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Brought Together By Baby
By Carolyne Aarsen
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Carolyne Aarsen
All right reserved.
"I"ll speak to LaReese Binet about where she'd like her donation to go myself, Reuben." Rachel Noble tucked her papers into her briefcase, one eye on the clock hanging on the wood-paneled wall of her office. "I don't have time to talk now. I'm due for dinner at my parents'place in twenty minutes." She frowned as her assistant launched into a litany of complaints, then cut him off. "Just let me know if she calls again." She hung up, picked up her cell phone and dropped it into her briefcase along with the small gift she had bought for little Gracie, a penance for not visiting her newly adopted sister more often. The offices and hallways of the Noble Foundation were quiet as Rachel hurried down to the parking garage.
Her mother's weekly invitation to the Noble plantation had included the warning to dress casually. Her mother was always nagging her to cut loose and relax. Rachel glanced at her dove-gray tailored suit and peach silk blouse. Her mother would have to take her as she was. She didn't have time to go home and change.
When Rachel returned to Richmond after a five-year absence, her parents had begged her to move back onto the plantation with them. But Rachel had been on her own too long. Instead she had opted for a modern condo west of Main Street. Though she was seldom home, it suited her.
She stopped behind an SUV at a four-way stop, trying not to tap her manicured nails on her steering wheel as the driver in front of her let car after car go by. It looked like she would have time to speak with Reuben after all.
Rachel stiffened, as a motorcycle pulled up beside her. Its obscene roar drowned out the gentle Brahms symphony coming from her car's CD player.
The driver stopped. He straddled the motorcycle, easily holding it up as he waited. He wore a denim jacket, blue jeans and cowboy boots.
Rachel clenched the steering wheel. She hated motorcycles. If Keith had been driving his truck that night --
She pushed the futile thoughts about her late fiance aside. That was in the past. Over.
In spite of that, she couldn't seem to avoid giving the man on the motorcycle a quick glance.
He pushed his helmet back and, as she caught his eye, a slow smile crept over his mouth, making the corners of his eyes crinkle. Wisps of blond hair curled out from the front of his helmet, framing a lean face.
She looked ahead, angry with her flicker of reaction to his lazy good looks.
As she made the turn leading to her parents' home, the biker roared past her, leaving her frustrated and with unwelcome memories.
She ejected the CD, found a radio station that played classic rock and turned up the volume. As she drove, she focused on the work that she had to do tomorrow. The jobs that needed her attention. She had to leave the past in the past.
By the time she turned onto her parents' tree-shaded drive, she felt back in control again. The evening was going to be just fine.
She steered her car through a narrow opening between two rows of clipped shrubs that surrounded the main house, pulling up in front of a converted four-car garage.
And her heart flipped over.
The motorcycle that had zipped past her now stood parked on the inlaid brick drive in front of the garage, a helmet hanging from the handlebars.
She took a long slow breath, just as her yoga instructor had taught her. Focused on the now, the present.
She picked up Gracie's gift and walked with careful, deliberate steps up the brick paved drive to the front door. Maybe the motorcycle belonged to a deliveryman. Or one of the maid's boyfriends.
Her parents' visitor was most likely coming later.
As she stepped inside the door, Aleeda, the housekeeper, swept down the square rigged flying staircase toward her carrying an armful of linens.
"Well, well. You're back again," she said, smiling at Rachel. "Your mother is in the kitchen, concocting..." She shrugged.'something."
"Thanks for the warning, Aleeda. Do you have any idea what she plans to feed me?"
"They've got company." Aleeda gave her a mysterious smile.'so I think she'll be doing something more traditional for you and their guest." Aleeda gave her a quick nod, and then strode off to the back of the house before Rachel could ask her who it was that had arrived on that dreadful motorcycle.
Rachel caught her reflection in the mirror hanging in the front hall and took a moment to smooth a wayward strand of chestnut-brown hair back from her forehead. All neat and tidy, she thought. The dark lashes fringing her hazel eyes didn't need mascara. Her cheeks were, well, pale. But so be it.
She whisked one hand down her skirt as she walked along the narrow hallway toward the kitchen, brushing away the few wrinkles she had gotten from driving.
Her mother stood at the huge counter that served as an island in the modernized kitchen, her knife flashing as she chopped vegetables. She wore a bright orange, loose, woven shirt over a wildly patterned silk T-shirt in hues of turquoise, orange, red and gold that accented her short chestnut-brown hair, worn in a spiky style. The kitchen table, tucked away in a plant-laden nook, was set with her mother's earthenware dishes. Definitely casual.
"Ah. There you are." Beatrice put down her knife and swept around the island, arms spread out, her shirt and matching skirt flowing out behind her. She enveloped her daughter in a warm hug, holding her close. "I'm so glad you came. And right on time." She drew away, cupping Rachel's face in her narrow hands, her hazel eyes traveling over her. "You're looking a little pale, my dear. Have you been taking your kelp supplements?"
Rachel lifted her hand in a vague gesture. "I've been busy..." She laid the present for Gracie on the counter.
"Honey, honey, honey." Beatrice shook her head in admonition. "You have to take care of yourself. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God needs healthy servants to do His work on earth."
Rachel merely smiled. She wasn't going to get into a discussion with her mother over what God needed or didn't need. For the past eight years she had put God out of her life. Or tried to. Now and again glimpses of Him would come through, but she generally managed to ignore them. She preferred her independence, and God required too much and gave too little.
Beatrice slipped her arm around Rachel's shoulders and drew her toward the counter. "Your father and I have a lovely surprise for you. Gracie's pediatrician said he would come and visit us."
Excerpted from Brought Together By Baby by Carolyne Aarsen Copyright © 2005 by Carolyne Aarsen.
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