Day 2 of our Father’s Day Week celebration in honor of the wonderful men we love and read about is an exclusive from Beverly Preston’s upcoming book – Shayla’s Story.
A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime
After making slight repairs to her disheveled appearance and a light coat of fresh color to her lips, Shayla emerged back at the reception. She stopped beneath the cover of the pergola, catching a glimpse of John dancing with his mother.
Standing in the shadows, she watched them smile and laugh. Shayla couldn’t hear what they said, but John’s face covered with pride as they conversed. She felt as if she were intruding on a private moment, but couldn’t look away from the love. Warmth climbed up her neck as she witness the precious moment.
A moonbeam cast through the slots of aged timber above her head and shined down on her fingers. Shayla held out her hand. Her gaze locked on the white band circling her finger. She licked her thumb and scrubbed at the faint mark left by one week of California sunshine.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
She jumped, startled by her uncle’s deep voice. He draped his arm over her shoulder, rubbing her chilly arm for friction. Both remained quiet, watching the tender scene unfolding in front of them. Shayla sniffed and nodded. Her thoughts riven, unable to stop her comparison of this amazing bond taking place before her and the fiasco on Thanksgiving, she peered despondently at her finger again.
“He’s a good man.”
Shayla glanced sideways at her uncle. She shirked in complete surprise. “I always thought you never cared for Mat.”
Tommy gave a raucous scoff. “You’re right about that, sweetheart. I don’t care for Mat. I was referring to him.” He pointed at John.
“Oh.” Shayla looked on.
John dipped his mother with ease as if it were a customary dancing in the kitchen tradition.
She swallowed hard and added, “He seems pretty…wonderful. I keep thinking there’s no possible way they’re really like this all the time. I mean seriously. Does a family like this really exist?”
“I thought the same thing when I met Tess.” One of his infamous wry smiles tugged at one side of his mouth. “I’ve waited all my life to meet a women like her. I didn’t think she existed. And to tell you the truth I was scared to death to meet her kids, but they’re amazing. Thanksgiving was the one of the best weekends of my life. Missed you,” he added.
The sight of her uncle so enamored by a woman pleased her.
Shayla tucked her arm around Tommy’s waist, clinging to him like a small child. She rested her head on the crook of his arm and drew in a heavy breath. Her uncle took on the role of her father for the most part, and just the warm spicy scent of him brought a calmness to her. Every time she caught a whiff of him, it felt like coming home. “They just seem so perfect.”
He gathered her closer, swaying slightly resting his cheek on the top of her head. “Awe, Shay. We’re all just a small adjustment away from making our lives perfect, but you should never settle for anything or anyone less than perfect for you.”
“What am I gonna do, Unc?”
“You don’t need me to answer that,” he said without hesitation. “You have to do what’s best for you, sweetheart. And besides, you already know the answer. It’s just difficult to say out loud and it’s even harder for you to hurt someone. I’m guessing that’s why you stayed with Mat this long.”
The reality of his words sank to the bottom of her stomach like a penny sinking to the bottom of a pool. Her gaze fell to the floor.
“I’ve kept quiet about Mat and his family for a long time, Shayla. I’ve always tried to help steer you in the right direction while letting you take your own journey.”
“I know, but I still appreciate your advice.”
“I planned on talking to you about the whole engagement fiasco while you were here, but you’ve been…busy. Honestly, you know I’ve been completely worthless when it comes to relationships, until I met Tess.” He stroked her hair. “But if I’ve learned anything over the course of my life, it’s that doing what’s best for you isn’t always easy.”
“I know.” She nodded against his chest.
“Life is a journey and everything happens for a reason. That man,”—Tommy bent one eyebrow, looking at John in the distance—“has come into your life for a reason. Just like the day you showed up on my doorstep. And just like the numerous days I said goodbye to a nice woman because she never truly touched my heart.”
Utterly astonished by the sincerity in his voice, she turned, staring into her uncle’s dark eyes that began to redden.
“I can’t imagine the amount of perfect timing it took to put Tess in my path. Sometimes, at the precise moment, Fate intercedes.”
“The stars aligned that day.” Shayla grinned, wiping the slick of tears blurring her vision.
“Only you can decide your path, Shay, but this was supposed to happen. Don’t beat yourself up over it.”
“You’re not mad? You know…your niece, her son.”
“Hell no! Is that what you’re worried about?”
“A little. The media would—”
“Don’t you fucking worry about what the media or anyone else thinks. You do what’s best for you.”
By anyone, he meant Mrs. Huntston and her political entourage.
Tommy gave her a wide-eyed look of assurance and tapped his finger to the end of her nose as if she were a little girl.
“Love you. You know I think of you more like my dad.”
“I love you too, but let’s not start that conversation. I’ll be crying like a baby again.” He squeezed her shoulder and nodded toward John leading his mother toward the pergola. “And right now, it appears as if you’re wanted on the dance floor.”