Christmas Heat [Secure]
Click on image to enlarge.
by Devon Vaughn Archer
Description: A season of miracles ... and second chances.... Audrey Lamour was a successful artist and devoted mother, forever indebted to the heroic fireman who pulled her from a blaze twenty-five years ago on Christmas Day. She honored him by painting his portrait--never dreaming her picture would become a lifeline to love.... Conrad Pearson was driven to meet the woman whose emotional painting of his father seared his soul, even if it meant returning home to the Pacific Northwest, and painful memories. But Audrey's beauty, grace and unforgettable kiss ignited the kind of sensual fire that made a man glad to be alive. Now he was ready to confront all the ghosts of Christmas past to keep this angel in his arms forever.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Kimani Press,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2007
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [342 KB]
GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTIONS: Available to customers in: US, NZ, SG, TW, ER, GQ, LS, MG, MW, SD, SN, HM, MN, GD, JM, LT, SI, BY, FO, TR, PS, BM, AS, IO, SB, FK, SR, AF, FJ, CA, ES, PR, PH, BF, EG, KE, NG, RE, BV, TF, GE, KP, MV, PK, TL, BQ, HT, KN, CZ, CH, GI, IS, RS, SJ, BH, MH, NU, BO, AD, AL, AE, GF, MX, FR, IT, BE, CF, DZ, EH, GN, MA, MZ, SO, TD, TG, BT, KG, NP, VN, IM, AW, BB, CW, EE, LU, VA, IQ, QA, KI, PF, TK, AR, PE, AM, NI, KR, VI, UM, KM, MR, NA, NE, TN, TZ, KH, TJ, GG, LC, CY, FI, GR, HR, MD, JO, KW, OM, SY, YE, CC, FM, GT, MY, CD, CG, GA, ZA, ZM, ZW, MM, DM, GP, TT, VG, DK, HU, IE, LV, PT, SE, MC, ME, NO, IL, LB, GL, CK, GU, NR, PG, CL, GY, BL, BZ, DE, CN, BJ, CM, CV, GM, SH, UG, HK, UZ, GS, PN, SX, AT, AX, BG, MT, RO, BA, LI, MK, RU, PM, CX, PW, VU, CO, SV, UY, AU, BR, JP, BI, BW, CI, SL, BD, BN, ID, IN, LA, MO, TH, TM, MS, BS, CU, DO, MQ, TC, VC, PL, SM, UA, SA, TO, WF, HN, PY, NL, DJ, ET, GH, GW, LY, ML, MU, RW, ST, SZ, AZ, KZ, KY, MF, SK, JE, IR, MP, NC, NF, TV, WS, CR, EC, PA, VE, LK, AG, AI What's this
Audrey Lamour held on to the steering wheel with both hands as she negotiated her Jeep Grand Cherokee down the slippery road en route to Festive Cove Elementary School. It was the same school she had attended as a child. Now she had passed the reins onto her daughter and hoped that Stacy learned as much as she had—and kept on learning right through college and beyond. But Audrey would take one year at a time and even one day, knowing full well that a person could not look too far ahead in life.
She glanced through the rearview mirror at her child, safely settled into her belt-positioning booster seat, and smiled. God had blessed her with the best daughter a woman could ever have. Surely that had to count for a lot, even against the backdrop of Audrey losing her own parents at a young age and Stacy being deprived of a father's love and devotion.
At seven, Stacy was small-boned and tall for her age. Audrey felt that her daughter was a remarkable, well-adjusted girl, considering that she had never known the man who fathered her. He had ended his relationship with Audrey shortly after learning she was pregnant. In spite of this, Stacy was healthy, had excelled in school, seemed happy and was often the one to lift her mother's spirits when they were down, rather than the other way around.
What would I ever do without the one constant ray of light in my life?
Audrey felt emotional at the thought as she neared the school. She couldn't imagine not being there for her daughter in every way. Her own parents had always been there for her, before tragedy struck and she had to learn to live without them.
And vice versa.
She pulled alongside the curb, then reached back to help Stacy extricate herself from the child safety seat.
"Did you bring your homework?"
Stacy pretended to think about it. "Yeah, right here."
"Good." Audrey noted her lunchbox. "So we're all set, then."
"I think so." Stacy climbed out of the car. "Bye, Mommy."
"Bye-bye, baby. Have fun."
Stacy gave her a crooked smile. "I always try to, but sometimes there's just too much to do."
Audrey laughed. "Tell me about it. Don't worry, you'll appreciate everything they put you through one day."
"Yeah, maybe," she said skeptically. "I have to go now."
"Aren't you forgetting something, young lady?" Audrey stuck out her high cheek.
Stacy leaned in and planted a quick kiss on it, giggling self-consciously.
"That's more like it," she said with a twinkle. "I'll see you this afternoon."
Stacy ran off, blending in with the other students. Audrey watched for a moment longer before pressing slowly on the accelerator. As usual, she had a lot on her mind. Apart from work and household chores, Christmas was just a little more than three weeks away. Meaning there was precious little time left to make sure that Stacy's wish list was fulfilled. Audrey made no bones about it. She was spoiling her daughter rotten, just as her parents had spoiled her when she was a little girl. She knew that as a single parent she was probably overcompensating a bit in providing the love and devotion every child should have.
I just hope she appreciates it. I know I did.
Passing by the Festive Cove Fire Department, Audrey thought about the painting of Grant Pearson that she had bestowed them. It was a small thing to give to honor the memory of the firefighter, and a long time coming at that. But she had a feeling he understood and was smiling down on her, at peace with himself.
Audrey's thoughts turned toward her upcoming visit to Grant's gravesite. There was no doubt in her mind that he was watching over her in his own way, just as he had so many years ago when he saved her life and did his best to save her parents.
Audrey picked up her cell phone and called the art gallery where she was delivering a couple of landscape paintings. Like her seascapes, these were more experimental than the classical portraits she had put her heart and soul into. There would be an exhibit at the gallery later on in the month to gauge the public's interest. She could only hope her audience would be receptive to this side of her talents, giving her the confidence in opening up a whole new front in her art career.
Zack Abu, the Ugandan owner of the gallery that represented Audrey, and a fine artist in his own right, answered the phone. "Good day, Audrey," he said with an accent. "Hope you're calling to tell me you have more exquisite Audrey Lamour pieces to show?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," she said proudly. "I'm on my way to you even as we speak."
"Marvelous. I can hardly wait to see them."
Audrey swallowed uneasily, having never really gotten comfortable with the expectation her paintings brought. There was always a part of her that feared they might not measure up and she would have to look for another means of support, heaven forbid.
* * *
Ulysses Conrad Pearson drove his rented Range Rover along the winding path, admiring the view from all sides. It seemed never ending. Snow-covered pines and fir trees blanketed miniature mountains like soldiers on the field ready to do battle. Pale blue ice hung like daggers from limestone cliffs at the side of the road. Conrad could almost hear the rush of water behind tumbling waterfalls frozen into works of sculpture and imagined that if he were to look carefully, he might actually see a deer or two running amongst the plethora of frosted birch and maples in the woods.
Copyright © 2007 by R. Barri Flowers.