Family Blessings (Cisco Family Series #2)by Fern Michaels, Laural Merlington
Fern Michaels, the New York Times bestselling author of Late Bloomer and Crown Jewel, presents a passionate and heartwarming novella that will delight and inspire readers this and every holiday season.
Right before Thanksgiving, a freak tornado descends on Larkspur, the small town in Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains where matriarch and candy/i>/i>/i>… See more details below
Fern Michaels, the New York Times bestselling author of Late Bloomer and Crown Jewel, presents a passionate and heartwarming novella that will delight and inspire readers this and every holiday season.
Right before Thanksgiving, a freak tornado descends on Larkspur, the small town in Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains where matriarch and candy magnate Loretta Cisco -- affectionately called "Cisco" by her grandchildren -- lives, and levels the home she's inhabited for fifty years.
Then there's more bad news: Cisco's beloved triplet grandchildren, Hannah, Sara, and Sam, all newlyweds, are experiencing marital problems and they refuse to confide in their grandmother about what's wrong. Sam's wife, Sonia, has left him, and Hannah and Sara fear that their husbands are having affairs. Why else would they be coming home so late every night and seem to be keeping secrets?
As the citizens of Larkspur help to rebuild Cisco's home in time for Christmas, she vows to work a holiday miracle that will hold her family together.
With Family Blessings Fern Michaels uses her keen insight into the emotional bonds between family members and the passions that bring men and women together to create an enduring novella that celebrates love, family, and forgiveness, and shows why she is one of the world's best-loved storytellers.
Read an Excerpt
One Month Later
"It's hard to believe Halloween has come and gone already." Loretta Cisco, founder and recently retired CEO of Cisco Candies who was known as Cisco to her family, opened the screen door to let the dogs out. Freddie, a golden retriever, barked to let his partner, Hugo, know it was time to get a move on. It was the same thing as saying the breakfast bacon will still be there when we get back. Hugo, a black Lab, bolted through the door.
Ezra Danford, a tall, robust man, and Cisco's live-in companion, as well as partner, turned from the stove where he was making blueberry pancakes, Cisco's favorite breakfast. "I know what you mean, Loretta." He insisted on calling her by her given name, saying the pet name Cisco was just for her son and her grandchildren, the triplets, to use. "In a few weeks we'll be out there raking the last of the leaves and bringing in firewood. Then before you know it, the holidays will be here."
Cisco tugged at the apron she was wearing. "Time moves too fast when you're old, and we're old, Ezra. I dearly love the holidays, as you well know, but in another way they're sad because it means another year is coming to a close. You and I, my dear, also have an anniversary coming up. If the Trips," she said, referring to her triplet grandchildren, "hadn't brought you here that special Christmas almost three years ago, I might never have gotten to know you. For that, I will be eternally grateful."
Ezra expertly flipped a pancake, then turned the strips of bacon to the other side. "We should get married, Loretta." He winked at her, hoping she would get flustered and say yes.
Cisco adjusted the glasses perched on the end of her nose before she gave her colorful apron another hitch. "No, Ezra, we shouldn't get married. You had a wife, and I had a husband. When we depart this world, you're going with your wife, and I'm going with my husband. That's the way it has to be. Otherwise, your children and grandchildren will have a problem, as will mine. They won't know where to put us.
"We've talked about this a hundred times, Ezra. Why are you bringing it up again today? The relationship we have right now is working just fine for both of us. You know what happens when you tamper with something that doesn't need tampering with."
Cisco took her place at the table, the dogs' plates in her hands. Her gaze was drawn to the kitchen window. "Is it my imagination, Ezra, or does it look yellow outside?"
A puzzled look on his face, the man, who was as big as a bear, walked to the old screen door and opened it. It did look yellow outside. His eyes narrowed slightly. "Loretta, turn on the television or radio and let's hear the weather report. There might be a fire somewhere. I don't hear the birds either. It's much too quiet," he said, peering into the distance. "I know it's autumn, but it's strange. The winter birds love to nest in your old sycamore and sing to us every morning when we have breakfast. Some bad weather might be on the way." He called both dogs to come indoors.
"Are they saying anything on the TV?" Ezra walked out onto the back porch and looked around. The air was yellow as far as he could see. He stepped back in and looked at Cisco questioningly as the dogs whined at her feet.
Cisco poured syrup on her pancakes. "They haven't said a thing. We'll keep it on while we eat in case a bulletin comes in. We can't have bad weather today. The family is coming, and we're picnicking under the sycamore. A nice, long, lazy Sunday to enjoy having everyone here with us. It will probably be our last outdoor get-together before the cold weather sets in. There simply cannot be any bad weather today. I won't allow it," she said lightly.
Ezra ate quickly, something he never did. He loved food and always took his time when eating, enjoying every mouthful. When he finished, he picked up the dogs' plates and his own and stacked them in the dishwasher before he walked back to the door to stare at the yellow world outside the house.
He moved then, quicker than lightning. "Hurry, Loretta. I want you and the dogs to go down to the root cellar. I can't be certain about this, but the only time in my life that I saw a world of yellow was when I lived in Arkansas, and a tornado whipped through. Hurry now."
Cisco needed no second urging. She dumped her dishes in the dishwasher and herded the dogs down the cellar steps. "What are you going to do, Ezra?"
"Lock up, crack some of the windows. I'll be down in a minute. Take care of the dogs. Go to the southwest corner of the root cellar. Maybe I'm wrong, Loretta. It's better to be safe than sorry."
Cisco was at the bottom of the steps when she heard the sound. She knew instantly what it was. "Never mind the doors, Ezra, get down here. Now!"
Ezra was at the bottom of the steps the minute she finished speaking. The dogs whined and whimpered as Cisco led them down three more steps to the root cellar, where she kept her winter vegetables. The door was stout, with iron bars crisscrossing it from top to bottom.
The sound overhead increased in volume until it sounded like a hundred jet airplanes breaking the sound barrier. Ezra and Cisco clung together, their old bodies trembling as they tried to comfort one another and the dogs at the same time.
And then it was deathly quiet. The dogs yipped once, then were quiet.
Ezra struggled with the iron bars holding the door in place. When he finally got the door open, he was looking at the cellar staircase and nothing else. He could see the sky, the backyard, and the old sycamore. He tested the steps to make sure they were sturdy before he allowed Cisco and the dogs to climb them. He went first, ascending the steps carefully.
He looked around in stunned amazement. It was all gone, every last wall and window. What looked like half of the roof was on top of the barn, which itself was leaning drunkenly to the side. There was no sign of Cisco's car or his pickup truck.
Ezra's voice sounded choked. "This house was in the direct path, Loretta. It's all gone. Look up the hill; my house is still standing."
"It can't be gone, Ezra, it just can't," Cisco insisted as she looked around. She started to cry. Freddie hugged her leg, not understanding what was going on. Hugo pawed Ezra's leg for the big man to comfort him. "My whole life was here in this little house, Ezra. All the Trips' belongings were here as well as my son's from the day they were born. How can I ever replace them? Oh, Ezra, this is the worst thing that's ever happened to me. It's worse than when my son stuck me in that assisted-living facility. At least I could close my eyes and picture this beloved little house of mine. How can it all be gone, Ezra? How?"
All Ezra could do was put his arm around her shoulder, and murmur, "I don't know, Loretta. I just don't know. Careful, watch your step now. Let's take a walk around. Maybe we can salvage something."
"I'm too old to start over, Ezra. Do you see my kitchen table anywhere? I started Cisco Candies in my kitchen on that old table. I kept the Trips' bassinet in the kitchen because it was the warmest room in the house during the winter. I diapered Jonathan there, too. Oh, God, how did this happen?" She looked around wildly as she staggered from one place to another, hoping to find something that belonged to her.
Ezra's voice was gentle, soothing, when he said, "You can rebuild the house and barn, Loretta. A good contractor can have it built for you by Christmas if the weather holds. I wouldn't be surprised if the whole town turns out to rebuild for you because you moved Cisco Candies here from New York City and provide employment for so many of the people in town. We can stay at my house while the building is going on. I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's the only consolation I can give you right now."
Cisco gave no indication she could hear what he was saying. Instead, her gaze raked the yard, hoping to see something from the house. She hated the way she was feeling, hated the tears rolling down her wrinkled cheeks. Her voice was a whisper when she said, "Where do I go to get my memories back? I need to touch my things. I need to see them." She picked up the hem of her apron and wiped at her eyes. "Why, Ezra, why?"
Ezra wrapped his arms around her, his eyes full of sadness. "No one can take away your memories, Loretta. Your mementos, yes, but not the memories. It was an act of God, and we're both wise and old enough not to question Him. Now, pull up your socks, old girl, and let's walk around. I'm sure we'll find something."
"One thing, Ezra. All I want is one thing. Something to hold in my hand. Please, help me. Please. I can't believe this. My whole life was in that house, and now it's gone. It's like it was never here. Like I was never here. It was here one minute, then in another minute it was gone."
Ezra linked his arm with hers. He squeezed her hand to give her comfort. Together, they started off, their steps wobbly and unsure, the dogs trotting along beside them.
"We're in the valley, Ezra, why did it hit here and not the top of the hill where your house is? Why are the gardens and trees intact? I don't understand any of this. Look at the pumpkins! Even the leaves haven't been damaged. The holly trees are just as beautiful; so is the sycamore. Just my little house. Dammit, Ezra, this isn't fair!"
There was no answer, and Ezra didn't try to find one. All he could do was help Loretta search for her belongings.
"Freddie can't sleep without her blanket," Cisco said brokenly as she picked her way through debris. "I need my pillow. You need your slippers. You just got them broken in so they don't hurt your bunions."
"We'll buy new ones, Loretta. One can get used to anything. We're all alive. That's all that matters. Tomorrow we'll call a contractor I know and a salvage company. We're going to rebuild your house just the way it was. Maybe even better. Life will go on, Loretta, because that is the order of things. Now, I'm going to ask you one more time, and I'm never going to ask you again, so keep that in mind when you give me your answer. Will you marry me?"
Cisco stared up at the big man whom she loved so dearly. She was aware, for the first time, how vulnerable she was. She would never, ever, take anything for granted again. If it hadn't been for Ezra and his keen eye, they'd all be dead. "Yes, I will marry you on Christmas Day," she responded smartly.
"Attagirl! Whoa, what have we here?" Ezra said as he heard the dogs barking furiously. "Follow the sound, Loretta. I don't know this for certain, but I think the dogs found something."
They ran as fast as their seventy-year-old bodies would permit. Cisco's disappointment was so keen, Ezra felt it. "It's my yellow teakettle. Look, the whistle is still on it. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind to hold in my hand, but it will do. I think it's as old as I am. Good girl, Freddie," Cisco said, reaching for the battered teakettle. "Where's Hugo?"
As if on cue, the black Lab trampled through a hedge of mountain laurel, dragging a string of Christmas lights. He dropped them at Cisco's feet and barked happily.
Cisco gathered up the string of lights with her yellow teakettle and held them close against her chest as though they were a lifeline. "I wonder if the lights work. We have to go to your house right now, Ezra, and plug them in. If they work, I think I can handle the rest of...of this."
"Let's walk a little more, Loretta. We might find something else." The expression on Cisco's face made Ezra do an about-face. "On second thought, let's walk up to my house and turn on the television. We might as well find out the bad news now. I'm sure there were other houses in the path of the tornado. I want to see if those lights work, too. Christmas Day is going to be extraspecial this year, eh?"
Cisco squeezed Ezra's hand. "Yes, and I'm going to wear my old wedding dress. Hannah made me a white shawl last year for Christmas, and I'll wear it, too. Do you have your old wedding suit?" She started to cry again when she realized her old wedding dress and the white shawl were gone, along with everything else.
"I do! It might be a tad snug, but I'm game if you are."
A tired smile worked its way around Cisco's lips. "My dress would have been too snug anyway. Hannah and Sara wore it and had it taken in when they each got married. Their mother wore it, too. That old wedding gown had a lot of mileage on it. Do you think that's the order of things, too, Ezra? You know, the way it's supposed to be?"
Ezra didn't know if it was or wasn't. He opted to take the high road, and said, "I suppose." Cisco seemed satisfied with his answer as they trudged up the winding road to Ezra's house. The dogs scampered ahead, barking joyfully, certain this was a new adventure.
Inside Ezra's sparkling kitchen, Cisco looked around. "I don't like this kitchen, Ezra. It's right off the assembly line. It's so...so...modern. There's no character here, no memories. It's just a house. Why is that, Ezra?"
"Because it's only four years old. It's new, Loretta, built to my specifications. New is new. You and I can build a few memories here until it's time to move into your new house. It might be a good thing for both of us. Nothing is forever, as we just found out. What are you doing, Loretta?"
"I'm scrubbing the teakettle so I can make us a cup of tea. We have to have tea, Ezra. To...to...seal...oh, I don't know. I just feel like making us tea. Did you plug in the lights?"
"Yes! Turn around!"
"Oohhh, Ezra, they work. They actually work! How beautiful they look. Just looking at them makes me feel better. They have to be at least fifty years old, maybe more. Wrap them in tissue and put them somewhere safe. The Trips will want to see them. They are going to be so devastated when they get here."
"They're young, Loretta. I'm not saying they'll take it in stride, but they'll adjust better than you and I. Let's face it, we're set in our ways," Ezra said as he turned on the small television on the kitchen counter.
Cisco looked at him, a sour expression on her face. "What you mean is I'm set in my ways. Tell me something. Why do you need all these fancy appliances? Sub-Zero this, Sub-Zero that. What's wrong with Sears Roebuck appliances?"
Ezra threw his hands in the air. "I don't know, Loretta. The contractor installed them. I wasn't even here when the house was being built. You'll get used to them in time, and if you don't want to cook, then I'll cook. Oh, listen, they're talking about the tornado."
Cisco turned on the gas and set the yellow teakettle on the burner. They both stared at the television, their faces filled with horror. The news wasn't good. Seven houses in the path of the tornado were leveled. Four people were dead. Three people were missing. Seventeen cars simply disappeared off the face of the earth. Volunteers were asked to report to the school gymnasium to help aid the homeless victims. The Red Cross would be setting up a command center at City Hall.
"We can't even go into town to help since our cars are gone," Cisco said sadly. "As soon as the Trips get here, we'll go and do what we can. We...I don't have anything to donate, but I certainly have enough money to help out. Hannah is so good at doing things like that. We can put her in charge. Sara, too. Sam can scout around for living accommodations for the homeless, and I'll pay the rents. Zack and Joel can offer medical services since both of them are doctors. Jonathan...well, Jonathan can work on the transportation end of things. We're part of this community, and we have to do everything we can.
"Did you think Hanny looked twitchy last week when she stopped by? And Sam was almost surly. I wonder if it's my imagination. I always knew what was going on with my grandchildren, but since they all got married I'm...what is it the young people say these days? Out of the loop."
Ezra scratched his head. Sometimes Loretta moved and did things at the speed of light, and he had to struggle to catch up. "As I recall, Hanny did seem a little jittery. Is it possible she's pregnant? Sam now, that's something else. I think he's struggling with something, and, whatever it is, he's holding it close to his chest. At least for now."
"No, Hanny is not pregnant. When you're pregnant, you're so beautiful you just glow. Your eyes sparkle with happiness. Hanny doesn't look like that. I don't know, Ezra, maybe she's having trouble adjusting to being married. After all, she's only been married ten months." Cisco couldn't help but smile as she remembered the triple wedding that took place last New Year's day. Hannah had wed Zack Kelly, the ophthalmologist who had removed Cisco's cataracts at Larkspur Community Hospital; Sara had wed Joel Wineberg, a pediatrician affiliated with the hospital; and Sam had married Sonia, the Ukranian exchange student he'd fallen for at Penn State. What a memorable day it had been. So much happiness. Now, she turned her gaze back on Ezra, and said, "As you know, my granddaughter Hannah is tart-tongued. The children called her Hard-Hearted Hannah from the time she was little. She takes no prisoners. Hanny is a 'what you see is what you get' kind of person. She wasn't like that during our visit. She was quiet and spent a lot of time staring out the window. I think she's worried about something. Sam...I just don't know." She shook her head in bewilderment.
Ezra was grateful Loretta was talking about something other than the loss of her beloved little house in the valley. Having raised the triplets after their mother's death, she was more mother than grandmother to them and worried constantly even though they were twenty-five years old. Some things, he knew, would never change.
He wished his own children, who lived in California, were closer to him. He told himself they had their own lives just the way his grandchildren had their own lives. They called on Father's Day and Christmas, but that was it. He'd been stunned when Loretta and her little family had welcomed him with open arms. He could still remember her words as if it were yesterday. "I'd be more than happy to share my family with you, Ezra. We have more than enough love to go around. One more will fit very nicely into our lives. And, we adore your dog!" He'd actually blushed, then felt like beating his chest in some primal way to show how much he'd come to love them all.
He needed to say something reassuring to Loretta now before she got carried away. She was right, though, Hanny hadn't been herself the last time she visited. "I think Hannah is like most young people, Loretta. She's busy and tries to fit everything into a twenty-four-hour period when she really needs thirty-six hours." He didn't want to think about Sam because Sam worried him, and he didn't know why.
"I have an idea. The family isn't going to be here for a few hours. They may not even know what happened yet. What do you say to my getting out the old tractor mower and we take a spin into town? It'll be slow going, probably around three miles an hour or so. We should get there around noon if we leave now. You might want to pack a lunch." Ezra guffawed. If he was hoping for a laugh or a rich chuckle from Cisco, he was disappointed. She was a million miles away in her memories.
"All right, Ezra. We might even meet up with the Trips while we're there. Just let me get changed. What does one wear for a ride on a tractor into town?"
Ezra eyeballed her to see if she was trying to be humorous or not. He decided she wasn't. "I suppose whatever one can find. You do have clothes upstairs, Loretta."
"I know, Ezra, I know. I'm sorry I'm not acting..." Her voice trailed off to nothing.
"Loretta," Erza said patiently, "I know how you all loved that little house. As hard as it is for you to believe or understand, you have to make the effort to come to terms with the loss. Everything happens for a reason. Most times a person never finds out the reason until much later, then they go, 'ah, now I understand.' Tomorrow the sun is going to come up, and we'll decide what to do. Your family will be arriving soon, and you'll want to discuss matters with them. For now, we'll just muddle through."
Cisco reached up to touch Ezra's cheek. "What would I do without you, Ezra? I don't care about the sun coming up tomorrow. Well, I do, but I just want you to know that you are the sunshine of my life. After everyone leaves this evening, I'm going to bake you a wonderful blackberry pie, and you and I are going to eat the whole thing."
Ezra smiled. "I thought the family was staying overnight."
"Well, we'll just have to shoo them out. You don't have enough room in this house for everyone. I'm going to bake you that pie, and that's final."
"With ice cream and vanilla-flavored coffee?" Ezra asked hopefully.
"Absolutely," Cisco said. "I'll be ready in a few minutes. Get the mower out. We have to leave the dogs here of course."
Ezra knew she was just going through the motions and saying words she thought he wanted to hear. "I'll get the mower." If Cisco heard him, she gave no sign.
Two hours later Ezra steered the John Deere tractor mower down Main Street. No one paid them the least bit of attention.
Nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, Larkspur was a pretty little town with a town square where all public functions were held. The Fourth of July picnic was always a rousing success, with banners and American flags everywhere and a hundred percent turnout of the citizenry. The parade down Main Street was full of homemade floats, the school band, the football team, and baton twirlers.
Hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, and root beer slushes were the food and drink of the day. At night, from seven till nine, there was a square dance in the pavilion for the older folks. From nine to eleven, the pavilion was turned over to the younger set and a local band named Fred Fish and the Merry Minnows, which the youngsters rocked and rolled to until they were dizzy. It was the highlight of the year.
Then again, the older folks said that Christmas was the highlight of the year, with the live Santa, who sat in his sleigh for twenty-one days, handing out candy canes until the moment that the carolers took over on Christmas Eve, when, once again, the whole town turned out, this time to join the carolers before going to midnight services at the churches that held them.
It was a sleepy, comfortable little town, where everyone knew everyone else. A town where people cared about their neighbors and offered to help the minute things went awry, which wasn't often.
Today, the town was a beehive of activity, with television trucks, satellite dishes, and news media there to cover the deadly tornado.
"The last time I saw this many people in town was the Fourth of July," Cisco said, as Ezra helped her down from the mower. "I think we should find the mayor and go from there. What do you think, Ezra? I don't see the children anywhere. We should have left a note on your door. Why didn't we do that, Ezra?"
"We just forgot, Loretta. Come along."
"I'm coming, Ezra, hold your horses," Cisco shot back with a smidgin of her old spirit.
The blue BMW wound its way down the road, then accelerated up the rise. When Sara Cisco Wineberg reached the crest, she sucked in her breath and let out a scream that could be heard from one end of the valley to the other. "Look, Hanny! Oh, my Godddd!"
Hanny opened the door and started to run, Sara on her heels. "The house is gone!" she screamed shrilly. "Where are Cisco and Freddie? Sara, say something. Tell me they're all right. Please, tell me they're all right," she continued to scream shrilly.
Sara started to cry. "How can I tell you something like that?" She started calling out to her grandmother, but there was no response. "I heard about the tornado on the news, but I never thought...I just didn't think...oh, God, not Cisco. Someone should have called us. Come on, Hanny, we have to look for them. It's gone," she babbled. "It's all gone. Even the fireplace is gone." She called out again, this time more shrilly. Hanny joined in.
"Why didn't they call us to say they were okay?" Hanny bleated. She picked up a stick and whacked at a sapling. "I don't see any of our stuff. What happened to the washing machine? The refrigerator, our beds, the furniture? Did they just fly through the air? What? Dammit, I need to know, Sara."
Sara sat down on a tree stump and stared up at her sister. She was already hoarse from all the shouting. "I don't know the answer, Hanny. I don't know much of anything these days. My husband should be here; so should your husband. And where the hell is our brother Sam? It would be nice to see Dad, too. They must have heard the news like we heard it, so why aren't they here?"
Hannah sat down on the ground and hugged her knees. Like her sister, she was hoarse from shouting. "Let's go up to Ezra's house. Maybe they're up there. It's still standing, I can see the roof from here. They aren't dead, Sara. I'd feel something if they were, and so would you. But, to answer your other question, I don't know why my husband isn't here. He had to work today, even though it's Sunday. That's all he does, work. I hardly ever see him. Sam said he was leaving early to come out here. Maybe he's with Cisco and Ezra." She stood up and reached for Sara's hands to pull her to her feet.
Sara sprinted off, her mouth going a mile a minute. "Please let them be alive and well. Please, please, please."
"Where's Joel?" Hannah asked at the halfway mark up the hill.
"The same place your husband is, the hospital. I never see him, like you never see Zack. This marriage business isn't what it's cracked up to be. I cook dinner and eat it by myself. I go to bed by myself. When I wake up, Joel is gone. He leaves me notes. I thought it would get better, but it isn't. I'm seriously thinking about asking for a divorce. I can't live like this anymore. How do you do it, Hanny? Oh, God, is that Freddie barking? It is! They're here! They're here, Hanny!"
They both ran then, across the yard and up the long driveway, as though they had wings on their feet. They skidded to a stop when they saw a dark green Range Rover crawling up the hill behind them.
"Sam!" the girls said in unison.
"Yep, it's me. I've been down in the valley searching. I found this," he said, holding out a yellow ribbon with a bell on it."
"That was my first hair ribbon. Mom put a bell on it so she could find me," Sara said, bursting into tears. "She said I always wandered off."
"Freddie's here, so that has to mean Cisco and Ezra are here, too. They wouldn't have left the dogs alone. They're safe, I know it," Sara said, breathing hard. "Can't you hear Freddie barking?"
Sam climbed out of the truck. He was dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt. His curly hair was cropped short and smashed down with a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap. "That sound is music to my ears. When I pulled up to the rise earlier, I almost died when I didn't see the house. I think I went a little nuts there for a minute."
"So did we," Sara said. "Where's Sonia?"
"She's packing to go back home. That's another way of saying she's leaving me. Now, do you want to talk that to death, or do you want to find Cisco and Freddie?" Sam asked, his tone of voice frigid.
Hanny stopped in her tracks. It seemed to her in that one instant that her whole life was unraveling. The house was gone, Cisco and Freddie were missing, Sara was talking about getting a divorce, and now Sam was saying Sonia was leaving him. On top of that, she had her own miserable problem with Zack to deal with.
"Divorce is such a terrible...ending. I thought you were happy," she muttered.
"I was. Obviously, Sonia wasn't. Is the door locked?"
"Get real, Sam. No one in Larkspur locks their doors. Open it!"
The dogs leaped and pawed at them, barking joyously as Sara ran through the house searching for her grandmother. She was back in the kitchen within minutes. "They're not here, but Cisco's clothes are. Maybe they had enough time to get to the root cellar, and when it was over they came up here. Cisco must be devastated. Hell, I'm devastated. Dad's coming, isn't he?"
Sam was on the floor, Freddie in his lap. He stroked the silky dog, his eyes moist. "He said he was."
Hanny turned on the television to the local station. The trio sat and watched, their eyes wide with the devastation they were seeing. "Nothing like this has ever happened around here."
Sam's voice was so bitter-sounding, his sisters cringed. "There's a first time for everything, I guess."
Hanny thought about her brother's words. A first time for everything. It was so true. She bit down on her bottom lip. The urge to cry was so strong, she bit down harder and tasted her own blood. "You're right, Sam. There's a first time for everything."
She jumped up, jamming her hands into the pockets of her khaki slacks.
"You look like you lost some weight, Hanny," Sara said.
"Well, I didn't. It's your imagination. I eat like a horse," Hannah lied. She couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten a solid meal.
Sara blinked, her expression confused. "Hey, I just made a comment, okay? You don't have to bite my head off."
"Sorry, Sara. I'm just worried," Hannah said.
"Now that that's out of the way, let's pile into my Range Rover and go to town to see if Cisco is there with Ezra. I'm thinking they'd both go there first thing to see if they could help. C'mon, guys, let's go," he said to the anxious dogs. "It's time to find Cisco."
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