martinez. She went back to tallying hours and calculating checks, when the sound of voices pulled her from her math. She stared out her window, past the mulberry tree, and at the edge of the building she saw Tyler and some tall blond guy.

She couldn’t make out more than a murmuring of voices, but it was obvious it was a serious conversation. The stranger’s voice rose enough for Tucker to hear, “It’s done, Tyler. You can’t undo it. They know the truth.”

Tyler’s voice rose as well. Tucker could hear the utter frustration in it as he said, “A father’s name is the most important thing he can pass on to his son. Hell, you literally passed on your name. Jason Emerich Matthews, junior. Let that mean something to him.”

“I want it to. That’s why I’m doing this. I want my name to mean something. I want Jace to know his father made a mistake—it might have been for all the right reasons, but it was still wrong. I need him to know that I was willing to own up to it and pay the consequences.” The blond guy turned and walked around the corner of building, out of Tucker’s line of sight.

“Jason,” Tyler called and followed him.

What was that all about? Tucker wandered into the garage at the same time Tyler slammed the door and strode over to a workbench.

“What’s going on?” she asked Lou, jerking her head in Tyler’s direction.

The old man shrugged. “Some guy came by, asked for Tyler and they went outside. Whatever they were talking about, it obviously didn’t go well.”

Part of Tucker wanted to see if Tyler was okay, but she suspected he wouldn’t appreciate her concern.

Even from across the shop, she could see the tension practically radiating from him in the way he held himself—stiff and unapproachable. “Right. Holler if you need anything.”

Lou nodded and went back to a car on the lift. Tucker went back to payroll, anxious to finish so she could get back to the paintroom and determined not to think about the garage’s newest employee. He did his work well, and that’s all that should concern her.

She wondered why it wasn’t.



TWO DAYS LATER AFTER Jason’s visit to the garage, Tyler’s phone buzzed in his pocket.

In his old life, his phone rang nonstop. These days it was mostly silent. Old friends avoided him like the plague, as if doing a stint in County was contagious. As if they were afraid they’d develop a sudden yearning to wear orange jumpsuits. As if they’d never been his friend at all.

Well, that was fine with Tyler. He didn’t need them. He knew who his friends were—strike that—who his friend, singular, was. One was more than enough.

Jason was more than a friend, he was like a brother. Tyler knew he’d do anything for him, and vice versa.

His phone buzzed again, and since he was in the middle of eating lunch, he pulled it out and checked to see who it was.

Jason.

“Jason, what’s up?”

“Mr. Martinez?” a woman’s voice said.



“Yes?”

“This is Jessica Ahearn at St. Vincent’s. There’s been an accident…” The woman explained she was a nurse, that Jason was in an accident and Tyler’s number was under ICE in his cellphone.

“Ice?” Tyler asked, because it was easier to ask a question than to have the nurse tell him things he didn’t want to hear.

“In case of emergency—ICE. Mr. Matthews’s car hit an embankment. He’s in surgery now.”

Tyler had barely processed the thought of Jason being in an accident when he remembered the baby. “Jace?”

“He’s in surgery,” she repeated.

“No, Jace. His son. A baby. Was he in the car?”

“Only Mr. Matthews was transported here, sir.”

“I need the names of the guys in the ambulance, or the police, or…” Jace’s sitter. He knew her name. He couldn’t think of it. He knew her name.

“Pam.”

“Pam?” the woman repeated.

“That’s the babysitter’s name. I’m going to call her. Could you check with the ambulance crew and call me back. I’m on my way.”

“Sure, I’ll do that, Mr. Martinez.”

“I’m in Whedon. I’ll be at the hospital in under a half hour.” Tyler had always thought the half hour distance between Erie and Whedon wasn’t bad, but suddenly it was too far. He needed to be there now.



“Mr. Martinez, he’ll be in surgery for hours. If I find out anything about the baby, I’ll call right away.”

“Thank you, Ms. Ahearn.”

Tyler hurried over to his coworker. “Lou, I need to leave early. It’s a family emergency. I’ll make up the hours, or you can dock my pay, or hell, fire me if you have to. I’ve got to go.”

The old guy had been decent to Tyler, so had everyone else at the garage, so it came as no surprise when he said, “Don’t talk crazy, kid. You go do what you have to. Can I do anything to help?”

“No. I’ll handle it. But I’m not sure when I’ll be back in.”

“Go do what you have to,” Lou repeated. “We’ll manage.”

Tyler ran to his car and tried to think as he headed toward the interstate. What the hell was Pam’s last name? He’d met the woman the few times he’d picked up the baby for Jason and Mellie before he’d gone to County.

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember her last name. Why hadn’t he ever thought to get her name and number from Jason?

He decided to drive to her house and see if Jace was there, then he’d go to the hospital.

Shit, he had to call Jason’s mom and dad, too. They’d moved to Florida when they retired.

Heartsick, he called their number as he barreled down I-79 toward Erie and told them what little he knew. “I’ll call as soon as I talk to the doctors,” he promised.

“I’m making arrangements for the earliest flight I can get,” Jason’s father promised.

Neither of them asked the question that was hanging around like a white elephant in the room. What if Jace had been in the car with his father?

Tyler drove faster than he should have, but hopefully not fast enough to attract police attention. The last thing he needed was to be pulled over by the cops and questioned. He was still on parole, and while he didn’t think a speeding violation would send him back to jail, he wasn’t sure and he couldn’t afford to take the chance. He had to be there for Jason.

He drove slowly up the big hill and into the babysitter’s drive, praying that Jace was there. He felt sick to his stomach as he knocked on the door. Pam opened the door, Jace on her hip.

“I’m not sure you remember me—” he started.

She interrupted. “I definitely remember you, Mr. Martinez.” Her words were said with that certain tone that let him know exactly how she felt about criminals darkening her doorstep.

“Jason was in an accident and I didn’t have your number and was praying Jace was here.” He held his hand out to the baby. Pam hesitated a moment, then handed him over.

Tyler inhaled the scent of clean baby and had the first bit of relief he’d felt since the phone call from the nurse. “Jason’s in surgery and I need to be at the hospital. But I had to know Jace was safe first. Can you keep him?”

The woman’s expression softened. “I wish I could, Mr. Martinez, but we’re leaving town tonight and driving to Cleveland in order to catch our plane tomorrow. Jason knew I couldn’t watch Jace for the next two weeks. He said he’d made arrangements.”

“All right,” Tyler said, his mind racing as he tried to figure out what to do. “I know Jason told you I have permission to take Jace, so I’ll do that now and sort something out. Can you get his things?”

Minutes later, Pam brought over the baby’s diaper bag in his carseat and handed him a piece of paper. “That’s my cell number. I am sorry about Jason. Will you call me and let me know how he is?”

“I will,” he promised, juggling Jace, the carseat and diaper bag. What the hell should he do now? Rush to be with Jason? But he knew his friend would insist the baby was Tyler’s priority. He felt torn in two. He needed someone responsible. Someone he could trust to watch Jace.

Suddenly an image of Angelina Tucker flashed through his head. The day she’d introduced him to her son, the way they teased each other with such ease and comfort. As he finished strapping the baby’s carseat into his truck, he found himself heading toward the small auto shop on the outskirts of Whedon.

Angelina might tell him no, that she wasn’t watching the baby for him, but he had to try. She was pretty much his only option.

The short drive back to the garage seemed to take forever, but he finally arrived, parked the truck in front and juggled Jace and all his accouterments into the shop. “Tucker still here?” he asked.

Lou, North and Joe all eyed the baby, but none of them asked any questions. Lou nodded toward the paint room. “She’s in there.”

“Thanks.”

He opened the door, and unwilling to take the baby into the paint fumes, called in, “Angelina, can I see you a minute?”

She came out, wiping her hands on a rag and saying, “I thought Lou said you had some emergency.” She stopped as she saw the baby. “That’s a baby.”

“Yes. Can you watch him? I don’t know anyone else who knows anything about babies—not anyone I would trust him with. Will you do it?”



“YES, BUT—” WAS AS far as Tucker got. At the first word, Tyler thrust the towheaded baby into her hands and took off at a run, yelling behind him, “I’ll call you.”

“What’s his name?” she hollered.

He stopped, turned around and said, “Jace. He’s my godson. His father’s in the hospital.” And with that, he was gone.

It had been a very long time since Bart was anywhere near this small, but Tucker held the baby with surprising ease. Like riding a bike, it came back.



Lou, North and Joe poked their heads around the corner. “So what’s that all about?”

“Tyler’s the baby’s godfather, and the baby’s dad is in the hospital. I don’t know much more than that, other than the baby’s name is Jace. So for now, it looks like I have a baby. Would someone go clean up my mess in the paint room while I take Jace to the house?”

“Sure, Tuck,” Lou said, then nodded to North who bustled past her to the room. “He said there was a family emergency?”

Tucker shrugged. “I don’t know anything else. I’m sure he’ll explain later. Whatever’s going on, Tyler is shaken. For now, I’ll let you guys take care of the rest of the afternoon here and I’ll take the munchkin home, unless someone would like to trade off?”

Lou and Joe shook their heads and hurried back to their repairs. “Looks like it’s you and me, kid.”

She hauled everything across the lot to her house. It was a small ranch that still had most of the furniture she’d grown up with. She’d thought about updating the furnishings, but she liked the Ethan Allen hardwood pieces, and never felt anything more than a new couch was required. She’d bought a new one about four years ago, and it was oversized and covered in a brown micro material that was wearing like iron. She put the baby and his stuff on it.

He immediately began to wiggle and squirm. She helped him lower himself to the floor, and watched as he toddled off to explore her living room. She made a quick sweep of the room and possible dangers, but it looked pretty good to her, so she went back to the bag as she kept half an eye on Jace. “So, let’s see what we have in here.” There was one dirty romper, two diapers, some wipes, a half eaten plastic container of Cheerios, some powered toddler formula. “Well, I think first thing on our list is some shopping. This won’t last you long.”

Bart charged into the house, spotted her and the baby sitting on the floor looking through a magazine as if he could read. “What is that?”

“That is a baby.”

Bart’s expression said that he didn’t think his mother was as funny as she thought she was. “Yeah, Mom, I know it’s a baby, but whose baby is it?”

“That I don’t know. I do know he’s Tyler’s godson and there’s no one else to watch him because his dad’s in the hospital, so he’s in my care until Tyler gets back.”

Bart approached the baby and studied him as if studying some alien life-form.

Tucker realized how little interaction her son had with children. Since her friend Eli Keller had a son, then adopted a daughter, Bart had a bit more experience with little kids, but he’d grown up an only child and had never dealt with a baby for more than the occasional dinner at Eli’s in-laws, the Kellers. When Eli joined the family, the Kellers promptly enveloped Tucker, Bart and her dad, too. Tucker had coined the term Kellerized to explain the way the family informally adopted people.

“He’s sort of cute,” Bart finally said.



“He’s also almost out of diapers and given that he has teeth, he’s probably in need of some solid food, as well as more formula. This might have lasted him at the sitter’s, but there’s no telling how long we’ll have him, so we should have more. I need to do some power-shopping for him. Wanna come with?”

Bart still warily eyed the baby. “He looks like he’s going to cry.”

“He probably needs his diaper changed and a quick bottle. Then we’ll all go get the essentials.”

Bart frowned. “Shopping and a baby. You do know how to show me a good time, Mom.”

Tucker chuckled and she stripped the baby down. “That’s a mother’s job, kid.”



TWO HOURS LATER, BART was on the floor rolling a truck for Jace, who laughed out loud each time Bart said, “Zoom.”

Tucker had gone to the store planning to buy the essentials, but in the end, had bought some toys and books as well. Watching Bart with Jace, she didn’t regret the added expense. Both the boys were having fun. Bart would have made a great big brother. She felt a not unfamiliar spurt of guilt for her son’s unconventional upbringing. He’d been born to a teen mother, and had only had the minimal contact with his biological father. She’d never married, and though she dated on occasion, she had a strict policy of never allowing Bart to meet any of the men. At first because she feared a revolving group of men would be confusing to him, and later because that’s how it had always been.

Tucker was enjoying the Bart and Jace show when her cell phone rang. A number she didn’t recognize showed up on the caller ID. “Hello?”

“Tucker, it’s me, Tyler.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine. It’s Jace’s father. It doesn’t look good.” Tyler’s voice broke as he said the words. “I’ll try to be there as soon—”

“Don’t be an ass. Stay with your friend. I can handle the baby.”

“I couldn’t—”

“Unless something’s changed since you dropped him off with me, you not only can, you sort of have to. I’ve been a mother my entire adult life. I have exactly two skills in this life—cars and kids. I’ll watch Jace for as long as you need me to. Stay with your friend.”

“But I don’t even know if Jace has enough stuff. I just took what the sitter handed me. I should have thought—”

Tucker cut him off. “I took care of it already. Don’t worry about Jace. Worry about the kid’s father. Call if you need anything else.” She disconnected before he could argue.

“Is he coming?” Bart asked.

Tucker shook her head. “It’s Jace’s dad. I don’t have all the particulars, but for now, he’s ours.”

Bart rolled the truck toward Jace, who giggled. “He’s not so bad.”



She looked at her son, no longer a boy, but a man. In a few months, he’d take off for college. She wasn’t sure what she’d do without him. She’d been younger than he was now when she’d had him. It had always been the two of them. The two of them and her dad. And the guys at the shop. Now, her dad was retiring and Bart was off to start his own life. Where did that leave her?

“Mom, you have that sort of spacey, sappy look on your face. Again,” Bart added for emphasis. “You’re thinking about me leaving home.”

“No, I wasn’t,” she denied. “I was thinking about how I’m going to get Werner’s car ready. He was coming by first thing in the morning for it, and Tyler was the one working on it.”

“I could watch the runt while you go finish it,” Bart offered. “Which was, by the way, I know what you were hoping I’d say.”

Tucker chuckled. “You are a smart boy. I shouldn’t be long, but I hate to have a customer show up for a car that’s not ready. And there’s an added benefit of you watching a kid and finding out it’s not a cake-walk—”

Bart’s groaned interrupted her. “Seriously, you’re going to turn me helping you out by watching this kid into some teen-parent-prevention lesson?”

Tucker laughed. “An inventive parent works with the opportunities life gives them.”

“You’re wacked, Mom, but that’s one lesson you’ve driven home without me watching the baby.” He made a shooing motion. “So, get, I’ve got it, Mom. I’ll call if me and the kid have problems.”

She started to the door, then turned back. “You’ve got his toys, his food and the new books.”

“You bought out half the store. We’ve got plenty. Go.”

“Fine. I’ll hurry.”

Tucker wasted no time climbing under the car that was still waiting for Tyler. She was sure the other guys would have finished it. One of them would have come back tonight, or come in early tomorrow if she asked, but she wanted to do it. It wasn’t much, but it made her feel as if she was doing something for Tyler. Something tangible.

When he’d been a customer and asked her out, he’d had an aura of self-confidence. He believed the world was his oyster and even her rejections couldn’t dent his self-image. That Tyler Martinez had known he had the world in the palms of his hands, and it didn’t seem to occur to him that his belief in that basic fact could change.

This new Tyler seemed to be getting kicked over and over again. He’d lost his career and his good name when he went to jail. And remembering his expression when he showed up with the baby, he was terrified he was going to lose his friend.

Well, she couldn’t do anything to help his friend, or get his old life back for him, but she could watch Jace and she could damn well fix this car.

It wasn’t much, but it would have to be enough.



She started checking where Tyler had left off with the Werners’ car.

She knew Bart would call if he had problems.

She smiled because he’d caught on to her master plan. Taking care of a baby was a better life lesson than any of her lectures could be. Kids were hard work. Maybe watching Jace would help Bart remember that when he went off to college.

She decided that taking her time on the car was not such a bad idea after all, because being a grandmother in her thirties was definitely not on her list of future plans.

Of course, she wasn’t quite sure what those were, but she trusted that eventually she’d figure it out.



THREE DAYS LATER, Tyler dragged himself out of his truck and onto Angelina’s porch. He rang the doorbell and waited.

She’d been amazing, and he wasn’t sure why. She’d not only kept Jace, but with the help of her father and son, she’d juggled the baby’s care with work. She assured him that it was fine, that she knew he needed to be with his friend.

She hadn’t pushed him for explanations on his friendship with Jason. She hadn’t asked him for anything.

Tyler had spent the last three days waiting for Jason to wake up, but his friend had slowly gone from bad to worse. When Jason’s parents had arrived from their retirement community in Florida, Tyler had felt stretched almost beyond his limits as he tried to support them. Jason was their only son and they were crushed.

When the end came, it had been swift. There was no fanfare. No final moments with poignant words. One minute, Jason had been breathing—still clinging to life. The next minute he simply stopped—stopped breathing, stopped living. Mrs. Matthews had totally fallen apart. It was all he could do to help Mr. Matthews get her to Jason’s house where they were staying. Her grief was tangible.

Tyler pushed his own pain aside. The Matthews had done so much for him. He’d do what he had to in order to support them. Later, he’d grieve on his own.

He told them he’d bring the baby over later in the day and that he’d help them plan Jason’s funeral.

Tyler realized he hadn’t felt the full impact of Mellie’s death because he’d been in prison. Jason had called and told him when she’d died, but there hadn’t been anything Tyler could do. She wasn’t a blood relation, so there wasn’t even a possibility of being released for her funeral. He’d suffered through the loss on his own.

This time, he wasn’t alone. He’d thought it would hurt less if he was with others who shared his pain, but watching people he loved suffering made it hurt more.

He waited at Angelina’s door, pushing down his hurt.

The door flew open. “Tyler?”

“He’s gone. Jason’s dead.” It was the first time he’d said the words out loud and they struck him. “He’s gone.”

Angelina reached out, grabbed his hand and tugged him inside. “I’m so sorry, Tyler. What can I do?”

Angelina’s warm reaction didn’t exactly surprise him, but it didn’t mean he understood it, either. “I came to get Jace.” His mind was muddled; he accepted her concern, but he knew he couldn’t impose on Angelina any further.

Rather than go get the baby, she asked, “When’s the last time you slept or ate?”

“What day is it?” he asked.

“Saturday.”

The days had blurred together and he didn’t have a clue. “I don’t know.”

“You can crash in my room and I’ll take care of him for a little while longer. He’s a good kid.”

“Angel, I can’t—”

He thought of her as Angelina, or Angel. Back when he’d had the world in his hand, he’d called her that, but everything had changed since then. He knew he should call her Tucker, like everyone else, but she didn’t notice, or simply didn’t correct his slipup as she interrupted him. “You’re right. You can’t do much of anything until you get some sleep and some food. In that order.” She led him down the hall. “And a shower.”

She sniffed the air. “Maybe the shower first.”

“I—”

She led him to her room and gave him a gentle push inside. “The bathroom’s right through that door. There are clean towels in the cupboard. Take a shower, then go to bed, Tyler. We’ll figure it all out when you get up.”

He was too exhausted to argue. He took a shower and used the shampoo that was out. It smelled flowery. It smelled like Angelina. Until now, he’d never noticed that despite her work clothes, she’d always smelled very feminine.

He wrapped a clean towel around his waist, went into her room and climbed in Angelina Tucker’s bed. The last thing his foggy brain registered is that the bed smelled flowery, too.

It smelled like Angelina.

That thought comforted him as he fell asleep.



TUCKER WAITED A HALF hour, then tiptoed into the bathroom through the hall door and picked up Tyler’s clothes. She planned on washing them while he slept. She couldn’t swear to it, but she was pretty sure the jeans and tight black t-shirt were the same ones he’d had on three days ago when he’d brought her Jace. The door to the bedroom was cracked and she saw Tyler sprawled on her bed.

A towel was still wrapped around his hips, but his chest and legs were bare. She felt something stirring, something that hadn’t stirred for a very long time.

It wasn’t that she was immune to men. It was simply that she didn’t have a lot of opportunity to meet men. She lived her life in a man’s world, but it sometimes felt as if there were no men she could, or would, be interested in. And when she did meet a man, she frequently couldn’t get rid of them quick enough. It wasn’t that some weren’t nice—they were. It was simply that fitting anything more than an occasional date into her busy life didn’t work for her. She wasn’t interested in long-term. She’d have thought that would make her their dream woman. But it seemed to do the opposite. The more she said she wasn’t interested, the more they pursued her.

Instantly, she realized she was ogling a man who’d lost a friend and was obviously devastated. She felt ashamed and rushed from the room, tossed his clothes in the washer and went to see if Jace was awake yet.

She found him sitting in the portable baby crib she’d bought.

“Hi, little man. Let’s go get some breakfast.”

Taking care of the baby was enough of a distraction that she could ignore the fact there was a half-naked man in her bed.

Well, not ignore, but almost ignore.

She was not going to think about the fact that she’d thought Tyler Martinez looked very good in a tight black t-shirt, and now she’d discovered he looked even better out of it.