The Presence of Grace (Love and Loss #2)(10)

By: Anie Michaels

After we’d finished, he walked me to my car. “Thank you for keeping me company, Mr. Roberts,” I said as I pulled my keys from my purse.

“Please, call me Devon.”

“Only if you promise to call me Grace.”

“Deal,” he said with a smile that made my breath catch.

“Well,” I said, opening my door. “I should probably get going. Thanks again for the company.”

“My pleasure. I’ll send that packet to school with Jaxy on Monday.”

“Sounds good.”

“See you around, Grace.” He gave a little wave and stepped back onto the sidewalk, watching me settle into my car. I waved back as I drove away, and let out a big sigh. It had been surprisingly comfortable to share a meal with him and I hadn’t anticipated that. I hadn’t eaten a meal with a man besides family or my ex-husband in years, but Devon made everything seem light and easy.

Nothing in my world had been easy for years.

Chapter Four


“Have you ever painted your own house?”

I’d been helping an elderly man with supplies to paint his house for over a half hour. He seemed determined, but seeing as how he was making his way through the store with a cane, I had to wonder about his ability.

“No, I can’t say that I have. And honestly, I don’t know that I would. It’s hard work.” I watched the old man’s face carefully as I said the words, hoping they’d sink in.

“All our kids are grown and moved across the country. I’d tell ’em to come help, but it wouldn’t do any good.”

I pictured myself old and alone. Would Jaxy and Ruby stay close or run away as far as they could, leaving me to waste away by myself?

“I have the cards of some pretty reputable painting companies up at the register. They hire college kids so the costs are pretty reasonable.” I knew if he decided to hire someone else to paint his house I would lose the sale, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, send an old man to paint his own house in the Florida sun that was only getting hotter by the day. The man grumbled under his breath for a few seconds, then let out an audible sigh.

“I’m painting the house because I have to sell it. My wife died a year ago and it’s just too hard to be there anymore.”

Oh, I hear you.

“I’m sorry.”

“The point is, I’m painting the house because I want to sell it. I’m starting to think that if I paint it myself, it might not help my cause. I should probably hire a professional.”

I laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “A good paint job can add a lot of value.”

“There’s no amount of money that can buy the memories of my wife in that house,” he said gruffly. “But I can’t stay there forever.”

“Let me get you those cards.” I walked away before he said any more stupidly poignant and emotionally draining things, and headed toward the register. I’d opened the drawer below the register and grabbed a few business cards, when my phone on the counter caught my eye. The light in the corner was flashing. I activated the screen and saw I had five missed calls. Confusion and panic coursed through me. I opened my voice mail and immediately pressed Play.

“Mr. Roberts, this is Amy from Tree Hill Day Care. I’m just calling to let you know that Jaxy hasn’t arrived yet, even though we expected him a little while ago. I haven’t heard from the school, so I’m not sure if there was a miscommunication or not, but we’re still expecting him. Please give us a call so we know you got this message.”

“Shit,” I swore as I moved on to the next message.

“Um, hi, Devon? Or, uh, Mr. Roberts? This is Miss Richards from North Elm Elementary. I’ve got Jax here. He’s fine and safe, but the bus that usually takes him to day care broke down on the way here. I’m still here with him, so don’t worry about that, but I just wanted to let you know. They don’t have an estimate of when or if they’ll be able to come get him, but I’m here with him and I’ll wait to hear from you. Uh, thanks.” I heard some rustling, then her voice again. “Oh, and this is my cell phone in case you’re confused by the caller ID. You can call me back here, or the school number. Either way. We’re on the playground, which is why I called on my cell. Someone will answer if you call the school. Uh, okay. I’ll shut up now.”

The voice mail ended and I was a mixture of amused and relieved. Grace’s message made me chuckle and I was glad she had Jax and he wasn’t missing and scared somewhere on a broken-down bus.

“Dad,” I hollered to the back of the store, where my father was in the office.

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