The Man She Should Have Married

The Man She Should Have Married by Patricia Kay

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Authors: Patricia Kay
leave of absence? What will Dr. Ross say? Who will do your job? Thea is my responsibility, not yours.”
    â€œDr. Ross can get a temp the way he does when I’m on vacation. I know if I talked to him he’d understand,” Norma said.
    â€œNo, I don’t want you to do that. Besides, Mom, you do enough as it is, picking her up from day care and keeping her when I work the afternoon shift.”
    â€œWhat do you think, Matt?” Olivia’s mother said, turning to him. “Wouldn’t Olivia’s case be stronger if Thea wasn’t in day care at all anymore?”
    Matt hated to disagree with Olivia, but he thought her mother was right. He nodded reluctantly. “Your mom has a point, Olivia.”
    Olivia sighed. “I’ll think about it. Maybe I’m the one who needs to quit working.”
    By now, they’d moved into the kitchen, and Matt, lured by the good smells wafting from the big cast-iron skillet on the stove, walked over and peered at its contents. “Looks great,” he said. “Smells great, too.” He was a sucker for any kind of pasta.
    â€œWait’ll you taste it,” Olivia said.
    â€œI made sausage, too,” her mother said.
    â€œBetter and better,” Matt said.
    â€œMaybe, since Matt’s here, we should eat in the dining room,” Norma said.
    â€œMom, don’t fuss. Matt doesn’t care,” Olivia said.
    â€œI’d rather eat in the kitchen,” he said. “It’s cozier.”
    Norma was still making noises about the dining room as Olivia got Thea settled into a booster chair, but finally the food was on the table and the four of them had taken their seats. Matt grinned when he saw the size of the serving bowl containing the cabbage and noodles.
    â€œYou weren’t kidding about feeding an army, were you?” he teased Olivia’s mother.
    She laughed and brushed her hair back from her forehead. “It’s ingrained. In our house, growing up, putting a lot of food on the table showed you cared about your family.”
    â€œActually,” Olivia interjected, “it showed you could afford to feed your family. Right, Ma?”
    Norma gave her a sheepish smile. “Yes, that’s true.”
    Matt couldn’t help but think about how different his own home had been. He couldn’t ever remember a homey scene like this one. All Britton meals had been served in the dining room, and certain dress and behavior were de rigueur.
    Just then, Thea hit the table with her spoon. “I’m hungry!” she announced.
    They all laughed, and Olivia took her plate and filled it with the noodles. Then she cut up a piece of sausage and transferred half of it to Thea’s plate, as well. Thea immediately dug in as the rest of them served themselves.
    Matt couldn’t remember anything tasting so good. He knew part of his enjoyment had to do with the company he was with, but the food really was great. So was the talk and laughter and genuine love among them. Matt had always known something was missing from his own family, and now he fully understood what it was: the knowledge that these people cared for him more than any other people in the world.
    His heart felt full as he looked around the table. Right now, at this moment, he was home.
    And home was where he wanted to stay.

Chapter Seven
    O livia knew what she was doing and feeling was crazy but having Matt there with them made her happier than she’d been in a long, long time. It just felt so right, so natural. And she knew she wasn’t alone in feeling this way. She could see how much her mother liked him. And, of course, Thea loved him.
    And I love him. That’s the problem. That’s why it’s so impossible to stick to any decision that has to do with easing him out of my life.
    She had been so uncomfortable in the car today when Matt said those things about Austin. And about her. She’d wanted to say there was only one

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