“[Thayne] engages the reader’s heart and emotions, inspiring hope and the belief that miracles are possible.” —Debbie Macomber
New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne returns to Haven Point to bring readers another heartwarming and inspiring story of Christmas romance—this time for Luke and Elizabeth Hamilton, a couple greatly in need of holiday healing and the magic of Christmas!
Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…
Elizabeth was trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents and she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life.
And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger, or the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.
But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined.
As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?
Don’t miss the rest of the Haven Point Series!
- Snow Angel Cove
- Redemption Bay
- Evergreen Springs
- Riverbend Road
- Snowfall on Haven Point
- Serenity Harbor
- Sugar Pine Trail
- The Cottages on Silver Beach
- Season of Wonder
- Coming Home for Christmas
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.
Read an Excerpt
This was it.
Luke Hamilton waited outside the big, rambling Victorian house in a little coastal town in Oregon, hands shoved into the pockets of his coat against the wet slap of air and nerves churning through him.
Elizabeth was here. After all the years when he had been certain she was dead — that she had wandered into the mountains somewhere that cold day seven years earlier or she had somehow walked into the deep, unforgiving waters of Lake Haven — he was going to see her again.
Though he had been given months to wrap his head around the idea that his wife wasn't dead, that she was indeed living under another name in this town by the sea, it still didn't seem real.
How was he supposed to feel in this moment? He had no idea. He only knew he was filled with a crazy mix of anticipation, fear and the low fury that had been simmering inside him for months, since the moment FBI agent Elliot Bailey had produced a piece of paper with a name and an address.
Luke still couldn't quite believe she was in there, the wife he had not seen in seven years. The wife who had disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving plenty of people to speculate that he had somehow hurt her, even killed her.
For all those days and months and years, he had lived with the ghost of Elizabeth Sinclair and the love they had once shared.
He was never nervous, damn it. So why did his skin itch and his stomach seethe and his hands grip the cold metal of the porch railing as if his suddenly weak knees would give way and make him topple over if he let go?
A moment later, he sensed movement inside the foyer of the house. The woman he had spoken with when he had first pulled up to this address, the woman who had been hanging Christmas lights around the big, charming home and who had looked at him with such suspicion and had not invited him to wait inside, opened the door. One hand was thrust into her coat pocket around a questionable-looking bulge.
She was either concealing a handgun or a Taser or pepper spray. Since he had never met the woman before, Luke couldn't begin to guess which. Her features had lost none of that alert wariness that told him she would do whatever necessary to protect Elizabeth.
He wanted to tell her he would never hurt his wife, but it was a refrain he had grown tired of repeating. Over the years, he had become inured to people's opinions on the matter. Let them think what the hell they wanted. He knew the truth.
"Where is she?" he demanded.
There was a long pause, like some tension-filled moment just before the gunfight in Old West movies. He wouldn't have been surprised if tumbleweeds suddenly blew down the street.
Then, from behind the first woman, another figure stepped out onto the porch, slim and blonde and ... shockingly familiar.
He stared, stunned to his bones. It was her. Not Elizabeth. Her. He had seen this woman around his small Idaho town of Haven Point several times over the last few years, fleeting glimpses only out of the corner of his gaze at a baseball game or a school program.
The mystery woman.
He assumed she had been there to watch one of the other children. Maybe an aunt from out of town, someone he didn't know.
Luke had noticed her ... and had hated the tiny little glow of attraction that had sparked to life.
He hadn't wanted to be aware of any other woman. What was the point? For years, he thought his heart had died when Elizabeth walked away. He figured everything good and right inside him had shriveled up and he had nothing left to give another woman.
Despite his anger at himself for the unwilling attraction to a woman he could never have, he had come to look forward to those random glimpses of the beautiful mystery woman who wore sunglasses and floppy hats, whose hair was a similar color to his wife's but whose features were very different. For the first time since he had pulled up to Brambleberry House, he began to wonder if he had been wrong. If Elliot had been wrong, if his investigation had somehow gone horribly off track.
What if this wasn't Elizabeth? What if it was all some terrible mistake?
He didn't know what to say, suddenly. Did he tell them both he had erred, make some excuse and disappear? He was about to do just that when he saw her eyes, a clear, startling blue with a dark, almost black, ring around the irises.
He knew those eyes. It was her.
There was nervousness in them, yes, but no surprise, almost as if she had been expecting him.
She flinched a little at the name. "No one has ... called me that in a very long time."
Her voice was the second confirmation, the same husky alto that had haunted his dreams every single night for seven years.
The other woman stared at her. "Sonia. What is going on?
Who is this man? Why is he calling you Elizabeth?"
"It is ... a really long story, Rosa."
"He says he is your husband."
"He was. A long time ago."
The anger simmered hotter, flaring up like a controlled burn that was trying to jump the ditch. He did his best to tamp it down. He would not become his father, no matter the provocation.
"I'm still your husband. Nothing has changed. Until we divorce or you are declared dead, we are very much still married in the eyes of the law."
Her mouth opened again, eyes shocked as if she had never considered the possibility. Maybe as far as she was concerned, her act of walking away without a word had terminated their marriage.
It had in every way except the official one. "I ... guess that's probably true."
"That's why I'm here. I need you to come back to Haven Point so we can end this thing once and for all." He was un able to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "It shouldn't be that hard for you. You know the way. Apparently you've been back to town plenty of times. You just never bothered to stop and say hello to me or your two children."
Her skin, already pale in the weak December afternoon light, seemed to turn ashen, and Luke was immediately ashamed at his cruelty. He tried to be better than that, to take the higher ground in most situations. He was uncomfortably aware that this unwanted reunion with his long-missing wife would likely bring out the worst in him.
The other woman looked shocked. "You have children? I don't understand any of this, Sonia."
She winced. "It's so complicated, Rosa. I don't know ... where to start. I ... My name isn't Sonia, as you've obviously ... figured out. He is right. It is Elizabeth Hamilton, and this ... this is my husband, Lucas."
The other woman was slow to absorb the information, but after a shocked moment, her gaze narrowed and she moved imperceptibly in front of Elizabeth, as if her slight frame could protect her friend.
It was a familiar motion, one that intensified his shame. How many times had he done the same thing, throwing his body in front of his mother and then his stepmother? By the time he was big enough and tough enough to make a difference, his father was dead and no longer a threat.
"Are you afraid of this man?" Rosa demanded. "Has he hurt you? I can call Chief Townsend. He would be here in a moment."
Elizabeth put a hand on the other woman's arm. It was clear they were close friends. The wild pendulum of Luke's emotions right now swung back to anger. Somehow she had managed to form friendships with other people, to completely move on with her life, while he had been suffocating for seven years under the weight of rumor and suspicion.
"It is fine, Rosa. Thank you. Please don't worry about me. I ... I need to speak with ... with my husband. We have ... much to discuss. Go on inside. I'll talk to you later and ... and try to explain."
Rosa was clearly reluctant to leave. She hovered on the porch, sending him mistrustful looks. He wanted to tell her not to waste her energy. He'd spent years developing a thick skin when it came to people suspecting him of being a monster.
"I'm here," she said firmly. "I'll wait inside. You only have to call out. And Melissa is in her apartment as well. We won't let anything happen to you."
"Nothing is going to happen to me," Elizabeth assured her. "Luke won't hurt me."
"Don't be so sure of that," he muttered, though it was a lie. Some might think him a monster but he suspected Elizabeth knew he could never lay a hand on her.
First of all, it wasn't in his nature. Second, he had spent his entire life working toward self-mastery and iron control — doing whatever necessary to avoid becoming his father.
After another moment, Rosa turned around and slipped through the carved front door, reluctance apparent in every line of her body. On some level, Luke supposed he should be grateful Elizabeth had people willing to stand up and protect her.
"How did you ...? How did you find me?"
He still didn't know everything Elliot had gone through to locate her. He knew the FBI agent had spent long hours tracking down leads after a truck driver came forward years later to say that on the night Elizabeth disappeared, the trucker thought she gave a woman resembling Elizabeth's description a ride to a truck stop in central Oregon.
Somehow from that slim piece of information, Elliot had undergone an impressive investigation on his own time and managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together. If not for Elliot, Luke wouldn't be here in front of this big oceanfront Victorian in Cannon Beach and this familiar but not familiar woman.
Thinking about Elliot Bailey always left him conflicted, too. He was grateful to the man but still found it weird to think of his former best friend with Megan, Luke's younger sister. After several months, he was almost used to the idea of them being together.
"I didn't." He jerked his attention back to the moment. "Elliot Bailey did. That's not really important, is it? The point is, now I know where you are. But then, I guess you were never really lost, were you? We only thought you were. You've certainly been back to Haven Point in your little disguise plenty of times over the years."
It burned him, knowing he hadn't recognized his own wife. When he looked closer now, knowing what he did, he could see more hints of the woman he had loved. The brows were the same, arched and delicate, and her lips were still full and lush. But her face was more narrow, her nose completely different and her cheekbones higher and more defined.
Why had she undergone so much plastic surgery? It was one more mystery amid dozens.
"What do you want, Luke?"
"I told you. I need you to come home. At this moment, the Lake Haven County district attorney's office is preparing to file charges against me related to your disappearance and apparent murder."
"Elliot has tried to convince the woman you're still very much alive. He hasn't had much luck, especially considering he's all but a member of the family and will be marrying my sister in a few months. The DA plans to move forward and arrest me in hopes of forcing me to tell them where I hid your body."
"Wait — what? Elliot and Megan are together? When did that happen?"
He barely refrained from grinding his teeth. "Not really the point, is it? This has gone on long enough. I'm going to be arrested, Elizabeth. Before the holidays, if my sources are right. The district attorney is determined to send a message that men in her jurisdiction can't get away with making their wives disappear. I'm going to go to jail, at least for a while. Our children have already spent enough Christmases without one parent. Do you want them to lose the other one?" "Of course not."
He didn't know whether to believe her or not. How could he? He didn't even know this woman, despite the fact that she had once been closer to him than anyone else on earth.
"Then grab your things and let's go."
Her eyes looked huge in her face as she stared at him, making him more angry at himself for not recognizing her. He should have known her. Yes, she had worn sunglasses and hats, but he somehow still should have sensed Elizabeth looking back at him.
Once, those eyes had looked at him with passion, with hunger, with a love that made him ache. Now they were filled with fear and reluctance. "I ... You want to leave right this minute?"
No. If he had any choice, he would keep her out of his life and the lives of Cassie and Bridger forever. Circumstances and a zealous district attorney had made that impossible.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"I can't just ... just leave."
"Why? Seems to me you're really good at leaving."
She gripped her hands tightly together. "I have a life here in Cannon Beach. Responsibilities."
"What's the problem? You have a husband and two kids here that you don't want to walk away from?"
Though he told himself this wasn't the way to accomplish what he needed from her, he couldn't seem to stop his cruel words.
He was so damn angry. It didn't matter how many times he told himself he needed to stay in control. She had ripped apart the entire fabric of his life seven years ago, destroyed everything they had tried to create together.
He had thought she was dead. He had grieved, filled with raw guilt and wrenching pain that he hadn't been able to help her. For seven years, he had imagined the worst.
He had said earlier that she had never been lost, but both of them knew that wasn't strictly true. Seven years ago, the wife he had cherished with all his heart had been lost to him, trapped in a deep, dark place, a tangle of postpartum depression and grief over the accidental deaths of her parents.
He hadn't been able to reach her. Nor had any of the professionals he had taken her to or any of the therapies they had tried.
For seven years, until Elliot Bailey took up the search and found Sonia Davis, he thought his beloved Elizabeth had surrendered to that vast chasm of depression and taken her own life.
He had never imagined that she had simply moved away, changed her appearance and her name and started a life without him and their children.
He let out a breath, pushing away the deep betrayal. "We have to go."
"I ... I was planning to go to Haven Point next week. I have a plane ticket and everything."
"Not good enough. Sources tell me charges are being filed this week. The DA's office won't listen to reason, but I figure she'll have to listen when the supposed victim herself shows up. We have to get back to town before then. This storm is only going to intensify and I would like to beat it. Grab your things and let's go."
He wouldn't let her slip away this time. His children depended on it.
Luke was here.
After all these years, he was here, standing on the porch of Brambleberry House.
She couldn't quite believe this was really happening. Her day had started out so normally. She took her dozen different medications, meditated, went through the routine of exercises she used to keep her battered body from seizing up. She had gone to the greenhouse for a few hours. Her hands still smelled like the pine branches she had woven together for evergreen wreaths.
All in all, it had been a routine day. She never expected that before the day was out, she would be here talking to her husband, the man she had loved since she was eighteen years old. She had imagined this day so many times, had dreamed of the chance to see him again, to explain the choices she had made and the terrible consequences that had resulted from those choices.
Now that he was here, she felt tongue-tied, constrained by all the years and miles and choices between them.
What could she say? No words would ever make up for what she had done.
Of course she couldn't go with him. She had a job here. She worked at the garden center and was busy this time of year selling Christmas trees and wreaths, working on floral arrangements, planning ahead for the growing season.
She was also responsible for the gardens here at Brambleberry House — though admittedly, that wasn't a very good excuse this time of year. She had already supervised the Christmas decorating in the garden and wouldn't have anything to do until spring began its slow return to this part of the Oregon Coast.
Returning to Haven Point didn't terrify her. As he pointed out, she had been back a dozen times over the last several years.
It was the idea of returning to Haven Point with Lucas Hamilton that made her blood run cold.
Her stomach twisted into knots. He wanted her to drive there with him. It was eight hours from here. Eight hours in a car with a man who had every reason to despise her. She couldn't possibly do it.
But what choice did she have? If she could believe him — and she had no reason to think he was lying, as he had always been honest with her — she had to return to Haven Point or he would be arrested. She couldn't let that happen. She had already put him and their children through so very much.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Coming Home for Christmas"
Copyright © 2019 RaeAnne Thayne.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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