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For all my friends and family, here is my gift to you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Frank Wharton dashed under the portico out of the bone chilling drizzle of rain that was turning to snow. He stuffed $5.00 in the bell ringer’s bucket before heading toward the coffee shop door.
“Thank you, sir. God Bless and Merry Christmas.”
“Oh, I don’t celebrate Christmas.”
“Are you Jewish? Same God, sir.”
“I don’t really believe in God.”
“Well, I’ll pray for you anyway.” The young man flashed a cold tinged smile. “If you aren’t a believer, why do you give?” He asked, his cheeks cherry red, his lips blueberry.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Frank replied. “Say, you look mighty cold, kid. Don’t you have a coat?”
The young man shook his head. Frank paused.
“Hold on a second. I was on my way to drop off some boxes…. Be right back.” He walked back to his car, wondering what the hell he was doing.
All the wanted was his morning coffee and to drop his father’s clothing at the Salvation Army. But the kid looked like he was freezing. Dad’s old Pea-coat, leather gloves and Adirondack cap would fit the boy well—perfectly, in fact. His father would want them to go to a good cause. Frank couldn’t think of a better one than a young man chilled to the bone. Picking out the items, he put them in a grocery bag, adding warm socks, wool jacket & pants and an old scarf.
The scarf held memories. He’d given it to his father when he was 10. He hesitated a moment, wanting to keep it, but heard his father’s voice in his head.
“It kept me warm even in the coldest weather. Your love drove off the chill. He needs it more than we do, Son.”
Adding it to the bag with tears in his eyes, Frank walked back to the door. Handing over the bag, he accepted the young man’s thanks with a slightly sad smile.
“Dad wants you to have them.”
“Is he here? May I thank him too?” He craned his neck expectantly, looking.
“In a manner of speaking,” Frank replied. “Dad died a week ago. I’m giving his things away.”
The young man grinned. “That makes it an even more special gift,” he replied. “God Bless.”
“I don’t believe….”
“I know, but I do. Thank you.”
They shook hands and Frank went in for his coffee. While there, he impulsively bought hot chocolate and a bagel for the boy outside. Handing it to him earned another “God Bless.” Frank nodded, turned up his collar to the cold and headed to his car.
Before dropping the clothing at the Salvation Army, he went through the bags again. He found more clothing to fit the slender young man. In one pocket, he stuffed a $20.00 bill.
“So he can have a good meal.”
He set those things aside and took the rest to the clerk. She went through them all, smiling.
“So sorry to hear about your dad, Mr. Wharton. He was a good man. He used to volunteer in our soup kitchen.”
“I know. I used to drive him down. I knew he’d want his things to come here where they can do some good.”
“Here’s your receipt! Merry Christmas!”
“Thanks, you too.”
The next morning, the young man was at the coffee shop door, this time wrapped in his warm clothes. He smiled and said, “God Bless. Merry Christmas,” when Frank gave him another $5.00.
“I’ve got a few more things for you. When are you done here?”
“I’ll bring them by then.”
“That would be great. Thanks.”
“Bagel or muffins?”
Frank got him another bagel and a coffee. The parting “God Bless” left him smiling. Once he got home, he went through more of the closets, looking for things the young man could wear. He hated to see his father’s clothing go to waste and he couldn’t stand seeing a man suffer because he was obviously down on his luck.
When he went back to see the young man at 6:00, he had two bags of clothing, as well as a bag of non-perishable food from his father’s pantry. Frank had enough food at home, he didn’t need all this too. He pulled up and parked at the curb.
“Hi there. I’ve got those bags I promised.” Seeing the young man struggle with his tripod and bucket, he paused. “Can I give you a lift? He asked conversationally.
“I need a ride to the office,” the young man said. “Usually, someone comes to pick up, but today she’s sick.”
“Hop in. I’ll take you there. Frank Wharton,” he introduced himself, holding out his hand.
“Gabriel St. Peter,” he replied, taking Frank’s hand in a firm grip.
Frank dropped him and his bags at the Salvation Army office downtown. Gabriel wouldn’t accept a ride home, but thanked Frank for his help.
“Not a problem. Here’s my number. If you ever need a ride, you let me know.”
They parted with Gabriel’s heart felt “God Bless” in the air between them.
Almost two weeks passed and Frank saw Gabriel nearly every day. From time to time he gave the younger man a ride and always bought him something to eat. One cold, blustery day, Gabriel wasn’t a lone. A delicate young woman with fair hair and vivid blue eyes was with him. She sat in a battered camp chair. Her red, chapped cheeks stood out in her pale face. She wore the pea-coat, not buttoned quite all the way down, because of her very pregnant belly. She also wore the scarf and gloves. Gabriel wore the wool jacket and pants with the hat. Frank stopped to drop his $5.00 in the bucket and spoke to Gabriel.
“Who is this lovely young lady with you?”
“My wife, Marie. Honey, this is Frank. She’s been wanting to meet you,” he admitted shyly.
The pretty blonde stood awkwardly, holding out her arms to Frank. He accepted her hug with a grin.
“When is your baby due?”
“Christmas,” she said, beaming.
“A Christmas baby! I was born on Christmas too. My father always made a big deal about it, making the day special in two ways.”
“What about your mother?” Marie asked.
“She died having me,” Frank replied. “A rare disorder….”
“I’m so sorry. Any brothers and sisters?”
“Just me and – and Dad.” He gulped, fighting tears in earnest.
“So you’re alone? Honey, he can’t be alone at Christmas,” Marie appealed to her spouse.
“I was gonna serve at the Salvation Army kitchen,” Frank replied.
“Us too,” Marie said joyfully. “After, you can come for a visit. No one should be alone at Christmas.”
“What if you’ve had your baby?”
“Then you celebrate with us at the hospital.”
“Are you sure? You hardly know me.”
Marie touched the scarf tenderly. “We know you very well. It would mean so much.”
Frank allowed himself to be talked into it. Honestly, he didn’t want to say no. It was the first Christmas in his 47 years that he’d be spending it alone. It had always been him and Dad. For awhile, there’d been Nancy, but she’d never understood why he and his father were so close. She had a huge family, she didn’t know what it was like to be the only one the other person had. She’d left him after five years of marriage—alone, on Christmas.
Two nights later, it was Christmas Eve. Frank hadn’t made it by the coffee shop that morning, having been tied up with his father’s lawyer. He was now, officially, owner of everything his father had owned. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his father’s house. He had his townhouse, so close to work, he could walk. The house was in an old neighborhood. It wasn’t rich, but it wasn’t a ghetto. He had no idea if he could sell the house or if he should rent it out.
With much on his mind, he went to Christmas Eve mass at the nearby Catholic church. It wasn’t that he was religious, but it was the thing to do. He and his father had always gone to the early mass on Christmas Eve.
Stopping in the corner bar on his way home, he had a drink of homemade eggnog and went home. He watched some TV, finding “It’s a Wonderful Life” too much to take on such a sad occasion. He missed his father horribly and didn’t know what to do with himself. He thought about a drink, but that would lead to many, and his father wouldn’t have approved of him drowning his sorrow that way. He was sitting down to a microwave meal when his cellphone rang. It was Gabriel’s number.
“It’s Gabe. Frank, I’m worried about Marie. She’s not feeling well. I think she’s in labor, but I don’t have a car. I can’t get her to the hospital.”
“I’ll be right over. Keep her comfortable and warm. I’ll be right there.” He hung up and grabbed his coat and keys.
Driving over to the tiny one room apartment, Frank found himself muttering prayers. He wasn’t a religious man, but he was worried about Marie. When he arrived at their door, he grew even more concerned. Marie’s face was pale and pinched, her breathing shallow. Her hands trembled and she’d been vomiting. He and Gabriel bundled her in blankets and put her in the back seat of Frank’s car. He drove as fast as he dared to the hospital emergency entrance. Parking the car, he ran in to get someone with a gurney.
When he got back, Marie was unconscious, bleeding profusely. The staff rushed her into the emergency room and did their best to stabilize her. All Frank could do was pace and try to calm down the horrified Gabriel.
“I should have called you earlier,” he kept saying. “She’s been bad all day. I didn’t even go to work.”
“You did just fine. She’s okay. You have to have faith.” Meanwhile, his mind did frightened flipflops. This was exactly how his mother died, bleeding to death as she gave birth. “She’ll be fine.”
Hours later, the doctor came out. He wasn’t smiling, but he looked slightly hopeful.
“Mr. St. Peter, your wife and son would like to see you now.”
“Aw, Doc, I was supposed to be in there!”
“I know, son, but it was very tricky. We weren’t sure…. We thought we might lose them. I couldn’t have you see your wife and child die….”
“But they’re alive?”
“Yes. Marie’s weak, but she’s stable. And your son has the finest set of lungs this side of the Mississippi.”
“He’s crying? Is he hurt?”
“No, he sounds like he’s saying ‘Da’ over and over. Never heard a baby so young vocalize. You the grandfather?”
Gabriel answered in the affirmative before Frank could even open his mouth. The two men followed the doctor to Marie’s room. She lay in bed, pale but smiling. She gave Gabriel a kiss and held out a hand to Frank. Gabriel kissed her and Frank held her hand.
Beside her in the clear plastic bassinet lay their son. He was red faced, blue eyed and had a shock of black hair that put Frank in mind of his own baby pictures.
“Nearly nine pounds,” she said. “Would you like to hold him?” She asked her husband.
Gabriel picked him up, holding him carefully. The baby gazed up at him and touched his father’s chin. Gurgling, crosseyed, he smiled and cooed, “Da”.
“He knows me! How can he know me already?”
“Some babies are exceptional,” the doctor said. “I’ll leave you alone now. You call if you need me.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Gabriel said. “For saving them.”
“Modern medicine’s a wonderful thing. Fifty years ago, I’d have lost one or the other or both. Merry Christmas,” he said.
Frank glanced the clock. It was 12:15 on Christmas morning.
“Want to hold him?” Gabriel asked.
“I’d love to, if you don’t mind. I haven’t held a baby in years.”
Gabriel handed the child to him. It gazed up at him and smiled, but didn’t speak.
“What’s his name?”
“We wanted something old fashioned,”Gabriel said. “We named him Josiah.”
Frank gasped, nearly bursting into tears. “That was my father’s name,” he replied. “I’m honored. Though you didn’t know. I thank you.”
“His middle name is Frank,” Marie said.
“I never had a namesake before. But wouldn’t you like to name him after your fathers instead?”
The young couple exchanged a look. Marie nodded at Gabriel.
“I was raised in foster care,” Gabriel replied. “Marie’s mother took me in. I think we loved each other as soon as we could walk. Marie never knew her father, he was nothing but a name on a birth certificate. Her mom divorced him without even telling the poor guy she was pregnant.”
“All that time and he never knew?” Frank’s tears fell and he nuzzled the baby’s head. “I can’t imagine growing up without my father. He was my best friend.”
“And a child should know his grandfather, don’t you think?” Marie asked expectantly.
“Absolutely. My grandfather was the greatest.”
“We thought the same thing, Frank.” Marie continued, bursting into tears. “So when we found you like that, just out of the clear blue, it seemed so perfect.”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”
Gabriel took Josiah from him. “Marie’s your daughter,” he replied. “Her mother’s name is Nancy.”
Frank nearly fell down. “My daughter?” He burst into tears, hugging the beautiful young woman in the bed.
They clung to one another, crying until their chests ached.
“Why didn’t she tell me?”
“I don’t know,” Marie said, wiping her eyes. “She never said. But why don’t you ask her yourself? She should be here soon. She had to take a cab from the airport because Gabe couldn’t go get her.”
“Nancy? Is coming here?”
He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Over 20 years had passed since he’d last seen her smiling, pretty face. When he looked into Marie’s eyes, she saw shades of her mother. Nancy’s smile twitched her daughter’s lips, the same little line creased her forehead when she was thinking.
“Does she know? About me?”
“She does now,” Gabriel said with a smirk as he nodded at the door.
Frank turned to see an elegant, slightly older version of his ex-wife standing at the door, her hand to her throat. Her blue eyes brimmed with tears as she advanced into the room.
“Frank? Is it really you?”
They embraced, kissing as if two decades hadn’t passed.
“I missed you so. Why did you leave me?”
“I didn’t understand about you and your father. I always thought I was intruding.”
“No, never! You were the other part of me! Life was never the same without you. Why didn’t you ever tell me about Marie?”
“I was angry and hurt. We had that huge fight and I walked out. I didn’t know at the time I was pregnant. When I found out, I was even angrier and couldn’t bring myself to tell you. By the time she was born, I was so ashamed about keeping her from you, I couldn’t say anything. It was wrong. I should never have kept her from you. After seeing other children and their fathers, I finally understood. But by then it was too late.”
“It’s not too late,” Frank assured her. “It’s never too late.”
“Just think,” Gabriel said. “If we hadn’t met by accident that day, we wouldn’t be here now.”
“Yes,” Marie said. “We would. Because God would have seen to it.”
“You’re right,” Frank agreed, taking her hand. “I think He did.”
“You said you weren’t a believer,” Gabriel said.
Frank touched the baby’s head, smiling happily for the first time in years. “I’m a believer now.”
Undercover Lover is over. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
What’s next here? Something fun! I actually wrote Undercover Lover after I wrote another book featuring Brodie as the main character. Chronologically, it comes after Undercover Lover, so I’ll be sharing it next. I’m giving myself a short break for a week, but will begin A Bride for Brodie on Wednesday, January 3, 2012.
Books make great gifts for the entire family. If you still need a great present for that special someone, please follow the links below to find my books.
Indian Summer – historical romantic suspense set in St. Augustine, FL in 1739. Gabriella Deza thinks that her fifteenth birthday is the most exciting thing that’s every happened to her, until Manuel Enriques confesses his love. Unfortunately, a British spy plots to overthrow the town and fort. Manuel lays a trap for him, but Gabriella is unwittingly caught instead.
Lone Wolf – book one in my sci-fi series. Wil VanLipsig thinks he’s got his life together, until he meets determined and self-possessed Matilda DuLac. What should be a standard run for the Mining Guilt becomes anything but run of the mill.
The Ninja Tattoo – Teague McMurtry has returned from the war after serving in the Army in Afghanistan. Little does he know that a chance encounter with the beautiful Vivica Rambo, will put his life and hers in danger.
Dulcet – Cooper Richards is a former bad boy who took drugs, sex and rock n roll to an extreme. After waking in the hospital with a four day gap in his memory, he’s reformed and even considering the priesthood. Enter Gloria Sharpe. Her beautiful face and voice knock Cooper’s socks off. He can’t wait to build a life with her. But Gloria has a secret that could keep them apart.
I wish you Merry Chrismahanakwanza from my family to yours!
~ Dellani ~
Getting Larry’d–my romance in progress. Karen Vaughan, mystery author, tries her hand at romance.
What subjects are taboo?. What subjects are just too painful to touch?
“I almost forgot,” Saige interjected. “My mother said to tell you you’re welcome to stay with her until your place is repaired.”
“Are you going back to your old apartment?” Dido asked her.
“I hadn’t thought about it,” Saige replied. “I don’t think so. Too many bad memories.”
“You know,” Brodie said thoughtfully. There’s an apartment opening up in this building, third floor, in a couple days. I think I can convince the committee to accept your application.”
“I haven’t applied.”
“No, but you’ve got four residents who say you’d make a good neighbor.”
“Thanks, Brodie. I’d like that.”
“Me too,” Romy smirked. “No more tossing the buggers out when I want company.”
“You could move in with her,” Tracy suggested. “Then no one is inconvenienced.”
They all looked at her and laughed. She glanced around, wide eyed. “What? Did I say something funny?”
“Best ask the lady first if she’ll have me,” Romy said shyly.
“Do you have any doubts?” Saige countered.
They exchanged a soulful look, not having eyes for anyone else. Brodie rose suddenly, taking his beer and one of the pizzas.
“That’s my cue to go. Party’s moving to my place,” he said. “Julia, you’re welcome to join us. In fact, if you’d like to spend the night, I’ve got a comfortable guest room and a new toothbrush that’s never been opened.”
“You know, I might at that,” she answered, taking his arm. “I don’t have to worry about you getting fresh, do I?”
Brodie kissed her cheek. “Only if you want me to,” he replied diplomatically. “Otherwise, I’m the perfect gentleman.”
Left alone once more, Romy locked the door and unplugged the phone. He turned off the cell phones and held out his hand. Saige followed him to his room. Finally alone, they made love, sealing the bond they had forged.
The next few days were absolute bliss for Saige. She and Romy were able to move into their new apartment together. With Julia at her mother’s house, they had all the privacy they wanted and indulged themselves. Romy spoiled her, taking her to dinner and buying her flowers.
Saige treated him to massages and erotic bubble baths. Neither of them wanted their special time to end, but suddenly it was Monday again and she had to go to work. Romy had to report to Givens downtown, so they went in together. He drove to her building and parked in the garage.
“I’m seeing you in. It won’t happen often, so enjoy it while you can.”
“What would you like for dinner tonight? I’m cooking.”
“Hmm, you mean besides you?” He pretended to think about it carefully before replying. “I’d love ratatouille.”
“I don’t even know that that is!”
“Well, then I suppose I should cook instead, eh?” He chuckled as they got on the elevator.
The lobby was incredibly crowded. It was the last minute rush at five minutes until nine. Saige saw Brodie disappear into the only available elevator with a petite redhead following him in at the last moment. She had a cell phone plastered to her ear and was speaking in Italian. Saige also saw Brodie’s expression of disgust as the elevator doors closed.
Wondering why he was so angry, she got on the next elevator with Romy in tow, and rode quickly to the tenth floor. She expected to see Brodie already at his desk, but his elevator was still on the third floor. When it finally got to the tenth, she saw him talking to the same redhead she’d seen before. Neither of them looked very happy. But behind the anger, she could see
interest in his eyes.
He looked very unhappy when he got in the office. Brodie hated to be late. Distractedly, he asked for a cup of coffee as he raced to his desk before Mr. Winchester saw him. Unfortunately, he was seen before he got three steps.
Saige came back with his cup of coffee only to see him walk into their boss’ office. Client meeting, hold all calls, she thought as she sat down with a happy grin. Fifteen minutes later, Brodie came out with the woman on his arm, being charming and amazing as always, her husband in tow.
At the elevators, Brodie flirted unmercifully. What a charmer he was. The doors opened and the redhead got out again. She took one look at Brodie and exploded. Saige could hear her screaming in her office even with the door closed.
“Mother? What are you doing?” She turned abruptly on Brodie, snarling. “You bastard! Take your hands off my mother this instant!”
She proceeded to verbally castrate him for nearly ten minutes, until security showed up and rescued him. Through it all, Brodie stood stoically, bearing her diatribe with cool aplomb.
Saige saw, though she imagined no one else did, that even while the woman offered to cut off his balls and make a necklace, he was interested in her. She could see it in the set of his shoulders and the way his eyes caressed the woman’s body. Smiling to herself, Saige hummed, then sang quietly, organizing her desk.
Brodie walked by looking like a storm cloud. She got him a fresh cup of coffee, lingering just inside the closed door in case he wanted to talk.
Looking up at her, he frowned. “What?”
“Oh, nothing!” She waited a moment longer. “She’s pretty, huh?”
“So? In case you weren’t listening, she hates me.”
“Mm hm. Well, if you need anything, you know where I’ll be.”
“Right. Thanks, Saige.”
Funny how life worked out, wasn’t it? Just when he wasn’t looking, life snuck up on him and ambushed him with a beautiful redhead. Saige grinned, knowing that she no longer had to worry about Brodie because, for once, his timing was perfect.
To find out how Brodie does with the redhead, look for “A Bride for Brodie” by Dellani Oakes. Begins January 2013
© 2012 Dellani Oakes
Blair continued to babble, asking all kinds of uncomfortable questions. She didn’t give her daughter a chance to answer anything, she was too upset. Determined to answer the questions so she could move on to something more interesting, Saige tried another tactic. She whistled sharply, piercingly.
“Mother,” she spoke sharply. “Do I have your full attention now?”
“Of course, honey. I’m so sorry.”
Slowly and patiently, Saige explained what had happened. It took a long time because Blair had so many questions, but she finally finished. While she was talking, Romy made a pot of coffee and dug around until he found a box of unopened cookies.
Saige took the refreshment automatically, thanking him with a smile. He settled back on the couch with his arms spread across the back, smiling at her fondly. She eventually got off the phone with her mother, assuring her that she would go over for breakfast the next day.
Romy moved closer, his arms around her waist. “Finally,” he sighed with a happy grin. “Where did we leave off?”
“Somewhere around here.”
She wiggled closer. His lips had barely touched hers when there was a pounding on the door.
“No one could make that much noise except Brodie,” Romy frowned. “Oi!” He called. “You’ll wake Gran!” He yelled as he answered the door.
“Or that might,” Saige countered, laughing at him.
Brodie, Stan and the girls were in the hallway trying to get into the apartment simultaneously. Romy opened the door wide, inviting them all in. Brodie had a stack of pizza boxes and Stan had bottles of beer and cider. The girls carried soft drinks and desert.
“Celebration party,” Stan announced. “You got the bad guys and saved the day!”
“My gran’s here,” Romy said in a stage whisper. “Could you keep it down before you wake her?”
“Too late,” Julia said as she walked slowly from the bedroom. “That bellow you let out was like a stuck pig, Romany.”
“Sorry, Gran. Want a cider?”
“I’ll take a beer.” She smiled and sat with care. “I don’t care what that doctor says. My ass hurts. Bit of stiffness, he said. I’ll give him stiff.” She made a universally rude finger gesture to the room in general. “Oh, pizza? What have you got?”
“I remembered your favorite,” Brodie said proudly. “Ham and pineapple.”
“Oh, lovely!” She took a slice and a beer.
“Saige, you’ve got the rest of the week off with pay,” Brodie assured her. “When I told Ches what’s been happening, and it’s all over the news, he could hardly say no.”
“You’re going to be the talk of the office,” Bonnie assured her. “Nothing this exciting ever happens!”
“Believe me, I could have done without some of it,” Saige remarked. “That chloroform incident wasn’t the most fun night I’ve had.”
“What was the most fun night?” Stan winked at her.
“Oh, that’s easy.” She gazed into Romy’s eyes.
She wouldn’t say anything in front of his grandmother, but they all knew what she meant.
“You two don’t need an old lady staying with you,” Julia said unexpectedly. “I’d go home if I could, but as I’ve no front door… Broke it down, the bastard. And it wasn’t even locked.”
© 2012 Dellani Oakes
Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces — The Story Continues. If you like a mystery, you’ll love Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces – a collaborative novel by the folks at Second Wind.