Texas Christmas Bride
The Gallaghers of Sweetgrass Springs, Book 6
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling Texas romance author Jean Brashear, book six in the popular Texas Heroes: The Gallaghers of Sweetgrass Springs series:
It’s the first Christmas in Sweetgrass Springs, Texas for several new residents who have found a real home for the first time—or found home again. As Jackson Gallagher works to save his hometown from withering away by relocating his business empire there, the only gift he really wants is to marry the teenage sweetheart he thought he’d lost forever—but Veronica Patton Butler has other hearts to care for, however much she loves Jackson.
Bridger Calhoun is more than ready to make Penelope Gallagher his bride, but however much she adores him, Shark Girl is dragging her heels on tying the knot—which seems to be a maddening tradition among Gallagher women.
Come join the fun…the heartache…the sweetness, as Sweetgrass prepares for a community celebration that will bring the Morning Star Gallaghers and the Marshalls to town, along with several of Jackson’s Seattle geeks and more than one lost soul about to find a place to belong—
In eccentric, lovable, unforgettable Sweetgrass Springs…where hope never fades and love never dies
HOLIDAY COOKIE RECIPES INCLUDED!
Texas Christmas Bride
“Why did I think it was a good idea to cater Jackson’s company Christmas party with Nana off on her honeymoon?” Scarlett McLaren moaned as she juggled pans in the kitchen of her grandmother’s diner.
“Because pregnancy hormones have fried your brain?” answered veteran waitress Jeanette Carson.
Sweetgrass Springs was so small that they were all doing double-duty until Scarlett could properly staff Ruby’s Dream. The high-end restaurant and events center was her brainchild, created from the old decommissioned courthouse her grandmother Ruby had held onto for years, hoping to someday make Sweetgrass thrive once more. Juggling the need to keep her grandmother’s diner open while searching fruitlessly for restaurant talent who’d relocate to this tiny burg, Scarlett was a good month behind her planned schedule for opening the new place.
She’d sure forgotten to plug getting pregnant into her schedule.
But she’d promised Nana, and she was determined she’d make Sweetgrass vibrant again.
“A misguided sense of love, City Girl,” opined Scarlett’s cousin, Rissa Gallagher Mackey. “My brother knows talent. He also knows a sucker when he sees one. It’s how he became a bazillionaire. Go sit down for a minute.”
Rissa reached for a pan, and Scarlett slapped her hand. “Don’t even think about it,” she growled.
“Hey, I can cook. Penny’s not the only one in the family.”
Behind them, Rissa’s hot husband snickered. “Babe, step away from the stove.” Randall Mackey smiled and drew her into his arms. “No offense, darlin’. Everyone knows you’re a genius with horses. We all have our strengths. Plus some of us multi-task.” Mackey nodded toward Rissa’s sister Penny, cooking with a bluetooth in her ear, talking a mile a minute. “Anybody know who she’s talking to?”
“China, probably. Or Katmandu—who knows? Poor Bridger. Ever since she took the job helping Jackson run his video game empire, I don’t think her phone has left her side. It’s probably surgically attached,” Rissa mused.
“You didn’t catch the two of them making out at the spring last night, obviously.” Mackey grinned. “My man has his talents, and one of them is seducing Shark Girl right out of her socks.” He peered around Rissa. “Is she cooking in…stilettos? Doesn’t that hurt?”
Just then, a young voice piped up from the doorway to the dining room. “Cousin Scarlett, could we do it again, the Gallagher Thanksgiving meal? Where everybody is there?” Rissa and Mackey’s adopted son Eric asked.
“Absolutely. Every Thanksgiving. Consider it a standing date.”
The seven-year-old didn’t look reassured. He opened his mouth, then shut it.
“What is it?”
His eyes slid to the side. “For Christmas, I meant,” he said softly. “Only maybe…better.” The child had come a long way from the abuse of his past, but he was still hesitant to ask for much. “Never mind.”
“What do you mean by better? What would you like us to do differently?”
Eric pointed around the room. “Them.”
“Them? Oh, you mean invite more people?”
Blonde hair bounced as he nodded eagerly. “Some people don’t have anybody. They shouldn’t be sad on Christmas Day.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
Rissa’s gaze met hers, dark with anguish over what this child had suffered in his short life. “We’re going to have a great Christmas, Eric. I promise you that.”
Perfect trust showed in the boy’s face as he looked up at his new mother. “I know that. But I want everyone to have one.”
“Let me think on it, Eric,” Scarlett responded. And tried not to feel exhausted. Christmas. Lordy, she’d barely survived Thanksgiving. She’d loved having everyone together, but brutal morning sickness seemed as though it would never end. She’d shoved Nana off on her extended honeymoon right after, lying through her teeth that she felt fine. Her husband Ian was still being a bear because he knew the truth, hovering over her every move like an avenging angel.
She noticed their second waitress, Brenda Jones, avidly listening. The girl was a mystery to them all, a stray, probably a runaway, sweet and shy and nervous. Nana had taken her in, no questions asked.
“What did you all do for Christmas back home, Brenda?”
The timid girl halted mid-step. “Me?”
Scarlett nodded for her to continue.
Hazel eyes darted like a frantic rabbit. “Nothing special.” Brenda’s slight shoulders curled inward.
Shy former busboy turned cook’s helper Henry Jansen, of all people, piped up to cover the awkwardness. “My granny worked for other folks a lot, so we saved our celebrating until Christmas night, after she was done serving the rich folks.” His chin remained high, his expression forbidding pity. “Soon as I was old enough, I helped her whenever I was allowed. We got to take the leftovers home, and I knew Granny liked that because she could get off her feet and skip cooking a meal. I learned to cook soon as I got big enough. Not like you, of course.”
“You’re turning into a fine cook now, Henry.” Scarlett glanced between the two, then wondered who else here had experienced a less than storybook Christmas. Here she’d thought she was the only one who’d passed that holiday and so many more longing for what she was sure everyone else had. Mama had tried hard to make the day special, but with no family around…
Her heart clenched as she thought about how much family she’d had here, all along. She and her mother hadn’t needed to be alone.
She’d never understand how a mother could rob her own child of that. She stroked her belly and made a promise. You will never be so terribly alone.
Meanwhile, there were people here whose pasts she couldn’t change.
But their present day could be very different. “Eric,” she called out.
Scarlett caught Rissa’s beaming pride at her adopted son’s manners.
“Tell me more about what better looks like to you.”
“Really?” Hope bloomed on the child’s face.