A Soldier's Christmas [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Rachel Lee & Catherine Mann & Merline Lovelace
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: "I'll Be Home" by USA TODAY bestselling author Rachel Lee: Seth Hardin is devoted to his career as a Navy SEAL, but his ex couldn't handle the pressures of being a military wife. Now he's resigned to spending the holidays alone...until he gets snowed in with Maria Hoskins and finds there are far greater gifts than just the material kind. "A Bridge for Christmas" by USA TODAY bestselling author Merline Lovelace: As commander of her combat engineering team, Air Force reservist Abby Trent has a job to do--and Special Ops major Dan Maxwell is determined to get in her way. But as they work together on a crucial bridge, Abby discovers there's a lot more to the major than meets the eye. "The Wingman's Angel" by RITA Award-winning author Catherine Mann: There's just one thing keeping Air Force officers Joshua and Alicia Rosen from finalizing their divorce--the Arctic survival course they must pass together. But when they find themselves chased by armed pursuers, even the frozen tundra is no match for the heat of their desire.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/HQN
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2006
19 Reader Ratings:
THE SNOW FLURRY THAT HAD BEGUN when Seth Hardin left Casper, Wyoming, was a thick swirl of flakes by the time he was within a half hour of Conard County. In the glare of his headlights, against the backdrop of night, the snow seemed to be all that existed in the world. The black pavement of the highway was nearly invisible, its wetness soaking up the light, and only the drifts to either side delineated the road.
Little by little, however, the snow was beginning to stick. Traffic had lightened until Seth felt his was the only vehicle traveling at this late hour.
The weather and the darkness suited his mood perfectly. Coming home to Conard County—which wasn't even his real home—wasn't something he especially wanted to do. But Seth Hardin wasn't a man who avoided the hard things. If he had been, he wouldn't be a navy SEAL. He had endured things that gave him a self-knowledge far beyond most people's.
This was different, though. This was an emotional trial he was facing. The birth parents he was still coming to know were awaiting him. That was okay, he liked them both. But in that same county, in that same town, resided his ex-wife Darlene, now, by all reports, happily remarried.
He'd warned her that life as a navy wife would be brutal, with long periods of separation. It had been more brutal than either of them had anticipated, given the situation in the Middle East. And Darlene hadn't been able to handle it.
Intellectually he could forgive her, even understand it. Emotionally the scar was worse, he sometimes thought, than the one he'd gotten from the business end of an AK-47. Of course, that wound had been the beginning of the end. Or maybe it had been the end. Damned if he knew anymore.
As he drove through the night in a swirling cocoon of white, heading toward an unknown that might prove painful, his thoughts seemed to be on everything except the coming Christmas holiday. It had been three years since he'd last returned to Conard County, and he couldn't help thinking that this was a mistake.
But all his buddies had families, and this year he just couldn't face being the extra person at one of their dinner tables. That and the fact that Marge Tate, his birth mother, had been working on him to come until he felt that it would be downright Scrooge-ish to say no.
Oh, hell, this drive couldn't end soon enough. The quicker he was with other people, the sooner he could put all these self-pitying thoughts aside.
Bite the bullet. The thought popped into his mind the instant he first glimpsed the lights of Conard County through the thickening snowfall.
Surprisingly, though, he felt a burst of warmth in his chest, a true sense of coming back to a place he loved. Somehow, since the day he had stood on the Tate doorstep and told Marge he was her son, he had developed a deep connection to this place. For the Tate family. Much as he might have tried to deny it these past few years, it leaped up right now and reminded him that he had family.
As he pulled up he saw the familiar house, every light blazing. The family van, once necessary for carting six daughters around, had long since disappeared. Now the daughters had cars of their own, crowding the driveway and street. Janet wasn't coming, Marge had said, because her husband, an L.A. cop, had to work through the holiday. Seth wouldn't get a chance to see his niece or meet his new nephew.
But he believed the other five girls would be here. Certainly Wendy would, since she and her husband, Billy Joe Yuma—known to everyone except his wife as Yuma—lived here in town. And knowing the Tate family, there would be other guests, as well. Nate adopted stray people the way others adopted stray animals.
It would be a madhouse, just what he needed to help him get through his first Christmas here without Darlene.
He parked as near the house as he could, two wheels in a snowdrift to make room for passing vehicles. The night wind held a vicious bite, a cold, wet sting that went right through clothes better suited for Virginia Beach than Wyoming at this time of year. He might need to buy a parka if this kept up.
There were sharp ice crystals mixed in with the soft, fluffy flakes now, promising worse to come. He pulled his duffel out of the back seat, locked the car and began to walk up the sidewalk that led to the front door. Salt, spread to clear the ice, crunched under his feet. The cold was already numbing his nose, and the wind snaked into the collar of his light jacket, making him shiver.
The curtains in the front window were open, giving a beautiful view of an undecorated Christmas tree awaiting the glory of lights. The other windows glowed with the inviting warmth of lamplight.
Bracing himself for what was to come, he rapped on the front door.
Sounds of voices came from within, sounds of laughter and music, calling him to a family gathering to which he belonged. He just wished he were in a better mood for it.
Then the door opened, and Marge's arms flew around him, hugging him and drawing him inside all at once.
"Seth!" she said with delight, holding him close as if she had missed him every moment he'd been away. It had been a very long time since anyone had hugged him that way, and for the first time he called her Mom.
He dropped his bag and returned her hug, then stepped back a little, in time to see the sheen of tears in her happy eyes.
A hand fell on his shoulder and he turned his head.
"Welcome, son," said Sheriff Nate Tate.
Copyright © 2004 by Rachel Lee, Merline Lovelace, Catherine Mann.