The Christmas Kite (Steeple Hill Women's Fiction #2)

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9780373786299: The Christmas Kite (Steeple Hill Women's Fiction #2)

A heartwarming novel of unconditional love, hope, and redemption follows an eight-year-old boy with Down's syndrome who brings his mother and a reclusive stranger, haunted by the death of his wife and child, together, giving them both a second chance at love. Reprint.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Award-winning author Gail Gaymer Martin writes for Steeple Hill and Barbour. Her inspirational romance Upon a Midnight Clear won a 2001 Holt Medallion, and A Love for Safekeeping was named 2002 Book of the Year by the American Christian Romance Writers.

Putting pockets in the backs of her family's hardcover books, then loaning them to her little elementary-school friends (never to see them again) should have been an omen that Gail was headed for a literary career.

In the third grade, her teacher wrote a note on her report card: "Gail is a good writer." This prophetic statement didn't surface fully until many, many years later when she began submitting church programs and services for publication. A Christmas worship service book was her first published work.

Yet even before that, Gail wrote poetry, Nancy Drew-style mysteries, love stories that usually ended with the heroine getting run over by a truck (she had a lot to learn), and humorous skits to entertain her fellow schoolteachers. 

Following a marriage that failed, Gail met the man of her dreams at a divorced singles' organization. Bob shared her love of family and music, values, and faith in God. They were married 11 months later -- a "marriage made in heaven," everyone said. And they were correct. 

After 15 years of marriage, her husband still tucks little presents in her luggage when she travels, proofreads all her work (and understands point-of-view -- a writing term -- problems), and doesn't leave her side without a kiss.

Retired as a public high school English teacher, Gail became an adjunct English instructor at Davenport University and a published author. She spends her time planted in front of a computer and loves every minute of it.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"Be careful, Mac." Meara Hayden's heart rose to her throat as her son wandered toward the white-capped waves. "Stay back."

He turned toward her, his mouth bent into a gleeful smile. "Birds." He pointed upward where seagulls curled and dipped above the rolling waters of Lake Huron.

"Yes," she yelled, forcing her soft voice above the dashing waves, fear gripping her heart. "Come back, Mac."

A new crest rose, its frothy cap arching high above the surface. Meara dashed forward. But too late.

The surging water thundered upward, crashing to the shore, then siphoned back in a powerful undertow. Mac staggered against its strength, and as the swell washed the earth from beneath his feet, the water dragged driftwood, debris and Mac into its roiling depths.

As a heart-wrenching gasp tore from Meara's throat, she dashed into the retreating wave, grabbed him by one flailing arm and lifted him to safety.

"Mac," she whispered, her voice quaking with fear. She clutched him to her side and guided him back to the dry sand.

"Wet," he moaned, pulling at his soggy shorts. Tears brimmed in his eyes.

"It's all right. They'll dry." To distract him, Meara pulled a wrapped cookie from her blouse pocket. "Here, Mac." Her ploy worked.

"Cookie," he said, brushing his moist eyes with a finger before grasping the treat.

Meara captured his free hand and continued their journey along the warm sandy beach. Glancing over her shoulder, she estimated the distance they'd wandered from the rough, rented cabin. Obviously her choice was a poor one. She hadn't considered the inherent dangers of the water... and her son.

Mac paused and gazed above his head. "Birds," he said again, waving the sugar cookie in the air.

"They're seagulls. You'll see lots of them around the water."

"Sea...gulls," he repeated, his face lifted upward toward her watchful eyes. He waved the cookie again in the birds' direction.

Without warning, a cluster of gulls soared over them and swooped down. His body shaking, Mac gasped, grabbed the leg of her slacks and buried his face against the denim, knocking his glasses to the ground. She held him tightly as the birds gathered on the ground around them and fluttered toward the sweet clutched in his fingers.

"Drop the cookie, Mac. That's what they're after."

It fell to the ground, and she snatched up his glasses and pulled the child away. The birds flapped their wings and screeched at one another, pecking and vying for bits of the scattered pieces.

She knelt at his side and pulled a tissue from her pocket to wipe his tear-filled eyes. "It's okay, Mac. Mama should have thought. The birds like cookies and bread, all kinds of food. We'll be more careful next time."

He nodded, dragging his arm across his dripping nose. "Next time," he agreed.

Meara pulled his arm away from his face and wiped the moisture with a tissue. "What about your hankie? What does Mama tell you?"

He looked thoughtfully, his dark brown almond-shaped eyes squinting into hers. "Use a hankie."

"That's right. Not your arm, remember?" She used another tissue to clean the sand from his glasses and popped them onto his blunt, upturned nose.

He grinned, and, having forgotten his fear of the birds, he scuttled off ahead of her.

Waves. Birds. She hesitated, wondering if they should return to the gloom of their cabin. The late-spring sun lit the sky, but did not quite penetrate the foliage of their small rental—two rooms and a bath— that lay hidden amidst the heavy pines. Only a few small windows allowed the sun's rays in, and they were situated too high to enjoy a relaxed view of the lake. Their only entertainment was a fuzzy-picture television—nothing really to occupy Mac's time. She looked ahead at the shoreline. We'll walk to the bend and see what's around the corner, she thought.

A warm gust whipped off the water, and she lifted her eyes to the blue sky dotted with a smattering of puffy white clouds. She felt free for the first time in her life. Free, but frightened. How could she survive alone with Mac? When she first left her deceased husband's parents, the thoughts of where she would go or what she would do barely skittered through her mind. Freedom was what she'd longed for. Freedom and a chance to raise her son as she wanted, not chained by the Hayden family's shame.

Meara focused again on her son. Mac's short, sturdy legs struggled through the sand, his curiosity as strong as her sense of release. He neared the bend in the shoreline, and she hurried to shorten the distance between them.

But a large island in the distance, rising into hills above the green water, caught her eye, and she paused to enjoy its lush expanse and the miniature-appearing village that grazed the shoreline. Mackinaw Island, she told herself, a Michigan landmark. She'd heard of it but had never been there.

On the left hillside a long ribbon of white drew her interest. The hotel? She narrowed her eyes, gazing at the pale splotch against the green landscape. The name edged into her memory. Yes, the Grand Hotel. So many places she had never seen.

Meara looked ahead and her pulse lurched. Mac was no longer in sight. "Mac," she called, dashing along the curve of the beach.

When she rounded the evergreens that grew close to the shoreline, Mac appeared far ahead of her, rushing away as fast as his awkward legs would carry him. His arm was extended, his finger pointing toward the sky. Expecting to see more birds, she looked up, but instead she saw what had lured him. A kite. An amazing kite, dipping and soaring above the water. The brilliant colors glinted in the sun, and a long, flowing yellow-and-red tail curled and waved like pennants in a parade.

She halted to catch her breath, clasping her fist against her pounding heart. Her fear subsided. Mac was safe, a generous distance from the water's edge. He turned toward her, waving his arms above his head. She waved back, pointing toward the kite, letting him know she saw the lovely sight.

He turned again and trudged forward toward the distant figure of a man who apparently held the invisible string.

Jordan Baird grasped the cord, fighting the wind. If he tugged too hard, the string would break and send his kite swooping into the water. If he released his grip, the wind could snatch it from his hand. With expert control, he eased and pulled, knowing when to let the wind take control and when to hold it back.

Pride rose in him. If he knew anything, he understood the aerodynamics of a kite.

A shadow fell across his line of sight and, surprised, he glanced at its origin. A child with soggy shorts and an eager face tripped through the sand toward him.

"Whoa, there, young man. What do you think you're doing?" He glowered down at the boy, pointing to the sign stuck haphazardly into the grassy sand above the beach. "Can't you read? This is private property."

The boy skidded to a halt, and a pair of frightened eyes shifted upward. "I can... read... some words."

"Can't you read those? It says, Private Property."

The child squinted at the sign and shook his head.

Jordan peered down—the child was maybe five or six—and reality set in. Perhaps he couldn't read.

The child's smile returned. Faltering, he lifted his finger, pointing to the soaring colors. "Look!"

"Haven't you seen a kite before?" He frowned at the boy, studying his face. The child's expression amazed him.

The boy's innocent grin met his scowl. "Kite," the boy repeated, gazing at him with huge almond-shaped eyes behind thick glasses.

"Yes, a kite."

The boy giggled. "Kite," he said again.

He peered at the child. Something wasn't quite right.

The child's mouth opened in an uncontrolled laugh.

Jordan's curiosity ebbed as his awareness rose. Down syndrome. He should have realized sooner. But certainly, the boy would not be walking this lonely stretch of beach alone.

He looked beyond the child's head and saw, nearing them, a woman hurrying across the sand. For a fleeting moment his thoughts flew back in time. A knifing ache tore through him, and he closed his eyes, blocking the invading, painful memory.

Despite his defense the child's intrusion penetrated Jordan's iron wall, a wall he'd built to keep the torment out. Memories flooded over its barrier, and Jordan struggled to gather the horrible images and push them away behind the crumbling stones of protection.

Yet the boy rattled the door of Jordan's curiosity and, wall or no wall, questions jutted into his mind. Where had he come from? And the woman. Who was she? "What's your name, son?"

The child pulled his gaze from the kite long enough to answer the question. "Dunstan Mac...Auley Hay-den." He punched the last syllable of each name as he faltered over the three words.

"That's quite a label for a young man."

The boy giggled and poked a fist toward him. "I don't have a label."

An unnatural grin pulled at Jordan's mouth. "I mean your name. That's a powerful name for a boy." His gaze shifted. "Is that lady your mother?" He tilted his head in the direction of the woman, keeping his eye on the kite.

The lad glanced over his shoulder and nodded, a wide grin stretching his blotchy red cheeks.

"What does she call you? Certainly not Dunstan Mac-Auley, I hope."

"Mac." He poked himself in the chest. "I'm Mac. What's your name?" He stuck his hand forward, offering a handshake.

Amused, Jordan shifted the kite string and grasped the child's hand but didn't answer. Instead, he eyed the slender, fragile-looking woman who came panting to his side.

"I'm sorry," she said, gazing at him with doleful, emerald-green eyes. "He saw your kite and got away from me." Her voice rose and fell in a soft lilt.

"You need to keep a better eye on him. The water can be dangerous." The muscles tightened in his shoulders at the thought, and he tugged on the kite string to right it.

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry. He's never seen a kite. Everything is new to him, and—"

Jordan's chest tightened. How could a child never have seen a kite? "How old is he?" Eyeing the boy, the throbbing sadness filled his heart.

A flush rose to her ivory cheeks, and her eyes darke...

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