Authors: Maggie Ryan
Hunter’s Ridge, Book Four
©2015 by Blushing Books® and Maggie Ryan
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Table of Contents:
The Women of Wintercrest and Hunter's Ridge series celebrate the love discovered and shared by women who aren't afraid to explore that secret need to surrender to the men they love. This book is dedicated to all women, and to the men who are blessed enough to share in the passion of these women as well as love, protect and cherish the little ones inside.
An excerpt from Reunion - Hunter's Ridge: Book Three
The house was filled with the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon and spices as Lucy and Louisa moved downstairs, hand in hand. Entering the kitchen, they found that Ettie and Franny were at the tall worktable, making cones from prettily patterned paper. A huge pile waiting to be filled was testament to the fact they'd been working for a while.
"I'm so glad you are up," Ettie said as she glued another cone together. "We sort of stole the idea from Lord Northbridge. Lucas said we could fill them with candy and hand them out to the children in the pageant tonight."
"I'm sure Lord Northbridge would be delighted that his gift to us is being extended to others. What can we do to help?" Louisa asked.
"You can start filling them or help Bea and Mrs. Williams package the biscuits." Lucy moved to help wrap biscuits in brown paper, each packet tied with ribbon, a piece of holly added for a final decoration.
When Lucas and Edward entered an hour later, they found the girls laughing and baskets filled with the cones and wrapped treats. Edith was attempting to sweep the girls from her domain. "Go on now; I've got dinner to make."
Lucy went to her Papa, lifting up onto her toes to kiss his cheek. His arms dropped around her, holding her close. "Shall we go work on the puzzle?"
"May we go see Samson and Delilah, Papa?"
While the others scattered to various points of the house, Lucas helped Lucy into her boots and made sure she had her mittens. With the hood of her cloak pulled over her head, he held a basket while she filled it with carrots and apples. This time when she slipped out the door, it was with her hand in his.
Instead of rushing to Delilah's stall, Lucy stopped at each one, giving each horse a treat and a few minutes of her attention. Lucas watched as she stroked each large face, telling every animal that they were beautiful or handsome, such good horses. She had been on a facsimile of a horse only hours earlier having her backside caned, and yet her love for the animals was obvious.
"You spoil them," Lucas teased as she fed Delilah another apple.
"I can't help it," she giggled. She had removed her mitten to have her fingers free to scratch between the horse's ears. "You spoil me, Papa."
Lucas wrapped his arms around her. "No, Kitten, it is you who spoil me. You give me so much, and do so with all of your heart."
After dinner, the family once more piled into the carriages, each person carrying a basket or wrapped gifts to be distributed to the less fortunate. At the church, the air was festive as carriages discharged people full of the holiday spirit. Voices called out greetings and the solemn faces usually worn in church were bright with smiles as packages were piled on tables that had been set up in the foyer.
"It's wonderful to see so many people contributing things for others," Louisa said, as she and Lucy placed some of the family's gifts onto the table. The girls had spent part of the afternoon wrapping dolls, games, wooden cars and spinning tops. Molly, with Joseph's help, added her pile of wrapped scarves, mufflers and gloves, which she and the girls had been knitting for months.
"I know, it really makes the meaning of Christmas evident," Lucy agreed. "Besides, we have been blessed with so much." Bea and Franny were placing the wrapped Christmas biscuits onto one table while Lucas and Edward laid the smoked hams and turkeys on another. After the pageant, volunteers would stay to fill boxes with a selection of items to be delivered by the pastor and his family over the next week or so. By Christmas Eve, families all throughout the countryside would have a Christmas meal, and toys and sweet treats to give to their children. It was a lovely expression of giving from the entire church membership.
"What are you protecting so fiercely?" The question was asked by Dr. Fielding as he approached Ettie. Lucy smiled as her sister blushed, the basket of candy-filled cones clutched to her chest.
"Candy for the children," she explained. "Lucas said their parents would not appreciate it if I gave them out now."
"I can understand that," Dr. Fielding agreed. "Sticky hands and faces, or cheeks full of candy might distract from the pageant. I must say, it is awfully sweet of you to think of the children. I'm sure they will be very happy to receive a treat after their hard work." He gave her a small bow, shook Lucas's hand, and then entered the church.
Lucy noticed that Ettie's eyes did not leave the man until he disappeared from view. She looked up to see that Lucas was smiling, aware of his sister's sudden stillness after she'd been bouncing on her feet only moments before. When the organ began to play, he and Frank gathered their family together.
Lucas led his family into the sanctuary but instead of walking towards their usual pew, he motioned for Frank to lead Bea into an empty pew at the back of the church. Lucy stood at his side as Molly and Joseph, his mother and father, and Mr. and Mrs. Mayes joined the others. Franny was followed by Ettie and then Louisa and Edward. Lucy stepped in front of Lucas into the pew and smiled when he joined her. Being surrounded by those who meant so much to her filled her heart. The church was full to bursting. When Pastor Hawkins entered, his smile was wide as he welcomed them all. Though they began with a prayer, this evening was not like that morning's services.
He nodded towards the back of the church, where Grace opened the door. The congregation watched as the children began to enter, shepherds holding crooked staffs were followed by an entire heaven's worth of angels, their tissue paper wings and ribbon halos shimmering in the light from the sconces on the walls. Lucy smiled to see children attempting to be so serious and yet breaking into huge grins and waving when they found their families standing proudly watching. A soft wave of sound wafted over the church as a young boy entered, carrying a big star on a pole. He was followed by the three wise men, dressed in robes of purple and gold, each carrying their gift for the Christ child. Lucy's eyes filled with tears even as she smiled to see Joseph entering, his arm around his wife, his face showing a bit of reluctance to be so close to a girl. They were both dressed in plain robes of biblical times, though these children represented the couple that would raise a child who would change the world.