Findley Callahan has until Christmas, a scant six months away, to prove to the court she can provide a loving and safe home for her learning-disabled child. So she retreats to the only haven she’s known: her mother’s house in Missoula, Montana, where she can make a new start and find a good job.
Reese Moore can’t believe it when his teenage love arrives to work at his father’s company. But there’s bad blood between their families, dating back to a business partnership that drove Findley’s father to suicide.
When Findley is targeted by someone trying to pin corporate fraud on her, Reese is determined to save her—but will their broken hearts be able to forge a new future amid old hurts and new threats during this season of love and goodwill?
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
Casey Dawes lives in Big Sky Country where eagles, herons, deer, and the ever-changing landscape of the Clark Fork River distract her while she’s writing contemporary romances. Find Casey Dawes at www.stories-about-love.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @CaseyDawesAutho.
An excerpt from Second Chance Christmas:
Findlay Callahan’s bare fingers gripped the steering wheel as she pulled into her mother’s driveway in Missoula, Montana. The crunch of gravel drowned out the soft snore of her four-year-old daughter, sound asleep in the back seat. The little girl was safe for now.
She turned off the car and breathed a sigh of relief. The normal seven-plus hour drive from Seattle had stretched to ten with frequent stops. Long trips made Kelly Anne cranky. Only a potty stop would do.
The girl didn’t drink enough to have to go that much.
Fingering the locket at her throat, Findlay let go of the breath she felt she’d been holding since that last push from Spokane.
Six months. That’s what the judge had given her to prove her case. If she failed, it would be the worst Christmas in her daughter’s life.
She wasn’t going to let that happen.
Leaving a sleeping Kelly Anne in her car seat, she pulled a few suitcases from the trunk and headed up the sidewalk.
“Hi, Mom,” she said when her mother opened the door.
Instead of answering, her mother pulled her close, like she’d done when Findlay was a child who’d had a rotten day.
Now it was a rotten life.
“Kelly Anne sleeping?” her mom asked.
“Poor little thing. I’ve got your rooms all ready. Let me take your things.”
Her mom’s shoulders strained under the weight of the bags, but she lugged them toward the back of the house anyway.
Findlay returned to the car to rouse her daughter.
“Okay, sweetie. We’re at Grandma’s. Remember I told you we were coming to stay with her for a while?”
The panic in Kelly Anne’s eyes dimmed at the word Grandma.
“Gramma,” she said.
“Yep, that’s right.” She lifted the child from the car seat. “Can you walk, sweetie?”
Her daughter gripped her hand tightly as they plodded toward the house. If they were lucky, nothing would distract her from the straight shot.
When they got close, her mother opened the door.
Kelly Anne yanked her hand away and ran to her grandmother. Mom scooped her up and swirled her around, the girl’s fine blond hair flying about her head with the movement.
Joy filled Findlay like water pouring into a dry well after a soaking rainstorm.
“Hungry?” her mother asked Kelly Anne. “I’ve got chicken nuggets.”
“Nuggets!” Kelly Anne dashed down the hallway before stopping abruptly. She turned around, forehead furrowed, and stared at Findlay.
“Kitchen is that way.” She pointed to the archway.
“Not any better?” her mother asked.
“She never will be, Mom. It’s not a disease; it’s the way her brain is wired. There are some things she’s going to have to relearn again and again for the rest of her life. Once she’s been here for a while, she’ll remember where things are.”
Their third therapist had finally diagnosed the problem: a learning disability that caused her daughter to be overwhelmed by changes. The knowledge had increased her ex’s subtle derision of Findlay’s ability as a mom.
He didn’t think she did anything right.
Findlay blew air out in a big puff. Her daughter was safe from Chris’s sharp tongue for now.
She trundled toward her room in the back.
“I got you 2 percent milk for your coffee in the morning,” her mom said as she entered the kitchen. “Just like you use. And there’s a bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge. Figured you’d enjoy it after the long drive from Seattle.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Findlay kissed her mother’s cheek. “You’re the best.” She pulled a wineglass from the cupboard where they’d been stored for the last fifteen years of her life, poured a glass of wine, and leaned against the counter while her mother nuked a plate of nuggets. Everything in the kitchen was spotless, outdated, and familiar—the old stove with the tilted electric burners, the side-by-side Sears fridge with the cracking gaskets, and the dish rack on the yellowing countertop.
It hadn’t always been that way. Brian Moore had stolen everything they had, including her father. Someday, somehow, she was going to get her revenge.