Excerpt from Rory’s Christmas Angel by Laura M. Baird
“What’s with your sweet tooth? Did you brush your teeth after breakfast?”
“Yes, Dad.” She practically rolled her hazel eyes, looking so much like her mother. “And you know I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but it’s nearly Christmas. How can you not eat all kinds of goodies this time of year?”
“Indeed. When did you get so dang smart, young lady?”
Alisa just shrugged and giggled while she resumed reading.
“It’s because she’s hanging out with her nana,” Rory’s mother said as she rounded the corner from the kitchen into the living room. Glenda Sanders wasn’t much taller than Rhonda had been, standing at five feet two inches. Her short raven hair was streaked with silver, her grey eyes twinkling as she smiled. Glenda didn’t bother to color her hair or fight what Father Time was doing to her. She was aging gracefully and in exceptional health, with near-perfect skin and a compact body due to always staying active.
She approached Rory and gave him a hug. “Must’ve had a rough morning. Only thing your father said was you’d be tied up at work for a bit longer than expected.”
As she took a seat on the couch next to Alisa, Rory explained what caused his delay, reciting the events of the accident and Frankie’s amazing actions.
“Wow!” Alisa exclaimed. “That was pretty brave of Frankie!”
“And you said she’s becoming a veterinarian?”
“Yeah,” Rory answered his mother as he removed his shoes and jacket. He fought hard not to press his coat to his nose, inhaling the lingering scent of the woman he’d met on the roadside. Placing it in the entryway closet, he turned back to his mom and Alisa. “She works for Katy while also finishing school.”
“Cool! She gets to play with animals all day long!” Alisa said, her book suddenly losing its appeal to Rory’s tale.
He chuckled. “Well, I wouldn’t actually call it playing, sweetheart. Although she does live on a farm, so she has plenty of animals there to take care of and play with.”
“A farm? Really?” His daughter jumped up from the couch and raced to him, taking his hands in hers. “Can we go visit? I’ve never been to a farm before.”
Rory looked to his mom, catching sight of her widening grin.
“Well, she did invite us out for a visit if we wanted.”
“Really?” Glenda drawled. She exchanged a look with Rory, her brows raised.
“Yeah. And she’s got a nephew, Sammy, who’s ten years old. He was raised around the animals. Lost his mom five years ago,” he added.
“Oh, dear, how awful,” Glenda said.
“Kinda like me,” Alisa said softly.
Rory went to one knee in front of his daughter. “Sadly, yes, only his mom was in a car accident.”
“My goodness. And that young woman had the wherewithal to stop and offer assistance to a stranger after what her sister went through?”
“Well, it’s not like that driver had anything to do with what happened to her sister,” Rory said to his mother. “Frankie is a remarkable woman. Used to be a nurse in the Navy before deciding she wanted to become a vet.”
“Remarkable indeed,” Glenda said, standing from the couch. “Alisa, why don’t you get yourself ready for your big day of shopping and be sure to say good-bye to Pop?”
“Okay, Nana.” Before letting go of Rory’s hands, she squeezed them and said, “Hurry with your shower, Dad. And don’t forget to call Frankie. I can’t wait to meet her!”
Alisa skipped off through the kitchen, and the sliding-glass door was heard as she went outside to the patio to say good-bye to her pop, Rory’s dad, Harold.
As Rory stood and faced his mom, her look was one of suspicious concern. “Frankie, huh?”
“Yeah. What about her?” Rory asked as he removed his weapon. He took it to the gun safe that looked like a built-in cabinet on the far wall of the living room. After depositing it and his ammo inside, he closed the door, ensuring it had locked.
“Oh, I don’t know. Might be that little sparkle in your eye every time you mentioned her name. Or the fact that she actually invited you to visit her home.”
Rory saw the mischievous smile on his mother’s face and tried to quickly dispel any misconception. “Farm, mom. I happened to mention I was considering getting Alisa a kitten for her birthday, and Frankie said she had a cat that recently had kittens and I was welcome to pick one.” He started toward the kitchen, but stopped just short and whispered, “And no mention of this to your granddaughter. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
“Oh, but I think you’ve made up your mind about visiting Frankie’s farm, am I right? Or is it just Frankie you’d like to see again?”
Rory turned, trying not to roll his eyes, as he made his way to the kitchen for a glass of water. He didn’t answer as he downed two glasses.
“Is that even ethical?” Glenda teased. “I mean, a personal relation with a woman you met under those circumstances?”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Rory said, instantly regretting taking her bait.
Her triumphant smile said she’d seen right through his denial of anything other than interest in a dang kitten. Okay, so yeah, he had definitely been interested in Frankie. He just didn’t know how to proceed without scaring the woman off. I mean, who has such an intense reaction so quickly?
“Rory.” His mother’s soft calling of his name had him looking at her, true concern on her face. “I’m glad to see you showing interest in another woman. No matter how you met.” She stepped closer, placing her hand against his cheek for a moment before dropping it. “You’re too young to be alone. And before you protest, I know how much you loved Rhonda, but there’s no reason you can’t love again.”
“Is this where you say she’d want me to go on and be happy?”
“Maybe. What do you think she’d say? What if the roles were reversed? God forbid you should be taken away from us, but if Rhonda were still here, just her and Alisa, wouldn’t you want her to be happy?”
“Of course.” Rory could feel his brow scowling. “I mean, part of me right now feels that I’d be jealous as hell with her loving another man. But I wouldn’t want her to be alone, sad, or without love in her life.”
“Well then, the same goes for you.”