Noah Talbert just lost his twin sister—his closest living relative—to a horrific automobile accident. Her death brings him straight to Angel Falls where he claims guardianship of his five-year-old nephew, Dylan.
Elementary school counselor Charlotte Latherson is focused on Dylan’s case for reasons both personal and professional. His mother was Charlotte’s best friend, and the loss has transformed the once joyful and engaging little boy into a reticent, downtrodden kindergartner.
Charlotte is well aware of Noah’s history. Other than a close relationship with his sister, Noah’s life has been solitary; he keeps to himself and builds strong walls of protection around his heart. Can he provide what’s best for Dylan?
At times they butt heads over the youngster’s life, but as they struggle, God opens a loving pathway in their hearts. While Noah fights for a child he feels is nobody’s baby but his, Charlotte wonders if the feelings they share can’t create the bridge to a miracle.
Hearts Haven Babies
Noah Talbert sat frozen, trapped in the confines of a plush, wood-paneled lawyer’s office. He stared at Stuart Gavinson, the portly, middle-aged man who had been left in charge of the few but vital legal components of the estate of Jennifer Sommerville.
Jen. Noah’s heart twisted. Emotions swelled and rose from his heart straight to his throat forming a tight clog that prompted him to bite the inside of his cheek. His only sibling…and his twin. A sense of loss swamped him, like it had ever since he received the phone call notifying him of her death. Even after two weeks—two frantic and desperate weeks spent closing up his apartment, packing his few possessions, job shuffling—pain hadn’t decreased by even the smallest degree.
“Where is the boy now?”
For some reason—fresh grief most likely—the lawyer’s generic referral to Noah’s nephew scratched against Noah’s nerves. “Ever since the funeral, Dylan has been with my sister’s best friend at the apartment complex where Jennifer lived. That kept him in familiar surroundings and gave him a sense of comfort. It also gave me enough time to make arrangements to move to Angel Falls.”
Noah hoped Stuart registered the subtle emphasis he had placed on Dylan’s name. Owlish eyes peered from behind a pair of black-framed glasses. A slow blink punctuated that visual. “You were able to accomplish a job change, and a move, in only two weeks? Pretty amazing if you ask me.”
“There wasn’t much holding me to Shreveport. The move was necessary, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” Noah breathed, eased back the tension level. This guy was only doing his job. “I’m a bit of an itinerant-type guy anyhow.”
Meanwhile, Noah thought, thank God for Charlotte Latherson. The image of a brunette with wavy hair that tumbled against slim but strong shoulders came to mind. She was lovely, warm as toast for the most part, but even after only a few meetings, Noah sensed she was fierce and protective about the children she worked with each day. Charlotte was a counselor at Angel Falls Elementary School, and that equation spread some peace through Noah’s soul. Her influence would undoubtedly help Dylan on the path to recovery. That mission was priority one.
Noah had last seen his sister and nephew together a few months ago. They maintained a tradition of getting together whenever possible, especially during holidays and at milestone events like Dylan’s graduation from preschool last spring. Despite a propensity toward wanderlust, Noah loved his sister and nephew and remained firmly attached to them. Dylan was growing tall, and he had such a feisty spirit. He possessed the dark hair and angular facial features of the Talbert family combined with the challenging spark and charm of Robert Somerville. Robby.
Several non-Christian names and judgments came to life at the thought of the smooth-talking non-starter who, once upon a time, had swept Jen off her feet—literally and figuratively—only to leave her pregnant and alone, but determined to do right by her son.
So, Noah couldn’t be too harsh. From the two of them, from God’s will and plan, had come Dylan. There were times when Noah felt alone in the world; Jen and Dylan had always provided a needed counter-balance to that belief. They had always made it clear he was part of a family. Now, he was the sole viable link for Dylan to blood relations and the mother Dylan had always adored.
“It’s him and me against the world.”
Jen’s oft-repeated mantra played against the strings of Noah’s heart. The words were truth, despite the fact that their parents lived in Marietta, Georgia. Their brand of family support had ended abruptly upon discovery of Jennifer’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Noah steeled himself against another pulsating barrage of anger, refusing delivery on the emotion. No sense rehashing old nightmares at this point. Nothing to be gained.
What he needed right now was to see to Dylan.
“I know you and Dylan still need time to process everything that’s happened.” The lawyer’s smooth, deep voice cut into Noah’s thoughts. “You’ll need to get your feet under you, and you’ll need to help Jennifer’s son with that process as well.”
“I’ll be reachable at my sister’s address. I’ve already made arrangements to sublease her place.”
Stuart jotted notes and nodded. “I’ll make that your contact address. There are court-governed processes to be followed that we’ll need to discuss, but that’ll come in time. Now that you’re ready to assume custody, I’ll guide you through the legal framework and any bumps in the road. At the end of it all, though, Jennifer’s expressed wish was for you to assume guardianship.”
Stuart’s words returned Noah to the realization that a tempest of details remained to be sorted and embraced. Commitments and life-changing circumstances would continue to alter his pathway. Roots. He was putting down roots. Really, there was no choice now; maybe it was time.
So, Noah offered the lawyer an automatic nod of understanding. Wearing the only suit coat and dress slacks he owned, paired with a carefully knotted tie—when was the last time he had strapped on one of those nooses?—it seemed the neckline tightened every time he swallowed. Slowly he gathered his official copy of Jennifer’s will—and death certificate.
All over again he scanned the medical jargon, though most of it was already burned into his mind. Cause of death: Traumatic chest and head injuries due to automobile accident. Acute and multiple internal injuries contributing.
Noah breathed in through his nose, but the air turned hot and humid in the span of time it took him to blink back tears and fears. Walls closed in and it became a battle to lift to his feet. He wavered slightly when he felt a weight, a loving but daunting responsibility, bear down on his body.
In desperate terms he needed his nephew. It was time to see Dylan, to move forward as best they could. Together. As a family.