Chapter Seven

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They were there waiting, three smiling faces, when she made it off the plane. The travel gods had been with her and she was able to make an earlier connection, arriving just before sunset. The flight was long and exhausting, as evidenced by her tired eyes. Nolan took care of her bags but didn't say much. His son never really gave him the chance. The young boy ran to Mary Grace the moment she stepped in view, staying right on her hip and talking non-stop as they walked through Diagoras airport.

She'd left a message on Nolan's cell phone earlier, explaining the good fortune of her new arrival time. And she was surprised that it had been Gwen and not Nolan to call her back. They chatted for several minutes, Mary Grace sitting alone in the terminal in Athens. Gwen's voice was cheerful and welcoming and for the first time since she'd strapped herself into the 747 in New York, she felt she'd made the right choice in coming.

In the parking lot, there was no discussion as to where she would sit. Joss pulled her right into the back seat of their rental car, giving a detailed description of everything Rhodes had to offer as they moved along the busy streets. She couldn't help but grin. His enthusiasm was contagious. But his enthusiasm was quickly snuffed when he learned that they were en route to her hotel and she would not be staying with them out at the villa.

"But it's my birthday tomorrow. Not my real birthday. My pretend birthday. We're gonna swim at the beach, build a giant sandcastle, have a piñata and Daddy is cooking shibakobs and everything." He tried to plead his case, talking a mile a minute.

"I think you mean shish-kabobs." Nolan eyed them from the rearview mirror.

"I wouldn't miss your birthday for the world. I'll be there, I promise. In fact," She gave him a sweet smile. "I'm pretty sure there's a present or two in my bag for a certain birthday boy."

"Two presents?" He asked, wide-eyed.

"Or was it three?" She caught Nolan's eye again and found his smile to be just as wide as her own.

"You know, Mary Grace, the villa sleeps twelve." Gwen tried to offer Joss an assist. "You certainly could stay with us. You'd have an entire floor all to yourself. It'll save you having to bother with cabs or from Nolan having to run into town."

"Oh, I don't know..." She looked to the rearview mirror again, but this time Nolan's eyes stayed firmly focused on the road ahead. "I wouldn't want to inconvenience you. This is your family time and--"

"Inconvenience who? There's onsite help. Cooking and cleaning." She announced.

"Her name is Marta. She's a real nice lady. Her pancakes aren't very good though." Joss made a face.

"We don't have to do a thing except relax and let someone wait on us." She added.

"And make my cake." Joss added firmly.

"And make the birthday boy his cake." Gwen confirmed.

"Gwen said I could do the sprinkles and the candles. If you stay, you can help me. We can do it together." He looked up at her with an expression she knew well. The same one his father used for years--the one that made it hard to say no.

"What would I tell the nice people at the hotel?" She asked him, serious. "They've gone to a lot of trouble to get a room ready for me."

"Just get my dad to take care of it. That's what he does. He's real good at it." He stated matter-of-factly. "He's real good at everything."

"Joss--" Nolan cut him off. "Mary Grace's had a long trip. I'm sure she's tired. Let's give her a break, okay?"

"Okay." He muttered softly.

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