Hearts Evergreen [Secure]
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by Robin Lee Hatcher, Kathryn Springer
Description: "A CLOUD MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS" by Robin Lee Hatcher: Take one lonely divorc´┐1/2e at Christmastime. Send her on business to the romantic Cloud Mountain Lodge. Add a complication: handsome innkeeper Tony Anderson. And mix! "A MATCH MADE FOR CHRISTMAS" by Kathryn Springer: Cynical reporter Connor Lawe discovers that getting youth leader Sarah Kendle to agree to a story about her merry band of carolers is easier said than done--but well worth the effort.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Steeple Hill,
eBookwise Release Date: November 2007
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [352 KB]
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Maddie Scott's heart stopped in mid-beat: SUPER BOWL MVP CRAIG HOUSTON WEDS ACTRESS SHARI WARD. COUPLE'S FIRST CHILD EXPECTED IN FEBRUARY.
"Miss? Are you ready?"
She looked toward the convenience store clerk, trying to ignore the humming in her ears.
The girl frowned. "Are you ready to pay for those things?"
"Yes." Maddie grabbed the magazine and dropped it, a bag of chips and a soda onto the counter. "I'm ready."
The clerk looked at the magazine cover. "That guy's a hottie, huh?"
Please be quiet. Biting her tongue, Maddie pulled a twenty-dollar bill from her wallet and held it toward the girl, hoping that would hurry her along.
It worked. Two minutes later, Maddie pushed through the glass swinging door of the convenience store and hurried toward her rental car. She unlocked the driver-side door of the black SUV with the remote, longing to get inside, away from anyone's view.
As soon as the car door was open, she tossed her purchases onto the passenger seat, then slid behind the wheel.
It shouldn't matter. It didn't matter. Craig Houston hadn't been a part of her life for more than four years. Their five-year marriage had crumbled beneath the weight of his bad habits and extramarital affairs. Her love for him was killed slowly but surely long before the signatures were dry on the divorce papers that had ended both her marriage and her dreams for the future.
"I don't want kids, Maddie. I'm not cut out to be a dad."
Tears pooled in her eyes as the memory echoed in her mind.
The truth was, Craig hadn't wanted kids with her. He looked happy enough on the cover of that magazine with his pregnant bride.
She wiped away the tears with the back of her hand. Silly to get upset over this. It wasn't as if she didn't know Craig and that actress were an item. She'd have to be a nun in a FrenchAlps monastery to be unaware. Their faces had been plastered in various magazines, week after week, the handsome NFL jock and the gorgeous Hollywood star.
It was the injustice of it all that stuck in Maddie's craw. Here she was, four years after the divorce, swimming in a sea of debt—the debt Craig had left her—and her ex-husband was living the high life.
She drew a deep breath. God, don't let me give in to self-pity. I know that what Craig does and who he marries has nothing to do with me. Help me to quit looking back. Help me to trust You with my future. She turned the key in the ignition and backed the SUV out of its parking place.
By force of will, Maddie turned her thoughts to the reason for her trip into the snowy Idaho mountains. There were still two hours to go until her destination. If she did her job, the resulting commission could wipe out her debt. Wouldn't that make this her best Christmas in years?
And there was one added benefit. Tucked away in the mountains of Idaho, she needn't worry about running into Craig and his new bride on the streets of L.A.
* * *
Tony Anderson took several steps backward and stared at the Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby. Colored lights twinkled, reflecting off tinsel, garland and ornaments. Empty boxes, wrapped like gifts, peeked from beneath the lower limbs of the fragrant pine tree.
"What do you think, Audrey?"
"It's a work of art. Prettiest I've seen in this place in ages."
"Good enough to make the guests feel festive for the holidays, anyway." He glanced at his watch. "Speaking of guests, is the room ready for Mr. Fairchild?"
"It's ready. Got the new sheets and comforter on the bed and fresh towels in the bathroom. Don't you worry. He'll get the royal treatment while he's here."
"I can always count on you."
Audrey Tremaine was a godsend, no doubt about it. She had worked at the lodge for forty-two years, starting as a maid when she was twenty years old. Although she now wore the title of head housekeeper, she did more than keep the place clean and tidy. She pretty much ran it, from manning the front desk to hiring part-time help to making their guests feel at home.
Of course, until they had more guests, it wasn't all that hard for Audrey to manage the lodge. But if the manuscript brought the price some thought it would, Tony wouldn't have to worry about money. He was eager to see if David Fairchild agreed with others. If he did, if Fairchild purchased the manuscript for the kind of money Tony hoped for, the renovations of Cloud Mountain Lodge wouldn't take years to complete. He wouldn't have to do the majority of the work himself. The lodge could be bigger and better than his original plans. He had plenty of ideas. What he lacked to make them come true was cold hard cash.
"How about the rooms for the Sullivan family reunion?" He picked up the empty boxes that had held the Christmas decorations.
"We're on schedule. All you need is to get that paper hung in the green room."
"I was planning to do that later today." He headed down the hall toward the back door.
Audrey called after him, "Hurry back. Cookie made cornbread and a pot of chili for lunch. It's ready when you are."
"Sounds good. Be right back."
Cold air bit him the instant he stepped outside. He hunched his shoulders as he strode down the steps and along the shoveled walkway to the shed. After tossing the empty boxes inside, he glanced toward the new metal building that housed a workshop, his Jeep and the used-but-new-to-him Sno-Cat.
Copyright © 2007 by Harlequin Books S.A.