CHRISTMAS CAME TO SHERIFF JOSH McCAIN' S HOUSE WITH MORE THAN A FEW SURPRISES
He' d been solitary for so long--his own man. Then suddenly a single father doing his best. But above all, the Montana lawman did what was right no matter the cost. Until he met Chrysie Atwater and her two girls.
She had a fake name, a fake past and few details in between. And for some reason Josh found her totally irresistible. Was it the spirit of Christmas that had him breaking the rules, or his own loneliness? More likely it was the fierce determination he saw in Chrysie' s eyes. She went to considerable trouble to protect her daughters, and Josh was resolved to fi nd out why. But he' d do it on his terms before he' d reveal her secrets to the authorities, who he suspected were involved in setting her up.
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November 15, 2011
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Excerpt from Maverick Christmas by Joanna Wayne
Chrysie Atwater rushed across the creaking floor of the civic center to pick up her young angel, who'd just been shoved to the floor by the unruly reindeer. The boy and his twin brother had been out of control all night, totally undisciplined and requiring constant supervision.
"I want to go home," Jenny announced as Chrysie helped her back to her feet and straightened her wings.
"You don't want to let one reindeer keep you from being in the pageant."
"He's not a reindeer. He's just an annoying boy." A very astute judgment, but Chrysie wasn't ready to pull Jenny out of the performance. Both of her young daughters needed some normalcy and social interaction with their peers, especially Jenny. Moving from town to town had been stressful for her.
Which was why Chrysie was out on a frigid night, volunteering her services to Jenny's kindergarten teacher, who'd taken on the unenviable task of directing the community Christmas pageant.
Mrs. Larkey had the reindeer collared and was leading him toward them. "Tell Jenny you're sorry, Danny," she said.
"I'm sorry," he said, stamping at the floor like a frisky pony and showing no sign of remorse. In fact, mischief danced in his dark eyes.
"No more pushing," Mrs. Larkey said. "If you do, I'll have to tell your father."
"Aw, don't tell him. I'll be good." The kid looked up at the teacher and smiled, showing a gap in front where one of his baby teeth was missing.
Chrysie followed Mrs. Larkey as she walked back to the stage to corral the singing Christmas trees, who were rummaging through the toys that were meant to be props. "Are those two boys always so disruptive?" she asked.
"Pretty much," Mrs. Larkey said. "Such a shame when their father is so nice."
"It's none of my business, but..." She let the comment drop. None of her business was the operative phrase here.
"Okay, Christmas trees," Mrs. Larkey said, "put down the toys and get back on the platform. You have to be ready to sing as soon as Santa Claus delivers the bad news to the reindeer."
She turned back to Chrysie. "The sheriff does the best he can, but the boys are just too much for him."
The Sheriff. Chrysie groaned inwardly. If she'd known the sheriff or any other lawman was even remotely connected to the pageant, she'd never have volunteered or let the girls participate. Better if the guy didn't even know she existed.
She turned away just in time to see Danny's brother crash into the Christmas tree they were using as the main prop. The tree rocked back and forth a second, then toppled to the floor, eliciting piercing squeals from the young girls who'd been standing under it and loud laughs from the boys.
Instinctively Chrysie grabbed the guilty child by the arm. "That was not funny, young man. You could have hurt someone."
"Leggo of me. It was an accident."
"An accident that wouldn't have happened if you'd been practicing with the other reindeer."
"Daddy!" The deafening holler played havoc on her eardrums.
The boy broke away from her and rushed down the steps, hurling himself into the arms of a cowboy who'd apparently come in the back door unnoticed.
A gorgeous, dark-haired hunk of a cowboy. Wouldn't you know?