The following is a sneak peek at book 19. Title and cover release coming soon! Let me know what you think…
Jack sat in the den and was aimlessly looking over some notes for a new case. He watched Tessa from afar until she rode her bike home and she was in her room now, reading.
He was at a loss as to what was wrong and more importantly, how to help her. He looked up as Stephanie came in and smiled.
“What’s up? Bee and I didn’t even hear you come home,” she said and walked to look at what he was reading.
“Sorry. I was just thinking.”
“About Tess?” she asked with a sigh.
“Yeah. She asked me if I was sorry she wasn’t a boy. She is so sad, Stephanie, and I don’t know how to help her.”
“She asked that? Did she say why?” Stephanie’s heart ached for her baby girl.
“She knew you were telling Bee about Josh and she felt left out. She thought if it was so important that you needed Bee to know, she must not be important enough for you to tell her, too. She wondered if she had been a boy, we might have trusted her more.”
Stephanie’s hand flew to her mouth at the words her husband said. She went to leave when he stopped her.
“Where are you going?”
“To tell her how much we love her. To apologize for making her think that way,” she said tearfully.
“She wants some time alone. I told her we would honor that.”
“Were you able to help her at all?”
“I don’t know, maybe? I explained that she is only 11and a half and doesn’t need to worry so much, but that didn’t seem to work. She is just incredibly sad.”
“Do I have to explain everything to you two?” Bee asked as she stood at the doorway.
“Excuse me? Were you eavesdropping?” Stephanie asked.
Sabrina smiled as she walked in and sat down on the couch.
“You weren’t exactly whispering. Besides, I think I can offer you some insight.”
Jack smiled at Stephanie and they both knew they were in over their heads with their spunky daughter.
“Okay, enlighten us,” he said.
“Growing up, you both always told us stories about how we were as babies. I mean, I can’t stop hearing about how love sick I was for David coming out of the womb,” she rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I was always easily going to everyone, well every man, and you both always told us how Tessa was different.”
Stephanie looked at Jack and a horrible realization dawned on her.
“Outside of the two of you, Tessa only felt comfortable with one person, right?”
Jack felt his eyes prick with tears.
“And when I went off to camp with all the other kids but Tessa couldn’t go because of her tummy issues, what did she do?”
Stephanie wiped her eyes.
“Went to work with Mike and helped him with the cold cases. She also started volunteering at the farm that helped vets with PTSD care for injured animals. She did that with him.”
“Right, and when Tessa felt lonely, who did she go talk to?”
“Elaine,” Jack said.
“And when Elaine died, Tessa helped Mike write a song for the memorial. She even taught Peeps to sing.”
Stephanie and Jack both wiped their eyes.
The problem wasn’t that Tessa felt left out. She had lost a dear friend and they didn’t acknowledge that at all. They hid things from her and tried to cover up the truth when she just missed her favorite uncle, her friend.
“Tess? Can you come down here?” Stephanie called up to her daughter.
Sabrina looked at her parents and sighed.
“She’s an old soul. She may be young, but she’s smarter than I think I’ll ever be. Tell her the truth and let her handle it. She’s pretty amazing.”
Tessa came into the room and saw Bee there.
“Were you in my clothes again? Quit it!” Bee said and ruffled Tessa’s hair.
“Really?” Jack said to her.
“What? She’s still my squirt sister,” Bee winked and walked out.
Tessa smoothed her hair down from Bee’s intrusion and sat on the couch.
“Am I in trouble? I’m sorry I didn’t leave a note, but I needed prespection, like you always say.”
Stephanie walked to the couch and sat down, hugging her daughter tightly.
“Perspective is always a good thing.”
Jack walked to sit on the other side of her and he kissed her forehead.
“We need to tell you about something,” he said. “We should have told you long ago, but we didn’t want to scare you. We were wrong and you deserve this one.”
Tessa looked at them.
“Was I adopted?”
Stephanie and Jack looked at each other.
“She said you found me on the porch and waited for days but finally took me in because no one claimed me.”
Stephanie smoothed the hair off her daughters face.
“You were not adopted. You were born in a mall during a storm when the power went out.”
Her green eyes went wide and they heard a gasp.
“What? Seriously?” Bee came back in and sat down, listening.
Jack smiled and Stephanie continued.
“I was with Uncle Tommy and Uncle Evan. Daddy was stuck at the hospital and the roads were too bad to drive. I had you on one of the beds at Macy’s.”
“No way,” Bee said. “That’s awesome. Was it a plush comforter or satin?”
Stephanie and Tessa rolled their eyes at her.
“Seriously? That’s what you ask.”
“What? Fashion is important,” she said with a grin.
“Anyway, about the time you were born, Uncle Mike went through a very hard time in his life.”
Jack looked at them.
“He was married before Aunt Jade.”
“What?” both girls said in unison.
“Do the twins know?” Tess asked.
“I don’t think so, and it isn’t for you to tell them, okay?” Stephanie said.
Both girls nodded, understanding the seriousness of his words.
“Anyway, his marriage ended very badly and Mike was in a very sad place. He had lost a lot of faith in himself and he also lost a son he thought was his own.”
Tessa had big tears rolling down her cheeks as she listened to the story.
Jack was surprised.
“Yes, did he tell you that?”
She wiped her eyes.
“No, but I saw a picture he had once and it was of him holding a little boy. He was really happy. I asked him about it and he said it was from a long time ago. He didn’t say anything else and then the next day, the picture was gone.”
Stephanie squeezed her hand.
“Mike was very sad and lonely and not much helped him, but then the most amazing thing happened.”
Both girls waited.
“He held you and you made him smile. You took to him when nobody else could help your tummy troubles and when he held you, you were so happy. He began to smile more because you smiled more and because of that, when Aunt Jade met him, he was able to trust her. He saw someone who deserved love because you showed him he was still a good man and he deserved to be happy. You did that, Tessa, nobody else,” Stephanie said.
“He also saved my life. When Josh hurt me, I almost fell off the roof of the hospital and Uncle Mike caught me. He held me by one arm until I was rescued. He truly was the best.”
“What? You almost fell off the roof?” Both girls were wide eyed and mesmerized.
“I told you Josh was a very bad man. He tried to hurt daddy and if it wasn’t for Uncle Mike, your daddy wouldn’t be here.”
Tessa felt such a sense of pride come over her and she hugged Stephanie and then Jack.
“Thank you for telling us. I always knew he was a hero, but now I know why. He never talked about himself when it came to what he had done, just like Uncle Bill never talks about it. I think it’s important for us to always remember just how much someone gives up when they help others.”
“You’re right. Uncle Mike helped so many of us and I think it’s time we help his family any way we can.”
“You did that, daddy. You saved Aunt Jade and that’s the most important thing you could have done for Uncle Mike.”
Jack looked at Stephanie and they both were choked up.
“I wish I could have done so much more,” he said.
“Is Uncle Bill going to be okay? He was Uncle Mike’s bestest friend and Josie is afraid he’s going to cry.”
“Uncle Bill went through a lot with Mike and they are brothers, like your daddy and Uncle Tommy are. We will help him through this because that’s what Uncle Mike would want.”
Tessa burst into tears and looked at them.
“But now he’s gone and I don’t know what to do. He believed in me and he trusted me and now I don’t know how to be brave. I want to keep helping people at the farm, but I’m afraid to go there and tell them Uncle Mike is dead. I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can look at Aunt Jade and be strong. I don’t want to see the twins anymore. I miss my friend and I think I’m a loser,” she cried and Stephanie pulled her into her arms.
“Oh my sweet Tessie,” she said as she rubbed her back. “You are not a loser. You are the most amazing young woman and you have buckets of strength and bravery.”
Bee wiped her eyes and Jack looked at his girls.
“I think we need to do something special to help commemorate how important Mike was to you, to all of us.”
Tessa wiped her face.
“How? What can we do?”
“I have a few ideas, but I need to think about it. In the meantime, I think we need to go see Aunt Jade. You need to be able to talk to her about this, too. She adores you, Tess, and you might be surprised at how much you both will help each other.”
“Let’s all go over.”