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Authors: J.M. Madden

Tags: #Romance, #Military, #Christmas, #Xmas

Embattled Christmas

BOOK: Embattled Christmas
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Embattled Christmas

By
J.M. Madden

Copyright © 2014 by J.M. Madden

All Romance Ebooks Edition

Cover Design by James, GoOnWrite.com

Editing by Mary Yakovets

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Do not take part in piracy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Any logistical, technical, procedural or medical mistake in this book is truly my own.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to recognize all the readers that wait so patiently for my books. No, this isn’t Preston’s or Duncan’s, but I have a feeling you’ll love it anyways. And yes, they are coming!

Hubby, I love you dearly!!!

Madden Militia, you ladies are THE BOMB. I appreciate the support more than I can ever tell you. Thank you betas: Mayas, Sandie, Mistie, Andrea, Anima, Michelle, Karen, Rebekah and Margaret. And thank you Mary for rocking the edits!

Robyn and Donna, my buds…Love you girls!

Dedication

As always I have to dedicate this to my husband. Without your support and never-ending understanding these books would have never happened. I love you dearly…

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright Page

Acknowledgements

Dedication

Author Note

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Other Books by the Author

Connect with J.M. Madden

About the Author

Author Note

I wanted to clarify a potentially confusing point in the story.

I had a glitch in my timeline I had to figure out how to correct. Though Her Forever Hero was released several months ago I have had to go back in time just a little bit with Grif and Kendall’s relationship. Baby Jameson is only a few months old in this book and Kendall is not yet pregnant with baby number two.

When you read the book I think you’ll understand why I had to shift back in time a little.

Once the book has been out for a while we can talk about it in the
Lost and Found Discussion Group
on Facebook. You can join us there!

Happy Reading!!!

Jennifer

Chapter One


J
ohn blinked at
the look of rapture on Shannon’s lovely face, turned to look up at the towering float overloaded with lights. “Oh,” she sighed. “Look how pretty it is.”

She glanced down at him with expectation on her face and he couldn’t help but nod and smile. He didn’t get the whole Christmas thing. In the foster homes they barely even recognized the holiday. There was never enough money in the budget. They hardly had enough to eat, let alone get presents.

It was a commercial holiday blown out of proportion by stores to get people to spend money. He wasn’t going to tell Shannon that though. It would break her heart. He was willing to go along with whatever she wanted as long as it made her happy.

That’s why they were in downtown Denver watching the Parade of Lights. Rather than a regular date night he’d decided to brave the crowds and difficulties of traveling into the city for her. One of the five million commercials for the spectacle had been playing one night and she’d murmured that it seemed like it would be a fun thing to do. He’d known by the wistfulness on her face that he had to take her.

And he didn’t regret it. Even he had to admit that her joy and eagerness to see what was coming next was a little contagious. He didn’t like all the people or the crowds, but his anxiety was manageable.

Shannon turned to watch the next float come into sight. John tugged at her hand and she dropped down to his lap. They were on a little bank but the chair brakes were set. As her easy weight settled to his lap he marveled that she was still with him. It had been an interesting year, full of adaptations on both their parts, but he knew for a fact he had gotten the better end of their relationship. Shannon was amazing, showing him how to love more deeply than he ever could have imagined. No matter what his mood, she always greeted him with a smile and a kiss.

That was why he was worried. Over the past month she hadn’t been greeting him the same way. There was a hesitancy to her demeanor that was driving him crazy and he felt like his little piece of heaven was slipping away. The excitement in her eyes tonight though, was totally different. It made him wonder if he’d been reading more into her actions than was actually there.

Shannon turned her face up to his and he dropped a kiss to her smiling lips. She responded with enthusiasm, kissing along his jaw and neck. The soft cotton of her hat brushed against his cheek as she rested her head on his shoulder. “I love you, John.”

His arms tightened around her, bulky coat and all. “I love you, Shannon. You are everything to me.”

When she lifted her head, tears had filled her eyes. “I know I am. I still love to hear it, though.”

John tightened his jaw at the tiny criticism. No, he wasn’t as demonstrative as Zeke was with Ember, or even Chad and Lora in their new relationship, but he felt like he’d grown a lot since he and Shannon had gotten together. He told her he loved her every day pretty much and made sure she didn’t want for anything.

She turned her head back to the band coming down the street, her expression lightening. John locked his arms around her and wondered why he felt so unsettled.

*

Shannon eased back
into the cradle of John’s embrace and tried to be enthusiastic about the Parade of Lights. It had taken a lot of gumption for him to bring her down here and he needed to know that she appreciated it. John was a homebody. He would be content staying in every night, cleaning his guns or tinkering with some electronic device. They went out with the other LNF couples sometimes or down to Frog Dog, but even that was not very often.

In the past year John had really changed. For the better mostly. Yes, he was vigilant but not like he used to be. After all the mess last year with Wilkins stalking her and Lisa arranging Shannon’s kidnapping, they were allowed to be vigilant for a while. It gave them peace of mind. But Shannon had reached a point when she was no longer comfortable being on camera. They’d adjusted the ones in and around the house. The inside ones were gone. She’d put her foot down on that and it had been their first major disagreement. She’d compromised by letting him keep the cameras up on the outside and putting a couple of sensors on the driveway. He’d grumbled that her safety was at stake, but she had had to remind him that at that moment it wasn’t. In a few years when Gerbowski went up for parole they’d think about beefing it up again.

John had been pissed for several days and watched her more than normal, but they’d eventually settled into an easier relationship. Shannon was still waiting for him to pop the big question though.

She knew John wasn’t one for a lot of romance. He seemed genuinely surprised that she was still with him. But she was traditional enough that she wanted the whole enchilada—engagement, marriage, kids. If they followed John’s plan nothing would change.

She’d begun to drop subtle hints that she would like more, but he was either oblivious or chose not to hear her. Luckily she had some amazing supporters at work. The guys asked him all the time when they were getting married. But maybe that was part of the problem. He’d been put on the spot so many times he was tired of the question.

This Christmas things were going to change. The annual LNF holiday party was next week. Maybe
she
would propose to
him
. Something needed to happen soon!

As the parade began to pull to a close she played with the skin of his neck, down to the V of his flannel shirt to tug at the dark hair.

Chapter Two


C
had frowned in
consternation. “You did what?”

Mercy blinked up at him, her big green eyes swimming in tears. “I told Mrs. Caldora that she smelled like horse butt.”

He clamped his jaw shut in an effort to choke down the laughter, but he knew he had to be turning red. “And why did you tell her that?”

Mercy looked down at her twisted fingers in her lap. “She does. She tried to make me say something and I wouldn’t tell her.”

Chad frowned as her sweet little voice trailed away. Checking the rearview mirror he pulled into a bank lot and parked. This was going to take his total concentration. Turning off the ignition he twisted toward her. “What’s going on, little miss?”

Mercy glanced out the window, then back down at her whitening fingers. Chad reached out and rested his hand on hers, stilling their movement. He gave her a squeeze of encouragement. “You know you can tell me anything.”

One tear dripped down onto their clasped hands and Chad felt his heart clench. He was three seconds away from snatching the little girl out of the seat and crushing her in his arms. But she needed to talk obviously, or she wouldn’t have brought it up.

“She asked me where my father was and I wouldn’t tell her.”

Chad frowned at the way she phrased the sentence. “Okay. That’s completely your business.”

BOOK: Embattled Christmas
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