Thanks for stopping by. This is day five of my Christmas gift to you this year. It's a short story based on characters from my book, An Unexpected Legacy. If you missed day four, you can go catch up here.
This section is just a bit longer than the others have been because I wanted to do it full justice. I hope you enjoy the end of this Christmas story.
“Well, look at that.” Chad stood at the front window early the next afternoon.
Presents had been opened that morning, and Jessica hadn’t noticed anything that would have caused Chad and Aunt Ruth to have such mischievous looks about them yesterday afternoon. She’d tried to settle in and simply enjoy the day with her family, but the sense of something not quite right still hung about her shoulders and clung tight. She rubbed her upper arms as she moved to stand next to Chad and look outside.
Gentle white flakes drifted from the sky. Already the grass was more white than brown. Her breath fogged the glass as she let out a breath of wonder. Snow on Christmas.
“Think it will last long?” Brittney looked through the other window.
“Probably not. This is Arkansas, after all. We almost never get a white Christmas.” Her dad peered over their shoulders.
“Humbug to you, too, Daddy.” Jessica smiled and took in the wonder of the fluffy crystals swirling in the breeze. “It’s so beautiful.”
“Let’s go walk in it.” Chad tugged at her hand.
“Walk in it? It’s going to be so cold.” She resisted only for a second. After living in central Texas for several years, she yearned for weather like this every now and then. There was nothing more magical. “Maybe we can borrow scarves and gloves from Aunt Ruth.”
It only took ten minutes to find enough cold weather gear to satisfy Jessica. Then, out they headed into the winter wonderland. The bit of accumulation crunched under their shoes as they walked down the driveway. Chad clasped her mitten-ensconced hand and swung their arms between them. She giggled as she stuck out her tongue to try and catch a flake. Nothing like snow could bring out the inner child quite so quickly.
Without discussing a direction, they both turned and meandered toward the park down the street. Chad dusted off one of the swings and motioned with a bow for her to sit. She lifted her legs as he gave her a gentle push, sending her flying through the swirling precipitation.
“This year has been so different than last year.”
“If I remember correctly, we ended up here on Christmas night last year, too, though.” Chad laughed.
“And you gave me my necklace.” She glanced over her shoulder with a grin. “And told me you didn’t want anything from me.”
He reached out and caught her swing to slow down her momentum. “And I still feel exactly the same way, though I do love that pocket knife you had under the tree.”
“I’m glad you like it. It took forever to decide on the perfect gift.” She stood and snuggled into his arms.
“Hm?” She didn’t want to move away from his warmth.
“I have a question for you.”
“Okay.” She back away just enough to be able to look up into his blue eyes.
He loosened his hold and got down on one knee.
She gasped and swallowed hard. Everything from the weekend suddenly seemed to make more sense.
“I’m going to need to take this off for a minute.” He tugged at the mitten she’d insisted on wearing.
“This ring.” He held up a diamond that looked familiar, though she couldn’t remember why. “When Uncle Andy gave this ring to your aunt, he meant it as a promise of a lifetime of love. Their story didn’t get the finish they wanted. Aunt Ruth said it’s time this piece of jewelry has a happy ending. Will you let me promise to love you forever and help me give this ring the story it deserves?”
She nodded, fighting the lump in her throat. “Yes. Yes, yes, yes.”
He slipped the cold metal on her finger and then pressed a kiss to her hand. She tugged him up, needing to be in his arms, to feel him and know this wasn’t simply some magical fantasy playing out in the unexpected winter wonderland. As his lips found hers and he swung her around with a “whoop” that was sure to be heard all the way back to Aunt Ruth’s house, she couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled up.
“This is why you and Aunt Ruth have been acting so sketchy since we arrived, isn’t it?” She poked him in the chest as he set her back down.
"Aren’t you glad you didn’t walk in a minute sooner and ruin the surprise yesterday?”
She backed up and put her hands on her hips. “Wait. When you answered my question yesterday about who I was marrying, you knew you were going to do this?”
“I can’t wait to see you in that dress.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
She shook her head, bent down and scooped up some of the wet snow. “Right now, I think you need to be the one wearing white.”
He yelped as her snowball slammed into the side of his head. “Hey! This was supposed to be romantic.”
“It was. And now I get to get back at you for making me worry the last few days.” She threw another missile.
“Oh, this is war.” He knelt down to get his own weapons.
“Bring it on!”
“We want to play, too.” Brittney and Trevor came walking up. “And Mom says hurry back because she wants to see the ring on your finger.”
“She knew, too?” Jessica threw a ball at her sister. “I’m declaring war on everyone!”
“I think she can take it.” Brittney’s snowball caught her in the shoulder.
They tossed the wet projectiles at each other all the way back down the street. On the porch, right before joining the others inside, Chad stopped Jessica, pulling her into his arms.
“You know, a year ago, we shared our first kiss here.”
“Here’s to many more.” She pressed a quick one to his lips and then slipped inside to find her parents.
“That wasn’t nearly long enough.” Chad complained as he slipped from his jacket.
“We’ve got a lifetime to do that.” She smiled and admired the ring once more. “But right now, I want to go rummage around in the attic and find my Grandma’s wedding dress.”
“That’s the perfect way to have a white Christmas.” Her mom came up behind and hugged her. “Ruth is already up there. Let’s go.”
Time to start planning her happily ever after.
Fun historical note: they really did get almost a foot of snow in Arkansas back in 2012, when this is set. I giggled when I looked it up. Thanks so much for revisiting these characters with me. I did enjoy seeing what they got up to after the end of the book.
And if this has made you want to check out these characters in their original setting, you can find that story here.
Thanks for stopping by. This is day four of my Christmas gift to you this year. It's a short story based on characters from my book, An Unexpected Legacy. If you missed day three, you can go catch up here.
Where was that boy? Chad wasn’t in the living room with Dad, Brittney and Trevor. He wasn’t in the dining room. His car was still in the drive. She wandered closer to the kitchen, pausing as she heard the murmur of voices. One sounded like Aunt Ruth. Surely, he wouldn’t be in there with her.
She pushed against the door and a flurry of movement on the other side made her flinch back once more before trying again. Aunt Ruth and Chad both stood on opposite sides of the room, slightly guilty expressions on their faces. Jessica glanced between the two of them, completely perplexed. This day continued to grow stranger the longer it went on.
“Hey.” She leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. “What’s going on?”
“Your aunt was just showing me something for later.” Chad’s grin looked forced.
“Later? Like a present? Because we don’t usually open gifts until tomorrow.”
“Did you see the forecast for tomorrow?” Aunt Ruth opened the fridge and started digging around. “They say we might actually get a white Christmas this year.”
That was a random subject change. Jessica studied Chad once more, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes. Something was definitely going on.
“Snow, huh?” Jessica tapped her foot. “Do we need to run and get some salt for your porch steps and driveway?”
“Oh, no, honey. It’s not like we’re planning to go anywhere tomorrow.” Ruth straightened, setting a ham on the counter. “We can just hunker down and enjoy the time together.”
Jessica pursed her lips, but it looked like no one was going to ‘fess up. “Okay, then. Mom said she’ll be in from the porch in a few minutes. She was looking through old family photos.”
“Which album?” Ruth glanced around.
“The one with Grandma’s wedding photos. I didn’t realize she had such a pretty dress.”
Ruth let loose a rare smile. “I used to dream of getting married in that dress. I think it’s still up in the attic somewhere.”
“That’s what Mom said, too.”
“Maybe one of you girls can use it instead. Assuming it’s still in any kind of good condition.” Ruth dug some potatoes from the cabinet.
“I bet Jessica will look great in whatever she chooses to get married in.” Chad’s voice held all the warmth of his grin. She had forgotten he was there.
“And just who am I supposed to be marrying?” Jessica lifted an eyebrow.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” He winked. “I’m going to go check out what your Dad and Brittney are up to. I’ll only be in the way in here.”
Not the answer she had been expecting. Not that she knew exactly what he was supposed to say to that question. After all, they’d been dating for almost a year and a half, but only mentioned the future every now and then, and never with any surety. But wasn’t it strange for a boyfriend to not suppose himself to be the groom?
Come back tomorrow for day five (the end)! And if this has made you want to check out these characters in their original setting, you can find that story here.
Thanks for stopping by. This is day three of my Christmas gift to you this year. It's a short story based on characters from my book, An Unexpected Legacy. If you missed day two, you can go catch up here.
“Brittney thinks Dad is being too hard on Trevor.” Jessica brought some cookies onto the sun porch where her mom was looking through a picture album.
“Oh really?” Her mom looked up and patted the seat beside her.
“Evidently, Dad was questioning him about everything.” Jessica grinned. “Brittney wishes they were like Chad and me.”
“Oh man.” Her mom leaned back and shook her head. “I don’t think she knows what she’s wishing for.”
“What your dad is doing to Trevor is nothing compared to the hurdles you and Chad overcame last year.” With a sigh, her mom reached over and squeezed Jessica’s hand. “But after that, your relationship has been so strong. I’m proud of you for not only making it through that intact, but also getting to the root of the problem. We might not be here having this peaceful holiday otherwise.”
“I’m not sure it’s truly peaceful, though.” Jessica leaned forward with her elbows on her knees. “There’s this undercurrent I keep picking up on. I thought Aunt Ruth was doing much better, but now I’m not so sure.”
A frown creased her mom’s forehead. “Do you think it’s related to what happened last year? Or could it be something else?”
“I honestly don’t know. Chad told me not to worry about it.”
“He’s probably right.” Her mom looked around. “Where is he? You two are usually no farther than a stone’s throw from each other.”
“I’m not sure, actually. I saw you out here and thought I’d bring some treats before they were all eaten, but he didn’t follow me. Maybe he got to talking to Trevor or something.” She pushed to her feet. “Enjoy your cookies.”
“Thanks, Sweetie.” Her mom patted the old album. “I’ll be in to help get dinner started soon, but I got caught up looking at these old photos.”
“Is that you?” Jessica leaned over to look more closely at a picture of a bride.
“No. That’s my mom.”
“Her dress was gorgeous.” Jessica traced the outline of the lace gown with her finger.
“Yes. I think it might still be stored away in the attic somewhere. No telling what kind of shape it’s in after all these years.”
“It’s so pretty. Almost exactly what I would want for my own.”
“Well, maybe we can dig it out when it’s time to think about things like that.” Her mom squeezed her hand.
“Maybe.” Jessica stood once more. “Who knows when that will be.”
Come back tomorrow for day four! And if this has made you want to check out these characters in their original setting, you can find that story here.
Thanks for stopping by. This is day two of my Christmas gift to you this year. It's a short story based on characters from my book, An Unexpected Legacy. If you missed day one, you can go catch up here.
“Ugh.” Jessica’s sister, Brittney stormed up to the kitchen counter, jerked a gingerbread boy from the plate, and bit his head off. “Why did I think it was a good idea to invite Trevor to family Christmas?”
“She sounds like you.” Chad smirked at Jessica from where he sipped coffee at the table.
“Oh, please.” Brittney rolled her eyes. “I don’t remember Dad giving you the whole ‘how dare you date my daughter?’ routine last year. He must have asked Trev at least forty questions since lunch.”
“I’m sure Chad’s answered a few questions, too. And I know I had to answer some questions for his family when I first met them. That’s just the way life works. Dads want to protect their children.” Jessica added a few more sprinkles to the Santa she was decorating.
“’What made you decide to get that tattoo? What was it about my daughter that made you want to date her? What are your life plans for the next twenty years?’” Brittney mimicked their dad’s voice and then ripped off the legs of her cookie.
“Really? Only twenty?” Jessica teased.
“You guys have it so lucky.” Brittney flopped into the chair beside Chad. “He’s not the new boyfriend anymore. And I really don’t remember him having to go through everything they’re submitting Trevor to. Seemed like everyone was all huggy when we parted last year.”
Jessica exchanged a look with Chad that told her he remembered things much differently, too. “I think you were too wrapped up in being on break and keeping Trevor a secret to remember things correctly.”
“Well, either way. I wish we could move past this and get to where you’re at. Why can’t they just accept Trevor the way he is?” Brittney’s voice hovered near a whine, as if she were younger than her almost twenty years.
“Dad didn’t ask you about your tattoos, did he?” Jessica set the plate of decorated cookies on the table and winked at Chad.
“No. He was too busy wondering about my piercings. We never got to tattoos.” Chad selected a reindeer with chocolate chip eyes.
“Ha, ha. Very funny.” Brittney crossed her arms. “I get it. I didn’t pick someone who looked the same as everyone else in the family.”
“Britt, there you are.” Trevor came in and slid into the chair on the far side of the table. “I thought you were coming back.”
“Sorry. I couldn’t take it anymore, seeing Dad treat you that way.” She pushed the treats toward her boyfriend.
Jessica laughed. “And so you just left him there by himself?”
Brittney covered her face with her hands. “Don’t mess with me. I’m stressed out.”
“It’s okay, Brittney. My dad did the same thing when my sister brought her boyfriend home a few years ago.” Trevor bit into a bell-shaped cookie.
“Well, I still don’t like it. Dad needs to go back and pick on Chad some more.”
“Hey now.” Chad held his hands up in the air. “I served my time. I’m very happy to be in the background for now.”
Jessica frowned. What did that mean? He wanted to be front and center again soon?
Before she could ask, her dad came in, sniffing the air. “Cookies?”
Chad held up the plate. “Come on over. We were just talking about tattoos.”
If looks could kill, Jessica would be down a boyfriend once more. Brittney’s glare was razor-sharp as she narrowed her eyes at Chad. Trevor just snickered and Jessica hid her laughter by turning to get her dad a cup of coffee, too.
Come back tomorrow for day three! And if this has made you want to check out these characters in their original setting, you can find that story here.
Several readers have requested I write a sequel to my book, An Unexpected Legacy. Well, I don't have enough ideas for a whole 'nother book, but I thought it might be fun to gift you a short story set a year later with the same characters. I warn you, though, that this story does sort of give away how the book ends. ;-)
I will be posting one bit of the story each day this week so be sure to stop back by and read the rest.
And, ever since writing this, I've had this image in my head of what the glider on Aunt Ruth's front porch looked like. When I saw this picture over on Sarah Orsborn's blog, here, I asked if I could borrow the photo since it matched my imaginings so well. She agreed, and now you can see an image of what I imagine Aunt Ruth's front porch looks a bit like.
“Maybe bringing you wasn’t such a good idea.” Jessica tugged Chad out the front door of Aunt Ruth’s house and into the old metal glider the morning of Christmas eve. She zipped up her puffer vest against the fifty-degree chill.
“What are you talking about? I thought we agreed we didn’t want to spend Christmas apart.” He pulled her to his side, his arm around her shoulders.
She snuggled into the warmth. “I know. But have you seen the way she’s been acting?”
“I guess not because I don’t know what you mean.” He glanced at something over her shoulder, but by the time she looked back at the window, there was nothing to see but curtains.
“What was that?”
“There’s nothing there. Must have been a reflection or something.” He squeezed her bicep. “Now tell me what you think you’re seeing Aunt Ruth do.”
“I’m not even sure.” She rubbed a circle on her temples. “She’s casting you sideways glances and ... it’s almost like she’s trying to meet your eyes but not at the same time. I don’t understand. I thought she was over her vendetta against your family, but now I’m beginning to wonder if she’s gone back to her old ways. I mean, it’s been a year since she really saw you. And I know she’s going to counseling, but maybe it’s not working?”
“I think you’re looking for things to see.” He pressed a kiss to her hair. “But you’re worrying for no reason. She’s been nothing but kind to me since we got here two days ago.”
“Really?” She looked up to make sure he was being serious.
“Really, truly.” With one finger, he drew an x on his chest. “Promise.”
“I know it’s not ideal. I mean, that couch has never been the most comfortable—”
“Jess, I promise. There’s no other person I’d rather spend the holidays with than you. Your family is great. And besides, I can’t escape to my grandfather’s house this year. Remember? We finally had the estate sale and that place is empty and almost sold.”
“So, you do want to escape!” She poked him in the shoulder.
“No!” A look of exasperation crossed his face. “I told you—”
“I know. I’m teasing.” She leaned up and dropped a quick kiss on his lips. “I’m glad you’re here, too. I’ll try not to be so skittish.”
Yet, she couldn't quite shake the unsettled feeling gurgling in her stomach. Was there really something wrong or was she simply paranoid after the previous year?
Come back tomorrow for day two! And if this has made you want to check out these characters in their original setting, you can find that story here.
Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine. What's not to love about getting dressed up and lots of candy? As a teenager/young adult, I fell in love with hayrides. Only one problem: most of the time, the ride went down to the local park that was all decorated for the haunted trail. Not my favorite. I don't do scary. As I was writing Jessica and Chad's story in An Unexpected Legacy, I was trying to figure out how she was going to overcome some of her reluctance to go into a relationship with him. And this scene popped in my head. Combine one of my favorite things with one of my least favorite and have him be a protector. Bingo. So, I thought I'd share one of my favorite scenes from Legacy with you today as I gear up for fall and Halloween and snuggle weather. Enjoy!
Around fifteen climbed aboard the old farm trailer.
Jessica decided to sit at the front and Courtney sat to her right. They perched on the hay bales and pulled a blanket over their legs as everyone else piled on.
Chad strode up and pointed to the spot to the left of Jessica. “This seat taken?”
She shook her head and he sat next to her, the scent of his shampoo wafting over her as the breeze blew her way. He leaned back against the railing and his arm brushed against hers.
“So, what all is involved in a haunted hayride?”
Courtney leaned forward. “I think there’re guys with chainsaws and silly masks that jump out and try to scare you as you ride through this park they’ve got decorated with tombstones and stuff.” She waved her hands in the air as she described everything, almost knocking Jessica’s hat off. “It’s silly, but fun.”
“Chainsaws?” He raised his brows.
“They’ve taken the chains off. It’s more for the noise-factor. To make you feel like you’re in a horror film or something.” Courtney laughed. “I love it. That’s why I organize the mysteries and horror novels, and Jessica is in charge of the romance section.”
“Do you work at the library?” Chad gave a confused little frown.
“We own a bookstore together. But it would be all cookbooks and romance novels if it were just Jessica. She doesn’t do mysteries or horror.” Courtney play-punched Jessica’s arm.
“I hate it.” Jessica gave a little shrug.
“Then why are you here?” He focused his attention on her.
“I like the hayride part, there and back. The ones we went on in college, I would hide behind Courtney when the haunted part was going on. And I wanted to come to the bonfire. There’s just something wonderful about singing praises to God with the stars above and the air nice and cool while your front gets toasty from the fire and your back freezes.”
“Wow.” He laughed. “Doesn’t that sound inviting?”
“Okay. So I’m weird.” Jessica threw her hands in the air.
“I don’t think so.” He shook his head, one side of his mouth going up in a half-grin.
She quickly looked away before he could see the blush she knew was creeping up her cheeks.
“Everyone ready?” Randy called out.
All the Young Professionals cheered, and the truck jerked to a start and rolled down the driveway and out onto the county roads.
The cool night air made Jessica glad for her fleece jacket. She tucked several strands of hair back under her hat to keep them from blowing in her face. It was several miles to the haunted park, but the group around Jessica stayed fairly quiet. Several people down at the other end of the trailer grew boisterous; their laughter and jokes carried above the crunch of the wheels and the engine of the truck. Courtney spoke in hushed tones with Amber. Mary and Garrett sat on the left side of Chad and held hands.
The truck slowed and made a right turn into a local park. Fake spider webs hung in the bushes on either side of the entrance, and a man in a lab coat and crazy hair jumped up onto the trailer. Jessica shifted a bit in her seat. She really did hate stuff like this, but despaired being a party-pooper.
“Just wanted to give you guys a head’s up as to what’s about to happen.” Lab-coat guy’s voice was rough and gravelly. “This is a haunted trail you’re about to embark on. This close to Halloween, the ghosts and goblins come out to play. There might be monsters and murderers, vampires, or any other ghoulish creature you can think of. I have no control over them, so if they decide to join your ride, well, enter at your own risk!”
Several of the guys laughed.
“Watch out for any weapons they might use. Chainsaws might not have a chain on them, but they can still burn you. Don’t touch the creatures and they shouldn’t hurt you ... much!” The man rubbed his hands together, let out a creepy laugh and jumped off the trailer.
Randy inched forward, and Jessica held her breath.
“You okay?” Chad whispered in her ear, sending a shiver down her shoulder.
“Sort of.” She inhaled shakily.
Just then, the first chainsaw started up right next to the trailer, and Jessica jumped, bumping into Chad. He put his arm out to steady her. As the masked creatures crept and pushed closer to their hayride the farther they drove into the park, she snuggled into his arm that remained around her shoulders. A scene set up to the left revealed another man in a lab coat supposedly working on a dead body, fake blood all over the stark white of his costume. To the right, creepily-masked guys leaped out from behind tombstones in a phony graveyard. Jessica knew it wasn’t real, but when the guys with chainsaws jumped up on the trailer with them, she closed her eyes and buried her head in Chad’s shoulder.
“It’s okay,” he murmured as he rubbed her arm.
Her friends laughed and shrieked as the chainsaws roared and other creatures moaned and growled. The trailer kept moving forward, and her heart galloped in her chest as one of the machines revved close to her head.
Courtney laughed to her right. Some of the guys taunted the actors as they scared the girls. Chad’s arms made a welcome safe haven, and she pushed down the guilty nudge for letting him hold her this way.
After what seemed like an eternity, she heard the last chainsaw cut off, and silence hung on the air. She slowly lifted her head and looked around to see everyone laughing with one another, several of the other girls also with boys’ arms around them. Her hat had fallen off somewhere along the ride and Chad handed it to her. She brushed a strand of hair out of her face and sat up.
Chad studied her.
“I’m sorry about that,” she whispered, wishing she could hide under the trailer.
“I’m not.” He reached up and gently moved another strand of hair off her cheek. “You okay now? You were shaking pretty good there for a while.”
Thankfully, it was dark enough he shouldn’t be able to see her blushing. “I’m fine.” She straightened her jacket and refused to meet the stare she knew Courtney was giving her. Jessica would never be able to live this one down.
Author note: I never got to snuggle into a boy during one of these hayrides like this, but I do remember hiding under a blanket one time! Anyone else hate being scared or do you love going to things like this?
Interested in reading more? Here's the link to the rest of the book.
I discovered that someone who had gotten my book as a Christmas gift loved it so much that she recommended it to her book club. They read it together last month. How neat is that? Not only did they read it together, they came up with questions to help them discuss it. She sent me their list of questions in case anyone else wanted to use them, as well. These are completely theirs. I didn't help them create them at all. What do you think? Did they do a good job? Can you think of any others?
I will also post these to my Facebook author page so you can find them there, as well.
**SPOILER ALERT** If you read farther, some of the details of the book will be given away, so if you haven't actually read the book yet, go read it first. :-)
1) As roommates and co-owners of a bookstore, both Jessica and Courtney are young christian women. Do you see them as a Mary or a Martha? Why?
2) Are you using all your talents for Him or are you burying some of them? (Chapter 2, page 16)
3) Name the surprising twists in this novel.
4) Have you ever been in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) where someone tried to manipulate you like Austin did to Jessica? How did you respond?
5) How could Ruth have dealt better with her disillusionment over the early unexpected demise of her fiance? Why do you think she kept it to herself?
6) Who handled Ruth's fears and bitterness better--Jessica or her mother, Sandy? Why?
7) Do you think Ruth was unrealistic in how she dealt with things? Why or Why not?
8) Will you put a review on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for Amy?
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)