“Thank you,” he returned.
Greg slumped back into his chair, eyes on the retreating physician. “He’s a fine young man, isn’t he?”
Matthias heard a catch in his voice. “One of the best cancer specialists around.” Gloria had repeatedly told him of the wonderful caring physician who’d been so good to Tanner and to her.
Greg’s gaze lingered on Dr. Thorpe and his expression was oddly pained.
“You okay?” Matthias asked.
Greg’s nod was slow in coming. “I will be.”
Not understanding, Matthias frowned. “You want to tell me about it?”
“Perhaps someday,” Greg mumbled.
The tension was broken by the sound of carolers. “Joy to the World” drifted toward them, the music festive and lively, a dramatic contrast to their current mood.
“Is it close to Christmas?” Greg asked, seemingly unaware.
“It’s Christmas Eve,” Matthias told him.
Greg’s eyes widened with surprise. “I didn’t realize…”
The music made for a pleasant background as the two men continued to talk, mostly about Tanner and Gloria. Several minutes later Matthias brought up the subject of the vineyard. “I read about the fan leaf problems in your area.”
“It wiped me out,” Greg said.
That accounted for his cousin’s haggardness and his beleaguered look, Matthias thought.
“A lifetime of work destroyed in a single season,” Greg murmured.
“You’re replanting of course.”
Greg shook his head. “Takes capital, more capital than I can muster.”
“Get a loan. That’s what banks are for.”
“You think I haven’t tried?” Greg’s voice rose. “I’m not a poor risk, at least not on paper, but money’s tight. Tighter than I realized. Despite everything, I haven’t been able to convince a single bank to give me a loan.”
“I’ve been working with Columbia Wines up in Washington. The vines there are stronger, more resilient. Say the word and I can arrange for you to replant with those.”
Greg shook his head again. “Hell, I’m sixty. Too damn old to start over now. Lately I’ve been thinking of selling out completely and hiring on with one of the other wineries.”
That wasn’t the answer, as Matthias was well aware. “You never could tolerate working for others. You like being your own boss too much. Besides, you’re still young. I’m damn near seventy and I don’t think of myself as old.”
“Well, I can’t get the financing.”
“What about Phil? He works for a bank, doesn’t he? He should be able to help you.”
Greg shook his head. “He has as much reason to hate me as you do.”
The carolers drew closer, drowning out any chance of further conversation. Matthias could only imagine what had caused such a rift between the two brothers.
Memory told him that Phil had always resented Greg’s good looks, his social skills and sense of purpose. Whatever happened had been building for years. Matthias didn’t doubt that Greg had played a role—but Phil had already been holding a grudge. Looking for a reason to justify his resentment.
Then, without warning, Greg rose slowly to his feet, almost as if he was being drawn upward against his will.
Matthias looked up and then he knew.
Phil saw his brother and Matthias at the same time as Greg saw him. His first reaction was shock, followed by unexpected compassion. Greg—head bandaged, features pale and drawn—stood beside Matthias Jamison, of all people.
Hardly conscious of what he was doing, Phil stopped singing. Sandy did, too. Slowly, involuntarily, he separated himself from the band of carolers. Almost before he realized his intent, he stood silently before his brother. They stared at each other, eye to eye.
Neither man spoke. For his part Phil couldn’t find the words. This was what he’d wanted, what he’d dreamed about—seeing his brother, his sophisticated suave rich brother, broken and humbled. Greg was certainly humbled, but to his own amazement, Phil experienced no glee at the sight.
He was incapable of speaking. His mind had emptied, but his heart had grown suddenly full. His eyes filled with tears, and he struggled to hold everything inside.
Then, wordlessly, compulsively, the two brothers strained toward each other and hugged.
“What happened?” Phil asked when they broke apart. He was looking at his brother’s bandage.
As if he’d forgotten, Greg touched his head. “Nothing much. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“Matthias,” Phil said, glancing toward his cousin, “I didn’t know you still lived in California.”
“I don’t. I came to see my family—and to thank Greg. He was the bone-marrow donor for my grandson.”
Greg had voluntarily given his bone marrow? Phil remembered his brother’s aversion to needles—the way he’d always fainted in the doctor’s office whenever he had to get a shot.
“I…” Clearly Greg was flustered. “I was a match for the boy. Matthias is our dad’s cousin, remember?”
“How are you?” Matthias asked.
“Good,” Phil told him, and the two exchanged hearty handshakes.
“You still work for Pacific Union, don’t you?” Matthias asked him.
“Yes.” Phil already knew what his cousin was about to ask.
“Can’t you help Greg get the financing he needs to replant?”
“How are you going to answer him?” Sandy whispered, slipping her hand into the crook of his arm. Phil was sure the two men hadn’t heard. He was reminded of other voices he’d heard that apparently no one else had. You hide behind a cloak of decency…The good brother…
“I’ll see to it that you get your loan,” Phil said, looking directly at Greg. “Drop in after the holidays to sign the paperwork, and I’ll arrange for the transfer of funds.”
Greg just stared at him. “Phil,” he began hesitantly, “you’d do that for me after…” Words failed him.
“It seems we both had a lot of growing up to do.”
“Thank you,” Greg said, his voice choked and low.
“Greg!” cried a female voice from across the room.
Phil turned and saw a stunningly beautiful woman at least twenty years his brother’s junior come racing across the emergency-room waiting area. “Oh, darling, just look at you.”
Greg smiled as the woman ran one hand down the side of his face and inspected the damage to his head. “How did this happen? Omigosh, you can’t imagine what I thought when the nurse phoned.”
Not answering, Greg placed his arm around the woman and turned to Matthias, Phil and Sandy. “This is Tess, my wife,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Hello, Tess,” Sandy said, and in that warm welcoming way of hers, extended an invitation to Christmas dinner. Matthias and Gloria were included, too; Gloria would be with Tanner for part of the day, but Matthias thought she could join them for a few hours.
“Can we, darling?” Tess opened her eyes wide. “You know how much I hate to cook. Besides, it’s time I met your family, don’t you think?”
Greg nodded, still smiling.
The women started talking, and soon it was impossible to get a word in, but Phil didn’t mind. And from the looks of it, neither did Greg or Matthias.
“Isn’t that the most incredible sight you’ve ever seen?” Goodness said from her perch atop the hospital light fixture. Shirley and Mercy sat with her, nudging each other as they jostled for space.
Seeing Greg with his brother, his cousin and his wife was heady stuff, indeed. Shirley couldn’t have wished for more. Despite their antics, everything had worked out beautifully, and this hadn’t been an easy case. Gabriel had made sure of that.
“I see you three are mighty pleased with yourselves,” the archangel said as he appeared beside them.
“We did it,” Mercy told him with more than a hint of pride.
“And all without involving the FBI or the National Guard,” Goodness was pleased to report.
“There was that one minor incident with a hot-air balloon, though,” Gabriel reminded her. “The Federal Aviation Administration is still looking into it.”
Shirley noticed that her friends had suddenly gone quiet. “All in all, it’s been a challenge.” They’d brought the case to a successful conclusion, but Shirley was convinced it had taken more than a little heavenly intervention. “What’s going to happen to Greg?” she asked, curious to learn what the future held for the man she’d once thought of as despicable. In time she’d actually come to like him and wish him well. He wasn’t as bad as he’d seemed at first glance, and she wondered if this was the real lesson Gabriel had been hoping to teach them.
“Well, as you can see he’s mending fences with Tess,” Gabriel said. Greg had his arm around his wife as they stood and talked to Matthias, Phil and Sandy.
“So their settlement meeting went well,” Shirley murmured.
“Really well,” Mercy said, grinning widely. “Okay, okay, so I joined them for a few minutes. Trust me, the meeting went better than either of them expected.”
“They’re getting back together,” Gabriel continued, “and are determined to make a real effort to give their marriage another chance.”
“Do they last?”
“With ups and downs over the next few years, but they always manage to work things out. They both decide that love, like most everything else in life, is a decision and they’ve decided to stay together.”
“What about the winery?” Shirley asked.
“Greg does replant with the vines Matthias sells him, and in a few years Bennett Wines will once again be known as some of the area’s best.”
“Matthias and his grandson?”
“The boy makes a full recovery and Matthias takes frequent trips to California. When the grapes mature, Greg gives Matthias a percentage of the profits as a means of thanking him for his forgiveness and for his help through the early years. That small percentage is enough for Matthias to retire completely. And Gloria meets a good man, a new assistant winemaker hired by Greg. They eventually get married.”
“I’m glad,” Mercy said. “For all of them.”
“What about Greg and Edward?” Goodness asked. “Does he ever find out that Greg’s his biological father?”
Gabriel shook his head. “Edward doesn’t change his mind about not wanting to know him, and Greg respects his decision. However, he is deeply grateful for the opportunity to have met the son he fathered.”
Mercy smiled sadly as the carolers began singing “What Child Is This?” Shirley nodded in understanding.
“Now, are you three ready to return to heaven?” Gabriel asked.
Goodness and Mercy agreed, but with obvious reluctance.
“Can we come back next year?” Goodness asked as they drifted upward.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Gabriel told her.