A GIFT BEYOND MEASURE is hitting the ‘shelves’ today at The Wild Rose Press! Whoo Hoo!
Arriving home for Christmas, the last thing Jacob Scott expects in his house is a sexy, shotgun-toting stranger. Worse, his attraction to her bothers him even more than the gun. Still reeling from the deception of his long-time girlfriend, he’s not looking for romance.
Tessa Jones has learned one hard lesson—when everyone in your life has failed you the only one you can trust is yourself. Facing the whispers of the townsfolk and an arson charge, Tessa unexpectedly finds herself trusting Jacob with more than her legal troubles.
Struggling between the promise of the present and the hurts of the past, can these two lost souls overcome their pain long enough to discover a gift beyond all measure?
In all of her Christmases, Tessa couldn't remember a time when she'd baked cookies. If she left cookies for Santa, they'd have been store bought. Her mother was always too busy to bother with something as time consuming as cookie baking. And the group home didn't allow such activities. Someone probably would have burned the place down.
She was happy to let Jacob take control of the cookie making; it was his tradition after all. She satisfied herself with standing on the sidelines, handing him ingredients as he needed.
“Now, comes the important part,” he said. “Putting them on cookie sheets. They have to be just the right sized balls, or they don't cook correctly.”
She grinned. “Really? Do they taste bad?”
He nodded. “Yes, that's why you have to eat them before anyone else does. You don't want anyone to eat yucky cookies.”
Laughing, they each filled a cookie sheet with dough. Tessa noticed that more than one of his cookies were not the same size as the others. He caught her looking and winked.
She turned back to her task and sighed. It almost felt normal to be doing this with him. For a brief moment, she had a flash of them doing it together in future years, perhaps with children of their own. Ah, Christmas wishes, the stuff dreams were made of.
Best to remember reality.
“You never answered my question,” he was saying.
He finished his own sheet of dough and put both in the oven. “How did you end up in Spencerville? Most people leave Spencerville for a big city. They don't leave the big city for it.” He set the timer and faced her.
With her back to the island, she leaned against it, her hands gripping the cool marble surface. “It wasn't meant as my final destination. I was heading to Washington with a classmate from my cooking school. He wanted to take the scenic route through Montana and Idaho. His car broke down just outside Spencerville. After we got it towed and looked at, we knew we didn't have the money to fix it. So, we got rooms in the boarding house and found jobs. I got hired on at Baxter's Diner. He got a job with the feed store.”
Jacob raised a brow, but didn't ask any questions.
“We planned to stay until we got the money to fix the car, which we did in about two months. We were all set to leave town when I woke up one morning to find the car, our money and Bobby gone.” She brushed flour off her sleeve. “So was the daughter of the feed store owner.”
Trust me, he’d said. Ha!
“Bobby did leave me a note. Something about destiny and how he needed to follow it. He always was a little dramatic. Personally, I think it was just lust between him and Priscilla.”
Jacob leaned against the counter near the sink and crossed his arms over his chest. “When was this?”
His hazel eyes held interest. In her? Unexpected warmth surged through her. She cleared her throat.
“Two years ago. Old Man Baxter took me back, since I’d quit my job in anticipation of leaving. I worked there until....well, last month.”
“Did you love him?”
“Old Man Baxter? Hell, no.” She cleared her throat, picked up the bowl and moved to the sink.. She knew who he meant.
His lips twitched as he moved out of the way. “No, did you love Bobby?”
“I don't think so.” She put the bowl in the sink and rinsed it out.. “Mostly, I trusted him. I trusted he'd fulfill his promise and get me to Washington, to the new life we discussed.”
“A new life together?”
His interest was getting too personal for her comfort. She glanced at the timer. Maybe he’d end the interrogation when the cookies were done.
“Not the way you’re thinking. He had family there, but we talked about getting a place together. He thought we were already living together and that living together meant ….” She stopped. Good Lord, what was she doing? Jacob didn't need to know that about her.
He cocked his head. “Meant what?”
Having sex. She clamped her mouth shut and shook her head. Thankfully, the timer went off and she didn't have to answer. Hopefully, he'd drop the subject. Mercifully, he did.
True to his word, Jacob ate the cookies he'd made that weren't the right size. A bit of the lightheartedness returned when he did.
It was nearly ten when they finished washing the dirty dishes. She hid a yawn behind her hand.
“That was fun. Thank you, Jacob.”
He stood a few feet from her, hands flat atop the counter. “No, Tessa, thank you. It helps to remember the traditions of the holiday.”
A dizzying current raced through her, ending with a tingling in her stomach. She swallowed the desire rising in her breast. The desire to fling herself into his arms and beg him for a kiss like the day before.
“Well,” she breathed. “I'm off to bed. I still have to get up at four-thirty.”
Instead of moving toward the door, though, she stood where she was. Something in his eyes shifted. Her stomach did a flip. He stepped toward her, ran a finger down her cheek, smoothed his thumb over her lips.
“Merry Christmas, Tessa.”
His lips brushed hers in a soft touch. She sighed and he pulled her closer, kissed her harder. He cupped her head as his tongue parried deep into her mouth. She suckled it, tasting decant chocolate chip cookies.
She clung to him, to the promise he held in his eyes, to the promise his mouth gave and for this moment she wanted to believe them.
Shaky fingers slipped the buttons of his shirt free, then smoothed over the hard planes of his chest. A deep groan escaped him when she brushed his nipple. She paused, then teased the nipple again, eliciting another groan. Joy erupted in her heart. She did that to him, little Tessa who nobody wanted.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp water
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven 350°. Mix together butter, sugars, egg, water and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add oats, chocolate chips and pecans. Mix. Drop by the spoonful onto baking sheet and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light brown.
Find this recipe and 26 more in A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE COOKBOOK. Download it now, for FREE off my website.