Welcome to Catherine Castle’s Christmas Reads. Today, Patricia Bond is providing an excerpt from her book Building a Christmas. Let’s get on with the story.
Building a Christmas
By Patricia Bond
Nathaniel drew her into his embrace. She put her hands on his chest, her head on his shoulder. His arms wound around her, hands stroking her back as she cried into his jacket. He closed his eyes, feeling her warmth and softness and laid his cheek on her head. Instinct overcame caution and he softly kissed her hair.
They stood a long time until her sobs subsided. Feeling her control returning, Nathaniel slowly released her. He searched her eyes, tears still sparkling like the new-fallen snow and wiped away the last trace of wetness from her cheek. In utter silence, they looked at each other before turning away, each to return to their own home.
As Nathaniel crossed the field, he looked back. She walked as though caught in thick swamp water, her movements slow, dragging. It seemed it took all her energy to simply put one foot in front of the other.
He knew the feeling well and felt an unfamiliar emotion unfurl in his chest. After weeks and months of ruthlessly eradicating all traces of it, he realized he was feeling sympathy.
Sympathy for this twin soul of despair he’d just held in his arms.
Quiet, solemn faces ringed the breakfast table at the orphanage. Melanie tried in vain to coax a laugh or a giggle. Even a tiny smile would have been a success. But all the children, down to the littlest, kept their eyes down, their mouths flat. Every so often, from different places around the table, she heard a muffled sniff, a soft catch of breath as they fought for control. It was nearly more than she could bear.
Determined to keep to their normal routine, she doled out chores for the afternoon, and herded everyone into the large room that they had turned into their schoolroom. She took them through their lessons while Mrs. Grinkov prepared their lunch and Mr. Grinkov chopped the wood for their stove. The lessons went poorly, distracted as the children were by her news. And Melanie hadn’t even told them the worst of it – they had to leave the orphanage by Christmas Day. They would not even allow the children to have their Christmas. Melanie, herself, could concentrate no better than the children and she finally gave up the notion of lessons for today. Instead, she gave them free time to play inside while she stared out the window and thought.
She hoped she could come up with some idea to raise money, but Colonel Walker kept creeping into her thoughts. She had wanted nothing more than solitude last night. Solitude she hoped would clear her mind. The only clarity it brought was the direness of their situation. And the hopelessness.
She’d felt so alone and helpless, knowing only she stood between the children and homelessness. And she had failed bitterly.
And then… and then she’d felt arms come around her, drawing her close, soothing her despair. Suddenly she didn’t feel alone any more. Heat poured into her from his hands and body. Heat and strength. Determination.
And perhaps something more she hadn’t felt since her husband Jeremy had died.
But that – that would have to wait. The children needed her more than she needed Colonel Walker.
Now, where and how and how soon could she get enough money to match the offer from the textile company?
And at Christmastime, to boot? she thought bitterly.
Nathaniel had walked most of the night. Every little while, he’d stopped and looked in the direction of the orphanage, searching through the darkness for some sign of life in the building.
Some sign of her.
He must be going mad, he thought, for just as he’d not quite known how he’d been given a battlefield commission, or how he’d come to be sharing her lunch, or riding in the wagon next to little Jeb and Lorna, Nathaniel didn’t quite know how he’d come to be embracing Miss Treymont. Running his hands up and down the curve of her back.
He’d kissed her hair, for God’s sake!
He had no answer, save that he’d dearly love to do so again.
He walked to near-exhaustion, but not quite. Even so, when he finally sought his bed again and hoped to sleep, he fell into a quiet sleep, without dreams of cannon, blood or soldiers, but with sparkling snow, rosy cheeks and hands holding him close.
About the Author
Books, history, hooped skirts and happily ever after. Those are just a few of my favorite things that I weave into stories. Add in a dashing hero and an intrepid heroine and you’ve pretty much got my recipe for a historical romance.
America’s history is so rich and full, it serves as a natural backdrop for my books, and I try to take full advantage of it, along with its incredible landscape. My settings have run from the Great Lakes, to rural Pennsylvania, to Baltimore/Washington and the Chesapeake Bay. In a departure from historical, though, I’m currently finishing up a contemporary women’s fiction book, set in the south of France. We’ll see how that goes. But never fear, historical romance is my first love and I will never abandon it. I have more ideas than time to write! I would hope readers will join me on all kinds of journeys through my books, in all sorts of places and all kinds of time.
Wife, mother, and grandmother, I love being retired and living near the Great Lakes where I’m free to indulge my other passions besides writing. I’m an award-winning amateur photographer, member of the local knitting guild and have a terminal addiction to travel. Look for me at the lakeshore, notebook in hand and camera at my side drawing inspiration from my amazing surroundings.
You can always reach me through my website: www.Patricia-Bond.com, where you’ll also find buy links for all my books. Building a Christmas is available from Amazon.com as an ebook or in print as part of the Patricia Bond Anthology. You never know – a quick note from you could snag you a signed bookmark. A review posted on Amazon definitely will!