We Need a Little Christmas

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Authors: Sierra Donovan
related to Olivia made the decision even more clear-cut.
    Liv . . . not so clear-cut.
    She was a complicated mixture of vulnerable and resolutely self-reliant. He couldn’t tell which side tugged at him harder. He did have a soft spot for vulnerable women. But the way she’d taken over yesterday’s kitchen crisis—that had been impressive. Even so, he’d caught that glimpse of the vulnerable girl trembling under the weight of it.
    This morning, with her tousled hair and oversized college sweatshirt, it was obvious she hadn’t expected anyone besides her mom and sister to see her today. She looked tired, distracted, and frazzled. And gorgeous. Probably even more so today than yesterday, because she wasn’t even trying.
    â€œSeriously,” Liv was saying. “We’re cutting into your time.”
    He waved her off. “Forget it. You know how things work around here. Next time I’m in a pinch, I’ll hit your family up for . . . I don’t know, a casserole or something.”
    That got a smile out of her.
    â€œYou want casseroles?” she said. “We’ve got casseroles. Mom’s fridge is full of them. She says people were bringing them in all week. Then last night, we spent an hour trying to fit in a bunch of leftover side dishes from the potluck. It was like a jigsaw puzzle.”
    Scott remembered. By the time he pulled Rachel’s car up to the front of the church last night, several women had caught up to the three women to offer them a small arsenal of casserole dishes and Tupperware containers. Liv and her family had been visibly weary, but gracious, as the well-wishers loaded down the backseat.
    After a moment of silent contemplation, Liv said, “I shouldn’t have left them at Nammy’s like that.”
    â€œYou know something? I think they knew you needed a break.”
    â€œWe just barely started, and there’s so much . . .”
    â€œKnow something else? I think they needed a break, too. Unless they were just really dying to get into that potato salad.”
    â€œPasta salad.”
    Whichever. “It’s a lot to take on, Liv. It’s okay to pace yourself.”
    â€œIt needs to be done.”
    â€œI get that. But remember, your grandmother’s memorial was yesterday .”
    She looked out the window again. “You think I’m pushing too much?”
    Scott fingered the steering wheel. He wasn’t trying to be hard on her. Just the opposite. “I think you’re pushing yourself too much. Just remember, you’re only human. And the first day is probably going to be the hardest. I imagine it’ll get a little easier as you go.”
    â€œAt least Rachel balances me out a little bit. She’s so supportive with Mom.”
    At the word supportive , Scott saw the two younger women flanking their mother on the way out to the church parking lot, ready to steady her at the first wobble.
    â€œYou don’t have any brothers or sisters, do you?” Liv asked.
    â€œNope. My folks decided to quit while they were ahead.”
    She sent him a puzzled frown.
    â€œI was a hard act to follow,” he said. “I think my mom’s exact words were, ‘Never again.’”
    That surprised a laugh out of her. Good.
    â€œI weighed eleven and a half pounds,” he said. “And when I started walking and talking, I was even more trouble.”
    He felt her eyes on him. “When did you outgrow it?”
    â€œWho says I did? Outgrow implies that somewhere along the line I grew up.”
    She was still studying him, he was sure of it. Then again, it was easy to get convinced someone was staring at you when you were trying so hard not to look at them. He was afraid she was going to say something embarrassingly serious.
    Instead, she said, “I remember the senior prank.”
    Good. He was used to defending himself on that one. “It wasn’t just me,” he protested.

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