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Christmas Came Early - A Midnight Clear Release Day

It's release day! The blog is all decorated up for Halloween and here I am giving you a Christmas story. Weird, I know. Last year's visit to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield during the Luminary Ceremony put me in the mood to write a Christmas story. This is it.

Also, it's kind of based on a true story. My great-great-great grandpa disappeared from his home one day never to be seen (by his family) again. You can read the author's note at the end of the story to learn more about Thomas Jefferson Turner who vanished. Luckily, Tal Gold, the hero here gets a different ending.

About the Book:
Genre: historical romance
Word count: 9500
Get it at: Amazon

A Christmas miracle could make broken dreams whole again.

Two years have passed since Tal Gold's disappearance, but his wife Olivia isn't ready to put away her mourning clothes. Coerced into a Christmas party by her sister-in-law, she relives her memories of the evening she met Tal and their Christmases since. There's no hope of his return, but no way she can move forward.

During Tal's absence, he's experienced the worst of humanity and has the scars to prove it. His greatest wish since recovering his identity is to return to his beloved wife, but can Olivia accept the broken man who shows up on Christmas Eve?

December, 1877
Olivia dreaded the moment the musical portion of the evening arrived. She lingered near the refreshments, prolonging her rather watery punch to avoid another night of everyone making fun of her lack of musical skills.
The sounds coming from the sitting room were cheery. A few more moments and she'd join everyone else. If she didn't, Milt would come looking for her and he would tease her something awful. She set her empty cup on the tray designated for dirty dishes and rounded the refreshment table.
Milt surged through the doorway from the foyer with snow on his shoulders and in his golden brown hair. He had another man by the arm. “Don't be shy. There are some pretty ladies in the sitting room and they'll be anxious to make your acquaintance.”
“I just got off a train. I don't need to meet any ladies yet.” The stranger brushed snow from his hair. “I'm rumpled, I'm exhausted, I'm starving to—” His mouth shut. “Miss.”
Milt glanced at her and snorted. “That's my sister Olivia. The bratty one I told you about. Olivia, this is Talbert Gold.”
She met Tal's gaze. Milt's words barely penetrated her mind. “Hello.”
“My friends call me Tal.” He removed his hat and pressed it to his chest. His hair was darker than her brother's, his eyes bright blue and glowing in the lamplight. “You didn't tell me she's beautiful too.”
Her face heated and she ducked her head. “How kind. Milt didn't mention he has friends who are also gentlemen.”
“Flirting?” Milt looked between them. “The party is in the other room. Olivia, why aren't you with them? Afraid you'll make all the needles drop off the tree with your singing?”
“No. I was thirsty.” She pinched her lips together. How dare he embarrass her in front of a stranger? But he wouldn't be her little brother if he didn't.
“I don't mind a bit of singing. I'm sure you can't be all that bad. May I?” Tal offered his arm.
“Certainly.” She accepted. Her hand fit right at his elbow and he wasn't so uncomfortably tall that she had to strain her neck to look up at him. “How do you have the misfortune of knowing Milt?”
“You haven't heard this story?” Tal's eyebrows rose and his mouth curled up in a grin. “Our acquaintance began the day he got himself into an illegal horse race down in Branson. He rode his poor horse so hard, he beat the saddle all to pieces. The girth broke and he fell off like a sack of potatoes. The picture of him lying in the dirt would have been tragic if it hadn't been so funny.”
He deserved whatever he got if he'd harmed an innocent animal trying to win a race he shouldn't have been running in the first place. “Milt! How could you ride your horse that way? You know better.”
“I didn't do anything but put him through his paces. You know Thunder can beat any horse going. It was a shoddy saddle I picked up cheap. Tal can verify the poor quality. Stop telling tales on me, Tal.” Milt wrinkled his nose. “That's a low thing for a friend to do.”
“All right, it was about the cheapest saddle anyone could buy. I swear the horse wasn't hurt a bit. Probably just as startled as poor Milt though, when that girth snapped and suddenly he was without a rider. There was Milt, in a heap outside my shop, in need of a new girth and a stout drink by the look of him. He picked himself up, saw his fortune at landing in front of a saddlery and came inside. The rest is a friendship that has weathered a few rough nights and some good business deals.”
“Then are you on business in Springfield, Mr. Gold?”
“I came from the tanner's not an hour ago. Before that Joplin. I've been visiting relatives prior to Christmas. Had I known your brother was hiding such beauty in his descriptions of his bossy sister, I'd have made it my duty to visit sooner.” Tal's smile teased, but his words were serious. “I hope you'll forgive any stories he's told about me.”
“None come to mind at all, sir.” If Milt had ever mentioned Tal Gold, she couldn't think of it. “Not about saddlery or...other pursuits.”
“Please, call me Tal.” He covered her hand with his free one. “Shall we join the others?”
“If you like, Tal. Milt isn't wrong. I'm not much of a singer.”
“Then I'll sing for both of us. They tell me I'm good, but I tend to doubt it myself.”
They arrived in the sitting room in time for Mr. Cotter to release the first notes of We Three Kings on his violin. Tal found her an empty spot on one of the settees and stood next to her as he sang. His voice was like honey butter melting over a hot biscuit—comforting, rich, and left her wanting to hear more. When he sang, it was though she was his only audience the way he boldly locked his gaze with hers.
It was the first time she'd ever felt connected so deeply with another human being.