Hello, readers. We’re happy to share our gift to you, a short Christmas story that will run from December 12 through December 21. Please join us and comment each day to win what we call a BOOK BLAST! We will pick two names and if you win, you’ll get books mailed to you from our authors. Several books!!! So come back often and enjoy our gift to you.
Jeb and Mary Noel running interference. That was definitely a ‘thanks but no thanks’ situation. “I appreciate the offer, but don’t you two have some business of your own to resolve?” Jericho glanced from one to the other. Their contented grins confused him.
Jeb leaned against Mary Noel, and she patted his shoulder. “We’re good. We just want to help you to be happy.”
Jericho shook his head. The last thing he needed was these two running off into the snow. “No. This is my mess. I’ll fix it.”
Mary Noel stood, hands on hips, and stared up at him. “Spoken like a man.”
Jeb nodded. “One hopeless in love. Trust me son, I know the feeling.”
Jericho lost all his bravado and slumped against the counter. “Why can’t I ever seem to do the right thing when it concerns Grace?”
Mary Noel reached up to lay a hand on his chest. “Because you’re thinking with your head instead of your heart.”
“What does that mean?”
Mary Noel laughed as the men’s voices chimed together with the same question.
“It means that you’re thinking too hard about what the right thing is. Just listen to what your heart says.”
Listen to what his heart said, Jericho muttered an hour later as he drove down yet another snowy road looking for Grace. Follow his heart. Well his heart had said to follow Grace, so he had.
But neither his heart nor his brain could tell him how to find her.
Where could one woman get to in this amount of time?
The thought chilled him more than the freezing temps.
No, she wouldn’t abandon Jeb before Christmas. Of that he was certain. He just wished he was as certain she wouldn’t leave him.
What had he done wrong? Why had she left?
Listen with your heart.
Hard to do when your teeth were chattering louder than your heart was speaking.
“Okay, heart. Speak up. Grace is upset. Where would she go?”
Suddenly the answer was right in front of him. His heart may not have been calling him a dumbkopf, but he certainly felt like one for not realizing sooner.
Apparently he needed to listen to Grace with his heart rather than his brain too. She’d been trying to tell him, and he could kick himself for not understanding. All the clues had been there. The reason she had no boyfriend, no husband. The reason she lived alone in a tiny apartment.
Suddenly it was all clear. And he knew exactly where to go.
Snow was falling in earnest as he negotiated the narrow mountain pass. Nerve-wracking in even the best weather, it was a positively terrifying trip in snow and ice.
He was coming up on the outcropping now, the narrowest part of the road where the rocks created an overhang. As conditions deteriorated, he wasn’t sure whether to hope Grace was here or that he had been mistaken.
Wind gusted, buffeting his car as he pulled into the shelter of the overhang. The memorial had been carved into the rock, the bench where Grace huddled looked out over the sheer drop. The drop that had claimed her family.
Grabbing the blankets Mary Noel had sent along, Jericho climbed from the car and eased his way along the icy path.
Grace sat shivering, and he was struck by fear. If he hadn’t found her…
No. He had found her. His heart had found her.
“Gracie, talk to me.” He wrapped the blanket around her, holding her close against his body’s warmth.
“Do you remember what I told you?” she murmured.
He leaned down so he wouldn’t miss a word. “You told me lots of things.” Including that you loved me.
She looked incredibly sad in that moment.
“It’s okay,” she reassured him.
“I know you left because I told you I caused the accident.”
Jericho felt like he was playing some game for which he didn’t know any of the rules. “I left because you told me to go.”
She was silent. Snow continued to fall and he pulled the blanket more securely around them.
“I didn't want you to go, you know. I wanted you to convince me it would all be fine. That it was okay for me to be happy.”
Suddenly Jericho understood his mistake.
He loved her. He knew her secrets, but until this moment he hadn’t understood the darkest one. He hadn’t realized how much the accident had driven her life. How it had paralyzed her emotions.
It didn’t matter if it wasn’t her fault, not if she believed it was.
He could feel her slipping away from him. He had to get her away from this place and its memories before her misplaced guilt ate her alive.
Staring at the hopeless look on her beloved face, Jericho felt more alone and frightened than he'd felt in even the fiercest battle.
If they hadn't been at the edge of a snowy cliff, he would have fallen to his knees. He turned his face heavenward instead and prayed with all his heart.
Help me, Lord. Please help me save her.