Romance Janet Dailey Mistletoe & Holly

ISBN 13: 9780671606732

Mistletoe & Holly

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9780671606732: Mistletoe & Holly

A HEARTWARMING TALE OF CHRISTMASTIME ROMANCE -- BY ONE OF AMERICA'S ALL-TIME BESTSELLING AUTHORS!

With one leg in a cast and a heart hardened by bitter holiday memories, Leslie wanted only one thing for Christmas: a quiet and restful vacation at her aunt's Vermont home. But that was before she met the new neighbor...handsome Tagg Williams.

As the holidays heat up, Leslie finds herself in an awkward dance of attraction with Tagg, mesmerized by his warm smile and strong embrace -- and charmed by his sweet daughter, Holly. The more time they spend together, the more it feels like home...But even as her passion deepens, Leslie knows she will have to choose between the ghosts of her past and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to give herself and her heart to Tagg -- forever.

In a captivating novel filled with Christmas magic, Janet Dailey proves once again why she is one of the best-loved storytellers of our time.

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About the Author:

Janet Dailey is the author of scores of popular and uniquely American novels, including such bestsellers as Scrooge Wore Spurs, A Capital Holiday, The Glory Game, The Pride of Hannah Wade, and the phenomenal Calder saga, including the newest title in the series, Shifting Calder Wind. Her romantic fiction has also been featured in a story anthology, The Only Thing Better Than Chocolate. Since her first novel was published in 1975, Janet Dailey has become the bestselling female author in America, with more than 300,000,000 copies of her books in print. Her books have been published in seventeen languages and are sold in ninety countries. Janet Dailey's careful research and her intimate knowledge of America have made her one of the best-loved authors in the country and around the world.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

The sunlight glistened on the snow's icy crust, creating a diamond shimmer that dazzled Leslie's eyes. A frown of irritation crossed her usually smooth features as she made a one-handed search of her purse on the car seat beside her, looking for her sunglasses without taking her attention from the road. The snowplows had cleared the road two or three days before, judging by the melting piles of mud-spattered snow along the shoulders, but there were still slick patches where the plow blade hadn't scraped all the way to the road's surface.

Skidding on one of those icy patches was definitely not on her list of thrills she wanted to experience. Leslie Stiles had already had her fill of accidents for one winter. Her hand's blind search came up with the sunglasses which she immediately slipped onto the bridge of her nose, her hazel eyes instantly feeling the relief from the sun's glare on the sparkling white mantle of snow that covered the Vermont countryside.

A stop sign stood at the crossroads and Leslie slowed the car to a halt as she approached it. Melting snow dripped onto the car roof from an overhanging tree branch. The drops made a tinny sound as they landed. A dirty pickup truck that might have been green had the right of way. Her fingers tapped the steering wheel impatiently as she waited for its putting speed to carry it across the intersection.

The strain of the drive from Manhattan was beginning to show on her -- the strain and her own physical pain. Leslie attempted to shift into a more comfortable position, but the thick plaster cast on her left leg severely limited movement and position. It was a lucky thing the car had a lot of leg room -- and an automatic transmission. There was a steady throb of pain that tensed all her nerves and planted her teeth together. In her purse, Leslie had a bottle of pain pills, prescribed by the doctor, but they made her sleepy so she hadn't taken any, certain she could grit her way through the trip to her aunt's home. It was turning into more of an ordeal than she had thought it would be.

The pickup passed and Leslie made her turn onto the intersecting highway. She clung to the knowledge that she only had a few more miles to go. Already she could see the white spire of the church steeple poking above the tops of the trees.

There was a distinct New England character to the village nestled in the mountain fastness. There was something changeless and nostalgic about its steepled church and village green, and its old houses all in neat repair. Too many artists had captured towns like it on canvas, which gave even strangers the sense of coming home.

Leslie wasn't a stranger, but neither did she view it as home. When she approached her aunt's two story Victorian-style house on the outskirts of the rural community, she saw it merely as a refuge, a place to recuperate from this damnable broken leg, and avoid all of December's holiday hoopla.

No attempt had been made to clear the driveway of snow, although there was a set of parallel tracks going in and out. Leslie slowed her car to make the turn, barely noticing the man pulling a red-suited child on a sled in the next yard. The car tires crunched in the crusty snow as she wheeled the vehicle into the drive, stopping short of the side door.

Relief sighed through her strained nerves as she removed the sunglasses and smoothed a side of her sand-colored hair where it was pulled sleekly back and secured at the nape of her neck to trail between her shoulder blades. As December went, it was a mild day with the temperature hovering above the freezing mark, so Leslie didn't bother to put on the rusty-brown, fake fur jacket that lay on the passenger seat. It would only hamper her movements, and maneuvering her cast-rigid leg out of the car wasn't going to be an easy task.

Her crutches were propped against the passenger door. She pulled them over, so they'd be within reach once she was outside, then opened her door. Scooting sideways, she managed to gain enough room to swing her left leg around and aim it out the door.

The sound of footsteps and sled runners cutting through the snow's crust signaled the approach of the next door neighbor as she edged forward to test the footing before she made a one-legged attempt to stand up. It was something she hadn't mastered too well as yet, so she regarded his appearance at that moment as ill-timed. Broken legs and graceful movements simply did not go together.

Her smile was a bit tight when he hove into view with the sled in tow. Leslie tried to keep the flash of annoyance out of her eyes as she glanced toward him. He was tall, easily six foot if not more, which forced her to tip her head back in order to focus her gaze higher. A network of smile lines fanned out from the corners of his icy blue eyes, framed by dark, male lashes. The winter sun had added the finishing touches to the tan the summer sun had started, giving a certain ruggedness to his leanly handsome features. Hatless, his dark hair had a black sheen to it, thick and attractively rumpled by a playful breeze.

If it hadn't been for the strain of the drive and the nagging pain in her leg, Leslie probably would have found him physically disturbing. But her least concern at the moment was how good-looking he was. She just wanted to get into her aunt's house, take a pain pill, and lie down.

His gaze glittered down on her with friendly interest, yet managed to take her apart at the same time. He observed the annoyance behind the polite smile she gave him, the high cheekbones that kept her features from being average, and the rounded right knee where her long skirt had ridden up higher than her fur-lined winter boot. A stretched-out woolen sock protected the bare toes that peeked out of her left leg cast.

"Let me give you a hand," he offered and reached out to give her the steadying support of his grip while she held onto the door with her other hand.

"Thank you," Leslie murmured when she was upright and precariously balanced on one foot.

"You must be Leslie," he guessed and kept a light hold on her arm until she was more sure of her footing. "Your aunt said you'd be arriving today. I'm Tagg Williams and this is my daughter, Holly. We live in the house next door."

"How do you do." It was a polite phrase with little meaning behind it. Leslie wasn't intentionally trying to be rude or unfriendly. She was just tired and plagued by the dull pain of her injury.

The little girl had climbed off the sled and waded through the hard snow for a closer look at the white cast on Leslie's leg. She was all of six years old. Her beguilingly innocent face was framed by the red hood of her parka trimmed in white fur. She was wearing a pair of matching red snow pants and white boots, and a pair of white, furry mittens. Her eyes were a darker blue than her father's and blessed with long, naturally curling dark lashes.

"Holly, get the crutches for her, will you?" Tagg Williams took it upon himself to make the request of his daughter, so Leslie wouldn't have to make the hopping turn to reach them.

"Sure." The young girl half-climbed into the seat to drag the metal crutches out by their padded tops and gave them to Leslie.

"Thank you." She managed to keep her balance long enough to maneuver the crutches, one under each arm, and let them take her weight.

"Did you have an accident skiing?" the little girl asked.

Her mouth slanted wryly. "Nothing so glamourous, I'm afraid," Leslie replied. "There was a patch of ice on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building. I slipped and fell and broke my leg."

"I bet it hurt." She gave Leslie a wide-eyed look of sympathy.

"It did. It hurt a lot." Leslie didn't believe in downplaying the harsh facts of reality, especially with children. In the long run, honesty would do them more good than pretence or white lies.

Hinges creaked when the storm door to the house was pushed open. A fairly tall, gray-haired woman stood in the opening, dressed in a pair of loose-fitting brown slacks, a heavily knitted tan pullover with an orange and brown blouse underneath.

"She's here, Mrs. Evans!" The little girl named Holly hurried toward the side door to announce the arrival to Leslie's aunt. "I saw her car drive in!"

"And you guessed right away that she was my niece. That's very clever of you, Holly." As a former schoolteacher, it was an ingrained habit for Patsy Evans to comment on a child's observation, which she did warmly, but not effusively. Then she greeted her niece. "Did you have a good trip up, Leslie?"

"Yes. Thankfully there was very little traffic." The rutted tracks in the snow made by previous vehicles made it difficult to negotiate with the crutches when Leslie tried to keep her balance and open the rear car door where her bags were.

"I'll bring your luggage in." Tagg Williams moved effortlessly to intercept her and eliminate the need for the attempt.

"Thank you." This time her smile was much more genuine in its show of gratitude. His alert gaze seemed to notice that, too, and lingered on the curving movement of her lips. But Leslie was already busy making the turn toward the house, so she wasn't aware of his heightened interest.

"Most of the traffic comes during the weekend when the skiers descend on the area," her aunt replied to Leslie's initial remark and watched with sharp concern while Leslie awkwardly approached the house.

The concrete steps leading to the back door were clear of any snow or ice, although they were wet. Icicles dripped water from the eaves overhead, plopping and splattering when the large droplets hit the ground. Leslie paused in front of the bottom step.

"Can you manage all right?" her aunt asked, ready to go to her aid if she couldn't.

"Three steps I can manage," Leslie replied with a short, dry laugh. "It's the three flights of stairs to my apartment that were impossible." Then she remembered. "Damn. I left my purse in the car."

"Holly will get it for you." Autocr...

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