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Authors: Nora Roberts

Holiday Wishes

BOOK: Holiday Wishes
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Contents

Also by Nora Roberts

Title Page

Copyright

 

Holiday Recipes

 

Home For Christmas

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

 

All I Want for Christmas

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

 

Special Excerpt from
Calculated in Death

About the Author

Nora Roberts’s

Holiday Recipes

Pop’s Pancakes

A longtime tradition in my family is Christmas breakfast. My parents’ home was always crowded and noisy, and everyone lent a hand—watching the light on the waffle iron, holding their plates out for more. We were allowed to fry the bacon or flip the pancakes on the griddle. But nobody—nobody—made the pancake batter except my pop. There were two huge bowls of it to feed the horde before we got down to exchanging gifts and ripping colored paper to shreds. Because there were so many of us, we often ate in shifts, crowding around the dining room table and spilling over to the breakfast bar. Wherever I sit, the first bite takes me back to childhood.
6 eggs, beaten
1 can evaporated milk
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
1½ cups regular milk (1 cup for waffles)
3 cups flour
6 tbsp baking powder

Combine ingredients in the order listed. Mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes to rise. For pancakes, spoon batter onto hot griddle. Be patient—don’t flip until bubbles appear.

Enjoy!

Plain or Painted Holiday Cookies

Baking helps put me in the mood for the holidays. There’s nothing like a little flour on your hands to start “Jingle Bells” ringing in your head. The tradition in my house goes this way: First put on an album of Christmas music. It isn’t possible to work over a hot oven without the proper setting. Gather your ingredients:
¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Optional: evaporated milk, food coloring, small paintbrush, colored sugar or sprinkles

If you have kids, this is the time to step back and let them do some of the work. It makes it fun, and the mess is almost worth it. Let one of them mix the shortening and sugar together. Let another one crack the eggs into the bowl. Then you can help by picking out the pieces of eggshell. Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Blend in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Now comes the time when the kids fight over who rolls out the dough. See that it’s rolled about 1/8” thick on a floured board. If you don’t have cookie cutters in cute little Christmas shapes, you should. We generally stick to the tried-and-true angels, Santas and trees.

When you cut the cookies, make sure to dip the cutter into flour now and then or you’ll end up with a jammed-up Santa. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Now you can either sprinkle them with plain or colored sugar and be done with them, or if you’re feeling adventurous you can use that little paintbrush. Divide small amounts of evaporated milk into several cups, along with a little food coloring in each. Then go ahead and paint. Remember, it doesn’t matter if Santa’s blue or the Christmas tree is red. And just add a little water as the mixture thickens.

Bake for six or seven minutes. Break off a couple of times to sing a round of “Deck the Halls.” You’ll feel better. You should have about four dozen cookies, but then, if you have children, forget it. When your husband comes home and asks what’s for dinner, shove a cookie in his mouth!

Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding

I do a lot of complicated baking at this time of year—time-consuming treats that keep me in the kitchen for hours. I really don’t mind, but there’s something to be said for simplicity. One of my men’s favorites is an old family recipe handed down through the Scottish branch of my family, through my father to me. It’s wonderfully simple and old-fashioned, something that can literally be tossed together when you discover unexpected holiday visitors are coming to call. Best of all, since it’s made in one dish, there’s little to clean up. I should warn you, most of the measurements are estimates. Experiment. It’s that kind of dish.
6 to 8 slices bread, torn into pieces
3 to 4 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup margarine, melted
¼ to ⅓ cup sugar
3 to 3½ cups milk
About ¼ cup raisins (it’s up to you)
Cinnamon to taste (I like a lot myself, maybe 3 tbsp or so. I really don’t measure—I go by how it looks.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix all ingredients, gently but thoroughly, in a casserole dish. Pop it into the oven for one hour. Can be eaten warm or cold.

Home for Christmas

Chapter 1

So much can change in ten years. He was prepared for it. All during the flight from London and the long, winding drive north from Boston to Quiet Valley, New Hampshire, population 326—or it had been ten years before when Jason Law had last been there—he’d thought of how different things would be. A decade, even for a forgotten little town in New England, was bound to bring changes. There would have been deaths and births. Houses and shops would have changed hands. Some of them might not be there at all.

Not for the first time since Jason had decided to visit his hometown did he feel foolish. After all, it was very likely he wouldn’t even be recognized. He’d left a thin, defiant twenty-year-old in a scruffy pair of jeans. He was coming back a man who’d learned how to replace defiance with arrogance and succeed. His frame was still lean, but it fitted nicely into clothes tailored on Savile Row and Seventh Avenue. Ten years had changed him from a desperate boy determined to make his mark, to an outwardly complacent man who had. What ten years hadn’t changed was what was inside. He was still looking for roots, for his place. That was why he was heading back to Quiet Valley.

The road still twisted and turned through the woods, up the mountains and down again, as it had when he’d headed in the opposite direction on a Greyhound. Snow covered the ground, smooth here, bumpy there where it was heaped over rocks. In the sunlight, trees shimmered with it. Had he missed it? He’d spent one winter in snow up to his waist in the Andes. He’d spent another sweltering in Africa. The years ran together, but oddly enough, Jason could remember every place he’d spent Christmas over the last ten years, though he’d never celebrated the holiday. The road narrowed and swept into a wide curve. He could see the mountains, covered with pines and dusted with white. Yes, he’d missed it.

Sun bounced off the mounds of snow. He adjusted his dark glasses and slowed down, then on impulse, stopped. When he stepped from the car, his breath came in streams of smoke. His skin tingled with the cold but he didn’t button his coat or reach in his pockets for his gloves. He needed to feel it. Breathing in the thin, icy air was like breathing in thousands of tiny needles. Jason walked the few feet to the top of the ridge and looked down on Quiet Valley.

He’d been born there, raised there. He’d learned of grief there—and he’d fallen in love. Even from the distance he could see her house—her parents’ house, Jason reminded himself, and felt the old, familiar surge of fury. She’d be living somewhere else now, with her husband, with her children.

When he discovered that his hands were balled into fists, he carefully relaxed them. Channeling emotion was a skill he’d turned into an art over the past decade. If he could do it in his work, reporting on famine, war, and suffering, he could do it for himself. His feelings for Faith had been a boy’s feelings. He was a man now, and she, like Quiet Valley, was only part of his childhood. He’d traveled more than five thousand miles just to prove it. Turning away, he got back in the car and started down the mountain.

From the distance, Quiet Valley had looked like a Currier & Ives painting, all white and snug between mountain and forest. As he drew closer, it became less idyllic and more approachable. The tired paint showed here and there on some of the outlying houses. Fences bowed under snow. He saw a few new houses in what had once been open fields. Change. He reminded himself he’d expected it.

Smoke puffed out of chimneys. Dogs and children raced in the snow. A check of his watch showed him it was half past three. School was out, and he’d been traveling for fifteen hours. The smart thing to do was to see if the Valley Inn was still in operation and get a room. A smile played around his mouth as he wondered if old Mr. Beantree still ran the place. He couldn’t count the times Beantree had told him he’d never amount to anything but trouble. He had a Pulitzer and an Overseas Press Award to prove differently.

Houses were grouped closer together now, and he recognized them. The Bedford place, Tim Hawkin’s house, the Widow Marchant’s. He slowed again as he passed the widow’s tidy blue clapboard. She hadn’t changed the color, he noticed, and felt foolishly pleased. And the old spruce in the front yard was already covered with bright red ribbons. She’d been kind to him. Jason hadn’t forgotten how she had fixed hot chocolate and listened to him for hours when he’d told her of the travels he wanted to make, the places he dreamed of seeing. She’d been in her seventies when he’d left, but of tough New England stock. He thought he might still find her in her kitchen, patiently fueling the wood stove and listening to her Rachmaninoff.

The streets of the town were clear and tidy. New Englanders were a practical lot, and, Jason thought, as sturdy as the bedrock they’d planted themselves on. The town had not changed as he’d anticipated. Railings Hardware still sat on the corner off Main, and the post office still occupied a brick building no bigger than a garage. The same red garland was strung from lamppost to lamppost as it had been all through his youth during each holiday season. Children were building a snowman in front of the Litner place. But whose children? Jason wondered. He scanned the red mufflers and bright boots, knowing any of them might be Faith’s. The fury came back and he looked away.

The sign on the Valley Inn had been repainted, but nothing else about the three-story square stone building was different. The walkway had been scraped clean and smoke billowed out of both chimneys. He found himself driving beyond it. There was something else to do first, something he’d already known he would have to do. He could have turned at the corner, driven a block and seen the house where he grew up. But he didn’t.

Near the end of Main would be a tidy white house, bigger than most of the others, with two big bay windows and a wide front porch. Tom Monroe had brought his bride there. A reporter of Jason’s caliber knew how to ferret out such information. Perhaps Faith had put up the lace curtains she’d always wanted at the windows. Tom would have bought her the pretty china tea sets she’d longed for. He’d have given her exactly what she’d wanted. Jason would have given her a suitcase and a motel room in countless cities. She’d made her choice.

After ten years he discovered it was no easier to accept. Still, he forced himself to be calm as he pulled up to the curb. He and Faith had been friends once, lovers briefly. He’d had other lovers since, and she had a husband. But he could still remember her as she’d looked at eighteen, lovely, soft, eager. She had wanted to go with him, but he wouldn’t let her. She had promised to wait, but she hadn’t. He took a deep breath as he climbed from the car.

The house was lovely. In the big bay window that faced the street was a Christmas tree, cluttered and green in the daylight. At night it would glitter like magic. He could be sure of it because Faith had always believed so strongly in magic.

Standing on the sidewalk, he found himself dealing with fear. He’d covered wars and interviewed terrorists but he’d never felt the stomach-churning fear that he did now, standing on a narrow snow-brushed sidewalk facing a pristine white house with holly bushes by the door. He could turn around, he reminded himself. Drive back to the inn or simply out of town again. There was no need to see her again. She was out of his life. Then he saw the lace curtains at the window and the old resentment stirred, every bit as strong as fear.

BOOK: Holiday Wishes
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