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A Dry Creek Christmas
By Janet Tronstad
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMillie Corwin squinted and pushed her eyeglasses back into place. The night was full of snow clouds and there were no stars to help her see along this long stretch of Highway 94. Millie was looking for the sign that marked the side road leading into Dry Creek, Montana. She could barely see with the snow flurries.
What had she been thinking? When she had told the chaplain at the prison that she would honor Forrest's request, she hadn't thought about the fact that Christmas was in the middle of winter and Dry Creek was in the middle of Montana so she would, of course, be in the middle of snow.
She hated snow. Not that it made much difference. Snow or no snow, she had to be here.
Millie saw a sign and peered down the dark road that led into Dry Creek. Only one set of car tracks disturbed the snow that was falling. Hopefully that meant most people were home and in bed at this time of night. She planned to arrive in Dry Creek, do what she had to do, and then leave without anyone seeing her.
Millie turned the wheel of her car and inched her way closer to the little town. She wished, and not for the first time, that Forrest had made a different final request of her while he was dying.
She met Forrest three years ago. He'd come into Ruby's, thecoffee shop where she worked near the Seattle waterfront, and sat down at one of her tables. Millie must have taken Forrest's order a dozen times before he looked her in the eyes and smiled. There was something sweet about Forrest. He seemed as quiet and nondescript as she felt inside. He was restful compared with all of the tall, boisterous, loud men she'd learned to ignore at Ruby's.
It wasn't until he had been arrested, however, that she knew the whole truth about Forrest. He'd been a criminal since he was a boy and had, over the years, gotten deeper and deeper into crime until he'd eventually become a hit man. His last contract had been for someone in Dry Creek.
When Millie got over the shock of what Forrest was, she decided he still needed a friend. She had visited him while he was in prison, especially this past year when he'd been diagnosed with cancer. The odd thing was the sicker he got the more cheerful he became. He told her he'd found God in prison.
Millie was glad enough that Forrest had found religion if it made him happy. She smiled politely and nodded when he explained what a miracle it was that God could love a man like him.
Personally, Millie thought it would be a miracle if God loved anyone, but that it had more to do with God than the people He was supposed to love. However, since Forrest was sick, she supposed it was good if Forrest thought God loved him and so she nodded pleasantly.
But when Forrest added that God loved her as well, she stopped nodding.
Of course, she kept smiling. Millie didn't want to offend either Forrest or God.
Then Forrest added that he was going to pray for her so she would know God's love, too. Millie could no longer keep smiling; she could barely keep quiet. She'd always kept a low profile with God and she figured that was the smart thing to do.
If God was anything like the other domineering males she'd seen - and there was no reason to think otherwise - then He looked out for His own interests first. If He noticed a person like her at all, it would only be to ask her to fetch Him a glass of water or another piece of toast or something else to make Him more comfortable.
Millie had grown up in a foster home where she was the one assigned to do chores. Usually, the chores consisted of cooking, doing laundry and taking care of the five boys in the home.
Millie didn't know if it was because she was easier to order around than the boys or if her foster mother really believed males were privileged, but - whatever the reason - she soon realized she was doing all of the work for everyone in the house and, instead of being grateful, the boys only became more demanding.
By the time Millie left that home, she'd had enough of dealing with loud, demanding males.
And those boys were mere mortals. She figured God would be even more demanding. No, it was best if God didn't even know her name. She didn't want anyone mentioning her to Him. She had no desire to be God's waitress.
Still, Millie wasn't good at telling people what to do or not to do, and she certainly couldn't tell a dying friend to stop praying. So she changed the subject with Forrest and asked what kind of pudding he had had for lunch. She would just have to hope Forrest came to his senses on his own.
He didn't. Every letter he wrote after that said he was praying for her.
When Forrest died, the chaplain at the prison forwarded a final letter Forrest had asked him to mail.
Excerpted from A Dry Creek Christmas by Janet Tronstad Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
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