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A Colton Family Christmas
By Judy Christenberry Linda Turner Carolyn Zane
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMajor William Colton sat up in the luxurious bed and stretched. He definitely wasn't in St. Petersburg, Russia, anymore. He'd returned to Washington D.C. a couple of days ago. He was glad to be back in the States, especially because so much had changed. Although he secretly wished he was at his great-grandfather George WhiteBear's ranch in his family's hometown of Black Arrow, Oklahoma.
Now that some of his siblings had flown the nest, it wasn't often that they all assembled in one place. But today, Christmas Eve, they were celebrating the marriage of his brother, Jesse. And they were doing so in Georgetown, an historic, high-class section of Washington D.C., in a mansion that had recently come into their family. It had been rented for years by the Chekagovian government and used as their embassy and, later, a diplomatic residence.
Strangely enough, it was left to them by a grandfather they never knew, along with a trust fund of ten million dollars. Jesse, who did very well for himself as one of the top operatives for the National Security Agency, had used his share of the money and some of his own to purchase the mansion for his bride, Samantha. After all, he was the only family member living in Washington, D.C.,and he could entertain the country's political elite in the house, in addition to raising a big family of his own.
Right now, of course, the mansion was filled with family, but after everyone went home, Jesse and Samantha would have to produce a lot of babies to fill this big a place. Billy grinned at that thought. He'd like a lot of nieces and nephews, but not any children of his own. He wasn't cut out for that.
He pulled on warm-up pants and a T-shirt and headed down a flight of stairs to find the kitchen. He could smell the coffee already. When he reached the large kitchen, he found his brother Jesse sitting at a big round table alone. "If I join you, will you share your coffee?" he asked.
"I think I'd better. You don't look like you're awake yet, Billy."
"Probably not. I think I'm still adjusting my inner clock to U.S. time. I need caffeine. Where is everyone?"
"They're all still asleep. It's only six-thirty here. Which makes it five-thirty in Oklahoma," Jesse said.
Billy grinned. "I forgot. When we were kids growing up, I thought we always got up too early. But the Army cured me of those thoughts."
A lot of things had changed over the years. As children, they had all resembled each other, but now differences were more apparent. Billy looked more like his Irish mother, with his hazel eyes and easy manner. Jesse took after his father, who was half-Comanche Indian, with his dark brown eyes and stern features.
"They've cured you of a lot of things, brother," Jesse said with a laugh. "I can't believe they're going to let you in the Pentagon. How did you get such a cushy job?"
"Cushy? I'll have you know my assignment may bring about world peace! I certainly made headway in Russia with my training school." He laughed, thinking about some of his early struggles to adjust to Russian culture.
"Well, go to it, brother. I'm all in favor of world peace."
"Yeah. I'm actually going to design more training sessions based on what I did in Russia. It is a pretty cushy job," he added with a grin. "At least compared to working in Russia. And it might be a little warmer here."
"As long as you keep'em fooled about your talents," Jesse said with a laugh.
Billy was used to the teasing. He'd gone from an unruly, headstrong boy to a spit-and-polish, well-disciplined soldier. He'd seen the world, able to use all the languages he spoke. And he'd made a good living for himself. He'd been raised in Black Arrow, Oklahoma, with his four brothers and sister by their parents Alice and Thomas. His father had served his country in the military for more than twenty years, and his wife and children followed him wherever he had to go. But Oklahoma was home.
Billy took a sip of coffee, then said, "We had a good life as kids, didn't we?"
"Yeah," Jesse agreed, a smile on his lips. "Stop thinking of Samantha," Billy ordered.
Jesse looked up in surprise. "How did you -"
"You always get this silly grin when your mind's on her. You're worse than anyone I know."
Jesse chuckled. "One day you'll understand."
"I doubt it."
"What do you mean? Aren't you going to marry and have a family?" Jesse asked, concern on his face.
"Easy, brother. You don't have to worry about me. The army life doesn't encourage having a little woman and 2.5 children, along with all their belongings. Hell, it would've taken me months to move us back to the States, instead of a couple of hours."
"But you're going to be settled here for quite a while, aren't you? Long enough to put down roots? Dad thought it might be permanent. He said once they got you in the Pentagon, they'd keep you."
"Mom and Dad are wishful thinkers."
"Yeah, 'cause they asked me to find you a nice lady."
Billy stared at his brother in horror. "They didn't!"
"They did. In fact, Samantha promised to help me - Hey! I forgot. We met the perfect lady for you a couple of weeks ago."
Billy held up his hands. "Don't even think such a thing. You got anything to eat? My stomach is uneasy about your plans."
Jesse got up from the table and took down a plate from the cabinet. Then he opened a box on the counter and filled the plate with iced doughnuts.
Excerpted from A Colton Family Christmas by Judy Christenberry Linda Turner Carolyn Zane Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.