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The 24 Days of Christmas

The 24 Days of Christmas

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The 24 Days of Christmas

4/5 (5 évaluations)
103 pages
1 heure
Nov 8, 2016


Previously published in JINGLE ALL THE WAY
A holiday miracle to remember . . .
A matchbox advent calendar first brought Frank Rayner and Addie Hutton together. But that was years ago. Since then Addie has written herself out of her father’s will, gotten herself blacklisted as a reporter, and had her husband leave her for a younger woman. The only good decision she seems to have made is to move back home, even if Frank now owns that home and is renting the apartment over the garage to her. Not that she thinks there’s anything there. There’s no reason to get wrapped up in the holiday cheer. Because Christmas miracles are for the movies. Real life is about unexpected families—and the magic of true love—and could there be a happy ending after all?
Nov 8, 2016

À propos de l'auteur

New York Times-bestselling author, Linda Lael Miller was born and raised in Northport, Washington. The author of over 50 novels and the daughter of a U.S. marshal, Linda has bid farewell to her home in Scottsdale, Arizona, and returned to her rural, Western roots. On the horse property in the arid Arizona desert, Linda now enjoys riding her horse Skye in the early morning sun. She has finally come home to the lifestyle that has inspired numerous award-winning historical novels including those set in the Old West.

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The 24 Days of Christmas - Linda Lael Miller



The snow, as much a Thanksgiving leftover as the cold turkey in the sandwich Frank Raynor had packed for lunch, lay in tattered, dirty patches on the frozen ground. Surveying the leaden sky through the window of the apartment over his garage, Frank sighed and wondered if he’d done the right thing, renting the place to Addie Hutton. She’d grown up in the big house, on the other side of the lawn. How would she feel about taking up residence in what, in her mind, probably amounted to the servants’ quarters?


He turned to see his seven-year-old daughter, Lissie, framed in the doorway. She was wearing a golden halo of her own design, constructed from a coat hanger and an old tinsel garland filched from the boxes of Christmas decorations downstairs.

Does this make me look like an angel?

Frank felt a squeeze in his chest as he made a show of assessing the rest of the outfit—jeans, snow boots, and a pink T-shirt that said Brat Princess on the front. Yeah, Lisser, he said. You’ve got it going on.

Lissie was the picture of her late mother, with her short, dark and impossibly thick hair, bright hazel eyes, and all those pesky freckles. Frank loved those freckles, just as he’d loved Maggie’s, though she’d hated them, and so did Lissie. So you think I have a shot at the part, right?

The kid had her heart set on playing an angel in the annual Christmas pageant at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. Privately, Frank didn’t hold out much hope, since he’d just given the school’s drama teacher, Miss Pidgett, a speeding ticket two weeks before, and she was still steamed about it. She’d gone so far as to complain to the city council, claiming police harassment, but Frank had stood up and said she’d been doing fifty-five in a thirty, and the citation had stuck. The old biddy had barely spoken to him before that; now she was crossing the street to avoid saying hello.

He would have liked to think Almira Pidgett wasn’t the type to take a grown-up grudge out on a seven-year-old, but, unfortunately, he knew from experience that she was. She’d been his teacher, when he first arrived in Pine Crossing, and she’d disliked him from day one.

What’s so bad about playing a shepherd? he hedged, and took a sip from his favorite coffee mug. Maggie had made it for him, in the ceramics class she’d taken to keep her mind off the chemo, and he carried it most everywhere he went. Folks probably thought he had one hell of an addiction to caffeine; in truth, he kept the cup within reach because it was the last gift Maggie ever gave him. It was a talisman; he felt closer to her when he could touch it.

Lissie folded her arms and set her jaw, Maggie-style. It’s dumb for a girl to be a shepherd. Girls are supposed to be angels.

He hid a grin behind the rim of the mug. Your mother would have said girls could herd sheep as well as boys, he replied. And I’ve known more than one female who wouldn’t qualify as an angel, no matter what kind of getup she was wearing.

A wistful expression crossed Lissie’s face. I miss Mommy so much, she said, very softly. Maggie had been gone two years, come June, and Frank kept expecting to get used to it, but it hadn’t happened, for him or for Lissie.

I want you to mourn me for a while, Maggie had told him, toward the end, but when it’s time to let go, I’ll find a way to tell you.

I know, he said gruffly. Me, too.

Mommy’s an angel now, isn’t she?

Frank couldn’t speak. He managed a nod.

Miss Pidgett says people don’t turn into angels when they die. She says they’re still just people.

Miss Pidgett, Frank said, is a—stickler for detail.

A what?

Frank looked pointedly at his watch. You’re going to be late for school if we don’t get a move on, he said.

Angels, Lissie said importantly, straightening her halo, are always on time.

Frank grinned. Did you feed Floyd?

Floyd was the overweight beagle he and Lissie had rescued from the pound a month after Maggie died. In retrospect, it seemed to Frank that Floyd had been the one doing the rescuing—he’d made a man and a little girl laugh, when they’d both thought nothing would ever be funny again.

Of course I did, Lissie said. Angels always feed their dogs.

Frank chuckled, but that hollow place was still there, huddled in a corner of his ticker. Get your coat, he said.

It’s in the car, Lissie replied, and her gaze strayed to the Advent calendar taped across the bottom of the cupboards. Fashioned of matchboxes, artfully painted and glued to a length of red velvet ribbon, now as scruffy as the snow outside, the thing was an institution in the Raynor family. Had been since Frank was seven himself. How come you put that up here? she asked, with good reason. Every Christmas of her short life, her great-aunt Eliza’s calendar had hung in the living room of the main house, fixed to the mantelpiece. It was a family tradition to open one box each day and admire the small treasure glued inside.

Frank crossed the worn linoleum floor, intending to steer his quizzical daughter in the direction of the front door, but she didn’t budge. She was like Maggie that way, too—stubborn as a mule up to its belly in molasses.

I thought it might make Miss Hutton feel welcome, he said.

The lady who lived in our house when she was a kid?

Frank nodded. Addie, the daughter of a widowed judge, had been a lonely little girl. She’d made a point of being around every single morning, from the first of December to the twenty-fourth, for the opening of that day’s matchbox. This old kitchen had been a warm, joyous place in those days—Aunt Eliza, the Huttons’ housekeeper, had made sure of that. Putting up the Advent calendar was Frank’s way of offering Addie a pleasant memory. You don’t mind, do you?

Lissie considered the question. I guess not, she said. You think she’ll let me stop by before school, so I can look inside, too?

That Frank couldn’t promise. He hadn’t seen Addie in more than ten years, and he had no idea what kind of woman she’d turned into. She’d come back for Aunt Eliza’s funeral, and sent a card when Maggie died, but she’d left Pine Crossing, Colorado, behind when she went off to college, and, as far as he knew, she’d never looked back.

He ruffled Lissie’s curls, careful not to displace the halo. Don’t know, Beans, he said. The leather of his service belt creaked as he crouched to look into the child’s small, earnest face, balancing the coffee mug deftly as he did so. "It’s almost Christmas. The lady’s had a rough time over

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