Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed(2)

By: Janice Maynard

                Maeve’s husband’s ancestors had literally created the town after discovering a rich vein of silver deep in the mountain. The family story took a tragic turn when Maeve’s feckless husband, Reggie, became obsessed with finding the remnants of the mine. One day he climbed into the hills and never returned.

                But that bit of local color was from long ago. Maeve was now a vibrant woman in her early sixties who managed to keep tabs on her brood and run a thriving business up at the Silver Beeches Lodge. A little bell tinkled over the door as Maeve entered. Her dark auburn hair—with only slight traces of silver—was done up in a stylish bun.

                Emma climbed down from the ladder and straightened her skirt.

                Maeve waved an envelope at her. “I know etiquette dictates I mail this to you, but I couldn’t wait. Here. Take it.”

                Emma accepted the cream-colored envelope with a grin. The missive was thick, the paper expensive. When she opened it and examined the contents, she understood the older woman’s enthusiasm. “Another wedding?”

                Maeve’s smug smile said everything. “Indeed. And this time right here in Silver Glen. I know it seems hurried, but Dylan’s adoption of Cora will be final on the day after Christmas. He and Mia want to be married and have their family complete.”

                Emma tucked everything back in the envelope. “I’m honored to be invited.”

                Emma and Mia had met several months ago at a coffee shop around the corner from Silver Memories. Since then they had become friends. Emma knew Maeve had been extremely kind in including Mia’s parents as hosts for the wedding. The Larins had given birth to Mia late in life and now lived in Florida on a fixed income.

                Maeve waved a hand. “Don’t be silly. You’re practically part of my family now. Mia raves about you, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you these last few months.”

                Not long after Emma opened her store, Maeve had dropped by to shop for a set of occasional tables to use in a lounge at the Silver Beeches. It was thanks to Maeve that word had spread and the small shop had become a success so quickly.

                “May I ask you something personal, Maeve?”

                “Of course.”

                “Is the baby’s father in the picture? Mia never speaks of him, and I didn’t want to upset her by asking.”

                Maeve shook her head. “Dear Mia chose to have a baby via a sperm donor. When she and Dylan got together, he fell in love with little Cora. They make a beautiful family, don’t you think?”

                Emma smiled wistfully. “They certainly do.” She had often seen Dylan and Mia and the baby out walking on afternoons when the weather was still warm.

                Silver Glen was a small, cozy town, even though it boasted a strong tourist economy. Movie stars shooting on location often took up residence, as well as wealthy travelers who loved the peace of the mountains. The town’s alpine flavor reminded Emma of a Swiss village.

                “There’s one more thing,” Maeve said, her expression cajoling. “Mia told me you’re not going home to England for Christmas, is that right?”

                “Yes. I spent two weeks in September with my mother for her birthday. She’s handling the loss of my father better than I expected. And she has plans to tour the Greek Isles during the latter part of December with a group of her friends.”

                “Then I want you to spend the holidays with us. Mia’s parents are coming only for the wedding itself. So I know Mia would enjoy having you around. We’re gathering for several occasions at Dylan and Mia’s home. My older son and his wife are still building their new house. And of course, we’ll have some special events up at the lodge, too. What do you think?”

                Emma didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t afraid to be alone. In fact, her childhood had been solitary more times than not. She enjoyed the peace and tranquility of her own thoughts. And she was not a Kavanagh. Surely her presence would be awkward.

                Maeve spotted a silver rattle and a matching small cup from the 1950s. “I knew I remembered seeing these,” she said triumphantly. “One of my college sorority sisters just became a grandma for the first time. This will be the perfect gift.”

                As Emma rang up the purchase and took Maeve’s credit card, she wondered how large a wedding the Kavanaghs were planning. And then another thought struck. One that made her heart race.

                “Will all of your family be able to attend on such short notice?” Emma had never actually confessed to Maeve that she knew one of her sons very well.

                For the first time, Maeve lost a bit of her excitement. “I hope so. My third son, Aidan, lives in New York. We don’t see him all that often. And besides...”

                She trailed off, her expression indicating that she had traveled somewhere unpleasant in her mind.

                Emma wanted to know badly. “Besides what?”

                Maeve’s lips twisted, her eyes shadowed. “Aidan had a very bad experience some years ago. It happened at Christmas. He comes home to visit, but not at the holidays.”

                “And this wedding?”

                “We hope he’ll make the effort, but who knows...”

                What would Aidan think if he saw Emma ensconced in the bosom of his family? She hadn’t set eyes on him in a decade. Her original intent in coming to Silver Glen during the late summer had been to speak with him and bring some closure to what had been a painful time in their lives. She had hurt him badly, and she wanted to explain and make amends. But she discovered he no longer lived in the town of his birth.

                Her recent birthday had brought home the fact that life passed quickly. Regret was an emotion fraught with negativity. After healing a decade-long rift with her father back in the spring, she had realized she wanted to move forward and to make better decisions than she had in her early twenties.

                It was entirely possible that Aidan had not clung to the memories the way Emma had. She might be nothing more than a footnote in his past life. According to Maeve, he sounded like an entirely different person than the boy Emma had known.

                The fact that Emma had chosen to settle in Silver Glen permanently had more to do with the town’s charm than it did with Aidan. But her initial motive remained. Even if her apology meant nothing to him, it would clear her own soul of lingering regret.

                She couldn’t control his response. In fact, he might not even show up. But if he did, she was determined to do the mature, responsible thing and own up to her mistakes.

                Emma wanted to grill her visitor, but she had already overstepped the bounds of polite curiosity. “I’m sure he realizes how important it is.”

                Maeve gathered herself visibly. “You haven’t given me an answer. And I warn you in advance that I’ll only accept a yes.”

                “Then I will say yes with pleasure.” And a healthy dose of trepidation.