A Daughter for Christmas
By Margaret Daley
Love Inspired, November 2010
A Daughter for Christmas is the third book in the Helping Hands Homeschooling Series. Matters of the heart start at home.
Blurb for A Daughter for Christmas:
Dr. Max Connors had no idea he'd fathered a child thirteen years ago. Or that his baby girl had been given up for adoption. He locates his daughter in a small Oklahoma town and moves there, hoping to become a part of her life. But when he meets her widowed mother, Max is unsure how to reveal his identity. As he helps Rachel Howard with her plans to homeschool the girl, he's welcomed into the family. But with the holidays approaching, Max must tell Rachel who he really is. Can he make his dreams of family come true by Christmas?
Excerpt from A Daughter for Christmas:
On his second day in Tallgrass, Oklahoma, Dr. Max Connors opened his front door to discover the one woman he wasn't quite ready to meet. Rachel Howard. Mother of his child.
Although she didn't know that. Yet.
Prim, proper Rachel, with her reddish-brown hair pulled back in a twist, held up a plate full of fudge. "Welcome to the neighborhood."
The smile that graced her full lips transformed her plain features into radiance and needled his conscience. His reason for being in Tallgrass would totally shatter her world.
When he didn't say anything right away, she added in a cultured voice, "I'm part of the welcoming committee for Ranch Acres Estates."
"There's such a thing as a welcoming committee?" In New York City he couldn't have envisioned anything like that. Certainly not in his apartment building where he'd hardly known his neighbors. But then he'd worked long hours at the hospital as an emergency room doctor.
"Yes, especially for the doctor who's going into practice with Dr. Reynolds. I promised Kevin I would give you a proper welcome."
"You know Kevin Reynolds?" He knew she did, that her deceased husband had been Kevin Reynolds's partner, but he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"He's a good friend." She bent a little closer, as though she were imparting a secret. "In case you haven't figured it out, Kevin is very excited you've decided to move to Tallgrass. And wants to make sure you stay around."
A whiff of lavender teased Max's nostrils. "Come in." He quickly stepped back to put some space between them. He hadn't been prepared to meet her in person yet, and her close proximity only reinforced that. "Please excuse the mess." He waved his hand toward the boxes stacked around his living and dining areas.
"I've got some of the kitchen put together. Let's go back there."
When Rachel entered the kitchen, she stopped a few feet inside.
"You've been here a day, and you've already got this in order. I'm amazed. When I moved into my house, it took me a week to do that."
"I figure if I don't tackle the kitchen this weekend I won't get it done and I love to cook."
"You do? You sound like my granny and my sister, Jordan."
He gestured toward a chair at his round glass table. "You don't like to cook?"
"I do it because I have a family to feed, but I'm not passionate about it like Jordan is." She sank onto the seat and placed her housewarming gift of fudge on the table, her movements precise, graceful.
And for a few seconds they captured his attention. He mentally shook his head and finally asked, "What are you passionate about?" Again, he knew the answer before she said it because he'd made a point to find out as much as he could about the woman raising his daughter.
"Why?" He took the chair across from her, still needing the distance to keep his perspective. Her photo didn't really do her justice. It'd captured her features but hadn't conveyed the warmth radiating from her, the twinkle in her blue eyes, which reminded him of the color of a lagoon he'd swum in on a rare vacation to Tahiti a couple of years ago between working in the Middle East and New York.
"I love telling a story through a quilt. At church a group of us are working on one that tells the story of Christ. It'll go on the wall in the rec hall, hopefully by Thanksgiving." Her voice conveyed her excitement. About quilting or Jesus? Or both? He knew she was strong in her faith. She attended Tallgrass Community Church, or at least that was what the private detective's report had said.
He forced himself to relax back in his chair, but his gut tightened as though he were preparing for a punch. What was he doing here? Doubts began to assail him about his plan—one that might not have been thought out as well as it should have. What he'd come up with in the safe confines of his apartment in New York City mocked him now. His actions would affect a lot of people.
"This fudge looks delicious." He touched the piece closest to him, needing to do something to take his mind off his doubts.
"It's a secret family recipe handed down through the daughters. The first few times I made it I messed it up bad. It was a soft blob of chocolate. It tasted fine, but it didn't set up. Granny had to come to the rescue. A Masterson has to be able to make this fudge, according to her. It's a family tradition. I've been trying to teach my daughter, but she doesn't want to have anything to do with cooking."
Tension whipped down his length. He clamped his jaws together for a few seconds, drew in a deep breath to ease his stiff muscles and said, "How many children do you have?"
"Three. Taylor, my daughter, is thirteen. And I have two boys, twins, who are four."
"That sounds like you've got your hands full."
The gleam in her eyes dimmed. "It isn't easy being a single mom, but I have family here which helps."
"Ah, that would help. Who's giving you problems? The thirteen-year-old or the twins?"
Her chuckles sprinkled the air like powdered sugar. "It's obvious you haven't dealt with a teenager."
He nodded, stamping down his anger simmering beneath the surface. Rachel Howard wasn't at fault, but she could be hurt by his presence in Tallgrass. "Guilty as charged. I haven't had the pleasure other than as a doctor." His deceased ex-wife hadn't given him a chance to find that out. Leaning slightly forward in his chair, he snatched a piece of fudge. "But I have it on good authority they can be a challenge to raise."
Do Not Reproduce Without Permission
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