3 Talented Women, 3 Christmas Romances Return to Christmases of yesteryear with three women who use their sewing talents to succeed in the late 1800s. But can love also be stitched into their lives? A SEAMLESS LOVE by Judith Miller 1888 – Pullman, Illinois Hannah Cooper possesses a special talent for embroidered fancywork and design which secures her a position in the Dressmaking and Millinery Shop in the Pullman Arcade near Chicago. There she encounters childhood friend Daniel Price who is disappointed to learn Hannah is being courted by a Chicago businessman. With two men vying for her attention, will Hannah seek God’s direction or ignore the warning signs He sets before her? PIN’S PROMISE by Nancy Moser 1906 – Summerfield, England Penelope (Pin) Billings and Jonathan Evers have loved each other since they were children, promising to one day get officially engaged. Both have distinct talents: Pin for sewing dresses and teaching others to sew, and Jonathan—a doctor right out of school—for helping the people of the village. As they become adults and the time to fulfill their promise seems right, a tragic event pulls them apart, making both question their future. Will they discover they are stronger together than apart? MENDED HEARTS by Stephanie Grace Whitson 1890 – Nebraska Rachel Ellsworth has always been encouraged to pursue her passion for art. She looks forward to taking the Grand Tour on her honeymoon and experiencing the great museums of Europe. But when tragedy strikes, Rachel's plans are put on hold and she is forced to stay with two maiden aunts in a small Nebraska town where the most exciting things that ever happen are quilting bees and the county fair. Rachel expects her stay in Lost Creek to be temporary—until a letter from home changes everything. How can a budding artist who loves the big city expect to find happiness in the middle of nowhere?
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
JUDITH MCCOY MILLER is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her novels, many of which have appeared on the CBA bestseller lists. Judy makes her home in Topeka, Kansas. www.judithmccoymiller.com
Nancy Moser is an award-winning author of over twenty-five novels that share a common message: we each have a unique purpose—the trick is to find out what it is. Her genres include contemporary and historical novels including Love of the Summerfields, Mozart’s Sister, The Invitation, and the Christy Award-winning Time Lottery. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included. www.nancymoser.com.
Stephanie Grace Whitson, bestselling author and two-time Christy finalist, pursues a full-time writing and speaking career from her home studio in southeast Nebraska. Her husband and blended family, her church, quilting, and Kitty--her motorcycle--all rank high on her list of "favorite things." Learn more at www.stephaniewhitson.com.
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Hannah Cooper fumbled with the buttons of her gray wool jacket while making a rushed entry into the Pullman Arcade. The magnificent three-story edifice housed a variety of shops, the post office, bank, library, a splendid theater, and was the hub of activity in the company-owned town outside Chicago. By the time Hannah arrived at the Millinery and Dressmaking Shop, she'd removed her coat and tucked her sketch pad into the oversized cloth bag she clutched in one hand.
"Miss Cooper! Late again, I see."
Hannah jerked around as the wiry supervisor rounded a glassfronted display case that featured an array of fancy lace trims.
The older woman pinned Hannah with a dark look. "Tardiness is a bad habit that must be corrected if you wish to succeed in your employment, Miss Cooper. You've been cautioned on previous occasions." Miss Hardelle's thin lips drooped into a frown. "What's your excuse today?"
Hannah's breath caught at the back of her throat. Instead of responding, she craned her neck and looked at the clock above the front door. What if Miss Hardelle terminated her? And if she did, would her termination reflect on her father's employment at the Pullman Palace Car Company? Could they be evicted from their home in Pullman? And even if they were permitted to remain, could her mother withstand the gossip that would spread from doorway to doorway? There were no secrets in Pullman. What happened to one person was soon known by everyone who lived and worked in this self-contained town created for the workers who constructed the luxurious railcars for the Pullman Palace Car Company.
"Well?" Miss Hardelle tapped the pointed toe of her black leather shoe on the wooden floor.
Hannah swallowed and gestured toward the clock. "I'm not really late. I stepped inside at the stroke of nine."
"That may be true, but you're expected to be at your workstation prepared to greet customers when the doors open. Instead, you're rushing in like a harried shopper eager to make a purchase before the train arrives." Miss Hardelle sighed and nodded toward the cloak room. "You test my patience. Put your belongings away and report to Mrs. Dunlap."
Hannah's stomach roiled. So she was being terminated. Mrs. Dunlap worked in personnel and had interviewed Hannah for her position at the shop last year. No doubt the woman was also charged with terminating employees who didn't arrive at work on time. Heart thumping, Hannah tightened her grasp on the woolen jacket, bowed her head, and hurried off to deposit her belongings.
Fastening her gaze on the floor, she rushed past several clerks who were dutifully standing at their assigned stations. How many of them already knew what lay in store for her this morning? No doubt they'd already guessed why she was going to the personnel office.
She couldn't blame Miss Hardelle for what was taking place. She had warned Hannah last week that her tardy behavior had to cease or she would speak to Mrs. Dunlap. If only she hadn't stopped to sketch that tree this morning — yet, she knew the design would be perfect on one of her beaded bags.
A dreadful realization washed over her as she hesitated outside Mrs. Dunlap's door: being punctual today would have made no difference. This meeting had to have been arranged yesterday or perhaps the day before. Miss Hardelle hadn't waited to see if Hannah's performance would improve. This morning's tardiness wasn't the cause of this looming catastrophe. Still, her late arrival could be used to affirm the decision made by her two superiors — and Hannah was now left without a leg to stand on.
Though she would accept her fate and could blame no one else, Hannah whispered a prayer for God's help. "If not for me, for my parents." Her long dark lashes brushed her cheeks with unexpected dampness, and she wiped away tears before straightening her shoulders. She couldn't stand here forever. Lifting her hand, she cupped her fingers into a fist and lightly rapped.
"Yes?" The voice was barely audible through the thick oak door. Hannah turned the brass knob and opened the door a mere crack. "Do come in." The voice was stronger now, and Hannah pushed the door wide but entered only far enough to clear the threshold. Mrs. Dunlap sat at a large desk that dwarfed her diminutive stature. Had the circumstances not been so dire, Hannah would have grinned at the gray-haired woman sitting behind the oversized desk. If not for her wrinkles and graying hair, Mrs. Dunlap would have looked like a schoolgirl sitting at her teacher's desk.
Hannah nodded to the woman. "Miss Hardelle said you wish to speak with me."
Before entering the room, Hannah had contemplated arguing against her termination but decided it wouldn't be prudent. After all, she truly had no defense. She'd been late three times this month.
"Please have a seat, Miss Cooper." She smiled and gestured to a nearby chair.
Hannah would have preferred a swift end to their meeting — something akin to a beheading — quick and clean. However, she wasn't in charge, so she forced a half smile, and decided upon a chair near the door rather than the one beside Mrs. Dunlap.
Her skirt had barely brushed the seat when Mrs. Dunlap shook her head. "No, no. Come over here." She patted the arm of a chair she'd positioned next to her own. "I can't have a proper conversation with you when you're sitting so far away." This time her smile was so broad her cheeks plumped until her eyes disappeared into two slits. With a sigh, Hannah stood, crossed the room, and sat down beside Mrs. Dunlap. The older woman rotated her chair. "Much better."
Hannah squeezed backward until her spine protested the undue pressure. Mrs. Dunlap might be comfortable, but Hannah had never been so uneasy. Why didn't the older woman hand her an envelope with her final pay and be done with it?
Mrs. Dunlap folded her hands and rested them in her lap. "I'm sure you're curious why I summoned you to my office, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer." Her voice bore a happy singsong tone that seemed curiously out of place. Evidently Mrs. Dunlap wasn't the sweet lady who had hired Hannah. Did she enjoy terminating employees?
"Thank you," Hannah murmured, keeping her eyes focused upon the folds in her navy-blue skirt.
Mrs. Dunlap turned her chair only far enough to reach an envelope on her desk. Hannah inhaled a halting breath. Here it comes. My termination letter and final pay. Her palms were suddenly damp and her cheeks flamed with heat.
The older woman's mouth curved in a generous smile. How could she be so insensitive? Hannah longed to run from the room, but she remained as still as a statue. Her mind was willing, but her body wouldn't cooperate.
"The letter is from Mrs. Pullman. She has already discussed the contents with me, and I have given my full approval."
Hannah jerked to attention. "Mrs. Pullman? Th–th–the Mrs. Pullman?" She pushed the strangled words around the lump in her throat. Why had Mrs. Dunlap discussed her termination with the owner's wife? Her breath came in short bursts as Mrs. Dunlap rattled the envelope. Hannah sighed and reached for the unwelcome missive.
There was no doubt now. Her father would lose his job. And so would she. It was the way of things in Pullman. Employees and their families were expected to follow the company rules. Hannah wasn't certain it was true, but she'd been told that termination of one family member could lead to problems for the entire family. The thought that her parents might suffer because of her tardy behavior caused Hannah's stomach to lurch.
Her hands trembled as she stared at the envelope. Her name had been written with a flourish rivaling that of any expert calligraphier. She traced her finger over each letter. With her love of design, she could appreciate the swirls and flourishes captured in the letters of her name.
Mrs. Dunlap cleared her throat and gestured to the letter. "You should open it, Miss Cooper."
The woman's urgent voice intruded upon Hannah's moment of peace and returned her to the present. Obliging the directive, she slid her finger beneath the flap, released the seal, and removed the folded sheet of cream-colored stationery. Her eyes fixed upon the initials embossed at the top of the page. HSP. Harriet Sanger Pullman. Every employee in the store knew the names of the Pullmans, but Hannah had never met or even seen Mrs. Pullman.
Mrs. Dunlap leaned forward and gestured toward the letter. "Hurry and read it."
Hannah returned her attention to the letter, expecting to discover she'd been terminated effective immediately. Her gaze flitted across the lines. "I'm not sure I understand. Does this mean I'm not being terminated?"
Mrs. Dunlap's forehead creased into a multitude of undulating fine lines. "Of course not. Why would you think you were being terminated?"
She momentarily considered withholding the truth, but that wouldn't be proper. After all, she knew better. "I've been late to work on several occasions." She bowed her head. "Today was one of those instances, so when Miss Hardelle told me to report to your office, I ..." her voice faltered.
"You assumed I was going to terminate you?"
Hannah bobbed her head. "Yes, so this is quite unexpected." She offered the older woman a fleeting smile. "And quite wonderful."
Mrs. Dunlap nodded. "Indeed, it is. I hope you won't disappoint me. I gave Mrs. Pullman my personal recommendation."
"The letter says she wants me to design and stitch gifts for guests attending a party she's hosting." Hannah reread the letter. "A Fall Soiree for twelve of her lady friends." She looked at Mrs. Dunlap. "Have you any idea what kind of gifts she has in mind? If it's a party celebrating the fall season, there isn't much time."
"I did mention that to her and she was quite understanding. She's going to meet with you this afternoon. She's arriving on the two o'clock train and wants to go over her ideas with you at the hotel. You should be there promptly at two thirty. Given the time constraints, I'm sure she won't expect anything extravagant."
Hannah's heart pounded beneath the rows of lace that centered the bodice of her white shirtwaist. What if she couldn't meet Mrs. Pullman's expectations? Would this new assignment mean she could lose her job? If Mrs. Pullman was unhappy with her work, would there still be a position waiting at the shop? The thoughts raced through her mind like horses sprinting for the finish line. While she was flattered by the offer, this change could be disastrous.
Mrs. Dunlap patted her hand. "Mrs. Pullman was in town with her husband one evening last week. They stopped in the Millinery and Dressmaking Shop, and Mrs. Pullman noticed the unusual embroidered beading on one of the evening gowns. She wanted to know the name of the seamstress." Mrs. Dunlap chuckled. "In truth, she wanted to know who had designed the fancywork on the gown — the plum silk you adorned with tiny pearls and glass beads."
Hannah massaged her forehead. "Oh yes. That was a special order from a guest who'd stayed at the hotel earlier in the year. The wife of Mr. Allen, I believe."
Mrs. Dunlap nodded. "So I've been told. After learning that you had both designed and completed the beadwork, Mrs. Pullman was convinced you were the perfect person to design gifts for her upcoming event."
Thoughts of being unable to meet Mrs. Pullman's expectations continued to plague her. "I'm sure there's been some mistake. With her variety of acquaintances and unlimited financial means, there are so many excellent designers who could assist her." Hannah tugged at her collar. "Doesn't it seem odd to you that she would choose me?"
"Not entirely. She was very impressed with your work. In addition, I'm guessing she wants to spread the word that there are fine goods to be purchased in Pullman. After all, the offerings in our stores are as fine as any in Chicago."
Hannah considered the older woman's response. Perhaps Mrs. Pullman did want to prove the Arcade shops had fine goods hanging on their racks and lining their shelves. However, Hannah didn't agree the offerings in Pullman were as fine as those that could be purchased in Chicago. After all, she'd walked the aisles of Marshall Field's on several occasions. But she wouldn't dare argue with Mrs. Dunlap.
"I want you to know that you'll be relieved of your regular duties while you're working on your assignment from Mrs. Pullman. Of course, you'll report to the store each morning, but you can immediately go to the sewing room and work where you won't be interrupted."
"Is Miss Hardelle agreeable to this new arrangement?" She certainly didn't want to suffer the ire of her supervisor.
"I will be discussing it with her. No need to worry. She'll offer no objection. In fact, I'm sure she'll be delighted that Mrs. Pullman is pleased with your work." Mrs. Dunlap leaned her head close. "Miss Hardelle has no choice. She wouldn't dare object to a request from Mrs. Pullman." She straightened her shoulders. "Besides, you'll no longer report to Miss Hardelle."
Hannah arched her brows. She'd been reporting to Miss Hardelle ever since she'd begun work in the shop. Granted, Miss Hardelle wasn't in charge of the sewing and fitting area, but because Hannah had initially been trained to wait on customers and keep the accessory shelves filled with lace, ribbons, hat pins, evening bags, handkerchiefs, and the like, she'd been assigned to Miss Hardelle.
However, once Mrs. Langham, the sewing room supervisor, learned of Hannah's sewing talents, she'd pulled her away from the front of the store whenever possible. Since then, the two supervisors had waged a rivalry about where Hannah would work.
"Will I now report to Mrs. Langham?" Hannah was sure such an arrangement would result in a hue and cry from Miss Hardelle. Not because she wanted to keep Hannah but because it would mean one less girl to work the floor. And it would mean she would supervise one less employee than Mrs. Langham. No small matter to Miss Hardelle.
Mrs. Dunlap shook her head. "Since neither Miss Hardelle nor Mrs. Langham will be assigning your duties, you will report to me — and to Mrs. Pullman, of course. I believe this plan will provide the best outcome for all concerned." She beamed at Hannah. "Until it's time for your appointment, you should return to your regular duties with Miss Hardelle. Please remember to put your best foot forward, and make certain you're not late." She looked over the top of the spectacles that rested on her nose.
Mrs. Dunlap's parting words rang in Hannah's ears. If ever she needed to be on time, today was the day. She was still reeling when she returned to the accessories department. Miss Hardelle met her with a hard stare. "There are empty shelves in your area, Miss Cooper. I expect them to be filled before your lunch break. And do see to the two customers over there." She pointed toward two middle-aged ladies perusing the bolts of fabric in the dressmaking section.
"They're in Miss Fitzgerald's section. I don't think she would ..."
Miss Hardelle's lips tightened into a thin line. "I don't believe I need you to tell me who is assigned to the various sections of the store, Miss Cooper. However, if I find myself in need of direction, I'll be sure to ask you." Sarcasm dripped from the woman's voice.
Soon after her employment, Hannah realized Miss Hardelle disliked being challenged or corrected. However, she'd also discovered the employees were angered when another salesperson entered their workstation. Hannah mentally weighed her options and decided upon the lesser of the evils. She'd rather be subjected to Lizzy Fitzgerald's momentary irritation than the fury of Miss Hardelle.
As Hannah turned toward the fabric section, Mrs. Dunlap rounded the corner and gestured to her. Hannah came to a halt and glanced toward Miss Hardelle. The supervisor tapped her leather-clad shoe on the wooden floor and screwed her features into a tight knot.
When she caught sight of the personnel director, she folded her arms across her chest. "It appears Mrs. Dunlap wishes to inform me what transpired in your meeting." Triumph shone in her dark eyes. "I hope you're prepared for any punishment she plans to mete out, Miss Cooper."
Before Hannah could respond, Mrs. Dunlap closed the distance and came to a halt alongside Miss Hardelle. "I wanted to speak to you regarding Miss Cooper."
Miss Hardelle directed a sideways glance at Hannah and tightened her lips into a thin line. "I expected as much."
The personnel director glanced at Hannah. Her lips lifted into a wide smile before she returned her attention to Miss Hardelle. "I'm sure she has told you of her new assignment, but ..."
Hannah shook her head, and Miss Hardelle arched her brows. "New assignment? Is she to be demoted and retrained for her sales duties?"
Mrs. Dunlap chuckled. "No, of course not. She's being assigned to work directly with Mrs. Pullman on special projects."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Christmas Stitches"
Copyright © 2018 Judith Miller.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Seamless Love,