Stetsons and Snowflakes…
A week before Christmas, city girl Hope McKinnon finds herself snowbound with rugged rancher and all round do-gooder Blake Nelson. What is it about this handsome, generous man that has her blood boiling and her pulse racing?
Blake knows his ranch is the last place Hope wants to be, but somehow her presence feels so right! Hope is the first woman guarded Blake has wanted to be around in a long time. Her visit may be temporary, but he has one more night to convince her to stay…
She hung the ornament and saw Blake holding a small oval one in his hands. His face changed, a mixture of love and pain twisting his features. When he hung it gently on the tree she could see it was a photo frame ornament, and when she stepped closer realized it was black with a big red “C” on it – the logo for the Calgary Flames. Inside the frame was a picture of two boys in oversized jerseys, sticks on the ice, grinning widely for the camera. Blake and his brother, Brad. Eleven, maybe twelve years old, Blake without the jagged scar down the side of his face, before puberty hit full force. His twin, Brad, looking so much like Blake it was uncanny but with something different around the eyes and mouth. She touched her finger to Blake’s figure. “That’s you, right?”
“Not everyone could tell us apart.”
“It’s the eyes and the shape of your mouth. And you’re big as a barn door now, Blake…stands to reason maybe you were a little taller than Brad.”
“I was the better checker,” he said softly, “But Brad had faster hands.”
“You have nothing to be sorry about.” He stared at the photo a while longer. “It is what it is. I miss him every day. But nothing will bring him back. I stopped making those sorts of wishes long ago. Now I just remember.”
“And put his ornament on the tree.”
Blake’s mouth twisted and once more Hope noticed how the stiffness of his scar pulled his lips slightly. She wondered how horrible it must have been for him as a teen, dealing with that sort of disfiguration. Dealing with people’s reactions. It wasn’t much wonder he’d been curt with her when she’d arrived. The first thing she’d done was stare at it like he was some sort of freak.
But he wasn’t. He was the strongest man she’d ever met.
“There’s just one thing left to do,” he said, clearing his throat. “Put the angel on the top.”
He reached into the box and took out a rectangular carton. He opened the flap and carefully took out the most beautiful Christmas angel Hope had ever seen. A flawless porcelain face was framed by a cornet of hair the colour of corn silk, a white circlet atop her head for a halo. The dress was white silk shot with gold thread, and softly feathered wings flowed from the centre of the back, the tips nearly reaching the hem of the dress. It was a work of art, a family heirloom. “Do you want to do the honours?” he asked.
“Oh, I couldn’t.” She put up her hands. “That’s gorgeous, Blake.”
“It’s been in the family a long time.”
“It’s your tree,” she said. “You should be the one to put it on.”
Blake disappeared to the kitchen and came back with a step-stool. He put it on the floor and held out the angel. “It’s your tree too,” he said.
Her hands trembled as she took the delicate figure from his hands and stepped up on the stool. He stood beside her and she was acutely aware of his shoulder next to her rib cage as she leaned forward and carefully placed the angel over the top bough of the tree. The cone inside the skirt slid over the pointed top and settled firmly into place as Hope let out the breath she’d been holding and turned around.
The step stool put her higher than Blake now, so that his face was just below hers. He was standing close…so close she could feel the warmth of his body, smell the faint spiciness of his aftershave.
“Perfect,” he whispered.
He wasn’t looking at the tree. He was looking at her. Gazing into her eyes with his own deep blue stunners and she felt herself going, losing what was left of her common sense in the depths of them. Before she could think better of it, she lifted her hand and laid it along his cheek, the one with the scar. She ran her finger down the length of it, slowly, carefully, her heart breaking at the difference in texture of the scar tissue, its smoothness oddly perfect when its very presence was a symbol of such pain and loss.
His hands spanned her ribs and lifted her from the stool, put her feet firmly on the floor.
And once she was steady, he took her hand from his face, squeezed her fingers, and kissed her.
Q: What would you like readers to know about the book before they read it?
A: Just a little background: the Holiday Miracles trilogy is about three sisters who have made their lives in different parts of the globe. The family was fractured when they were younger and it has affected each of them in different ways. All three have to deal with those issues before they can really fall in love – and go home to Beckett’s Run for a long-overdue family Christmas.
Q: What do you hope readers will take with them after they’ve read the book?
A: A warm, fuzzy feeling! And hopefully a feeling that there are good things in store for Hope and Blake, and also Hope and the rest of her family.
Q: Who is your favorite character in this book?
A: Cate Zerega. Cate is a little girl with cerebral palsy who comes to Blake’s therapeutic riding facility. In my mind she looks a little Shirley Temple-ish, though perhaps with darker curls. But just as precocious and sweet. She steals Blake’s heart, and Hope’s too.
Q: Is there a character who gives you fits and makes you want to go ninja?
A: Probably Hope. She’s guarded and she’s a perfectionist. She has good reasons, but it was work getting her to a place where she could open herself up to really loving someone. There were definitely times I wanted to shake my head and say “Dude, look at what’s right in front of you and just go for it!” LOL.
Q: You may have noticed we like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from this book?
A: “You can’t organize perfection. You can’t plan it. It just happens. And when it does, it’s magic.”
Giving Hope some Christmas magic was the mission. Blake says this early in the story, but Hope remembers it at a very crucial moment.
Q: What’s up next for you?
A: More Christmas books! I’ve got some releases lined up for next year, but right now I’m starting work on a holiday story for next year, as part of my Cadence Creek Cowboys series. I love writing Christmas stories during the holiday season. I get the carols playing and make a mug of hot chocolate and write a mess of Christmas cheer. 🙂
Enter to win:
One winner will receive a print copy of A CHRISTMAS LETTER (this is the UK version and includes all three stories in the trilogy!).
Giveaway is open to all. You have until end of day Nov. 30 to enter, winner will be announced soon after.
Giveaway sponsored by: Donna Alward
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