Carole Page Gift

A Family To Cherish


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      “How can I be a mother to this little girl,” Barbara asked softly in the darkness, “when every time I look at her I see…?” Her voice trailed off, the name too hurtful to speak aloud.

      She was silent for a long moment, recalling the face of another child—her smiles, her laughter and tears, the bedtime ritual, the prayers, the good-night kisses. “It hurts, Doug,” she whispered. “All I can see is…Caitlin, but Caitlin isn’t here.”

      There was no reply.

      This man she had loved for over ten years was closer to her than any other human being had ever been. They were one in every way that counted. Over the years, they had shared their most private thoughts and their most intimate moments.

      And yet, in the silence of this moment, in the pressing darkness of their bedroom, Barbara had never felt more alone, or more in need of comfort.

      CAROLE GIFT PAGE

      writes from the heart about issues facing today’s adults. Considered one of America’s best-loved Christian fiction writers, Carole has completed her fortieth book, publishing both fiction and nonfiction with a dozen major Christian publishers, including Thomas Nelson, Moody, Crossway, Bethany, Tyndale and Harvest House. An award-winning novelist, Carole is the recipient of two Pacesetter awards and the C.S. Lewis Honor Book Award. Several of her novels have been nominees for the Campus Life Book of the Year Award and the prestigious Gold Medallion Book Award. Over 800 of her stories, articles and poems have been published in more than 100 Christian periodicals.

      A frequent speaker at churches, conferences, conventions, schools and women’s ministries around the country, Carole finds fulfillment in being able to share her testimony about the faithfulness of God in her life and the abundance He offers to those who come to Him. Born and raised in Jackson, Michigan, Carole taught creative writing at Biola University in La Mirada, California, for several years and currently serves on the advisory board of the American Christian Writers. She and her husband, Bill, live in Moreno Valley, California. They have three children (plus one in heaven) and three grandchildren.

      A Family to Cherish

      Carole Gift Page

      

www.millsandboon.co.uk

      For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river…like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you….”

      —Isaiah 66:12, 13

      In memory of our own Misty Lynne Page, who slipped so swiftly and silently from our arms into Jesus’ loving arms.

      Contents

      Chapter One

      Chapter Two

      Chapter Three

      Chapter Four

      Chapter Five

      Chapter Six

      Chapter Seven

      Chapter Eight

      Chapter Nine

      Chapter Ten

      Chapter Eleven

      Chapter Twelve

      Chapter Thirteen

      Chapter Fourteen

      Chapter Fifteen

      Chapter Sixteen

      Chapter Seventeen

      Epilogue

      Copyright

      Chapter One

      Barbara Logan was standing at the bedroom mirror in her silk dressing gown when her husband glanced over at her and that old familiar look passed between them. The look that said, I love you…I need you…I want you…now. Barbara felt the impact of that look and caught her breath. It was like the sudden dip in the road that tickles one’s tummy. For an instant she averted her gaze, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of habit. Then she looked back at Doug to be sure she hadn’t imagined that beguiling glance in his smoky blue eyes. But already it was gone, replaced by his usual take-charge, matter-of-fact expression.

      “Did you pick up my shirts at the cleaners, Barb?”

      “They’re right there on the bureau,” she replied, masking her disappointment. In the old days when they were dressing for a dinner party, he would have swept her into his arms and teasingly insisted they make mad passionate love before the company arrived. But these days they hardly managed to carry on an ordinary conversation without a sense of awkwardness and remoteness creeping between them. Over time the aloofness had become a wall too high to scale and too thick to penetrate. For Barbara, it was easier talking with a stranger than with the man she had been married to for nearly ten years.

      Of course, Barbara blamed herself for their alienation. Too many times over these past four years she had rebuffed Doug’s overtures of affection. She hadn’t wanted to. She hadn’t even intended to. But she couldn’t help herself. Loving him brought back too much pain. Didn’t he feel it, too? How could he think they could simply resume their lives after they had lost so much? But he refused to talk about it, so she didn’t talk about it, either. It was as if they had silently agreed they would never discuss that one shattering, profoundly significant event in their lives.

      “The Van Peebles should be here any time,” said Doug, buttoning his starched white shirt. A tall, solid man with curly black hair and a swarthy complexion, Doug had an athletic build and strong, muscular arms from years of weight lifting in college. Yet he had the supple grace of a ballroom dancer.

      No wonder Barbara had fallen in love with him almost at first sight that day she spotted him playing volleyball on the beach. And when he had smiled with those riveting blue eyes and invited her to join the game, she had known there was no turning back. This was the man for her.

      “I told them seven o’clock,” Doug was saying, “and Clive is a great one for punctuality. As he always says, ‘Time is money and money, time.’”

      Barbara eased herself gingerly into her black satin evening dress with its V-neckline and scoop back. “I guess all that Van Peebles punctuality comes from him being a bank president, do you think?”

      “And from being one of the richest men in town,” noted Doug. “Fortunately for the hospital, he’s also one of the most generous.”

      “Thanks to you,” said Barbara. “You saved his life five years ago with that quadruple bypass. He still claims you’re the best surgeon on the West Coast.”

      “Was,” Doug corrected, tight-lipped.

      Barbara stole another glance at him, but didn’t reply. She had never understood how her husband could give up an illustrious surgical career for a dreary administrative position in the same hospital. Yet Doug seemed to have a genuine knack for fund-raising. Mercy Hospital had already added a cancer wing and begun work on a new children’s wing with the money Doug had brought in.

      Barbara watched as her husband put on his gold cuff links, the diamond-studded ones she had given him on their fifth anniversary, when they still believed love could conquer every obstacle. “I hope you remembered to put Tabby outside, Barb. Remember Mrs. Van Peebles’s allergies.”

      “Are you kidding? I scrubbed the entire house with disinfectant. I never saw anyone who hated cats like she does.”

      “I suppose if the furry critters gave us sneezing fits like they give her, we’d banish Tabby to Outer Mongolia, too.”

      Barbara turned her back to Doug so he could zip up her dress, which he did automatically, his fingers