Scoring With Santa(70)

By: Theresa Roemer & Renee Rose

Sam rounded the corner, followed by Brandy and a white-haired older version of Brandy.

Brandy rushed forward to take the gifts from him. “Please come in. This is my mom, Sylvia.”

He shook her hand. Her blue eyes were as sharp as Brandy’s, the intelligence beneath them just as bright. “Coach Morehouse, thank you for coming.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

Brandy returned from depositing the presents, greeted his father with a kiss and hooked her hand in his elbow. “Come and meet my dad.” She beckoned to his father. “You, too, Darrell. Please come in.”

She led him to the living room, which was decked out with a tree in one corner, piled high with presents. A balding man sat in a recliner, his head turned in the direction of their entrance.

“Daddy, Coach Morehouse is here,” Brandy said brightly.

Although he didn’t speak, his face took on a look of exaggerated surprise and delight. He held out a trembling hand, seeming to work hard to unclench his fingers before they pressed palms.

He made sure to look him right in the eye and squeeze firmly. “Mr. Love, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a big fan of your daughter.”

“It’s George,” Sylvia corrected him. “He’s a huge fan of yours. Always has been, and even more so since you started coaching high school. George was a lifelong educator and a high school principal.” The pride in her voice stirred him.

Her dad pointed a finger from him to Brandy and back again, a question forming on his face. “Yoooou?”

Brandy slid up right beside him, slipping her hand through his elbow again. “Yes, Daddy. I’m seeing Rick.”

Shocked pleasure registered on his face.

Brandy rolled her eyes. “I told him that before, but I guess he didn’t believe me.” There was an affectionate, teasing quality to her voice.

The Loves lived up to their name—there was no shortage of attachment here. It stood out in stark contrast to his own relationship with his father, but this time, rather than pain him, he felt hope. Like, with Brandy at his side, he might untangle the threads that held him prisoner, and find some resolution. Hopefully before his father died.

He looked over at his dad, who hung back, in the doorway and beckoned him in. “George and Sylvia, this is my dad, Darrell Morehouse. He’s just moved back to Houston this month.” He left out the to die part.

“Well, who wants to open their presents?” Rick chortled, returning to his role of Santa Claus.

“I do, I do,” the two kids sang out.

Everyone sat down and the kids passed out gifts.

“They’ve already opened gifts at their father’s this morning,” Brandy laughed. She looked happy, her face relaxed, her smile easy.

He winked at her.

She beamed back.

All these years he’d never known what he’d been missing. This. A big family. Kids. A strong, beautiful woman. He wanted to ask her to marry him already, but knew it was too soon. He’d need to court the kids first, and her parents. But by next year, he resolved, Brandy would be his, forever.