Wishes come true this holiday season in this heartwarming collection of three stories from your favorite Harlequin Superromance authors.
A Dundee Christmas
A woman seeking refuge in a strange town during a snowstorm is taken in by a man who helps her discover that home is where the love is.
We Need a Little Christmas
A prodigal son returning to his family ranch meets a woman with an unconventional way of bringing the holiday spirit into their town and hearts.
Kiss Me, Santa
The battle's on between a reclusive widower and the single mom determined to open his heart and banish his Grinch-like behavior.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
November 01, 2010
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from That Christmas Feeling by Brenda Novak
When the rattletrap truck crested the slight rise that showed Dundee, Idaho, looking stark and barren beneath several feet of snow, Cierra Romero nearly swore. She would have--those words were the easiest English to remember because she'd even heard them growing up in Guatemala--except she'd promised God that if He got her safely to this town, she'd leave all the bad habits she'd picked up behind. "Fu...dge! You gotta be freakin' kidding me!"
The farmer and his teenage son who'd brought her all the way from where her last ride had ended--a place called Boise--glanced at each other and started laughing.
Cierra lowered her eyelids but watched them as closely as she could without being obvious. She'd heard that expression a lot since coming to the States. Had she said it wrong? Or was it merely that they had never heard those words spoken with a Spanish accent?
She didn't know, but now that they were making fun of her, she was glad she hadn't bothered to listen when they'd given their names. Cierra made it a habit not to grow too familiar with people if she could help it. Especially white people. These men would drop her off in Dundee and go to whatever place they'd mentioned--the name had been unintelligible to her--and she'd never see them again.
It was better not to get attached. To anything. She'd even had to find a new home for the kitten Charlie had bought her when she arrived in Las Vegas--because all her dreams had died when he did, including her ability to take care of anyone or anything she loved. Maybe she'd never been fond of her American fianc?.
She hadn't gotten to know him well enough for that. Almost fifty years her senior, he'd chosen her from a bride website, and although he'd brought her to the U.S. more than two months ago, he'd spent most of that time in his office, running his business.
Still, she mourned him. Maybe he was as perverted as some people--those who disapproved--claimed he was for wanting to marry someone so much younger. But he'd been kind to her and, with the money he'd sent, generous to the three younger sisters who were living on their own in a squalid flat back home, counting on her to provide for them. Too bad he'd had a stroke and died the day before the wedding. If he hadn't encountered some complications with finishing up his divorce, they would've been married right after she arrived, and she wouldn't be floating around America on an expired visa, hoping to find a way out of her desperate circumstances.
"Dundee ain't what you expected?" the farmer said.
Hadn't she already made that clear?
Remembering that she didn't want to upset anyone, that she was living in this country only by the grace of God and would be sent back to utter hopelessness if anyone turned her in, she averted her eyes to hide her flare of temper. She might be as feisty as any Latina princess--at least, that was what her parents used to tell her before malaria took them to their graves. But she knew she had to appear somewhat docile if she wanted to get along as a foreigner in such a small community. "It will be fine."
"But you don't even have a suitcase."
Because she'd had to leave it when she caught the man who'd given her a ride to Salt Lake City hiding behind the building the moment they stopped for gas, using his cell phone when he said he'd be in the restroom. Afraid he was calling to report her, she'd run off, abandoning her clothes, toiletries and extra money, which were still locked in his trunk.
"Someone waits for me," she said, and desperately hoped that was true. Arlene, Charlie's ex-wife, hadn't been the nicest person in the world. She'd stepped in to handle the funeral arrangements and had eventually taken enough pity on Cierra to send her to work for some brother she hadn't seen in years, a brother who lived near this town of Dundee. But Arlene had been the most vocal about her objections to Charlie's plans--and the most unfriendly when Cierra first got to Las Vegas. Cierra had overheard her telling Charlie's neighbor that it wasn't fair he'd toss her out like an old shirt after she'd been with him for so long, just to indulge his pedophiliac fantasies. She said he was too old to father the baby he wanted, the baby she herself had never been able to give him, and that he didn't need to bring in such a young girl to do that, anyway. She said he was marrying a baby.
"Good. I'm glad you have someplace to go because it's awfully cold," the farmer said. "You wouldn't want to spend much time in the snow. Skinny little thing like you would freeze right quick. This area's experiencing record lows, just in time for Christmas."
Christmas...She'd been expecting a ring, a cake, a warm, dry place to live--for the next few years, at least. It was supposed to be her best Christmas ever. She'd believed that for once in her life she'd have the money to buy presents.
But maybe what had happened served her right for being so reluctant, in her heart, to marry an old man, even for the sake of her sisters.
"What day is it?" she asked. She no longer knew. The days were beginning to blur together. It was difficult to think when she was so hungry.
"December 16," the farmer's son supplied.
The sixteenth? Really? That meant it was Los Posadas, the first of the nine days of candlelight processions in her country, where children and adults alike carried the statues of saints through the streets to reenact the Holy Family's quest for lodging in Bethlehem.
The farmer brought them to a shuddering stop in front of a drugstore. "This okay?"
Since she didn't yet know how to find Arlene's brother, one corner was as good as another, wasn't it?
"Fine. Gracias, senor." Bracing for the cold, she offered them a polite smile and got out. But as she reached into her purse to retrieve the slip of paper Charlie's ex-wife had passed along to her, she realized that what she was doing wasn't so different from the reenactments going on at home. She had nothing but this address and a stranger's promise that she'd be given shelter. What she found when she actually arrived was anyone's guess.
"Someone's at the door," Brent said. "I'd get it, but...I'm a little tied up here."
Ken Holbrook lifted his head. They were working in the area off the kitchen, which was next to the living room, but he hadn't heard anything. "I don't think so."
"You might want to check. Maybe Mom and Gabe came up, even though we told them to let us get the cabin out of mothballs first."
"No, they had other plans." If anyone was at the door, it was more likely their real father. Since Ken had returned to Dundee, Russ had been dogging his every step, doing his damnedest to talk him into yet another loan, which he called "an infusion of working capital," for whatever business he was starting next. "No one's here," Ken said, hoping it was true. "There's a storm watch on."
Scooting over to get to his toolbox, Brent dug around blind since he was lying on his back and still had his head partway inside the furnace. He retrieved his wrench, then froze at the sound of a light tap. "There it is again. I'm pretty sure that's a knock."
This time Ken heard it, too. Had Brent invited Russ to the cabin? It'd be like him. Brent didn't feel the same resentment toward their father that Ken did. He'd been in elementary school when Russ was busy screwing up their lives, which had somehow imbued him with more forgiveness. But Ken didn't ask Brent, didn't want to talk about Russ, because he knew it would lead to an argument. Russ was the only thing they ever argued about.
With the wind kicking up, Ken still held out hope that it wasn't a visitor, especially their father. "I'll see what's going on. Just get the damn furnace fixed."
Leaving the cardboard box he'd been unpacking, Ken strode into the living room and peered through the peephole Gabe had drilled in the front door when their mother married him and they came to stay in this cabin that first summer. They didn't have any heat, so Ken didn't plan on opening it if he didn't have to. It was already cold enough to see his breath. But the moment he saw a petite woman with long dark hair standing on the porch without a hat, boots or much of a coat, he yanked the door wide--and gaped at the zip-up sweatshirt she wore with blue jeans and snow-covered tennis shoes.
They had a visitor, all right. But it wasn't their father....
Angling his head, he scanned the drive for a vehicle.
Other than his own Land Rover, which he'd parked outside because there wasn't room in the garage, he couldn't see one. How had she gotten so far into the mountains without a car, and dressed like that? "Can I help you?" he said uncertainly.
Chocolate-dark eyes, framed with the longest lashes he'd ever seen, appealed to him from a cafe au lait face. She was somewhere in her mid-twenties, and she was pretty. Really pretty. It was like finding Salma Hayek on his doorstep. But he was fairly confident the lack of color in her lips wasn't a good thing.
"I--I'm Cierra," she said, rolling the r's, and reached out to give him a piece of paper that'd been crushed in one hand. Before he could accept it, however, she swayed and would've fallen had he not let it go and caught her instead.
A clang, and subsequent cursing, indicated that Brent had dropped his wrench. A few seconds later, Ken could hear his younger brother jogging toward him. Nothing Brent did was ever very subtle. He was only twenty-one and still in college, but he was bigger than Ken, although, at six feet two inches and two hundred and ten pounds, Ken had never been considered small--except, maybe, when analysts compared him to the front line in football.
While he held her, Cierra's eyelashes fluttered as though she was fighting for consciousness but, a second later, she lost that battle and her eyes drifted shut.
"What is it?" Brent asked, coming up from behind.
Ken turned to show him, and watched his brother's mouth fall open.
"Wow!" he breathed. "That's exactly what I wanted for Christmas. How'd you know?"
There was no time to acknowledge his joke. "Grab the purse she just dropped and fix a place to put her. I think she's suffering from hypothermia."
Brent dashed inside, just ahead of Ken, straight to the master bedroom, where Ken had left his bags when they arrived a few hours earlier, and peeled the plastic cover off the mattress. The cabin had been closed up for so long it had a musty odor, but that would go away once they aired out the place. At least covering the furniture had kept it from getting too dusty.
"That's good enough for now," Ken said so Brent wouldn't waste time trying to put on the sheets. "Take off her shoes."
"What about her jacket?"
"No, that's okay. It hasn't started snowing again, so just her feet are wet."
Brent removed her sneakers so Ken could put her on the bed. She was coming around. Moving her head from side to side, she muttered in Spanish. Then her eyes opened, and she gazed up at them with a sort of mute resignation that unsettled Ken. Wouldn't most women be frightened if they woke to the sight of two large men--total strangers--while sequestered in a remote cabin?
This girl didn't seem to be scared. But if heading back outside into the weather was her only other option, he could understand that. Or maybe she was even closer to death than he'd thought.
"We've got to get her warm." He grabbed the blankets they'd dumped at the foot of the bed and waved for Brent to lie down on one side of her while he lay down on the other. Sandwiching her between them with the bedding piled on top was the quickest way he could think of to raise her body temperature. At least her clothes were pretty dry. Otherwise, she probably wouldn't have lasted this long.
She didn't fight their proximity. Her eyes closed again and she remained perfectly still, cold as marble but malleable as a doll.
"She going to be okay?" Brent whispered after several minutes had passed and she hadn't spoken or moved.
Ken pressed two fingers to the side of her throat. "Heart's beating."
"That's good." Brent pulled back just enough to get a better look at her face. "Where do you think she came from?"
"Quit being a smart-ass. I mean today."
"How should I know?" Ken responded with a chuckle. Because of the age difference between them, they'd never been especially close but that was changing. Ken couldn't wait until Brent graduated from Boise State. Already, they were talking about teaming up to run a series of football camps for kids in the summer.
After a short pause, Brent spoke again. "This seems a little weird."
Ken raised his head. "Having a beautiful woman appear out of nowhere?"
"Sleeping three to a bed...with you"
Ken might've laughed, but he couldn't. He was too busy gasping as their visitor not only moved but slipped her frozen fingers under his shirt and right up against his skin. Her teeth chattered as she attempted to burrow so close he got the impression she'd climb inside his skin if she could.
Brent arched his eyebrows, obviously demanding an explanation.
"I'd say she's doing better," Ken said when he could bring his voice down an octave.
This met with no small amount of suspicion on his brother's part. "How much better?"
"Don't get excited. She's figured out how, uh, to maximize the heat I'm offering, that's all."
Brent sounded sulky when he answered. "I'm offering heat, too."
Because she'd pulled away at his initial reaction, Ken covered her hands with his to let her know it was fine to take what she needed. He'd survived worse. "Yeah, but I'm always the lucky one."
"You're not supposed to get lucky. What about Isolde?" Brent challenged.
Fascinated by the number of women who congregated around professional athletes, his brother always asked about his love life. Brent had been cut from the college team and would never experience the NFL for himself, so Ken usually indulged him. But he didn't like talking about his former girlfriend. "I broke it off before I moved back here, and you know it."
"It's for good, then?"