Excerpt from Chapter One
“All of you probably already know,” Aaron said, “that my daughter’s not doing well. The doctors have tried everything, but…”
Christy let her eyes roll shut as compassion swelled inside her. That poor man.
“Izzie has asked me if…”
The little cough that issued from him was evidence that his emotions were making it difficult for him to speak.
“She asked for a family Christmas,” he said. “You see, we—Izzie and me and her mom—used to spend Christmas at our beach cottage on Maryland’s eastern shore.”
Aaron huffed out a breath and then went quiet. Christy could almost feel his frustration all the way in the back of the room where she was imprisoned.
When he spoke again, his voice was stronger. “My wife died two and half years ago. Izzie wants me to find a stand in. For Christmas. For a… a family Christmas.”
A final family Christmas. He might not have said the word final, but that’s what he’d meant.
“I’m sure all of you know that Izzie is a list-maker,” he told them. “Let me read her wish list. A tree with lights. Christmas carols. A picture with Santa. Lots of cookies. Presents. Snow. My daddy. A make-believe mommy. A Perfect Christmas.”
One of the nurses in the crowded room sniffed and then blew her nose into a tissue. Christy pressed her fingers against the achy lump that had risen in her throat.
“I need Izzie’s make-believe mommy,” Aaron said.
No one stirred.
“I know it’s an odd request,” Aaron said.
Someone said, “I wish I could help you, Mr. Chase, but I already have a house full of company.”
Several other people offered excuses.
Christy caught Bridget’s gaze, a question in her eyes. Bridget shook her head vehemently. Christy mouthed It’s Izzie.
Both of them knew just how ill the child was. Christy raised her hand and said, “I can go.”
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