Authors: Laura Marie Henion
Copyright ©2008 by Laura Marie Henion
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher, Lachesis Publishing, is an infringement of the copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Her parents danced, holding each other close as the Christmas music filled the air.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
was the name of the song.
Grace peeked through the wooden spindles of the staircase. The green pine garland hugged the wooden banister from top to bottom. Guests filled the house, laughing and having a good time.
The pointed pieces brushed against Grace's shiny locks as she watched the adults enjoying the party. She knew she should be in bed, but the party had been so much fun.
Daddy's friend Nicholas had danced with her, recited T
he Night Before Christmas
and even let her sneak a few sips of the special Christmas eggnog. Then Mommy and Daddy said it was way past her bedtime.
She was nearly nine years old and had every right to stay up later than usual. This was a Christmas party and she was having way too much fun. She had told her parents just that and after minutes of begging and pleading, and a little help from Nicholas, she finally got her way.
Unfortunately, that half hour had passed way too quickly and now Grace had to sneak out of bed to see what she was missing.
The people began to leave, but at least a dozen more still gathered around the fireplace in the living room.
The fire looked bright and inviting. She loved sitting on the rug in front of it and playing with her dolls. She hoped Santa would bring her a new doll this Christmas, one with long brown hair and a pink dress.
The mantle was decorated with entwined red, gold, and green beaded glass garland. Mommy had placed four golden cherubs between the garland and above the mantle, a large, fresh pine wreath hung over the stone-faced wall. Round, gold ornaments covered the wreath and a large green, red, and gold bow hung at the top.
Grace hummed along to the music. Now the sounds of
filled the air. She watched as Mommy and Daddy danced to the music in front of the Christmas tree with Nicholas and his wife, Leeann.
They giggled and laughed with one another and both Mommy and Daddy held each other close, then kissed.
Grace smiled wide.
More guests gathered their coats from the closet by the front door and prepared to leave. She saw her parents headed that way, so she ducked down low as they passed right by her.
She thought she had gotten away with peeking until a moment later when Daddy came around the corner.
"Grace Elizabeth Martin, what are you still doing up?” He made his way up the winding, wooden staircase.
Her father was tall and handsome, like one of her Ken dolls. He wore a pair of black dress pants, a button-down, royal blue shirt, and appeared very happy.
His brown hair was styled nicely and he smiled when she made her pouty face.
"Oh, Daddy, please don't be mad at me. I just wanted to see more of the party and you and Mommy dancing."
Her father pulled Grace into his arms and hugged her. He smiled as Grace's curls brushed against his cheek.
"I'm not mad at you, baby.” He kissed her on the cheek. Her daddy hugged her tighter.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him as tight as she could, then inhaled deeply. She loved the cologne he wore, Old Spice, she was sure, and not one of those fancy, stinky perfumes Aunt Delores was always trying to force on him.
He never budged from the traditional cologne and Grace was glad.
"We'd better get you back into bed and fast. You have a big day tomorrow. Your cousins will be at Aunt Delores’ and as soon as I'm finished wrapping things up at work and get back home, we're going to leave.
"Do you promise to be a good girl for Mommy?"
"I promise, Daddy."
Grace's father took her hand, leading her upstairs and back into her bedroom.
He tickled her softly as he began to tuck her in. Her laughter filled the room. He loved her deeply.
"Daddy ... I love Christmas and I love watching you and Mommy dancing by the Christmas tree. You love Mommy a bunch, huh?"
Her father smiled wide, then kissed Grace on the forehead one more time.
"I love her a bunch and I love you a bunch, Gracy, so don't you ever forget it."
"I love you too, Daddy, goodnight."
"Goodnight, and no more sneaking around. There are policemen downstairs, you know,” her father teased and Grace giggled.
"Tell Nicholas goodnight for me, okay, Daddy?"
"Hey, Carl, is our little princess all right?” Nicholas asked.
"Oh, yes, the princess is fine and wanted me to be certain to tell
goodnight.” Carl followed his wife, Sherry, into the living room.
"Sounds like Grace has a little crush,” Sherry said and they all smiled.
"She's adorable and a good kid. You guys are lucky.” Nicholas gently pulled Leeann into his arms.
"Now that this place has cleared out ... my newly promoted Lieutenant, we have some news to share with you two. By the way, just because you're a higher rank now, don't let it go to your head and make you think you're better than me,” Nicholas teased.
Carl laughed, then he and Sherry held one another as they stood in the living room.
"What news would that be?” Carl asked.
"I finally decided to take some of your advice."
"And what advice would that be, Nick?"
"We ... decided to start a family."
"You mean you're.... “Sherry asked Leeann without completing the sentence as both Nicholas and Leeann nodded yes.
"Congratulations!” yelled Carl as they all embraced.
"I should have known something was up when you refused the eggnog, Leeann,” Sherry commented and they laughed.
"This calls for a celebration."
Carl went into the kitchen to retrieve a carton of eggnog, then filled a glass of nonalcoholic eggnog for Leeann as Nicholas helped retrieve three other glasses.
"This is great news, Nick. I'm happy for you two."
"I figured you would be. We've known for a couple of days."
"How far along is she?” Carl asked.
"That's great. Man, I can't believe this. Wait until Gracy finds out. You know how much she loves babies."
"Yes, I do."
Nicholas watched Carl as he placed the eggnog-filled glasses on the serving tray. He took a deep breath and the smile he had on his face earlier was no longer in sight.
Nicholas stopped Carl before they exited the kitchen.
"You must be worried about the Lawrence case, huh?” Nicholas asked.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't.” Carl took in a deep breath, then released it.
"It will all be over tomorrow. The witness is in a safe house?"
"Yeah and wanting this over just as badly as I do. The witness will testify tomorrow morning, then the case will be closed and Lawrence will go to jail. Then we're off to my sister's house.” Carl winked.
"Tell Delores I said hello.” Nicholas smiled.
"Yeah, right. She's still pissed at you for crashing her sixteenth birthday party."
"Man, are you kidding me? That woman sure knows how to hold grudges."
"You know it doesn't end there."
"Let's not even go there, buddy. Her best friend forgave me."
Carl shrugged his shoulders, then laughed.
"You're always doing the right thing, Carl. Sometimes, I wonder why you even bother with Delores. Gracy doesn't even like her kids."
Carl smiled. He knew his best friend cared about Grace and he was more of an uncle to his daughter than just her father's best friend.
Carl had known Nick their whole lives. They'd attended grade school together, high school, community college, and even the police academy. The two of them had always known they wanted to be cops. They had been through a lot together.
Carl thought about Ted, Delores’ husband. Ted didn't care about his own kids, never mind Gracy. Money ruled Ted's every thought. Carl's sister and that whole side of the family were a bunch of snobs who only cared about money.
"I don't want anyone ever saying that I didn't try or I didn't do the right thing,” Carl replied.
"Delores doesn't give a shit about anyone but herself. She's always been that way. The two of you are like night and day, man."
"I have to be civilized, at least until my father passes. Then there's really nothing more to tie my family with hers anymore."
"I know it's tough, Carl. What did the doctors say?"
"It could be weeks or months. My old man is tough.” Carl thought about his conversation with his dad just yesterday. His father redid his will and wanted to leave a large amount of money to Grace. She truly was his favorite granddaughter. His father had seen firsthand what his daughter and son-in-law were really about. Carl just wished his father hadn't been blind to it for so many years.
Carl refused to marry someone he didn't love just to unite two wealthy and powerful families. His sister, however, jumped at the opportunity.
He thought about all the arguments he and his father had engaged in through the years about his decision to pursue a career in law enforcement. Carl didn't want to become a lawyer or an accountant and work for his father's firm. His decision to become a cop nearly severed the relationship he had with his parents.