Love Conquers All--Even Love


A Christmas Dream Come True
Recently divorced Becca Tyler is at the end of her rope. Her rental home has been sold to a mysterious new owner, and she and her three children have nowhere to turn. Until Nick Morelli comes back to town. Becca had stomped all over Nick's heart once—for all the wrong reasons. Now the boy from the wrong side of the tracks is a successful builder, while the high school golden girl is a single mom just scraping by.To their surprise, Becca and Nick soon discover the spark of their first love still burns as bright as the Christmastime stars. But Nick is keeping an important secret from Becca. Could it ruin the sweehearts' reunion before it even begins?
~~~~~
Harlequin American Romance, January 2008

“Mom, did you see this?”

Becca looked again at the tool set Nick had given her son. It was sized for a small boy, and Danny hadn’t been able to put it down since he had unwrapped it.

“Yes, honey, it’s wonderful,” she told him. “But you’ll have to be careful and learn how to use everything correctly.”

Danny’s head bobbed in a nod. “I know. Nick’ll teach me.” He looked at Nick. “Won’t you?”

“You bet,” Nick answered, reaching out to lay a hand on his shoulder.

When Danny ran off to join the rest of the Morelli offspring, she turned to Nick. “You do realize how lucky you are, don’t you?”

“Completely.”

She sighed, knowing he had no idea what she was talking about. “I mean this.” She pointed to the Morelli living room, filled with laughing people and discarded wrapping paper and boxes.

“Oh, that,” Nick answered, grinning. The grin disappeared and was replaced by a more serious expression. “Yeah, I do know how lucky I am. In a lot of ways.”

She was grateful to Nick for insisting she come with him, but she was even more grateful to her father for admitting his past mistake of driving Nick out of her life. If things had been different... But they hadn’t been, and it was time to move on.

The drive to Nick’s parents’ house had been short and left little time to talk, what with three children in the backseat of her car, who had been taken from their beds and dressed in a rush. Now that she’d had some time to think, there were unanswered questions that needed answers. With everyone busy and the spotlight finally off of her and Nick, it seemed to be the right time to ask.

“Why my house, Nick? Or maybe I should say your house.”

He was silent for a moment, staring straight ahead. “I told you the story about how Corey and I sneaked in to check it out.”

“But why buy it?”

He shrugged, and she sensed his hesitation, but she hoped he would eventually tell her.

“Ever since that night with Corey and even before, I’ve had a fascination with it. There was something special about it, but I’ve never been able to put my finger on it.”

“It’s a good house.”

He turned to look at her, smiling. “It’s a great house. And maybe that’s it. Maybe.”

“Do you go around buying all the great houses you see?”

“This is the first one. I can’t promise it won’t be the last though.” He turned to face her. “You see, it has character, like this one. This house has made it through almost thirty-five years of marriage and six kids, and it’s still as good as the day Pop bought it.”

“You told me, one night a long time ago that someday the Watkins place would be yours, and you would make it a showplace.”

“I remember,” he said, his voice nearly a whisper. “It was raining, and we were parked down the road from it.”

Emotions knotted in her throat at the memory. “That wasn’t the only time. There were more.”

“I know there were. I remember them all. And I will make it showcase, Becca,” he said. “Everybody has a dream, and that house has always been mine. But it’s only a part of it.”

She wasn’t sure he would share, but she had to ask. She needed to know. “What are the others?”

He leaned back and closed his eyes, a soft smile touching his lips. “A family like my parents gave us. A house filled with love and laughter. And a little battle, now and then,” he added, opening one eye to look at her and then the other. “I want children. They’re the lifeblood of a family. My parents are proof of that.”

Haunted by his draw to her children, she looked down to stare at her hands. “Is that why you’re so drawn to Danny and April and——”

“No. Not because I wanted them to be my family, although I wouldn’t mind that. It’s because they’re great kids. And I’m crazy about kids. Maybe because my own childhood was so good.”

Becca looked around for her children. Daisy was safely sleeping upstairs in a nursery with Gabby and Joseph’s tiny son, and she finally spied Danny and April, laughing and playing with the others, their eyes shining with delight and a joy she hadn’t seen in a long time. This was the kind of family she had always wished hers had been.

Cat’s sudden shout filled the house. “Mommy, Mommy! Snow!”

Beside her, Nick groaned. “As if we didn’t have enough two weeks ago.”

“But it’s Christmas, Nick,” Becca reminded him, feeling more in the spirit of the holiday. “We’ll have a white Christmas. What could be better than that?”

His gaze met hers for a moment, unreadable. “You’re right, of course.” He stood and held out his hand. She took it and let him lead her outside with the rest of his family.

“It’s coming down pretty good,” Angelo said, while his son stood on the steps and stuck out his tongue to catch snowflakes.

“It’s so pretty,” Beth agreed, pressing her pregnant middle against the porch railing and leaning out to catch flakes in her hand.

Nick put his arm around Becca’s waist, pulling her close. She didn’t resist, needing to be near him, if only for a while. In spite of everything Nick had said, she wasn’t convinced he wanted the forever that she dreamed of, so she was making memories to take with her.

“It’s getting cold,” someone behind them grumbled.

“Time to get the little ones inside,” Elena said. “Nobody needs a chill for Christmas.”

Realizing everyone was going back into the house, Becca turned to follow the others inside. Nick caught her hand and gently pulled her back, wrapping his arms around her from behind as they gazed at the beauty in front of them.

Becca had never felt so happy, yet so sad at the same time. No matter where she went or what happened, this night would remain in her memory forever. “I envy you so, Nick Morelli,” she whispered. “To grow up in a family so filled with love had to be special. It must be why you are, too.”

“Why did you move to the Watkins place?” he asked her, his breath warming against her hair.

The question came from nowhere and surprised her. “Because I could afford it,” she told him. “And because it held memories, too, I think. Why did you buy it?”

He turned her until she was facing him, his arms still encircling her. “You are the most important reason I bought the house.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.” He kissed the tip of her nose.

Afraid to believe what he was saying, she shook her head.

“Do you remember how we dreamed about sharing our lives in it, once I finished college? We had our life planned out. Together.”

“I remember,” she whispered. “I never forgot.” And it seemed that Nick hadn’t either, even though she had thought he had.

He gazed down at her, as a golden glow from inside lit their corner of the porch. “Everyone has been hinting that the family needs to be bigger,” he said.

Becca laughed, but didn’t look away. “I think Beth and Tony are doing a good job of that.”

“Yeah, they are, but...” He shifted his weight and pulled her even closer. “Becca,” he whispered, “I always wanted that house for us. That was our dream.”

“But——”

He pressed a finger to her lips. “You know how much I love your kids. They’re very special to me. But what you don’t understand is that what makes them so special is that they’re a part of you.”

She ducked her head, not knowing what to say. Her heart drummed in her chest and breathing was difficult.

Tipping up her face with a finger under her chin, Nick smiled. “Becca, I love you. I’ve loved you all these years. That’s why I went away when we broke up. I couldn’t stay, if I couldn’t have you.”

“Nick——”

“Let me finish. When I saw you that night on the road, I was angry. But it wasn’t with you. It was with myself for still loving you. There you were, the wife of another man, or at least that’s what I thought, and all those old feelings were surfacing, and I didn’t know how to deal with them.”

Fighting back tears, she managed to speak. “Nick, you don’t have to tell me.”

“Yeah, I do, because I’m just now figuring this out.”

“But I understand. I’ve done the same things.”

He stared at her. “You have?”

Smiling, she nodded. “I love you too, Nick.”

“Then why——”

“I told you. I was afraid Danny and April would be hurt. Daisy, too.”

He let out a long breath. “I’d never do that.”

She could see the honesty in his eyes, and her heart opened. This was the man she had always needed. Her heart had known it all along. Lifting her hand, she pressed it to his face. “I know.”

He placed his hand over hers. “But you have to be careful. I understand that.”

She nodded and laid her head on his chest. His heart beat strongly, and she knew she had nothing to fear from him. For the first time in years, she felt safe. Loved.

“There’s just one more thing,” he said.

Moving away just enough to look up at him, she asked, “What’s that?”

Movement caused her to look down, and she saw his closed hand between them. Slowly, he opened it. She gasped at the sight of a brilliant diamond ring, sparkling in the light from the house.

“Will you marry me, Becca Malone Tyler?”

His voice was rough with emotion, and her eyes filled with tears. Unable to speak, she nodded. “Anytime, anywhere,” she finally managed to say.

Taking her hand, he slipped the ring on her finger, and they both were silent. When she looked up at him, she was crying, but they were tears of joy.

He gathered her in his arms again, kissing her deeply, and she responded with all the love she had carried in her heart for so many years. When they both came up for air, he glanced over his shoulder.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, standing on her toes to see what he was looking at.

“Nobody interrupted us.”

Laughing, she surrendered herself for another toe-curling kiss, wishing they’d never have to stop. When they finally did, he held her close, and she listened to the even rhythm of his heart, calming her and assuring her that her life and her children’s would be filled with love and laughter.

“Oh, one more thing,” he said.

She leaned back to look at him. “What’s that?”

“Big Sky Construction will start work on a low income apartment complex later this year. It’s my Christmas present to you.”

Becca swallowed the tears that kept her from speaking and pressed her face to his chest, breathing in the scent of the man she loved. The man she had always loved.

“It’s stopped snowing,” he said, and Becca turned in his arms to see.

A light blanket of snow covered the ground, twinkling in the glow of distant streetlights. Above, the clouds were beginning to clear.

“Look at that,” he said, pointing to the sky.

Safe and secure in Nick’s arms, Becca watched a falling star until it disappeared. “Thank you,” she whispered.

9 comments:

Reese Mobley said...

I love happily ever afters! Thanks for sharing this. XOXO

Joan Vincent said...

Ahhhh! Such a perfect scene.
Thanks, Rox.

Becky A said...

I love those toe curling kisses, especially at Christmas. Thanks for making all this snow seem magical instead of just mushy!

Nina Sipes said...

Ahhhhhh...geeessse. There's a reason you sell these things.

Deborah said...

I can feel the love!!!! Thanks for the wonderful happy feeling this morning. This is why we write...and read...romance. It brings a smile.

Roxann Delaney said...

The best part of writing romance is writing the Happily Ever After. The second best is writing the part that leads to it.

Starla Kaye said...

Roxann put it just right... a romance writer's biggest joy is writing that happily-ever-after moment. Writing the reasons/scenes leading up to the life changes for the characters is also a favorite for me.

Penny Rader said...

HEAs get me every time. Now where did I put this book? It's here...somewhere. It needs to go on top of my TBR pile.

Roxann Delaney said...

It won't vanish, Penny.