Christmas Kisses (Romance on the Ranch Series #5)

Christmas Kisses

Romance on the Ranch Series

By

Verna Clay

 

This book is dedicated to the
possessors of shattered dreams.

 

Christmas Kisses

Romance on the Ranch Series

Copyright © 2013 by Verna Clay

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this
book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

 

For information contact:

[email protected]

Website: www.VernaClay.com

 

Published by:

M.O.I.
Publishing

"Mirrors of Imagination"

 

Cover Designer: Elaina Lee (For the Muse)

Pictures: fotolia (woman by Subotina, Anna);

Canstock (lights by xbrchx)

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Dear
Readers,

 

The heroine of this story made her first
appearance in book three,
Baby Kisses.
She is Cecelia Brightman, the
sister of Miles Brightman and sister-in-law of Tooty, the stars of
Baby
Kisses.
It was fun bringing her character to life.

Although born into wealth and privilege, she has
never found the forever-after kind of happiness she seeks. She has devoted her
life to helping others through charity work, but now at the age of forty-two,
she can no longer continue along the same path. Much to the chagrin of her
parents, she leaves the trappings of wealth and follows her heart to the small
town of Paxtonville in Colorado to be near her brother and his large family.

As
for the hero of
Christmas Kisses,
he is new to the series and carrying
baggage from a previous sorrow that almost destroyed him. However, I have a
feeling Cecelia may be the perfect answer for Connor MacKenzie.

This
story has been written specifically with Christmas in mind, so, of course,
there are children involved. Some of the youngsters are new to the series;
others are rejoining the ongoing saga. There is also a set-up for a possible
romance between certain of the children when they are grown. Part of the fun of
writing is that you can grow characters to the age you want them in a short
period of time.

For
a series I once thought was over, I suddenly have all kinds of ideas for future
books.

 

Merry Christmas,

 

Verna Clay

 

Sequence
of books in the
Romance on the Ranch Series:

 

Dream Kisses

Honey Kisses

Baby Kisses

Candy Kisses

Christmas Kisses

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter
1: Third Person

Chapter 2: Career Change

Chapter 3: Recluse

Chapter 4: Learning the Ropes

Chapter 5: Delivery Gone Awry

Chapter 6: Sealed Lips

Chapter 7: Doctor's Advice

Chapter 8: Over-the-Top Exceptional

Chapter 9: It's a Deal

Chapter 10: Change of Address

Chapter 11: Frankly Speaking

Chapter 12: Santa's Workshop

Chapter 13: Cell Phone Surprise

Chapter 14: Fifteen Years Too Late

Chapter 15: Cowboyanese

Chapter 16: Deck the Coffee Shop

Chapter 17: Wrecking Ball

Chapter 18: No Protests

Chapter 19: Bless the Bird

Chapter 20: Sean and Preston

Chapter 21: Happy Birthday, Tessa!

Chapter 22: Christmas Kisses #1 and #2

Chapter 23: Christmas Kiss #3

Chapter 24: Let's Talk

Chapter 25: The Only Way

Epilogue

Author's Note

Candy Kisses (Excerpt)
Chapter One: Speak of the Devil

Abby: Mail Order Bride (Excerpt)
Chapter One: Finding Courage

Chapter 1: Third Person

Cecelia Brightman sighed and glanced out the
window of her high-rise office in one of the choicest locations in Manhattan.
As coordinator for Charity Disbursements, Inc., she had the fortunate, and
sometimes unfortunate, job of deciding which charities making application for fund
raising events would be accepted for review by the board of directors, and
which would be gently refused.

Shuffling the papers on her desk, she lifted
another application, but her mind was elsewhere. In one week she would be in
Colorado visiting her brother and sister-in-law for a much needed vacation.
Sometimes her workdays ran as long as ten hours. Of course, that was by her own
choice. She had no husband or children to care for and the older she became,
the less she looked forward to nights spent alone in her penthouse. Since the
age of twenty-five, after graduating from exclusive, Barnard College, she had
devoted her life to helping others through charity work. Now, at the age of
forty-two, she was beginning to wonder if she had made a big mistake in not
actively seeking a husband and having children in her twenties and early
thirties. The more she was around her brother and sister-in-law, Miles and Tooty,
and their five children: Harris, Eli, Morgan, Austin, and nineteen month old Sunny
Beatrice; the more melancholy she became.

Whenever she'd had doubts about the direction of
her life before, she'd just worked harder, and soon new projects consumed her
every waking minute.

That strategy wasn't working now.

And that was the reason for her visit to
Colorado. She needed to be with family, not charities. Of course, her mother
and father lived nearby in their own posh penthouse and she visited them often,
but she'd always felt somewhat estranged from them. They were well known
amongst their elite community and interested in their country club and the rich-and-famous
lifestyle. Although born into wealth, much of their prestige came from being
the parents of author Maxwell Henry, the pen name of their famous son. They
loved Miles dearly and had agonized after a car accident rendered him a
paraplegic as a teenager, but after the publication of his first best seller,
they'd capitalized on his fame and used it as a social stepping-stone. Cecelia
knew that spending time with her parents was not the answer to her increasing
loneliness.

A tap on her door interrupted her musings and
through the glass she saw Charles Wilson, her assistant, waiting for her
response to his knock. She motioned him in. Usually reserved, Charles fairly
oozed excitement and Cecelia thought she knew why. "Is it here?"

Charles placed a finger on the side of his chin and
grinned so big that his perfectly capped teeth took center stage in his
perfectly tanned, perfectly handsome face. Years ago, he'd hinted that maybe
there could be something romantic between them, but Cecelia had never viewed
him in that light. After a few more hints, she'd made it clear with her own
hints, that she wasn't interested. He'd grinned, said, "I hear you loud
and clear," and never broached the subject again. About a year later, he'd
met a barista that he claimed made Café Mochas to die for and married her six
months later. They now had three children and couldn't have been more opposite
than a cat and dog. Charles was gorgeous; his wife, Betty Sue, looked like a
throwback from the hippie heydays of the sixties. He wore Armani suits; she
wore swirling linen skirts and peasant tops. He worked out in the gym
faithfully; she refused to set foot in one and insisted she got all the
exercise she needed chasing their three children, ages five, six, and seven. He
loved caviar; she loved burritos. He came from Boston wealth; she came from
Shreveport poverty. However, the two of them had been going strong for years
and their antics laughed at by coworkers. Someone was always saying, "Wait
'til you hear what Betty Sue has Charles doing now;" the latest being
spending time at a retreat that didn't allow talking. When Charles returned,
he'd had the office in stitches recalling his vacation that left him speechless,
literally.

Cecelia held her breath waiting for Charles'
reply.

"It is. And, my God, I've never seen
anything like it."

She jumped to her feet. "I can't wait."
She followed Charles to the Donations Art Room, and marveled that the famous
artist, Connor MacKenzie, had actually responded to the letter she'd sent three
months previous and agreed to donate a painting for their annual Christmas
charity auction, the proceeds of which were going to an organization selected
by vote of the board of trustees. Even though it was only June, the auction
required months of planning. The charity receiving the proceeds had yet to be
made public, but Cecelia, in her letter, had revealed that it was a small non-profit
organization named Loving Arms Adoption Agency, and that they found homes for
children who had unexpectedly lost their parents—orphans who had once had a
family—but now, either had no relatives to take them in, or relatives that
couldn't or wouldn't raise them. Rather than send them through the foster care
system, they housed the children until suitable adoptive families were found.
They had a ninety-eight percent success rate and Cecelia had been pitching them
to the board of trustees for years. Finally, they had been selected.

Charles walked to a large picture on a tripod
he'd draped. Dramatically, he threw up his hands and said, "Come no
closer."

Cecelia halted and her heart hammered. She loved
the paintings by the reclusive artist, and, in fact, had recently snagged two
of them at a local gallery because she'd been invited to a pre-showing. She now
owned five originals and several prints by this genius of light, shadow, and
color.

With a flourish, Charles swept the drape away.

Cecelia gasped and covered her mouth with her
palm. She was speechless. Never had she seen a more beautiful painting. The
artist, renowned for mystical renderings, had created a scene straight out of a
magical forest. Known for his muted colors and lighting, the gray mist blended
so perfectly with the green pines that the viewer could not distinguish where
one ended and the other began. Filtered light penetrated the mist to barely
reveal several deer beside a stream. The canvas was about four feet high and
five feet in length and the pines stretched all the way to the top while the
stream ran the width.

Such was the beauty of the artistry that Cecelia
felt tears welling up. She stepped closer and looked for the painter's trademark.
She scanned for a long time.

Charles said, "It took me awhile, but I
finally located them."

Moving until she was close enough to touch the
painting, she eyed it inch by inch. Her eyes lit and she lifted her gaze to
Charles.

He grinned. "Ah-hah, you've found them.
Tell me what you see?"

"I see the man and the woman in the far
left corner. Hmm, something seems odd." She gave Charles a startled look.

He responded, "Exactly. This painting is
going to sell for tens of thousands. As far as I know, it's the first one he's
done with a third person painted."

With wonder, Cecelia said, "And it's a
child. There's a child between the man and woman holding their hands. How perfect
for the charity it's going to benefit." The tears Cecelia had been
sniffing back, now dripped down her cheeks.

Charles said, "Aw, honey. I think you need
to come to dinner with me and Betty Sue and my gang tonight. You've been way
too sad lately. My wife and kids will have you rolling on the floor laughing."

Before responding to his invitation, Cecelia
said, "If it wasn't against the rules, I'd bid whatever the cost for this
painting."

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