Upon a Midnight Clear: Christmas Magic/The Teacher/Jolly Holly/White Out/If Only in My Dreams

Overview

A spirited Irishwoman comes to a rugged Colorado town to govern a young ruffian and learns a love lesson from the boy's father....In the midst of a blizzard, a snowbound woman offers shelter to a mysterious stranger....Home for the holidays, an artist proves opposites can attract when she falls for an unconventional doctor....A holly berry-picking contest in the California hills brings two determined hearts together for the greatest prize of all....A lively family reunion on a Montana ranch brings on a flurry of ...

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Overview

A spirited Irishwoman comes to a rugged Colorado town to govern a young ruffian and learns a love lesson from the boy's father....In the midst of a blizzard, a snowbound woman offers shelter to a mysterious stranger....Home for the holidays, an artist proves opposites can attract when she falls for an unconventional doctor....A holly berry-picking contest in the California hills brings two determined hearts together for the greatest prize of all....A lively family reunion on a Montana ranch brings on a flurry of memories for a beautiful young writer — and a winter storm that rekindles an old flame....

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Philadelphia Inquirer A definite touch of holiday magic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451697094
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 5/9/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 635,441
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jude Deveraux
Jude Deveraux is the author of more than forty New York Times bestsellers, including Moonlight in the Morning, The Scent of Jasmine, Scarlet Nights, Days of Gold, Lavender Morning, Return to Summerhouse, and Secrets. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide. To learn more, visit JudeDeveraux.com.

Linda Howard is an award-winning author whose novels include the recent New York Times bestsellers Shadow Woman, Up Close and Dangerous, and Drop Dead Gorgeous, as well as the Pocket Books releases Kill and Tell, Now You See Her, All the Queen’s Men, Mr. Perfect, and Open Season. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life, tends her gardens, and tries to avoid running the Amish buggies off the road with her SUV. Visit her website at MariahStewart.com, and LIKE her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart.

USA TODAY bestselling author Stef Ann Holm lives in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, extended family, and her squirrel-crazy Yorkshire, Cocoa Puff. Visit her website at StefAnnHolm.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 from "The Teacher" by Jude Deverauxin Upon a Midnight Clear
Legend, Colorado
"I don't see why -- "
"Please don't say it again, Jeremy," his mother said, then had to grab the side of the stagecoach to keep from slamming into the fat, snoring man beside her. Or perhaps beside wasn't the correct word. Even before the man had fallen asleep he'd been trying to get even closer to her than the tiny seat forced on them. It didn't help matters that the man kept swearing that she was "the prettiest little thing I ever seen in my whole dad-gummed life," as he put it. When Jeremy had closed his eyes, looking as though he'd fallen asleep, the man had offered Kathryn an extraordinary amount of money to spend just one hour alone with him. "If you know what I mean."
Kathryn certainly did know and her instinct demanded she tell him she'd rather be boded in oil than have him touch her, but instead she'd sniffed and murmured that she was already "promised."
The man had patted her knee and said he "understood." Maybe he did, but Kathryn didn't have any idea what he meant. Was the American Wild West so without morals that women did spend "just one hour" with a man? As much as she wanted to know, she wasn't about to ask. However, the man's intimate interest in Kathryn de Longe and her son was why they were now speaking in French.
"We could have stayed and fought," Jeremy said, looking up at his mother with eyes much too old for his mere nine years.
Kathryn had no answer for him because over the last weeks she'd exhausted her supply of words. What could she tell him that she hadn't already said? For his entire nine years they had been running. Actually, since Kathryn had had to escape Ireland when she was pregnant, maybe she could say he'd been running since before he was born. But no matter where they went or how well they disguised themselves, the O'Connor money always found them.
Now, Kathryn looked out at the steep mountainside that fell away from the narrow road the stagecoach was trying to climb. This barren, isolated place was their last chance. Their very, very last chance.
Taming, she forced herself to smile at her son. Since he was born she'd tried to protect him. Perhaps she hadn't done a very good job, but she knew she'd done her best. And maybe this time they could settle down. Maybe this time they could stay in one place for longer than three months.
When she'd bought her stage ticket (through a third party so no one would remember a lone woman buying a ticket), she'd asked a man about the isolation of Legend, Colorado, and he'd laughed. "Lady, there are places up in the Rockies that not even God can find. And I figure Legend heads that list." She hadn't smiled as he'd meant her to, but had nodded solemnly. Yes, that sounded like the place she needed.
It hadn't been so easy to persuade Jeremy to the idea of living in an isolated, mountain town, as he'd liked Philadelphia very much. He was a quiet child and studious. Like his father's people, Kathryn thought with a melting of her heart. He was very much like his father's uncle with his love of books and music. And he had his father's taste in clothes. And his father's good looks, she thought with a heavy sigh. One look at Jeremy and there was no doubt whose son he was.
"I'm sure there was some other way," Jeremy said for the thousandth time. "We could have -- "
"No!" Kathryn said sharply, then wanted to bite her tongue. Part of her wanted to tell him the truth of how bad the situation was, but another part wanted to protect and shield him.
Sewn inside her corset was a wanted poster bearing excellent likenesses of both her and Jeremy. The poster said that she, Caitlin McGregor, was wanted for thievery and attempted murder, and ten thousand dollars was offered for information leading to her apprehension. It further stated that she was dangerous and should be treated as such.
You'd like that, wouldn't you, O'Connor, she thought to herself. You'd like to see me behind bars. Or better yet, led to the scaffold. You'd probably dance at my hanging.
If she were caught, there would, of course, be no appeal for her. Who would believe her over the money of an O'Connor? Who would step forward and defend her against such a man as he? Especially when he was so very obviously Jeremy's father?
"I'm sure you'll like the place," Kathryn said soothingly to her son. "I hear there's a library and many entertainments are brought from Denver."
"Denver," Jeremy said with a sneer of contempt. "Traveling players? And what do you think they have in the library? Dime novels? Shall I read about Dead Eye Dick?"
"It might do us both a bit of good to get away from the rarified air of Philadelphia for a while. And we might like it here. Stranger things have happened."
Jeremy just snorted and looked out the window at the beautiful but empty mountain scenery.
Kathryn wanted to isolate herself in this godforsaken place about as much as her son did. They'd been in Philadelphia nearly three and a half months, and they had begun to make friends. There had even been a man....
But Kathryn wouldn't allow herself to think of that. She knew when she'd run away from Ireland with Sean O'Connor's child in her belly that she'd never be able to have a normal life, a life with a man and a house and maybe other children and --
"Mother!" Jeremy said sharply. "You have that look on your face again."
Kathryn smiled as she reached across the narrow aisle and took his hand in hers. She knew she'd been wearing what Jeremy called her "dreamy look" when she was far away. She'd told him she was thinking of the sweet greenness of Ireland when she had that took. Better that than to tell him the truth of how she dreamed of a home and husband and safety. No, she couldn't tell Jeremy that, for, knowing him, he'd think she could have those things if it weren't for him and he'd run away. Again.
With a tiny shake of her head, Kathryn leaned back against the seat and looked at her son in awe. He had the refined, aristocratic look of the O'Connors, a look that had taken generations of breeding to achieve. He had long, thin fingers that looked as though they were meant to hold a lace handkerchief. But Kathryn knew the truth. At Jeremy's own insistence, he'd taken boxing lessons (free in exchange for Jeremy's writing letters home for the boxer) and she knew what a punch he could make with those hands.
From the way he was dressed, Jeremy looked as though he'd never seen the outside of a drawing room. No one would guess that they had lived all their lives in tenements where the smell of cabbage always surrounded them. Jeremy had witnessed his first murder when he was one year old, after he'd wandered into a street brawl between two drunken sailors.
It was when he was four that Kathryn finally decided to return him to Sean O'Connor. She was going to take him back to Ireland and allow his father's family to raise him. What did it matter if she were hanged for kidnapping? What did it matter that Sean's family were the coldest, most ruthless people she'd ever met? At least Jeremy would be safe with them in Ireland. And safe was all that mattered to her.
That was the first time Jeremy ran away. Four years old and he ran away from home for three days. Kathryn had been insane with worry, not eating or sleeping for those three days. The police had been no help. What did they care that some slum kid had disappeared? They had leered at Kathryn and offered to give her another child.
After three days Jeremy had sauntered home, clean, well fed, and said that he was not going back to Ireland, that he wanted to live with his mother, and if she tried to send him away, he'd run away again.
That had been five years ago, and since then the two of them had been on the run. But this year Jeremy had been feeling as though he were grown-up and so wanted to stay and fight his father. "He has no claim over me since you never married him," he'd said several times.
Kathryn had tried to explain about money being able to buy anything, but for all the prematurely pined wisdom in his eyes, Jeremy still had a child's belief in justice.
When she'd been offered the job of tutor to a nine-year-old boy in the remote, isolated mountain town of Legend, Colorado, it had seemed like a dream come true. She was to be the teacher of Zachary Jordan, son of Mr. Cole Jordan. And maybe, just maybe, in this remote town, they'd achieve what had become the most beautiful of words to her: safety.
"This is it?" Jeremy said with contempt as he stepped down from the stage. "This is what we left civilization for?"
"Jeremy, I really don't care for your tone of voice. And I'm sure this is the...the..."
"Red-light district?" he asked, sidestepping as the stage driver threw their small trunks to the ground.
Kathryn drew in her breath and stared at the awful place around them. There seemed to be nothing but saloons and gambling houses as far as one could see. Noise, dirt, unwashed men, raucously laughing women, great wagons full of rocks, horses and manure, filled the place. There didn't seem to be anything clean or even decent as far as she could see. In front of her was a garish, gaudily painted sip that had a woman's leg wearing a black stocking and a frilly garter. What looked to be a high-heeled bedroom shoe dangled from the toe and the place was called The Lady Slipper. Kathryn didn't have time to look at other signs because she had to step back as a dirty man with graying whiskers made a lunge for her.
"Me first," he said, then when Kathryn sidestepped, he fell into the mud at her feet.
If Kathryn had had so much as two dollars to her name she would have climbed back onto the stagecoach and ridden away, as far from this den of iniquity as possible. Instinctively, she put her arm around Jeremy and drew him closer -- as though she could protect him from what she was seeing, hearing, and smelling.
With her arm still around Jeremy, she looked at the stage driver, who was climbing back onto the box.
"Can you take us out of here?" she asked.
"You bet, lady, for fifty bucks each. In cash."
"I don't have -- "
He didn't let her finish but just chuckled. "Thought not. Well, there're plenty of ways for a pretty gal like you to earn money in Legend. Giddyup!"
Coughing from the dust of the rapidly departing stage, Kathryn turned back around, the two of them standing alone in the middle of the wide, foul street, three small trunks at their feet. Kathryn didn't have time to think about an alternate plan because a wagon drawn by six horses was coming straight toward them. With one quick gesture she thrust a case at Jeremy, grabbed the other two, and ran for the safety of the boardwalk.
But just as they stepped in front of the saloon, a man came flying through the glass window and hit the boardwalk, then rolled into the street, where two men on horses nearly trampled him. Dropping her cases, Kathryn grabbed Jeremy, his back pressed against her front as she tried to pull both of them into the safety between the door and the window. When a shot rang out, she tightened her grip on Jeremy.
Out of the saloon door came a man, his back to her, but she could see the power of his build: shoulders so thick they curved round to his chest, a taut waist with a decorated knife sheath at his side.
"You ever show up in this town again, Bartlett, and you'll answer to me," the big man said to the one in the dirt.
Then, to Kathryn's horror, she saw that the man in the dirt was about to draw a gun, and from the angle of the porch post, she doubted if the man standing in front of her could see him.
"No!" she shouted, and in the next second, with the speed of a striking snake, the man on the porch drew a knife from a concealed pouch down the back of his shirt and threw it. In the next second the man on the ground lay pinned to the dirt, blood pouring from the knife sticking into his shoulder.
Trembling with emotion, Kathryn loosened her grip on Jeremy, and he twisted away from her.
"Don't faint on me now, sweetheart," the man who'd thrown the knife said. He'd turned, and now she looked up into his deep blue eyes. And the feeling that ran through her was nothing that she'd ever experienced before. For a moment, time stood still as her eyes locked with his; it was as though everything else disappeared except this big, handsome blond-haired man.
It seemed natural when his strong arm slipped about her waist and he lifted her off her feet, his one arm holding her as he pressed her body against his, then kissed her.
The only man who'd ever kissed her before was Jeremy's father, and those kisses had been forced upon her. But this man was different, and for the first time in her life, she responded to a man's kiss. Her arms slid about his neck, and she leaned into him as she opened her mouth under his. She could feel her heart pounding and her breasts tingling from the pressure of his hard chest.
The sound of gunfire brought Kathryn to her senses, but when she started to pull away, the man held her firmly so she had to push against his chest to make him release her. All around them was the sound of laughter, unmistakably aimed at the two of them.
Immediately, Kathryn could feel the blood rushing to her face as she glanced up at the man who was staring at her in consternation, as though he were puzzled by something.
Nervously, Kathryn glanced at her son, who was glaring at her -- and how could she blame him? She'd just acted -- and reacted -- completely out of character.
Behind Jeremy was a boy who appeared to be about the same age. They were nearly the same height, but the other boy was large-framed whereas Jeremy was of a wiry build like his father's family. The other boy had sun-streaked blond hair and blue eyes, while Jeremy had dark hair and eyes.
"That your mama?" the boy said into Jeremy's ear, but loud enough that nearly everyone nearby could hear. His implication was unmistakable, that Kathryn was not a woman of high morals.
Jeremy reacted as he had been taught. Pivoting on one foot, he swung around and brought a left uppercut into the boy's chin. And the boy, equally fast and seeming to be equally well trained, hit Jeremy in the eye with a strong right fist.
In the next second, the boys went tumbling into the dirt, while the crowd, already pleased by the show of a brawl, a stabbing, and a passionate kiss, were now further pleased by the sight of two angry boys trying to murder each other.
Kathryn's first reaction was to leap onto the boys and pull them apart, but Jeremy weighed almost as much as she did, and together the boys were considerably larger than she was. Obviously the crowd wasn't going to help, so she looked up at the man she'd kissed. As far as she could tell, he hadn't moved a muscle, but was still standing there staring at her, his big blue eyes wide with an expression she couldn't read.
"Stop them!" she said to him, but he didn't react. "Please stop them," she repeated, then put both her hands on his wide chest.
Immediately, it was as though a current of lightning surged down her arms, and, as though he were a hot griddle, she pulled her hands away.
It seemed that he, too, felt the jolt, because he came out of his trance and turned. For a moment he stood blinking down at the boys as they fought and kicked and held on to one another as they rolled.
Then the man's mind seemed to clear. "What the hell?" he said, then stepped between the boys and pulled them up by the backs of their shirts. When they tried to go for each other with outstretched hands the man shook the boys as though they were wet puppies.
"Go home," he said to the blond boy, then released him, and when the boy looked as though he might strike Jeremy again, the man gave him a look that made him retreat. In one last act of defiance, the blond boy stopped by a woman wearing an extraordinary dress of shiny red cloth, took a whiskey bottle out of her arms, and downed half its contents in one swig. With a smirk directed at Jeremy, he shoved the bottle back into the woman's hand, then swaggered off as best he could. Which wasn't easy, since he was limping and one side of his face was swelling rapidly.
Kathryn ran to her son, pulling him from the man's grasp, and threw her arms around him, kissing his face copiously while she tried to ascertain where he was hurt. "Oh, darling, did that boy hurt you? I'll get you to a doctor and I promise we'll get out of here as soon as possible. Darling -- "
"Mother!" Jeremy said stiffly, very aware of the townspeople watching and laughing at this display of motherly affection. Considering that Jeremy was nearly as tall as his mother, yet she was cooing, as though he were three years old, they were quite enjoying the spectacle.
The blond man came up behind Kathryn, and as he put his arm about her waist he said, "Honey, why don't you -- "
Maybe it was the proprietary way the tall man slipped his arm around Kathryn's waist, or maybe it was his tone of ownership (the very same tone another man had once used with her), but she turned on him, twisting so his arm no longer touched her. "I don't need you or anyone else to tell me how to raise my son."
"I didn't mean..." the man began, but Kathryn didn't want to hear what he had to say.
"Could someone show me where the doctor is?" she asked.
"Take your pick of saloons, honey," called a man.
With her arm firmly around Jeremy's shoulders, Kathryn led him from the crowd.
"Mother," Jeremy said plaintively, "will you stop fidgeting? I have told you that I am perfectly all right."
Using her best handkerchief, she again wiped at her son's cheek. "You do realize that what I said, I said in the heat of the moment. You and I must remain in this town, at least for a while, at least until I can find a way to earn enough money to..." She halted. In the last three hours she had been offered several ways to earn money in this revolting town.
After she had taken Jeremy from the laughing crowd, she had searched in vain for a doctor. It wasn't until she was at the end of the main street, Eureka, that she came to a stone wall patrolled by armed guards. Looking over the wall at what lay on the other side was like standing in hen and looking at heaven. Across the wall seemed to be a pretty little village complete with a library and a church and several houses with white picket fences and flowers growing in front.
"Back on your side, sister!" said a burly man with a rifle, glaring at the two of them.
For a moment, Kathryn's mind was transported back to Ireland and the laws against trespassing on O'Connor land: O'Connor laws, O'Connor punishments.
When Kathryn was speechless and Jeremy could see the blood rising in her neck, he pulled himself up to his full height and announced that they wanted to see Mr. Cole Jordan.
"And what's your business with him?" said a second guard, who had come to see what the problem was.
"My mother is to teach his son," Jeremy said proudly.
At that the two guards looked at each other and started to laugh. "You?" one said.
"Jordan told us you were -- " He was laughing too hard to finish the sentence.
"Got any guns on you?"
"I hardly think so!" Kathryn said, at last recovering her powers of speech.
"Think we oughta search her?" the first man said, then the other said, "Not unless you want Jordan cuttin' your throat."
With that pronouncement the men parted and allowed the two of them to pass, only vaguely pointing the way toward the Jordan house.
Now, she and Jeremy were standing on the porch outside a large, rambling old house, and she was trying to make both of them presentable.
"Yes, I understand that we can't leave now. I'm not a child, you know," Jeremy said.
"You wouldn't have known it this morning. I still can't believe that you attacked that boy like that. Whatever possessed you?"
"He impugned your honor."
Really, Jeremy, this is not the seventeenth century, and you do not have to defend my honor."
"I wouldn't have had to if you hadn't..." He hesitated as though he still couldn't believe what he'd seen. "If you hadn't kissed that man."
Since Kathryn had no excuse or even an explanation for her behavior, she thought it best to make no comment. "Now please remember your manners. I want both of us to make a good impression on Mr. Jordan." She took his chin in her hand and looked hard into his eyes. "Remember: We need this job!"
"Yes, Mother," he said dutifully. "I will do my best, but I hope you give me no further cause to --" The look his mother gave him made him decide not to finish that sentence. One could push Kathryn de Longe only so far, and well he knew her limits.
Raising her hand, Kathryn knocked, and moments later an elderly man ushered her into a nicely furnished parlor where they were told to wait. Minutes later the man returned and asked Kathryn to follow him to Mr. Jordan's office.
Once she was alone outside the room, Kathryn hesitated before knocking as she smoothed her hair and straightened her travel-stained garments. She would have liked to' change, but what she had on was the best she had. There had never been money for more than one suit of clothing at a time.
"Come in," said a pleasant-sounding male voice and, smiling, she tucked her little leather portfolio under her arm and opened the door.
"You!" Two voices spoke in unison, both disbelieving. She was staring into the startled blue eyes of the man shed...Well, that she'd kissed just an hour or so ago. So many thoughts went through Kathryn's mind that she couldn't speak. Would he fire her? Would he, as Jeremy said, impugn her honor"? He couldn't, she thought -- and prayed. He couldn't take this job away from her. She and Jeremy had to have it. And she had to make him understand that she was a respectable woman -- all evidence to the contrary.
The man recovered first. "Look, I can't see you now. I have to interview a teacher for Zach, so you're going to have to come back later. Better yet, give me the name of the house you're working and I'll meet you there later. Right now you have to get out of here." While he was making this extraordinary speech he came around the massive desk, grabbed her arm, and started to usher her out a side door in the room.
"Unhand me!" Kathryn said in her sternest schoolteacher voice, but it had no effect on the man, so, with a twist, she freed herself and ran back to the middle of the room. In an instant he was beside her, about to grab her again.
Without thinking what she was doing, she dropped her case, made a leap, and grabbed what looked to be an army sword from where it hung on the wan. "Mr. Jordan, if you touch me again I'll use this on you. I assume you are Cole Jordan, that is."
For a moment Cole stood staring at her in stunned silence. Then his handsome face lit up in amusement. Leaning back against the desk, he folded his arms across his broad chest. "Maybe you should remove the scabbard first," he said, eyes twinkling."
"All right," she said with disgust, then with what dignity she could muster, she replaced the sword on the hooks in the wall and picked up her case from where it had fallen to the floor. "So I don't know anything about weapons of any sort, I admit it, but then I'm a teacher not a fighter. Nor am I whatever else you think I am." Turning back, she smiled at him. "I think, Mr. Jordan, that you and I got off on a wrong foot. Perhaps we should start again." With her hand outstretched, she took the few steps toward him.
But Cole did not take her offered hand, and his face went from smiling to a frown. "Where did you hear of this? Who told you I needed a teacher? And who the hell are you?"
"I'm Kathryn de Longe, and you hired me."
At that Cole's smile returned. "Oh, I see. So who put you up to this? Henry Brown? Or was it someone else? No, no, don't tell me, it was Lester and that bunch."
"I really have no idea what you're talking about. You put an ad in the Philadelphia paper, and I answered it. After the exchange of two letters, you hired me."
"Sure I did," Cole said with a voice dripping sarcasm, then he straightened and walked back around the desk, opened a drawer, and took out a large leather book -- a book filled with bank drafts. "How much do you want?"
"I want what we agreed upon," she said, puzzled. "Mr. Jordan, I really do apologize for this morning, but -- "
"You must be one of the players from Denver. Out-of-work actress, are you? Or just a prostitute with ambition?" He said the last with a slow look up and down her form.
Kathryn started to count to ten to control her temper, but instead she opened her case, pulled out papers, and began to put them before him on the desk. "Here are your two letters to me, and here are copies of my letters to you stating my quatifications. Here is the contract you sent me, and I believe that is, yes, I do believe that is your signature just above mine." She could not resist some sarcasm of her own, then, suddenly, doubt filled her mind. "Is that your signature? Did you write those letters?"
For a moment he looked at her in bewilderment, and she could tell by his expression that he had indeed signed the contracts. But then that knowing little smile of his came back. "How did you get these papers?"
"Through the United States mail service," she said in exasperation. "What is the problem? If you'd tell me what is wrong perhaps I could find a solution."
At that he opened a desk drawer and withdrew a piece of folded cardboard and tossed it toward her. "Open it," he said. "Go on. I think you should see it since you sent it to me."
Picking up the folder, she opened it to see a photograph of a stern-looking woman in her fifties, steel gray hair pulled back into a tight knot at the: base of her neck. She had narrow eyes, a lipless mouth, and from her expression she had, never smiled in her life.
"Seen that before?" Cole asked.
"No, should I have seen it?" she asked, putting the folder back onto his desk."That, Mrs. de Longe, or whatever your real name is, is you. Or who you wanted me to believe is you."
"I can assure you that I sent you a photograph of myself, not of anyone else, and I also sent you a full list of vital statistics, just as you asked for. I lied to you about nothing, not my age, my looks, or the fact that I am a widow with a nine-year-old son who will be living with me."
"Is this the list you sent?" asked as he slammed a paper onto the desk.
As soon as Kathryn saw it she knew it wasn't her writing, for the letters were formed with a sharp angularity that her writing did not have. But when she saw her name at the top of the page, she picked it up and looked at it. According to the paper, Kathryn de Longe was fifty-one years old, five foot nine inches tall, and weighed a hundred and eighty-five pounds. She had never been married, had no dependents, and had taught school for nearly thirty years. Kathryn's mouth dropped open when she saw that all the schools "she" had taught at had been correctional institutions, mostly for "incorrigible" boys, but she'd also worked at a place for women who were "criminally insane."
With the paper were two testaments from former employers stating that Miss de Longe could control any boys, no matter how deviant their behavior.
Kathryn put the pages back down on the desk. "I have never worked with deviants or the insane," she said with a slight curt of her lip. "I was under the impression you wanted a teacher for your son, not a jailer."
He didn't respond to her barb, but instead picked up one of the pages she had put on his desk. "And is this your true list of qualifications? Miss Satterly's School for Young Ladies and Gentlemen? And what about this?" he said as he began to read. "Miss Kathryn de Longe, aged twenty-six, widowed with a nine-year-old son named Jeremy." He glanced up at her. "Started very young, didn't you? A nine-year-old at twenty-six, that would make you...how old when he was born?"
Kathryn didn't answer him, but stood straight, her fists clenched at her sides.
"Seventeen," he said as though he'd struggled for the answer. "Were you married at sixteen? I don't suppose you have your marriage license."
"Destroyed in a fire," she said automatically, glaring at him.
"Just what I would have guessed," he said snidely. "Or lost at sea."
Kathryn moved in a way that she knew would make her corset stays stick into her ribs. She wanted to remind herself of the wanted poster hidden there. Legend was indeed a horrible place, but that was what was so good about it: No one in his right mind would look for her or anyone else here.
"Mr. Jordan," she said, working to control her growing anger at his implications. "I have no idea how you received another woman's photograph and résumé in place of what I sent. All I know is that I have a contract signed by you. The contract guarantees me a job and living accommodation for two years. It further states that if I am not satisfactory, then you will pay me two years' wages in full."
To her consternation, the man threw back his head and laughed. "So that's the game, is it? Really, you have to tell me who set you up with this. Was it Ned or maybe ol' Hog's Breath, as we kids used to call him?"
"I really have no idea what you are talking about. I would like for you to honor your contract: Either give me the job, or pay me so I can leave this town. One or the other would suit me."
At that Cole put his hands on the desk and leaned across it toward her, his face close to hers. "Mrs. de Longe, or whatever your name is, and I seriously doubt the 'Mrs.,' there is no honor in that contract. The way I see it, you aren't the person I hired, so I don't have to give you one red cent."
For a full moment Kathryn's mind went blank. No job, no money. How were she and Jeremy supposed to survive?
"Now, Mrs. Whatever-your-name-is, I would like for you to leave my office and you can tell whoever's paying you that I wasn't as easily duped as you planned. Although I must say I do like the bait they used," he added with a leering look up and down her tightly corseted body.
"Mr. Jordan," she said, and her voice was hardly above a whisper. "I must have this job. My son and I have invested everything we have in this, and there are...other considerations."
"Such as?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
"I can't say what they are but -- "
She broke off because he began moving the papers on his desk and in the process her letters and the contract fell to the floor. Hurriedly, she bent to pick them up, retrieved her leather portfolio, and began to put the papers inside. Her hands were trembling so much she could hardly tie the string.
"Do you need a cook?" she whispered.
"What?" he snapped.
Drawing herself upright, she swallowed something that could only be her pride. She had dealt with enough people in her life to tell by this man's tone as well as his words that he was not, under any circumstances, going to reconsider his stance. Maybe later she could get him to reconsider, but now she didn't so much as have money for a meal.
"Do you need a cook?" she asked louder, then had to stand there and bear the way he looked at her, as though he were trying to figure her out.
After a while a slow smile crept onto his lips, lips that earlier in the day she had enjoyed kissing. "No," he said softly, "I don't need a cook, and I don't need a wife. My son doesn't need a mother, he needs a teacher. And although I do appreciate all the trouble you have gone to to get close to me, I can assure you that the girls in town supply me with all the 'wifely' affection that I can handle." Again he looked her up and down, but this time with lowered eyelids that let her know what was, in his mind. "There are other men in town, Miss, ah, Mrs. de Longe. You really don't have to set your cap for the richest man."
Maybe, it was the word richest that finally broke through to Kathryn, or maybe it was just the whole rotten day in which she had been repeatedly accused of being a prostitute, and had seen her son nearly murdered in the filthy streets while a bunch of dirty ruffians watched. Or maybe it was kissing a man who turned out to be such a pig as this one. Whatever it was, Kathryn's temper broke.
With measured steps, she walked toward the desk, then put her fists on it and leaned toward him. He was sitting, so she was the one looking down at him.
"Let me make myself clear, Mr. Jordan. I have no, let me repeat that, no desire to marry you or any other man. I came here because I signed a contract for a job. You hear me? A job! And I want nothing else from you. Right now I don't even want that because I have never met a more vain, egomaniacal man than you in my life -- and that includes the aristocracy of Ireland. I have no idea how the photographs were exchanged, but I can assure that I did not switch them. I represented myself honestly and with integrity, and that is how I expect to be treated in return. Now, I demand that you honor your contract with me!" Never in her life had. Kathryn demanded anything, except sometimes that Jeremy not do something dangerous, but this man seemed to elicit emotions and responses from her that shed never felt before.
"Demand, do you?" the man said with a one-sided smile, then slowly he stood up, pulling himself to his full height of well over six feet. "Well, Mrs. de Long, I demand that you get out of my house and never step foot into it again. Now which of us is more likely to have our demands obeyed?"
Standing there, Kathryn looked across the desk into eyes that had turned as cold as sapphires, and she knew she had lost. There was nothing she could do or say that was going to make this man give her the job that was hers by right, the job that she and her son so desperately needed.
Trying to retain her pride, she stiffened her back and walked toward the door. If she allowed herself to think for even a second about what this man was condemning her to, she'd collapse.
Once she was outside the odious man's office, she took Jeremy's hand in hers and led him out of the house. Jeremy knew his mother well enough not to ask questions about what had gone on; besides, their voices had been loud enough for him to hear most of it.
Kathryn half pulled him down the dirt road, past the stone wall that separated the two very different parts of town from each other, and into the muddy streets of Legend proper. For all that Jeremy was only nine, he had seen a very ugly side of life, and he knew what jobs were open to women in a place like Legend.
"I can work," he said softly. "I'm strong and I can get a job. There are mines here and I -- "
Abruptly, Kathryn halted in the middle of the street and stared at her son. "Going to work in a mine at nine years old?" she said, horror in her voice. "is that what kind of mother you think I am?" For a moment forgetting his age, she said, "I'll make a living on my back before I -- " She broke off as she stared at something above Jeremy's head.
"Mother?" he said, then turned and looked at the sign thay was behind him. "Prettiest girls in the West," the sign read. "Highest prices for the best."
"Mother!" Jeremy said in fear, then grabbed her arm when she took a stop forward. "I'll work. I'll -- "
But Kathryn wasn't paying any attention to him. As though she were in a trance she started walking, half dragging a fearful Jeremy behind her.
"No, no," he began, but stopped when his mother walked past the entrance to the saloon and instead started up the stairs beside the building. For a moment Jeremy stood rooted where he was, then he saw a small sip hanging beside the bottom of the stairs. I'll sue anybody about anything, the sign said. No case too small. I ain't afraid of nobody. John T. Stewart, attorney-at-law.
"What an extraordinary sentiment," Jeremy said, reading the sign. "Mother, did you -- "
But Kathryn was already halfway up the stairs, and Jeremy had to run to catch her. "Mother, whatever are you thinking of doing?"
"I'm going to sue the bastard," Kathryn de Longe said, which made her son stand where he was, his mouth open in disbelief, for he'd never, ever heard his mother use such a word before. She thought damn might open the gates of hell.
"Wait for me," Jeremy called and ran to follow his mother into the grimy little office.

Copyright © 1997 by Deveraux, Inc.

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Table of Contents

The Teacher 1
Christmas Magic 87
Jolly Holly 203
If Only in My Dreams 311
White Out 417
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First Chapter

Chapter 1 from "The Teacher" by Jude Deverauxin Upon a Midnight Clear

Legend, Colorado

"I don't see why -- "

"Please don't say it again, Jeremy," his mother said, then had to grab the side of the stagecoach to keep from slamming into the fat, snoring man beside her. Or perhaps beside wasn't the correct word. Even before the man had fallen asleep he'd been trying to get even closer to her than the tiny seat forced on them. It didn't help matters that the man kept swearing that she was "the prettiest little thing I ever seen in my whole dad-gummed life," as he put it. When Jeremy had closed his eyes, looking as though he'd fallen asleep, the man had offered Kathryn an extraordinary amount of money to spend just one hour alone with him. "If you know what I mean."

Kathryn certainly did know and her instinct demanded she tell him she'd rather be boded in oil than have him touch her, but instead she'd sniffed and murmured that she was already "promised."

The man had patted her knee and said he "understood." Maybe he did, but Kathryn didn't have any idea what he meant. Was the American Wild West so without morals that women did spend "just one hour" with a man? As much as she wanted to know, she wasn't about to ask. However, the man's intimate interest in Kathryn de Longe and her son was why they were now speaking in French.

"We could have stayed and fought," Jeremy said, looking up at his mother with eyes much too old for his mere nine years.

Kathryn had no answer for him because over the last weeks she'd exhausted her supply of words. What could she tell him that she hadn't already said? For his entire nine years they had been running. ActKathryn said sharply, then wanted to bite her tongue. Part of her wanted to tell him the truth of how bad the situation was, but another part wanted to protect and shield him.

Sewn inside her corset was a wanted poster bearing excellent likenesses of both her and Jeremy. The poster said that she, Caitlin McGregor, was wanted for thievery and attempted murder, and ten thousand dollars was offered for information leading to her apprehension. It further stated that she was dangerous and should be treated as such.

You'd like that, wouldn't you, O'Connor, she thought to herself. You'd like to see me behind bars. Or better yet, led to the scaffold. You'd probably dance at my hanging.

If she were caught, there would, of course, be no appeal for her. Who would believe her over the money of an O'Connor? Who would step forward and defend her against such a man as he? Especially when he was so very obviously Jeremy's father?

"I'm sure you'll like the place," Kathryn said soothingly to her son. "I hear there's a library and many entertainments are brought from Denver."

"Denver," Jeremy said with a sneer of contempt. "Traveling players? And what do you think they have in the library? Dime novels? Shall I read about Dead Eye Dick?"

"It might do us both a bit of good to get away from the rarified air of Philadelphia for a while. And we might like it here. Stranger things have happened."

Jeremy just snorted and looked out the window at the beautiful but empty mountain scenery.

Kathryn wanted to isolate herself in this godforsaken place about as much as her son did. They'd been in Philadelphia nearly three and a half months, and they had begun to make friends. There had even been a man....

But Kath ryn wouldn't allow herself to think of that. She knew when she'd run away from Ireland with Sean O'Connor's child in her belly that she'd never be able to have a normal life, a life with a man and a house and maybe other children and --

"Mother!" Jeremy said sharply. "You have that look on your face again."

Kathryn smiled as she reached across the narrow aisle and took his hand in hers. She knew she'd been wearing what Jeremy called her "dreamy look" when she was far away. She'd told him she was thinking of the sweet greenness of Ireland when she had that took. Better that than to tell him the truth of how she dreamed of a home and husband and safety. No, she couldn't tell Jeremy that, for, knowing him, he'd think she could have those things if it weren't for him and he'd run away. Again.

With a tiny shake of her head, Kathryn leaned back against the seat and looked at her son in awe. He had the refined, aristocratic look of the O'Connors, a look that had taken generations of breeding to achieve. He had long, thin fingers that looked as though they were meant to hold a lace handkerchief. But Kathryn knew the truth. At Jeremy's own insistence, he'd taken boxing lessons (free in exchange for Jeremy's writing letters home for the boxer) and she knew what a punch he could make with those hands.

From the way he was dressed, Jeremy looked as though he'd never seen the outside of a drawing room. No one would guess that they had lived all their lives in tenements where the smell of cabbage always surrounded them. Jeremy had witnessed his first murder when he was one year old, after he'd wandered into a street brawl between two drunken sailors.

It was when he was four that Kathryn finally decided t o return him to Sean O'Connor. She was going to take him back to Ireland and allow his father's family to raise him. What did it matter if she were hanged for kidnapping? What did it matter that Sean's family were the coldest, most ruthless people she'd ever met? At least Jeremy would be safe with them in Ireland. And safe was all that mattered to her.

That was the first time Jeremy ran away. Four years old and he ran away from home for three days. Kathryn had been insane with worry, not eating or sleeping for those three days. The police had been no help. What did they care that some slum kid had disappeared? They had leered at Kathryn and offered to give her another child.

After three days Jeremy had sauntered home, clean, well fed, and said that he was not going back to Ireland, that he wanted to live with his mother, and if she tried to send him away, he'd run away again.

That had been five years ago, and since then the two of them had been on the run. But this year Jeremy had been feeling as though he were grown-up and so wanted to stay and fight his father. "He has no claim over me since you never married him," he'd said several times.

Kathryn had tried to explain about money being able to buy anything, but for all the prematurely pined wisdom in his eyes, Jeremy still had a child's belief in justice.

When she'd been offered the job of tutor to a nine-year-old boy in the remote, isolated mountain town of Legend, Colorado, it had seemed like a dream come true. She was to be the teacher of Zachary Jordan, son of Mr. Cole Jordan. And maybe, just maybe, in this remote town, they'd achieve what had become the most beautiful of words to her: safety.

"This is it?" Jeremy said with contempt as he stepped down from the stage. "This is what we left civilization for?"

"Jeremy, I really don't care for your tone of voice. And I'm sure this is the...the..."

"Red-light district?" he asked, sidestepping as the stage driver threw their small trunks to the ground.

Kathryn drew in her breath and stared at the awful place around them. There seemed to be nothing but saloons and gambling houses as far as one could see. Noise, dirt, unwashed men, raucously laughing women, great wagons full of rocks, horses and manure, filled the place. There didn't seem to be anything clean or even decent as far as she could see. In front of her was a garish, gaudily painted sip that had a woman's leg wearing a black stocking and a frilly garter. What looked to be a high-heeled bedroom shoe dangled from the toe and the place was called The Lady Slipper. Kathryn didn't have time to look at other signs because she had to step back as a dirty man with graying whiskers made a lunge for her.

"Me first," he said, then when Kathryn sidestepped, he fell into the mud at her feet.

If Kathryn had had so much as two dollars to her name she would have climbed back onto the stagecoach and ridden away, as far from this den of iniquity as possible. Instinctively, she put her arm around Jeremy and drew him closer -- as though she could protect him from what she was seeing, hearing, and smelling.

With her arm still around Jeremy, she looked at the stage driver, who was climbing back onto the box.

"Can you take us out of here?" she asked.

"You bet, lady, for fifty bucks each. In cash."

"I don't have -- "

He didn't let her finish but just chuckled. "Thought not. Well, there're plenty of ways for a pr etty gal like you to earn money in Legend. Giddyup!"

Coughing from the dust of the rapidly departing stage, Kathryn turned back around, the two of them standing alone in the middle of the wide, foul street, three small trunks at their feet. Kathryn didn't have time to think about an alternate plan because a wagon drawn by six horses was coming straight toward them. With one quick gesture she thrust a case at Jeremy, grabbed the other two, and ran for the safety of the boardwalk.

But just as they stepped in front of the saloon, a man came flying through the glass window and hit the boardwalk, then rolled into the street, where two men on horses nearly trampled him. Dropping her cases, Kathryn grabbed Jeremy, his back pressed against her front as she tried to pull both of them into the safety between the door and the window. When a shot rang out, she tightened her grip on Jeremy.

Out of the saloon door came a man, his back to her, but she could see the power of his build: shoulders so thick they curved round to his chest, a taut waist with a decorated knife sheath at his side.

"You ever show up in this town again, Bartlett, and you'll answer to me," the big man said to the one in the dirt.

Then, to Kathryn's horror, she saw that the man in the dirt was about to draw a gun, and from the angle of the porch post, she doubted if the man standing in front of her could see him.

"No!" she shouted, and in the next second, with the speed of a striking snake, the man on the porch drew a knife from a concealed pouch down the back of his shirt and threw it. In the next second the man on the ground lay pinned to the dirt, blood pouring from the knife sticking into his shoulder.

Trembling with emotion , Kathryn loosened her grip on Jeremy, and he twisted away from her.

"Don't faint on me now, sweetheart," the man who'd thrown the knife said. He'd turned, and now she looked up into his deep blue eyes. And the feeling that ran through her was nothing that she'd ever experienced before. For a moment, time stood still as her eyes locked with his; it was as though everything else disappeared except this big, handsome blond-haired man.

It seemed natural when his strong arm slipped about her waist and he lifted her off her feet, his one arm holding her as he pressed her body against his, then kissed her.

The only man who'd ever kissed her before was Jeremy's father, and those kisses had been forced upon her. But this man was different, and for the first time in her life, she responded to a man's kiss. Her arms slid about his neck, and she leaned into him as she opened her mouth under his. She could feel her heart pounding and her breasts tingling from the pressure of his hard chest.

The sound of gunfire brought Kathryn to her senses, but when she started to pull away, the man held her firmly so she had to push against his chest to make him release her. All around them was the sound of laughter, unmistakably aimed at the two of them.

Immediately, Kathryn could feel the blood rushing to her face as she glanced up at the man who was staring at her in consternation, as though he were puzzled by something.

Nervously, Kathryn glanced at her son, who was glaring at her -- and how could she blame him? She'd just acted -- and reacted -- completely out of character.

Behind Jeremy was a boy who appeared to be about the same age. They were nearly the same height, but the other boy was large-framed wh ereas Jeremy was of a wiry build like his father's family. The other boy had sun-streaked blond hair and blue eyes, while Jeremy had dark hair and eyes.

"That your mama?" the boy said into Jeremy's ear, but loud enough that nearly everyone nearby could hear. His implication was unmistakable, that Kathryn was not a woman of high morals.

Jeremy reacted as he had been taught. Pivoting on one foot, he swung around and brought a left uppercut into the boy's chin. And the boy, equally fast and seeming to be equally well trained, hit Jeremy in the eye with a strong right fist.

In the next second, the boys went tumbling into the dirt, while the crowd, already pleased by the show of a brawl, a stabbing, and a passionate kiss, were now further pleased by the sight of two angry boys trying to murder each other.

Kathryn's first reaction was to leap onto the boys and pull them apart, but Jeremy weighed almost as much as she did, and together the boys were considerably larger than she was. Obviously the crowd wasn't going to help, so she looked up at the man she'd kissed. As far as she could tell, he hadn't moved a muscle, but was still standing there staring at her, his big blue eyes wide with an expression she couldn't read.

"Stop them!" she said to him, but he didn't react. "Please stop them," she repeated, then put both her hands on his wide chest.

Immediately, it was as though a current of lightning surged down her arms, and, as though he were a hot griddle, she pulled her hands away.

It seemed that he, too, felt the jolt, because he came out of his trance and turned. For a moment he stood blinking down at the boys as they fought and kicked and held on to one another as they rolled.

Then the man's mind seemed to clear. "What the hell?" he said, then stepped between the boys and pulled them up by the backs of their shirts. When they tried to go for each other with outstretched hands the man shook the boys as though they were wet puppies.

"Go home," he said to the blond boy, then released him, and when the boy looked as though he might strike Jeremy again, the man gave him a look that made him retreat. In one last act of defiance, the blond boy stopped by a woman wearing an extraordinary dress of shiny red cloth, took a whiskey bottle out of her arms, and downed half its contents in one swig. With a smirk directed at Jeremy, he shoved the bottle back into the woman's hand, then swaggered off as best he could. Which wasn't easy, since he was limping and one side of his face was swelling rapidly.

Kathryn ran to her son, pulling him from the man's grasp, and threw her arms around him, kissing his face copiously while she tried to ascertain where he was hurt. "Oh, darling, did that boy hurt you? I'll get you to a doctor and I promise we'll get out of here as soon as possible. Darling -- "

"Mother!" Jeremy said stiffly, very aware of the townspeople watching and laughing at this display of motherly affection. Considering that Jeremy was nearly as tall as his mother, yet she was cooing, as though he were three years old, they were quite enjoying the spectacle.

The blond man came up behind Kathryn, and as he put his arm about her waist he said, "Honey, why don't you -- "

Maybe it was the proprietary way the tall man slipped his arm around Kathryn's waist, or maybe it was his tone of ownership (the very same tone another man had once used with her), but she turned on him, twisting so hi s arm no longer touched her. "I don't need you or anyone else to tell me how to raise my son."

"I didn't mean..." the man began, but Kathryn didn't want to hear what he had to say.

"Could someone show me where the doctor is?" she asked.

"Take your pick of saloons, honey," called a man.

With her arm firmly around Jeremy's shoulders, Kathryn led him from the crowd.

"Mother," Jeremy said plaintively, "will you stop fidgeting? I have told you that I am perfectly all right."

Using her best handkerchief, she again wiped at her son's cheek. "You do realize that what I said, I said in the heat of the moment. You and I must remain in this town, at least for a while, at least until I can find a way to earn enough money to..." She halted. In the last three hours she had been offered several ways to earn money in this revolting town.

After she had taken Jeremy from the laughing crowd, she had searched in vain for a doctor. It wasn't until she was at the end of the main street, Eureka, that she came to a stone wall patrolled by armed guards. Looking over the wall at what lay on the other side was like standing in hen and looking at heaven. Across the wall seemed to be a pretty little village complete with a library and a church and several houses with white picket fences and flowers growing in front.

"Back on your side, sister!" said a burly man with a rifle, glaring at the two of them.

For a moment, Kathryn's mind was transported back to Ireland and the laws against trespassing on O'Connor land: O'Connor laws, O'Connor punishments.

When Kathryn was speechless and Jeremy could see the blood rising in her neck, he pulled himself up to his full height and announced that they wanted to see Mr. C ole Jordan.

"And what's your business with him?" said a second guard, who had come to see what the problem was.

"My mother is to teach his son," Jeremy said proudly.

At that the two guards looked at each other and started to laugh. "You?" one said.

"Jordan told us you were -- " He was laughing too hard to finish the sentence.

"Got any guns on you?"

"I hardly think so!" Kathryn said, at last recovering her powers of speech.

"Think we oughta search her?" the first man said, then the other said, "Not unless you want Jordan cuttin' your throat."

With that pronouncement the men parted and allowed the two of them to pass, only vaguely pointing the way toward the Jordan house.

Now, she and Jeremy were standing on the porch outside a large, rambling old house, and she was trying to make both of them presentable.

"Yes, I understand that we can't leave now. I'm not a child, you know," Jeremy said.

"You wouldn't have known it this morning. I still can't believe that you attacked that boy like that. Whatever possessed you?"

"He impugned your honor."

Really, Jeremy, this is not the seventeenth century, and you do not have to defend my honor."

"I wouldn't have had to if you hadn't..." He hesitated as though he still couldn't believe what he'd seen. "If you hadn't kissed that man."

Since Kathryn had no excuse or even an explanation for her behavior, she thought it best to make no comment. "Now please remember your manners. I want both of us to make a good impression on Mr. Jordan." She took his chin in her hand and looked hard into his eyes. "Remember: We need this job!"

"Yes, Mother," he said dutifully. "I will do my best, but I hope you give me no further cause to --" The l ook his mother gave him made him decide not to finish that sentence. One could push Kathryn de Longe only so far, and well he knew her limits.

Raising her hand, Kathryn knocked, and moments later an elderly man ushered her into a nicely furnished parlor where they were told to wait. Minutes later the man returned and asked Kathryn to follow him to Mr. Jordan's office.

Once she was alone outside the room, Kathryn hesitated before knocking as she smoothed her hair and straightened her travel-stained garments. She would have liked to' change, but what she had on was the best she had. There had never been money for more than one suit of clothing at a time.

"Come in," said a pleasant-sounding male voice and, smiling, she tucked her little leather portfolio under her arm and opened the door.

"You!" Two voices spoke in unison, both disbelieving. She was staring into the startled blue eyes of the man shed...Well, that she'd kissed just an hour or so ago. So many thoughts went through Kathryn's mind that she couldn't speak. Would he fire her? Would he, as Jeremy said, impugn her honor"? He couldn't, she thought -- and prayed. He couldn't take this job away from her. She and Jeremy had to have it. And she had to make him understand that she was a respectable woman -- all evidence to the contrary.

The man recovered first. "Look, I can't see you now. I have to interview a teacher for Zach, so you're going to have to come back later. Better yet, give me the name of the house you're working and I'll meet you there later. Right now you have to get out of here." While he was making this extraordinary speech he came around the massive desk, grabbed her arm, and started to usher her out a side door in the room.

"Unhand me!" Kathryn said in her sternest schoolteacher voice, but it had no effect on the man, so, with a twist, she freed herself and ran back to the middle of the room. In an instant he was beside her, about to grab her again.

Without thinking what she was doing, she dropped her case, made a leap, and grabbed what looked to be an army sword from where it hung on the wan. "Mr. Jordan, if you touch me again I'll use this on you. I assume you are Cole Jordan, that is."

For a moment Cole stood staring at her in stunned silence. Then his handsome face lit up in amusement. Leaning back against the desk, he folded his arms across his broad chest. "Maybe you should remove the scabbard first," he said, eyes twinkling."

"All right," she said with disgust, then with what dignity she could muster, she replaced the sword on the hooks in the wall and picked up her case from where it had fallen to the floor. "So I don't know anything about weapons of any sort, I admit it, but then I'm a teacher not a fighter. Nor am I whatever else you think I am." Turning back, she smiled at him. "I think, Mr. Jordan, that you and I got off on a wrong foot. Perhaps we should start again." With her hand outstretched, she took the few steps toward him.

But Cole did not take her offered hand, and his face went from smiling to a frown. "Where did you hear of this? Who told you I needed a teacher? And who the hell are you?"

"I'm Kathryn de Longe, and you hired me."

At that Cole's smile returned. "Oh, I see. So who put you up to this? Henry Brown? Or was it someone else? No, no, don't tell me, it was Lester and that bunch."

"I really have no idea what you're talking about. You put an ad in t he Philadelphia paper, and I answered it. After the exchange of two letters, you hired me."

"Sure I did," Cole said with a voice dripping sarcasm, then he straightened and walked back around the desk, opened a drawer, and took out a large leather book -- a book filled with bank drafts. "How much do you want?"

"I want what we agreed upon," she said, puzzled. "Mr. Jordan, I really do apologize for this morning, but -- "

"You must be one of the players from Denver. Out-of-work actress, are you? Or just a prostitute with ambition?" He said the last with a slow look up and down her form.

Kathryn started to count to ten to control her temper, but instead she opened her case, pulled out papers, and began to put them before him on the desk. "Here are your two letters to me, and here are copies of my letters to you stating my quatifications. Here is the contract you sent me, and I believe that is, yes, I do believe that is your signature just above mine." She could not resist some sarcasm of her own, then, suddenly, doubt filled her mind. "Is that your signature? Did you write those letters?"

For a moment he looked at her in bewilderment, and she could tell by his expression that he had indeed signed the contracts. But then that knowing little smile of his came back. "How did you get these papers?"

"Through the United States mail service," she said in exasperation. "What is the problem? If you'd tell me what is wrong perhaps I could find a solution."

At that he opened a desk drawer and withdrew a piece of folded cardboard and tossed it toward her. "Open it," he said. "Go on. I think you should see it since you sent it to me."

Picking up the folder, she opened it to see a photograph of a stern-looking woman in her fifties, steel gray hair pulled back into a tight knot at the: base of her neck. She had narrow eyes, a lipless mouth, and from her expression she had, never smiled in her life.

"Seen that before?" Cole asked.

"No, should I have seen it?" she asked, putting the folder back onto his desk."That, Mrs. de Longe, or whatever your real name is, is you. Or who you wanted me to believe is you."

"I can assure you that I sent you a photograph of myself, not of anyone else, and I also sent you a full list of vital statistics, just as you asked for. I lied to you about nothing, not my age, my looks, or the fact that I am a widow with a nine-year-old son who will be living with me."

"Is this the list you sent?" asked as he slammed a paper onto the desk.

As soon as Kathryn saw it she knew it wasn't her writing, for the letters were formed with a sharp angularity that her writing did not have. But when she saw her name at the top of the page, she picked it up and looked at it. According to the paper, Kathryn de Longe was fifty-one years old, five foot nine inches tall, and weighed a hundred and eighty-five pounds. She had never been married, had no dependents, and had taught school for nearly thirty years. Kathryn's mouth dropped open when she saw that all the schools "she" had taught at had been correctional institutions, mostly for "incorrigible" boys, but she'd also worked at a place for women who were "criminally insane."

With the paper were two testaments from former employers stating that Miss de Longe could control any boys, no matter how deviant their behavior.

Kathryn put the pages back down on the desk. "I have never worked with deviants or the insane," she said with a slight curt of her lip. "I was under the impression you wanted a teacher for your son, not a jailer."

He didn't respond to her barb, but instead picked up one of the pages she had put on his desk. "And is this your true list of qualifications? Miss Satterly's School for Young Ladies and Gentlemen? And what about this?" he said as he began to read. "Miss Kathryn de Longe, aged twenty-six, widowed with a nine-year-old son named Jeremy." He glanced up at her. "Started very young, didn't you? A nine-year-old at twenty-six, that would make you...how old when he was born?"

Kathryn didn't answer him, but stood straight, her fists clenched at her sides.

"Seventeen," he said as though he'd struggled for the answer. "Were you married at sixteen? I don't suppose you have your marriage license."

"Destroyed in a fire," she said automatically, glaring at him.

"Just what I would have guessed," he said snidely. "Or lost at sea."

Kathryn moved in a way that she knew would make her corset stays stick into her ribs. She wanted to remind herself of the wanted poster hidden there. Legend was indeed a horrible place, but that was what was so good about it: No one in his right mind would look for her or anyone else here.

"Mr. Jordan," she said, working to control her growing anger at his implications. "I have no idea how you received another woman's photograph and résumé in place of what I sent. All I know is that I have a contract signed by you. The contract guarantees me a job and living accommodation for two years. It further states that if I am not satisfactory, then you will pay me two years' wages in full."

To her consternation, the man threw back his hea d and laughed. "So that's the game, is it? Really, you have to tell me who set you up with this. Was it Ned or maybe ol' Hog's Breath, as we kids used to call him?"

"I really have no idea what you are talking about. I would like for you to honor your contract: Either give me the job, or pay me so I can leave this town. One or the other would suit me."

At that Cole put his hands on the desk and leaned across it toward her, his face close to hers. "Mrs. de Longe, or whatever your name is, and I seriously doubt the 'Mrs.,' there is no honor in that contract. The way I see it, you aren't the person I hired, so I don't have to give you one red cent."

For a full moment Kathryn's mind went blank. No job, no money. How were she and Jeremy supposed to survive?

"Now, Mrs. Whatever-your-name-is, I would like for you to leave my office and you can tell whoever's paying you that I wasn't as easily duped as you planned. Although I must say I do like the bait they used," he added with a leering look up and down her tightly corseted body.

"Mr. Jordan," she said, and her voice was hardly above a whisper. "I must have this job. My son and I have invested everything we have in this, and there are...other considerations."

"Such as?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.

"I can't say what they are but -- "

She broke off because he began moving the papers on his desk and in the process her letters and the contract fell to the floor. Hurriedly, she bent to pick them up, retrieved her leather portfolio, and began to put the papers inside. Her hands were trembling so much she could hardly tie the string.

"Do you need a cook?" she whispered.

"What?" he snapped.

Drawing herself upright, she swallowed something t hat could only be her pride. She had dealt with enough people in her life to tell by this man's tone as well as his words that he was not, under any circumstances, going to reconsider his stance. Maybe later she could get him to reconsider, but now she didn't so much as have money for a meal.

"Do you need a cook?" she asked louder, then had to stand there and bear the way he looked at her, as though he were trying to figure her out.

After a while a slow smile crept onto his lips, lips that earlier in the day she had enjoyed kissing. "No," he said softly, "I don't need a cook, and I don't need a wife. My son doesn't need a mother, he needs a teacher. And although I do appreciate all the trouble you have gone to to get close to me, I can assure you that the girls in town supply me with all the 'wifely' affection that I can handle." Again he looked her up and down, but this time with lowered eyelids that let her know what was, in his mind. "There are other men in town, Miss, ah, Mrs. de Longe. You really don't have to set your cap for the richest man."

Maybe, it was the word richest that finally broke through to Kathryn, or maybe it was just the whole rotten day in which she had been repeatedly accused of being a prostitute, and had seen her son nearly murdered in the filthy streets while a bunch of dirty ruffians watched. Or maybe it was kissing a man who turned out to be such a pig as this one. Whatever it was, Kathryn's temper broke.

With measured steps, she walked toward the desk, then put her fists on it and leaned toward him. He was sitting, so she was the one looking down at him.

"Let me make myself clear, Mr. Jordan. I have no, let me repeat that, no desire to marry you or any other man. I came here because I signed a contract for a job. You hear me? A job! And I want nothing else from you. Right now I don't even want that because I have never met a more vain, egomaniacal man than you in my life -- and that includes the aristocracy of Ireland. I have no idea how the photographs were exchanged, but I can assure that I did not switch them. I represented myself honestly and with integrity, and that is how I expect to be treated in return. Now, I demand that you honor your contract with me!" Never in her life had. Kathryn demanded anything, except sometimes that Jeremy not do something dangerous, but this man seemed to elicit emotions and responses from her that shed never felt before.

"Demand, do you?" the man said with a one-sided smile, then slowly he stood up, pulling himself to his full height of well over six feet. "Well, Mrs. de Long, I demand that you get out of my house and never step foot into it again. Now which of us is more likely to have our demands obeyed?"

Standing there, Kathryn looked across the desk into eyes that had turned as cold as sapphires, and she knew she had lost. There was nothing she could do or say that was going to make this man give her the job that was hers by right, the job that she and her son so desperately needed.

Trying to retain her pride, she stiffened her back and walked toward the door. If she allowed herself to think for even a second about what this man was condemning her to, she'd collapse.

Once she was outside the odious man's office, she took Jeremy's hand in hers and led him out of the house. Jeremy knew his mother well enough not to ask questions about what had gone on; besides, their voices had been loud enough for him to hear most of it.

Kathryn half pulled him down the dirt road, past the stone wall that separated the two very different parts of town from each other, and into the muddy streets of Legend proper. For all that Jeremy was only nine, he had seen a very ugly side of life, and he knew what jobs were open to women in a place like Legend.

"I can work," he said softly. "I'm strong and I can get a job. There are mines here and I -- "

Abruptly, Kathryn halted in the middle of the street and stared at her son. "Going to work in a mine at nine years old?" she said, horror in her voice. "is that what kind of mother you think I am?" For a moment forgetting his age, she said, "I'll make a living on my back before I -- " She broke off as she stared at something above Jeremy's head.

"Mother?" he said, then turned and looked at the sign thay was behind him. "Prettiest girls in the West," the sign read. "Highest prices for the best."

"Mother!" Jeremy said in fear, then grabbed her arm when she took a stop forward. "I'll work. I'll -- "

But Kathryn wasn't paying any attention to him. As though she were in a trance she started walking, half dragging a fearful Jeremy behind her.

"No, no," he began, but stopped when his mother walked past the entrance to the saloon and instead started up the stairs beside the building. For a moment Jeremy stood rooted where he was, then he saw a small sip hanging beside the bottom of the stairs. I'll sue anybody about anything, the sign said. No case too small. I ain't afraid of nobody. John T. Stewart, attorney-at-law.

"What an extraordinary sentiment," Jeremy said, reading the sign. "Mother, did you -- "

But Kathryn was al ready halfway up the stairs, and Jeremy had to run to catch her. "Mother, whatever are you thinking of doing?"

"I'm going to sue the bastard," Kathryn de Longe said, which made her son stand where he was, his mouth open in disbelief, for he'd never, ever heard his mother use such a word before. She thought damn might open the gates of hell.

"Wait for me," Jeremy called and ran to follow his mother into the grimy little office.

Copyright © 1997 by Deveraux, Inc.

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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, December 17, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Linda Howard, author of UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR.


Moderator: Wednesday, December 17th, the barnesandnoble.com Live Events Auditorium hosted Linda Howard, who discussed her story in UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR as well as her latest novel, KILL AND TELL, a romantic thriller receiving stellar reviews.



Moderator: Welcome to barnesandnoble.com, Ms. Howard. Thanks for joining us this evening.

Linda Howard: I'm glad to be here. I just got some very good newsKILL AND TELL made it on The New York Times bestseller list on its first week out.



Mary Lundy from Long Island: I loved KILL AND TELL. You seemed to have a great working knowledge of New Orleans -- you got the feel and the heat/humidity of the city just right. Did you need to do much research? Lucky you.

Linda Howard: I did go to New Orleans -- it was in January when I went to do the research for this book. But I've been to New Orleans several times, and it is one of my absolute most favorite places on earth.



Kurt Garret from Alexandria, VA: I loved Grace in SON OF THE MORNING. What is Karen Whitlaw in KILL AND TELL like?

Linda Howard: Karen is a totally different character. She's almost repressed, but she is intelligent enough to see her weaknesses and overcome them. And she's very gutsy. Karen's under a lot of stress because of the double deaths in her family, and she has to deal with it. She has to deal with grief. But she's a very strong character.



CVreeland from cynthia124@aol.com: Linda, I thought KILL AND TELL was very good. I enjoyed the characters of Karen (she was a very good heroine) and Marc (he was very yummy -- the best "gamma" male, which is a combination of alpha and beta). But what have you done to us?? Now I'm hungering for the story of John Medina, who seems to be the most intriguing character since Kell Sabin (who remains one of my very favorite LH heroes!!). LH

Linda Howard: John Medina will definitely have his own book, but I don't know exactly when. I found him totally fascinating. I don't know where the character came from. I didn't plan him, but all of a sudden he was there and the book wouldn't work without him.



Jacobson from St. Louis: In KILL AND TELL, part of Karen's attraction to Marc is his voice. Did you have a voice in mind when you were creating Marc's character?

Linda Howard: No particular voice. But I can close my eyes and hear that voice, and there are certain actors who have wonderful voices. Sean Connery is one. That kind of voice, that velvety deep voice -- oh, my goodness, it's just magic by itself.



Madelyn from New Jersey: That first love scene in WHITE LIES was a shocker. How do you think up these scenes?

Linda Howard: I was blessed, or cursed, with an imagination when I was born. I don't know where they come from. I have these daydreams -- whole, complete, entire scenes -- and I guess I just have a very lurid imagination. But at the same time, that love scene seemed like a natural culmination of the events and the circumstances. And, in fact, arousal under those circumstances is a common reaction.



Lynn from San Francisco: I have one question, and please don't be offended. I read a lot of romances and very rarely is safe sex even mentioned. Where are the condoms? Are they just not sexy?

Linda Howard: I kind of figure that my readers are adult enough to make their decisions without being influenced by whether or not I mention a condom in a scene. Whether or not I mention it, that's not to say that a condom wasn't used. But I think my readers are adults and don't need to be preached to or led by me. Condom use if very plainly spelled out in KILL AND TELL, but sometimes it just doesn't fit to mention it. Sometimes the characters don't use them.



Ruth Brewster from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada: When are you going to do a sequel to MACKENZIE'S MOUNTAIN about Chance?

Linda Howard: I'm working on CHANCE now, but I don't know when it will be out. It isn't scheduled yet, because with my schedule, Silhouette waits until they can get a clearer idea of when the book will be finished before they put it in the schedule. CHANCE will be the last MacKenzie book.



Hils Margot from Birmingham, AL: There is always a dangerous element to the male characters in your book. Do you agree that women find this danger irresistible?

Linda Howard: Well, I don't think it is much of a feather in your cap if you tame Alan Alda. I like a man who is a worthy opponent, because then he is strong enough to be a worthy partner.



Shannon from Davidson, NC: Hello. I'm wondering how you got your first book published? Was it years and years of hard work? Who discovered you? Did you have any jobs before you were an author?

Linda Howard: Oh, yes. I started writing when I was nine years old. Wrote my first book when I was nine years old. But it wasn't until I was 30 that all of a sudden I wanted to see if I was good enough to sell a book. I wrote ALL THAT GLITTERS, sent it to Leslie Wanger at Silhouette, and that's what got it started. She bought it. But in between I had had 20 years of practice. And I wrote constantly by hand for myself. Of course I had jobs -- I had to eat. I worked for 17 years at a trucking company. I know more about trucking than I really want to.



Soc from Houston: Hey there, Linda! Happy holidays! Where do you come up with the details of your books -- how do you know so much about military training (Karen's dad uses it when hiding from the hit men) and nursing (Karen's profession)? Research?

Linda Howard: Part of it is true research, in that I look some details up specifically for the book. But for the most part, I get it from my general reading. I'm a jet freak. I read anything I can about fighter jets. And that extends to all branches of the military, police work, forensics. From forensics, that links to medicine. I'm the type who reads medical dictionaries for fun. And my mother was one of those, I suppose you could call her a country healer, but everyone in the neighborhood would come to her first and she would either heal them or tell them what was wrong and send them to the doctor. So I grew up knowing a lot about old-time remedies, herbs, and just medical knowledge in general. And what I didn't absorb, I pick up from books. I buy books on drugs, how they interact, just because I like knowing this stuff.



Amelia from Charlotte, NC: Hi, Linda. Do you plan to continue the series of books with Jane and Grant and Kell and Sabin? I love that series. Also, what is the third book in that series? I read it but can't remember the name, and I want to buy it. Thanks.

Linda Howard: The third book was WHITE LIES. No. That series is over. The characters are very happy, and I can't imagine their children being grown-up enough to have their own books. But the characters might pop up in future books -- it's just that I have no concrete plans to use them. I'll do whatever any new book calls for. I let the books tell me what they need.



Celine from Boston: I'm wondering if you could let us know who out of the characters you've created is your "Dream Man." Which male protagonist is your favorite, and why?

Linda Howard: Oh, dear. The ones that I dearly loved, I loved for different reasons. I loved Niall because he was so tough and he was so complicated. He was burdened with a huge responsibility and he bore it. With Marc Chastain, what I liked best about him was probably his honesty. He was sexy, sophisticated, but when he fell, he knew it right off, and he didn't try to hide from it. Dane Hollister in DREAM MAN was funny and tough and a guy and sexy. They are all different and I love them for different reasons.



Madelyn from New Jersey: In a recent Romantic Times article you stated you are never happy with a book. Why not? I think all your books are fantastic, and I know others think so, too.

Linda Howard: The book that exists in my head has never yet made it on paper because I'm not good enough to do it that way yet. I keep trying. But so far I have always fallen short of the book as I conceived it, and it always disappoints me that I don't have the talent and the mastery of words to bring them to others the way I see them.



Ruth Brewster from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada: This isn't a question but a statement. You are my all-time favourite, and I own everything you have written. Keep up the good work!

Linda Howard: I hope you live a long and blessed life! [laughs]



SHanda from Ohio: THE TOUCH OF FIRE and DREAM MAN both had paranormalaspects in them. Will any of your future books deal with that subject again? Also, when will you write another historical?

Linda Howard: The book I am working on now has a touch of paranormal. I'm working on two books simultaneously. The book for Pocket Books is THE TWILIGHT OF CERTAIN DAYS, and it is about an artist who paints a murder scene of a murder that hasn't happened yet. The title of the book comes from an old saying that children who were born on the twilight of certain days can see spirits. And the saying gave birth to the book.



Adelaide from Oklahoma City: I love your books and the genre of romantic suspense in general. What other romantic-suspense authors do you recommend?

Linda Howard: I read Karen Robards, Iris Johansen, Katherine Coulter. Lord, I love Joan Wolf, Sandra Brown. That's pretty much all I can think of in romantic suspense. I wish more guys would write romantic suspense, because I love the male take of action and suspense, and I would love to see them throw a good strong relationship in there too. I can only think of two men who have managed to do it. John Maxim is one. And Stephen Hunter.



Deb from PA: How long does it usually take you to write a story once you already have an idea of what it will be about? What book was your most challenging to complete?

Linda Howard: Oh, the most challenging was SON OF THE MORNING. It took a year to write that one, probably because I had to research both contemporary and medieval times. I had to have some familiarity with Gaelic. I had to learn how to get a fake ID. And just the logistics of hauling a laptop around the country on foot and keeping it protected drove me crazy. That laptop was as much trouble as a baby would have been. On the other hand, I wrote DUNCAN'S BRIDE in two weeks flat. I don't remember eating or sleeping, and I lived on coffee, but I did it.



Sandy from Santa Clara, CA: Hi, Linda, it's a real pleasure to talk with you. Did you ever think that MACKENZIE'S MOUNTAIN was going to be a red-hot book to obtain? It seems on the USB market this book could command very high prices. It is rated one of the best ever written -- that says a lot about you as an author. Your books can bring out many emotions when reading them, and your love scenes are to die for. Keep up the good work. We all love reading your books and can't wait for more.

Linda Howard: No. I never have any idea what reactions the books will cause. I know that I absolutely adored both characters, Wolf and Mary. The book was fun to write. And I am just glad that readers seem to enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you.



Mariana Sanchez from New York: Hi. I was wondering if the story of Utah Blackthorne should be expected.

Linda Howard: Elizabeth Lowell was the author of the Blackthorne series, but she has told me that right now she has no plans to write Utah's book.



Sandra Parsons from Knoxville, TN: Hello, Linda Howard! Movies, movies, movies! Your books seem like they'd be perfect to be adapted to film. Any coming up?

Linda Howard: I don't have any books currently optioned for movies. That isn't anything that I can influence. It's totally up to Hollywood -- what interests them and what they think they can make into a good movie. And it's really easier for them to work directly from a screenplay that a screenwriter has done rather than buy a book and then have someone write the screenplay from it. For them, making a movie from a book is an extra step. I don't know how I would react if one of my books was made into a movie, because I would have no control over it, and probably the best way for me personally would be just to sell the screen rights and then step back and disassociate myself from it -- just to save myself a lot of angst.



Hannah from Dayton: For the mystery/thrill part of your works, where do you come up with your story lines? Do you have the twists and turns of the plot worked out beforehand, or do they occur to you as you write the stories?

Linda Howard: They occur as I write the story, because the details have to be worked out according to the logic of things that happen in the story. And when I conceive of a plot, I know the high points -- I know how it begins and ends. How it goes from point A to point B is something I have to discover as I go along. It is like putting a puzzle together in the dark.



Laura from Virginia: MACKENZIE'S PLEASUREA friend and I have spent weeks discussing MP. She maintains that Barrie led a very sheltered life and therefore she was too traumatized to be asking Zane to make love. When he did, she believes that he was taking advantage of Barrie. How would you respond to my friend?

Linda Howard: Barrie had been sheltered physically, but mentally she was an intelligent, adult, well-balanced woman. She was aware that her father sheltered her and she allowed him to do it because it was a matter of his peace of mind. "Sheltered" is not a synonym for "ignorant."



Rory from Florida: Hey, Linda, I have two questions for you 1) How do you overcome writer's block? 2)What was your inspiration for the characters in UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR? Thanks a bunch!

Linda Howard: 1) I've never had writer's block. I have had times when my brain is too exhausted to think. I always give myself a break after I finish a book because I am so mentally tired. But I look at that as a period of rest, not a period of writer's block. 2) The characters in "White Out"I'm not sure exactly how they evolved. I came up with the idea and then I had to find the characters who would be able to cope under those circumstances. Hope had to be a woman of common sense as well as passion. And Pierce had to have a sense of humor as well as be very tough. So in this case, the plot dictated the type of character. Sometimes the character will dictate the plot because of their individual personalities and how each of them reacts to a certain action.



Kristen from Long Island City: Do you have an all-time favorite romance?

Linda Howard: Diana Gabaldon, the Outlander series. The detail in the books blows me away. And Jamie is the most wonderful character ever to grace paper.



Linda from New York: DREAM MAN was my all-time favorite. It seems to me that more authors are adding violence to their romances. Do you think this is a trend or just happenstance?

Linda Howard: I think it's just happenstance, and for me it isn't a deliberate decision as in, "Oh, I'm going to make this book really violent." I think of the story as a whole when I get the plot, and I do whatever the story dictates.



Shanda from Ohio: HEART OF FIRE (which has my favorite bad-boy hero) is set in the Amazon. Did you go to Brazil to research it?

Linda Howard: No. I used books. I used the Discovery channel. I used PBS. I'm always amazed at how, when I become interested in a subject, suddenly everywhere I turn something is coming up on that subject. Every time I open a magazine, every time I turn on the television, there it is. And Ben Lewis is my favorite bad boy too. That's actually one of my favorite books, too, because it turned out closer to the story that was in my head than most of my books do.



Madelyn from New Jersey: Nick in MACKENZIE'S PLEASURE and MACKENZIE'S MAGIC was a riot. Will she return in Chance's story?

Linda Howard: Oh yes. Nick is in fine form in Chance's story. Nick is based on my sister's godchild. Physically they are different, but some of the things that Nick does have really been done. And we adore this child beyond belief. We just hope she manages to stay out of prison until she is eight.



Moderator: It was a pleasure to host a chat with you online, Ms. Howard! Hope you have a happy and peaceful holiday. Any final comments?

Linda Howard: Merry Christmas and happy reading.


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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2014

    Five stories set during winter/Christmas time that was a very ni

    Five stories set during winter/Christmas time that was a very nice holiday read. I liked this book just fine. Some stories I liked more than the other but overall it was a sweet collection of stories.

    The Teacher by Jude Deveraux was a western set probably in the early 19th century I'm guessing. Cute story about a woman on the run with her son trying to hide out from her son's father's rich family. She ends up taking a job as a teacher for a man's young hellion of a son in Legend, Colorado. 3 stars

    Christmas Magic by Margaret Allison, a contemporary opposites attract story that was one of my favorites in the collection. Kim, an artist, is estranged from her hotshot surgeon father, but when he becomes ill she heads home to see him and meets her father's heart surgeon and finds unexpected love in Tony, a man who appear to be just like her father and the last type of man she thought she'd be interested in. 4 stars

    Jolly Holly by Stef Ann Holm is another historical that takes place in 1900 in Limonero, California. Have no idea where that was in the past, some place near Ventura from what I've read in the story. Another cute story about two independent people who don't trust one another but must work together to win a holly berry picking contest. Of course along the way they learn to trust and love experience the magic of Christmas. 3 stars

    If Only in My Dreams by Mariah Stewart, another contemporary story about high school sweethearts who based on a miscommunication have spent the last 7 years separated. But when an unexpected winter storm has them stranded together in a cabin in the mountains, both find a way to a second chance at love. 4 stars

    White Out by Linda Howard, contemporary again and had a little mystery in it that I liked. Hope owns a resort with some cabins in Idaho where she usually lives and runs the place with her dad. Her dad is away, a blizzard comes, and an unexpected man ends up on her doorstep nearly frozen to death. She rescues him but then she starts to wonder if he really is who he claims to be. 4 stars

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2007

    Pretty good!!

    Short stories usually lack a little something, but I found this surprisingly good reading! Especially 'White out' by Linda Howard. I am a HUGE fan of hers, and this book is a total keeper if only for that story! Hot!! Wonderful Christmas/winter reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2001

    For a cold night

    This book is wonderful! It is perfect for curling up on the couch on a cold winter night. I love Linda Howard, and her short story 'White Out' leaves your toes tingling

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 1999

    Romance is the perfect Christmas gift!

    I truly enjoyed reading this book over the holidays. It truly made me believe in the magic of the season. Though I was a bit disappointed with Jude Deveraux's 'The Teacher' (I prefer her novels to her short stories) I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the other stories, since I've never read anything by those authors. My favourite story in the book is Mariah Stewart's 'If Only in My Dreams' (althought the professions of some of the characters seem too fictitious to me), closely followed by Stef Ann Holm's 'Jolly Holly'. This book makes for solid reading, and I'm sure any romance lover will like it as much as I did, especially if it is read during the Christmas season!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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