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Authors: Elizabeth Sage

Tags: #romantic thriller, #love triangles, #surrogate mothers

Finding Home

Finding Home

by Elizabeth Sage

 

 

 

Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth Sage

All rights reserved

Smashwords Edition

 

Smashwords License Notes

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of this author.

 

Cover photo: Michael Galan

Cover design: Sarah Schneider

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.

 

This ebook is a new and revised edition of
Finding Home
, originally published in 2002 by Five Star as
part of their First Edition Women’s Fiction Series.

 

 

 

January 1, 2011

 

My darling daughter,

How I wish I didn’t have to tell you this. If
only I could leave well enough alone. That’s what I’ve been doing
after all, for the twelve years since you were born. I’ve faced
every single day determined to move on. To never look back.

And that worked, for awhile. There was so
much to do at first. Your needs overwhelmed me. I hid in the
busyness and joy of having you, the satisfaction of building Camp
Ciel and making my dreams come true. But now you’re almost
thirteen, a young woman yourself. You’ve discovered boys, and
you’ve started asking questions I’d rather not answer.

Questions like “How did you know Dad was the
one?” and “Were you ever in love with anyone else?” I always knew
I’d need to tell you the truth sometime. I’d just planned on you
being older when it happened. But I realized last night I can’t
wait that long.

At midnight, when we all trooped outside to
bang pots and light sparklers, you danced about in the new boots
you had to have for Christmas. “Happy New Year!” you shouted as you
twirled your sparkler in the darkness. Then you slipped close to me
and whispered, “Isn’t this perfect, Mom?”

I knew you meant that it had been a wonderful
day. Our oldest and dearest friends, Kiera and Angus and their son
Quinn, were here for the holiday. Everybody had loved skiing
through the snowy woods in the morning and skating on the frozen
lake all afternoon. At dinner we were excited about our plans to
keep Camp Ciel going by adding a wellness retreat and spa during
the off season. Then while the adults played cards by the fire, you
and Quinn had snuggled closer and closer together on the sofa,
pretending to watch a movie.


Yes, perfect,” I agreed. Who could ask
for a better family, better friends or a better day? But I also
knew that by “perfect” you meant something more. You meant that you
were young and crushing on a cute boy on New Year’s Eve. Quinn
MacLaren. A boy you’ve known all your life. A boy who, for the
first time ever, was showing more than a brotherly interest in
you.

Later, I slipped into your room while you
were sleeping. You looked so angelic and pure, with the moonlight
shining through your window on your beautiful face. I stood and
gazed at you, full of love and gratitude. It was wrenching to know
that you wouldn’t always want to celebrate New Year’s Eve with your
parents. That you’d grow up and make your own life someday. But I
hoped you’d find your heart’s true home, just as I have.

And then I was lost in remembering.

I stood by your bed and wrapped a quilt
around my shivering shoulders, tears streaming down my face. I
didn’t want to think about it all again. But I’d lied earlier –
things aren’t perfect. They aren’t what they seem. They aren’t what
you’ve grown up believing.

I want to be honest with you, even if it
hurts us both. You have a right to know your situation. You deserve
an explanation of how you came about, even though it might shatter
your world. I can only hope that once you’ve heard the whole story,
you’ll be able to forgive me.

My New Year’s resolution is to record what
happened, the way I used to record my clients’ lives when I was a
caseworker. I didn’t keep a journal or notes at the time, but the
memories are shockingly clear. Writing it down for you now seems
the only way to make sense of it all.

Did I do wrong?

Am I to blame for what happened?

Will you understand why I made certain
choices?

The world has changed so much since you were
born that I’m afraid you’ll think I was hopelessly naïve. But
things were simpler back then. And I really did believe I was doing
a good thing.

Chapter 1

 

 

In the beginning, I only wanted the
money.

It was September, 1998, and I wanted to buy
land. I was obsessed. The need to belong somewhere, to have a place
to call home, ruled me. And I knew exactly where that home should
be: Auberge Ciel, a hunting and fishing lodge on the wild rocky
shores of Lac-Poisson-du-Ciel, in the Outaouais region of Quebec.
I’d been living and working there for the past four years.

My dream was to buy the place, convert it to
a camp for disabled and disadvantaged kids, and live there forever.
Not by myself, but with Jay Williams, the love of my life, and his
adult daughter Becky, who’d been planning and saving along with
me.

But Auberge Ciel wasn’t for sale.

The owners, Baptiste and Odette Rivard, were
ready to retire, but the lodge had been in their family forever,
and they wanted to keep it that way. Their son Claude, an insurance
agent in Hull, would be the next owner. It broke my heart that I
was the one ready and willing to take over, but I wasn’t going to
have that chance.

I’d accepted it though, and we’d begun
looking at other properties. I knew Jay was relieved. He and Becky
were settled in Vermont and she didn’t really want to move. Over
the summer we’d narrowed down our choices and picked a property
near Waterbury. I was supposed to drive down right after Labor Day
to have a final look and put in the offer.

Then something happened.

I was in the lodge kitchen with Odette,
checking supplies after our busy summer, when she asked, “You see
Claude here today?” She didn’t look at me. She stared instead at
her open notebook, where she was jotting down what to order for the
upcoming hunting season.

“I saw him,” I said, “but I wasn’t talking to
him.” Claude had put in an appearance mid-afternoon. I’d been down
on the dock replacing a piece of rotten wood, seen him drive up in
a new red Sunfire, then strut around to the front of the lodge. He
never used the back kitchen entrance. By the time I’d finished my
work he was gone.

Odette peered into a cupboard. “He change ’is
mind,” she said to the almost empty flour bins.

“Oh?” I wasn’t really listening. I was
thinking about the hunters who’d arrive in a couple of weeks for
black bear season, and how I hated them. “There’s enough tea
Odette, but we’ll need coffee. And I think we need more salt, those
guys put salt on everything.”

Baptiste strode in then, the screen door
banging shut behind him. He straddled a stool, lit a cigarette and
blew smoke up past his face, which was all beaky nose and shaggy
eyebrows under his Expos cap. “Sacrebleu!” He sucked on his
cigarette as if he wanted to swallow it whole. “Claude gonna stay
in de city!”

Odette dropped her notebook and sort of
crumpled against the countertop. “He don’t never want to live
’ere.” She started sobbing as if he’d died, which was probably how
she felt.

I put my arm around her, patted her back.
“Hey, don’t worry. He’ll change his mind back again.” I wasn’t too
sure about that though. I’d always found it strange that Claude
didn’t spend much time at the lodge. And when he did, at Christmas
or the odd summer weekend, he looked so uncomfortable. He never
changed out of the sleazy suit and tasseled loafers he arrived in.
And he never went outside, just sat at the bar drinking beer and
chain-smoking.

On the other hand, I couldn’t understand how
someone born and raised here could want to live anywhere else.
“Just give him some time.” I said.

“Maudit!” Baptiste flipped his half-finished
cigarette into the sink. “He make me so damn pissed! You still
wanna buy dis place?”

Did I? I felt like jumping right through the
ceiling. “Yes!” I cried. “More than anything.”

“Hokay!”

“But shouldn’t you give Claude another
chance?” I felt terrible for the Rivards; they’d been like parents
to me. “Maybe he’s just not ready for this yet.”

Baptiste stood and kicked the stool clear
across the kitchen. “Tant pis!”

I kept patting Odette, hoping she couldn’t
feel my excitement. “Well, it doesn’t seem right, somehow. I know
how much keeping the lodge in the family means to you.”

Odette sniffled. “If only God had give me
more children.” She blew her nose and picked up her notebook again.
“Claude, he’s got different life. You’re the one lives ’ere, does
all the work.”

“Yeah, well,” was all I could say. If I
hadn’t cared so much about Baptiste and Odette I’d have been
whooping with joy. I couldn’t wait to call Vermont. This was the
best news ever. But I used the phone in the lounge so the Rivards
wouldn’t overhear me. I couldn’t bear to hurt their feelings.

“Jay? Guess what?” I cried. “Thank god we
didn’t put in that offer yet, because I just found out we can buy
Auberge Ciel after all. Claude’s decided he doesn’t want it!
Ohmigod, can you believe it?”

But Jay Williams, the man I adored and wanted
to spend the rest of my life with, didn’t respond. He didn’t say
anything at all.

“Hello? Jay? You still there?”

“Uh, actually Luce, I was going to call you
tonight.” He spoke with a certain apologetic tone I’d heard all too
often, his
Becky-beat-you-again
voice. “Something’s come
up.”

“Oh?” I could just see his face. He’d
probably be taking off his wire-rimmed glasses and rubbing his
eyes, as he always did when we were talking about Becky.

“Yeah, and I was thinking maybe we should
wait another year or so before we buy.”


What?

“You know, save some more money, consolidate
our plans.”

“Jay. What exactly do you mean?” I pictured
him leaning on their kitchen counter, specially built low enough
for Becky to reach from her wheelchair. He was almost six feet and
given to slouching down to her level. He really only used his full
height when he played basketball.

“Well, I’ve uh, I’ve bought Beck a van. You
know, the one she’s been talking about, with the hand
controls?”

“But that’s great. She won’t be so confined,
she’ll be able to go places on her own.”

“Yeah,” Jay said. I could feel him stalling.
And then, “Thing is Luce, her trust fund won’t pay for it. I
checked with the lawyer.”

“You mean you spent the money you were saving
for our camp?” I paused to gasp for breath. “Without telling
me?”

“You know she needs more independence.”

“Hey, I understand about the van. But we
should have talked about it. Now we’ll have to take a bigger loan.
I really want to get something in writing with the Rivards right
away.”

More silence from Jay. Then he said, “But
what about Vermont? I mean, we kind of promised Becky, since the
Rivards wouldn’t sell. She’s sort of got her heart set on staying
here now.”

“Well I’ve got my heart set on staying
here
. You know I do. And it won’t wait. I have a feeling
that Baptiste is so mad he’ll put the lodge on the market tomorrow
just to spite Claude.”

“But what about Becky? Vermont is her home.
All her friends are here.”

“What about me?”

“Look, you just don’t understand, you’re not
a parent. Don’t do this to me, Luce. Don’t make me choose.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake Jay!” I really lost it
then. My voice went all high and shrill with rage. “Becky’s not a
kid! I mean, I know she’s had a rough time and all, but she’s
thirty
. Remember? She’s only two years younger than me, Jay,
she’s a big girl now, a grown woman. So how about if
you
don’t do this to
me?

Then I hung up on him, banging the phone down
so hard it almost came off the wall. How could he? First the money,
then the Vermont stuff.

The phone rang right away but I left it for
Odette to answer. I needed some time to think before I talked to
Jay again. If I ever did speak to him again. We’d been over it all
so many times I wasn’t sure there was anything left to say.

We’d been fighting about Becky forever.
Funny, but when I’d first met Jay I’d thought our age gap might be
a problem. He was sixteen years older than me. But it wasn’t. It
was Becky, his little baby Becky, from day one.

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