Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2) (38 page)

BOOK: Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2)
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The family was on pins and needles, but they’d said they’d be thrilled to celebrate one more thing today. Beyond that, to Selena and Camille and Marsha and Joe and the whole tribe, Camille was already a Dixon. Now it was nearly dusk outside and Joe was
looking tired. Which meant it was time, whether Oliver made it or not.

“Go on.” She put Camille down. It was a wonder her daughter had kept her secret this long. “Be careful with your grandpa. Let Marsha help you up on the bed. But the room is yours.”

“Grandpa, Grandma, Grammy!” Camille raced to the other side of the room, where Belinda was chatting with Marsha. “I get to give Grandpa my s’prise now. It’s for you, too, Grandma. I drew the pictures for Grandpa, but it’s for you, too.”

She threw herself into Marsha’s laughing hug and practically climbed into her grandmother’s arms. Belinda patted Camille on the back. Her smile of pride for Selena was a sweet reward for the hard-fought journey that had brought them all to this happy place.

Selena had turned the divorce over to Oliver’s lawyer, who was already engaging Parker’s legal team. She’d stopped answering her husband’s calls and deleted his texts and voice mails. She’d accepted Kristen’s offer to be a full-time sub on staff at the elementary school next year. She was collecting the material and recommendations she’d need to apply for the grants that would pay for at least one night class a semester at the community college. She’d made it to her AA meeting Thursday night. And tomorrow afternoon, she and Camille and hopefully Oliver would be heading to a local no-cage animal shelter to pick out a floppy-eared Blossom or Bud to bring home.

Selena closed her eyes and reminded herself to breathe, to be grateful, to trust, while her daughter chattered away to her grandparents. Oliver would be there. He’d go with them to look for a puppy. He and Selena and Camille would have their new start. And even if for some reason he didn’t follow through on his promises, Selena and Camille would be okay. Because look at the beautiful life they were building for themselves in Chandlerville.

“We had it yesterday at the picnic,” Camille was saying. “But you weren’t there, Grandma and Grandpa.”

Selena watched Camille cuddled next to Joe, the large envelope that she’d colored flowers and hearts all over clutched in her hand. Inside was an enthusiastically decorated “Get Well Soon, Grandpa” card from Camille, and inside that, the sealed letter from the hospital’s clinic. Camille was smiling up at Marsha. And then she gently, very carefully hugged Joe.

“Open it,” she insisted. “Open my surprise, Grandpa!”

Joe took the card, while Belinda steadied Camille, keeping her from bouncing too hard on the bed.

“It’s very pretty,” Joe praised. “Just like you, Cricket.”

Selena blinked away the happy tears that came every time she heard her pet name for her child spoken in the deeper timbre of Joe’s voice.

“It’s prettier inside,” Camille insisted. “But Mommy wouldn’t let me color on the letter. Only your card.”

“Letter?” Joe asked.

“From the hospital.” Selena turned her smile to Dru and Brad, wanting to be certain they were still okay with this. They both smiled as the room quieted around them, the other partygoers catching on that something important was happening. “From the clinic.”

“Mommy said we had to wait for all the family to be together,” Camille said, “before we could open it.”

“Then I’m glad I wrapped up my last meeting in the city, so I could make the party,” a deep voice responded from the doorway.

“Oliver.” Selena raced through the crowd.

She threw her arms around his neck. She hung onto him the way she’d wanted to the morning he’d left.

“You’re back,” she gushed.

“I’m back.”

He dropped the briefcase he’d been carrying and hauled her closer, delighting everyone into a clapping frenzy when he swooped in for a kiss. His lips were warm and tender and too tantalizing for a public display of affection. But Selena couldn’t stop herself from indulging. When he finally set her away, it took her a full sixty seconds to focus on the sexy navy-blue suit he wore, complete with a burgundy tie, a ruthlessly starched white shirt, and gold cuff links.

“Wowza,” she said.

“Why thank you, ma’am.”

“The party invitation said casual dress.”

“I didn’t have time to change. And I needed to show off my best stuff at this morning’s incorporation meeting. A man can’t throw down casual when he’s negotiating with his lawyers and new business partner.”

“A new what?”

“A peer of mine on the IT contracting circuit, a competitor, really. She nailed my last two prospective clients because I couldn’t get my pitches together in time. She’s been after me to combine resources for years. I just made her, and myself, very happy by obliging.”

“Congratulations, Oliver,” Marsha said.

And then everyone was raising their lemonade in a new toast, even if they didn’t completely understand what was going on, offering a cheery “Congratulations!”

“But you work alone,” Selena said.

Oliver pecked a kiss on the tip of her nose. “Not anymore. Not if I’m going to live in Chandlerville and commute into the city. Not if I can’t travel all the time, and can’t relocate because a client somewhere needs a tech working at a job site for God knows how long.”

“But . . .”

“Not if I want to be here with you and Camille and my family, figuring out how to have a life, instead of making work my whole life. With Xan on board and the plans we’ve been hashing out for hiring staff and leveraging project loads, I’ll be able to do both now.”

“Xan?” Selena’s head was spinning.

Oliver kissed her again, making her tingle all over. “I’ll explain later.”

He grinned toward Camille and his parents and Belinda.

“Sounded like I was interrupting something important,” he said. “Something about a surprise from the hospital.”

“In Grandpa’s get-well card,” Camille chirped. Her pout made an appearance. “Can he open it now?”

“Grandpa?” Oliver asked Selena.

“I’ve been working on a few of my own projects.” There was so much to tell him.

“I’m intrigued,” he teased. “And I’m also going to commandeer the party for just another minute or two, with Camille’s permission, of course. I promise to make it up to you,” he said to Selena’s impatient child.

Camille looked from Oliver to Selena, who nodded her head in encouragement.

“All right,” Camille sighed. “What’s that?” She stared at Oliver and Selena the same as everyone else in the room.

That’s when Selena realized Oliver was holding something out to her. A robin’s-egg-blue box, tied with a white satin ribbon.

“Oh my God.” She gazed into his smiling green eyes, seeing his love there—and her forever. “Oliver . . .”

“I know it’s premature. But my lawyers tell me they’ve got things moving with Parker, now that he’s realized he no longer
has financial leverage with you. And from the sound of it, I got here just in time to do this right—the way I’ve wanted to since I walked into Tiffany’s the first of last week and found the perfect ring for you.”

“What . . .”

He’d bought her a ring from Tiffany’s? Her rebel bad boy from high school who’d spent his entire first week back in Chandlerville wearing wrinkled jeans, T-shirts, ratty tennis shoes, and baby vomit was wearing a designer suit and proposing to her with a ring that must have cost him a fortune.

“What way is the right way?” she asked.

Oliver held out the box and smiled when she took it. “I wanted to ask you to marry me before the paternity test results were back.”

He’d dropped his voice, to keep the last of what he’d said between them, not that it was a secret around town any longer. Selena covered her mouth with her hand. Oliver took it and dropped to one knee.

“Marry me, Selena Rosenthal. Marry me and share your daughter with me. Make babies with me. Help me figure out whatever married people have to figure out, so we can make this work the way my parents have. Forever.”

It was magical. It was Oliver promising everything that Selena had always dreamed of, for her and Camille. She threw herself into his arms again to the excitement of the wildly clapping partygoers.

Oliver stood and twirled her around, the Tiffany ring box crushed between them. She couldn’t wait to open it, to see the beautiful, breathtaking treasure Oliver had picked out just for her. She couldn’t wait to tell him everything, most important that
he
was what she’d decided she wanted—him and Camille and
her, together—no matter how long it took him to come home. But she had to be sure of just one thing first.

She turned toward Camille and felt Oliver wrap his arms around her from behind. He pulled Selena into the warmth of his body. Camille was still on Joe’s bed. Her special card had fallen from her hand, but she was smiling, too.

“What do you think?” Selena asked. She wouldn’t make a decision this big without making sure it was okay with her daughter.

“Does this mean we get to stay forever?” Camille asked, her excitement spreading around the room as people murmured their approval and looked back to Selena and Oliver. Brad and Dru, too. They were holding Teddy between them, and they looked thrilled.

“Forever, darlin’,” Oliver promised.

To which Camille gave a happy “That’s so cool!”

And then she turned back to Joe.

“Can we open your card now, Grandpa, and see your surprise?”

Laughter and cheers and more clapping filled the room. Selena and Oliver pulled the white satin ribbon together and opened the blue box. Her breath caught when she saw the ring. It was magnificent. But its sparkle was nothing compared with the excitement in Oliver’s eyes when he slid it onto her finger.

That done, with one more sweet kiss to seal the deal, they turned their attention back to their family and Camille’s big moment. Joe carefully read his card, his smile widening. He inspected each and every scribble his granddaughter had painstakingly drawn on both the card and the envelope.

“It’s beautiful.” He gave Camille a noisy kiss. “I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate being Father of the Year than getting something this special from my very first grandchild.”

Camille clapped. And then she held up the sealed envelope that had fallen to the mattress. “But you have to open this, too. Don’t you want your surprise?”

Joe ran his hand down Camille’s madly curling hair. “How about you help me.”

“Yay!” Camille pounced on the envelope.

She nearly tore it in two ripping it open. Her forehead wrinkled at the official-looking form inside, as if she’d expected something far more impressive after the drama of being told at least a hundred times that she’d have to wait to see what it was. She handed Joe the paper.

“What does it say?” she asked.

Marsha leaned over, and she and Joe silently read the report together. They handed it to Belinda, who passed the paternity results to Brad and Dru without glancing at the results.

“What’s it say?” Camille demanded. “Grandpa, what’s the surprise?”

“Well, Dad?” Oliver asked.

Joe chuckled, looking better than he had since his heart attack. He smiled at Selena and Oliver and pulled Camille into another gentle hug.

“Congratulations, son,” he said. “It’s a girl.”

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank my friend Jennifer Sewell, mother extraordinaire, for sharing what it’s like to raise a child with severe food allergies. We so frequently hear about kids who can’t have this or that when we drop our own off at school and play dates. It’s easy to lose sight of how quickly these everyday experiences can become dangerous. Or of how challenging getting through them can be for families, when the mere taste of someone else’s snack might be life-threatening for a little one. You’re an inspiration, Jennifer!

About the Author

Anna DeStefano is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the Mimosa Lane novels and the Atlanta Heroes series. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she’s lived in the South her entire life. Her background as a care provider and adult educator in the world of crisis and grief recovery lends itself to the deeper psychological themes of every story she writes. A wife and mother, she currently writes in a charming northeast suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, not all that different from her characters’ beloved Chandlerville. She is also a workshop and keynote speaker, a writing coach, and a freelance editor.

Get to know Anna at
annawrites.com
and the Anna DeStefano: Author page on Facebook, where she shares her inspirations, her challenges, a healthy dose of honest optimism, and tidbits about upcoming projects.

BOOK: Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2)
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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