Authors: Jillian Hart,Victoria Bylin
“I’ve got three train tickets in my pocket. If you want to leave town, that’s fine but I’m going with you.”
“We’d get married first, of course.”
Cassie grinned. “Today?”
She wanted to jump and clap like a child. “Let’s tell Luke. He’ll be so happy.”
Grinning, he hooked his arm around her waist and kissed her again. Just as their lips touched, the front door opened. A month ago she’d have jumped to make a sale. Today she called to the customer from across the room. “The store’s closed.”
Gabe’s eyes twinkled. “Go on. Make a last sale.”
Chuckling, Cassie broke from his arms, looked down the aisle and saw Ian Glebe. After a glance at Gabe, he spoke to Cassie. “My daughter came home yesterday with enough candy for a year. It seems she has better manners than I do, Mrs. O’Rourke.” He held out his hand. “I’ve come to say thanks to you and your son.”
While Cassie stood in shock, Gabe called up the stairs for Luke. The boy raced down, saw Mr. Glebe and stopped.
Margaret’s father held out his hand. “Thank you, Luke, for helping Margaret.”
As they shook, the door opened again. Dale and Jenny Archer strolled in. After a friendly nod to Cassie, they ambled to the drapery display. The Halls walked in next, then Millie and a dozen old friends of Cassie’s father. Cassie was back in business, but at that particular moment, she wasn’t happy about it. Gabe came to her side. “What’s wrong?”
She wanted to shoo everyone out of the store. “I thought we were getting married this afternoon!”
Gabe grinned. “Enjoy it, Cassie. We waited a long time. A few minutes won’t hurt.”
After two hours the shelves had noticeable holes and she had four invitations to have tea with old friends and new ones. Even Millie had come by. She’d purchased a dozen tablecloths and ordered red-checked napkins. Everyone except the Drakes had called on her today. Cassie knew what she had to do. Unless she forgave Maude, the buzzards of unforgiveness would peck at them both until they had another argument. Silently, Cassie thought a prayer.
I forgive her, Lord. I hope she can forgive me.
Tomorrow she’d visit Maude and do her best to wipe the slate clean.
Before the thought left Cassie’s head, the front door opened and she saw Maude with her husband and Billy. The women studied each other from across the room. Instead of steeling herself for animosity, Cassie ap
proached her rival with an outstretched hand. “I know we’ve had our differences, Maude. I was terrible to you all those years ago. If you can forgive me, I’d like to be friends.”
Maude looked into Cassie’s eyes, then gripped her hand in both of hers. “I’m sorry, too. I’ve been horrible to you. I’ve spread lies—”
“It’s over,” Cassie said.
“I came to make it right.” Maude glanced at her husband, then at Billy. “Before we leave, my son will be apologizing to Luke. Thanks to Gabe, my husband had a talk with him.”
Cassie squeezed Maude’s fingers. “It’s not easy raising a boy, is it?”
“No!” Maude laughed and so did Cassie. As mothers of sons, they had a lot in common. As the women stepped apart, Maude glanced around the shop. “You have lovely things. I need to do some shopping.”
“Take your time,” Cassie said, smiling.
For the next hour, people came and went. When the last customer left, Gabe touched her elbow. “I spoke to Reverend Hall when they came by. He and Thelma are waiting at the parsonage.”
“What for?” Luke asked.
Cassie didn’t think Luke would object, but twelve-year-old boys could be unpredictable. He didn’t have a say in this matter, but his acceptance would mean a lot.
Gabe looked at Cassie, then spoke directly to the boy. “I love your mother, Luke. I always have. I’ve asked her to be my wife and she’s agreed.”
The clock ticked. Dust settled in a shaft of light, then
Luke stood tall and looked hard at Gabe. “You’ll be good to her, won’t you?”
“Yes, son. I will.”
A lump pushed into Cassie’s throat and wouldn’t slide back. With tears welling, she watched as Luke kept his eyes on Gabe. “Does this mean you’ll be my father?”
“I’d like that,” Gabe said. “But you’re almost grown. I respect that.”
“I still need a dad.”
“Good, because I need a son.”
Grinning, Gabe held out his hand to shake. Luke took it, squeezed hard, then turned to Cassie. In his eyes, she saw the boy who’d always live in her heart and the man he’d soon become.
Gangly and awkward, he put his arms around her. “I love you, Ma.”
“I love you, too.”
As her son hugged her tight, Cassie looked over his shoulder at Gabe. Tall and strong, he filled her heart with joy, peace and the hope of children. Laughing out loud, she thought of the set of dishes she’d always wanted. They’d look lovely on Gabe’s table, especially when their family grew. She’d love a brother for Luke, and she’d always wanted a daughter of her own. With her heart full, Cassie whispered a prayer of thanks.
If I’d had a few more pages, I’d have written an epilogue for Cassie and Gabe. I’d have given them two more children, a girl and a boy, and I’d have given Luke the brightest future I could imagine. He could grow up to be anything. An inventor? A doctor? Even president of the United States.
Mothers work hard to give their children opportunities. We want them to develop strong wings and to fly high. We build nests. We feed them and teach them. Eventually we set them free to find their own way. I’ve had some experience with children leaving the nest. My sons are both grown and living amazing lives far from home.
Just as poignant is the memory I have of leaving the nest where I grew up. Several years ago, my husband accepted a job that required a cross-county move. I’ll never forget telling my parents. “We gave you wings,” my mom said. “We expect you to use them.” I know it broke her heart (my dad’s, too) when we moved three thousand miles away, but she smiled through it and stayed strong.
That’s what moms do. They love unselfishly. They do what’s best for their kids. I am blessed indeed to have that kind of mom.
IN A MOTHER’S ARMS
Copyright © 2009 by Harlequin Books S.A.
The publisher acknowledges the copyright holders of the individual works as follows:
FINALLY A FAMILY
Copyright © 2009 by Jill Strickler
Copyright © 2009 by Vicki Scheibel
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