Making Spirits Brightby Fern Michaels, Elizabeth Bass, Rosalind Noonan, Nan Rossiter
Secret wishes, sweet surprises, and gifts straight from the heart. Delight in this season's most joyous presents with these four sparkling tales. . .
"Making Spirits Bright" by Fern Michaels
Melanie McLaughlin desperately wants to adopt two orphaned siblings and give them a real home for Christmas. A just-for-the-holiday marriage to Bryce Landry/b>… See more details below
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Secret wishes, sweet surprises, and gifts straight from the heart. Delight in this season's most joyous presents with these four sparkling tales. . .
"Making Spirits Bright" by Fern Michaels
Melanie McLaughlin desperately wants to adopt two orphaned siblings and give them a real home for Christmas. A just-for-the-holiday marriage to Bryce Landry fits her plan perfectly. . .until unexpected sparks have Melanie dreaming of forever by his side. . .
"Runaway Christmas" by Elizabeth Bass
A glass of wine, lounging in pajamas, and catching up on movies—that's Heidi Bogue's idea of a perfect Christmas. Until her thirteen-year-old niece makes a surprise visit—and a snowstorm turns Heidi's café into a community refuge. Now one handsome cop is giving Heidi plenty more reasons to celebrate. . .
"Home For Christmas" by Rosalind Noonan
Jo Truman needs a replacement Santa for her gift shop's Christmas Eve party. She'll do whatever it takes to convince lonely soldier Sam Norwood that he's perfect for the part. . .and that the season for love is always. . .
"Christmas On Cape Cod" by Nan Rossiter
Maddie Carlson would do anything for her best friend. And helping Asa Coleman babysit a rambunctious puppy Christmas Eve night is her one chance to help the troubled teacher put his past to rest. . .and give the sweetest gift of all.
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Meet the Author
Nan Parson Rossiter was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on March 31, 1964. At a very young age she loved to draw and dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating from Northwestern Regional 7 High School in Connecticut, Nan attended the Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in illustration. At RISD, Nan’s portfolio of work was greatly influenced by then-teacher Chris Van Allsburg. Graduating in 1986, Nan set out to become a freelance illustrator.
After working in the freelance field for several years, Nan Rossiter became interested in writing a story for children. In 1991 she began working on a picture book called Rugby & Rosie, inspired by an acquaintance who was raising a puppy for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
Nan Rossiter is the author-illustrator of Rugby & Rosie, an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists and winner of the 1999 Golden Sower Award, and The Way Home, one of Smithsonian magazine’s Notable Books for Children, 1999. She has also just completed her third picture book, Sugar on Snow, which will be published in fall 2002.
Nan lives in rural Connecticut with her husband, two sons, and a very special black Lab named Chloe. Chloe is an official breeding dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The Rossiters are Chloe’s foster family, and they hope that she will be the mother of many wonderful guide dogs.
When she’s not working, Nan loves spending time with her family. She enjoys hiking and nature and watching her very busy birdfeeder, where the chickadees will eat right from her hand!
- Summerville, South Carolina
- Place of Birth:
- Hastings, Pennsylvania
- High School
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Read an Excerpt
Making Spirits Bright
By Fern Michaels
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Kensington Publishing Corporation
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePlacerville, Colorado November 2011
Melanie McLaughlin positioned her cursor on the SEND icon, double-clicked, and waited for the window telling her that her mail had been sent to pop up. She signed off her e-mail account, then moved her mouse to exit the complicated graphics program she'd helped design last year. It was her biggest job to date, and she was happy to be finished. She didn't want to work during the upcoming Christmas season. Fortunately, she was her own boss, so she made the rules. She just wanted to enjoy the holidays without any professional commitments, no last-minute all-night projects to finish. She'd worked diligently through the Thanksgiving holiday to make sure her schedule was completely cleared until after the new year.
She'd promised Stephanie Marshall, her best friend, that she'd watch her girls, Amanda and Ashley, today, so that Stephanie and her fiancé, Edward Patrick Joseph O'Brien, "Patrick" to his friends, could spend Black Friday Christmas shopping. She thought it very courageous of the couple to tackle the crowds. Melanie had promised the girls she would take them skiing at Maximum Glide, then they would come back to her condo, where they would spend the afternoon learning to knit.
Melanie had been an avid knitter since junior high, long before it was fashionable. Both girls were eager to learn, telling her they wanted to learn to knit so they could give their mother handmade Christmas gifts. Melanie smiled, remembering the first scarf she'd made for her own mother. Uneven stitches and a horrid fluorescent orange; her mother had been delighted with her gift. She'd kept the scarf packed in a shoe box in the back of her closet all these years. For safekeeping, her mother'd said. Personally, Melanie thought her mother kept it out of sight to prevent temporary blindness to those unfortunate few who'd been forced to admire her handiwork. At the time, Melanie had reasoned the color would stand out on the slopes, her mother easily spotted in case of an emergency.
She'd made sure to purchase plenty of red and green yarn for the girls' first project, a pot holder. No way would she subject Stephanie to such a horrific color as her mother's!
She pushed the POWER button to turn off her computer. For the entire month of December and what was left of November, she vowed not to turn it back on unless it was a dire emergency. That didn't mean she couldn't check her e-mail. She'd just do it from her cell phone.
Melanie rolled her chair away from the desk and almost ran over Odie, her three-year-old boxer. "Hey, bud, don't sneak up on me like that. You're liable to give me a heart attack."
"Woof, woof!" Odie stood up on all four paws, his shiny brown eyes beseeching her not to leave him behind.
She gave him a quick scratch between the ears. "You're a lucky boy today. I promised Candy Lee I'd let her dogsit, so there." Candy Lee, a high school student who worked part-time at The Snow Zone ski shop was a diehard animal lover. Melanie brought Odie to the store whenever she knew Candy Lee was working. Today would be crazy busy, but Melanie knew there were three staff members on loan from their ski-lift positions to assist Candy Lee since both Stephanie and Patrick had taken the day off.
An ear-piercing meow directed her attention to her newly adopted cat, Clovis. He had a rich butterscotch coat and giant jade-colored eyes, which were staring at her to demand her attention. Another ear-splitting meow. She reached down and scooped up the giant ball of fur. "I guess this means you want to come, too?" Another meow, and two quick slaps from his bushy tail, and Melanie knew she couldn't leave Clovis alone.
Weighing in at twenty-seven pounds when she'd spied him at the local animal shelter, he'd caught her attention two months ago when, on a whim, she decided Odie needed a pal. Though her intent was to adopt another dog, Clovis had glowered at her from his cage as she'd walked through the shelter. She'd heard his manlike meow, and decided a cat would be a perfect companion for Odie, who was docile and lived for belly rubs and the occasional bit of rare steak. A cat would be perfect given the boxer's disposition.
When she'd taken the husky feline out of his cage, he'd licked her face just like a dog. He'd captured her heart on the spot. The dog and cat had taken to each other like jelly to peanut butter.
She rubbed her nose against Clovis's before placing him on top of her desk. "Let me load up the ski equipment, guys," Melanie said, sure both animals understood her.
Odie dropped down on his haunches, and Clovis perched upright as though saying, "Okay, but speed it up."
She made fast work of getting her skis, poles, boots, and helmet from the front closet. She grabbed a tote that held her ski pants and all the miscellaneous gear one needed when skiing. She peered inside the bag just to make sure she had a full bottle of sunscreen. The morning sun blazed like a giant lemon in the powder blue sky. Given that and the blustering winds, sun- and windburn was a sure thing without proper protection.
That day, Melanie was thankful her condo had its own private garage. The temps were supposed to be in the low teens. Her Lincoln Navigator took forever to warm up when left outside. After stuffing her equipment in the back, she tossed her tote on the front passenger seat.
She made three trips to the condo and back to the Navigator before she had all her supplies. Since she was bringing Odie and Clovis to The Snow Zone, she'd brought their beds just in case Candy Lee needed them out of the way. Odie didn't like being shifted to the small office at the back of the store. Melanie was sure he understood the difference between the rows of sweaters and ski coats and the actual ski equipment. She'd often commented to Stephanie that if she were ever in a pinch, Odie was sure to be a great assistant. Neither animal liked being relegated to the back office, yet they seemed to make the best of their situation. Both animals got along famously. So far, they'd remained in the office without any signs of mass destruction.
Once they were all secured properly in their seats, Melanie made the short drive to Stephanie's little ranch house in Placerville. She grinned at the memory of last year's Christmas. She had purchased the little ranch home for Stephanie and the girls. She'd placed the deed and the rest of the paperwork that goes along with purchasing a house in a plain envelope as though its contents were unknown to her. Stephanie still told anyone who would listen what a grand gesture Melanie had performed.
Melanie had inherited millions when her grandmother died. Her parents had bought real estate when the market was hopping, before she was born, and they, too, weren't lacking in the financial department. This made their lives and that of many others better. Her mother always told her you get back what you give, tenfold, and it wasn't necessarily a monetary return. Melanie tried to practice on a daily basis what her mother preached. So far, she'd never been disappointed.
Melanie had come to love Stephanie like the sister she'd always dreamed of having. Adding her two adorable daughters, Ashley and Amanda, they completed the rest of the family she didn't have. Settling the three of them into a home of their own was the least she could do given all they'd been through. Married to an abusive husband, Stephanie had found Hope House for her and the girls. The secret shelter was for battered women and their families. Melanie's mother had long been a financial supporter of Hope House. It was there that Melanie found Stephanie and her girls. Grace Landry, the founder and a therapist, had taken the family of three under her wing and given them their first real chance for a normal life. The little garage apartment Grace had secured for them was owned by Melanie's parents. Melanie lived right down the road. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Melanie adjusted the heater controls on the dash, then stretched her arm over the seat to reach for a large blanket, which she placed over Odie and Clovis. Both readjusted their positions, allowing the blanket to drape comfortably around them.
She smiled from ear to ear as she engaged the four-wheel drive and skillfully maneuvered the steep winding road leading to Stephanie's. Careful not to slide off the side of the mountain, Melanie safely pulled into Stephanie's freshly shoveled driveway ten minutes later.
Patrick. It was his new mission in life to take care of Stephanie's every need, no matter how great or small. And the girls had him so tightly wrapped around their little fingers, their wish was his command even before they asked. Patrick of all men. A confirmed bachelor, he'd always intended to remain single. And then Stephanie Marshall entered the picture. Though they'd had a few rough patches, anyone who saw them together knew they were madly in love.
One evening after Stephanie had invited them all over for dinner, making her specialty, three-cheese manicotti and her famous homemade garlic-knot rolls, Melanie, Grace, and her husband, Max Jorgenson, who brought their new baby daughter Ella, listened intently as Patrick told them about Shannon, his niece. She had died of an extremely rare blood disorder on the day she was supposed to graduate from high school. Suddenly, Melanie had understood his fear of getting close to Stephanie and the girls too soon. He was afraid of being hurt all over again.
But Patrick, being a truly decent guy, had taken another look at Stephanie and her girls. And just as his best bud Max Jorgenson, famous Olympic Gold Medalist skier, had proposed to Grace, Patrick asked Stephanie to marry him. On New Year's Day, they were planning to take their vows at the top of the slopes and, together, as man and wife, they'd ski down Gracie's Way, and at the bottom of the run, all would celebrate the much-anticipated union of the couple.
* * *
Melanie hopped out of the Navigator, stomping her tan-colored Uggs on the cleared pavement. "You two sit tight. I'll be right back," she called out to her menagerie. She hurried up the short steps to the front porch, where she grabbed the doorknob, only to have it slip from her grasp before she even had a chance to twist it.
"Auntie M, Auntie M, are you really taking us skiing today? Are we still gonna go back to your house and learn how to ..."
"Shhh, Amanda. We're not supposed to tell, remember?" Ashley chastised her little sister.
Stephanie chose that moment to join them at the front door. "Seems like I almost overheard a secret."
Amanda and Ashley looked away, not meeting their mother's stern look. Melanie broke in before the girls revealed their afternoon plans. "I'm teaching the girls a new skill. We're just not telling what it is," Melanie said.
"Good. I don't know what I'd do if you were to ... to ... do something like you did last year."
They all broke out in laughter, even the girls. Melanie tossed her long blond braid over her shoulder. "I don't think I'll be able to top that gift, at least not for a while. At the rate you're all going, I'll be a hundred and six before you stop ragging me about that."
"It is the best, Mel. Have you seen the bathroom since I painted? Patrick installed granite counters, and it's just absolutely to die for, not that it wasn't in the first place, but this just feels so ... elegant. Come on and have a look-see."
"As much as I would love to, Odie and Clovis are waiting in the Navigator. They're staying with Candy Lee while the girls and I ski. I hope that's not a problem."
"Of course not. Candy Lee says Odie directs the customers to the ski equipment. Tell Candy Lee if Odie keeps this up, her job might be in danger."
"Mom!" Amanda shouted. "She needs this job. She's saving up for college."
Stephanie took her younger daughter in her arms. "Oh, sweetie, we're teasing. Candy Lee has a job forever if she wants."
Melanie knew the girls were a bit on the sensitive side. They'd seen so much violence from their father that, oftentimes, when the girls thought they or someone else was being wrongly disciplined or spoken to in a harsh manner, they spoke up for themselves and others. Melanie knew Stephanie was pleased with this, but didn't want them to take every word she said quite so literally.
"I would bet my last nickel Candy Lee gets that soccer scholarship she's applying for. She's a straight-A student and a killer soccer player," Melanie stated.
"How come you know all this, Auntie M?"
Melanie observed Stephanie as she lowered herself by her daughters and placed a hand on each of their pink-and-purple padded ski jackets. "It's not always polite to ask questions about situations that don't concern us. I'm sure Candy Lee will manage to get to college, so let's leave it at that. Now, Clovis and Odie are probably freezing their fur off in the Navigator. You two grab your bags, and I'll take care of your skis and poles." Stephanie looked at Melanie. "Keeping up with them wears me out sometimes, but it's the best worn-out you'll ever experience."
Melanie squinted her eyes and scrunched up her nose. "As Mom keeps reminding me, I don't have a man in my life, no children, and I just don't see either one happening anytime in the near future. At the rate I'm going, I'll be lucky to adopt another animal from the shelter, so I'll just take your word even though the time I spend with the girls is the best ever." She teared up at the thought of not having the two little sprites in her life. She was content to remain Auntie M.
With Odie and Clovis relegated to the rear cargo area and both girls safely ensconced in their seat belts, Melanie glanced in her rearview mirror one last time, making sure they all were where they should be. She recalled the last time she'd taken the girls skiing. They'd wound up lost in a snowstorm and had delivered a litter of pups. Now she could smile at the memory. Grateful that Stephanie still allowed her within pitching distance of the girls, she shrugged her thoughts aside, focusing on their plans for the day.
Black Friday was usually one of Maximum Glide's busiest days. Melanie dreaded the crowds, the long lines at the chairlifts, but spending the day with the girls was worth the hassle. Both girls were excellent skiers. Max, Grace's husband, had taught the girls how to ski properly. Black diamond runs were easy for both, but Melanie wasn't that comfortable with them, so they'd tackle the blue runs. She steered the Navigator carefully down the narrow road, mindful of the wet slushy conditions. Growing up in Colorado had its advantages. She'd learned to drive in foul weather at an early age, and while she wasn't excited at the prospect of driving up the mountain in such bad conditions, she was quite confident in her ability to do so safely. Snow chains and four-wheel-drive vehicles had nothing on her.
"Auntie M," Ashley called from the backseat. "Do you think you'll ever get married?"
Melanie almost lost control of the Navigator. She cleared her throat, needing the extra seconds to come up with an answer appropriate for an eleven-year-old. "I'm sure that someday I will." Lame, Melanie, lame, she thought as she glanced in her rearview mirror. Ashley wasn't buying it; Melanie could tell by the look on her face.
"That's not an answer! You sound just like Mom.
'Maybe' and 'someday' aren't real answers," Ashley stated in that clear and concise matter-of-fact way eleven-year-olds have.
Melanie chuckled. Ashley was right. "Truthfully, I don't know when or if I'll ever get married because I haven't dated anyone long enough to fall in love, so marriage hasn't been my number one priority."
"What's a priority?" Amanda asked.
"It means something that is very important, right Auntie M?" Ashley replied.
"Yes, that's exactly what it means. And right now my top priority is to arrive safely at The Snow Zone so we can drop Clovis and Odie off. I need to focus my attention on the road. It's incredibly slick."
Again, Melanie glanced in her rearview mirror. Ashley rolled her eyes.
"That means we're not supposed to ask any more questions about Aunt Melanie's personal life."
"Why?" Amanda asked.
With her engagement to Patrick, Stephanie talked about marriage constantly. It seemed the girls had acquired an avid interest in the topic as well.
Excerpted from Making Spirits Bright by Fern Michaels Copyright © 2011 by Kensington Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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