Once Sol Adams and Cassie Campbell had been inseparable, drawn to each other when times were tough. Cassie has spent the last ten years trying to move on from her life back then, but now Sol is home for Christmas, more gorgeous than ever, and she can't avoid him--or her memories... Sol can see Cassie's changed--she's now a widow, a woman who tirelessly cares for others. But he knows her too well--he can see the hurt and yearning behind her cheerful smile. Can he get to the bottom of her troubled heart and make this Christmas angel his much-loved wife?
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December 03, 2007
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Excerpt from His Christmas Angel by Michelle Douglas
Sol slammed through the house and out of the back door to the veranda. Gripping the railing, he hauled in a breath. Then another. Half an hour. He'd been back half an hour and already he was dying to get out of here. Nothing had changed.
For Pete's sake, you'd think after ten years... He rolled his shoulders, trying to ease the tension that had them wedged up tighter than double-lapped dovetail joints. His eyes swept across the backyard. What a mess. The fence needed mending, the lawn needing mowing, and the--
His angry thoughts slammed to a halt. He squinted into the afternoon sun, but two giant oleanders on the other side of the fence prevented him from making out much of the house in the yard beyond. Did Cassie Campbell still live there?
Cassie Parker, he amended. She'd married ten years ago. And had been widowed for eighteen months. Some things had changed.
He dragged a hand down his face. Cassie wouldn't live there now. She'd live in the centre of town with the rest of the Parkers. She didn't need to live on the outskirts any more. And since her mother had died...
An ache hollowed out his chest. He hadn't come back for the funeral. He hadn't come back for Brian's funeral either.
He stared hard at what he could see of the house and yard, trying to imagine someone else living there, but he couldn't. His gaze came back to the tree squatting in the corner. His lips curved upwards and the tension seeped out of him. Back then the only thing that had kept life bearable around here was Cassie Campbell.
Cassie Parker, he reminded himself, and his smile faded. He clenched the veranda railing again. What did he think he was doing? Trying to catch a glimpse of her? He had an insane urge to butt his head against a veranda post. He'd left all thoughts of Cassie behind ten years ago.
Yeah, right. Which is why you're craning your neck over her back fence with your tongue hanging out.
He made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. It wouldn't even be her fence any more. He went to turn away when a leg dangled out of the tree--a long, lean, female leg. He blinked and shaded his eyes.
His breath hitched, but curiosity propelled him down the back steps and across the yard all the same. That was a damn fine leg, and he was real curious to see who lived in Cassie's old place now.
A mumbled half-smothered expletive drifted out of the tree as he drew near, and for some reason it made him grin. He quickened his step and, without waiting for his eyes to adjust to the shade, glanced up. The breath was punched out of him and a strange choked noise emerged from the back of his throat. He couldn't have uttered a single coherent sound if his life had depended on it.
Dancing violet eyes swung around to stare down at him. They raked across his face, then generous lips formed a perfect O. 'Good Lord, if it isn't Sol Adams, home for Christmas at last.'
His heart started to pump hard and fast. He swallowed. The sound rolled in the spaces beneath the tree, loud in the summer afternoon. 'Hey, Cassie,' he finally managed to get out.
'Hey, Cassie?' She rolled her eyes. 'After ten years that's all you can think to say?'
Then she smiled. Really smiled. Cassie had always put her whole heart into a smile. It outshone the hot summer sun. He blinked, but he couldn't look away. His groin ached. The entire surface of his skin tightened, as if he'd grown too big for it.
Her smile wavered. 'You didn't even say goodbye.' Her soft words speared through him, and in that moment he'd never regretted anything more in his whole sorry life. If in this very instant he could go back ten years--
She grinned suddenly, and every thought in his head fled. 'Help me out here, will you, Sol?'
Help...? With...? Then he noticed the kitten clutched in her arms.
She bent down and handed it to him. 'Don't you let it go,' she warned, as she disappeared back along the branch. She returned with a second kitten that she promptly handed to him. Disappeared again. In a daze he took a third, until his arms were nothing but a wriggling, curling mass of kitten.
She grinned. 'It doesn't look as if you have a spare hand to offer the lady.'
Her skin had the look of soft pink rose petals, and Sol wanted to reach out and take her hand, help her down. Touch her. He wanted to know if she felt as cool and soft as she promised. He tried to rearrange the bundle in his arms but it kept changing shape.
'Don't you let those kittens get away, Sol Adams.'
'No ma'am,' he said weakly as she leapt down beside him. Her fragrance filled his nostrils. She smelt of something flowery, tropical, like frangipani. He wanted to bury his face against her neck and inhale.
'I've been jumping out of this tree for more years than I can count. Do you seriously think I need a hand?'
'You are wearing a skirt,' he pointed out. And it fitted her like a dream. It swished around her thighs as if dancing in joy because it was wrapped around Cassie Campbell.
Parker, he amended.