HIS BABY DILEMMA marks my 9th book in the SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE series for Heartwarming. This is my first time to release a December book and what a festive treat this has been! Not only did I do back flips when the art department sent me the cover and I saw this darling, cuddly baby, Jules, even then I was instantly in the Christmas spirit. Christmas is for children and I’ve always felt like a kid in December.
When we started planning the blog giveaways and my Prisms Book Tour Giveaways, I went a bit overboard, I admit. But if I can’t play Santa in December, it’s just not Christmas to me. By the way, you can still catch my Grand Finale and the highlights of my wonderful 5 star reviews here:
When I originally “constructed” my Indian Lake town, Mica Barzonni was one of the original characters in my template. Interestingly, back then over 6 years ago, I had intended him to consider becoming a priest. I know. THAT would have been a conflict, right? But it’s not the kind of story line for Heartwarming. By the time I wrote HEART’S DESIRE, the second in the series and had to really think about Mica, which was during his younger brother, Nate’s reunion romance with Maddie Strong, Mica already emerged as a brooding, silent, closed-off personality who clung to the shadows of the family spotlight. He was the engineer. The mechanical-fixer on the farm. With each book his lines told me a bit about him.
I’ve always felt that those “quiet men”, though stereotyped, are very real personalities in life. They have stuffed their emotions for long periods of time. And when something drastic happens, they explode, expose their inner selves and come into their own. I wanted that for Mica.
Grace Railson’s personality, I have to admit, came a bit from my agent’s daughter, Samantha, who is only 12, but is already deep into the “Pageant Life”. I’ve watched from the wings as Sami has competed, lost and won pageant titles. Scholarships are hard to come by, but these kids work hard, very hard to perfect that piano solo, their voice skills and more. Grace was the kind of woman who had fought so hard for every dime she’d earned, that she didn’t know any other way to live. Until she got pregnant and gave birth to darling Jules.
Her baby lit her life, but her sense of responsibility weighted her down. And she found, like a lot of single mom’s, she couldn’t do everything. She needed help. When she turns to Mica, she has a LOT of explaining to do.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SCENE?
I have several most of them due to the fact that Mica has lost the use of his left arm due to a farm accident and now he’s caring for his baby son, a task he’s never undertaken.
MICA LAY ON the floor with Jules on his belly, throw pillows propped on his left side in case Jules rolled off. Grace had curled next to him and put her head on his chest. With his right arm around Grace, she snuggled closer to him by the hour.
Mrs. Beabots slept on the Victorian sofa behind them, a warm brick at her feet with three blankets and a mink coat over her. She slept soundly.
The fire was nearly out and Mica knew he’d have to disturb both mother and child to throw a few more logs on. Just not yet.
This night had been an idyll he never could have imagined. Not since before the accident had he felt this needed, or that his presence and contributions were necessary to the lives of others. True, their circumstances were not as dire as they could be, but the old Victorian house, with its high ceilings and noninsulated windows, allowed the heat to dissipate in minutes.
It was well past four in the morning when he finally rose to stoke the fire. He checked the wall thermometer Mrs. Beabots had placed in the hall just outside the library. The house was forty-nine degrees. Bone-chilling, but not deadly, as long as he kept the library warm.
Mica continued to heat bricks and rewrap them for Mrs. Beabots and Grace. They stirred in their sleep. Only once did Grace awaken.
All she said was “Come to bed.”
His heart cried out with an unfamiliar yearning.
He slid back under the blankets, pulled Jules onto his warm stomach and held Grace close.
She didn’t say another word.
The accident had turned Mica’s world upside down, and he hadn’t felt like himself since. But tonight, he reveled in a sense of belonging he hadn’t even experienced as a child. The happiest days he could remember had always been tinged with the feeling that he was an outsider. But maybe he simply hadn’t appreciated his parents and brothers as much as he could have back then.
Mica was by no means the misfit of the family. That title went to Nate, who had run away right after high-school graduation to join the navy so he could save up for medical school and pay for it all on his own, without their father footing the bill. Gabe was also headstrong and independent. He had left the farm to become a vintner and marry Liz Crenshaw. Rafe had stayed, yet even his first love was Thoroughbred racing. That and Olivia.
Then there was Mica. He’d only ever belonged to the land and to the machines and engines he repaired. He’d never traveled or extended himself beyond what he knew and loved. And he’d always drifted away from people.
Yet, here tonight, he was part of a family. He was filled with an emotion so strong, he could hardly swallow. Mrs. Beabots had been a friend nearly all his life, but right now, he thought of her as the grandmother he’d never known.
He regretted his knee-jerk reaction when Grace had first shoved his son into his arm. Everything about his baby brought a warmth to his heart he’d never felt before. He loved Jules, and Mica would spend the rest of his life telling and showing his son exactly that. And Grace...
Grace was both integral to this family and an obstacle to keeping it together. Mica didn’t know how he would convince her, but if she wouldn’t marry him, then there had to be another way for them to be together.
Mica would find it because he knew now he was no longer a drifter. He could be the father Jules needed.
He would make it permanent.
With or without Grace.
LIKE THE RUMBLE and thunder of an avalanche, snowplows roared down Maple Boulevard in the early hours of the morning, jolting Grace from a deep sleep. Opening her eyes and slowly coming out of a hazy dream, she realized she had one arm draped over Mica’s chest and one arm curled up beside him. Jules was sound asleep on Mica’s stomach as if he’d slept with his daddy every night since he was born.
She blinked. Though the fire was still blazing, which meant Mica had woken through the night to stoke it, the Tiffany lamps were on.
“Power’s back,” she mumbled.
Looking at Jules lying on Mica’s stomach, she was once again struck with the similarities between them. Jules’s long dark lashes fanned against his cheek exactly like Mica’s. Their dark hair was the same texture and color. Jules’s lips parted only slightly as he slept, though he breathed through his nose...like his father.
Family traits. Family resemblance. Grace felt as if she could barely keep her head above water in the Barzonni sea. In Paris, she had designed and customized the world she inhabited. In Indian Lake she was an outsider, despite the fact that her Aunt Louise had been here all her life and Grace herself had visited often during her teen years here. Grace felt as if she was clinging to her plans with her fingernails, like the survivor of a shipwreck. And what a wreck she’d made of this.
The idea that she could just leave Jules with Mica for two months, then whisk him back to Paris was nothing short of absurd. She’d worried about Jules more on this trip than she had when she was at work in her atelier. Granted, Jules was getting older. He crawled now and was trying table food. When he was smaller and less mobile, he was easier to keep an eye on. But it wasn’t just that. Something in her had altered drastically.
Perhaps is it was the fact that on this trip, she’d had long stretches in which she only had to think about Jules. And Mica. She wasn’t glued to her design table or computer, or listening to Etienne and Jasminda argue. She wasn’t in conference with Rene or on another overseas call to England.
For the first time since Jules’s birth, she’d performed the role of mother more than that of businesswoman, designer or couture team partner.
Was this the real Grace she was exploring? Or was it another of the many facets most women polish in their lives? Was she any different than Sarah or Liz, who balanced careers and kids? She didn’t think so.
And, of course, there was Mica. For over a year in Paris, she’d actually thought she was past her feelings for him. She’d thought that bringing Jules here would be uncomplicated. She’d expected his anger and shock, yes, but she hadn’t counted on her own emotions. Her reaction to him last autumn had been a combination of compassion for what he was going through and the remains of a teenage crush that could never be anything more. All through her pregnancy and Jules’s first months, she’d tried to convince herself of that. But after only a few days in Indian Lake, it was obvious that she’d been in denial. Her love for Mica was full-blown and devastating.
Lying next to him now, with their baby son sleeping soundly on his stomach, was something out of a dream—one that Grace should certainly never trust.
Mica had never opened his heart to her. She wondered if he even knew his own heart.
She looked up at the high, stamped-tin ceiling. She would like to tell herself that she and Mica were practically strangers, but she’d just be making up excuses again. She was a victim of unrequited love and it was time she faced that cruel fact.
No matter what Grace did to reason herself out of loving Mica, it wouldn’t work.
“Grace...” Mica shifted and kissed the top of her head. “I think he peed on me.”
“Oh, no!” She scrambled to sit up, but he didn’t loosen his hold on her. “Mica, let me up. I’ll get the diaper bag.”
“The power’s on, right?”
“Could you bring me a warm washcloth, then? Let’s not wake up Jules until we have to.”
Grace nodded. “Absolutely. The water heater might not have kicked in, but I’ll boil some. You don’t have a change of clothes, though. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’ll wash up as best I can. How’s Mrs. Beabots?”
“Good. I’ll stay here and you get the things.” His smile was slow and sleepy. His dark hair was mussed and his dark stubble only made his blue eyes more intense. He’d never looked so handsome.
She didn’t know what came over her, considering she’d just been stewing over how painful it was to be in love with him, but she kissed his cheek. Then she grazed his lips with hers.
“Don’t,” he said.
“I haven’t brushed my teeth.” He gave a low laugh, then pulled her close and planted a kiss on her temple.
I’m so toast, she thought and drew away from him.
“Be back in a sec.”
Grace rose carefully so as not to disturb Jules or Mrs. Beabots. She tiptoed to the kitchen and put a kettle on to boil. She looked out the window and saw that the streetlights were glowing. Now that she was up, she could hear the furnace had kicked on and the house would soon be warm again. She found a French press near the kitchen sink and there was ground coffee in a blue-and-white French porcelain canister on the island. She rummaged around and found two coffee mugs, a sugar bowl and some cream in the refrigerator.
Just as the kettle was about to whistle she took the pot off the stove and poured water into the French press. She placed the cups, sugar and cream on a silver tray she’d seen Mrs. Beabots use. She found a bar of soap near the sink and two washcloths in a drawer. She put the rest of the hot water in a cereal bowl and added it to the tray.
When she returned to the library, Mica had scooted into a sitting position and placed Jules on his baby blanket.
Grace whispered, “Here we are.”
“Thanks,” Mica said quietly.
Mica dipped the washcloths into the hot water and then soaped one up. He lifted his shirt and scrubbed his six-pack. Grace couldn’t help but stare. Her eyes darted to his.
“Told you I kept working out.”
“My arm didn’t hinder my sit-ups.” He grinned mischievously.
Grace turned to Jules and unsnapped his sleeper, glancing back at Mica. He caught her eye.
“What?” he asked, rinsing the suds off with the second washcloth.
“Sorry.” She smiled and took off Jules’s diaper, then cleaned him up with a wipe. Jules stirred, rubbed his nose and looked at Grace. He smiled and then closed his eyes, content that he was safe and his mother was taking care of him.
Mica dabbed at his sweater. “I’ll take care of this when I get home,” he said.
“What about your jeans?”
“I didn’t give Jules his bottle last night. I’m surprised he slept all night,” she commented.
“Maybe he likes sleeping with his dad,” Mica replied proudly.
“I’m sure he does.”
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU DO FOR THE BOOK?
This book was a delightful challenge because I love Paris and the whole couture world is fascinating to me. Not only did I delve into historical couture houses like Chanel, but the young designers both in New York and Paris have such a difficult road to design and become recognized. It is an 80 hour a week job and that’s on a slow week. For those truly dedicated, there is little time for themselves, much less family. That’s what made Grace’s dilemma so very real.
In addition, I dove into the engineering world of machines and new inventions. There are a great many advancements being made in regard to farm equipment for the disabled. As cool as the French dresses and silks were, I was even more intrigued with nuts, bolts and computerized tractors. This new farm equipment comes with really hefty price tags to boot. What Mica experiences is the real thing. And his computer set up looking like the inside of a space ship, isn’t all that far off the grid.
Their worlds appear divergent at first glance, but in essence both Grace and Mica are designers and understand how a new invention or design can fill their head and take them to “other worlds” much like being an author when we are creating a new story.
I loved the research. I always do.
In parting, I want to thank all the December authors for their hard work putting together the Starry Nights and Romance Facebook Party back on November 29th. It was an amazing success. In addition, we had a fantastic December giveaway. Just the thing to finish of the old year.
That “Sleighful of Gifts” was truly the thing for Christmas! All the December authors thank you all for your participation.
Now a New Year is coming. I can’t believe 2017 is over. But it is, and I’m looking forward to some super exciting announcements for Heartwarmers. Check Rula’s and my blog on January 2!
I wish you all Peace, Perfect Health, Happiness and all God’s Abundance in the New Year!
www.catherinelanigan.com ; Twitter: @cathlanigan; Pinterest; Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Baby-Dilemma-Shores-Indian-Lake/dp/0373368658/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512926080&sr=8-1&keywords=catherine+lanigan