She nodded. “That’s sounds like fun.” She looked at the kids and frowned. “I have only one request,” she said.
“What?” he asked, hoping it wasn’t to invite someone else along.
“We have to take my car because of the car seats,” she said to his relief.
“Okay, but I’m driving.” He picked up Cole and headed for the bathroom. “Let’s clean you up, little man.”
“Mommy, can I ride on that?” Elizabeth pointed to a ride that made Dana wince. It consisted of a cage that held screaming people who were pulled a hundred feet up into the air like an elevator and then dropped suddenly to the ground.
“No sweetie and promise me that when you’re older if you go on something like that, that you’ll never tell me about it so I can sleep at night,” Dana said.
“You’re no fun, Dana,” Deana said. When she heard they were going to a carnival she giggled and invited herself along. Apparently she loved them. Edward wasn’t as upset as he thought he was going to be, because Deana liked to take the kids on the kiddy rides and whisked them away when she saw something fun, leaving him alone with Dana.
“Aunt Deana, can we go on that?” Cole asked, pointing to a kiddy train.
“Oh god, yes! Let’s go!” Deana grabbed the kids’ hands and took off like a bat out of hell.
Edward stepped closer to Dana. “Wow, she really loves kiddy rides.”
She laughed softly. “No, well yes, but she really loves kids. She lost her stepson three years ago to leukemia and a year after she lost her husband. It was really tough on her, made tougher when she found out she couldn’t have kids. She really adores Elizabeth and Cole. She’s like a second mother to them. She gets all excited when it comes to stuff like this. She sees it as a second chance.”
He shook his head lightly. “I’m sorry I didn’t know. She’s really great with them.”
Dana beamed. “Yes, she is. I was fortunate that she was available when we moved to California.”
“Dana Mathews?” a man asked, drawing their attention.
Dana smiled at the older man. “Could I bother you for your autograph? I’m sorry to bother you on your date. I’m just such a huge fan of yours that I couldn’t help myself,” he said sheepishly.
“Don’t worry about it. Do you have something you want me to sign?” she asked.
Edward was glad she didn’t argue the date point. He handed her a pen, making sure his fingers brushed hers. He liked the blush that crept up her face. He liked it a lot.
She signed the back of a business card. Dana turned it over and read it. “Playground Specialists,” she read out loud.
“Yes, ma’am, that’s my company. We build playgrounds for the city, schools, and businesses,” he said proudly. “They keep us very busy, but it’s a lot of fun, especially the first day the playgrounds open to the public and we get to see the kid’s faces.”
Dana looked over the card again. “I’ve actually heard of you. I’ve been meaning to call you for the last month. There isn’t any chance you build playgrounds on residential property is there?”
The man looked like he was considering it. “I tell you what, if you send me an autographed copy of Constant Nights I will build your kids a playground that will knock their socks off.”
She smiled. “I think I can do that, but I was actually wondering if I could hire you to build a playground for Griswold’s House,” she said.
The man looked surprised. “The foster home that specializes in handicapped children?” She nodded. “Ma’am, it would be my pleasure. I’ve been waiting for the city to ask me to do it for a long time now. They approached me twice, but what I asked for just to cover the materials and my men was too much for them even for the basic set up. They finally came up with enough money?” he asked curiously.
She shook her head. “No sir, they didn’t. They don’t have the money for this.”
“But I don’t understand,” he said, frowning.
She looked at the card for his name. “Brian, they don’t have the money, but I do. I’m hiring you to do this if you want the job.”
Brian nodded happily. “I would love the job, ma’am. My wife and I have been dying to do that for a long time.”
“Okay, but I don’t want the basic set up. Can you handle tricking it out? The kids deserve the best. You’ll have to adapt your plans for the disabled. Is that a problem?”
“No, ma’am.” He reached out and took her hand into his. “Thank you so much, Dana. Oh my god, this is great! I have to go tell my wife!” He began to turn away.
He turned to look back at her, still grinning hugely. “Yes?”
“I need your card so I can call you.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a card with her name and number on it. “Here, so you can call me with your ideas. The sooner the better. Those poor kids have nothing to do in the backyard. Oh, before I forget the physical therapist that works at the house will want to talk to you about ideas. Is that okay?”
“That’s fine,” Brian said, grinning hugely.
“Oh, one last thing. I don’t want you pricing this to cover just materials and the men. You charge me what you need to. I understand you’re in business to make a profit and from what I hear you’re the best,” she said, smiling. His grin widened as he walked away in a daze staring at her card.
Edward watched the conversation in total disbelief. Every time he thought he had her pegged she did something to knock him on his ass. “That was really nice of you. Those kids will absolutely love you.”
She shook her head and smiled. “No, they won’t.”
“I don’t understand.”
“They won’t know it was me. I never attach my name to anything. This particular project will be named after Deana’s son like the rest of them. I have a foundation in his name. It was something Deana tried to get off the ground. She was struggling to do it. She was barely keeping a roof over her head. She made okay money, but it was all going to this foundation. I took over and gave her a job. She oversees most of it for me. I have a lawyer that handles the business aspects and we pick the projects.”
He reached out and took both of her hands into his. “You are a wonderfully kind woman, Dana,” he said, looking into her eyes. She looked nervously away. “I truly mean that.” He leaned down, intending to kiss her mouth, but thought better of it and kissed her forehead instead. “Those kids are very lucky to have you.”