Glad Tidings Page 27

Oliver slipped his arm around her shoulders. “I told you they’d be happy,” he murmured.

“You’d think this was their first grandchild,” Emma said, overwhelmed by the family’s reaction to their news. She’d never known families could be like this.

By the end of a memorable Christmas Day, Emma was tired and ready to go home. After a series of hugs and promises to meet again soon, Oliver steered her to the car parked out front, his arm protectively around her. The dogs followed obediently in their wake.

“It’s a bit overpowering, isn’t it?” he said.

“What?” she asked.

“My family, when we’re all together.”

“They’re wonderful, each and every one.” Oliver’s sisters were among her closest friends. Her circle of family, friends and acquaintances had increased from the day she’d met him.

“They love you, too.” He opened the car door for her and helped her inside. Oscar and Boots piled into the back.

As they neared their newly constructed home, Oliver glanced at her. Emma’s eyes were closed, her head back against the leather seat. “You’ve really taken to Christmas,” he said. “Hard to believe that just over a year ago you didn’t want anything to do with it. Now look at you.”

Emma opened her eyes and smiled. Their home was decorated with not one, but two, Christmas trees. The second, a smaller one, was for the dogs. She’d written a series of articles about Christmas customs around the world. And she’d started baking right after Thanksgiving. As Oliver had said last year, the transformation had been complete.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she said with a laugh, “except to repeat what my mother told me.”

“And what would that be?” he asked, a smile in his voice.

“There’s something special about Christmas.”



“Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, Mom!” nine-year-old Courtney Adams said.

“Mom, you have my list for Santa, don’t you?” seven-year-old Bailey asked anxiously. She knelt on her bed, her large brown eyes beseeching.

This, Maryanne Adams recognized, was a blatant attempt to postpone bedtime. Both girls were supposed to turn out their lights ten minutes ago but, as usual, they were looking for any excuse to delay the inevitable. The one thing Maryanne hoped to avoid was yet another discussion about the top item on both their Christmas lists—a puppy.

“What about my list?” Courtney asked from her bed. She, at least, had crawled between the covers, but remained in a sitting position.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure Santa has both your lists by now,” Maryanne reassured her daughters. She stood in the doorway, her hand poised over the light switch. Both her daughters slept in canopy beds their Simpson grandparents had insisted on purchasing for them. It was their prerogative to spoil the grandkids, her father had told her so she didn’t argue too much. The grandchildren were the delight of their grandparents’ lives and could do no wrong.

“Did you read the list before you gave it to Santa?” Courtney asked.

At nine, Courtney was well aware that Santa was actually her mom and dad, but she was generous enough not to spoil the fantasy for her younger sister.

“You said your prayers?” Maryanne asked, wanting to turn the subject away from a dog.

Bailey nodded. “I prayed for a puppy.”

“I did, too.” Courtney echoed.

They were certainly persistent. “We’ll see what happens,” Maryanne said.

Bailey glanced at her older sister. “Is ‘we’ll see’ good news?”

Courtney looked uncertain. “I don’t know.” She turned pleading eyes to her mother. “Mom, we have to know.”

“Mom, please, I beg of you,” Bailey cried dramatically. “We’ve just got to have a dog. We’ve got to.”

Maryanne sighed. “I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for our family to get a puppy now.”

“Why not?” Courtney demanded, her sweet face filling with disappointment.

Instinctively, Maryanne pressed her hand to her stomach. It was time to tell the girls that there’d be a new family member in six months—past time, really, for them to know. She’d wanted to share the news earlier, but this baby was a complete surprise; she and Nolan had needed time to adjust to the idea first.

Stepping all the way into the room, Maryanne sat on the edge of Courtney’s bed. She’d prefer to tell the girls with Nolan at her side, but her husband was on deadline and had barricaded himself in his home office, coming out once or twice a day. The last fifty pages of a book were always the most difficult for him to write, winding down the plot and tying up all the loose ends. It was never easy, according to Nolan, to part with the characters he’d lived with for the past number of months. They were as real to him as his own flesh and blood, and because she was a writer, too, she understood that.

“We’ll discuss this later.” Checking her watch, she frowned. “It’s past your bedtime as it is.”

“Aw, Mom,” Bailey moaned.

“Mom, please,” Courtney chimed in. “I won’t be able to sleep if you don’t tell me now.”

“Tell them what?” Nolan asked from the doorway.

At the sight of their father both girls squealed with delight. Bailey was out of bed first, flying across the room at breakneck speed. Anyone would think it’d been weeks since she’d last seen their father, when in fact he’d had breakfast with the girls that morning.

“Daddy!” Courtney leaped off the bed, as well.

Bailey was in Nolan’s arms, fiercely hugging his neck, and Courtney clasped her skinny arms around his waist.

“Are you finished the book?” Maryanne asked, her gaze connecting with his. She remained seated on the bed, tired out from a long day of Christmas preparations.

“I typed The End about five minutes ago,” her husband said, smiling down at her.

“What do you think?” she asked. As a wildly popular suspense author, Nolan generally had an excellent feel for his own work.

“I think it’s good, but I’ll wait for your feedback.”

Maryanne loved the way they worked together as husband and wife and as two professional writers. Nolan wrote his novels, and it was the income he generated from the sales of his books that supported their family. Maryanne tackled nonfiction projects. She wrote a weekly column for the Seattle Review and contributed articles to various parenting magazines. One day, she might try her hand at fiction, but for the present she was content.

“Mom says now isn’t a good time for us to get a puppy,” Courtney whined, and it wasn’t long before her younger sister added her own disconsolate cries.

“Why can’t we, Daddy?” Bailey cried. “Every kid should have a puppy.”

“A puppy,” Nolan repeated, locking eyes with Maryanne. He sat down on the bed beside her and exhaled slowly. “Well, the truth is, there are other considerations.”

“Like what?” Courtney asked. It was inconceivable to her that anything should stand in the way of her heart’s desire.

Nolan placed his arm around Maryanne’s shoulders, indicating that perhaps now was the time to explain. “Well,” he began in thoughtful tones. “When a man and a woman fall in love and marry, they sometimes…” He paused and waited for Maryanne to finish.

“They love each other so much that they…” She hesitated, thinking this might not be the right approach.

“They make babies,” Nolan supplied.

“You were a baby once,” Maryanne continued, reaching out to tickle Bailey’s tummy.

“And you, too,” Nolan told Courtney.

The girls sat cross-legged on Bailey’s bed, their attention on Nolan and Maryanne. Their long brown hair spilled over their shoulders.

“What has this got to do with a puppy?” Courtney asked, cocking her head to one side, a puzzled frown on her face. How like Nolan she looked just then, Maryanne thought. The Nolan she remembered from the days of their courtship, the newspaper reporter who always seemed to be frowning at her for one reason or another.

“What your mother and I are attempting to explain is that…” He paused and a smile crept across his face.

“You’re both going to be big sisters,” Maryanne said.

Courtney understood the implications before her little sister did. “Mom’s going to have a baby?”

Maryanne nodded.

The girls screamed with happiness. As if they’d been practicing the move for a week, they leaped off the bed and immediately started jumping up and down. Soon Nolan was laughing at their antics.

“I want another sister,” Bailey insisted.

“No, no, a brother,” Courtney said.

“Personally I’ll be overjoyed with either,” Nolan assured them all. His arm tightened around Maryanne’s shoulders, and he buried his face in her neck as she hid a smile. While this baby was certainly unexpected, he was most welcome. Yes, he! Earlier in the day Maryanne had been at the doctor’s, had her first ultrasound and received the news. How appropriate for Christmas-time…She’d tell Nolan as soon as the kids were asleep.

“Are you excited, Mom?” Courtney asked.

Maryanne nodded and held out her arms to her daughter. “Very much so.”

Courtney came into the circle of Maryanne’s arms. “A baby is even better than a puppy.” She grinned. “But a puppy’s good, too!”

“Yeah,” Bailey said. She climbed into Nolan’s lap, leaning her head against his chest.

“But you girls understand that a baby and a puppy at the same time would be too much, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Both girls nodded.

“Later,” Courtney said in a solemn voice. “When the baby’s older.”

“Yeah,” Bailey said again.

“Isn’t it bedtime yet?” Nolan asked.

“Not yet,” Bailey said. “I can’t sleep, I’m too excited.”

“I can’t either.” Courtney gazed up at her mother.

“Tell us a story,” Bailey suggested. “A long story.”

“You should get into bed first,” Nolan said, and both girls reluctantly climbed back into their beds, and pulled the covers all the way up to their chins.

“Do you want me to read to you?” Nolan asked.

“Not a book,” Courtney said. “Tell us a real story.”

“About Grandpa and the newspaper business?” Maryanne knew how much her daughters loved to hear about their grandfather Simpson when he’d first started his business.

“No,” Courtney shook her head. “Tell us about how you and Daddy met.”

“You already know that story,” Nolan said.

“We want the unabridged version this time,” Bailey piped up.

Unabridged? Only the seven-year-old daughter of a writer would know the meaning of that word.

“What do you think, Annie?” Nolan asked.

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