A Home For Christmas by Linda FordA Home For Christmas by Linda Ford

A Home For Christmas

byLinda Ford

Mass Market Paperback | December 1, 2015

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The Cowboy's Family 

Missy Porter knows all too well about losing a family, so she'll do anything to keep cowboy Wade Snyder and his orphaned niece and nephew together. Even put her own plans of independence on hold—temporarily—to help care for the children during Christmas. But in helping to fix this family, she realizes she wants to be more than just the nanny. 

Wade has never recovered from the unexpected loss of his wife. Now he doesn't think he can be the family man that little Annie and Joey deserve. So he's determined to find the children a loving adoptive home. But with Missy by his side, his long-forgotten dream of happily-ever-after might just be within reach 

Christmas in Eden Valley: Forging a future in Canada's west country
Title:A Home For ChristmasFormat:Mass Market PaperbackProduct dimensions:288 pages, 6.54 × 4.24 × 0.76 inShipping dimensions:6.54 × 4.24 × 0.76 inPublished:December 1, 2015Publisher:HarlequinLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0373283385

ISBN - 13:9780373283385

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Christmas 1882Eden Valley Ranch, Edendale, Alberta"We aren't having Christmas this year, are we, Uncle Wade?" Joey asked the question, but his sister, Annie, regarded Wade with both anxiety and accusation in her big brown eyes."Joey, I'm doing the best I can." It was Christmas Day and Wade Snyder had failed to give the young children a home and a family. His failure hung about his shoulders like a water-soaked blanket.Joey hung his head and mumbled under his breath, but Wade heard him. "That means no and we aren't supposed to be upset."Wade had done everything he could to see that his recently orphaned niece and nephew were settled someplace for Christmas, but all his attempts of the past three months had met with failure. The Bauers, a couple from Fort Macleod who expressed an interest in adopting the pair, had failed to appear on the latest stagecoach. Instead, they'd sent a letter saying they would be there at a later date. One they failed to give him.With that plan scuttled, he'd thought to spend the day with his friend Lane, a single man like himself, but Lane had other plans. He'd been invited to spend Christmas with a family that had recently moved in south of Lane and had a beautiful, marriageable-aged daughter.As if those disappointments weren't enough to contend with, Wade had encountered a young lady in Edendale who had overheard him explaining to the children that he would be leaving and they couldn't go with him.A pretty young thing with blue-green eyes and a halo of golden hair. Not that he'd given her more than a passing glance. She'd confronted him, her eyes flashing with a whole lot of emotions that he pretended not to notice."You need to give these children the assurance they aren't a nuisance," she'd said. "They've lost their parents. Shouldn't that be reason enough to make a few sacrifices on their behalf?"He'd edged past her before she could say more. How had she learned so much about the children in the few minutes he'd been in the store? And what did she know about what he should or shouldn't do? Or what he could or could not do, for that matter? He hadn't even been able to look after his wife, a full-grown woman. How could he hope to take care of two children? Besides, one would only have to take a look at his cowboy way of life to know he couldn't give his niece and nephew a home.He turned the wagon toward the west. For several turns of the wheels on the frozen ground he allowed himself to wish things could be different and he could keep Joey and little Annie. They were all the family he had left. But the plain and simple truth was he couldn't care for them.No, he'd do what was best for the kids.Once the two were taken care of, he would ride up into the hills where his friend Stuart ran a ranch. Every year, after a few weeks visiting his sister and enjoying Christmas with her and her family, Wade took over for Stuart while he went south to visit his mother.Every year, Stuart made him the same offer. "Throw in with me. We'll be partners. It's time you settled down."Every year, Wade refused. He'd once had a home of his own, a wife and dreams of a family. All his hopes had come crashing to an end when he discovered his wife dead in their bed. She'd taken her own life. He hadn't even noticed how unhappy she was, had put down her frequent dark moods to the fact she'd failed to get pregnant. He'd done his best to console her and assure her she was all that mattered to him.Her death taught him a valuable lesson. One he didn't care to repeat. He couldn't look after those he loved. Couldn't judge what they needed. Wasn't enough for them. So he rode all summer for some ranch outfit, spent Christmas with his sister and family, then took Stuart's place on his ranch until spring, when Wade repeated the process. It was what he'd done for the past six of his twenty-six years.Annie edged forward from the back of the wagon box where the pair had been sitting and perched her elbows on the bench. "Uncle Wade, do you like us?"A groan tore from his heart but he swallowed back the sound. "Come here." He pulled her to his lap. "You, too, Joey." The boy climbed to the bench and crowded to Wade's side.Wade hugged them both. "I love you more than you'll ever know."Annie nestled her head under his chin and sighed. "I miss Mama and Papa." A sob stole the last of her words.He tightened his arms around the pair. He missed his sister with an unending ache. "I know you do. I do, too." Though his loss was but a fraction of theirs. "I tell you what. I'll spend Christmas with you and we'll have a real good time."He had purchased popping corn, ribbon candy and some gifts at Macpherson's store. Wade pulled the wagon to a halt and, not knowing what the day might hold, handed them the gifts he'd purchased. Nothing much. A picture book for Annie and a pair of leather mittens with fringes for Joey.The two smiled and thanked him, though their smiles seemed a little forced. Even a piece of the candy for each didn't give them their usual joy. Presents and games wouldn't replace a mama and a papa, but he'd do his best to help them have a good time. Handing out gifts in a wagon wasn't a great start."I was afraid we wouldn't have Christmas," Annie whispered."We wouldn't forget to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus." He hadn't told the pair what lay ahead for them except to say they couldn't go with him. He was certain they'd welcome a new mama and papa, but he figured it was too soon after losing their own for them to see the wisdom of his decision. But hadn't Susan's last words been to demand a promise that he'd see they got a good home?He turned off at the Eden Valley Ranch trail. Lane had said the people there welcomed strangers and people needing help. Well, he surely needed help if he was to give these kids the Christmas they deserved.They approached the big house. Several wagons were drawn up to the door."Who lives here?" Joey asked as Annie clutched Wade's arm."Nice people." He figured they must be nice if they welcomed strangers."Do you know them?" Joey persisted. "Only by reputation."The boy pressed into Wade's side as if he meant to disappear. Wade's heart squeezed out drops of sorrow and regret. He'd lost his sister and her husband to pneumonia. Susan had been his anchor since his wife died. Four years his senior, she was the only person in the world who made him believe in love and happiness. All that was left of her were her children. He loved them to the very depths of his soul and it about killed him to think of giving them up, but he must do what he'd promised. At that moment, Wade made himself another promise. He would do everything in his power to see that these kids had an extra-special Christmas before they got adopted by a new family.He pulled the wagon to a halt and jumped down. As soon as the horses were tended to, he lifted the children from the wagon and, with one clutching each hand, crossed the few feet to the house. He stood there staring at the fine wooden door."Uncle Wade, aren't you going to knock?" Annie asked.Wade nodded. He had to do it. Had to have this one last Christmas with them, then let them go. He dropped Joey's hand and rapped on the thick wood.In a matter of seconds, the door opened. "Howdy, stranger, what can I do for you?" The man there looked and sounded friendly enough."I hear you help people.""We do if we can.""Then perhaps you'd let us spend Christmas with you. Me and these two children.""You're more than welcome. Come right in." He threw the door wide and ushered them inside.Wade felt the eyes of a dozen people upon him but he noticed only one person.The young lady from town who had scolded him royally. The flash in her eyes informed him she hadn't changed her opinion of him. No doubt she'd see his visit as an opportunity to further chastise him.His hopes for a pleasant Christmas lay whimpering at his feet.Missy Porter's mouth dropped open and she stared in a way that was most rude. At eighteen she knew better but she couldn't help herself. It was that man. The one she'd spoken to in Edendale after overhearing a conversation between him and his niece and nephew. She'd paid his appearance scant attention then, but now gave it a thorough visual examination. He was tall and lean like an old piece of hickory. He wore a dusty cowboy hat and a denim winter coat, faded almost white where the sleeves folded when he bent his arms. She noticed a flash of blue as the light hit his eyes. When he took off his hat as soon as he stepped inside, his brown hair looked surprisingly well trimmed as if he'd recently visited a barber. But it was the determination in the set of his jaw that made her clamp her mouth shut and swallow loudly.He was a hard man. One who would not understand the tender hearts of little children.She shifted her attention to the two sweet children at his side. With dark brown eyes and dark brown hair, they were almost Spanish looking. The little boy did his best to look brave, while the girl blinked back tears.Linette Gardiner, hostess and wife of the ranch owner, Eddie, rushed to the trio, her baby cradled in one arm. "Come in. Come in. Let me take your coats." She waited while they shed their outerwear and hung it on the nearby hooks. "Now, whom do we have the pleasure of meeting?""Wade Snyder, ma'am, and this is my niece, Annie Lopez, and my nephew, Joey.""So pleased to meet you." Linette squatted to eye level with the children. "Merry Christmas. I hope you like toys and food because that's what's in store for the day.""Oh, yes." Little Annie's eyes shone with joy.Joey grinned widely, then his smile flattened. He leaned back. "Our mama and papa died and we thought we wouldn't have Christmas this year." He shot Wade an accusing look that echoed in Missy's mind. From what she'd overheard, she knew he hadn't planned on spending Christmas with them. It had sounded as if he planned to leave them and ride away. What kind of man would do that?"I'm sorry to hear about your mama and papa." Linette met Wade's eyes."My sister and her husband," he explained.Linette paused, her hand pressed to her chest as if feeling a sympathetic pain, then turned back to the children. "How old are you two?""I'm seven," said the boy. "My sister is five.""Then you'll fit right in with the other children. Grady is almost six." She indicated the crowd of children playing in one corner.Joey and Annie clung to Wade's leg.Linette straightened and stepped back. "When you feel like it, you can join them. In the meantime, come and meet everyone." She introduced Eddie first, then started around the large circle. There were so many young couples—Roper Jones and his wife, Cassie, who had arrived in Linette's company a little over a year ago. Grace and Ward Walker, who lived on a little ranch nearby. Eddie's sister, Jayne, and her new husband, Seth Collins.As they continued around the circle, introducing yet more newlyweds—Sybil and Brand Duggan, Mercy and Abel Borgard, Blue and Clara Lyons—Missy began to wonder how it was that so many had met and fallen in love on the ranch. She began to suspect there had been active matchmaking going on.Her own sister-in-law, Louise, had married Nate Hawkins back in Montana, but it wasn't until they reached the ranch that their love became real, which half confirmed the suspicions about the ranch's role in romance. As for herself, Missy had no intention of joining the couples in matrimony.An older pair was likewise introduced. Cookie and her husband, Bertie, ran the cookhouse.As they were introduced, each one murmured condolences to Wade and the children, until Missy wondered how the children could stand to hear it one more time.Missy sat at the far corner. She'd be the last to be introduced and she could hardly draw in a breath as they drew closer to her. All too soon they stood before her."And this is Missy Porter," Linette said.Wade's eyes grew icy and she knew he recognized her. She'd spoken out of turn when she saw him in town. But when she'd heard him inform the children that he'd make sure they were in a safe place before he left, and when she'd heard their voices break as they confessed how they missed the mama and papa they'd so recently lost, an avalanche of unwanted memories had slammed into her. She'd been thirteen when she encountered the same emotion. She would never forget the shock of listening to the preacher explain that her parents had died in an accident."The horses bolted and the wagon flipped." The preacher had said more, but Missy stopped listening. The details were too dreadful to hear.Her brother, Gordie, was not yet eighteen and he'd not been pleased at being saddled with a younger sister to care for. He never let her forget that she was the reason he couldn't live the life he wanted. Not that he did much caring. She took over the cooking and cleaning. He took over earning money to keep them, but soon he hooked up with Vic Hector, a very unlikable man in Missy's opinion, who convinced Gordie there were easier ways to make money. By "easier," he meant on the shady side of the law.When Gordie married Louise and she moved in, Missy had truly gained a sister. They shared the household duties and became friends. But now Gordie was dead by a gunshot wound during one of his and Vic's escapades. Louise had remarried and Missy was about to be on her own. She meant to face the future without depending on anyone else.Except God, she added quickly, lest He think she was being prideful. She certainly didn't mean to be. No, she wasn't going anyplace without God.There wasn't a doubt in her mind that He had carried them safely on the journey from Rocky Creek, Montana, through a snowstorm and bitter cold. God had protected Louise and baby Chloe from Vic, who'd thought he owned them and Missy. She shivered at the memory of how Vic had treated her, trying to get her alone, and when he did, pressing against her in corners. Then he'd moved into the Porter house and both Missy and Louise knew he'd be taking advantage of the situation. So they'd fled to Eden Valley Ranch.