She nodded and turned away from him. Her hand was on the car door when he spoke again.

“Will the choir be downtown again any time soon?” he asked brusquely.

Monica wasn’t so dense not to know what he wanted. He was asking to see her again. She shook her head and not daring to look at him, she said, “I was planning to do some Christmas shopping though.”


The question shouldn’t have been so difficult. Her plans had been nebulous at best. Sometime over the next weekend, but that seemed far too long to wait to see Chet again. A whole week was out of the question.

“Monday night,” she said, still not looking at him. “Around six.” Not waiting for a sign of confirmation from him, she hurriedly climbed out of the car. Walking as fast as she could, she rushed toward the house, not looking back until she reached her front porch. Only then did she chance a look over her shoulder.

Chet was parked in the same spot, she noted, waiting for her to make it safely inside the house.

Chapter 9

Just when everything was straight in her mind, this had to happen, Jody mused as she drove home from work Tuesday afternoon. The snow that had taken Seattle by surprise on Sunday had melted away Monday morning to a dirty slush that filled the side streets.

Jody’s route from the house to the office had been traveled so often she could almost do it blind. She avoided the busy intersections by taking a side street that led her past Providence Hospital.

For reasons she couldn’t explain even to herself, she pulled into the hospital parking lot and climbed out of her car. Glen had asked to take Timmy and her out for pizza Thursday evening, and she’d put him off, claiming she had to check her schedule. He’d seemed surprised and disappointed, but he hadn’t questioned her further.

Timmy claimed he didn’t want another father, not now, not after he’d carefully gone through Jeff’s items. For the first time his natural father was real to him. It didn’t seem right to start another relationship now.

The nativity scene had been up for several days and she’d driven past it for the last seven years without ever stopping. Now seemed the perfect time. Now seemed the worst possible moment.

She walked over and stood before the manger scene, and breathed in the serenity.

“Jeff,” she whispered, “help me.” She didn’t honestly expect him to hear her, nor did she believe it was possible for him to respond to her despondent prayer. Yet she reached out to him, because she wasn’t sure which way to turn.

“You’d like Glen,” she whispered. “He’s the kind of man you would have called a friend.”

The only sounds that returned to her were from the traffic in the streets.

This wasn’t helping, Jody realized. Nor was it hurting. She took a few more minutes to soak in whatever comfort she could before returning to the car.

Timmy was waiting for her. Every day she called the babysitter when she left the office and Timmy walked down the block, unlocked the house, and was there when she arrived home a few minutes later. It made him feel less of a kid and more of a young adult. Less of a Timmy and more of a Tim.

The lights shone from the windows as she pulled into the driveway. Timmy was in the family room, the football video game blaring from the television screen.

“Glen called,” he told her when she joined him.

“Did you bring in the mail?”

“It’s on the counter. Nothing interesting, just bills.”

Jody sorted through the small stack, disappointed not to receive so much as a single Christmas card. Her own had yet to be mailed.

“Are you going to call Glen back?” Timmy wanted to know as he expertly manipulated the game control.

“In a minute.” She scooted the ottoman over to her son, who was kneeling on the floor, intent on his game. “Can we talk?”

“In a minute, Mom, I’m just to the good part.”

“Are you ready to save the world again?”

He broke his concentration long enough to cast her a disgruntled look. “You can’t do that with football.”


Apparently having lost, he groaned and set aside the controller. “Okay,” he said, looking at her expectantly. “I’m ready.”

“Glen wanted to take us out to dinner one day this week. What do you think?”

Timmy’s eyes brightened with enthusiasm before his gaze slid to the row of trophies he’d set out the night before on the fireplace mantel.

“I don’t need another dad.”

“I remember you said that earlier, I just wanted to be sure you meant it.”

Although he looked disappointed, Timmy said, “I meant it. You’d better call Glen back and tell him no.”

Timmy was unusually quiet during dinner, but Jody wasn’t up to much conversation herself. After she’d finished the dishes, she phoned Glen, and was grateful when his answering machine came on. It was a cowardly thing to do, but she left a message on his recorder declining his offer to take Timmy and her to dinner.

Timmy was sound asleep when the doorbell chimed. Jody glanced at her watch, wondering who’d be dropping by unannounced at this late hour. She hesitated, then realized anyone who intended to do her harm wasn’t likely to ring the doorbell first.

Glen stood on the other side of the door.


“I know it’s late, but do you have a moment?”

“Of course,” she said, stepping aside.

A blast of cold air accompanied him as he stepped into her house. He rubbed his hands together and cast her an apologetic look.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“If you don’t mind,” he said, continuing to look uneasy. “I shouldn’t have come.”

Jody felt a twinge of guilt over the way she’d rejected his offer to take Timmy and her out for pizza. It had been a cowardly thing to do.

“Please, sit down,” she said, motioning toward the kitchen table while she assembled a pot of coffee and waited for the liquid to drain through.

Glen stood until she’d finished with the coffee before he took a seat himself. Jody guessed that this didn’t have anything to do with manners. He seemed preoccupied and nervous.

“I’m not exactly sure what I want to say,” he began, stretching his arms across her tabletop. “I don’t doubt that I’m making a fool of myself. I seem to do that when it comes to dealing with women.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.” Jody’s guilt was mounting until it was a palatable thing. Glen was one of the nicest men she’d ever known.

“I guess the real reason I’m here is to ask you what I did wrong.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I realize I was rushing you and if I haven’t already apologized for that, then I am now. I . . . it’s just that I think the world of you and Timmy, and knowing I’d done something—”

“Glen,” she said, interrupting him. “Believe me, please, it isn’t anything you said or did. Timmy received a package from his grandmother, Jeff’s mother, with things that had been Jeff’s as a boy, and now . . .”

“And now,” Glen finished for her, “Timmy feels another man in his life would be betraying his father’s memory.” Glen grew silent for a moment, then slowly he leveled his gaze on her. “More important, so would you. I know how much you loved Jeff,” he continued, his voice gaining conviction, “that was one of the things that attracted me to you the most. You’re not the kind of woman who’d give her heart lightly, and when you do, it means something.”

The compliment made her uncomfortable.

“That appeals to me, Jody, because I’m that kind of person myself. I didn’t fall in love until recently and it’s been hell getting over that relationship. Love means more to me than being sexually compatible. It means being an important part of your life as you’ll be in mine. It means encouraging you to be everything you’ve ever wanted to be, sharing in your triumphs and comforting you in your failures. It means giving you the courage to try again. That’s what love is all about.”

Jody didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t likely to meet anyone like Glen in a good long time. A man who looked outside himself was a rarity. He’d spoken of his broken relationship and the pain it had brought him, and yet he was willing to trust again, willing to love again.

“I’ve been thinking about marriage for a long time,” Glen went on. “And because of that I’ve put unnecessary pressure on you and Timmy. I want you to know how sorry I am.”

“Please,” she said, “don’t apologize again. It isn’t anything you’ve done.”

He stood as if sitting had become intolerable. “I want you to know I don’t plan on taking Jeff away from you and Timmy. It would be impossible. All I’m asking is that you give me a chance to prove myself to you. All I’m asking is that you make room in your life for me.”

Jody recalled the way her son’s eyes had lit up when she mentioned the outing with Glen and how that expression had gradually faded as he looked at the trophies that had once belonged to his father. Like her, Timmy had assumed having dinner with another man would betray Jeff’s memory.

Glen plowed his hand through his hair. “I realize men aren’t supposed to react to rejection like this. We’re supposed be flippant and to take it on the chin and all that. Forgive me, Jody, if I’ve made you uncomfortable. I hope I haven’t embarrassed you, but I wanted to speak my piece. I figured I’d better do it while I had the courage.” He turned and walked out of her kitchen.

He was at the front door before she stopped him. “Glen?”


“Thank you for stopping by. You’ve given me something to think about. I’ll . . . probably see you at the copy machine soon.”

He nodded and his soft, dark eyes held hers captive. “I can be patient, Jody, I just haven’t proved it yet, but I promise you I will.” With that, he turned and let himself out the door.

“Here they come.” Bonnie Stewart stuck her head in the labor room door where Leah was stripping the sheets from the bed. Her patient had recently delivered a healthy eight-pound baby girl, her third child. The labor and delivery had gone smoothly and mother and father were delighted with their latest addition.

Leah’s shift had been over half an hour earlier and she’d hoped to be long gone before the birthing-class tour group arrived. There was something about ten pregnant woman parading through the labor and delivery rooms that left a sour taste in her mouth.

She was being unfair, Leah realized, but meeting with these groups had always been a painful experience for her. Dealing with the mothers-to-be, one and often two or three at a time, was challenge enough. A roomful tested the very limits of her patience.

“I’ll be out of here in nothing flat,” Leah tossed over her shoulder. Bonnie didn’t know the extent of Leah’s dislike for these predelivery tours, but she was aware enough to warn her the little darlings were on their way.