Christmas Extravaganza 2019
Can she trust his charming smile, or is he working with the enemy?
Christmas is a time for miracles, and Dessa Courtland desperately needs one. The widow of an outlaw, and with two small children and another on the way, she’s been shunned by neighbors who believe she is still consorting with outlaws. The leader of her husband’s gang has been visiting because he thinks she has a pile of his ill-gotten gains, and he’s given her until Christmas Eve to turn it over—or else. When a deputy falls down her chimney, her daughters think St. Nick has arrived early, but Dessa thinks the lawman is the answer to her prayers.
Deke Elliot is on the trail of a notorious outlaw who also happens to be his uncle. Deke is sent to watch Dessa and catch his uncle, but when he is injured chasing a man off the roof of her dugout cabin, his plans go awry. He’d always thought Dessa Courtland wasn’t the type of woman to have dealings with outlaws, and after spending time with her, he’s certain she's innocent. He has a lot to do before Christmas Eve--make a plan, find the money, and catch his uncle to name a few. There’s no time to fall in love, or is there?
A loud sound woke Dessa. The day had come and gone. Sheriff Beckett’s so-called help never arrived. She’d gone to bed after hours of futile searching, more drained than ever. In her semi-conscious state, she registered splintering wood, a yell, and several loud thumps. She sat bolt upright in bed and listened. There was a muffled voice that seemed to emanate from the non-functioning fireplace in her bedroom. She was too scared to move, too scared to scream.
There was a man in her chimney.
The full moon spilled its light through her one window. It wasn’t enough to illuminate the recesses of the hearth at the opposite end of the room. While the window was glass paned, Orion had scrimped on the materials and made the chimney of sticks and mud.
Another groan made her wince and drew her to reality. Whoever he was, he must be stuck. She knew someone would get caught in there one day. It had needed to be fixed for years. The chimney had caught fire back when Hannah was a baby. Ori had promised to repair it, but when the snows had blown in the open hole, he’d covered it with a board, and repair day had never dawned.
Now, apparently, someone walking across the roof of her little house had fallen through the rotten board.
With as little noise as possible, Dessa lit her kerosene lamp. The sound of little bare feet slapping the floor told her the girls had heard the commotion and were on the way.
Light filled the room casting long shadows on the walls, but before she managed to check the chimney, she was assaulted.
“Ma!” Hannah scurried up into her bed. “Was that a clatter? Did Saint Nicholas get here early and the roof fall in?”
A clatter? She barely registered the question, but, yes, it certainly was a clatter, and more. She paused still shaking the sleep from her muddled brain. Apparently, Hannah thought Saint Nicholas had landed. She had to give Hannah credit, with him and all those reindeer; it probably would have sounded like that.
Leah followed on her sister’s heels.
“Get in this bed both of you and don’t move a muscle. I have to go check this out.”
The girls stared round-eyed at her.
“But Ma, you might scare him off, and then we won’t get any presents.” Leave it to Hannah to reason that.
Odessa walked to her wardrobe and withdrew a loaded rifle from the top. It was just a squirrel gun but could do damage, nonetheless.
“Ma!” Hannah gasped. “Don’t shoot him. He’s jolly.”
“I don’t think St Nicholas is here.” She told her daughters with a deepening frown. Was it Henry, or one of his men? It almost had to be, but he’d given her five days. Surely, he wouldn’t go back on his self-imposed deadline. Wasn’t there supposed to be some honor among thieves or something like that?