Christmas carols played softly in the background. The scent
of spiced cider perfumed the air. Shoppers munched happily on gingerbread cookies and
perused the bookshelves for that perfect gift.
Dr. Jenna Stockton imagined ripping the halo off the angelâ€™s
head and choking her with it. Instead, she reached deep within herself for patience and
managed to find a smile for the costumed character behind the bookstore counter. â€śIf I could
speak with your manager, please?â€ť
â€śSheâ€™s awfully busy.â€ť
Jenna thought of the ridiculous length of her own to-do list
as she fought to keep her smile from turning into a sneer. â€śYes, well, itâ€™s that time of year, isnâ€™t
it? Your manager?â€ť
The little angel gave a haughty sniff, and then said, â€śIf youâ€™ll
step out of line, please?â€ť
Without missing a beat, the angel turned a bright smile
toward the woman waiting behind Jenna. â€śIâ€™mÂ soÂ sorry for this unfortunate delay,
maâ€™am. Iâ€™ll be as quick as I possibly can.â€ť
Jenna didnâ€™t snarl like a rabid dog. She didnâ€™t. She smiled at
the woman behind her in line. Sweetly. Without canines.
The woman and the four people behind her each gave Jenna
an annoyed glower. She gave them all a smile too, then reached for the nearest book, which
she pretended to read until the clerk returned, accompanied by a fiftysomething woman
dressed like an elf. The angel gestured toward Jenna and said, â€śThis is the one, Ms.
The elf spoke in a harried tone. â€śMay I help you?â€ť
â€śI hope so.â€ťÂ EspeciallyÂ considering that I went out of my way to support a local business
rather than ordering online.Â Jenna set down the
paperback. â€śI placed a special order two weeks ago and someone from this store called me
last week to tell me it was in. However, your â€¦ angel â€¦ canâ€™t find it in your computer system,
so she insists Iâ€™m mistaken.â€ť
â€śDo you have your receipt?â€ť
â€śNot with me, no.â€ť
â€śWell, if youâ€™ll come backâ€”â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t have time to come back. I ordered the books for an
event that beginsâ€ťâ€”Jenna checked her watchâ€”â€śin forty-five minutes. Iâ€™d like you to check
your stock room. My name is Jenna Stockton.â€ť
â€śMs. Stockton, I canâ€™tâ€”â€ť
â€śI ordered thirty copies ofÂ New Adventures in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room.â€ť
â€śOh.â€ť The manager pursed her lips. â€śOh. I recall that
Then the manager winced.Â Uh-oh. Maybe not so good.Â Jenna drew a deep, calming breath, then asked, â€śIf you will get it for me,
Jenna closed her eyes.
â€śIâ€™m afraid we had some internal miscommunication. We sold
out of our stock of that particular title and an employee unfortunately failed to notice the hold
notice on your order. She put them on the shelf.â€ť
â€śHow many are left?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a popular title,â€ť the manager hedged.
Jenna leaned forward. â€śThe books are for pediatric cancer
patients at Childrenâ€™s Hospital. The Christmas party is at four oâ€™clock.â€ť
â€śOh dear,â€ť the manager repeated. â€śFour oâ€™clock you
Jenna nodded curtly.
â€śIâ€™ll call our distributor. If you can stop back byâ€”â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll need to deliver them directly to the hospital. To the
attention of Dr. Jenna Stockton.â€ť She removed a card from her purse and handed it to the
manager. â€śHereâ€™s the address. Take them to the information desk in the lobby. Iâ€™ll tell the
volunteers working there to expect them.â€ť
â€śBut we donâ€™t have a deliveryâ€”â€ť
Jenna folded her arms and gave the manager her best take-
â€śIâ€™ll do my best to have them there by four, Dr. Stockton. I
apologize for the inconvenience. Now, is there anything else I can help you with? I saw you
looking at the new Liza Holcomb thriller.â€ť She picked up the book and handed it to Jenna. â€śItâ€™s
a fabulous book. Scariest stalker story Iâ€™ve read in years.â€ť
Jenna quickly returned the book to the display
table.Â A stalker story?Â That was all she needed. â€śNo, thank you. All I need today is what I
ordered. Thank you for the help. You have my phone number. I trust if there is any further
problem, you will give me an immediate call?â€ť
â€śYes. Of course.â€ť
â€śPerfect. Merry Christmas, Ms. Thomas.â€ť
â€śMerry Christmas to you too, Dr. Stockton.â€ť The manager
gave her a bright smile that didnâ€™t quite hide the worry in her eyes.
Jenna headed for the door, glancing over her shoulder
before pushing it open. The elf was on the phone, the angel had been replaced at the register
by a reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman was on hands and knees beside the urn of mulled cider
wiping up a spill. She sighed. Angels with attitude aside, she liked this little store. She really
hoped they didnâ€™t let her and the children down.
Outside, the jangle from the Salvation Army bell ringer
mingled with the shrieks and laughter of children embroiled in a snowball fight in the park
across the street. Jenna tugged leather gloves from her coat pocket and pulled them on as
she walked to the street corner and waited for the light to change. Her gaze drifted back to
the snowball warriors. It did her heart good to see healthy, happy children playing, especially
after a morning like this one.
When the walk signal flashed on, she crossed the street and
cut through the park headed for her car, which sheâ€™d left in a lot a block away. Her thoughts
returned to her to-do list. She could save a few minutes if she bought cookies at the grocery
store instead of making the extra stop at the bakery before picking up Reilly from daycare. But
sheâ€™d promised Reilly a gingerbread man fromâ€”
Something cold and wet stung her cheek.Â What in the world?Â Reflexively, Jenna lifted her hand to her face and the remnants of â€¦ a snowball. Sheâ€™d
been hit with a snowball. Had the battlefield moved without her noticing and sheâ€™d been struck
by an errant shot? Or had the attack been deliberate? If that was the case, one of these
heathens was about to get a piece of her mind.
But when she turned to identify the culprit seconds after the
snowball landed, her gaze skidded over a group of youngsters to an adult standing nearby.
The pockets of a black wool coat concealed the manâ€™s hands. A black knit cap pulled low on
his brow and the matching scarf looped around his face shielded everything but his eyes.
Eyes that watched her.
A shiver of fear skidded down Jennaâ€™s spine. She whirled
around and picked up her pace. By the time she reached her car, she was all but running. She
thumbed the key fob and unlocked the door as she approached, then locked it again the
moment she was inside. She sat behind the steering wheel breathing hard, her heart
pounding. Her gaze locked on the path through the park.
Nobody had followed her. Chased her. Sheâ€™d let her
imagination run wild.
â€śYou didnâ€™t imagine the face full of snow,â€ť she muttered.
She should call the cops. File a report.
Sure. Be one of â€śthose people.â€ť Tie up a law enforcement
officerâ€™s time over a childâ€™s prank. Because surely, thatâ€™s all it had been. One of those kids
probably threw the snowball, and the guy dressed in black probably saw it as it flew by. Heâ€™d
watched her to see if sheâ€™d pitch a fit about it.
She slipped her key into the ignition, started the car, and did
her best to dismiss the incident. Forty minutes laterâ€”after stops at the dry cleaners, grocery,
bakery, and party storeâ€”she made it back to the office in time for her one-thirty appointment
with five minutes to spare. If sheâ€™d checked her rearview mirror more often than usual and
paid close attention to those around her as she completed her errands, well, she was simply
Whenever she had a few free minutes during the rest of the
afternoon, her thoughts drifted back to the troubling events of recent months. The
harassment had begun in October, although for the first few weeks, she hadnâ€™t recognized the
threat. Everyone got hang-up calls. She explained away the texts as wrong numbers. But once
online orders she hadnâ€™t placed began showing up on her doorstep, she realized she had a
Sheâ€™d thought sheâ€™d been a victim of identity theft. Sheâ€™d
spent an entire weekend canceling cards and changing accounts. Then last week when a
particularly difficult case kept her at the hospital until early morning hours, she came out to
the physicianâ€™s section of the parking garage and found the air had been released from each
of her tires.
Random vandalism, the police said. Teenage pranks. Jenna
wasnâ€™t so certain, but she didnâ€™t know who would be doing this to her or why.
As she exited Exam Room 4, her receptionist met her with
the news that her three oâ€™clock was a no-show, which meant she was done for the day. Jenna
tucked away her dark worries and turned her thoughts to the light and bright. Now sheâ€™d have
time to pick up Reilly from school rather than have his after-school caregiver drop him off at
Luck was with her for a change because a parking place
became available just as she pulled up. As she got out of her car, a bell rang, and the door to
the kindergarten classroom opened. Reilly was the third youngster out.
â€śMom!â€ť exclaimed her six-year-old son. â€śYouâ€™re here! Itâ€™s
time for the Christmas party, isnâ€™t it? Is it time for the party? Is Santa going to be there? I have
my list all ready.â€ť
â€śHello, little man. Yes, itâ€™s time for the Christmas party and
yes, Santa has promised to make an appearance.â€ť
â€śMe too, Reilly. Me too.â€ť
Sheâ€™d been trying to make the Santa visit happen for two
weeks now. Because kids grew up so fast these days, she knew that this might be the last year
that Reilly believed in Santa Claus. Jenna had wanted to make it a special event for them both.
For the initial effort, she had planned an all-day Saturday
holiday adventure beginning with breakfast at a pancake house, followed by shopping for gifts
for Reillyâ€™s friends, then a matinee performance ofÂ Rudolphat the childrenâ€™s theater, and
culminating with a visit to Santaâ€™s Wonderland and a conversation with the big man himself.
Theyâ€™d had a great time eating and shopping and watching the play, but as they left the
theater, her pager had gone off. Sheâ€™d tried again the following Saturday with a different
itinerary, but with similar Santa results. She and Reilly both were counting on â€śThe third time is
the charmâ€ť axiom working today.
Arriving at the hospital, she took advantage of valet parking
due to the amount of party supplies she had to tote inside. She loaded up a collapsible
wheeled cart with gifts and decorations and bakery boxes, then Reilly helped her tug it inside,
where she approached the information desk with trepidation. â€śIâ€™m Dr. Stockton. Do I have a
package waiting, I hope?â€ť
â€śBooks,â€ť the volunteer said. â€śYes, theyâ€™re here.â€ť
She reached beneath the counter then pulled out a box.
Jenna spied twice as many gift-wrapped items as sheâ€™d expected. The folded note taped to
the front of the box read, â€śYour complete order is
enclosed. In addition, please accept these thirty copies of the first book in the Christmas
Angel Waiting Room series as a gift to the children from the staff here at Hawthorne
â€śWell, isnâ€™t that nice?â€ť Jenna murmured.
â€śIsnâ€™tÂ whatÂ nice, Mom?â€ť
â€śThe Christmas spirit.â€ť
He nodded in all seriousness. â€śI love the Christmas spirit. I
wish it could last all year long.â€ť
â€śYou and me both, little man. You and me both.â€ť
The Christmas party that followed was a bittersweet
success. Local and a few national celebrities showed up to shower attention and gifts and
good cheer on the patients of Childrenâ€™s Hospital and their families. It was always nice to see
the smiles, but invariably, tears were shed too. The what-ifs and if-onlys were unavoidable.
Hospital events always caused Jenna to hug Reilly a little tighter and spend a little more time
on her nightly prayers.
The books Jenna gifted were well received by parents and
patients alike. Reilly finally had his visit with Santa, and Jenna shed a tear or two of her own
while she snapped photos of the moment with her phone.
In the car ride on their way home, Reilly bubbled about the
partyâ€”the food, the games, the gifts. â€śThere were a lot of dads there,â€ť he observed. â€śDid you
see, Mom? There were a whole bunch of dads.â€ť
â€śYes.â€ť Then, in an effort to alter the direction of the
conversation, she said, â€śI was surprised to see how many football players attended. How many
autographs did you get?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know,â€ť Reilly answered with a shrug before proving
that he was not to be distracted. â€śI thought Dr. David would be there. Why didnâ€™t Dr. David
Oh, Reilly.Â Dr. David Henderson was Reillyâ€™s pediatrician, a widowed father whom sheâ€™d dated
briefly last summer. â€śI told you he moved back to Minnesota to be closer to Bella and Jessieâ€™s
grandparents. Dr. Larimer is your new doctor.â€ť
Reilly gave a long sigh. â€śI pretended I forgot. I thought he
would make a really good daddy for us, Mom.â€ť
â€śWe really do need a daddy.â€ť
â€śReilly,â€ť Jenna said, warning in her tone. â€śPlease. Itâ€™s been a
long day. Letâ€™s not get started on that subject again.â€ť
She silenced him with a stern glance. Her son could be a
terrier when he got an idea in his head, and lately, every time she turned around, heâ€™d been
yipping and yapping about needing a daddy.
How about I just order one online?Â Everything else was showing up at the house. Sheâ€™d certainly have
more use for a daddy for Reilly than a yodeling pickle electronic noisemaker.
She switched on the radio, which was tuned to the
Christmas music station. Listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks hope that Christmas wouldnâ€™t
be late wasnâ€™t much better than the yodeling pickle. However, the music did manage to
distract Reilly, who sang along the rest of the way home, so she wasnâ€™t about to complain.
Her son helped her unload the car, and then he dashed
about the house turning on the lights of all of their Christmas decorations while Jenna sorted
through the mail. One envelope in particular caught her notice. Whitewater Adventure Rafting
on the Snake River? Her stomach took a sick little flip.
Dread filled her as she stared down at the envelope
addressed to JENNA M. STOCKTON, MD.
This was coincidence, surely. Just bad timing of an
advertisement that probably went to everyone in her zip code.
She slid the letter opener blade beneath the envelope flap
and removed the folded paper.
A reservation for one. Paid in full. January 23rd at 10:00 a.m.
She dropped the paper as if it were on fire. Her hands
trembled. Her heart pounded.
Her always-adventuring parents had drowned in a
whitewater rafting accident seven years earlier â€¦ on January 23.
â€śMom, can we read a story?â€ť
Jenna saw her son standing in the doorway with his stuffed
Rudolph beneath his arm. His request was a life preserver tossed to a drowning person.
â€śAbsolutely. I have a new book for us.â€ť
Because she wasnâ€™t on call tonight and she had no patients
she suspected of being in imminent need of her services, she poured herself a glass of wine,
traded her shoes for slippers, and settled into the overstuffed easy chair in the family room
with the copy ofÂ The New Adventures in the
Christmas Angel Waiting RoomÂ that sheâ€™d
reserved for her own family. â€śIn my lap, little man.â€ť
He bounded over to her, his face alight with joy.
Story time was special for them both. Sheâ€™d finished the first
book and allowed herself to be talked into reading a second and a third. They were negotiating
a fourth when she answered the doorbell to a pizza delivery she had not ordered.
By nine thirty, her doorbell had chimed eleven more times
with deliveries of eleven more cheese and mushroom pizzas. Jenna was allergic to
At nine forty-five she called the police.
Copyright Â© 2018 by Emily
March in The Christmas Wishing Tree
and reprinted with permission from St. Martinâ€™s
Eternity Springs #15
A delightful Christmas novel in the New York Times bestselling Eternity Springs series
from Emily March.
A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip
to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday
season all around him, he doesnâ€™t hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to
ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to
make everything in his life so right.
Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A
small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from
their past without any complications â€”until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When
Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all,
she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a
Christmas wish theyâ€™ll both find the miracle theyâ€™ve been looking for all alongâ€¦
Romance Contemporary | Romance Holiday | Holiday [St. Martin's Paperbacks, On Sale:
September 25, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250131720 / eISBN:
Like thousands of other Texans, author Emily March
grew up fleeing the
summertime heat at home for the beautiful Colorado Rockies.Â The daughter of Colorado
natives, Emily spent her summers at the rustic, 1930's era family cabin in the mountains west
of Denver, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and availing herself of the facilities (an outhouse)
only when she could no longer avoid it.
As an adult with a family of her own, Emily continued the tradition of spending summers in the
Rockies, and she insists that her sons were not permanently damaged when she made them
wear matching Oshkosh red-and-white-striped overalls with coordinating caps to ride the
narrow-gauge train from Durango to Silverton at ages 6 and 3, respectively.Â Emily still visits
the mountains every chance she gets, and she's happy to announce that the family cabin now
sports indoor plumbing.
Writing as Geralyn Dawson, Emily is the USA Today bestselling
author of over twenty novels.Â She is a three-time finalist for the prestigious Romance Writers'
of America's RITA award and a recipient of their Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year award.Â
She received Romantic Times magazine's Career Achievement award and its
Reviewer's Choice award.Â In 2009, the American Library Association named her romantic
suspense novel, ALWAYS LOOK TWICE, as one of the top ten romances of the year.
A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe
for jalapano relish has made her a tailgating legend.
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