Friday, December 21, 2007

Home by Christmas Part 12

There is only one more installment after today--the finale. Today's episode was written by Jennifer Hudson Taylor.

Griffin ran a hand through his hair, trying to push away the searing memory of his daughter’s hurt expression when his father had called her a half-breed and his mother had rejected her. One thing was certain, he would find her and he wasn’t leaving until he did.

“Check with the children to see if any of them have seen her.” He started to walk away when another thought occurred to him. “And the dog, find out where that dog is that she’s so fond of.”

Without waiting for a reply, Griffin stormed to the drawing room, his boots pounding against the floor. His countenance must have borne rage, as all eyes turned to him in a mixture of startled surprise and alarm. Conversations and movement halted.

Griffin scanned the room, but no sign of Verity existed. His gaze drifted to his sister. “Verity is missing, as well as her favorite doll and a box that contained the only things left from her mother.” His gruff voice carried through the room like a lingering echo. “I was hoping you’d help me find her.”

Alicia’s hand covered her mouth in obvious distress. “Of course, I knew she was upset, but I hadn’t realized . . . I mean, I thought Marguerite had managed to cheer her spirits somewhat.”

Terrence exchanged glances with Charles, and a light-hearted smile curled his lips. “Come now, she could not have gone far. Let’s not make assumptions. She must be around here somewhere.”

Griffin strode toward his brother, giving him a glare of warning. “She had better be. She is all I have left in this world worth holding onto. With the exception of Alicia, this family has given Verity no decent welcome to accommodate a mere acquaintance, much less a granddaughter and niece whose blood is the same as your own.”

He had the satisfaction of watching his brother’s eyes lower in shame. “Brother, I meant you no offense, only to calm your increasing fear for her.” Terrence glanced over at the children by the door where Disha appeared. “While I do not pretend to hide my dislike of her mother’s heritage, I am not completely immune to the child’s innocence.”

Alicia laid a hand on the arm of each man. “Precious time is wasting. Come, we must find Verity.”

They split up in small groups searching various areas of the main house. Others were assigned to search the stables and the outdoor grounds. Griffin checked with Stevens to see if he had seen her, as well as inside the coach. Someone found the dog, but Verity was still missing.

Griffin returned to the house, pacing back and forth in the foyer. He pressed his fist against his open palm trying to think of where she would have gone. This house and these grounds were unfamiliar to her. He understood perfectly well why she would want to flee his family. He had done so as a grown man, but why would she flee from him, her own father? The thought sent a pain of regret shooting through his worried heart.

“I daresay, what is all this chaos about?” His father’s voice boomed loudly as he stepped into the foyer.

Griffin paused with his back to his father and rolled his eyes. Lord, help me to show honor to my father. He rubbed a hand over his weary eyes. Slowly, he turned and faced the one man whom he could never please. “Verity is missing.”

His father narrowed his eyes and gestured around them. “Well, send someone to find her. Is it really necessary to turn my house upside down?”

Taking a deep breath, Griffin sought the right words, but only angry retorts came to mind. He marched to his father and paused before him. “If you and mother had one ounce of compassion in your souls, my child might not have gone missing. As it is, you refused to bridle your tongue in front of her, and now she’s run away.” Griffin swallowed the rising lump of fear threatening to choke him. “Father, she’s all I’ve got in this world and if I have to turn your house upside down and this entire country with it, I’ll do so until I find her.” His voice rose to a near shout and his rapid breath came in quick paces.

A feminine moan came from the staircase. Both men looked up to see Griffin’s mother grasp the railing and wipe a stray tear with the trembling fingers.

Griffin looked at his father. “I thought she felt too poorly to be up and about?”

“She asked me to send Verity to her. She wanted to apologize to the child and spend some time getting to know her.”

This bit of news staggered Griffin’s mind, but he had no time to ponder it. Terrence burst through the front door. He strode to his brother. “Did you find her?”

He shook his dark head. “No, but I thought you might like to know that a carriage approaches.”

Griffin gave him a puzzled look. “And why would that be of any interest to me? I’ve more important matters to consider, namely, finding my daughter.” He struggled to maintain his patience and started to walk away, when his brother’s next words gave him reason to pause.

“I believe it is Lady Marguerite.”

Too little time had passed for her to have made it home and return so quickly. Besides, she had made it clear that she expected them and would not be returning. Griffin thought back to Verity and Marguerite giggling together on their way to have gingerbread treats. Verity seemed so comfortable in her presence, enough so that she had asked Lady Marguerite questions.

Griffin hurried, throwing the front door wide and bounding down the stone front steps. The biting cold brushed against his cheeks once again, but he paid no heed as his legs broke into a run toward the carriage ambling down the long drive. “Verity!” Cold air clipped his tongue and froze his lungs as he pumped his arms harder. Light flakes of snow fell, and on he pressed. “Verity!”

No comments: