Meant-to-Be Baby

By: Lois Richer

CHAPTER ONE


“We have to do something.” Victoria Archer cradled her mug against her cheek and surveyed her two younger foster sisters. “This time, we were able to run home in time to help Aunt Tillie and Margaret clean up from that burst pipe. But what happens if—when—they have another emergency and none of us can make it back so fast?”

“It is January in the Canadian Rockies,” Adele agreed in a gloomy tone. “And they’re predicting a storm. If the aunties had an accident—”

“Or got sick.” The awful thought silenced Olivia for a moment. “So what do we do?”

“I need to think about it.” Victoria rose. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Still proving you’re tough enough to take whatever comes, huh?” Olivia shook her head. “Even the weather, Vic?”

“I always think better when I walk,” Victoria defended.

“Wait. How’d you get here so fast, Victoria?” Adele studied her intently. “You live in Vancouver. When we spoke two days ago, you were settling some issue with a hotel in Toronto. Suddenly today you’re here.”

Time for the truth.

“Toronto was a simple fix and my last job with Strenga Hotels. I’ve taken a leave of absence from them. And Derek. He and I broke up.” She hurried on. “I don’t want to talk about that except to say that I’m now free to stay here at The Haven to help the aunts.”

Avoiding their compassionate looks, Victoria pulled her gear off a wall hook: a white parka with a fur-trimmed hood, a thick red scarf, warm double-knit red mittens and knee-high insulated boots. Once dressed, she whistled for Spot and Dot, the two springer spaniels her foster aunts had rescued from a puppy mill three years ago. A glance at her sisters’ worried faces made her smile.

“I really am okay. How about some of your scrumptious chicken potpie for supper, Chef Adele?” she suggested as she grasped the doorknob, eager to escape their pity.

“Perfect for a stormy day.” Her sister began pulling out ingredients. “Be careful, Sis.”

“Always. See you later.” Victoria tucked her cell phone in her pocket and switched on the outside lights before leaving the big stone manor by the back door. The glow of the antique lanterns around The Haven chased away late afternoon shadows and lit a corresponding warmth inside her.

Home. Exhilaration bumped up her heart rate. Home. No Derek to consider. No pressing issue to tear her away from this glorious place. Well, there was that one huge issue looming…

The buffeting wind and whirling snowflakes turned the mountain foothills into a massive snow globe and ended her doubts. She loved The Haven. Her foster aunts’ huge estate encompassed their massive stone home and acres of foothills and forest with the majestic tips of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Victoria smiled as the dogs bounded through the snowbanks, in and out of the spruce trees lining the driveway, chasing each other in circles but always returning to check on her before racing off again.

Yet despite the beauty surrounding her, thoughts of the future plagued Victoria. At the moment, her only certainty was that she would not return to the hotel chain that had employed her for five years. Her leave of absence would be permanent. There was nothing and no one there for her anymore. Derek had made that perfectly clear when she told him she was pregnant with his child.

“You’re the famous fixer, Victoria. You’ve built a reputation in the hotel business by resolving issues with unhappy guests, broken reservation systems, under-functioning staff and a whole lot more. So handle this. Without me.”

And when Victoria said she was keeping the baby, he’d dumped her. It took Derek less than a week to find a new romantic love.

So be it. Now her future would include single motherhood.

Scared, ashamed, embarrassed, worried—those emotions didn’t begin to cover her wildly swinging feelings. But they weren’t all negative. Wonder, amazement, a secret inner—was joy the right word to describe how amazed she was by the thought of becoming a mom?

Unable to make sense of her topsy-turvy reactions and still unsure of how she was going to support herself and her child, Victoria’s thoughts veered to the immediate problem. What to do about the aunts. Moving Tillie and Margaret from The Haven, the home where they’d lived since retiring from the mission field twenty-five years ago, away from the friends they cherished and the land they adored—it was unthinkable. But how could they stay?

Lost in thought, Victoria finally roused to the dogs’ frenzied barking. When they didn’t return despite repeated calls, she knew something was wrong. She stopped to listen, trying to pinpoint their yelps through the whistling wind.

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