“THIS IS so cool!” Stephanie pulled out a blue-and-purple-striped sweater dress from the box she’d just unwrapped, and held it up, twirling in a circle. “I can’t wait to wear this to Claire’s New Year’s Eve party.” She ran over and kissed Warren on the cheek. “Thanks, Dad.” She sat back down and began tearing into her next gift.

Daniel sat on the other side of the family room on the big chair facing their tree, pawing the neck on the new guitar Warren had gotten him. Dan always loved music. So did their mom.

His kids had grown into fine young adults. He only wished Sarah were here to see them now.

Warren Blessing sat surrounded by the pile of gifts from his kids: a floral Hawaiian shirt, flip-flops, some new khaki shorts, and a turquoise and gray bathing suit with whales patterned in white. He couldn’t leave them the day after Christmas.

“Dad, you’re not changing your mind.” Stephanie had abandoned her gift pile and stomped over to Warren with her hands on her hips and a surly expression on her beautiful face. “We talked about this. You deserve to have some fun. Maybe you’ll meet someone.”

“But, it’s Christmas.” What kind of parent left their kids on Christmas? Well, the day after.

Dan sat straight up in his chair. “Dad, we’ll be fine. Promise. Anyway, the cruise is already booked, and I know there’s someone out there waiting to meet you.” The determination in his children’s voices nearly convinced him.

“But a holiday singles cruise? It sounds depressing.” His kids had talked him into this cruise a few months ago, and it had seemed like a good idea at the time. It had been two years since Sarah passed, and four years since she’d been diagnosed with cancer. It was difficult watching someone you love wither away; even more so for his kids. He’d gotten Stephanie through high school, and now they were both in college. He was lonely and ready to move on.

“What about you guys?” They were only home for a couple more weeks before they went back to school.

“We have wild parties planned for the entire time you’re gone.” Stephanie’s wide grin told Warren she was joking. They were great kids. “Dad, we’ll be fine.”

“And, only one wild party,” Dan added, chuckling.

“You’ll be home the day after New Year’s. Besides, Dad—” Stephanie picked up the shorts and shirt she’d picked out and held them up to him. “—you’ll look hot,” she sang.

A blush warmed his face. Was he ready for this? He knew he was, but it was scary, just the same.