Take Me Home for Christmas

By: Brenda Novak

Christmas is a time for remembering…


Too bad not all memories are pleasant! Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. Then he goes missing—and she soon learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated.…

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she accepts a job as housekeeper for Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t turn his back on her, but he refuses to get emotionally involved.

Will Christmas, the season of love and forgiveness, bring them another chance at happiness?






1



Sophia DeBussi’s husband was gone. As in...disappeared. Nowhere to be found. At ninety feet, the Legacy was a sizable yacht—Skip never bought anything except the very best—but not so sizable that a full-grown man could easily be overlooked. The six-member crew had just helped Sophia and her thirteen-year-old daughter scour every inch of the boat.

Other than his cell phone, which he wasn’t answering, Skip’s things were where they should be, but he was not.

Holding back her long hair, Sophia squinted against the sunshine glinting off the water, trying to see the coast of Brazil a few miles to starboard. Could her husband have gone for an early-morning swim and somehow reached land?

That was a possibility, but it was a remote one. Why would he go off on his own? It was too windy to enjoy the beach today. And although he traveled all over the world for business, she’d never heard of him meeting anyone in Rio de Janeiro.

Besides, he’d planned this trip for their thirteenth anniversary because he wanted to spend quality time as a family. She couldn’t imagine he was working, not when this vacation was supposed to be about starting over, about saving their troubled marriage. He’d said he wouldn’t take one call. If he’d made that promise just to her, maybe she wouldn’t have relied on it. He’d said such things before and hadn’t followed through. But he’d also promised their daughter, and he and Alexa were very close.

So...where was he?

Sophia gazed down at the water itself. Had he fallen overboard and drowned in the choppy Atlantic?

That thought led to a surge of relief. It was macabre to wish anyone dead, but only if Skip was gone for good would she ever escape him. She’d lived with him long enough to know he’d never willingly let her go. He’d said as much.

The moment Alexa came to the railing to stand beside her, guilt replaced the relief she’d been feeling. Her poor daughter might have lost her father. How could she be happy about that?

“What happened, Mom?” Lexi asked, her big blue eyes filling with tears.

Sophia put an arm around her child’s thin shoulders. “I don’t know, sweetheart.” She kept going over the past twenty-four hours in her mind, but could point to nothing out of the ordinary. Skip had gone to bed with her last night at eleven, as usual. He’d demanded sex, as usual. If he was around, he insisted on some sexual favor at least once a day. She was pretty sure he slept with other women when he was traveling, especially since he was often gone for a week or longer. But she never tried to check up on him. She just did what she had to when he was home to keep the peace, to survive. She knew how he’d act if she refused him. Even if he didn’t strike her, he’d sulk for days.

Except for the embarrassment of having to tell everyone, including their daughter, that she’d tripped and fallen into a door or slammed on her brakes and hit the steering wheel, she would’ve hated the sulking even more. Sometimes it lasted far longer than the bruises.

Alexa wiped her wet cheeks. “You really don’t remember when he got up this morning?”

They’d already been over this. Sophia didn’t remember. She didn’t rise as early as he did. It wasn’t as if he’d allow her to have a job. On a school day, she typically went back to bed after Alexa left, staying there until ten or so. Then she’d get up slowly, work on maintaining her beauty, which was all-important to Skip, and drink away the rest of the afternoon. Alcohol was the one thing that seemed capable of dulling the disappointment, not to mention the boredom, she lived with on a constant basis.

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