A Christmas Gift
69 pages
English

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69 pages
English

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As far as twelve-year old Quinn is concerned Christmas has lost its magic. Since his father’s death life has lost its sparkle. His mom is now a widow struggling to put food on the table. Quinn is no help, and the mysterious illness afflicting him only makes things worse. Even Christmas, complete with decorated trees, ribbons and bows have no meaning…then along comes Jazira. Jazira doesn’t know what happened to her former self, the eleven-year old little girl. She drowned, didn’t she, along with half the other folk of Cold Creek in 1911? Somehow, she’s grown four furry legs complimented with a large wolf head and body. Scared and alone, she reaches out to Quinn and a strong bond is formed. Jazira learns Quinn, and his mother, are threatened by a wealthy powerful citizen of Cold Creek. She is determined to protect her new family, no matter what. Christmas Eve finds Quinn staring up at the adorned tree and muttering a quiet prayer. Will the Spirits of Christmas grant his wish, or will the evil surrounding Cold Creek prevail once again?

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Publié par
Date de parution 29 octobre 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781771457903
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0016€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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A ChristmasGift
By LawnaMackie
 
Digital ISBNs
EPUB 9781771457903
Kindle9781771457910
WEB/PDF9781771457927
 

 
Copyright 2015 by LawnaMackie
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
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
 
Thank you to myfamily who helped me brainstorm around the dining room table. Ihope you’ll enjoy some of interesting characters we brought tolife.
Chapter One
COLD CREEK,MONTANA, 1912
 
Dried leavescrunched beneath twelve-year old Quinn’s weight as he sank to hisknees. His throat burned and he swallowed hard, his breath catchingin his chest. He would not cry. He wouldn’t! In slow motion, hewatched a drop of his crimson blood splatter against the carpet offallen leaves. Anger and hurt brought unshed tears to his eyes.
The wind gustedamongst the trees, blowing the hair away from his face and forcinghim to sit up. Whatever leaves were left on the poplars rustled andthe tall spruce groaned and cracked, swaying along in thebreeze.
Quinn shook hishead and pounded the ground with his fist.
The flood ofBlack Creek a year ago had stolen his hopes, dreams and happiness.Despite the rebuilding of the town, evil thrived in many forms.Countless bodies had never been recovered. Men, women and children,drowned, trapped at the bottom of the lake…Ghost Lake as it was nowcalled. A year later, murder, superstition, possession, andmysterious illnesses engulfed the town and survivors of theflood.
Choking backthe painful memories, his fingertips traced his father’s nameetched in the tombstone. With the back of his hand, he wiped theblood away from his nose and mouth. He could almost hear his Pa’sdeep soothing voice. You’re strong, Quinn. Don’t ever let anyonetell you otherwise. Deep down he hoped his father was right.
Chapter Two
 
Samuel Camptonsat silently on his horse Roman while the gelding carefully ploddedalong the winding trail towards Ghost Lake. Fresh snow during thenight left a white carpet over the dirt and covered the boughs ofthe evergreens.
He hated GhostLake and the unusual feeling he felt every time he checked his trapline near its shoreline. Roman even slowed his already leisurelypace as they neared the water. Samuel touched a spur to theanimal’s flank, hurrying him forward along the darkened trail.Ahead beams of light streamed through the canopy of close knitbranches.
What broke theeerie silence was a large splash and splutter of water followed byterrified whimpers. Without hesitation, Samuel kicked Roman into afull gallop, dashing toward the noise and the lake. Fifty feet fromthe edge of the shore, he pulled the horse to a halt anddismounted. He slid his Winchester rifle free from the scabbard.The trees crowded the shore and blocked a clear view of the water.All too soon, he found himself at the edge of the lake staring atthe largest wolf he’d ever seen.
An ice chunkfloated about twenty-five feet from shore, and clinging to it byits paws was a wolf. Samuel shook his head. It made no sense; thelake hadn’t even frozen over yet.
“Damn!” hecursed. Visibly exhausted, the animal could barely hold its headout of the water. Why didn’t the critter simply swim to shore? Butthen again, strange happenings and superstition surrounded GhostLake.
The man hunghis head, taking a deep breath before he lifted the rifle and tookaim. It would be best not to let the animal suffer. Unexpectedly,the wolf lifted its head and stared directly at him. Its eyesglowed, turning from red to gold and boring straight through to hissoul. He got the impression the creature was pleading for salvationand a chance to live. Samuel slowly lowered the gun, and again theanimal made an unsuccessful attempt to drag its body out of thewater.
“Okay. Okay.”He yelled. “Stay put for a minute.” Unable to believe he was aboutto help the cursed beast, he spotted a tall dead skinny sprucelying a short distance away. He didn’t know what else to try, buthoped his idea would work.
He lifted thetree into the water. As it tipped toward the wolf, a deep growlresonated from the animal’s throat.
Samuel lost histemper. “Listen pal. I could have shot you, and now you’re growlingat me. My gun is still right here if you’d prefer that option.”
The growlsceased, and the tip of the tree landed on the chunk of ice withinreach of the wolf’s mouth.
“Okay I’ve donemy part now it’s your turn.”
The animalwhined.
Samuel groanedwith frustration. “Bite the damn thing so I can pull you in,” heinstructed forcefully. I can’t believe I’m talking to the stupidanimal. The wolf’s eyes turned red and its powerful jaws snapped asit lunged forward, grabbing onto the wood.
He pulled theanimal to shore, foot by foot, until its legs touched the rockybottom beneath the water. The wolf exploded out of the frigid lakelike a bullet, knocking Samuel backward off his feet. It stoodbeside him and shook violently, sending water in alldirections.
He stared up atthe beast, whose eyes had turned red again. The other abnormalitywas the paws; larger than any wolf’s feet he’d ever seen, theyincluded an extra toe on each front paw.
The guard hairglittered in the morning light. Down its back was a large goldstrip, which stood out against the sleek black coat. The animalwould tower over any other wolf.
Samuel stayedvery still as the animal leaned forward. His rifle lay far enoughaway he didn’t stand a chance of reaching it should the wolf decideto get aggressive. Instead of attacking, its long snout sniffed hisleg up and down and then just as quickly, it turned in the oppositedirection and darted off into the forest.
The trapper satfor a few moments, stunned by the events. Why didn’t he just shootthe beast? Hell, he could have received a healthy chunk of changefor the unusual pelt. Enough wasting time. Pushing himself up andoff the ground, he dusted the snow and dirt off his legs. Afterretrieving the rifle, he took one last stare out at the Godforsaken Ghost Lake. He scanned the water for the large piece ofice, but it was nowhere to be found.
The wind pickedup and the ghostly sounds of the lonely forest echoed in his ears.All those people died here, buried under this icy lake in the oldtown of Black Creek. They didn’t even know what hit them when thewhole town flooded.
What possessedhim to come to this odd place of Black Creek? Of course it was thedream of finding more gold and silver. The thought alone solidifiedhis decision to leave Alaska and move south—a warmer climate and atown where riches were waiting to be discovered. When Samuelstarted the journey he hadn’t expected the town to be wiped out bythe flood before he even arrived. The town being gone didn’t matteranymore, not now when he’d planted roots and his trap line wasthriving.
He weavedthrough the trees, making his way back to Roman. The horse held hishead high, looking like he would bolt at any moment.
“Easy fella.The wolf is long gone by now,” Samuel reassured his mount.
Roman snorted,shaking his head. The man found himself looking over his shoulder.A shadow flashed between the evergreens. The horse danced sideways,a snort flaring its nostrils.
Samuel took thereins, reached up and patted the horse’s neck.
“Well, if itisn’t careful it’ll end up in one of my traps. I will have trulywasted our time this morn’n.”
ChapterThree
 
Amanda Drakereached over the table, beginning the task of clearing away thedirty dishes from the lunch hour meal. From table to table she wentwith her black skirt swaying back and forth along with her quicksteps. Much needed to be done, and for that she was grateful. Ifshe stopped, her mind would drift away…back to the time when herlife was content and peaceful, a time when she had her Walter.Tears immediately stung her eyes. She didn’t have time for tears.She finished collecting the dishes from the round oak tables andmoved to the back room where a stack of dishes needed to bewashed.
The aroma offreshly baked bread wafting from the oven reminded her to removeit. Mr. Murphy had been gracious enough to allow her to run theboarding house. He knew the difficulties she was having. Being onlytwenty-nine years of age, he said she’d be ideal for the demandingjob.
Like all thebuildings since the flood, Murphy’s Boarding House was only a yearold and had been supplied with all the newest appliances andservices, making her job easier.
With the dishesand baking complete, Amanda wiped her forehead and tucked a losestrand of hair from her braid behind her ear. The supper mealneeded to be started, and then she would ensure the rooms upstairswere properly tended.
Bells chimed,signaling somebody had entered the restaurant.
“Amanda youneed to get out here now!”
Quickly wipingher hands on her apron, she rushed from the kitchen. Betty Smith,from the Town Hall across the street, stood in the entryway.
She pointed outthe door toward the steps. Her hand trembled visibly betraying heranxiety. “Hurry, it’s Quinn. He’s lying on the steps! There’s bloodall over his face.”
Amanda felt theroom spin as fear gripped her heart. She ran as fast as her feetwould carry her out the door. Sure enough, her twelve-year old sonQuinn lay sprawled on the steps.
A tiny screamerupted from her throat. Quickly, she sat and pulled him into herarms, staring down at his face covered in dried blood. “Quinn,sweetie, it’s momma. I’m here now.”
She choked backa sob and yelled to Betty. “Please go into the kitchen and fetch mea cloth and some water.”
“Amanda, Ishould fetch the doctor,” she responded.
“No, Betty! Doas I ask, please just get me the cloth and some water.”
Tears rolleddown her cheeks. “Come on Quinn, wake up for me,” she cried,rocking him in her arms. “I love you, sweetie. Open your eyes,honey.”
Betty rushedout the door with cloth and water in hand. Tenderly, Amanda wipedhis face clean. The blood had almost stopped trickling from hisnose. The cut over his eye was new, along with a fresh bruise. Rageboiled inside her as she struggled to hold her composure. When hiseye twitched, a large smile spread over her face and she kept righton talking to him. “That’s my boy, come on, Quinn, momma has you.”His long lashed eyes fluttered open and closed again.
The womanexhaled with relief, holding her fist to her mouth.
“Betty, wouldyou please go back in the kitchen and get a glass of water forQuinn.”
“Oh thankheavens!” Betty breathed heavily, running back up the steps.
Quinn lickedhis lips and opened his eyes. “Mom,” he said weakly.
Amanda smileddown into his baby blue eyes. “Hi sweetie! You scared me half todeath,” she said, pushing the hair away from his face and kissinghis cheek.
“I’m sorry,Mom,”
Amanda couldhear the threat of tears behind his words. “You silly boy, there’snothing to be sorry for.”
Betty rusheddown the steps with the glass of water and handed it to Amanda.
“Here Quinn,take a sip, then we’ll sit you up, okay?” She smiled and held theglass to his lips while he took a small drink.
Snowflakesbegan to fall, and Amanda looked down at her boy’s coat coveredwith splotches of red. Quinn took another drink before hewhispered. “It happened again.”
She held herbreath and did her best to hide her fear. “It’s okay now. You’rehere with me.”
Far down thestreet a man rode into town. Amanda cringed because she didn’t wantto draw attention to her situation. What she needed was to get herboy home.
She looked upat Mrs. Smith imploringly. “Betty, thank you so much for yourassistance. Quinn will be okay once I get him home. May I impose onyou for one more favor?”
“Of course.What can I do to help?”
“Would youplease fetch Mr. Murphy from the stables and let him know I need totake Quinn home?”
The older womanturned on her heel and quickly moved behind the boarding house.
Amanda didn’trecognize the tall man who approached on horseback. She wished shecould move Quinn, but it was too soon.
The lateafternoon sun diminished rapidly, making it difficult to see theman until he stopped in front of the steps, quickly jumped off thehorse and stood at her side.
“Ma’am, can Iassist you?”
She smiledsheepishly. Quinn put his arms out trying to push himself into asitting position.
“Umm, thank yousir, but I believe we are okay,” Quinn responded first.
The man hadwarm dark brown eyes and a day’s worth of stubble on hiswell-defined face. His long chestnut colored hair was pulled backand tied with a leather band. She couldn’t remember when she’d evercome across such an attractive looking man. Broad shoulders, andmuscled arms and legs suggested he must be a hard worker. For amoment, she forgot about her deceased husband, Walter. Guilt andshame washed over her, and she hoped neither Quinn nor the strangerpicked up on her thoughts.
Quinn movedsome more and tried to stand. Amanda steadied him as best shecould, protesting he should be still and remain sitting.
The man movedcloser, towering over the both of them.
“I’m fine sir,”Quinn stated with a slur. No sooner did the words leave his mouthwhen he started to fall backward.
“Quinn.” Amandashrieked, almost as quickly as the man stepped forward and scoopedthe boy into his arms.
Quinn’s tiredeyes slowly opened again. “Sorry, Momma, I thought I couldstand.”
The tall manspoke. “Ma’am, I’ll carry him over to the Doc’s residence.”
She sniffled,placing her hand on his woolen covered arm. “That won’t benecessary.”
“Forgive me forspeaking out of my place, miss, but I think he needs a doctor,” hefired back.
“Won’t do nogood. He’s seen the doctor many times.” Amanda sighed.
“I see,” heresponded awkwardly.
Where had Mr.Murphy gone? She looked up at the unknown man holding her son.“Would it be a big imposition to ask if you might carry Quinn backto our house?” she questioned shyly.
He stepped downthe stairs. “Lead the way. I’d be glad to assist.”
What should shedo? She looked up at the boarding house with uncertainty. Shecouldn’t just leave it unattended, but Quinn’s well being camefirst.
Voices soundeda moment before Mr. Murphy and Betty Smith rounded the corner.
“My word,Amanda, I see that poor boy of yours has had another spell,” Mr.Murphy declared, looking at the tall man. “May I ask who you mightbe?”
The strange manstared Mr. Murphy directly in the eyes. “Samuel Campton is thename. I’m fairly new to town.”
Betty smiled atSamuel. “I remember you, sir. You’ve been in the Town Hall a coupletimes…for permits, claims and such.”
He nodded inacknowledgement. “Yes, Ma’am I have. But if you folks would excuseme, I think this young man needs to get home.” He returned his darkgaze to Amanda.
“Of course. Mr.Murphy, I’m dreadfully sorry to leave you before the dinner rush.The pot roast should be almost done and everything else is ready togo as well.” She looked up at her employer, twisting her apron inher hands.
“Get on withyou.” He motioned with his hands, shooing her away. “I reckon thereain’t anyone who’s had as much sour luck as you, Ms. Amanda. Go onwith you. Get Quinn home, and don’t you hesitate to ask for help ifyou need it,” he preached in earnest.
Mr. Murphydirected his attention to Samuel. “Mr. Campton, thank you for yourassistance. Come on back anytime and have a free meal on me.”
Betty went tothe kitchen, and returned with Amanda’s heavy black winter cloakand bonnet. “I’m guessing these are your things, Amanda,” she said,handing them to her.
She smiled.“Thank you for everything, Mrs. Smith.” She shivered in earnestbefore donning the cloak, and turned to the stranger holding herson. “Thank you, Mr. Campton, please come this way,” she directedand hurried off towards home.
Samuel turnedto Mr. Murphy. “If you could kindly care for my horse until Ireturn, I’d be grateful.”
Withoutspeaking Mr. Murphy grabbed the reins and led the bay geldingaround the corner.
 
* * *
 
Amanda reachedher small residence. After the flood, help was offered to anyonewho had survived. Amanda spent all the money Walter and her hadsaved on rebuilding this small home for Quinn and herself. Byworking at the boarding house, she managed to keep food on thetable and supply the basic necessities.
Snowflakesflew, swirling around her feet on the front porch. She unlocked thedoor and rushed inside, quickly lighting the coal-oil lantern.
She motionedSamuel to follow her to Quinn’s bedroom, pausing before leading himthrough the door. She pulled the coverlet from the single bed.“Here, please lay him down,” she said, patting the mattress.Gently, the giant of a man laid her son down. The boy’s eyes wereclosed, but his breathing was even.
When thetrapper stood back up, she pulled off her bonnet and smiled. “Ifyou don’t mind waiting for a few moments, I’ll be right out.”
He nodded. “Dowhat you need to.”
 
* * *
 
Samuel scannedthe tidy room. It was fully equipped with all the necessaryamenities, his eyes focused on the fireplace and the wood stove.Standing at the door made him feel awkward. Hell, she made him feelawkward.
When he firstcame in he’d walked across the floor straight to the boys bedroom,boots and all. Now he undid his boots leaving them at the doorbefore walking across to the hearth. On the mantel in a silverframe was a photo of a happy family. Amanda, the boy Quinn, and aman stood in front of a large two-story house. Sadness spread overhim. It was a unique house, not one he’d forget. It was the samehouse captured on the wall of the Town Hall…the memorial wall,displaying houses destroyed by the flood.
That explainedwhy she was alone. Her husband must have perished in the flood. Heshook his head, gripped by the sorrow so many people had beenforced to endure.
Slim pieces ofkindling lay off to the side of the hearth and Samuel beganconstructing the tinder into the makings of a fire. He struck thematch and flames danced over the wood kindling. Soon the firecrackled to life. After lighting a few more lanterns, he proceededto the wood stove in the kitchen where he lifted the heavy castiron lid and started another fire.
She hadn’treturned from the room yet, so he removed his heavy jacket andplaced it on the coat rack beside the door.
No sooner hadhe done so when the boy’s bedroom door opened and she appeared,gently shutting it as quietly as possible. She looked toward theburning fire and the crackles coming from her wood-cook stove.
“I don’t knowhow to thank you, Mr. Campton.” She smiled, once again fiddlingwith her apron.
“Please, it’sSamuel.” He smiled back.
“Could I offeryou some coffee or perhaps a cup of tea?” she queried.
He’d hoped shewould ask. It had been long time since he had the chance to be inthe company of such a striking woman. Amanda wasn’t just beautifuland genuine, but also caring.
“A cup ofcoffee would be mighty fine,” he answered.
“Great.” Sheturned her back to him and proceeded to make coffee, placing thepot on the stove.
“Have a seatMr…umm, Samuel.” She motioned to the sitting room.
“Thank you. Didyou get your boy settled?”
“Yes,” sheanswered, letting out a deep breath. “He should sleep through thenight.”
“I may bestepping over the boundaries, Ma’am, but what is wrong withhim?”
She followedhim into the sitting room, taking a chair beside him. “Now it’s myturn. Please call me Amanda.”
He nodded inresponse.
“Quinn has beento a few medical doctors, but none of them have been able to sayfor certain what the problem is. For the most part, he hasseizures. Medication may help, but I’ve been avoiding thatoption.”
“How long hasthis been taking place?” Samuel asked softly.
Amanda lookedover at the family photo on the mantel. He could see her swallowhard before she answered. “They began not long after the flood…andmy husband’s death.”
He reached overand placed his hand on hers. The brief contact of her flesh againsthis caused him to hesitate before he could speak. His heart thumpedand a flush of heat washed over him. He’d been alone too long.
“I’m sorry,Amanda. I don’t know my manners. I shouldn’t be asking you thesequestions.”
He removed hishand and her gaze sought his. “I appreciate the company, Samuel,and I do find that talking about it helps.” She got up and wanderedto the cupboard and removed two cups for the coffee.
Samuel got upand placed more wood on the fire, while Amanda set the cups andsaucers on the serving table.
“I haven’t seenyou in town before, but Mrs. Smith said she encountered you in theTown Hall on a few occasions. How long have you been in BlackCreek?”
He returned tohis seat. “Since last spring.”
“You’ve beenhere that long, but yet nobody has seen you other than BettySmith?”
“I don’t comeinto town often. I make trips into Missoula more frequently thanvisiting Black Creek.”
“That’s a longjourney.” She smiled, tucking a loose strand of blonde hair behindher ear.
“Odd town thisBlack Creek.” He shook his head and took a sip of the coffee.
“The floodcaused all that,” Amanda replied weakly.
“Sorry, this isa depressing subject, isn’t it?”
“My fault. I’mnot being a very good hostess and your personal business isn’t myaffair.”
Samuel laughedloudly. “I certainly appreciate your hospitality and your company.Furthermore, there is nothing much about my personal affairs youwould find interesting.” He took another sip of the coffee andcontinued. “I boarded a ship from Alaska over a year ago and mademy way to Seattle. Got tired of the cold, but still wanted thegold. I heard Black Creek was the hot spot…so here I am. That wasall before the flood.”
“Alaska! Thatis quite a distance.”
“I’ve almostfinished the construction of my cabin. It’s to the far west of CrowMountain.”
“You must likeseclusion.”
“I do like myprivacy, but it is also close to my claim and the trap line.”
“I see,” Amandaresponded.
A fellow couldget lost in her baby blue eyes. He stood.
“Miss Amanda Ithank you for your company and the coffee, but I should be on myway.”
“Oh.” Shepaused, but continued in a rush. “Perhaps I’ll see you in townsometime.”
His mind wasjumping to conclusions. Did she want to see him in townsometime?
“Mr. Murphy didoffer you a free meal and I am a very good cook, if I might sayso.” She smiled with encouragement.
“Yes, he did,didn’t he?”
He walked tothe door. Amanda spun to grab his jacket and as she did so managedto run into him. Her hands splayed across his chest while she triedto regain her balance. He found his arm wound around her slimwaist. Her cornflower blue eyes locked with his. He could feel herheart beating almost as fast as his own. He stared at her ruby redlips, fighting the temptation he’d buried since the first moment hespotted her on the steps of the boarding house. No longer aware ofwhat he was doing, he bent his head and sought the heaven he knewhe’d find. His lips touched hers, sending shockwaves of passionthrough his body. He felt her body lean into his as she kissed himback.
With all thestrength he could muster, he ended the kiss and stepped back.Slowly, her eyes opened and her cheeks turned crimson.
She spun awayfrom him. “Oh, God forgive me! I don’t know what came over me.”
Samuel gentlyturned her toward him once again. “This was my doing, not yours.”She stood speechless staring at him and he knew he had to get outor risk taking things further. Somehow, he could think of no wordsto say.
She handed himhis jacket and he opened the door.

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