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Authors: Marianne Evans

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Snowflake Kisses

BOOK: Snowflake Kisses
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Praise and Awards

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Thank you…

Free Book Offer

 

Snowflake Kisses

 

 

Marianne Evans

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

Snowflake Kisses

 

COPYRIGHT 2014 by Marianne Evans

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Pelican Ventures, LLC except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

eBook editions are licensed for your personal enjoyment only. eBooks may not be re-sold, copied or given to other people. If you would like to share an eBook edition, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.

 

Contact Information: [email protected]

 

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
(R),
NIV
(R),
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

 

 

Cover Art by
Nicola Martinez

 

White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC

www.pelicanbookgroup.com
PO Box 1738 *Aztec, NM * 87410

 

White Rose Publishing Circle and Rosebud logo is a trademark of Pelican Ventures, LLC

 

Publishing History

First White Rose Edition, 2014

Electronic Edition ISBN 978-1-61116-463-3

Published in the United States of America

Dedication

 

I dedicate Snowflake Kisses...to YOU.

 

In the pages of every book I create, you're the one I work for, sweat for, rejoice for and cry for. You're the best. You're a reader, and you're about to turn the page and begin a journey from my heart to yours. God bless, and enjoy!

 

Praise and Awards

 

 

This talented author satisfies both heart and soul

~ NYT Bestselling Author Ruth Ryan Langan

 

“…Peter and Alexa are absolute magic.” ~ 5-Ticket Review, Love 2 Read Novels on Finding Home

 

Finding Home
, Winner, Selah Award for Best Novella

 

Devotion,
Winner, Booksellers Best Award for Best Inspirational Novel & ACRA Heart of Excellence Award

 

Hearts Communion
, Winner, Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year and ACRA Heart of Excellence Award

 

 

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me.

Psalm 40:11

 

1

 

I don't want to die. I don't want to die. Dear Lord, help me. I don't want to die.

The cold steel tip of a gun pressed into Vanessa Colby's ribcage, masked perfectly by the black clad, indistinguishable body of a thief. All about her hummed the bustle and verve of a snow-kissed London night. Shoppers pushed to and fro, oblivious as the Christmas season launched into high gear. She was trapped with her front side thrust against the open doorway of what she now realized was a getaway car.

“I've been watching you, duchess.”

“I'm not royalty; I'm simply a personal shopper who—”

“Shut up!” Hot, damp breath hissed against her ear, prompting a roll of nausea. “I know what you are. You're a looker. You're quite the sexy shaker and mover with all your well-endowed clients.” He emphasized the words well-endowed just hard enough to make them sound lascivious. Growing implications curdled Vanessa's blood. “Make one more sound and your pretty little face won't be so pretty anymore.” The words were a whispered warning that invaded her nervous system and slipped a cube of ice-cold dread through her body. “Move so much as a muscle and you're going to take a nice long ride with us to a spot where we can dump your delicious body wherever we wish. Someplace you'll never be found.” He hummed—a dark, sick sound. “Once we're finished with you, that is.”

The man's free hand slithered against her waist, sliding the silk and cashmere of her blouse and shawl upward into a messy wad. Vanessa gagged.

His wide, rough hand reached her neck.

His breath skated against her cheek.

Her world went into a tailspin, and she wobbled, but he tightened his hold.

“You smell so good, duchess. Maybe we'll have some fun with you anyway, no matter what you do.”

Cold air curved against her exposed midsection. The business end of the revolver dug deeper.

“What would you think of that, huh?” He shoved her against the open doorway.

Vanessa almost fell to her knees. She whimpered—and Vanessa Elizabeth Colby never whimpered. Expertly blocked from public view, her gaze darted left and right, seeking any means of escape from this nightmare.

The thief seemed to sense her fear, and feed off it, because he began to snicker. “I just love it when a woman sweats despite the cold. Throw those bags you're hauling onto the back seat. All of them. Now!”

For the first time, his voice rose, but apparently not loud enough. No discernible reaction came from those who passed by; any onlooker would likely figure she was just a holiday shopper standing before the entrance of Harrods, loading merchandise into a car. Vanessa licked her lips; she grabbed for air in shallow, desperate sips.

So, this hoodlum wanted the stash of designer clothes she carried—and the jewelry that accompanied. What Vanessa held was nearly fifty-thousand pounds worth of extravagant purchases just made by the Countess of Willembaech. Fine. He could have them. Vanessa tossed the bags into the car and squeezed her eyes shut, prayed in earnest.

Jesus, I know I'm fairly new to Your Kingdom of believers, but please hear my prayer. Please let me live.

Be still, precious child. I am your help and your strength.

The assurance of God's presence somewhat soothed her. Vanessa swallowed and attempted calm. “I don't know who or what you are. You can get away right now. You've got what you're after. Please just leave me—”

A sickening thud accompanied by a loud, pained groan echoed through the airway, and suddenly Vanessa was released from the gunman's grip. He toppled into a heap. His weapon clattered to the ground, bounced against the curb before it disappeared beneath the car.

Confusion ruled Vanessa's mind as a squad of security personnel rushed forward through the doorway of the store behind her, efficiently interrupting the escape of the gunman's accomplice and driver.

Thanks to…

“Are you all right, miss?”

Vanessa didn't bother to turn; she wasn't ready to face or acknowledge her benefactor yet. Instead, she sagged against the car while police lights sent blue strobes pulsing against the stately buildings and shops of Brompton Road. Her back remained trained to the famed green awnings of her store—normally her comfort and haven. She continued to gasp for air, swaying heavily as the world blurred. Black spots danced through her vision. Dizziness formed a haze that overwhelmed. Her legs buckled at the same instant a pair of strong arms captured her at the waist and behind the knees.

Just as Vanessa was lifted off her feet—in no more than a heartbeat of time—her world faded to black.

 

****

 

“Peter, I'm so embarrassed.” Vanessa's throat was dry, which made her words sound like crunching gravel.

“Vannie, hush up and rest.”

Lying flat, drifting slowly to awareness, she focused on the face of her twin brother, Peter Colby. She groaned as she shifted to her elbow and brushed shaky fingertips through strands of hair that were tacked to her cheeks. She gazed at a ceiling dotted by overly bright, recessed lights. Next, she noted a couple of familiar abstract paintings on a nearby wall and realized she was in the employee lounge on the fourth floor at Harrods.

The admonishment from Peter was as tender as it was gruff, redolent with his ever-present affection. Vanessa's return to consciousness did a good job of stoking her adrenaline. Memories rushed through her in a wild, kaleidoscopic swirl, leaving her sickened by residual panic and overcome by a helpless sense of terror.

Fully alert now, her pulse thudded and pushed as her blood flow kicked into overdrive. Her nostrils twitched as she recalled the astringent burn when an ammonia capsule had been used to rouse her from a dead faint.

Vanessa Colby, swooning.

She groaned all over again, rubbing at a knot of tension centered along the back of her neck. By careful design, her defining characteristics were regal sophistication, a collected cool and calm under pressure. Sass, too. Always sass and spark. Now this? Oh, how her head throbbed.

“Miss Colby?”

A low, velvety summons, touched by an American accent, interrupted Vanessa's inner diatribe. She snapped to attention and turned her head to address…

Wow!
What a magnificent looking man…truly.
The thought rolled in, a cresting wave. So did a starburst of attraction that neatly cleared several layers of mental cobwebs.

“My name is Jackson Merritt. I'm an associate of your brother, and I was fortunate enough to intervene. Are you all right?”

Are you all right?
That very same voice had asked her that very same question just seconds before she passed out.

Vanessa's breath caught as she experienced the phantom sensation of being lifted into his strong, capable arms. In the here-and-now, she blushed, her senses way off kilter, her skin overly warm. Suddenly, she was grateful to be reclining, stretched upon the overstuffed cushions of a comfortable couch. Jackson Merritt seemed unperturbed by her gaping, but Vanessa couldn't help herself. She attempted to rise, but he pressed her shoulders gently backward. Vanessa couldn't muster much of a will to fight.

“Miss Colby, please be still. You need to rest.”

Precious child, be still.

For some reason, the moment of God-speak she recalled from earlier, when she had been praying for her very life, played through Vanessa's mind. Once more, she experienced a mysterious, unexpected connection to her benefactor.

So, this was the man who had smartly and thoroughly disposed of the threat against her. Jackson Merritt. The man was captivating—tall, with short brown hair and dark eyes. The fine weave of a gray, three-piece suit caught her eye. As a fashion consultant, Vanessa admired the neat, polished image he projected—right down to the playful pop of color that came from a red pocket square and matching tie. In a random way, she wondered if the accessories were worn in homage to the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Vanessa felt her eyes go wide. Christmas.
The countess. The merchandise. What had happened to…

Although the world spun when she lifted to her elbows once again, this time Vanessa forced herself all the way to a sitting position. “I need to talk to Dawn”—she expelled a shaky breath—“I mean, the Countess of Willembaech. The goon who accosted me was after her jewelry and the gown she plans to wear for tomorrow's charity gala at Her Majesty's Royal Theater. The jewelry alone cost over twenty-five-thousand pounds. I have to see her. I have to apologize. I have to—”

“You have to rest.” Jackson was firm. “There's nothing to worry about. The countess's valuables are all set, and she's got them. The thieves are in custody, so all that's needed now is your testimony. Do you feel up to discussing what happened?”

Vanessa keyed on Jackson once more, loving the timbre of his voice, the accent. It was smooth and rich like chocolate done warm. Still, she puzzled. Who exactly
was
this gentleman? Before she could respond, a security detail from the store, along with a pair of uniformed policemen moved forward, seeming ready to take her statement.

“I…I suppose I can. First, may I please have a cup of tea?”

Jackson moved to fulfill the request, which quickened Vanessa's pulse. A response to being cared for by him. And, he moved with a grace and agility that captured her imagination. Standing at the beverage service counter, he looked over his shoulder. Dark brown eyes—nearly coal—struck tingling and awareness into her spirit.

BOOK: Snowflake Kisses
6.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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