Authors: James Lavene,Joyce Lavene
Emilie’s Christmas Love
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Copyright © 2012 by Joyce Lavene and Jim
All Rights Reserved
Cover art by Emmie Anne Studios
Table of Contents
Emilie Ferrier sat alone at a long table. The highly polished surface reflected her face and the delicate pink of her silk top as though it were a mirror. The blinds had been pulled over the large windows that overlooked the city. She wished they’d been left open, even though the night was stormy. It would have made the room seem less confining.
Across the room from her, two lawyers argued softly in a quiet corner.
Her lawyer was Alain Jackson of Jackson, Parsons and Levitt. He was sharp, expensive, and well-dressed. He leaned toward his counterpart, Jonathon Stewart, of Stewart and McPhail. The second man was shorter and rounder than Alain. He kept adjusting his glasses on his nervous face.
"Where's the problem, Jon? Your client doesn't want the little girl. My client does. At least let them meet and see what happens."
Mr. Stewart stood up abruptly, adjusting his cheap brown suit and touching a barely white handkerchief to his brow. "I’d like to help you, Alain. I really would. I’d like to help your client too. I'm sure Ms. Ferrier would make an excellent mother."
He looked her way with an apologetic eye. "But my client is adamant. There has to be
parents for this adoption to take place."
Emilie nodded slowly, acknowledging the man's regret with her eyes.
Alain fixed the shorter man with a shark's gaze. "There'd be more than the usual adoption fee in it for you, Jon. What's the harm in them meeting?"
Mr. Stewart drew himself up to his full height and tried to stare down the other man. "My client won’t be moved on this issue. I’ve asked before. I’m sorry, Ms. Ferrier. I wish you well with another adoption. Goodnight."
He walked quickly from the room. The door closed softly behind him.
Alain sighed heavily. He adjusted his silk tie and took a quick glance at his reflection in the mirror-like surface of the table. "I'm sorry too, Emilie. I thought that this was the one for you."
She closed her eyes for a brief instant and then smiled as she forced herself to take a deep breath. She had been trying to adopt a child for three years. The outcome wasn't unexpected. Still, she felt that familiar let down as the excitement washed away from her in the gray tide of reality.
"You did your best, Alain. I appreciate it." Emilie pushed her chair back across the pale blue carpet and reached for her wet coat.
"Let me help you with that," Alain offered quickly.
Emilie stood up, slowly, painfully, and accepted his help. He held the long, gray wool coat while she slid her arms into the sleeves then settled it across her slender shoulders.
"Stay in town tonight," he whispered from the general direction of her right ear. His hands lingered on her arms. "Let me take you out for dinner. There's a great musical at the performing arts center."
"I have to get back. Joda isn't herself during the full moon."
Alain, whose father had represented her family before him, snorted disdainfully. "Your aunt needs help, Emilie."
She turned and stared at him, green eyes flashing in quick anger. “Help?”
He smiled and moved his hands from her coat. "Help. You know. From a doctor."
He swallowed the words ‘
as quickly as he would have bad wine. "Your aunt needs someone to watch over her so that you can have a life too. You want a baby, but you've never even had a life of your own. You’re always too busy taking care of everyone else.”
Alain searched the oval of Emilie's face for some sign that his words had reached her. No emotion stirred in the depths of her strange green eyes.
. Her father had looked at him with those same eyes too.
"I've lived as much as I've wanted to live, Alain." She picked up her scarf and gloves. "Elspeth isn't a burden for me. I love her. Call me when you hear anything else, please."
"You know I will," he answered. "You won't reconsider about spending the night in town?"
Emilie looked up into his handsome face, knowing that the invitation was for more than dinner and a show. She'd known Alain Jackson most of her life. She'd seen his teasing, boyish good looks slide into the carefully manicured, tanned and sculpted man before her.
"I have to go home, Alain." She touched his hand then removed her fingers quickly before he could return the caress. "Thank you anyway."
He didn't fool himself. It was only a gesture of friendship. He'd known Emilie too long to think it was anything more.
Not that he didn't wish it.
He’d always found Emilie attractive, had always thought there might be fire behind those emerald green eyes.
Alain watched her walk from the conference room slowly, the limp pronounced in her right leg as it always was on cold rainy days. His father had told him that it was a curse from God on the wealthy, proud John Ferrier that his only child had been stricken by polio.
Yet, what Emilie lacked in physical prowess, she made up in grace. Her skin was like velvet and she had the face of an angel.
A cool, distant angel
. At least she had always been so to him. Blessed with the abiding legacy of the Ferrier fortune, she went her own way. She smiled at him, but her eyes were always somewhere else. He knew she wasn't really looking at him.
Emilie wrapped her scarf around her neck and pulled on her gloves as she rode the elevator down to the parking deck. She wasn't disappointed anymore, she told herself. She'd gone through it too many times.
She was too old. Or too young. Her skin was the wrong color. Or she wasn't the right religion. The child had to be adopted by two parents. Or the child could only be adopted by a man.
Tears welled in her eyes. She looked up at the white elevator ceiling, willing them away, refusing to let even one slide down her cheek.
She'd known since she was sixteen that the same polio virus that had crippled her had left her sterile. She'd cried the day the doctor had told her that she would never have children. She'd promised herself that she wouldn't cry again as long as there was hope that she could adopt.
Somewhere in the world was a child that needed her. That was God's plan for her. That was why she had been left barren and crippled, but alive, on the earth.
Emilie had cried many times since that promise. Every time the adoption that had seemed so promising, went wrong. Late in her bed at night when the long hours until morning seemed interminable.
The elevator doors parted at the parking deck and two men in dark suits stepped aside to let her out of the conveyance. Self consciously, she walked between them, with every footstep, painfully aware of her uneven stride.
How many boys in school had been attracted by her family name and money, only to turn away in revulsion when she got up to walk with them?
At least adult men weren't as cruel as their younger counterparts. In school, they had openly teased her. The terrible nicknames made her shun her classmates. As adults, they merely turned away and whispered quietly.
Isn’t it a pity?
Except for Alain Jackson, of course. She smiled. He had always made his regard for her, and her family's money, well known. He’d been married twice, twice divorced. Each time that he was free, he tried again to establish a relationship with her.
She wanted more than that from someone. She wanted to be the only woman in the world for that someone. He wouldn’t care about her name and her money. He’d love her for who she was inside.
And if you’re waiting for that to happen, you’re going to be alone forever.
She focused on trying to find the bright red tow truck that had brought her here. Her car had broken down on the Interstate and she’d had to call for help. She’d been fortunate that the man who owned the truck had been willing to bring her here first.
The tow truck was easy to find. It was parked between two spaces and part of an exit ramp. Emilie was determined not to need the driver’s help again getting into the truck. He’d picked her up and deposited her in there when she hadn’t been able to get in earlier.
Emilie ground her teeth against the pain from her leg, jerked open the door, and climbed up into the cab where he was waiting. It was more of an effort than she'd thought, but she finally half pulled, half pushed herself on the seat. She looked up, breathlessly, into the man's face as he calmly watched her.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Ready." She straightened herself against the door. "I'm sorry you had to wait so long."
The heavy layers of concrete that made up the circular parking deck had dampened the sound of heavy sheets of rain that were still swamping the city streets. The temperature had fallen again. As the tow truck pulled out of the shelter, a car slid sideways into traffic, striking two other cars that had been stopped at the light.
Emilie held her breath, and clutched at the door handle, as her driver did a quick circle around the accident then stopped abruptly at the light, the tires screeching a little on the wet pavement.
He looked at her and smiled then pulled back out into traffic when the light changed.
"You must have been a stunt driver before you owned the garage," she remarked, terrified, as he swerved from one lane to another.
Charlotte was a city of demon drivers. If they could make it to the Interstate ramp, she would feel safer driving at seventy miles an hour than she would on the crowded city streets—especially since her driver seemed intent on coming as close as he could to the other cars around them.
"Just intent on getting you home,
," he said, narrowly missing another car that had slid off to the side of the road in front of them.
"In one piece, I hope." She ignored his sarcastic tone.
"In one piece," he agreed.
She looked at him as they joined the other traffic on the Interstate. He was tall and lean. Not an ounce of surplus body weight hung on his spare frame. Yet, she'd felt the strength of his hands and arms as he'd tossed her effortlessly into the truck.
His face was dark and angular with a shadow of black beard haunting his chin and cheeks. Quick and assessing, his black eyes had roamed her face, too, when they’d met. He hadn’t smiled.
She didn’t know him, even though he was from the service that took care of her cars. He’d told her that Mr. Hanson, the previous owner of the mechanic and towing service her family had always used, had died the year before. It troubled her that she hadn’t even realized it. Was she becoming as cold and aloof as people had always said?
If it was true, it was only to shield her tender and vulnerable heart. She’d made mistakes in her life, mostly from trying to find someone to share herself with. She’d been hurt, and was careful not to let that happen again.
That was why she’d given up on the idea of a relationship and had decided to adopt a child. She could be herself with children. She was good with them. A child would love her for herself.
A truck passed them, spraying up dirty slush across the windows. Emilie grabbed at her armrest, terrified by the blind feeling of helplessness. She didn’t like being driven. It was important to her that she was in control.
When she glanced at her companion as the wipers cleared the window, she saw that he was smiling. “Something funny?”
“No. Not really. I guess I thought you’d be tougher.”
“Tougher? I don’t know what you mean.”
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Emilie ruminated over what he’d said. It bothered her. “Why did you think I’d be tough?”
He shrugged. “The family name, I guess. I’m not from Ferrier’s Mountain, but I’ve heard the stories about your family since I got there.”