Family Blessings (Cisco Family Series #2)

Family Blessings (Cisco Family Series #2)

by Fern Michaels
Family Blessings (Cisco Family Series #2)

Family Blessings (Cisco Family Series #2)

by Fern Michaels



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A heartwarming and hilarious New York Times bestseller from Fern Michaels, the acclaimed author of No Place Like Home and Crown Jewel, that will delight and inspire you 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743499941
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 10/19/2004
Series: Cisco Family Series , #2
Format: eBook
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 255,638
File size: 754 KB

About the Author

About The Author
New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels has a passion for romance, often with a dash of suspense and drama. It stems from her other joys in life—her family, animals, and historic home. She is usually found in South Carolina, where she is either tapping out stories on her computer, rescuing or supporting animal organizations, or dabbling in some kind of historical restoration.


Summerville, South Carolina

Place of Birth:

Hastings, Pennsylvania


High School

Read an Excerpt

Family Blessings

By Fern Michaels


Copyright © 2004 MRK Productions, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7434-7747-2

Chapter One

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.


Excerpted from Family Blessings by Fern Michaels Copyright © 2004 by MRK Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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