Silver Bells - a romantic Duet
Sensual Romance - Historical Western and contemporary
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Connected by several generations of family tradition, a gift originally given back in 1878 finds its way into the hands and heart of the newest addition to the Hamilton family. The silver bell earrings are an heirloom blessed by love, and once again the magic of the holiday combines with the magic of the heart to unite lovers touched by Destiny.
A Second Chance by Denysé Bridger
(Historical Western romance)
Enroute back to his home in Montana, Joshua Hamilton is bushwhacked and left for dead. As stubborn as he is strong, Josh makes his way to the nearest homestead, and meets Sara Grant. Left alone after travelling to reside with her brother and his wife only to lose them to illness, Sara nurses Joshua back to health, all the while trying to deny the tender awakening of love. As the holiday approaches, danger arrives to threaten the future they haven't even begun to share.
A Christmas for Beginnings by Brigit Aine
Stephanie is worried that starting over, by moving to Wyoming to work for a guy she's never even talked to, might be a bit extreme. Cole doesn't know what to expect from his new cook, but he hopes to take some of the work load off his mom. Together, they learn that fate is at work, and with a little Christmas Magick, all will be well.
An excerpt from A SECOND CHANCE:
Joshua feigned slumber as he watched her move around the quiet cabin. She kept the small place immaculate, and he sensed a peace in the atmosphere that he’d rarely encountered in his life. Only once had he felt this safe in a home, and that was a time he preferred not to look back on.
“Are you hungry this morning, Mr. Hamilton?”
He smiled at her words, then opened his eyes fully.
“How’d you know I was awake?”
She returned the smile and came to stand next to the bed.
“You’ve been here for most of a week now,” she explained, lifting the blankets to look at the bandaging that was wrapped around his waist, the bulkiest section against the right side of his back. “I can hear the changes in your breathing. I know when your dreams are terrorizing you, and when they’re not.”
He didn’t look terribly pleased with the observation.
“You haven’t answered my question, Mr. Hamilton,” she pointed out when she’d tidied the bedding and was standing upright again.
“Joshua,” he requested. “Call me Joshua.” He shifted in the bed, tossed aside the sheet and blanket, then gave her an icy look. “I assume you’ve still got my clothes, madam?”
“It’s Sara,” she said firmly. “Your clothes are just fine, Joshua. And, your gun is right there,” she pointed, and he glanced at the shell belt and the holstered weapon where they hung from one of the posts of the brass-trimmed headboard. She pulled a curtain and gave him privacy that was more courtesy than necessity.
She kept her ears attuned to the sounds of his movement, and forced herself not to run when she heard him stumble, then sit heavily on the bed. His breathing worried her.
“Are you all right, Mr...? Joshua,” she corrected automatically.
There was no answer. She listened, heard him stand, then he fell. She ran to the other side of the room, flung aside the curtain, and sighed in dismay. Half-naked and glistening with sweat from his exertions; Joshua’s strength had deserted him halfway into the process of getting dressed.
She coaxed him back onto the bed with physical effort and gentle words, fully cognizant of his virtual lack of understanding. He passed out as soon as he was flat on the mattress again.
* * *
Sara’s frown deepened without her knowing it as she left the barn and walked slowly back to her cabin. She’d tended his horse as carefully as she had the man himself, and was beginning to worry about the continued bouts of fever and sickness that were showing no signs of diminishing. She’d suggested riding to the nearby town of
Creek for a doctor, but he’d been so
adamant with his refusal, she’d relented against her better judgement. Silver
She opened the door to the cabin and went inside. When her eyes adjusted to the shadows, she spotted him sitting up in the bed, gazing out the window. His head turned the moment she came fully in and he was watching her in thoughtful silence.
“How long have I been here?”
It was a question he asked each time he regained consciousness and was without the maddened fever.
“Six days,” she replied quietly.
His look moved back to the window, and the distant range of mountains.
“Thank you, Sara,” he said after a nod and a lengthy pause. He felt her next to him and shifted his gaze from the window to her again. She was a pretty woman, he noted, really seeing her for the first time. Sara was like him in colour, fair-haired without being blonde, eyes not quite hazel, but blue-green in shade, and she was willowy slender; deceptive in her appearance of being fragile, he knew. In her quiet, watchful eyes he felt compassion and caring.
“Is there anyone I should be notifying about your presence here?” she asked cautiously.
He almost smiled, then shook his head.
“Someone somewhere must love you, Joshua Hamilton,” she spoke the words before she could think not to, and his hazel eyes sharpened with a flash of anger.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized quickly. “Your life is not my business.”
When she would have walked away, Joshua grabbed her hand and made her look at him again.
“I owe you my life,” he said with a small smile, irony in his steady tone.
She laughed very softly.
“I don’t think so. You’re as stubborn a man as any I’ve ever met. I think you’re just not ready to die, so nothing’s going to change your mind.” For the first time, Joshua really smiled and she was struck again by his attractiveness. “You still can’t get up, however,” she admonished firmly. “Not for a few days, at least.”
“I can make it to the table, Sara,” he objected.
Their eyes clashed as they stared at each other, but Joshua won that battle of wills. She nodded, reluctantly, and offered wordless support once he’d pulled on his pants and had his shirt over his shoulders. He was gasping for breath when he crossed the room and collapsed on a chair at the table.
Sara pretended not to notice.
“Do you think you can eat now?”
He looked for something other than enquiry in that question, but there was nothing in her eyes that revealed the sarcasm he instinctively felt was behind the words.
“Have you got any whiskey?”
“No,” she smiled and made no effort at all to hide the faint derision his request incited. “I used the last of it on your back. Probably the best use it’s ever had.”
“Coffee?” he revised, grin now solidly in place.
“Coffee I can supply,” she assured amiably and went to get the pot from the top of the stove.
* * *
The fever had returned shortly after sunset, and Sara was watching from her makeshift bed a few feet from the tossing, restless man tangled in the sheets. He’d sapped his strength throughout the day, obstinately refusing to go back to bed. The chills had started after supper, then the fever came back with a vengeance. He was suffering the demons that haunted his dreams, too, she noted with uneasy fear. He talked a lot when he was delirious with fever. Most of what he talked about was terrifying.
Sara had moved from the cabin’s single bedroom the first night he’d spent in her home. She’d been afraid to leave him, fearing he’d die throughout that long night. Joshua had been put in the bed that was curtained off on the opposite side of the cabin; the makeshift bedroom that had been hers when Jim and Eve were alive and in the only bedroom. She mentally veered away from those reminiscences and concentrated on the man in the bed. She felt the subtle change before she saw the evidence her eyes needed to be certain.
He tried to get up.
Sara rose instantly, then ran to sit on the edge of the mattress. She ran a caressing stroke across his forehead and whispered his name. His skin was hot, the fever scorching it’s way insidiously into his brain, creating demons and terrors that she didn’t want to think about. Anything that could scare a man like Joshua Hamilton wasn’t something she much cared to contemplate.
“Joshua,” she whispered, catching his hand when it flailed wildly in an attempt to push away whatever was chasing him inside his mind. She turned aside, sank her hands into the chilled water in the bowl that still stood on the small table. As she began to wring the water from the compress she felt his hands encircle her waist and pull her downward. The cold rag hit the floor with a wet plop and she was suddenly wrestling with the delirious man.
“Joshua, stop it...”
He twisted, pinned her under him and her heart felt like it wanted to spring from her chest when she saw the inferno that lit his light hazel eyes. The brightness of fever was there, but beyond it was something equally potent.
“Stop this,” she reasserted.
Joshua ignored her and her breath deserted her when his head descended and his mouth covered hers in a kiss that made her entire body quiver with fright.
“Mr. Hamilton, don’t,” she pleaded long moments later. He was gentle now, his hands exploring as he murmured endearments and soft, pleasant sounds–all things meant for another woman. The woman he talked about so often in his delirium.
“I’m not your Sarah, Joshua,” she said quietly, forcing her voice to a steadiness that was sheer effort of will. “Look at me,” she demanded softly. “I’m Sara Grant, not Sarah Hamilton.”
For an impossible moment she thought he hadn’t heard her, then his head rose from her neck and he stared down at her. The raw torture she glimpsed made her regret her own defense for a few timeless seconds. He was a strong, driven man; the internal blaze was extinguished, his eyes shuttered and guarded as sanity returned with painful clarity.
“I’m sorry, Sara,” he whispered, moving off her with a slow, heavy sigh. “I’m sorry...” He covered his eyes with his hands and tried to steady his strained gasps for air.
Sara forcibly resisted the desire to pull him close again and offer whatever comfort she could give to his scarred and bleeding soul. She knew he’d reject anything other than quiet dismissal of what had just happened.
“Try to sleep,” she murmured gently, and slid from the bed as unobtrusively as she could manage. She bent to retrieve the compress, dropped it back into the water and went to her blankets. As she walked, she pretended her knees weren’t shaking, and her heartbeat roaring so loudly within her that he could probably hear it from the other side of the room. He was still now, unnaturally so; she suspected he spent a great deal of time that way. He was too good at not moving.
“Would you like to talk about it?” she asked into the darkness.
There was enough finality in the single syllable to effectively end any further attempts at conversation for the night.
~ ~ ~
Ten days before Christmas, I will be choosing a random winner to send these lovely handmade earrings to. (The contest is open internationally.) All you have to do is leave a comment and tell us about your favourite holiday story or tradition. I hope you enjoy meeting the Hamilton family, and perhaps enjoying this Duet that ties the past to the present via a special gift given in love...the stuff of all great family traditions/heirlooms, of course!
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