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A Family of Their Own

A Family of Their Own

4.6 8
by Gail Gaymer Martin

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Four Makes A Family

With her daughter's health back on track, Kelsey Rhodes counts her blessings. But life is still not easy for the sweet single mom. She craves companionship, yet finds it difficult to trust anyone. Ross Salburg seems like the perfect match for her. The handsome single dad also struggles to keep his daughter healthy. Can


Four Makes A Family

With her daughter's health back on track, Kelsey Rhodes counts her blessings. But life is still not easy for the sweet single mom. She craves companionship, yet finds it difficult to trust anyone. Ross Salburg seems like the perfect match for her. The handsome single dad also struggles to keep his daughter healthy. Can Kelsey convince Ross to take a leap of faith and meld their two families into one?

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Publication date:
Dreams Come True
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Kelsey Rhodes scanned her friend's living room, her focus drawn to the lovely Christmas tree, its clear miniature lights radiated the same glow in Lexie's eyes. On the mantel a row of white candles flickered in the dusky light. Romantic, for sure. Kelsey's chest expanded, anticipating her friend's wedding ceremony in the cozy setting.

The parents of the bride and groom buzzed with their own excitement, and her chest constricted, seeing Lexie's son, Cooper, dressed in a dark suit, sitting near the window. He looked so cute. When he'd been released from the hospital a few weeks ago, allowing him to be home for Christmas and the January wedding, Kelsey had been relieved for Lexie. Her friend's plight aroused thoughts of her own daughter's illness, in remission for nearly a year. She prayed that Cooper's struggle with leukemia would take the same turn as Lucy's.

The succulent aroma of roast pork drifted into the room. But as delicious the scent was, Kelsey's stomach knotted. The idea of meeting Ross Salburg, Ethan's best man, had set her on edge, and nothing seemed to knock it out of her mind. If he recognized her name or who she was, she would be uncomfortable. Maybe she hadn't tried hard enough to get Ross into the Mothers of Special Kids organization. She'd tried to explain that the group was only for mothers, but he didn't care. Ethan mentioned that Ross had been disappointed. Facing him for the first time today put a damper on the celebration for her.

The doorbell rang, and Kelsey's pulse soared. She worked a pleasant expression onto her face, knowing the bell offered three options—the groom, the pastor or Ross.

Swallowing her anxiety, she pinned her gaze to the door as Lexie opened it. Nippy air swished into the room along with a man she'd never seen before. His good looks stole her breath. She had no doubt about the stranger's identity, and her stomach churned, facing their introduction.

Lexie steered him around the room, introducing him to the two sets of parents first. Ross leaned over to give Cooper a warm greeting, then faced her. She managed a smile.

"Kelsey, this is our best man, Ross." Lexie grinned. "And this is my matron of honor, Kelsey Rhodes."

Lexie's knowing look set Kelsey on edge. He'd already been told who she was.

Ross extended his hand, an unreadable expression on his face, but Kelsey sat unmoving, captured by his brown eyes, like bittersweet chocolate, that seemed to penetrate her soul. Heat rolled up her chest until she lowered her gaze to his hand. "Nice to meet you, Ross."

"Same here." He gestured toward the empty seat beside her on the sofa. "Do you mind?"

She forced her mind around her response. "Not at all." Her voice sounded pleasant. So far so good. But when he sank onto the cushion, the scent of a mountain woods wrapped around her, losing her in the image.

He looked around the room. "Ethan's late, I assume." He chuckled.

Ross's voice jerked her from the mountain stream to the glow of the Christmas lights. Her out–of–control feelings confused her, as did Ross's avoidance of the topic she dreaded.

"Are you all hungry? Mom prepared a great dinner." Lexie's voice penetrated Kelsey's fog of preoccupation. "We'll get started once our two key people arrive."

Ross leaned forward. "Are you sure Ethan hasn't left you standing at the altar?"

Lexie grinned. "He'll be here. He loves pork roast."

Everyone chuckled while Kelsey sank deeper into the cushion. At the moment, she felt uneasy, captured beside the best man. Relief would come once the ceremony began.

Ross's arm brushed against hers, and her senses sharpened. She gazed around the room, hoping to cast off her giddy feeling. Using every ounce of concentration, she tuned into the mothers' conversation about life in Florida until she sensed Ross's eyes on her. Her stomach went into a downward spiral.

She turned to him, like a hound picking up the fox's scent. Here it comes, she deduced from the look on his face.

"Are you aware that I'm the Ross you all voted not to include in your support group?"

Kelsey considered telling a lie, but that wasn't her way, nor was it God's way. "I realized who you were when I heard your name." She sounded pathetic, and his pure innocent look made her feel even worse. "I'm sorry it turned out that way."

He didn't speak, though his eyes searched hers.

Feeling defensive, she wanted to explain. "I know I'm the moderator of the support group, but it went to a vote. It's always been a women's organization—you know, Mothers of Special Kids—and I'd hoped you could find another resource out of the ones that I suggested."

Ross touched her arm. "Please. I wasn't trying to embarrass you. I knew it was a long shot." He lowered his eyes.

"Ethan gave me the other support groups' phone numbers, but—"

"We'd never thought of men joining our group." Heat soared to her cheeks. "When we discussed it…" She captured his gaze. "And we did—all the women thought that men didn't really like talking about their feelings."

He flinched.

She wished she'd phrased it differently. "We thought men preferred to get things done, not talk about them."

"But when a man has a seriously ill child, there's little he can do."

The comment twisted in her chest. Lucy's operations for brain tumors tore into her memory. "I understand. I always felt so lonely before MOSK."

With a slight nod, he lowered his head. "It's hard to open up, but I think hearing about others struggling with similar problems would be helpful. I'm sure I would benefit from everyone's experiences."

"Ross, I'm really sorry." She dragged in a breath. "Now that I've heard what you have to say, I could try again in a while."

His gaze drifted to hers. "Thanks." He wove his fingers together and dropped his clenched hands into his lap. "I did call the other agencies, but either the meeting times didn't work for me or some of them had disbanded their groups." He lifted his chin. "I'm Peyton's only parent, and…"

"I understand." Apologizing again offered little solace for the group's rejection. It made sense at the time, but now… She evaded his eyes, and before she could rally, a noise from outside caught everyone's attention.

Cooper's excitement split the air. "It's Ethan."

The doorknob turned, and Ethan stepped into the foyer, snow drifting from his coat as he waved to everyone waiting. He slipped his arm around Lexie and gave her a fleeting kiss. The gesture triggered a flutter of envy in Kelsey. Years had passed since she'd been hugged by a man, let alone been kissed.

Ethan greeted each person, and when he stopped at the sofa, his eyes captured hers. "I see you've met Ross." A grin flickered on his wind–flushed cheeks.

Guilt snaked through her. "Yes, and we've talked."

He gave Ross a wink and shook his hand.

As he headed back to Lexie, the bell rang again. Ethan answered and welcomed their pastor inside, but when he turned toward the archway where Lexie had been standing, Ethan's eyes widened. "Where'd she go?"

His mother laughed. "She's getting ready for her wedding." She shook her finger at him as if he were still her little boy. "You can't see the bride in her finery before the ceremony. You know that."

Ethan's sheepish nod provided Kelsey with motivation to rise. "I'll go check on her." Escaping up the staircase, she reached the top, then slowed and drew in a deep breath. She needed to get her head untangled from Ross's presence. She'd suspected that her concern had focused on Ross's reaction to the MOSK group's veto, but that wasn't it. That would have been easier than the truth. She found him attractive in many ways. Besides his good looks, his vulnerability touched her and opened doors she thought had been closed.

Dealing with her emotions, she knocked on Lexie's bedroom door, and when Lexie told her to enter, Kelsey slipped inside and faltered. "Lexie, you look gorgeous." Kelsey swept to her side and wrapped Lexie in her arms. "Just beautiful." Though she'd seen her friend's wedding dress on the hanger, she hadn't seen it on Lexie. The white A–line satin gown featured a beaded bodice with a rounded neckline and cap sleeves. Lexie's dark wavy hair hung below her shoulders and contrasted with the sparkling crystal beads. Words failed Kelsey.

Lexie's mother wiped tears from her eyes. "I never thought I'd see this day. Never."

The comment jolted Kelsey's recollection. Lexie and her mother hadn't been close in many years, but mending seemed to have occurred. Memories of Kelsey's own lovely wedding came to mind, an amazing day that sadly ended years later when her husband had run off with her best friend. Lexie's marriage, she believed, was made in heaven.

Could she ever dream of such a day? The question winged in her thoughts for a fleeting second to be replaced with Ross's dark eyes. No. If she'd been foolish earlier, that speculation was the topper.

Lexie motioned to the table beneath the window. "Let's not forget the flowers."

Kelsey opened the box and drew out a bouquet of white orchids mingled with stephanotis and ivy. She handed it to Lexie. Corsages of orchids and ivy remained in the box, one for each mother and one for her. She pinned one on Mrs. Carlson, attached her own, then lifted the four boutonnieres from the florist's box. "I'll take these to the men." She looked at Lexie's mother. "Will you bring the other corsage?"

Mrs. Carlson nodded, and Kelsey slipped out the door with the stephanotis and sprigs of ivy, allowing mother and daughter a moment alone.

She descended the stairs and returned to the living room, where she attached the fathers' and Ethan's boutonnieres. When she faced Ross, her fingers trembled as she ran the long pin through his lapel.

"Thanks." He gave her a warm smile.

Mrs. Carlson returned with the corsage for Ethan's mother, and once she'd pinned it on her, she turned to Ethan. "It's time."

Ethan's anxious gaze flew to the staircase as Pastor Tom motioned Ross and Kelsey to join him in front of the fireplace. The candles blurred as tears welled in Kelsey's eyes. She bit the inside of her lip and turned to face the archway.

Lexie floated down the staircase, and Ethan's eyes never left her as he moved toward her. They walked forward hand–in–hand, and the ceremony began.

Kelsey tuned in to the message, but the words took her back to her own marriage fourteen years earlier. The hurt and sadness of the bitter deceit, the loss of a friend and a husband swept over her. When she heard an amen, she forced her mind away from her dark thoughts.

Pastor Tom rested his palm on Lexie and Ethan's entwined hands. "By their promises to God and to all of you present, Alexandria and Ethan have bound themselves to one another as husband and wife." He looked from Ethan to Lexie and back, then grinned and shook his head. "What's keeping you? Kiss your bride."

Ethan drew Lexie into his arms, sealing their bond with a kiss, as chuckles and applause dotted the room, but Kelsey didn't laugh. Her chest ached with a longing. The love in Ethan's eyes and the glow in Lexie's attested to the true meaning of marriage, the kind of marriage God wanted for His children. Her own marriage had missed the mark by miles.

Envy flickered through her when Ross's palm touched her arm.

He tilted his head toward the dining room. "Want to?" Her heart rose to her throat as she tried to decipher his meaning.

He chuckled. "I'm hungry."

She caught on. "You want to help get the meal ready?"


She moved to his side, and he placed his palm on her back as they strode through the archway. The warmth of his hand rifled down Kelsey's spine. She pressed her lips together and gathered her wits. "Can you carve a pork roast?"

"Sure can. Let me show you what I can do."

Kelsey already knew what he could do to her emotions, and she wasn't ready for that. She hoped he was as deft cutting a roast.

Ross leaned back in his chair, barraged by multiple conversations surging around the dining–room table. But he wasn't really listening. He'd been able to cover his addled thoughts as he and Kelsey worked in the kitchen for a few short minutes before Mrs. Carlson followed them to take over her job as chef for the celebration dinner.

Meeting Kelsey in person tossed his original concept out the window. He'd pictured her as a nose–in–the–air woman who ruled the Mothers of Special Kids with an iron hand, but he'd been very mistaken. He'd witnessed her uneasy apology attempts and realized that she'd tried to be fair by putting it to a vote.

What did bother him was the women's attitude about men. Stereotypical attitude, he could add. Yes, some men couldn't talk about their feelings. Some wanted to take care of things and not deal with emotions. But he'd learned that emotions were real whether he wanted to feel them or not, and when it came to his daughter, the pain of her struggle wrenched his heart. Why would mothers assume that fathers didn't hurt and didn't wrestle with decisions?

But today wasn't the day to deal with that issue. Maybe no day was right. He had questions for Kelsey, but they were more personal. How was her daughter's health now? Ethan had told him once that her daughter had a brain tumor, but what kind of tumor? Where was Kelsey's husband? Gone, yes. She'd mentioned being alone, but had he died or walked out on her? Had the tension of their daughter's illness caused the rift?

He sounded like a detective, and it unsettled him. Instead of brooding, Ross forced his mind to focus on the ensuing conversation about the upcoming Super Bowl. As he listened and tossed in a comment here and there, Kelsey's presence invaded his space. Her sweet fragrance filtered past before being covered by the yeasty dinner rolls and succulent pork roast.

"Excuse me, please."

Kelsey's voice swept past him, and he gazed at her.

"I need to check on Lucy." She pushed back her chair.

Concerned, Ross shifted and rose. "Is she okay?" He drew her chair aside so she could rise.

Kelsey stood, her body close to his. "She's fine. My sitter isn't the usual one I hire, so I'm always cautious." She slipped past him, and he watched her slide a door aside behind them and enter a room.

He stood a moment, wondering if he should stand until she returned or settle back in his chair again. The time stretched, and his concern rose. Not comfortable nosing into her business, yet not at ease ignoring her absence, he strode toward the door, but as he approached, it slid open and Kelsey stepped out. A questioning look spread across her face.

His mind slowed down, and he could only mumble. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."

Meet the Author

Award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin authored over 55 novels with 4 million books in print, receiving a Carol and 2 RT Reviewer Choice Awards. Her novel THE CHRISTMAS KITE was optioned for a Hallmark movie. Gail authored Writers Digest's WRITING THE CHRISTIAN ROMANCE and is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers. CBS local news named her as the four best novelists in Detroit. Before publication, Gail worked as a counselor and a university instructor. She lives in MI.

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A Family of Their Own 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A 9 out of 10. Inspirational, emotional, warm and loving.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Carlybird More than 1 year ago
I have read a few of Gail's books now and I think A Family of Their Own is my favorite so far. Gail has a way of writing that is very real. Kelsey and Ross have both had serious struggles, not just with their sick children, but also with the death of Ross's wife and the betrayal of Kelsey's husband and best friend. I like how Gail does not gloss over the realities of life, but she injects faith and healing into her stories which helps the reader to see that perhaps life isn't so bad after all. As long as we rely on God to see us through the difficult trials. A Family of Their Own is the perfect balance of trials, healing, forgiveness, love and faith. I also liked how the story did not strictly revolve around Ross and Kelsey. There were other things going on around them that influenced the story and made it much richer. The relationship that was developing between Peyton and Lucy was very endearing and was probably my favorite aspect of the story. Kelsey had a lot to deal with with her ex-husband and Gail used that to God's ultimate glory and I really appreciated the realistic way she dealt with the importance of forgiveness and redemption. Once again, I have found a wonderful story told by an author I have grown to respect tremendously. Gail's books are always wonderful for learning valuable lessons for Christian living, but they are also entertaining and heartwarming. I always come away from her books with a happy and positive feeling. She did a fabulous job with A Family of Their Own. I will always have a special place in my heart for her books, especially this one. I highly recommend A Family of Their Own.
Mary--D More than 1 year ago
Sparks fly when single mom Kelsey meets Ross, a widowed single dad. Resistance from their friends doesn't deter them. At first. The more Kelsey gets to know Ross, the more she seems to like him. But the doubts creep in when the reality that both Kelsey and Ross are single parents to very sick kids becomes apparent. While Kelsey's daughter is getting healthier and has lots of energy, Ross's daughter is still severely limited in what she can do. So when they finally get the girls together, imagine the disappointment they feel when the girls don't click. At all. So will it work out? Gail Martin takes you on a wonderful journey of real-life struggles that plague Kelsey and Ross's relationship and weaves them into a story that will leave you glad you entered their lives. Definitely a book worth reading. One of Gail's best.
a-nonny-mouse More than 1 year ago
Kelsey Rhodes wasn't looking for love. She was too busy, to say the least. But when handsome single father, Ross enters her life, she soon finds it wasn't by accident. After his wife's death, Ross must handle the growing stress of his daughter's rampant emotions and heart disease on his own. A pre-teen on the cusp of womanhood, he wonders how he's going to make it without a woman's gentle guidance. And Kelsey must fight her own demons. Years after her husband's infidelity and subsequent abandonment, she must struggle on her own and battle her daughter's brain tumors - trusting doesn't come easily when Ross steps into her life. With two very sick girls, is it wrong for them to hope for a future together? Or is this God's plan? I enjoyed this book. Ms. Martin doesn't sugarcoat these girls' medical issues and paint them as little angels with no feelings or bad attitudes. They behave like regular pre-teens, complete with the rolling of the eyes and cattiness toward their peers. I especially enjoyed watching Ross teach Kelsey that not every man is going to behave as her ex husband did. The most difficult thing about the book was how Kelsey endeavored to forgive her scoundrel of a husband and it was difficult for me to read his attempt at a lame apology. However, the author did a great job in capturing Kelsey's struggle and the important lesson of forgiveness was there and believable.
CHall_Writer More than 1 year ago
A Family of Their Own is the second book in the Dreams Come True series. I have to say I love series books. It's so wonderful to catch up a little on the hero and heroine from the previous novels. Gail Gaymer Martin has given us a wonderful follow-up in this second installment. Kelsey is the mom of a little girl with a history of brain tumors. Now at the point that brain tumors have been gone for a while, Lucy is ready to get on with being a kid and being normal. But is mom ready to move on with her life and overcome her issues with trust? Ross, on the other hand, has a daughter with cardiomyopathy. Looking at a future with limitations all while going through those trying preteen years, Peyton pulls away from her peers. Ross is at his wit's end with how to deal with his daughters moods and just wants someone to talk with that understands. As the novel starts off at the wedding of Lexie and Ethan, we're re-introduced to Kelsey Rhodes and Ross Salburg. Kelsey as the maid of honor and Ross as the best man. In the first novel we learned that Kelsey is the moderator of MOSK, Mothers of Special Kids, and Ross is the dad who the group voted to not allow in the group. This makes for nervousness from the maid of honor on a normally joyous occasion. Once Kelsey has a chance to hear more of Ross's situation and feelings, she realizes that maybe the group was wrong in their decision. Maybe a man would be okay in this group of caring moms. And after spending some time with Ross, she realizes she may be ready to move past the betrayal of her ex-husband. Kelsey and Ross have traveled a long road with their daughters'. They understand each other like no one else can. And even though there is a lot of discouragement from outside sources, they find the way to love. Following along with them on their journey, I found myself completely pulled into their heartache and joys. I celebrated at the good news and grieved at the bad news. Their struggles spoke to me and I felt as if I knew them. Gail has created another sweet story around such a sensitive issue and has worked wonders. It has opened my eyes even more to the struggles of single parents and parents of children with life-threatening illnesses. I can't wait until the final installment of the series. I expect another heart-tugging tale and I hope to find out who this mysterious donor is.