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Chapter Fifty-seven
The Changing Horizon

"Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged."
~ Colossians 3:21 ~

Christmas was spent at Shirley's house, and, as promised, Mike and Sandra were present. It was a festive occasion, though not quite as joyful as it could have been. As they were gathering in the living room to open Christmas gifts, Thomas had arrived unannounced to share his good news with Shirley and the boys. He was moving in with some woman in town, and as soon as his divorce with Shirley was finalized, he was getting married. She had just said "yes," and Thomas was so overjoyed, he just had to rush over and tell everyone the good news so they could share in his happiness. Instead of the "congratulations" that Thomas had expected, however, he was met by a tearfully angry Mike and an equally brokenhearted Chad. Both of the boys had been long hoping their dad would repent of his ways, and reunite with their mom.

Suddenly, the excitement of opening Christmas presents held no appeal for Chad. Even though it was in front of everyone, the boy ran to Adam and wet his uncle's shirt with heartsick sobs. Angrily, Shirley took Thomas to the kitchen where the two talked in ever-increasingly loud tones that everyone in the living room could easily overhear. When it was over, Thomas stormed from the house, forgetting that his presents for the boys were still in the trunk of his car.

After taking a few minutes to compose herself, Shirley returned to her Christmas party and Adam transferred the sobbing child to his mother. "I already knew he had filed for divorce," Shirley tried to put on a brave face, "but I hadn't expected him to find someone else so quickly--" her voice abruptly broke off, as she smothered a gasp of emotion.

Even though Christmas had been marked by this sadness, it still held much joy for what was left of Thomas' family. As a present to Mike and Sandra, Adam presented them with the deed to his house in town. If the house didn't fit their needs, they could sell the property, and buy another. Either way, it meant they could move out of their apartment and into a home of their very own.

The young couple was speechless. Adam's house was one of the nicest in his neighborhood, and certainly more house than either of them could have hoped for when it came time to add up their savings and see what they could afford.

For Chad, Adam created a trust fund for his nephew's college education. The boy accepted this news with relative calm, compared to his brother's broad grins and beaming smiles. But Chad's face really lit up when he opened a new game system from Uncle Adam and Aunt Charlie!

As January began, the winter rains subsided over the Mojave Desert. It had been predicted that drought would take hold of Southern California, and the clearing skies seemed to confirm everyone's expectations for a drier than usual year. Even so, Adam had the road to Villa Rosa paved, just as he had promised Charlie. It would rain eventually, and when it did, they would be assured of traversable roads.

As planned, Kevin actively recruited more bodyguards for his clients. Every few days, muscular looking men with thick necks would meet with Adam, Charlie, and Kevin in the living room to interview for one of the openings. Since Kevin was a former Navy SEAL, he knew many who might be interested in the job. Still, his former friendships did not outweigh his clients' best interests. There was one applicant whom Kevin felt uncomfortable about, so he let his concerns be known to Adam. "If I were married," he cautioned, "I wouldn't want him watching my wife." That was more than enough for Adam to turn the man down. But if the individual was fortunate enough to get Kevin's endorsement, Adam felt good about hiring the man right on the spot.

continued on next page...
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