Substitute Family Chapters 20 and 21

Chapter 20

Emily heard from Peg before she heard from Garret. “See what you’ve done, Emily! He is putting his house up for sale.”

            “I didn’t have anything to do with that decision.”

            “You did, too. Don’t pretend that your trip to Dallas did not change Garret’s mind about moving the kids down there with him. Now he is not planning on moving back.”

            Emily did not deny that her trip had influenced Garret. But she still held to the belief that it was the right thing for the twins to be raised by their father, even if he was single. They would adjust to life in Dallas. And someday they, and Garret, would be grateful that she had interfered.

            Her aunt, though, was unforgiving.

            A couple of nights later, Garret called and told her he had spoken with Peg. She could hear the discouragement and anger in his voice.

“It went worse than I thought it would. Peg gave me a tongue-lashing that I am still reeling from. You would think that I had the house built for her, and not for Julie.”

“She’s taking the whole thing really personally,” Emily said.

“Do you think I should wait and put the house up for sale later?”

“I don’t know. Will it make any difference when you sell it?”

“I was thinking that maybe later in the spring, once they get used to the idea of the kids living down here, they’ll be less hurt by the decision.” Emily thought he was right, but she hesitated to give him her opinion. “What’s up, Em? Why are you being so quiet about it?”

“I’ve been getting a lot of flak for influencing your decisions, and I’m not sure how much more trouble I want to get myself into.”

“If you don’t give me your honest opinions, who am I going to trust?” His tone was serious. “Ron and Taylor have both told me to put it up for sale and buy something down here. My mom and stepdad thought I should sell it instead of rent it out, since renters can be hard on houses.”

“What if you could find someone to rent with the option to buy?” she suggested. “If they knew there was a chance they could buy the home in a few months, they would probably take better care of it.”

“That’s an idea I had not thought of.” Garret sounded relieved. “Don’t let everyone pressure you to keep your opinions to yourself, Emily. It never mattered to you before.”

“I never had any of my family turn on me before this.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It isn’t your fault. I’m the one who brought the kids to Dallas to force you into your decision.”

“You didn’t force me into anything. You made me come face to face with my options, though, and I am grateful for your intervention.”

“You’re the only one then,” she said, attempting humor. Then more seriously, she said, “I don’t know how all of the details work on a rent with an option to buy. But I do know of a family who would be interested in renting in this area and possibly buying the house.”

“Who is that?”

“Do you remember Russ and Denise, from the church?”

“The associate pastor and his wife, right? I had not realized they were looking for a place.”

“Well, she’s expecting again, baby number three, and the house they live in now is pretty small. They’ve started looking for something different.”

“Can they afford a house in that price range?”

“I think they can. He makes a good salary from the church, and he has a housing allowance of some sort, too. Do you want me to talk to them about it, or would you want to advertise it first?”

“Actually, no, I would prefer to rent to someone I know. We could set it up on a six-month contract, for rent, and then they would have first option to buy. The rent would go towards the down payment on the house, right?”

“I think that’s the way it works. What if after six months you decide not to sell?”

“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but I guess we can put some kind of clause in the contract to that effect. Like I mentioned before, if I move back to Michigan, I won’t want to live there.”

“That’s right. You said you would want to get a place in the country.” Emily recalled their earlier conversation. “This way, when six months are up and the house goes up for sale, you’ll know whether you want to buy a place in the Dallas area or continue to rent.”

“Speaking of renting, I’m still looking for a suitable apartment, or apartments. I don’t have much time until the weekends, but I’ll make some more calls on Saturday.”

Before the young moms’ Bible study the next morning, Emily found a few minutes to talk to Denise. “Are you guys still looking for a new place?” she asked quietly, and Denise nodded.

“We’ve been looking at the ads and driving around, but nothing in our price range has really caught our eye, yet.” Denise patted her still-flat tummy. “I guess we’re looking at a three-bedroom right now. Four-bedroom houses are beyond our price-range right now, and whether it’s a boy or a girl, the baby can share a room with either Kip or Kayli.”

“I know of a place that’s going to rent, with the option to buy after six months. Would you and Russ be interested in Garret and Julie’s house on those terms?” Emily made sure her voice did not carry, as other women were walking into the room.

Denise’s eyebrows raised in delighted surprise. “That would be wonderful. Can we talk after the Bible study?”

After Bible study, they decided to go out for lunch. “The only thing that tastes good right now is a chicken sandwich, although I’ll probably throw this up later,” Denise said, as they settled into a booth at a fast food restaurant. “It’s nice that they can use booster seats now, isn’t it?” she added, looking at the twins, who were sitting next to Emily.

“It takes up less space than a highchair.” Emily reached for Cody as his booster seat started to slide off the edge of the seat. “They are not as sturdy, though.”

“So Garret decided not to sell the house outright?”

“Peg and Dan were so upset that he wondered if he were doing the right thing. His parents did not want him to rent because they were afraid of what would happen to the house, not that you guys would be that way,” Emily reassured her friend hastily. She saw the dimples in Denise’s cheeks as she smiled.

“You mean like having a lot of wild parties in the house?” Denise teased. “No, we aren’t like that.”

“Well, I know you’ve been looking for a house in that area, close to the church. I don’t know how much he wants to sell the house for, or what you can afford to pay, but I thought if you rented with the option to buy, it would give everyone some time to make the final decisions.”

“It would be pretty hard to live in the house for six months and then have to give it up,” Denise admitted. “They have a beautiful home.”

Emily was thoughtful for a moment, then she said seriously, “Garret talked about selling the house while I was in Dallas that weekend. He said even if he comes back to Michigan to live, he would not want to live in that house. There were too many memories of Julie there. He said that he would have preferred an older house on a few acres in the country, but she wanted to be in that school district and close to the church. It was more her dream home, than his.”

“And mine,” Denise admitted. “I’ll definitely talk to Russ about it tonight.”

Emily took a scrap of paper and pen from her purse and wrote down Garret’s phone number. “Have Russ call Garret and go over the details,” she said, handing the slip across the table to Denise.

“Has Garret found somewhere for you guys to live in Dallas?” Emily felt the heat rise in her cheeks at Denise’s question. Denise looked apologetic. “That sounded worse than what I meant.”

“I know what you meant. It’s kind of an awkward situation. He doesn’t have a lot of time during the week to look, but he said he was going to spend all day Saturday looking at apartment houses. Hopefully, he will find something, or rather two of something, suitable.”

“It seems like it would be easier to just get married,” Denise said with a grin.

Emily gasped. “That’s not even a possibility, Denise.”

“Well, I think it would be romantic. Garret needs someone just like you in his life, Emily.”

“He has someone like me in his life, Denise. Me—and I’m the nanny.” Emily would have liked to say that was all she ever wanted to be, but her feelings for Garret ran pretty deep. She was sure Denise knew that, and her next comment confirmed it.

“But if he fell in love with you and offered you marriage, you would take it, wouldn’t you?”

“I could not marry someone who would always think of me as second- best,” she stated firmly.

When Garret called later that evening, Emily knew by the happy sound in his voice that he had arranged to rent the house to Russ and Denise. “I talked with Russ tonight, and it sounds like we have an agreement on the house. They’ll rent it for six months, with the option to buy it if I put it up for sale at that time. I guess it’s all working out, thanks to you, Em.”

His words of praise warmed Emily’s heart, but she knew it was not all her doing.

“You’d better be thanking God for working it all out,” she reminded him, and he fell silent. “I’m sure that’s what Russ and Denise are doing right now.”

“Well, any way you look at it, it’s going to work out for the best right now. I thought you would like to tell Peg and Dan that I’m not going to put it up for sale just yet, and explain the situation to them.” He paused for a moment, and then asked, “Do they like Russ and Denise?”

Emily laughed. “Still worried about their response? Yes, they do like Russ and Denise. I think they’ll be happy with your choice. Do you want to call them and tell them you’ve changed your mind? If I call and tell them, they’ll probably give me credit for swaying your opinion.”

“Well, you’re going to need their help getting the house ready for moving, so you can use the brownie points. Besides, I’ve had enough of their opinions to last me for a while, and they would find some way to run down my decisions even if it’s a good thing.”

Once Peg and Dan learned that Garret was only going to rent the house for the winter, and not sell it right away, they were able to set aside some of their anger. They were still upset about the twins being so far away, but now they did not feel like the move was a permanent one.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Garret texted pictures of two apartments to Emily. “Both apartments are in an older home near the Christian college,” he said in a follow-up phone call. “The first- floor apartment has two bedrooms. The second-floor apartment is occupied, but the attic was remodeled into a studio apartment. I think you would like it. It has its own entrance.”

The apartments looked bland. The two-bedroom was done in neutral colors, and the studio had blue carpet and light blue walls.”

“It’s very blue,” she said, and Garret laughed.

“I wondered if that would be a problem.”

“No, I like blue. And I have a bedspread and curtains that would look nice in it.”

“I haven’t thought about curtains, or anything else like that,” Garret said. “Would you mind coming up with something for the two-bedroom, too?”

“You want me to decorate it for you?”

“Please, if you would. I went through all of the choosing of curtains and carpet and paint colors with Julie when we bought the house. I did not enjoy any of it.”

“Speaking of your house, what do you intend to do with all of your stuff?”

“I’ll be bringing the furniture with me.”

“What about the decorations, the books, the knick-knacks?” She could tell her question bothered him when he got real quiet. “Your wedding china?”

She heard him let out a breath. “Can’t I leave all of that for Denise and Russ?”

“She will want to move her own things in. I know, because we have already talked about it.”

“I don’t have time right now to take care of it all. I’ve got the office closing from Christmas Eve through New Year’s to move, but I didn’t figure in time to pack up everything I wasn’t bringing with me.”

“Do you mind if I ask Peg and Melanie to pack things away? We can reserve the corner of your basement and put everything in plastic tubs, so it won’t take any hurt to store it, until you decide to take it with you.”

“I’m not going to want most of it, and I don’t need much. The wedding china can be packed away, but if you would pack up the rest of the dishes and pans, anything that I would use down here, that would be helpful. I can pay you for your time.”

“We can talk about that later,” she said. “That brings up another question, are these two apartments affordable?”

“Yes,” he said without hesitation. He seemed glad to get off the subject of packing up his house. “They’re pretty reasonable. They are unfurnished, but each has a stove and refrigerator. There is space for a washer and dryer in the downstairs apartment’s bathroom, which we could both use. The parking lot is in the back of the house. The front yard is pretty small, but it’s on a quiet street.”

“It sounds great.”

“I thought you would agree, so I asked the landlord to hold it for us.” Garret was clearly relieved that he had made the right choice. “We’ll rent the downstairs two-bedroom, and the studio for you.”

Peg and Melanie were glad to be able to go through Julie’s things and preserve them. Emily asked them if they minded if she took the kids to Garret’s mom’s house for a few days while they worked on sorting and packing, so the chaos did not upset the kids.

“That’s a great idea, Emily,” her aunt said.

            Emily was nervous about spending time with Garret’s mom. She had seen her a few times in the years since Julie married Garret. She was quiet, but she was kind. Emily needed some kindness right now, after her aunt and cousin had turned on her.

His mom was glad to spend time with the twins, and they seemed pretty content as long as Emily was close by. “They are pretty attached to you, aren’t they, Emily?”

            “They are. And right now they sense that things are changing. So they are especially nervous. Cody, as you can see, gets easily excited. Chloe tends to whine more.”

“I hope they adjust to their new home,” his mom said. “I don’t know how you are going to manage them with the move, if they are this anxious just getting ready for it.”

“It’s going to be an adjustment, for all of us,” Emily said. “I’m afraid I am not feeling very brave at the moment.”

To help pass the time, Grace showed Emily the photo albums of her family when Garret and his brother were growing up. Emily tried not to show her delight as she poured through the albums, looking at pictures of Garret from childhood through high school. Grace shared stories with Emily, some of which Emily had heard from Julie at one time or another.

            “I worried that Julie and Garret married too young,” Grace said. “Garret’s dad and I married when we were still teenagers, and our marriage was a disaster. I was afraid theirs would be, too.”

            “They had a good marriage.”

            “Yes, they did.  It was so hard to watch Garret struggle after his loss.” Grace asked thoughtfully, “Do you think he moved to Dallas to forget about Julie and the kids?”

“I think he wanted to take a break from everything,” Emily said. “But I don’t think he meant it to be permanent, when he accepted the transfer. It was in his head that he would complete the three-month trial period, then decide whether to move the kids to Dallas or to come back to his job in Michigan.”

She hadn’t told anyone about Garret’s decision to keep the fact that he was a widower with children from anyone at work. Or the problems it had caused for him when Emily brought the kids to Dallas. Those were things that she did not think he would want anyone, even his mom, to know.

“He didn’t have much of a father, I’m afraid. Not until I married his stepdad. I’ve always worried about the kind of father he would be. I thought he would work through his grief, and start to show an interest in the kids again. I’m glad you went down there and confronted him.”

“I think he is glad, too,” Emily said. “Although I think he would have come to the conclusion himself even if I hadn’t showed up.”

“Are you and Garret—together?” Grace asked.

            Emily’s face flamed with embarrassment. “No, we’re not.”

            “I’m sorry for asking, Emily,” Grace apologized. “It’s just that you seem to really care for Garret, and if he’s happier now, I thought it was because he’s found someone special to share his life with, in you.”

            “Well, I do care for Garret. He’s been a part of the family for a long time,” Emily said, and could see that her tight-lipped reply did not fool Garret’s mom. With a sigh, she closed the photo album and leaned back against the couch. Looking across the room and meeting Grace’s eyes, she said honestly, “I care for him, a lot more than what I probably should. I don’t think it will ever amount to anything.”

            “I thought after the way his dad treated us, I would never want to be with another man,” Grace said quietly. “We endured a lot of abuse before I finally got up the courage to leave and take the kids with me. When Doug came into my life, I was not willing to accept his love right away. He was so good to the kids, and me, and he would not ask for anything in return. He just spent time with us, took the kids to ball games, and treated us to pizza—a lot. The feelings I had for him just grew over time, little by little, while the anger and bitterness I felt for my first husband gradually was replaced by love for Doug. Maybe that’s how it will be with you and Garret, if you just hang in there.”

            “Well, I’m not going anywhere, unless he asks me to.” Emily turned as Cody came running over to her. She scooped him up onto her lap, and hugged him before he wiggled and climbed back down. “There are two very important reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, and as long as they need me, I’ll stay.”

            “They do love you, too,” Grace said. “In time, it will all work out, if it’s meant to be.”

            Even though Garret’s mom was not a practicing Christian, her practical words of wisdom encouraged Emily’s heart.

Chapter 21

Garret was riding with Ron and Taylor from Dallas to Michigan, in their SUV. Ron and Garret took turns driving and drove straight through without staying overnight. The weather held up pretty good for their drive, until they reached Michigan and ran into a snowstorm. They dropped Garret off at his house at one o’clock on Christmas Eve.

Emily came from the kitchen when she heard the front door open. Seeing Garret set Emily’s heart racing, and she willed herself to remain calm as she responded,

“Hi. I’m glad you made it home safely.” Looking around the room, she thought about how it must look through his eyes. There were boxes stacked everywhere. “Of course, it doesn’t look much like home, does it?”

“It hasn’t felt like home for a long time. Are the kids sleeping?”

“I put them down for a nap about an hour ago. I was not sure what time you were going to come, and I thought they would be less crabby if they slept awhile.”

“Thanks.” Garret took off his coat and laid it across the back of the sofa.

            “Do you want something to eat or drink?” she asked. Like it was her house and he was a guest. It sounded funny to both of them.

“I think I’ll shower before they get up,” Garret said.

While Garret showered, Emily put the finishing touches on a dessert she was making for the Christmas Eve dinner at her parents’ house. She was finally going to get to meet her brother’s fiancée. Her mom would be picking her up this afternoon, so Emily could leave her car for Garret to use. His, of course, was left behind in Dallas, since he had ridden in with Ron and Taylor. He would be driving the U-Haul truck back to Dallas, while Emily followed in her car.

Garret had not wanted to spend the night alone with the kids, fearful that they would wake up and cry for Emily, but she had encouraged him that they would be fine. His mom and stepdad were coming in the morning and staying to help him pack the U-Haul van with his furniture and things. His younger brother was going to go with them to Dallas, to help with driving the U-Haul.

They had everything pretty well organized. Emily was nervous about everything, packing the truck, driving the car all the way to Dallas, even though they were staying overnight in a hotel half-way there. And she was nervous about starting a new life with the twins in Dallas.

But mostly, she was nervous because of how her feelings for Garret had developed over the past few months. She had known last summer she was falling in love with him. Even that did not factor into her decision to be the 24/7 nanny. That had been for the twins, that their lives would not have to be upset if he did not make the move permanent. And it really hadn’t factored into her trip to Dallas with the twins. That had been led by anger and frustration that he wouldn’t take responsibility for being a father.

But during that weekend they had spent together in Dallas, she realized just how strongly she was attracted to him, physically. And how much she enjoyed his company. She felt that since that time, when they talked on the phone and made their plans for the move, that they had become friends. He was grateful for her help, and he praised her decisions. That had added to her attraction for him, even though she told herself that there was no chance of anything developing between them.

But knowing that, and convincing her heart of not getting involved, were two entirely different things. She was not moving to Dallas just so the twins could adjust to their new home and to help Garret take care of them, she was moving to Dallas because she could not imagine life without him, and without his kids.

It was only temporary in her mind, this time of being the nanny. Garret would adjust to being a dad again. She knew she was going to have to break away from them eventually. So she had made tentative plans for her own future. They would turn two in April. She thought that by summertime, she would have them potty-trained, and they would be talking. She would help Garret find quality day care for them, and work part-time for Garret over the summer, while the twins and Garret adjusted to someone else taking care of them. By next fall, she hoped to do some subbing in one of the schools in Dallas, until she could find a permanent position.

She had not told Garret anything about her future plans, but she had talked it over with her parents. And she had prayed about it.

Garret was an attractive man, and he would eventually become lonely as a single dad and want to find a new wife. Emily would be heartbroken when that happened, but it would be for the best. She could never take Julie’s place in his heart.

For herself, she planned to become involved in church when she got settled in Dallas. Russ had given her the number of the pastor at the church in Dallas that was the same denomination as theirs. She planned to look up the church after the first of the year and try it out. She hoped they had an active singles’ group and she might make some new friends. She didn’t just want a boyfriend, although that would be nice if she met someone special. She would miss the friendships with Denise and Melanie and the time they spent together. She wanted to find new friends to do things with in the evenings and on weekends, when Garret would be home with the twins.

By the time the shower stopped running, Chloe was awake and crying. “Let me get her,” Garret called out. Emily tried not to look at his bare chest when he came back into the kitchen carrying Chloe.

“Da-Da,” Chloe said, patting Garret’s shoulder. Her sunny smile showed her delight in having Garret home.

“I’ll finish getting ready,” he said, setting her down. She started to cry, and he hurried over to his suitcase and threw on a sweatshirt. “It’s not this cold in Texas,” he said, when he picked Chloe up again.

Cody awakened a few minutes later, and shouted loudly with excitement when he saw Garret.

Emily’s mom came by at three o’clock.  She hugged Garret.

“You look good. That sunshine must agree with you.”

He told her what the temperature had been in Dallas.

“Oh, you’ll make me jealous,” Geri told him, sighing. “I keep telling Bob that I want to move to a warmer climate someday.”

“You’ll have to come down and visit sometime, and see if you like it,” Garret suggested.

“You know, that sounds like a nice plan for a spring vacation,” Geri said, serious now.

Emily said goodbye to the twins, who looked so sad that Garret was worried.

“Are you sure I can’t talk you into staying, Em?”

“You’ll be all right. I haven’t packed away the DVD and their movies yet.”

He grimaced. “I had forgotten how annoying those music videos are.”

“I packed a suitcase for them for tonight,” Emily said.

“Thanks. I would not have even thought about what they would need to wear.”

She laughed. “I know.”

On Christmas Eve, Emily enjoyed a quiet evening with her parents, her brother and his fiancé, Sondra, who was outspoken and had a great sense of humor. Emily and her parents all liked her. After a simple dinner, they opened gifts, and went to the candlelight service at her parents’ church.

The peace that settled on her during the simple service relaxed her mind, easing the stress of the move. She had prayed about her decision, and felt like she was making the right choice. But it was still a little scary to leave everything familiar behind her and start over.

She said goodbye to her brother and his fiancée after brunch on Christmas morning. Her parents and she were going to Peg’s house for Christmas dinner. Her mom and Peg’s brother and his wife would be there, and one of Emily’s cousins, who was in college. The other cousin, they explained, had to go to dinner with the in-laws that day.

Her mom’s brother took care of their father, so Emily’s grandfather was also there for dinner. She hugged and kissed him hello, and tried to carry on bits of conversation with him. He was in the early stages of dementia, though, and he often did not remember what he had started out to say.

“I hear you’re moving to Texas, Em,” her uncle said.

“I’m leaving the day after tomorrow.”

“How does it feel not to be teaching anymore?” her aunt asked.

“At first it felt strange, but now I know it would be hard to return to the classroom, when I’m needed somewhere else.”

Garret had reluctantly agreed to bring the twins for dinner, so Peg’s family could see them. Emily stayed in the background while Peg helped Chloe get her snowsuit off.

When Garret had Cody out of his snowsuit, Cody ran over to Emily. “Memmy!” he yelled, wrapping his arms around her legs.

“They’ve grown really attached to you,” Emily’s aunt, Joan, remarked.

“Literally,” Emily joked, shaking her leg slightly. Then she bent down

and picked Cody up. After a brief hug, he wanted to get down and play.

Six-month-old Lance was the only child there besides the twins. He received his fair share of attention from all of the grownups, who took turns holding him. Chloe would not leave Garret’s lap, so Cody entertained everyone with his antics. He built a block tower and crashed it, yelling, “Uh-oh.” When he heard the laughter, he did it again. Then he bent over and put his head on the floor, and looked up at everyone through his legs.

“Remember when Julie used to do that?” Peg said with a laugh.

Emily looked over at Garret, and saw that while he was not enjoying himself, he was managing to look polite. He answered the questions that her uncles and her dad fielded him, mostly about his new job.

“What’s the weather like in Texas?” Dan asked, rather loudly.

“Texas? I thought Emily was going to Texas,” her grandfather said, looking puzzled.

“She is. Garret lives in Texas, and Emily is going to move there to help take care of the twins, Dad,” Peg tried to explain.

“They ought to get married first, before they set up housekeeping,” he said. Emily’s face flamed with embarrassment, and Garret turned red. “That’s the trouble with young people nowadays, they want to put the cart before the horse.”

No one spoke for a moment. “They won’t be living together, Dad,” Emily’s mom said, loudly enough so that he could hear her correctly. “They will be living in different apartments. Emily is going to babysit the twins while Garret works.”

“I see.” Emily felt the heat drain out of her face, as it appeared that her grandfather understood. She glanced over at Garret, who struggled between anger and laughter. “Seems like it would just be easier if they get married,” her grandfather said.

Emily felt horrified at having Garret hear his words. She felt her face grow hot again, and saw the redness creep into Garret’s face as well. She quickly looked away from Garret, her eyes filling with tears.

“I think it’s time to eat now,” Dan spoke up. Emily was grateful for the diversion.

“He does not know what he’s saying,” Geri whispered to Garret as they were walking towards the dining room.

After dinner and the exchange of gifts, Emily’s uncle and aunt got ready to take her grandfather back home.

“I don’t know how you do it, Joan,” Geri commented as her brother bundled their dad into his coat.

“Some days are worse than others, but he really keeps us quite entertained,” Joan responded with a smile. She hugged Emily. “Don’t worry about the things he says. I think what you are doing to help Garret is wonderful. I wish you the best of luck as you get settled in your new homes.”

Emily hugged her uncle and then her grandfather, who patted her back and whispered, “You take good care of that young man.”

She blushed and could not look at Garret.

“I guess I’ll be going, too,” she heard Garret say. She watched as Peg helped him bundle the kids into their coats.

“Do you want to leave them here awhile?” Peg asked.

“I probably shouldn’t. My mom and stepdad, and my brother, are coming over to spend the night, and they’ll be getting there in a couple of hours. I thought these two might take a nap before they get there, but I don’t know if I’ll have any luck.” His smile was kind. Perhaps because she was in the holiday spirit, Peg did not seem offended at his rejection of her offer.

“Where will they all sleep?” Emily asked.

“I told them they would have to bring their own sleeping bags, and their own food. Mom wanted to have a little more time with these two before we head out. She and Dad are going to watch them while I go skiing with my brother tomorrow after we get the moving van packed.”

“That will be fun,” Emily’s mom said.

“I wanted to get at least one skiing trip in before I head south for the winter,” he said. After a moment of thought, he turned to Emily and said, “Do you want to go skiing with us?”

“Actually, I have not been on skis since I was in high school, and to be honest, I don’t miss it,” she said, smiling. “But thanks for asking.”

“How about you and Scott, Melanie?” Garret turned to his sister-in- law. “Do you want to go?”

“Not this time,” she answered, although Scott looked as though he would have enjoyed the outing. “I think you should spend that time with your family.”

End of Chapter 21

Come back next week to read Chapters 22 & 23 of Substitute Family.

Published by Carol Underhill

Author of Christian romance. Mom to 3 adult children and a spoiled Lab. Household includes several rescued cats. Loves flavored coffees and quiet mornings. Likes finding new authors on Kindle and binge reading all their books.

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