Authors: Noelle Adams
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #Romantic Comedy, #Contemporary Fiction
Family for Christmas
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by
Noelle Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.
Content Editing: Kristin
Proofreading: Vanessa Bridges,
Lydia took ten deep
breaths in a row.
she was still so angry she wanted to scream, she took ten more deep breaths
before pulling her car out of the church parking lot and heading for the
only calmed down slightly when she grabbed her phone and connected to Daniel,
the pastor of her hometown church, who was always her first call after a
meeting as frustrating as the one she’d just had.
rang four times, and Lydia was about to hang up, realizing it was Sunday
afternoon and Daniel was probably resting.
she could disconnect, he answered the phone. “Hey, Lydia.”
she said, feeling even guiltier, since he sounded kind of distracted. “Sorry to
call on a Sunday afternoon. I should have waited until tomorrow.”
fine. Jessica and I were just cleaning up from lunch.” He paused, as if he were
briefly searching his memory. “You were visiting another church this morning?”
guess it didn’t go well, then.”
presentation and Sunday School hour went great, but not the meeting with the
Session.” She paused to take another deep breath, reliving again her
frustration from the meeting she’d just had with the elders of the church.
happened?” Daniel asked.
the hell doesn’t anyone think I can do legal work in India without being
married? How exactly is a husband supposed to be necessary for me to work with
was exaggerating a little, since the NGO she was planning to work with was fine
with her being a single woman. But she needed to raise support for her salary
and expenses, since the Christian human rights organization wasn’t able to give
her a salary yet. That meant asking for money from individuals and churches.
The churches in her circle always had money in their budgets for mission work, which
is how they would classify her plan to work toward rescuing and restoring girls
and women forced into the sex trade, but her Presbyterian denomination was a small
and conservative one, which was making her attempt to raise support more
difficult than it should have been.
been at it for eight months now, and she wasn’t even close to having the yearly
pledges she needed.
know,” she went on, “one of the elders asked me today why I wanted to do this
instead of getting married and starting a family.”
was venting, and she sounded too frustrated, so she tried to dial it back.
“Sorry. You’ve heard all this before. I’ll call back tomorrow so you can enjoy
you headed for Columbia now?”
I’m not sure it’s going to be worth my time, since it’s such a huge missions
conference, which means I’m not going to get much attention. But I’ll give it a
not to exude impatience with people. They can pick up on it.”
bit back her reply, which would have been neither patient nor gentle. She had
always been an honest, straightforward person—some people would call her too
much so—but as she’d gotten older she’d learned to temper these qualities with
the most part.
it wasn’t like she’d be snapping at the church elders from whom she was asking
doing my best,” she gritted.
know. Sorry. I know you’re in a tough position. Hey, when you’re in Columbia
tonight, you might touch base with Gabe Alexander. I was talking to him last
week, and he’ll be at that same conference this evening. You two have a lot in
is this?” She’d reached the exit for I-77, so she pulled her car onto the
interstate, heading south.
Alexander. You remember him, don’t you? He was in Willow Park one summer
several years back.”
felt flustered and distracted from her aggravating morning, but she tried to
search her memory for that name. “Maybe.”
was the summer the Johnsons were visiting from India. He heard their testimony
too and felt called to India just like you did. You really need to connect with
him.” Daniel’s tone changed, as if he was just making a connection in his mind.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before. I’ll text you his phone
number. Promise me you’ll talk to him this evening.”
I promise.” She had no idea why Daniel sounded so excited, but she had no
reason not to look the guy up. “Wait, is he Mary and Henry’s son? From church? I
think I remember their son, if it’s him. He and his wife had a new baby that
summer, didn’t they? I took care of her in the nursery some and babysat for
them once. They paid really well.”
didn’t know why she added the last bit, since it was irrelevant, but she
remembered it, so she said it.
usually said what she thought.
they’re going to India too?”
is. They’re not married anymore.”
Okay. Sure, I’ll talk to him.”
think it would be really worth your time.” Daniel paused, before he added in a
different tone. “Jessica is giving me the sign to hang up. Call me tomorrow at
the office if you want. Let me know how it goes tonight.”
Will do. Thanks.”
hung up and stared out at the highway in front of her.
that summer when she was eighteen and she’d met the missionaries from India who
were visiting Willow Park, she’d known what she wanted to do with her life. Work
with children and women caught in sex trafficking. She’d made two trips to
India in college and then two more during the summers she was in law school,
working with the legal team at the organization she was planning to work with
was sure this was what God wanted her to do, and it just didn’t seem right that
something so trivial was standing in her way.
she was a single woman. She was still capable of doing good work in India.
was wrong with people, anyway?
she was intrinsically different than other women she knew, but she’d never felt
a strong urge to get married and have children. She’d had crushes on guys
before—sure. She’d dated several different guys through college and in the two
years she’d worked in an office after she’d graduated. But, once she’d started
law school, fewer guys had asked her out, and she’d started to focus more and
more on what she wanted to do with her life.
just wasn’t as important as what she could do in India. She was absolutely
convinced of it now.
dreamed of working in India for the last several years, the way some women
dreamed of a wedding day. She was so close now, and she was going to finally
get there—whether she was married or not.
When she got to Columbia,
it was mid-afternoon, and she called Gabe Alexander from her car.
had a brief, slightly awkward conversation while she explained who she was and
why she was calling him out of the blue.
she told him that Daniel said they should touch base, Gabe suggested they meet
for coffee at five, an hour before the missions conference began.
sounded good to Lydia, since she’d been thinking they’d have to meet
afterwards, which would put her drive back to Willow Park even later.
only had vague memories of the man. She’d been eighteen—at home for the summer
after her freshman year in college. Mr. Alexander and his wife were just a new
couple at the church with a newborn baby.
come across as quiet, intelligent, and always busy—even when she’d been over to
babysit, and he and his wife had been on their way for an evening out. His wife
had been charming and stylish. She’d seemed maybe a little superficial.
hadn’t known them well, but they’d seemed happy enough. She wondered why they’d
girl must be nine now.
and Gabe arranged to meet at a coffee shop near the church. She had some trouble
finding a parking space, so she was running about five minutes late when she
stood at the entrance and looked around, hoping she’d recognize him when she
immediately, her eyes landed on a man sitting alone in a corner. He wore a suit,
but his dress shirt was unbuttoned, and he wasn’t wearing a tie. He had medium
brown hair and broad shoulders and a slightly heavy-lidded gaze, making him
look tired…and kind of sexy.
wasn’t sure where that thought had even come from, but she was sure this was
Gabe Alexander. She walked over to him.
eyes widened, and he stood up as she approached.
She reached a hand out toward him. “It’s nice to see you again. It’s been a
has.” He shook her hand, his grip strong and very warm. Then they both sat down
at the small table. “I’m not sure I would have recognized you.”
gave a half-shrug. She didn’t think she looked that much different now than she
had back then. She still had shoulder-length dark reddish hair, green eyes, and
tall figure. She worked out regularly, so she was in decent shape—although not
as fit as she’d been in college, when she’d swum competitively. She was dressed
more maturely than she used to, since she was now wearing one of her normal
church-visit outfits. Long flared skirt, a fitted jacket, and tall leather
still, she didn’t think she looked all that different.
I get you a coffee or something?” he asked, gesturing toward the counter.
saw he didn’t have anything to drink yet, so she nodded. “Sure. Just black
watched him as he went up to the counter to order their drinks. She saw other
women watching him too.
really was very good-looking, with a kind of understated power in his stance
and expression, like he was accommodating the world to go on as it liked until
he decided differently. But, when he put his foot down, the world would listen.
was a strange sort of response to such a brief meeting. Irrational, really,
since he hadn’t done anything but shake her hand and get up to get them coffee.
Probably a sign that Lydia needed to catch up on her sleep.
there was a line waiting to pick up ordered drinks, he came back and took his
seat again after he’d ordered. He asked, “So Daniel thought we should connect?”
He said we have a lot in common, since I’m working on raising support to get to
Bangalore. So you’re trying to get to India too?”
nodded. “I’ve been working with the business center in Bangalore for eight
years now—making a two-week trip every year. Now there’s a co-director position
open that I want to take.”
does the business center do?”
provides training, resources, and mentoring for people trying to start
businesses in India who need some extra help or support.” He leaned back in his
seat and looked at her with half-closed eyes. “It’s a great ministry, really
helping people get their businesses going.”
that sounds great. You started your own business here, didn’t you?” One thing
Lydia remembered from back then was that the Alexanders had a lot of money, at
least by Willow Park standards.
way he said it was understated, as if his company weren’t that big a deal. But
it was evidently really successful. She was about to ask a question when she
noticed something up at the counter.
she said, “Are our coffees ready?”
glanced up casually. “Doesn’t look like it.”
that girl was behind you in line, and she already got hers.”
does it matter?”
was faintly annoyed at his disinterest, but she knew that feeling wasn’t
rational. So she made herself relax. “Well, it doesn’t matter a lot. But
generally people get their stuff in the correct order.”
she turned back to him, she saw he was watching her face with a mingling of
interest and amusement.
He was smiling for real now, and it was so attractive she momentarily lost her
breath. “It’s just coffee.”
know it’s just coffee. But I think people should be served in the right order.”
She gave him a sheepish smile. “Patience isn’t my virtue.”
can see that.”
was going to respond to his teasing, but she saw their drinks finally get set
on the counter, so she jumped up to get them.
was still smiling as he watched her walk back to the table. She wasn’t sure
what to make of the expression in his eyes.
she realized they should get down to business, since the missions conference
would be starting in forty minutes. “You were telling me about the business
center,” she prompted.