Merriest Christmas Ever : A Christmas Collection
167 pages

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167 pages

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It’s the first day of December, snow is in the air and Gracie Singleton Saylor is shopping for a Christmas tree, when she runs smack into Merett Bradmoore, her High School hero and his seven-year-old daughter. Seeing he’s not the happy-go-lucky guy he used to be, she’s determined to restore the gift of optimism he gave her fifteen years ago. But can she return his hope without losing her own? Enter the zoning board, an old enemy and the personal problems of Gracie’s two sister, Hope and Faith. Mix in a mischievous cat named Spook, a huge furry mutt named Dumbell, and a spirit named Mirabelle who’s looking for her lost love, and you wonder – can holiday magic triumph?



Publié par
Date de parution 01 novembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773628394
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0160€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


MerriestChristmas Ever
By Betty JoSchuler
Digital ISBNs
Amazon Print ISBN978-1-77362-840-0

Copyright 2014 by BettyJo Schuler
Cover art by MichelleLee
All rightsreserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reservedabove, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in orintroduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, orby any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, orotherwise) without the prior written permission of both thecopyright owner and the publisher of this book
Chapter One
GracieSingleton Saylor brushed a wind-whipped strand of blonde hair fromher eyes, pulled her red knit cloche over her ears, and rubbed hergloved palms together. The first day of December was nippy, and ifthe Indianapolis weatherman wasn’t mistaken, snow would soon fly.The house she’d purchased just two months ago was decorated fromtop to bottom, with candles in every window, mistletoe in thedoorways, and a nativity scene in the parlor. Snow on the groundwould add the final holiday touch to the outside of her “VictorianChristmas card.”
Standing backto admire the fragrant wreath she’d just hung on the front door,she smiled. Merriest Christmas, Gracie. The words were aself-promise, one she intended to keep.
All she needednow were two very tall trees, one for her stairway landing, and onefor the parlor.
Ducking intothe house, her house, Gracie studied the front room ceiling. Tenfeet high if it was an inch and the landing could accommodate atree just as big. Allowing for stands and stars for the tops, shejotted “buy two nine-footers” on her “to do” list, and picked upthe keys to Old Blue, her aged, but beloved car.
* * *
Heber’s GasStation and Christmas Tree Lot lay clear across town in theneighborhood where Gracie grew up. Will Heber needed the money thesame as his father had, and she liked to help her own. Pop used tobuy their tree at Heber’s on Christmas Eve, after the final pricemarkdown. It was always a scraggly, Charlie Brown type tree, butafter the Singleton sisters decorated it with homemade paper chainsand added the star, they thought it was beautiful. That star wasthe loveliest thing their family owned.
Parking herten-year-old Mustang next to a late model Jeep, Gracie longed toopen its door and inhale its new car smell. She’d ridden in a newcar once.
“Grace!” WillHeber rushed up to pump her hand. “We have a fine selection oftrees this early in the year.”
After a momentof small talk, Will’s attention was drawn to a male customer withhis back toward them. Gracie, following his gaze, was somewhatdistracted herself. The man was tall, with dark hair, long legs,and lean thighs, and when he bent over to examine a tree’s lowerbranches, the jeans tightened enticingly over his backside. Sheexcused herself quickly, and while Will went to help the man, moveddown a row of trees that blocked him from view.
When she wasyounger, she’d been a fool for swarthy sex appeal and a winningsmile. Now, she’d prefer an ambitious man, with clean-cut goodlooks, who was ambitious and dependable. If she was in the marketfor a relationship, which she wasn’t. She had a new business andhome, and was starting life over in the town she’d left twelveyears ago.
Lingering overan expensive white pine, Gracie inhaled its aroma and fingered itssoft needles. She didn’t want to overspend, but Christmas wasspecial. Maybe if she bought just one Larrabys hadtwo when they owned the house that was hers now. And she lovedtraditions.
Moving toanother section, she circled each tree, checking for bare spots andcomparing her height of five and a half feet to theirs. She foundone the right size with a lower price tag that would do for thestairway landing, but she really wanted that first white pine forher parlor. Returning to circle it again, she looked up into itsgraceful branches.
Smack. Her facehit cold leather, and her head cracked against a firm chin. Sheswayed from the impact. Strong hands steadied her, and she lookedup into jade green eyes, and gasped. It couldn’t be... He raked hishand through his hair in a gesture she remembered well.“Merett.”
“MerettBradmoore.” She had to say, taste, savor his name. His face wasthinner, making the high planes of his cheekbones more prominent,but otherwise, he’d barely changed in fifteen years. His dark hair,parted on the side, still tumbled onto his forehead, begging to bepushed back.
He loweredthick lashes to narrow his gaze on her, and she blinked, hoping heapproved of what he saw as much as she did.
He looked evenmore handsome than in high school, and a nervous laugh caught inher throat. “I can’t believe we ran into one another again.”
“Literally.”Merett’s voice was warm and husky, but his dimpled smile was slowin coming and didn’t quite reach his eyes. She’d loved the way hisready grin, bracketed by dimples, lighted his face. His eyes andvoice had sparkled with fun and laughter. He’d changed.
“Daddy.” Alittle girl ran up to tuck her hand in his.
Merett wasmarried, with a child. He was the catch of his class, superathlete, and topnotch at everything he tried. So, why was shesurprised?
His daughter,stubbing the toe of her shoe in the dirt, studied Gracie with hugebrown eyes. Her waist length hair was darker than Merett’s, almostblack. Dressed in all pink with black patent Mary Janes, she waspretty, with long coltish legs. Her shoes didn’t look appropriatefor the chilly day or task at hand.
Gesturing withher left hand clasped in his, Merett introduced them. “Kirsten,this is Gracie Singleton. Gracie, meet my seven-year-olddaughter.”
“I’m almosteight.” The little girl looked at the white pine Gracie had beencircling. “We’re going to buy this one. I hope you didn’t wantit.”
Gracieswallowed her disappointment. Merett had, after all, been circlingthe same tree. “I was thinking about it, but I can findanother.”
Kirstenpolitely thanked Gracie before scampering off to pet Will Heber’sold hunting dog.
Merett shookhis head. “Kids.” His eyes went to her gloved left hand, which toldhim nothing, and she felt oddly pleased.
His commentcould mean almost anything, and as he followed his daughter withhis gaze, Gracie couldn’t decipher his expression. “Do you haveany?”
She shook herhead.
“Kirsten wastesting you. She does that to people. I don’t know why, but shewants to see if she can get your goat. She often gets mine.”
“Faithie usedto do that.” Gracie’s younger sister seemed to delight in seeinghow far she could push her. “I think she wanted to make sure I’dlove her, no matter what.”
“Kirsten shouldknow.” Merett, watching his daughter crouch to examine the hounddog’s paw, frowned, and Gracie smiled ruefully. Faith hadn’tstopped testing her yet, but Merett didn’t need to hear that.
He turned hisattention back to her. “Hope, Faith, and Grace. I was alwayssurprised your name wasn’t Charity.”
Grace oftenthought it should have been. She felt as if she’d spent her lifegiving to others what little she had to give. Love, care, devotion,and much of it…for what? First, Faith went astray, then Sonny. Hadshe given too much? Too little? Both had balked at her care-taking,and then come back for more. Squaring her shoulders, she smiled.“How’s your family, Merett?”
“So-so.” Heturned toward the tree she’d been considering; the one Kirstendecided she wanted. He examined it carefully, and the awkwardsilence grew.
“I can findanother.” Gracie held out her hand. “It was nice to see youagain.”
Merett’s gripwas firm, and she wished their hands were bare so she could feelthe warmth of his touch. He’d never felt that way about her, butthere was that one time when he had kissed her. That kiss fed intoher daydreams, but the next morning, he and Holly were togetheragain.
He held ontoGracie’s hand a second too long, and her heart hammered with hope.He might not be married now. But he had a child, and kids took moreout of you than a spouse did. She’d seen that with Mom.
“I didn’t knowyou were in Ferndale.” Merett folded his arms and looked down ather. A head taller and broad-shouldered, he’d always made her feelsafe, somehow. “Are you living here?”
She nodded andwondered if he remembered the house where she’d lived before. “Icame back two months ago and bought the old Larraby home.”
Meretthalf-closed his eyes as if he was trying to remember something.Which he probably was. Gracie, biting back a smile, spoke quickly.“Living there is a dream come true.”
“I’m happy foryou.”
He used to lookat her that way in high school, when they were working on thenewspaper together, and she’d done something that pleased him.Gracie’s cheeks grew warm. Her heart beat faster.
“I couldn’twait to shake the small-town dust from my feet, but I hatedChicago. Cold. Lonely.” She shivered, then squared her shouldersand smiled. “I made a

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