Authors: Mary Manners
Tags: #christian Fiction
Evergreens and Angels
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Evergreens and Angels
COPYRIGHT 2014 by Mary Manners
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
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Contact Information: [email protected]
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Cover Art by
White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410
White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC
First White Rose Edition, 2014
Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-440-4
Published in the United States of America
To my friend Ron Arakaki. Your genuine heart and sweet spirit are truly a blessing. May angels delight in their watch over you.
Named Book of the Year by
The Wordsmith Journal Magazine
Light the Fire
Winner of the 2012 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award
Mary Manners named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase
“He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” ~ Job 8:21 ~
An upbeat Christmas melody drifted through Cutler Nursery as Dillon pulled into the lot spattered with cars. He switched off the ignition and opened the door of his pickup to the bite of a chilly breeze. Though Thanksgiving leftovers had barely been devoured, winter seemed determined to wake from its nap and make an early arrival along the streets of Clover Cove.
Dillon's boots crunched over gravel as he wove his way through a cluster of Frasier firs that had been delivered by flatbed trucks to the nursery that morning. They now flanked the entrance in a winding labyrinth. Dillon and his brothers, Reese and Wyatt, had spent the better part of the day using lengths of waterproof ribbon to organize and color code the fragrant, fresh-cut trees. Sizes ranged from a flurry of modest three-footers to a majestic sixteen-foot goliath that his sister, Maddie, had spent a good hour trimming with blinker lights and shimmering ornaments in red, silver, and gold. Her handiwork was sure to draw customers before one of the larger local businesses snatched up the fir for their foyer.
Or perhaps his second eldest brother, Reese, would take the tree home to his wife, Peyton. It was, after all, their daughter, Lissa's, first Christmas, and the farmhouse they'd recently purchased along Clover Creek would provide a perfect backdrop with open cathedral ceilings that soared above an expansive great room meant for family gatherings.
Dillon paused for a moment, inhaling the pure scent of Christmas with a touch of longing. All of his siblings had found their life-matesâWyatt with Kami, Reese with Peyton, and Maddie with Gunnar. Talk about being the odd man out. His ego still stung from Jacqueline's brusque and unexpected brush-off when the time came for her to return to New York City. They'd spent the past year working together at an internship in Asheville, North Carolina, and Dillon had thought she might be the one. But she had her eye on city life, choosing to beautify the concrete jungle. Dillon couldn't stomach the thought of all those people and the congestion they brought. So, in the end, God seemed to have other plans.
Dillon shook off the thought as he continued to wind his way through the maze of trees. The crisp, sweet scent of evergreens lingered, evoking memories of Christmases past when his father was still here with them and the family all together. A wave of nostalgia swept through, and Dillon paused to grasp a tree branch. The soft pliable feel told him the boughs were fresh, the tree ready for a home where it was sure to stand as a joyous symbol of Christmas cheer.
Sticky sap clung to Dillon's fingers, and he brought his hand close to his face, inhaling the distinct aroma.
Dad had loved the holiday. He'd be proud to have Dillon home again with a master's degree in plant sciences tucked neatly beneath his belt. Dad would be proud, as well, to know Dillon joined in the day-to-day operation of the family's nursery. It had been Dad's dream to grow the nursery into a business worthy of recognition. That recognition had come recently, in the form of a cover article in the nationally acclaimed
Horticulture Today Magazine
. Now, the entire Cutler clan had come home to Clover Cove once againâWyatt, Reese, Maddie, and Dillon himselfâto protect their father's dream, keep it alive and growing.
Dillon exited the grove to find his mother straining to organize a parade of red and white poinsettias along the top tier of a triangular display just inside the main greenhouse.
“Dillon, would you mind to give me a hand here?”
Foil in festive shades of gold, silver, and cherry-red that cocooned the half-gallon pots sparkled beneath the nursery's spotlights and, though his mother stretched to her full height, she barely reached the highest shelf. Dillon strode to close the distance between them, swiping the sticky sap from his fingers onto the thigh of his jeans as he went.
“If I only had a few more inchesâ¦”
“No problem. I've got it.” Warmth from blowers Reese had recently installed embraced Dillon as he stepped into the greenhouse. He reached over his mother's shoulder to straighten the display. “There.”
“That's perfect, son. Thank you.” She smiled up at him and patted his cheek in a gesture that was so familiar. Even on her tiptoes, she barely came to his chinâshe hadn't since his growth spurt the latter part of his freshman year at Clover Cove High. Her diminutive height held no bearing, though; all the Cutler siblings knew their mom was the real boss around here. Dark hair sprinkled with salt-gray swept her forehead as she studied the scruff of stubble along Dillon's jaw. “Did you get something to eat on your break?”
“I grabbed a few slices of pepperoni over at Pappy's Pizzeria, and Mr. Moretto insisted I sample a piece of his homemade pecan pie, although I'm still working to digest that Thanksgiving spread you prepared last week.” Dillon thumped a palm against his midsection. “That turkey you roasted was huge enough to feed an army, and all those sides, good grief. The local buffet has nothing on you, Mom. Those leftovers lasted an entire week.”
“Well, Anthony's pecan pie
to die for.” Mom's eyes, bright as a pair of dark chocolate-covered cherries, shone with laughter. “And, last I checked the Cutler crew
growing huge as an army.”
“I suppose you're right. So much has changed around here. Wyatt and Kami sure have two firecrackers in those mischievous little twins of theirs. Nate and Nancy are into everything now that they're walking. And who would have thought Reese and Peyton would get started growing their family so quickly? They've barely been married a year and here comes Lissa all swaddled in pink. I suppose Maddie will be next in the baby department, now that she and Gunnar have tied the knot.”
“Don't get ahead of yourself, son. Keep up that line of thinking, and you'll be married, too, before the first snow of the season drifts in.”
“Me?” Dillon pressed a hand to his chest as he tilted his head toward the breeze. If his internal radar was working up to speed, that snow might very well swirl in tonight. “Bite your tongue. I'm not even dating anyone, Mom, since Jacqueline headed back to the city.”
“She wasn't the one meant for you to share your life with, Dillon. That was obvious from the start.”
“I'm glad you could see it. Meâ¦well, it took a little longer for the light bulb to fire.” He shook his head as he ran his tongue along the wall of his cheek. “She really left a bad taste in my mouth, the way she took off without so much as a glance back.”
“Sometimes it's hard when you're smack-dab in the middle of things to see the whole, true picture. Don't let your bruised heart close the door to what God has in store for you.”
“My heart's not bruisedâ¦it's more my ego that's smarting.”
“Well, that should tell you all you need to know. If the heart's not fully investedâ¦”
“I thought it was, but in retrospect I suppose you're right. I guess I'm just a little confused.”
“Happens to the best of us.”
“That aside, I have no intention of racing to the altar anytime soon.”
“That's exactly what your brothers said, and Maddie, too.” She winked and flashed him that Mom-knows-all smile. “Christmas is a magical time, though. You never know what those tidings of good cheer might tote along for the ride.”
“Maybe that good cheer is targeting you, Mom. I've seen the way Anthony Moretto drops everything and heads your way whenever you walk into the pizzeria. He turns to a pile of mush. That man is smitten if I've ever seen it.”
“Now, don't you go starting rumors, son.” Mom waggled a finger at him. “You just tuck those good tidings we talked about into your pocket and leave Anthony to find his own wayâme, too.”
“So, are you sayingâ¦does that meanâ”
“I'm not saying anything.” She pinched two fingers to her lips, made a locking motion, and tossed the virtual key over one shoulder as she patted his cheek once more before stepping away. “These poinsettias can use a little drink of water now. I know you'll be happy to take care of that. I'll catch up with you later, son.”
Brynn Jansen smoothed a quilt over Gran's shoulders and slipped into a rocking chair nestled into the corner of her grandparents' bedroom. Tuckered from her recent stay at the hospital and the subsequent check-up with her physician, Gran had settled into a nap about ten minutes ago. Gramps had nodded off in the living room recliner soon after, nursing his ribs and a few bruises. Brynn listened to his not-so-gentle snores as they barreled down the hall. Last week's car accident had been rough on them both.
Brynn sighed, drinking in her surroundings. A solid mahogany chest and bedframe filled the modest room as hunter-green and tan checkered drapes handcrafted by Gran flanked a bay window with a built-in seat covered with oversized throw pillows in shades of russet brown and sunflower yellow. Gran had always carried a soft spot for the combination of bright and earthy colors. Now, a window shade was pulled tight to block out the winter-gray sky. Brynn sensed a dusting of snowâmaybe moreâon the way. A slight thrill raced through her. She knew the first snowfall of the season held a special kind of magic.
Gramps's sweaterâthe same soft, tan wool with patches at the elbows he'd worn when she was a child and he'd snuggled her on his lapâwas tossed over the foot of the bed. The scent of pipe tobacco, sweet and rich, conjured happy childhood memories of time spent hereâ¦long tromps through snow-laden sidewalks with Gramps as she chattered on about school and the books she'd read and the fact that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. He always listened intently, never hurried or bored by her soliloquies.
Time with Gran was plentiful, as well. They worked together in the kitchen where cheery mustard-yellow walls and walnut cabinets lent a gentle embrace of warmth that even heat from the stove couldn't match. Brynn and Gran sang along to Christmas carols as they fashioned sugar cookies shaped like angels and bells and pecan pies while a ham basted in brown sugar readied in the oven.