Christmastime on Donner's Mountain
For most of her life, Becca Monroe’s been running. The urge to see what lay beyond the next horizon took her away from Donner’s Mountain and the man she loved. Now, back for what will surely be her grandfather’s last Christmas, she’s caught in a tangle of unresolved emotions that leave her torn between the impulse to flee and the desire to stay.
Jack Donner never stopped loving Becca, even though she deserted him. Better than anyone else, he knows how cruel it would be to fetter her wild spirit, and he doubts she could ever be happy living in one place, on his mountain.
Can memories of Christmases past remind Becca what truly matters? And can love convince Jack to give her one more chance, even if it means risking his battered heart?
Becca glared at her brother. Idiot. Couldn’t he guess how this felt for her? Did he grasp she must be the last person Jack Donner wanted to see? But no. Rob had been wrapped up in his own interests that last winter and probably thought of this as little more than bumping into an old friend.
“Hi, Becca,” Jack said. His voice issued half muffled by the scarf, deep and slightly husky, and hit her like a punch to the gut. She’d always told him he should be a folk singer. He had the talent but didn’t want the hassle or the fame. “How’ve you been?”
An interesting question. She’d been up and down, happy and sad, tied in knots and—a few precious times—had felt genuinely free. Looking back, she couldn’t say the moments of freedom had been worth the price.
One of the biggest payments had been the loss of this man. But she said, “Good. You?”
He shrugged. Snowflakes fell from his shoulders in a little flurry. “I was sorry to hear about your grandpa being sick.”
“How did you know—” She didn’t bother to complete the thought. This town knew everything about everybody, one of the truths she’d fled.
“Is he very sick?”
Now she shrugged. “He’s dying. Be surprised if he makes New Year’s. We’re trying to give him a good last Christmas.” She indicated the packages in her arms.
Jack smiled. And oh, she remembered that smile, the pure sweetness and mischief of it, as if someone turned on a light in a dark room. Even though she could barely see his face she felt that smile to her toes.
“You sure the one from Chocolate Heaven isn’t for you?”
He remembered her addiction to chocolate. Well, sure he would—he used to go down to town from the wilderness and bring her back a few treats from the shop. Then they’d make love beside the fire, slow and luxurious, the taste of chocolate on her tongue.
“Not this time. Do your parents still own the cabin?” She couldn’t keep the question back if her life depended on it. The memory of that rustic place halfway up the mountain, tucked among the trees, had traveled with her everywhere she went. If she looked back now, honestly, the only perfect moments she’d ever known had been there in Jack’s arms.
But he shook his head.
Her heart plummeted like a stone. For an instant, her world rocked so violently she had to struggle for balance. Ah, well, things changed in five years. What had she expected?