He traced her chin with the pad of his thumb,
eyes locked on hers with an intensity that made her mouth go dry.
“No, Lizzie, I mean really alone, when I can talk to you without interruption
and when we’re not too exhausted to connect like we used to.
Where I can hold you and share what’s in my heart, pray with you,
and make love to you without anything else stealing your attention away.”
— “The Best Gift of All”
Home for Christmas Historical Collection
Brrrrr … it actually got down in the 40s one night this week in Osage Beach, which reminded me all too briskly that autumn is right around the corner.
And you know what else is right around the corner? Yep, before we can blink, carve a pumpkin, or stuff a turkey, the magic of Christmas will soon be here as well, with its glow of twinkle lights and the glorious and holy joy of the season. I can hardly believe it’s finally time for “The Best Gift of All”!! Yes, Lizzie and Brady come to the foreground this Chrismas in an O’Connor novella that I hope will help take you Home for Christmas!
And guess what?? Home for Christmas Historical Romance Collection is now available for PREORDER, so I would greatly appreciate you spreading the word, and here’s a Facebook/Twitter blurb you can use to cut and paste if you are so inclined:
And to get you in the mood for Lizzie and Brady’s story, here’s the jacket blurb:
“The Best Gift of All” by Julie Lessman
Everyone knows John and Lizzie Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?
You can PREORDER HERE, then check out a small excerpt at the end of this blog that will give you a taste of Lizzie and Brady’s novella.
Till next week, happy reading and happy weekend!
WHOOPS … I’d forgotten all about a blog interview I had coming up on THE WRITE WEB blog, so here’s a surprise giveaway of my upcoming contemporary Isle of Hope just for coming by to see me and leaving a comment. Contest ends Sunday at midnight, and winner will be announced here and on the Write Web blog, so do come by to say hi, okay? Here’s the link and hope to see you there:
EXCERPT FROM “THE BEST GIFT OF ALL”
“The Best Gift of All”
Home For Christmas Historical Romance Collection
“Are you hungry?” Lizzie asked. “I kept a plate warm, just in case.”
Brady gave Molly another smooch and put her down. His chest expanded and contracted with a heavy sigh as he kissed Lizzie on the cheek before dropping into the chair and closing his eyes. Blunt fingers massaged the back of his neck where wisps of cinnamon-colored hair indicated a haircut long overdue. “No, Lizzie, thanks. Faith sent a passel of fried chicken that Collin and I devoured.” He pulled Molly onto his lap. “But I’d love a piece of apple pie.”
She stiffened at the sink, suddenly remembering the pie she promised to make. She turned, brows in a slope. “Oh, Brady, I’m so sorry. I meant to bake the pie, honestly, but Faith asked me to watch Abby today, and the girls kept me so busy, and then Teddy had homework …”
He looked up, fatigue evident in the sag of his shoulders and the droop of his eyes. “It’s okay,” he said with a look that somehow made her think it wasn’t at all. “I don’t really need it.” He patted a washboard stomach as firm and tight as the day they married. “We’ve been so busy, Collin and I haven’t had time for the gym, so I don’t need desserts to make me go soft.”
Her eyes trailed from his broad shoulders down muscled arms evident beneath the thin cotton of his rolled-sleeved shirt, and a smile tipped the corners of her mouth. “There’s nothing soft about you, John Brady, except your head if you think I won’t make that apple pie.”
“I can live without apple pie, Lizzie,” he whispered, his gaze meeting hers in a manner that made the kitchen suddenly too warm.
“Okay, munchkins!” Lizzie clapped her hands to quickly herd the children to the door. “It’s past your bedtime.”
Brady snatched Lizzie’s hand. “Teddy, you think you can help Molly brush her teeth and tell her a story? I need to talk to Mommy for a few minutes.”
Teddy grew at least an inch on the spot. “Sure, Dad.” He grabbed Molly’s hand. “Come on, Mol, I learned a great one at school.”
“But I want Mama to put me to bed,” Molly whined, squirming free from Teddy’s grasp.
Lizzie glanced up, her expression contrite. “It won’t take but a few minutes, John.”
“I’ll let you wear my baseball cap if you let me put you to bed,” Teddy bargained, eyeing his sister with a quiet confidence that so reminded Lizzie of his father.
Molly’s gaze shifted from Lizzie to her brother, lip protruding noticeably. “Okay,” she muttered, but not without a pleading look over her shoulder. “But Mama has to tuck me in.”
“I promise,” Lizzie said, blowing a kiss. “Thanks, Teddy—you’re going to be a wonderful dad someday. Daddy and I will be in shortly for kisses and prayers, okay?”
Teddy led Molly from the room, and Brady lost no time in tugging Lizzie onto his lap, where she leaned against his chest as he told her about his day. His voice was as serene and mesmerizing as when Lizzie was a lovesick little girl of thirteen, and Brady the new business partner of her brother-in-law Collin. Closing her eyes, she smelled the peppermint candy he kept at the shop for children, and the scent ushered back the feelings of awe and hero worship she’d always had for John Brady.
She startled when he buried his head in her neck, his warm sigh tickling her skin. The scent of soap and ink and peppermint filled her senses. “I need you, Lizzie,” he said quietly.
She pulled away, heart racing at the gravity of his tone. “Why, John? What’s wrong?”
He shook his head, a faint smile shadowing his lips as he studied her. “Nothing,” he assured, the dark bristle on his jaw giving him an almost reckless air. So unusual for her rock-steady husband, an unshakable man of God if ever there was. His broad chest rose and fell as he fondled a lock of her hair. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since we’ve been alone?”
She squinted, trying to understand his question. “But, we’re alone every night, John.”
He traced her chin with the pad of his thumb, his eyes locked on hers with an intensity that made her mouth go dry. “No, Lizzie, I mean really alone, when I can talk to you without interruption and when we’re not too exhausted to connect like we used to. Where I can hold you and share what’s in my heart, pray with you, and make love to you without anything else stealing your attention away.”
Blood heated her cheeks and she swallowed hard. “What do you mean?” she whispered.
His quiet smile heated the rest of her body in a manner she hadn’t felt in a long, long while. Feathering her jaw, his fingers trailed her throat. “Twenty-nine years old, ten years of marriage, three children and one on the way, and you’re still the most innocent woman I’ve ever met.” He leaned in to nuzzle her ear. “I mean,” he emphasized, tone sober, “I need you, Lizzie—your laughter, your encouragement, your gentleness, your love—and not just in my bed. I need you in my heart and my mind, to feel your love like before, when it was just you and me.”
Her eyes drifted closed. Oh, Brady … we’re parents now. It could never be the same as before—didn’t he understand that? She was a mother, with responsibilities to her children …
As if sensing her hesitation, he cupped her face, eyes searching hers with a vulnerability she’d never seen in John Brady before. “Come to bed with me, Lizzie,” he whispered. “I need to be close to you, hold you, talk to you, pray about where I’ve been in my mind lately.”
She stroked his cheek, heart expanding. “Oh, John, there’s nothing I’d rather do.”
With a low groan, he drew her close, his mouth capturing hers with a passion that took her breath away. “So help me, Elizabeth, I grow more desperately in love with you every day.”
Brady’s hold stiffened as Lizzie looked up. Molly stood at the door in her nightgown, feet bare and tears swimming in her eyes. Her little chest heaved as she clutched a ragdoll to her chest. “T-teddy t-told me about Hansel and Gretel, and I’m s-scared a witch is under my bed.”
As always, Lizzie’s heart wrenched at the sight of her children’s tears, and without a second thought, she leapt from Brady’s lap and hurried to sweep Molly up in her arms. Planting a kiss on her nose, she squeezed her tight. “How ‘bout I leave your little lamp on tonight and then we’ll check under your bed together, and the closet too, before I tuck you back in?”
Another pitiful heave shivered Molly’s body as she laid her head on Lizzie’s shoulder. “Can you s-sleep w-with me for a w-while too … please?”
“Molly, no—” Brady began, but Lizzie cut him off with a plea in her tone.
“John, she’s so frightened, she’s shivering. Please—you go get ready for bed and I’ll lay with her for a while, okay? And then I’ll be right in, I promise.”
His gaze locked with hers, and she recognized a glint of the sullen mood plaguing him of late. Lumbering to his feet, he released a weary sigh, fatigue and wariness apparent in a body usually so strong and sure. “All right,” he said quietly, moving toward the door. He kissed Molly’s head, then Lizzie’s cheek with a look that held a hint of warning. “Don’t be long.”
“I won’t.” Her repentant smile begged him to understand while she kneaded his arm with gentle fingers. “I love you,” she whispered.
“I know,” he said dully as he let her pass, but somehow the look on his face said that maybe he didn’t at all.