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A Mistletoe Christmas: Santa's Mistletoe Mistake / A Merry Little Wedding / Mistletoe Magic

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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“I suppose in this day and age twenty-two is considered young, but I didn’t feel young. I had no desire to sow any wild oats. All I really wanted was to be a wife and eventually a mother and own a dance studio.”

“It was a happy marriage?”

She paused a moment before replying, thinking back over her marriage. “Yes, for the most part it was a happy one. We only had one topic that we fought about. Seth was a rodeo cowboy. He rode bulls and broncs. I hated it. He followed the circuit so he was gone a lot and I was always afraid.” She shrugged. “And then my worst fear came true. He was at a rodeo riding a bronc and fell. The horse’s hooves came down on his head and he died instantly.”

“I’m sorry,” Jake replied, and the emotion behind the words let her know he wasn’t just saying an empty platitude.

“I tell myself that at least he died loving what he did. Seth lived for those adrenaline-filled moments on the back of a wild beast. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Seth, but life goes on.”

For the next few minutes the two of them sat silently, watching the skaters. It was a comfortable silence. Melody was not warmed just by the blanket, but also by the very presence of the man seated next to her and her daughter’s laughter drifting across the pond.

She wanted to take this moment and wrap a bright red ribbon around it, top it with a sprig of mistletoe and hold it in her heart. It was a wonderful new memory that she would carry with her from this day forward.

Her gaze lingered on Libby and she frowned. “I’m a little bit worried about this Santa secret thing that Libby has,” she said. She turned and looked at Jake. “I’ve bought her nearly everything she asked for, but I don’t have any idea what special gift she’s expecting from Santa.”

“She hasn’t given you any clues?”

“None, and trust me, I’ve tried to get her to tell me. I just wish I knew so that I could see if I could get it for her. I don’t want her to lose her innocent belief and trust in Santa.”

“And what is it you want for Christmas, Melody?” Jake asked, his eyes glittering more silver than gray in the twilight of approaching night. She loved the way her name sounded falling from his lips.

She smiled and snuggled a little closer to him. “I already have what I wanted—happiness. Oh, I bought myself a bottle of perfume and a new sweater to wrap and put under the tree so that Libby wouldn’t think that Santa forgot me, but all I hoped for this Christmas was peace and happiness, and I’ve already found that here in Mistletoe.”

With you, she wanted to add. She wanted to tell him that he had become part of her happiness equation, but he hadn’t even kissed her yet. He might never kiss her the way she wanted him to, she told herself, although she was certain she’d seen desire for her in his eyes more than once.

It was after eight when they finally left the pond and headed back home. Jake was unusually quiet on the way to her house. Melody chalked it up to tiredness. He’d skated several more times throughout the evening and had also helped Bob carry more cookies and drinks from the house to the pond. Libby was quiet as well, obviously happy and exhausted.

They arrived at the house and Melody thanked him for yet another wonderful day. Libby got out of the backseat and ran to the front door to await Melody.

“I’m cooking a big roast and potatoes tomorrow,” she said, and unbuckled her seat belt. “Why don’t you come to dinner? I’d love to cook a nice meal for you.”

“Thanks for the offer,” he replied, a distance she’d never seen before in his eyes. “But I’ve got a lot of chores to take care of around the ranch, so I have to say no.”

“Oh, of course.” Melody’s heart plummeted, both with disappointment and with guilt. “We’ve been taking up too much of your time.”

“By my choice,” he said.

Melody opened the car door and stepped out. “The dinner invitation is a standing one. Just let me know when you’re available.”

He nodded. She began to walk toward the house but stopped as he rolled down the window and called out her name. “I hope you and Libby have a merry Christmas.”

Before she could reply he rolled up the window and drove away. She hurried toward the front porch where Libby waited for her to unlock the door. Her mind whirled with his words...words that indicated he didn’t intend to see or talk to them again before Christmas.

She unlocked the front door and Libby ran down the hall to her bedroom to get out of her extra clothes, while Melody closed the door and sank down on the sofa, Jake’s parting words still playing in her mind.

She hadn’t realized until now that the picture she’d had of Christmas Eve had been the three of them decorating the tree together. In her visions of the holiday, it had been three at the table eating a Christmas Day feast.

It felt as if something had ended before it really had a chance to begin. She felt as if she’d lost something she’d never really had, and she’d forgotten until now what the pain of loss felt like.

CHAPTER SIX (#ulink_2f10f0b6-a59f-5960-91f3-b2af491b8a57)

“I’M CALLING TO invite you and Libby to lunch today,” Laura McKinny said when she called at ten o’clock the morning after the skating party. “I figured the girls could play for a little while and you and I can enjoy lunch before the snow moves in tomorrow.”

“We’d love to come. What can I bring?” Melody welcomed the opportunity to spend some time away from her continuous thoughts of Jake Hanson.

“Nothing. Don’t expect anything fancy. I’ve got homemade chicken-noodle soup and sandwich fixings.”

“Sounds perfect to me,” Melody replied. With plans made for eleven-thirty, she hung up the phone and told Libby about the lunch date.

“Awesome,” Libby exclaimed. “Today if we play dolls again, then it’s time for the prince to propose to the princess and then we’ll have a wedding.”

“Sounds like serious happily ever after,” Melody replied.

“It is. I’ve got to go get my princess doll ready to go.” She raced back to her bedroom, where Melody knew she’d sort through her fashion doll items until she found a wedding dress and shoes and everything a princess would need for a magical wedding.

Melody sat at the kitchen table with a fresh cup of coffee before her and stared out in the distance, where she could see Jake’s place.

Had she snuggled a little too close to him last night? Talked too much? Too little? Had the silence that she’d felt was so comfortable actually been uncomfortable for him?

What surprised her most was the pang that shot through her as she tried to figure out what had happened. Was he truly being neighborly, and she had just misread him?

With frustration she got up and moved to the chair that placed her back to the window. She and Libby had had a wonderful time with Jake over the past week, and he’d made the lead up to their first Christmas here in Mistletoe wonderful.

Despite her overwhelming and fast feelings for him, she shouldn’t have expected any more from him. But that didn’t halt the shard of pain that pierced her heart, letting her know she’d gotten too close, allowed him to get too deep into her heart.

By the time she and Libby left the house to head to Laura’s place, Melody had forced thoughts of her neighbor right out of her mind. Besides, it was difficult to concentrate on anything as Libby chattered about the wedding of the holiday between the prince and the princess.

Melody parked in Laura’s driveway, and Libby was out of the car with her doll carrying case clutched tight against her chest before Melody could unfasten her seat belt.

Megan greeted them at the front door. She and Libby squealed and exchanged girlfriend hugs and then quickly disappeared down the hallway to Megan’s room.

Thankfully, Laura greeted Melody slightly less enthusiastically. She raised an eyebrow and rolled her eyes. “It’s the wedding of the century, don’t you know?”

Melody laughed and followed her friend into the kitchen, where the table was set for two and the scent of chicken soup filled the air. “I thought we’d let them play while we enjoyed our lunch, and then I’ll feed them and they can pretend chicken-noodle soup and sandwiches were on the menu at the wedding reception.” Laura gestured her into a chair.

“Sounds perfect to me,” Melody replied. “I saw you on the ice last night at the pond. You and Jack skate well together.”

“Thanks. And I noticed you didn’t move your butt from your bench all night.” Melody pulled a tray of cold cuts from the refrigerator and placed it and a loaf of bread on the table, then went back to get two bowls of the yummy-scented soup.

“Of course, I don’t blame you,” she continued, sitting across from Melody. “If I had a handsome hunk like Jake cuddled under my blanket, I wouldn’t have been inclined to move, either.”

“It’s not like that,” Melody replied as warmth filled her cheeks.

“What do you mean? The two of you looked quite cozy last night, and from what I’ve heard, the three of you have been spending a lot of time together.”

Melody should have known she wouldn’t get through this lunch without talking about Jake. She had a feeling she and the handsome cowboy had definitely been fodder for the local gossip mill for the past several days.

“We had a nice few days together, but that’s all there was to it. After last night I doubt that we’ll be hanging out together anymore.”

“What happened last night?” Laura asked.
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