|Christmas Is In the Air|
A Christmas to Remember!
Clear Springs’ new schoolteacher, Gemma Starling, feels as if she’s been given a fresh start. So long as no one discovers her dark secret—she once shot a man in self-defense!
Sheriff Craig Parker has forsworn love, but delightful Miss Starling intrigues him. And when events at the school turn dangerous, Craig won’t let her face it alone. Gemma might just be the one woman he could ever love, but will the secret she’s hiding tear them apart or bring them together by Christmas?
Excerpt ~ Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff
“I’m new to the community by most counts, miss, but I gather that you’ve been here even less time than I have.” The sheriff studied her pert nose which she had notched up stubbornly in the air. “You don’t strike me as someone who grew up in the country. Can you tell me which way we are headed? North or west?”
She was quiet.
“This isn’t like a city where there are names for roads and easy-to-remember storefronts. It’s easy to get lost in these hills. One boulder starts to look like another. One tree the same thing. I can’t have you walking…or riding…all over the mountain. You’ll be lost within half an hour.”
“You can’t have me walking…” she echoed, a trace of sarcasm in her voice.
Guess she didn’t care much for his interference. It couldn’t be helped. He wasn’t about to let her wander the mountains on her own. He walked another half a block with her in silence, hoping she was absorbing the truth of the matter.
Her steps finally slowed and then came to a stop. “What do you propose?” she asked, facing him.
“To go with you.”
“I don’t think…” She shook her head doubtfully. “That’s really not necessary.”
“Not. Necessary. Hmm. Then tell me which way you are facing now.”
She sucked in a breath and let it out slowly. “I can’t.”
“Well, until you can, you need an escort. I’m offering.”
She frowned. “Sheriff…I doubt the etiquette of the situation allows for you to accompany me.”
So that’s what was bothering her. “It doesn’t allow for a woman to go alone either. Sometimes out here you have to be practical.”
She started walking toward Mrs. Birdwell’s again “Do all the other women here know their directions?”
“If they were raised in the country they do.”
“Day or night?”
“While the sun is up for the most part. There are a few who know the stars too.” He couldn’t imagine growing up without that knowledge. His father had impressed it on him by the time he was ten. “Just where are you from anyway?”
“Obviously not here,” she grumbled.
“So…?” He prompted.
She eyed him with a speculative look. The light through the saloon window danced in her eyes. “Guess.”
He hadn’t expected that. He raised his brows. A challenge. “Big city. North, I think.”
She smiled slightly.
“Your clothes are fancier than most. Your shoes wouldn’t last more’n a day on a hike.”
“My shoes?” She stopped and looked down at her feet. “When did you check my…? Humph.”
“San Francisco? No…” he answered himself. Not with the way she said certain words. “Back East somewhere.”
“I have a feeling not knowing the answer will trouble you immensely,” she said smugly.
“It may take me awhile, but I don’t back down from a challenge.”
They turned down the side road that led out of town. Widow Birdwell’s boardinghouse was the last house on the road. The light from her parlor blinked dimly through the rustling pines.
“May I ask you something, Sheriff? You’re a man…I mean that you understand boys a tad better than I would. Why would two boys old enough to know better, get into a fight? They should be setting an example for the younger children—not fighting.”
“I take it you don’t have brothers.”
“No. And I’ll admit that I was so intent on stopping the fisticuffs before more bloodshed occurred that I didn’t think to get the real reason for the fight out of them.”
He slanted a glance at her. “The best time to wrangle an answer out of them is while they are still fighting mad. Things tend to spill out from the gut.”
She sighed. “Then I’ve lost my chance.”
“Sounds like you did okay. You stopped the fight. No one died.”
She stepped up on Mrs. Birdwell’s stoop. “An interesting way to put it.”
He reached for the door handle. “Just out of curiosity… How did you make those boys stop fighting? Hard to believe they’d stop just because you told them to.”
Her lips twitched and then those dimples appeared again as her smile grew. “I threw a bucket of cold, dirty water over them.” She stepped inside. The parlor lantern lent a yellow glow to the right side of her face. “Good night, Sheriff.”
He tipped his hat even though she was already closing the door in his face. “Night, Miss Starling.”
The woman might have no idea about staying safe on the mountain but that smile of hers could sure pack a
Text Copyright © 2016 by Kathryn Albright
Cover Art Copyright 2016 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
All rights reserved.
Kathryn Albright writes sweet western historical romance. Her stories celebrate courage and hope with a dash of adventure. Kathryn’s stories have been finalists in the distinguished RWA Golden Heart®, the HOLT Medallion and the Colorado Award of Excellence, as well as several other industry awards. An enthusiast of country living, she resides with her family in the Midwest.
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