This next section of our story is contributed by Rachel Wilder
After they’d been shown to their rooms and the luggage brought in, Griffin and Verity returned to the drawing room while Disha unpacked their clothes.
The main door of the mansion opened with a bang, and the large home filled with the sounds of laughter and talking. Griffin felt Verity press a little closer to him, and he squeezed her just a bit to reassure her that everything was indeed all right.
That was when he noticed the boxes and trunks that filled the room. Christmas decorations were contained in each one, many of them holding fond memories of the special time that was Christmas at Arbonne.
A grandfather clock in another room began tolling the hour, and he realized that it was time to decorate the tree. That’s who all those voices belonged to—Terrence and his family, and possibly Alicia and her family.
The sounds of children’s laughter grew louder as the party approached the drawing room. A magnificent fir tree, cut from the manor’s property, was always placed in front of the large bay windows. So Verity would get to meet her cousins after all.
What would Terrence and Alicia say? He especially worried about Terrence. Though close, Terrence had very much disapproved of his younger brother’s rash actions and sudden departure from their ancestral home.
Please, Lord. Restore my family. For Verity’s sake.
And then they were in the room. The talking ceased in an instant. Alicia ran into Terrence’s back when he stopped in mid-step.
“Terrence! Your feet really can’t be frozen. It isn’t that cold.”
Alicia’s voice, so like that of their mother’s, did much to calm Griffin’s soul. Then she stepped around their frozen brother and when her eyes set on Griffin, she squealed and propelled herself into his arms. “I’m so glad you’re home!”
It took every ounce of strength Griffin possessed to keep them both from toppling over from her forcefulness. “As am I, Alicia.” He pulled back a bit and cupped her dear face in his hands. “Let me look at you.”
She obliged, stepping back and performing a twirl so he could see her dress. Then she turned to Terrence and put her hands on her hips. “Where are your manners? Are they frozen too?”
Griffin laughed. A deep laugh, a laugh that hadn’t erupted from him since before Lila’s illness had taken hold. Terrence thawed out and strode over to his brother. Griffin expected a firm handshake, for that was Terrence’s way. He was greatly surprised with a large hug that nearly lifted him from his feet.
“Welcome home, Griffin.” Terrence’s deep voice set him at ease. At least two people were glad to see him.
With one arm slung around Griffin’s shoulder, Terrence pointed to Verity. “I’m not the only one in this room with frozen manners. Who is this beautiful young lady?”
Verity smiled and Griffin knew she was pleased at the compliment. “Alicia, Terrence, this is your niece. Verity.”
Verity curtseyed. “I’m so pleased to finally meet you both. Father has talked much of growing up here.”
“And a proper lady too. Unlike someone else in this room.”
Griffin snickered as Alicia adopted a pompous look and glared at Terrence.
It was at that very moment that Disha stepped from the shadows. She had shed her coat while unpacking, and Griffin saw the bright colors of her sari dancing from the light of the fire. The gold threads gleamed and sparkled like precious gems.
The warmth that had enveloped the room vanished like an ice cube in an Indian summer. A chill worked its way around the room, leaving Griffin with a knot in the pit of his stomach.