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Bonus Scene from The Broken Trail:

For my newsletter subscribers- here’s that scene I mentioned. I hope you enjoy it!

chris-bair-431582As a native of New England, Katherine had lived through ice storms, blizzards, and Nor’easters, but the relentless cold of northern Maine was testing even her hardened Yankee limits. The dark didn’t help things. Stuck out in the ocean at the top of the United States, Maine was more in the Atlantic time zone than Eastern which mean it was pitch-black when she got out of work every day now. In a few weeks it would start to get light again, but she’d been warned the temperatures wouldn’t be headed higher for a while.

“It’s only December.” Elaine had said when Katherine complained about the dark and the cold. “Just wait ‘til January’. Katherine didn’t want to even think about January.

Today, it was gently snowing which was a nice change from the relentless gray. Snowflakes as puffy and fat as goose down floated to the earth outside the cabin’s window. She watched them in between stiches as she rocked in her chair by the wood stove, finishing off a knitted scarf. When she’d bought the yarn the plan had been to knit a sweater, but after so many years of neglect, her skills had deteriorated. She went with a scarf instead. The wool was a heathered, black cashmere, outrageously expensive, but warm and far softer than wool. The only problem was that it showed each stich in definition so she had to concentrate to avoid a mistake.

It had taken ages, but the scarf was finished and she was embroidering shamrocks in a dark green yarn at each end. The tricky bit was that she didn’t have a pattern so it was all guess-work.  Sort of like her life at the moment. She was doing that without instructions too. After years of carefully avoiding any distractions while working a contract, a very large one had landed right in the middle of things and instead of turning him away she’d fallen for him. And now she was knitting him a scarf. Life was definitely off its usual track.

She held the scarf up and examined her work, wondering if it was a weird gift so early in their relationship. Would he read something into it? Was there something to read into it? They’d only been official for a week. Maybe it was too much? She wrapped it around her neck, loving the feel of the soft yarn against her skin. No. It wasn’t too much. She was about to leave for Christmas break. That meant two weeks away from each other. If she couldn’t be with him, at least something of her could.

Her phone chirped with a text alert and she pulled it out of her pocket reading, on my way.

“Rats.” She’d lost track of time. Mac had said he’d drop by on his way to the station. He was working a night shift so one of his deputies could attend a Christmas party, which was totally Mac. She ran to the back hallway and pulled out the gift box she’d made for his present. Unwrapping it from her neck she carefully laid it inside, slid the cover down, and tied it with a plaid ribbon. Ducking into the bathroom she pulled her hair out of the bun it had been in all day and ran a brush through it. Not fantastic, but it would do.

A knock sounded at the door shortly after. As she hustled to answer it, she kicked her knitting supplies under the chair. Taking a settling breath, she opened the door.

“Hey.” Mac stepped inside smelling like wood smoke and something spicy. A little thrill filled her as he stood close, smiling at her. He leaned down and brushed his lips over hers, a barely-there kiss that had her toes curling.

“Hey yourself.” She smiled up at him, not minding the cold that seemed to be wafting off him.

He chuckled as he took the door out of her hand and shut it. “How about we don’t waste all the heat in here.”

“Right.” She moved away, heat spreading on her cheeks. Mac did something to her head, even without trying that hard.

He stepped further inside and then took a quick look around. “Did you decorate…more?”

“Yeah, do you like it?”

He’d already seen her small Christmas tree with its felt ornaments, but she’d added Christmas lights over the tops of the kitchen cabinets, a garland of pine and sparkly baubles to the hearth, and holly arrangements to the kitchen table and the lamp stand. As far as she was concerned it was understated, but from the expression on Mac’s face he had a different opinion.

“Fire hazard.” He pointed at the hearth. “Might as well be kindling.” He gestured at the cabin in general.

“Would you quit? It’s festive.”

Mac looked around the room and sighed. “I’ll need to get you another fire extinguisher.”

She rolled her eyes and wacked him in the gut with his wrapped gift. “Here, funny man.”

“What’s this?” He took the box and held it like he didn’t know what to do with it.

“It’s a present.”

“You got me a present?” He looked up, a surprised expression on his face.

“It’s nothing big and I made it, I didn’t buy it so…”

His expression grew soft, a look she didn’t see very often. He undid the ribbon and pulled off the top of the box. Slowly he set the box aside as he pulled out the scarf. “You made this?”

“Yes. I have skills.” She smiled, but he didn’t seem to catch her attempt at a joke. “I was hoping you’d like the colors. I didn’t know what was your favorite, but black is nice and basic, oof—” Mac reached out and pulled her into a bear hug.

“So you like it?” Her words muffled since her face was still stuffed in his shoulder. His arms moved her away a little and she looked up at him.

“Yes, Kate.” His eyes roamed her face for a moment before settling on her lips. “I like it very much.” And he kissed her. It was no mere brush of the lips this time and when he ended it, she would have slid to the floor in a puddle if he hadn’t been still holding her. The cabin felt warmer somehow, the lights livelier, the baubles sparkled brighter.

“I’ve got to go.” He gently let her go.

“You’ve got a long night ahead of you.” She stood back a bit, the spell his kiss created beginning to slip away as reality returned. “And then I leave.”

“Yes, but now I have a bit of you with me.” He tugged at the scarf around his neck. “I’ll come by to see you off in the morning.” They moved to the door and she opened it, feeling the bite of the cold rushing in against her heated face. Mac laid a hand against her cheek. “Good night, Kate.” With a quick kiss he added “And remember to shut all those lights off before you go to bed.”

“Yes, Captain Safety. Stop worrying.”

“I’m not worried. I’m looking after what’s important to me.” He passed through the door and headed down the steps. “And that’s not the cabin, that’s you.” He shouted to her before jumping into his truck and driving away. She closed the door and waved through the window as his taillights disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My newest book, just out this October, is At the Crossroad:

As friendship turns to love, can grace bridge two conflicted hearts?

Erin Sullivan has had to endure the rumor mill of Sweet River, Maine grinding through her family’s scandals for years. Being a single mom and the subject of small-town misinformation and judgement had taught her not to hope for good things. No matter how strong her feelings were for Pastor Dan Cooper, she planned to keep them buried for the sake of his reputation and the good of her own heart.

Dan Cooper had become pastor of the Calvary Church thinking it would be temporary, that his mother would recover from her stroke, and he’d be back in the mission field in a matter of months. Three years later he is struggling in a job he never wanted, waiting for direction from God, and questioning his calling.

When Erin sees that Dan is alone in his struggle, she reaches out to help, and he comes to rely on her quiet strength and kindness. Erin tells herself it’s only friendship, but it quickly becomes more. Now, she has to reckon with a man in the midst of a spiritual storm. As his turmoil takes its toll on them, it may be more than her heart can take. Dan is determined to find his way, but it may have to be without the woman he’s come to love.

Available on Amazon