One Christmas Night One Christmas Night


One Christmas Night

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Christmas in Washington takes on a different slant this year.

When Elizabeth and James discover this season might be just the chance they need.

Christmas wasn't a season Elizabeth Gregory looked forward to. It usually came with bad news and layers of hurt. But as James Hill re-enters her life, she finds the changes that come with a special invitation may be just the spark she needs.

One Christmas Night Excerpt

Elizabeth had vowed never to see James Hill again. Yet tonight, twelve days from Christmas, when her emotions were as raw as the wind whipping at her skirt, she found herself standing on his porch. Tiny white lights outlined the entire structure and she could see the tree, with its lights blinking, through the huge picture window. The scene couldn't have been better set up if Hallmark had photographed it for one of their Christmas cards. "How could I have been so stupid!" Of all the addresses to mix up, how could she have pulled his out instead of the one behind it? Why hadn't she thrown it out three years ago when she'd walked out of his life?

Elizabeth Gregory's finger punched the doorbell as if she wanted to push the Georgian colonial over with her index finger. Inside she heard the musical notes of St. Michael's permeate the chilling air. He hadn't changed that either, she thought. How often had she listened to that sound with a wide smile on her face? She shuddered pulling her red velvet cape closer around her, knowing the coldness gripping her had more to do with anticipation than temperature.

"He's not here," she muttered, pushing the bell a second time. She should be relieved that he wasn't home, but she had to get that package back and deliver it to the right address. "Come on, James," she ordered. "You've got to be here."

It was the Christmas season. The sudden memory of a previous Christmas burst in her brain. Where had they been? Curled up in front of the fire at his cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, only the two of them and a fake fur rug. Snow piled up to the windows outside, yet neither of them noticed or cared. Elizabeth shook herself. She forced the image of their naked bodies out of her mind. The firelight was too hypnotizing not to remember James highlighted against the red-gold glow of leaping flames.

In three years, she expected her anger would have cooled, but she found the prospect of facing him as frightening as reaching for an exposed wire. Pressing her fingers against her temples, she closed her eyes and forced herself to relax. She didn't need a headache tonight.

Ringing the bell a third time, she knew her luck had run out. James wasn't home. Even Mrs. Andrews, his part-time housekeeper, would be with her own family by this time. She looked around the porch for the package. It wasn't there. Maybe the delivery hadn't been made. Silently she prayed for a tiny bit of luck. If James hadn't been home, the box could have been returned to the shop. Silently she prayed for the alternative to be true. It was worth a try.

Elizabeth turned to leave. She could phone Joanne, the temporary assistant she'd hired, from her car. Mary, her competent assistant, had wanted two weeks off at Christmas. Elizabeth thought she could handle the load while Mary took the much deserved time. Everything had gone well until today when she had pulled James Hill's address from the Rolodex instead of Jason Hillery and handed it to Joanne. The young college co-ed, away from home for the first time, was distressed over the mix-up, but didn't know the city well enough to find James's house, saving Elizabeth from facing a man she hadn't seen in three years. Few people could negotiate Rock Creek Park during daylight hours. After dark, the poor girl would never have found the house nestled among giant rhododendrons on Redwood Terrace. And the very important delivery would have no chance of reaching the correct address in time. Chantel Hartman-Lawrence had been adamant about it arriving on time. Elizabeth had assured her Invitation to Love had built a reputation on correct and prompt delivery. Now she was going to have to eat those words.

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