Christmas Delivery (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1101) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Of all the eerie events in her hometown of Jenkins Cove, Lexie Thornton found none more pulse-pounding than the return of her lover, thought murdered long ago in the misty bogs on Christmas Eve. But the man who stepped out of the shadows was very much alive--and hell-bent on revenge.

Simon Shea had changed. The lanky teen had grown into a hardened man, one she barely recognized--but still desired. Lexie had a secret too--the daughter they'd made the night he disappeared. Lexie ...

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Christmas Delivery (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1101)

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Overview

Of all the eerie events in her hometown of Jenkins Cove, Lexie Thornton found none more pulse-pounding than the return of her lover, thought murdered long ago in the misty bogs on Christmas Eve. But the man who stepped out of the shadows was very much alive--and hell-bent on revenge.

Simon Shea had changed. The lanky teen had grown into a hardened man, one she barely recognized--but still desired. Lexie had a secret too--the daughter they'd made the night he disappeared. Lexie longed to resurrect their love, but someone wanted to make sure Simon never revealed his secret past.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426825569
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Series: A Holiday Mystery at Jenkins Cove Series , #1101
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 372,802
  • File size: 207 KB

Meet the Author

Having finished her work in her third-grade class, Patricia started reading the book she'd just taken out of the library—Double Date. Noting this was a "Senior" book (meaning for seventh- and eighth-graders), a very suspicious Sister Mary Ursula confiscated it. The nun returned the book the next morning with the suggestion that Patricia confine her reading to history. An independent thinker even then, Patricia continued reading young-adult romances.

At 12, baby-sitting for one of her mother's friends, Patricia picked up a women's magazine and found the first installment of Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt. Enthralled, she asked to borrow the rest of the magazines so she could finish the serialized novel. She was instantly hooked on gothics, the precursor to the romantic suspense that she herself writes today.

Writing was always a part of her life. At 15, she took a part-time job with a local newspaper answering phones and taking ads. She convinced the owner to let her rewrite the wedding announcements. Her talent with words duly noted, the owner hired her as the youngest stringer ever to work for the paper.

At 16, she was reporting on the city council meetings in her suburb and creating controversy that kept the editor's phone ringing. That summer, she took over the sports section when the sports editor went on vacation.

Unable to afford the journalism program at Northwestern University, Patricia settled on being a commuter student at the University of Illinois and earning a degree in American literature. There, she also discovered that she was seduced by images as well as words. After obtaining a master's degree intelevisionproduction, she worked in educational media.

But that love of fiction never died. During the big surge of romances hitting the shelves in the late '70s, she realized she wanted to write romances herself. She tried, gave up...and a few years later tried again. She gave herself a deadline—one year to get published or forget it.

This happened to be the first year of her marriage, and she was still working a full-time job. Luckily, she'd married "the most supportive man in the world." And even more luckily, she sold a young-adult romance at the 13th hour. Actually, in the 11th month of that year she'd given herself.

How did it happen? She won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Best Young Adult Manuscript. Of course she wasn't at the conference to learn of this. A friend called the next day. And mysteriously, a few weeks later, she received a Golden Heart in the mail with no letter, no official notification of her win. But that seemed to be the norm for her writing career at that point. The same friend who had called her also said the editor who'd read her manuscript for the contest was saying that she was "her" author and "her" new book.

So Patricia waited...and waited for a phone call from the editor. Three weeks later, the editor called and asked if she had ever made an offer. Patricia said no. The editor said she hoped Patricia would accept her offer, because the book was already in production.

Patricia's writing career was on its way. Many books and years later, she's still at it.

Research is an integral part of Patricia's writing process. Recently she and her husband spent some time on a working cattle ranch in New Mexico to get the authentic details that she feels brings a story to life. Travel for research is the best part of the deal as far as she is concerned, especially if it involves animals. For some of her books, she swam with dolphins, photographed wild mustangs, and howled with wolves.

Her advice to new writers: "Find the passion in your story that goes beyond the romance." Patricia shares her own passion for writing with her office mates, Peach, Phantom and Dreamer (her cats), and encourages her students to find theirs at Columbia College in Chicago, where she teaches a couple of credit courses each year, including Writing the Suspense Thriller and Writing Popular Fiction.

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Read an Excerpt

Turning the Drake House ballroom into a winter wonderland for the annual Christmas charity ball should make her happier, Lexie Thornton thought. The main room in the west wing was two stories high, with a balcony off the second-floor parlors, and nearly one hundred feet long, fifty wide. Doors with glass insets lined one wall, leading to an outside balcony with a view of the gardens and the Chesapeake Bay beyond. Decorating the mansion for the ball was quite a feat and would take several days to complete.

Lexie pushed up the sleeves of her sweater, looked around the ballroom, then glanced down to her laptop to review the design she'd planned out.

"Hey, Lexie, where do we put these?"

She looked up to see two of her garden shop workers hauling in large poinsettia plants, each planter encased in red or green foil and wrapped with a huge gold bow. "Just set them in an area free of drafts for now."

Today would be devoted to the basics—dividing the ballroom with its gleaming wood floors and trim into several distinct areas for dancing and socializing over drinks and displaying the silent auction items. Virtually the whole town of Jenkins Cove would show up for the ball, and Lexie would make the most of every inch of available space.

That she would be responsible for giving so many people pleasure didn't bring a smile to her face. Ironic that Christmas was so important to Thornton Garden Center, the family business that she now ran. Her parents both still worked there, but in more relaxed capacities. They were both retirement age, but refused to retire, saying it would make them feel old. Decorating public areas as well as private estates and businesses for Christmas broughtin a solid portion of the year's income, so Lexie couldn't hide from the holiday.

Call her the Christmas Grinch, especially since the ball and the silent auction would raise money for the Drake Foundation, which supported several local charities. This included one that helped impoverished single mothers and their children—a cause dear to Lexie's heart, since she was a single mother herself.

Frowning at the further reminder of why Christmas always made her so sad, she looked for her best friend.

Marie Leonard stood in front of the fireplace, the focal point of the room, and stared into the large, antique mirror hanging over the mantel. When she turned away from the mirror, her expression went beyond happy—she was glowing, actually, so that the color in her cheeks intensified the chestnut color of her hair. For the first time since she'd returned to Jenkins Cove after her father's death, Marie seemed at peace.

Lexie was happy for her dear friend, who was about to start a new life. Marie was madly in love with Brandon Drake, owner of this estate, and their engagement was to be officially announced at the ball. Which Lexie would be forced to attend, making her relive her loss all over again.

Christmas Eve…

Thirteen years and she wasn't over the heartbreak.

Thirteen years ago, instead of meeting her behind the church as planned, Simon had gotten himself killed in an accident taking the shortcut through the woods. Even after all this time, thinking about it brought a lump to her throat and a tightness in her chest.

"Hey, those are gorgeous plants," Marie said, crossing to her.

"Thanks. Gorgeous plants for a gorgeous room."

Though Lexie tried to inject enthusiasm into her voice, she knew she failed when Marie gave her that look that told her if she wanted to talk, Marie was there for her. Not that Lexie was planning to take her friend up on that. She didn't want to talk about Simon anymore, didn't want to think about him, didn't want to remember… only, considering the circumstances, how could she ever forget?

Before Marie could try to force the conversation, noise from the foyer had the other woman turning toward the entry. "Ah, the caterer has arrived. I need to talk to her, see what final selections she made for the buffet." She moved in that direction, glancing back at Lexie to say, "But don't imagine you're home free."

Lexie groaned at her friend's implied threat. Then she got back to work, referring to the checklist and the decorating design on her laptop to see where she was.

Dozens of poinsettias had been brought in. Hopefully, she'd planned enough plants and greenery for the ballroom to help improve the air quality. The fire that had damaged the east wing of Drake House had left a thick stench that was difficult to mask, despite the clean-up efforts of a professional crew. Later, she would add dozens of pots of mums and gerbera daisies to the decor—both would help purify the air.

The first order of business was to distribute the poinsettias the way she'd mapped them out in the room. So she spent the next hour with her landscape workers, making sure every plant was in its proper place. Then she had her workers fetch the mantel swag and the garlands that would be hung around every door—a time-consuming job, but one that would help transform the old mansion for the season.

A familiar laugh echoed from the entranceway. Lexie went to investigate the foyer, where the master staircase split upward to each wing. Well, one wing now. The private wing was un-livable because part of the roof had collapsed during a fire, so it was cordoned off and would be for some time to come. Marie and Brandon were occupying rooms in the public wing and the servants were all housed off grounds.

In the foyer, Lexie found Marie with Chelsea Caldwell, looking soft and lovely in a white cashmere sweater and matching beret, and her fiancé, Michael Bryant.

"For the silent auction," the blonde said, handing Marie a painting.

"Oh, nice." Marie waved Lexie over.

A quick look and Lexie's brows shot up. Chelsea had painted a view of Jenkins Creek. While water was a good part of the canvas, the focus was the dueling estates perched on points that faced each other—Drake House on one side and the Manor at Drake Acres on the other. Brandon had inherited the older estate from his father, Jonathan. Always competitive, his uncle Cliff, the younger of the brothers, had built what he'd considered a bigger and better estate.

"Hmm, I have a feeling I know who will be bidding against each other on this item." Knowing Cliff, Lexie thought he would pay any amount to keep the piece from his nephew.

"That was the idea," Chelsea admitted. "More money for charity."

"You would have had bidders competing against each other no matter which painting you donated," Michael murmured, pulling her closer.

Chelsea blushed and grinned and Lexie noted the diamond ring on the other woman's left hand. So the engagement was official. Lexie quickly looked away.

"Rumor has it you have a new book contract," Marie said to Michael.

But it was Chelsea who enthusiastically said, "Michael is going to write a fictional account of the human trafficking that went on here for decades."

"All names changed to protect the innocent," Michael promised.

"Congratulations," Lexie said, zeroing her attention onto one of her workers waving to her. "I need to get back to work. I'll see you both at the ball."

Seeing how right Chelsea and Michael were for each other, as were Brandon and Marie, Lexie felt a sharp pang of longing. Would she ever find someone to love, to share things with again?

Would she ever have a second chance at a real life?

It was that idea of wanting a second chance that finally convinced Lexie to accept Marie's dare to try the psychomanteum at the House of Seven Gables, the bed-and-breakfast run by Chelsea's aunt, Sophie Caldwell. Marie had tried to push Lexie into doing it before, but pragmatic Lexie had resisted.

Since she'd ridden out to Drake House in one of the garden center's trucks with her workers, Marie drove her into town. They left the car in the parking lot near the church and walked the short distance to the B&B, which was situated on the harbor.

"I just wish you the same happiness I rediscovered with Brandon." The sun had set and Marie pulled her wool coat closer. "I never thought it would happen, but it did. Who's to say it can't happen for you? You just have to learn to let go."

"Katie is my life."

"I didn't mean let go of her, just…"

"I know. But every time I look into her eyes, I see Simon. Maybe I'm not meant to be with anyone else."

Maybe that's why her life consisted of running the family business and raising her twelve-year-old daughter. Period. No time off for good behavior.

"Or maybe you've just decided to protect yourself against potential loss," Marie said. "You don't know what will happen in that room. Maybe you'll learn the truth about what happened to Simon. Isn't that worth the risk? The truth can give you peace. And then you can move on. You can't protect yourself from love forever, Lexie. Love is a good thing. Simon wouldn't want you to be alone. He would want you to find someone to fulfill you as a woman, as well as a mother."

Lexie sighed. "Now you're romanticizing."

"You could use a little romanticizing. If only you could commune with Simon, perhaps you could let him go, move on to someone new. It's more than time, Lexie."

"When you're right, you're right."

No use arguing with Marie when she got an idea into her head.

Lexie figured that giving in to her friend's insistence that she visit the psychomanteum was romantic enough for anyone. Basically, she'd agreed in order to get Marie to stop fretting over her. And, she had to admit, there was something else.

Even though she wasn't a believer, a little part of her wished she could see Simon one last time….

They circled the House of the Seven Gables with its long, two-story porch. The bed-and-breakfast faced the harbor and was situated directly across from a seafood restaurant, a prime stopping place for tourists who came to sail or take boat rides to see the waterfront estates.

As they turned the corner, the wind whipped up with an odd wail and Lexie pulled the front of her brown suede Sherpa jacket closed against the chill. The wind out of nowhere and the late afternoon mist coming off the water seemed to be omens of some kind.

Either that or her imagination was working overtime.

The long building of white clapboard had dormer windows under the gabled roof. Lexie quickly took the steps up to the front door, Marie following. The Christmas wreath hanging there was decorated with miniature duck decoys, small sailboats and Maryland crabs. Lexie couldn't take credit for the unusual holiday decor. Sophie Caldwell had her own unique ideas.

Like the psychomanteum.

"Ah, there you are," Sophie said when they entered the hall.

Just coming out of the office, the owner of the B&B retied the lace-trimmed apron covering her dark skirt. Attached to her green blouse was a pin as striking as the porch decorations— Rudolph the reindeer, his red nose blinking on and off. As usual, her graying blond hair was pulled into a neat bun at the nape of her neck, and a gentle smile played over her lips.

"Sorry we're late," Marie said. "But Chelsea stopped by with her painting for the auction, and I guess we lost track of time."

At the mention of her niece, Sophie beamed. "Is that all?" She looked to Lexie. "I was afraid that you'd changed your mind."

"Hard to do when someone's twisting your arm behind your back," Lexie muttered.

Sophie checked Lexie's arm as if expecting to see it in Marie's grasp. Then she shook her head and said, "Can I get you girls something? Tea and some fresh cookies?"

"Oh, no, not for me." A spiraling sensation Lexie defined as pure fear shot through her, making her stomach cramp at the thought of food. "Just the…um…"

"Upstairs," Sophie said kindly, then turned to Marie. "While you wait, you and I can have a nice catch-up in the kitchen, dear."

"Sure," Marie said, though she was staring at Lexie as if for a cue.

"Go." Lexie shushed her off and headed for the stairs. "I need to do this alone anyway."

Before she could talk herself out of it, Lexie proceeded up to the third floor and headed down the hallway, stopping only in front of the door to the psychomanteum. This was just plain silly. A pragmatic person, Lexie didn't succumb to flights of fancy. Why, then, did she feel as if her limbs were made of lead?

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped into the room whose ceiling was painted black and whose walls were hung with black curtains. Her heart was beating double time and her stomach was knotting as she looked around. A chair in the middle of the room faced an ornately framed mirror that leaned against a wall. Chests and small tables around the room held candles of various sizes. Lexie dimmed the ceiling fixture and the room immediately became spookier.

Her legs felt like rubber as she moved to the chair and sat facing the mirror.

Now what?

She supposed she should light the candles, but it was as if something had a grip on her and she couldn't move. The back of her neck prickled and her breath came harsh and she had to force it through stiff lips.

Stop it… This is silly!

It was. Really. And yet she couldn't make herself leave. She sat there, frozen, staring into the mirror. She let her own image go out of focus and instead thought of Simon as she had last seen him—tall and rangy, shaggy light brown hair framing a rugged face and heavy-lidded deep green eyes.

"Simon, why did you have to die?" she whispered, her stomach churning. "Why did you have to leave me?"

Questions she'd asked the ether over and over again through the years, especially when she'd learned that she was pregnant and again after having a baby she'd vowed to raise on her own.

She got no answers. Not then. Not now.

She concentrated harder.

Remembered the first time Simon had pulled her braids and teased her when she was six.

Remembered the first time he'd pushed a bully away from her when she was eleven.

Remembered the first time he'd kissed her when she was fifteen.

So many memories, each one treasured, never to be forgotten, all to be taken out and examined at will, usually when the loneliness got to her. Times when she found it hard to believe he was dead at all. Surely part of her would have died with him!

She'd never felt lonelier than now, when her vow was to leave all those memories behind and go on. To make new ones. Maybe to meet someone she could love who wasn't Simon Shea.

Could she do it?

"Simon, if you can… if it's possible… come back to me now, even if only for a moment. Assure me that I can trust the future. Let me say goodbye properly."

Not just by spilling tears over his grave.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2011

    I Enjoyed it.

    I enjoyed this book very much. It is nice to relax and not have to tax your brain by figuring out what is happening. I enjoyed the story and trying to figure out who done it. For me it was very good

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    Posted April 30, 2011

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    Posted January 27, 2011

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