Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Cordial Christmas

Dobson Winters is a miserable man. After his wife's death, he shut himself off from the rest of the world, but a deathbed ultimatum changes that. Now, he must find Holly Watson and marry her to save his soul. Redemption comes in an unexpected package and it takes the gift of a child's unconditional love to change a man heart.

When a man thinks he has nothing to live for, life has a way of coming full circle...


Lucy tugged on Holly's arm. She turned and looked down to her concerned face. Lucy bent a finger and begged her to bend down. Holly tilted her body closer. Her niece glanced over at Dobson, then cupped a hand against her mouth. "He's very grumpy."

Holly's mouth twitched, but she had to agree. The child was right. Dobson Winters cornered the market on being less than civil. Odd considering he was the founder of the town of Cordial. She supposed he had a right. A quick glance to her left and she could see the firm set of his strong jaw. He certainly appeared angry.

She looked back at the trail. The grade evened out in the past hour. Shortly, they would hit the big meadow. Holly recalled racing across the flat lands hoping to best her brother, Michael, just once. That had never happened. The big meadow had also been where they caught him changing brands. Even then, she knew rustling had been a hanging offense. Winters had stepped in and kept the drovers from taking the law into their own hands. Yes, her brother had gone to prison, but it had all been legal.

"We'll be at the house in an hour."

Holly glanced over at him.

"You can have a hot bath and rest. I'll get Joe to ride ahead and have cook prepare you a hot meal."

Lucy's ears must have perked up. Holly felt her lean over and give him the child's equivalent of an evil eye. "I like apple pie."

"Lucy," Holly quieted her.

The harsh tone of Dobson's voice faded. "I do too."

Lucy's brows arched and she glanced at Holly. "Humph," she replied as if she didn't quite believe him.

"Lucy Watson, you apologize this instant."

A pout formed on Lucy's bottom lip. It jutted out, forming a shadow on her chin.

"Lucy." Holly's voice sent a quiet command

The child cut her eyes to the woman on her right then looked back at him. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to offend you."

"None taken," he answered.

"You can crawl in the back and wrap up in those blankets," Holly ordered.

Lucy gave him one last uncertain glance. With Holly's hands to steady her, she slipped through the opening and into the back, behind the canvas. Holly took hold of her shawl and pulled it upon her shoulders. Felling the need to echo her niece's apology, she plastered a pleasant smile upon her lips and turned to the man sitting beside her. "I'm sorry. Lucy can be a bit forward."

"Am not," came a voice from the back of the wagon. "You said I was pre- precocious."

Holly's cheeks filled with heat. Mortified she turned to see Dobson's cheek twitching with laughter.

"You certainly are," he called back to her.

Holly shook her head. She caught his glance and stared at his eyes. They were a deep shade of green, the same color of grass as it broke through the ground in early spring. It made Holly yearn for the turn of the season so she could compare the two.

"Nothing wrong with being honest."

Holly wondered if he was reminded of her brother's indiscretion. "No," she agreed.
"There isn't." She focused her eyes on the trail ahead and tried not to think about the man sitting so close to her. A wheel hit a rut; she lost her grip, and fell forward. It happened so quick, Holly had little time to do anything, but gasp. Dobson's fingers grabbed her arm and held on tight.

"You all right?" he questioned, dividing his glance between the trail and her regaining her seat.

Her head bobbed. "Fine."

He removed his hand and a part of her seemed disappointed. She caught his glance to the drover. Holly watched him lift a finger and the cowboy loped up.

"Yes sir?"

"Joe, go tell Chow Ming we have company. Have him get the kettles boiling for the tub and freshen the guest rooms."

"Will do, boss."


The cowboy waited.

"Have him warm up that apple pie. I've a hankering for a slice."

"Yes, sir," Joe nodded and raced off.

For a few moments, silence surrounded them. She was well aware of the man sitting beside her. His very presence seemed to fill space between them, using up all the air until Holly felt light headed. She took a deep breath and his scent surrounded her. The smell of warm leather and woods left her senses sharpened.

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