Family Christmas in Riverbend by Shirley Jump

Family Christmas in Riverbend by Shirley Jump

Author:Shirley Jump
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Harlequin
Published: 2011-01-15T00:00:00+00:00

It was a long time before Edward even noticed the cold. He’d walked far and fast, and when he reached the edge of Riverbend, he’d turned around and walked back. Eventually, he’d have to return to the lot and pick up his car. Winter nipped at the exposed areas around his coat, but he didn’t feel the chill. His frustration and anger fueled a fire that couldn’t be tamped by Mother Nature.

He didn’t realize he’d detoured until his feet stopped moving and he saw where he had ended up. His breath lodged in his throat, and his chest constricted.

Was it ever going to get easier?

He wanted to walk—no, run—away, but his feet refused to move, as if a part of him demanded he look, demanded he see. Demanded he deal with it once and for all.

The fire.

There were still ruts in the ground from the heavy wheels of the fire trucks, forming a frozen moat around what had once been a twelve-thousand-square-foot building. A few timbers stood defiant, like charred stick figures refusing to be downed. Against the stark gray landscape, the remains of the Riverbend Banquet Hall seemed sad and lonely. Forgotten.

But Edward hadn’t forgotten. Not when he’d left town, not when he’d gone to Europe, not when he’d put the business up for sale. He hadn’t forgotten. At all.

“I can’t believe any of it’s still here.”

He turned at the sound of Livia’s voice. “What are you doing here? Where’s the baby?”

“Earl and Betsy showed up after you left. They kidnapped Piper and shoved me out the door.” She laughed, then sobered and met his gaze. “They insisted on babysitting so I could talk to you.”

He scowled. “I don’t need to talk. I need to be alone.” The wind kicked up and nipped along the exposed parts of him, skating down his back. Surely the biting cold bothered Livia, too, but she didn’t show it. Nor did she leave.

“Do you think maybe that’s part of the problem?” She took a step closer. There was no escaping those wide green eyes and a gaze that he swore could see right through him. “All that being alone, and no talking?”

“What problem? I don’t have a problem.”

She pursed her lips and didn’t say anything. It was the same argument they’d had last year. Always, Livia had pressed him to talk, to open up, and he had resisted. He preferred to retreat, to deal with things himself.

Except, what good had it done him over the past year to deny and ignore? It hadn’t made anything better. In fact, he was pretty sure he felt worse now. Especially after letting a year pass without doing a damned thing or speaking up. He’d walled himself off and ended up alone. Miserable.

“Okay.” He let out a sigh. “Maybe you have a point.”

They didn’t say anything for a long while. The guilt kept churning in his gut, didn’t go anywhere. Livia stood beside him, staring at the same bleak scene. Her mere presence offered a comfort and peace.


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