“Something’s supposed to pop out when it’s done.” Emma frowned, peering through the glass on the oven.
“That sounds like a dirty Thanksgiving joke.” David leaned against the doorjamb, admiring Emma’s butt and thinking something else was ready to ‘pop out.’ Too bad his family would be arriving soon and Kenzie was around.
Those thoughts disappeared as Kenzie elbowed her way past him, narrowly missing the result of his dirty mind, as she chased her dog.
“It has to be perfect,” Emma fretted, straightening and wringing the dish towel. “Did you get the picnic table set?”
“Table is set. It will be fine, honey.”
“Your family will be here any minute. Make sure the living area is picked up. And stop eyeing that pie. I know it’s kinda soupy. It’s too much sugar for you, anyway.”
“It’s okay. Mom’s bringing a pumpkin pie,” he offered.
It was, in fact, a colossal failure, jiggling like the canned cranberry sauce. He had sneaking suspicion it hadn’t baked long enough, but he’d been married long enough not to offer that observation.
Emma’s face crumpled. The timer went off and she took the potatoes off the stove and drained them. A few strands from her ponytail curled from the steam.
David shouted at Kenzie and tried to grab the dog as they chased each other around the table. A loud knock on the front door interrupted the commotion in the kitchen.
“Shit,” Emma swore. David hid his snicker by gently pushing Kenzie into the other room with instructions to answer the door. Thankfully, Molly followed.
“They’re here! They’re here!” Kenzie squealed as his family entered. He waved at them but his attention was on his wife.
Emma bravely mashed the potatoes, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
“May I help?” he offered.
“Only if you can get us in at the damn Cracker Barrel.”
“Emma, it’s going to be fine.”
“No, David, it’s not. It isn’t even close to being fine. I don’t know what I’m doing and this was a huge mistake to have your family up for Thanksgiving. I’m not Norma Rockwell. We don’t even have a big enough table to eat inside…”
He wrapped one arm around her waist and stopped her furious mashing of the hapless potatoes. Turning her in his arms, he kissed her forehead. “Just relax. Seriously, everything will be all right. I love you Em. While the meal is part of it, let’s focus on why we have Thanksgiving. Let’s just take the time to be grateful for the fact we’re all together and healthy. And the picnic table will be fun.”
She nodded. “Okay. You’re right. I’ve never really had a family. I just wanted everything to be perfect.
Move and let me finish.” She nudged him out of her way.
“It is perfect. I have you.” He nuzzled her neck and smacked her butt.
His mother rushed into the kitchen with her pumpkin pie. “Hello! My goodness, Kenzie’s grown…” Her gaze narrowed, and he jumped like a horny teenager.
Emma grinned and directed his mother toward the groaning refrigerator. Where she was going to put that pie, he had no idea. There was enough food in there to feed an army.
“I hope you had an easy trip. The turkey should be finished any minute, but it will need to rest. David, will you check it?”
“There wasn’t much traffic at all. The hotel in Birmingham was quite comfy. Is there anything I can do to help?” his mother offered.
David sent up a quick prayer.
Emma was trying so hard to impress his mother, too hard, in his opinion. The last time Mom and Emma had been in the kitchen together, she’d guarded her meatloaf recipe as if it was a national secret.
He opened the oven door and knew immediately something was wrong. It wasn’t nearly as warm as it should be…
“Uh, Em? We’ve got a small problem here.”
Emma stopped scooping the hot mashed potatoes into the bowl. “Did the button thingie not pop out yet? It’s had plenty of time. I followed the directions perfectly.”
His mother stepped forward and stooped beside him. “The element isn’t glowing… I don’t think it’s working. It must’ve quit because while it’s warm, it isn’t hot.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! Fix it, David!” Emma squawked. Her hazel eyes were wide, her face red. She looked ready to combust.
“I’ve got this. Everyone out of my way. Start taking the food to the table.”
“What are you going to do? We don’t have a turkey fryer. It’s too big for the microwave, can you even microwave turkey? What about the dressing?” Emma asked, looking crestfallen.
“Change of plans. Go.” He gave her his best teacher-look.
His mother stepped up to the plate. “Come, dear. Show me where you want me to start putting all these delicious dishes. Mashed potatoes are my favorite.”
“Yes, of course. Your pie looks great. I’m afraid mine didn’t set.”
“Oh, Emma. Don’t worry about it. Pecan pie is tricky and you can’t rely on the recipe. I’ve had many fail. The trick is…” They left and he got busy.
Twenty minutes later, he looked around the Thanksgiving table. His mom and dad sat with Kenzie between them. His sister and her family sat next to them with his two nephews. And across the table from him was the woman he loved. They’d met on a holiday, kissed on another and almost married on one. Holidays and Emma just went together.
Taking hands, they all bowed their heads so he could offer a quick blessing. But he didn’t close his eyes. Instead, he gazed at Emma’s face, loving the faint blush on her cheeks, the loose tendrils of hair framing her face. He knew she was disappointed in her turkey failure, but to him, this was a perfect moment. Her eyes met his, as he knew they would. She smiled.
“We’re gathered here together to give thanks for all of our blessings. My table is abundant with the things that matter most. Family, love—”
“And Molly!” Kenzie interjected. “Hurry up, Daddy. I’m hungry.”
Everyone laughed. He should reprimand her but didn’t have the heart. What did it matter, in the long run? Besides, he was hungry, too.
“And Molly. Thank you, Lord. Amen.” He picked up the plate of grilled cheese sandwiches and passed them to his father. Looking across the table, he winked.
Emma grinned and passed the potatoes.
© Nancee Cain, 2017
(¸.✿¨*.¸¸.•` ✿★ THE REDEMPTION OF EMMA DEVINE
After the upheaval of being dumped by his girlfriend, David Patterson leads a quiet life as a high school teacher in the small Southern town of Pine Bluff, Alabama. Soon to enroll in seminary, his dreams are within his grasp.
But a chance encounter with Emma Devine changes everything. She’s on the run, desperate, and surviving by any means possible. His pastor’s heart longs to help her—and the rest of him is rather intrigued as well.
His random act of kindness brings them together, but Emma makes an unfathomable decision—one that threatens to destroy two lives, though her intention is to save one.
Four years later, Emma returns, seeking redemption. But can David—whose dreams took a very different course after their last meeting—forgive her and risk losing everything?