She enjoyed the final scene with the Christ child born and Joseph holding him up for all the world to see and the choir sang beautifully in the background, the words of Joy to the World. The Pastor came up on the platform when the music concluded and he gave a short devotional. He spoke of Jesus and pleaded with those in the audience to get right with God. He went to prayer and gave an altar call. Whenever Sophie entered a church in the past, her mind wandered during the altar call. However, now she made good use of her own efforts and prayed silently along with the Pastor for all of the people wrestling with making decisions to accept salvation at that very moment. She prayed for David and hoped he made that commitment.
A few people decided to follow Jesus and walked bravely down towards the front of the church to meet with the Pastor and the prayer teams. The congregation clapped in encouragement and then the song leader stood up and beckoned everyone to stand and join him in signing Joy to the World one last time.
The Pastor gave a benediction and dismissed the service, wishing a Merry Christmas to all. Sophie watched David hightail it out of the sanctuary and wondered if the service touched any chord in his heart. She knew she must continue to pray for him. She turned back towards Sebastian and Anastasia. “Papa, can we open the presents now?”
“No, dear, we’ll be waiting until tomorrow morning.”
Alexander chuckled. “I’m sure that will be bright and early.”
Sophie smiled. “Well, I know I’m sleeping in. I need my beauty sleep.”
Anastasia tugged on her sleeve. “Miss Sophie, we have to get up early to open the presents. It’s tradition.”
“Oh, I see.”
Anastasia twirled around in excitement. “I’ll have to wake you up then.”
Sebastian looked down at his daughter. “I’m sure she will. We’d better get you home since it’s past midnight and you need to go to bed.”
“But, I’m too excited to sleep.” She then challenged her father. “If it’s past midnight, then it is Christmas morning already.”
“I think Miss Sophie is teaching you too well.”
Alexander started to walk out of the sanctuary. “Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m going to sleep. I can’t keep up with all of you.”
* * *
Sophie watched Anastasia run into her father’s room. She tried to stop the eager child, but the Christmas spirit infected her and she wanted to spread that joy. A few seconds later, Anastasia ran out of the room, whizzing by Sophie. “I have to wake grandpapa and Uncle David.”
Sophie turned to walk back to her room, when Sebastian called out to her. “I told you she’d wake us all up.”
She looked back, pulling her robe tighter around her. “Yes, you did. I’m going to go get ready. I’ll be down shortly.”
She took heed of his warning. “Don’t take too long. Ana’s probably already sitting by the tree.”
When Sophie came downstairs a little bit later, the smell of bacon and eggs assaulted her senses. She saw Alexander working proficiently in the kitchen making breakfast. “I thought you were still sleeping. Did you get Anastasia’s wake up call, too?”
“Oh, I’ve learned, that if you want to sleep in on Christmas morning, you can’t, at least not with my granddaughter around. So I got up early to cook for everyone.”
Sophie sat at the breakfast nook. “That’s nice of you. I guess Hilde and Daniel are visiting their families?”
“Yes. Hilde left last night. Her family lives in London. Daniel left earlier yesterday afternoon. His family lives up north in the Lakes region, near Cumbria.”
“I bet David won’t be too happy with his wake up call.”
She saw Alexander raise his eyebrows but got the message too late and heard someone enter the kitchen. “Yes, David was very disturbed by the wakeup call.”
Sophie shrugged her shoulders and chuckled when she realized David heard her. He smiled. “Merry Christmas to all.” He rubbed his eyes. “Father, have you started the coffee yet?”
“Yes, I put the pot on.”
Sophie stood up. “I can help.”
“You’re our guest. You don’t need to help.” David tried to dissuade her.
“Really, it’s not a bother. I enjoy helping.”
Alexander looked back. “Well, in that case, can you handle the toast?”
She laughed. “Yes, I think I can.”
Sebastian came into the kitchen. “Oh, why wasn’t I invited to the party?”
“It’s too early in the morning for your cheerfulness.” David complained and got up. “I’ll be in the study. Please call me when breakfast is ready.”
Sophie watched him leave. “I’m praying for him. I hope he finds God’s gift of Jesus soon.”
Sebastian gently squeezed her hand. “Thank you for praying.”
Alexander turned toward them. “Where’s Ana? In front of the tree?”
Sebastian reached for the tablecloth from the drawer. “She’s still in her room. I thought she was coming down, but she said she had one last card to work on.”
“Well, I hope she comes down soon. I’m almost done making breakfast.”
Sophie pulled the slices of toast from the toaster. She looked at Alexander. “Do you want me to butter them or are you leaving the toast on the table with butter and jellies and jams?”
“I was just going to butter them, but your idea sounds better.”
She turned around and reached to open the refrigerator door the same time Sebastian moved and they bumped into each other. “I’m sorry.”
He playfully poked her on the nose. “I’m not.”
She looked at Sebastian but spoke to Alexander. “I’m beginning to think that your son is more of a jokester than he let on.”
Alexander agreed wholeheartedly. “Yes, he does have a split personality.”
“Hey, I’m still here…no need to talk about me.”
Anastasia came into the kitchen. “I’m finally finished. Did I miss breakfast?”
Sebastian wrapped his arm around her and assured her. “Of course, not, dear. “I would come get you if we were ready.”
“That’s too bad. I thought we were ready to open the presents.”
Alexander laughed heartily. “My goodness, you are excited.”
“Not for me, grandpapa. I can’t wait to give out the cards I made for everyone.”
“Oh, that’s sweet, honey.” Sebastian picked his daughter up and gave her a kiss. “You’re getting so grown up, soon I won’t be able to pick you up anymore.”
“You can still pick me up when I’m a lady. I saw you pick mama up once.”
Sophie took over the job of setting the table and smiled at the tender moment between father and daughter, which caused her to think about her own father. However, this time she felt joy, not sadness at the memory of him. David walked in on this tender moment. “Now, enough of this mushy stuff. Let’s eat.”
“Uncle David, why are you so grumpy? It’s Christmas day.”
Sophie heard Alexander’s whispered words. “Out of the mouths of babes.”
Everyone ate breakfast quickly and afterwards, Sophie offered to clean up. “You can all go ahead and open presents.
Sebastian stood up. “I’ll help you because we’re waiting for you. You’re part of the family.”
His words surprised her. “If you insist.”
He carried the plates to the counter and came close to her. “Yes, I do.”
She trembled at his nearness and whispered breath. With great effort, she quickly refocused her mind to the task at hand. As she started to load the dishwasher, she turned around; glad to see the others left the room. “Did you get the information I forwarded to your email about the enrollment in the school at the Life Center?”
He carried the rest of the dishes to the counter. “Yes. It seems like an option. But, I do want Anastasia to be in on some of the decision making.”
“That’s good.” She finished loading the dishes, worried she offended him. “I hope I’m not being too forward.”
“No. I appreciate your help.” They finished cleaning up and Sebastian gently touched her back and guided her out of the room. “I think we’ve kept my little princess waiting long enough.”
* * *
Sophie felt like an intruder as she followed Sebastian into the parlor to join his family for their gift giving festivities. “Finally, Papa, you’re here.”
“Yes, my little princess. Thank you for being patient.”
“Miss Sophie, can you sit by me? Papa usually hands out the presents.”
Nodding, she moved to join her on the ottoman that someone moved near the tree.
Sebastian glanced at Alexander. “I’ll let you do the honors this year, Father.”
Sophie watched as Alexander stood up. Excitement shone on his face and he walked over to the tree then turned to Anastasia. “I may need a helper. Are you ready?”
“Yes, Sir, I am!” She grew pensive then and fidgeted with her hands in her lap. “Oh, can I give out my cards first?”
Alexander patted her shoulder. “Go ahead, dear.” She got up and Sophie thought the young girl looked ready to burst with enthusiasm. She reached under the tree and found her cards. She handed the first one to Sophie. “Miss Sophie, this one is for you. I hope you like it.”
She opened the card and the message touched her heart.
“Can you read it out loud?”
Sophie started to read the words. “Miss Sophie, you are my favorite teacher. Thank you for helping me to learn so much. You are my friend and I love you. I hope you stay with us forever.” Then Sophie started to cry.
“You don’t like it?”
Sophie hugged her. “I like it very much. These are happy tears.”
“Good.” She moved back. “I made a bookmark, too. Did you see it?”
“Yes. You did a good job.”
She smiled and gave a card to her Papa. He read it and thanked her and then she moved on to her Uncle David and grandfather. With the others preoccupied, Sebastian startled Sophie by coming to sit next to her. “I can’t wait any longer to give this to you.” He handed her his gift. She stared at him. “Well, are you going to open it or should I?”
She unwrapped the shiny silver paper and opened the box. Amidst the packing straw, she found a snow globe with an English house inside. The inscription on the plate read, Jane Austen’s House, Bath England. Sophie blinked back the tears. She pulled out the other gift, an original edition reprint of Jane Austen’s Emma. Inside Sebastian inscribed, “I read the book because you said it was so good. It was. I’m glad God brought you into our lives…Merry Christmas, Sebastian.” Sophie started crying again. She touched Sebastian’s cheek and then quickly pulled her hand away.
“Thank you. This means a lot to me.”
“You’re very welcome. I wanted to get something special for you.”
David called out from across the room. “Hey, over there, are we missing something?”
Sebastian got to his feet. “No. So, who’s ready to open some presents?” He tickled his daughter and hugged her, then glanced back at Sophie and smiled. His smile warmed her heart and she held his gift close to her for a moment, never expecting her Christmas this year to feel so special. Hope started blooming in full force in her heart. She had a faint sense that this day meant God wanted to bring good things into her life – maybe even to truly become part of their family.
* * *
Later that afternoon Sophie found herself blindfolded by Sebastian and he led her through the house towards the front door. He kidnapped her from a lazy afternoon of reading in the parlor. His words kept her guessing. “Can you get bundled up? I want to show you something outside.”
“Where are we going?” She heard him open the front door.
“I have a surprise for you.” He held her hand. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes, at least I think I do.” She smiled.
“You have a beautiful smile.”
“Thank you. So where are we headed?”
“I’m going to hold your hand and guide you down the driveway towards the sidewalk. Ready?”
“I guess so.” She held tightly to his hand.
He stopped walking. “Let me try a different tactic here.” He put his arm around Sophie. “I think I can guide you better this way and maybe get back some of the circulation in my hand.”
“Sorry. It’s not every day I’m abducted and forced to walk blindfolded.”
They walked for a few moments in silence. “It’s so beautiful out here. Do you feel the snow flurries?”
She held out her hands and nodded.
“I think it’s better if you stick your tongue out.”
She joked back. “Aren’t you fresh? Are we there yet?”
“You’re as bad as my daughter.”
“Speaking of Anastasia, where is she?”
“I begged my father to keep her occupied for a few hours.”
“What are we going to do for a few hours?”
“I can think of many things.” She heard the devilish tone to his voice.
She turned her head towards him. “You know, I’m beginning to think that deep down, men are adolescents at heart.”
“I think you’re right.” He guided her to the left. “Okay, we’re here, but he isn’t.”
“Can I take this blindfold off?”
“Not yet. Oh, there he is. Can you cover your ears?”
“What?” She felt Sebastian’s gloved hands cover her ears for a minute.
Finally, he removed the blindfold.
She opened her eyes and saw a horse drawn carriage in front of her. She turned to Sebastian. “After you, milady.” The driver stepped down and helped her step up into the carriage. She shook her head, feeling as if she dreamt this.
“So what do you think of part two of your Christmas present?”
She hesitated in responding. “That maybe it’s a little bit inappropriate from my employer.”
“Well, that may be so, but I’m also your friend and--”
“Are you ready, Mr. Shipley?”
“Yes, we are.”
“So you were saying--”
“That I’m your friend and I hope you might classify me as your special friend.” He pulled a red velvet blanket up over their laps and reached over to hold her gloved hand. “So, how do I measure up?”
“Oh, you classify.”
He put his arm around her shoulder and she snuggled close to him, enjoying the secure feeling of his nearness. She rested that way throughout the entire carriage ride and they both remained silent for the majority of it. Sebastian opened the door to romance a crack and invited her to squeeze in. She knew he only offered her an appetizer right now, but she believed he wanted her to stay for the main course and Sophie felt up to the challenge of getting to know this intricate and delightful man.
Mr. Shipley's Governess By: Joanne Troppello
Published By: Wild Horse Press
Published: Nov 09, 2010
ISBN # 9781456350895
Word Count: 71,400
Genre: Inspirational romance
Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Palm DOC/iSolo, Microsoft Reader, Rocket
Purchase Link: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-mrshipleysgoverness-481158-149.html
Summary: Sophie Baird is looking for a way to escape the painful reality of her parents' deaths. Unable to live in their home any longer, she takes a job as a live-in tutor to Anastasia Shipley to remove herself from her painful memories and the feeling that God has abandoned her.
Anastasia has an illness that has prevented her from ever attending school and makes her father, Sebastian, over protective.
When Sophie first meets Sebastian, she cannot deny the intense attraction she feels toward him. When an unexpected romance begins between them, she starts to rebuild her relationship with God, with the help of a certain little girl.