Authors: Cara Covington
“Gerald and Patrick came back to the United States before the end of the war. They worked with the War Department in Washington for the last few months before Japan finally surrendered.” Kate tilted her head. “She never did admit it, but I think that was Sarah’s doing, too. For although all of my brothers-in-law survived the conflict, one of their cousins did not. Jacob, James, and Rosie lost their youngest son, Edward.” Kate blinked, and brought herself fully back to the present. “And two others of their boys—Howard and Lincoln—settled in England after the war. Howard and his wife later moved to Australia. And while both sons came to visit their parents a couple of times, they never moved back home.”
“So there are Benedict cousins in England and Australia?” Maggie asked.
Kate nodded. “There are indeed—and more than just the descendants of that branch of the family, too. The truth is there are Benedicts, Kendalls, and Jessops all over the world. The ones that stayed in Lusty are probably the smaller number of that total.” Kate felt a sadness sweep her, but she beat it back. She’d had more blessings in her life than a body had the right to dare dream of. Heartache and loss, well, those things were as inevitable as joy and the birth of the next generation. As Amanda Jessop-Kendall had observed all those years before, it was all part of the whole, and all a part of a life.
“Our daughter, Maria, married a man from London, and they lived in England, and then moved to Canada. They had two children, a son and a daughter.” Kate sighed. “Maria and Amy were lost to us in a plane crash, back in 1990. Her son, Clayton, writes to me, though he’s only ever come to Lusty once, and that was over ten years ago, now. I’ve visited him a couple of times in Toronto. He’s a good man. Forty now, and he has three children of his own.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Two boys and a girl, aged eleven, nine, and seven. His wife is very nice.”
“Whatever became of Captain Somerville?”
When all eyes turned to Peter Alvarez, he shrugged. “I really felt for the man. For some, it would have been an embarrassment, being injured in a training accident and not even being allowed to go to war.”
“Yes,” Kate said. “I later discovered that was indeed part of the problem. And he was afraid that his wife wouldn’t love him because he’d lost his leg.” Kate looked around the room. “War does terrible things to the human body
to the human spirit. But to answer your question, Peter, Captain Somerville was discharged and went home with his wife and son near the end of January, 1943.”
She smiled, because sometimes, when life seemed just a bit tough, she thought about the Somerville family. “Craig and Debra had two more children, and he was able to work his ranch not only hard, but smart. After the war he found an investor and tripled the size of his spread. His oldest grandson, Kenneth, still runs it, and it’s one of the most successful cattle ranches in Colorado today.”
“Was Brown charged with treason?” Adam asked.
“He was, yes. But he didn’t face execution. He died in prison before he was even tried. Heart failure, I believe, was the cause.” Kate shook her head. “He’d deluded himself into believing the choices he made didn’t really hurt anyone, and in the end they hurt everyone who’d been important to him, and even cost him his life.”
“And Jacob Benedict bought that refinery,” Joshua said. “It became known as Benedict number one, just outside of San Angelo.”
“Yes, and that was the true beginning of your company,” Kate said.
“Our company, Grandma.”
Kate grinned. “Yes, our company.”
“I have a question.”
Kate looked over at Chloe, who’d sat quietly, yet attentive, throughout Kate’s tale. She thought she knew what Chloe wanted to know, but said, “Yes, sweetheart?”
“Did your mother ever come to accept your marriage to two men?”
“She learned to live with it, but didn’t make her peace with it, or me, until our fourth child—our third son, Carson was born.” Kate spread her hands. “We invited her often, and I won’t lie to you. Her inability to accept my choices did hurt, but it didn’t surprise me in the least. Besides, I had so many people who loved me. Mostly, I had my men. I was content.”
Kate took just one more moment to appreciate her audience. So many young, smiling faces. So many new lives about to begin, and so many other happy stories just waiting to be written—and lived.
She thought back to those first weeks, when she’d arrived here courtesy of an eighty-plus-year-old matriarch. And she looked at Penelope, another young professional lured to the same town by another eighty-plus-year-old matriarch.
In the last two years, she felt so close to them all, to all the ones who’d passed. Not just her beloved husbands—they were as alive in her heart now as that day so many Christmases before, when they joined their lives together.
But just lately, she’d felt closer to Sarah and Amanda than she had in years, and had to admit that it was their loving spirits and gentle interventions that had inspired her to reach out and lend a helping hand to some of her grandchildren.
Her gaze landed on Alex, and the way he enfolded his tiny daughter, Ellie, in his arms.
Well, lend a helping hand or deliver a kick in the ass, whichever works.
The family ranks had swelled, Benedicts had returned to Lusty, and Kate felt good that she’d had a small part to play in making some of that happen.
Was it Karma, or divine plan? She really couldn’t say.
What she could say was really very simple, and pure, and came from her heart.
“My darlings, I hope you all have the very best Christmas ever. And so many bright and shining happy New Years. I love you all, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you.”
First Ginny, and then Penelope, hugged her tight and placed a sweet kiss on her cheek. And then in turn, all of Kate’s grandchildren—some actual and some honorary—came over to share hugs, and kisses, and the very best of wishes.
Kate’s glance caught the tiny angel spinning on the tree, as if she was twirling, once more, in a joyful dance.
For just an instant, the wisp of a familiar, missed scent teased her senses, and the warmth of two strong, beating hearts seemed ever so close.
“We’ve a hell of a lot to feel grateful for, wife. No matter what the future brings, we’ve had the moments we can steal.”
“You were right, Katie, love, when you said that if we willed it so, we would never be apart in our hearts. When we’re not here, you can look at this golden angel, and know we’re thinking of you, thinking of us. Loving you, loving us.”
That sense of an almost mystic connection faded, but the love remained. Kate smiled as her loved ones chatted, and laughed, and stood wrapped in each other’s arms.
This is the true meaning of Christmas right here—love.
And love was the one thing that, if it was true, if it was pure, never faded, and never died.
Love—like the family—was eternal.
Morgan Ashbury writing as Cara Covington
Morgan has been a writer since she was first able to pick up a pen. In the beginning it was a hobby, a way to create a world of her own, and who could resist the allure of that? Then as she grew and matured, life got in the way, as life often does. She got married and had three children and worked in the field of accounting, for that was the practical thing to do and the children did need to be fed. And all the time she was being practical, she would squirrel herself away on quiet Sunday afternoons and write.
Most children are raised knowing the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. Morgan’s children also learned the Paper Rule: thou shalt not throw out any paper that has thy mother’s words upon it.
Believing in tradition, Morgan ensured that her children’s children learned this rule, too.
Life threw Morgan a curve when, in 2002, she underwent emergency triple-bypass surgery. Second chances are to be cherished, and with the encouragement and support of her husband, Morgan decided to use hers to do what she’d always dreamed of doing: writing full time. “I can’t tell you how much I love what I do. I am truly blessed.”
Morgan has always loved writing romance. It is the one genre that can incorporate every other genre within its pulsating heart. Romance showcases all that humankind can aspire to be. And, she admits, she’s a sucker for a happy ending.
Morgan’s favorite hobbies are reading, cooking, and traveling—though she would rather you didn’t mention that last one to her husband. She has too much fun teasing him about having become a “Traveling Fool” of late.
Morgan lives in Southwestern Ontario with a cat that has an attitude, a dog that has no dignity, and her husband of forty years, David.
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