Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Release date: July 1, 2014
Love brings them together. Hatred tears them apart. One man. One Woman. Between them, a precious child whose future they hold in their hands.
Back Cover Blurb:
Everything they say about Tom Henderson is true. Born in a barn, the bastard son of a drunken whore, he’s got nothing to offer, and any dreams he might have are as far away as the distant snow-capped Rockies -- and probably as unattainable. He’s long had his eye on pretty Lucille McIntyre, but that’s just one more impossible dream.
Lucille has always been considered the prettiest and most popular girl in Sunset, but her father’s sudden death has left her shaken and sad. Now, life seems to be passing her by.
When a prim and proper spinster arrives to deliver a squalling 3-month-old infant to Tom, his life and Lucille’s both change. His decision to keep the baby girl sets off a firestorm among the good ladies in town who don’t consider him fit to raise a child.
Together, Tom and Lucille will do anything in their struggle for keeping Faith.
That squalling sound came again, and when Miss Christensen turned and opened the door of the coach, the sound grew louder. Louder, clearer, and too distinct to be mistaken for anything but what it was.
A baby’s cry.
“Your sister died in childbirth, Mr. Henderson. She left behind a beautiful little girl.”
“Can I see her?” Tom gestured for Lucille to join him. She’d heard every word, he suspected. Together they peered past the somber spinster, straining to get a glimpse of the infant.
Miss Christensen eyed him, checked Lucille over with an appraising glance as well, then turned and carefully removed the little blanket-wrapped bundle from the coach. Tom smiled, noting the wicker basket in which his little niece—his niece!—had made the journey from Denver to Sunset.
“It appears,” Miss Christensen said, holding the child up for Tom’s inspection, “that you’re the only family she has.”
Questions flooded his mind. He wasn’t sure if he should ask any of them.
Lucille stepped up and asked for him. “Her father? Where is he?” She reached out to touch the baby’s cheek.
“Terrible tragedy.” The woman closed her eyes as if offering a silent prayer. When she opened them again, she turned to face Tom. “The child’s father took his own life, I’m afraid. Grief sometimes makes men crazy.”
Lucille gasped, a cry of utter, heartfelt dismay. Tom felt it, too, but no sound came out when he opened his mouth. Too much bad news was coming at him all at once.
“I’m from the Children’s Foundling Home,” she explained. “The father, your sister’s husband,” Miss Christensen added, “brought the child to our doorstep, left her there, then disappeared. Although we tracked him down…” Her voice trailed off.
“What’s her name?” Tom leaned closer. Soft, crooning sounds came from his throat.
“Lafferty. Baby Girl Lafferty.”
He blinked. “What sort of name is that?”
“Her father’s name was Samuel Lafferty.”
“Yes? So, what’s the baby’s name? Her given name,” he pointed out. The thought that this innocent babe was nothing more than baby girl to the people who cared for her brought a surge of emotion so powerful it frightened him.
“It’s not our place, Mr. Henderson, to—”
“Well, whose place is it?” He reached for the infant, his movements so swift and sudden, the protective woman had no chance to put up a defense. “She deserves a name. Every baby deserves a name.”
“Once she’s adopted, her new family will decide what to call her.” A stricken look appeared on her face. Obviously she didn’t trust Tom with her precious responsibility. He understood, but he was kin. Nobody needed to adopt her. She had family.
“What of Mr. Lafferty’s folks?” Lucille asked. “Do they know about his daughter?”
“He had no family that we could find.” The woman sniffed again, then held out her arms. “I’ll take her now, Mr. Henderson.”
Tom took a step back, clutching the baby more tightly. “She’s got an uncle.” He looked up and smiled. “She’s got a grandmother, too.” Ordinarily he wouldn’t go around calling any attention to his mother’s existence, but this was far from an ordinary event. After all the hardships, all the horrors, all the sufferings and shames of Charlotte Henderson’s life, this one singular moment could change everything. What was that crazy story Ma used to tell him, about some bird rising up out of the fire? As a boy, he never understood it, but suddenly its meaning came clear in his mind. Bad things happened, but good things could still come of it. Instead of wallowing in ashes, you could look up, see the sky and choose to fly.
“Please, Mr. Henderson. It’s plain to see that you’ve got no way to provide for your niece. I suppose I should have taken time to make the trip on my own to assess the conditions, but I was hopeful you’d be in a position to take her. Optimism is one of my weaknesses, I daresay.”
She didn’t look too optimistic in Tom’s eyes. He couldn’t imagine her ever having a positive outlook about anything.
But this child! She needed hope. She deserved bright blue skies and sunny days. She deserved butterflies and flowers, and the sweet promise of spring. Not some strait-laced, tightly-corseted old biddy who thought of her as nothing more than baby girl.
Tom looked down at the tiny bundle he held in his arms. So tiny, yet so perfect. He marveled over the little fingers, touching each one by one. When the baby’s hand closed around his big thumb, he felt a tugging at his heart so real, so undeniable, he suddenly couldn’t find his breath.
“Excuse me, Mr. Henderson.” Edith Christensen’s nasally voice grated on Tom’s nerves. “I have to leave now. It’s a long trip back to Denver. You need to give me the child.”
“Not yet, ma’am. She’s my niece. I want a little time with her.” He stroked one soft, pink cheek and was rewarded with a gurgling, cooing smile. “She likes me,” he said, glancing toward Lucille.
And he liked her. No, he loved her. This precious life wrapped in a thick gray blanket was kin. Not his own child, but a child who shared his blood, all the same. She was Sally’s daughter, and Sally was gone now. This sweet, nameless angel was all that was left to him of his sister’s kindness, her goodness, her own innocence.
He wished he could have taken better care of Sally, could have helped her and given her all she needed, but he’d failed her. Too young, too mixed-up, and too bitter about his own life, Tom hadn’t been able to save Sally from the wretched evils of their childhood.
But he’d damned sure save this baby.
“I’m not giving her back,” he said in a quiet voice. “I’m going to keep her.”
Lucille grabbed a pad and pencil. Quickly she scribbled a few figures on the page. “It’s three pennies a yard. That means it would be about twelve cents, total.”
Small price to pay, he figured, counting the coins out. As she reached to wrap the ribbons in tissue, he put his hand on hers. “No need. They’re yours.”
Her chin came up. “Mine? Well, that’s foolishness if I’ve ever heard it. I don’t need you buying hair ribbons for me, Tom. Or doing anything else for me.” She bustled out from behind the sales counter and pointed to the door. “Really, you need to go. This is a dressmaking shop, and I don’t think you have much use for fancy skirts.” She eyed him up and down.
Tom noticed the way her gaze lingered on one certain part of his anatomy. He liked the hungry way she looked at him, and he took a step closer.
“You’re sure in an awful big hurry to get me out of here, and I think I know why.”
“I already told you. I’m busy.”
“No, you’re not. You’re scared.”
“Scared?” Her voice rose an octave on the single syllable. “Scared of what? You? Not in the least.”
“You’re scared of yourself. Scared of what you’re feeling right now.”
“You’re talking rubbish.”
He moved closer still, reached out, and stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “You know, your skin’s as smooth and soft as that velvet ribbon, and every bit as pretty.”
Her breath caught, but she didn’t move away.
“Whether you admit it or not, you are afraid. You’re afraid of all those crazy feelings stirring inside you right now. Afraid that if you don’t get me out of here real quick, you might do something crazy, something you might later regret.”
“Like what?” She looked at him with hope in her eyes and an invitation on her lips.
“Like let me kiss you.”
“You’ve kissed me before. It wasn’t anything—”
He silenced her as he pressed his lips to hers. The pleasure of her hot mouth was almost too much for him to bear. His arms closed around her and she moved easily into his embrace. Waves of desire undulated through him. He tightened his hold, and her body responded at once, yielding to him, pressing against him. Tom groaned. He wanted to hold Lucille forever, to make her part of his world, part of his life, part of his future.
No woman had ever affected him the way Lucille did.
When she fought against him, it made him stronger. When she showed kindness, it made him proud. With Lucille at his side, he could be a good man, a wise man, a man whose life was truly worth living.
He felt her shudder. The way her body moved against his sent quivers down his spine, rippling through his muscles and arousing him.
Her hands went rigid against his chest. She tore away, her breathing ragged. “Please, stop.” With her hand pressed to her mouth, Lucille staggered away from him. Shaking her head back and forth, she gasped. “Tom, we mustn’t do this.”
“Things between us are too complicated, that’s why.”
Raking a hand through his sandy-blond hair, he fought to regain control. “It’s only complicated because that’s how you’re making it. Why don’t you just admit the truth?”
“About us. About kissing. You like it, Lucille. I know you do.”
The flush on her cheeks gave her complexion a soft glow. “Oh, all right. Yes, I like it when you kiss me.” A sigh fluttered from her lips. She moved closer and held her hands out to him. “I like it a lot. Maybe you’re right. I am scared, Tom.”
Christina Cole will always be grateful to her grandfather who patiently held her on his lap and taught her to read. He also told her stories of his own childhood and stirred her imagination with scenes from days gone by. From him, she developed not only a love of words and story-telling, but a deep appreciation for history and a longing to learn more about the past.
Today, she still loves reading, and loves sharing her own stories about men and women and the romance of an earlier time.
Her romantic stories have been published online and in print, and she's also published inspirational pieces, poetry, and essays.
She is happily married to the love of her life, and lives a simple, uncomplicated life in a small mid-western town.
Social Media Links
Official website: Christina Cole Romance
Website for “The Sunset Series”
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Christina Cole’s Love Notes
Other novels by Christina Cole
Happily Ever After
The Wrong Woman
Not the Marrying Kind – Book 1, The Sunset Series
Musings from Michigan