During all of December we have some great romance steals for every type of reader. We’re excited to welcome Callie Hutton as a guest poster and be sure to check out her Highlander romance on sale for just 99¢!
Each year by Christmas Eve, Mom and Dad had had enough of Christmas. But for slightly different reasons. Dad always returned home from his office Christmas party singing Christmas Carols and smelling of beer. He invariably brought a friend home with him (always sober) to explain to mom why it was necessary for him to stay and “have a few” with the guys in honor of Christmas. He was all fun and cheer.
Mom, on the other hand, was struggling with the baking, gift wrapping, tree decorating, hair curling, Christmas dress ironing, and four thousand other little details that went into a happy holiday for the family. She was all business.
And never the twain did meet.
I celebrated my Christmas Eve by taking two buses to Aunt Rita’s house to help her put up her Christmas tree. Aunt Rita always found it difficult to wrestle with the harder things in life. Like hanging curtains. And cooking a turkey. And cleaning the oven. And putting up a Christmas tree.
So each year mom would dispatch whoever she could spare (Christmas party celebrants and sober, explaining friends excluded) to Aunt Rita’s house on Christmas Eve to help her over the anxiety associated with this annual chore.
One year it was my turn and I was sent, on a cold dreary day with snow definitely on the horizon. Mom bundled me off about 1:00 in the afternoon with strict instructions to get the tree decorated and return home before dark. I was sorry to miss dad’s return home from work, but not at all sorry to miss the greeting he was going to get from mom.
Aunt Rita was not one of the best Christmas tree buyers of the world. She always managed to buy a tree that left you very perplexed as to where to hang the ornaments. The back usually had no branches, the front drooped, and the top dared you to put the heavy angel on it. It was always too tall so she had a neighbor cut it down half-way, so it had a fat, squat-appearance. And she always paid too much for it. “Because the poor man needed the money.”
Aunt Rita always had all the Christmas ornaments left from my grandma, so with each ornament we hung went a long, involved story. And so passed the afternoon. She and I chatted, sang carols, ate Christmas cookies, drank milk and did the best we could with the tree. I helped her wrap some of her last minute gifts, and as usual, after talking so long of her own childhood and my grandma, she became quite melancholy.
Despite my mom’s warnings and my best intentions, cheering up Aunt Rita took longer than I had expected, and it was already dark and starting to snow when I left her house for my return home by bus. The first bus took me the station in another city where I would board a second bus for the final trip home. The snow was really coming down by this time and it all looked so pretty. Christmas carols sang out from the loudspeaker at the bus station and busy last minute Christmas shoppers bustled in and out.
At last my bus arrived and I reached into my pocket for my fare, and found no coins. I was stunned. I searched and searched each pocket in my coat, sweater, jeans, but came up with nothing. I couldn’t believe it. I had lost my carfare home.
Too old to cry, but too young to have much resourcefulness, I watched numbly as my bus pulled out without me. I sat down on a bench to think things over.
A few minutes later another bus pulled up and I watched the passengers get off. The last person to get off was an older woman laden with shopping bags. She walked very slowly and kept brushing snow off her glasses. She was a heavy-set woman and had a hard time managing all the shopping bags. The closer she got to my bench, the more she reminded me of my grandma. In fact, to this day I swear she looked like her. She sat down alongside me with a loud sigh and promptly dropped half her bags. I picked them up for her and she gave me a tired smile of thanks.
We spent the next twenty minutes or so talking about Christmas and the snow. She told me all about her large family who lived far away and of the friends and neighbors she would be having for Christmas dinner the next day. Eventually, I told her of my plight and she pressed the needed amount of coins into my hand.
Soon another of my buses arrived and I jumped up, anxious to get home to my family. My friend gave me a hug and kiss and told me she was so glad we had met. The very familiar smell of the powder my grandmother used drifted to my nose as she held me close.
She took my hand and told me her granddaughter was miles and miles away and would not be part of her Christmas for the first time since she’d been born. She touched my cheek and said I looked just like her. She said I had made the holidays a little bit happier. I ran for the bus, slipping and sliding all the way.
As the bus pulled out of the station, I pulled up my coat collar and put my freezing hands into my pocket. I felt something brush my fingers.
It was my missing carfare.
It was right there in my pocket all the time. I turned to the window to shout the news to my friend, but she had vanished.
Mom was anxiously waiting by the window, peering through the snow when I got home. Dad was looking fine, drinking black coffee, and getting ready to read us the Night Before Christmas. The house was decorated, warm and cheerful; my brother and sisters were in their pajamas and fighting with each other for the best place to hang their stockings. Outside, the moon was shining on the peacefully falling snow.
It was just like every other Christmas Eve of my life.
Or was it?
The Highlander’s Choice by Callie Hutton
On sale for 99¢!
When a Scottish laird meets an English lady…
The Scottish Highlands, 1815
Lady Sybil Lacey is every inch an English woman. She’s horrified her best friend is wedding a barbarian Scot. For aren’t Scots naught but brutish, whiskey-swilling lechers? So to find herself secretly attracted to the tall and devastatingly handsome Scottish laird of Bedlay Castle is quite disconcerting…
Liam MacBride is convinced that English ladies are silly sassenachs who think of nothing but social events and clothes. So why is he intensely drawn to Lady Sybil? All they do is quarrel…until loathing turns into undeniable lust.
A tempestuous, fiery romance between an English lady and a Scottish laird cannot end well.