If I Had You (Christmas In Harper Falls)

BOOK: If I Had You (Christmas In Harper Falls)
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub













Want to know how to motivate yourself to write a book? Have
your favorite football team lose the Super Bowl. On the last play. With an interception.
The next day I was so depressed I tuned out all media. No TV, no internet, no
newspapers — nothing. And I started to write. I’m still writing. As you can
see, a little motivation can do wonders. Football will play a big part in my
next series of books due out next year. And since I’m writing the ending? No
interceptions. Guaranteed. Happy reading everyone.


Mary J. Williams


Please visit me at these sites and leave a message or ask a












Harper Falls Series

If I Loved You

If Tomorrow Never Comes

If You Only Knew





SAM LAUGHTON EASED the rented four-wheel drive Porsche Cayenne
onto the turnoff for Harper Falls. The snow was thicker now, cutting his
visibility to only a few feet in front of the headlights.

Bad idea to leave Spokane. The car rental guy at the airport
warned him of the incoming blizzard. His advice? Get a hotel room for the
night. Harper Falls would still be there in the morning.

Instead of a friendly warning, to Sam the man’s words
sounded like a challenge. He was never one to take the safe way. When someone
told him it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done, Sam barreled recklessly ahead. More
often than not proving the naysayers wrong.

Some called it a stubborn streak; others cursed his
otherworldly luck. Sam was okay with the stubborn part. As for luck — he made
his own. From the time he was a small boy, he knew what he wanted. Money. Lots
of it.

Not that he grew up poor. His family had been and still was,
proudly middle class. His dad went to work every morning at seven, arrived back
home no later than six. Dinner was on the table promptly at six-thirty. Mom
happily took care of the house, her husband, and their three children. Look up
the word traditional, the Laughton family was the quintessential definition.

Sam adored his parents. They gave him a warm, loving
childhood. Even the town he grew up in was right down the middle average. Not
too big, not too small.

His brother, Ted, married his high school sweetheart; his
sister earned her degree, went back home, and now taught sixth grade at the
same school all three Laughton children attended.

Sam admired them all, and visited whenever he could.
However, it wasn’t for him. He wanted money, glamor, and fame. He’d dreamed of
excitement, travel, living in luxury twenty-four seven. And women. He wanted
beautiful, sexy women on his arm—in his bed.

Next month he would turn thirty. In the twelve years since
leaving home, he hadn’t just fulfilled his dreams. He lived a life beyond even
his teenage imagination.

Sam made his first fortune as a record producer. Artists
sought him out; he was known as a star maker. Then he turned his sights on the
movie industry. Untested, he knew no one would give him the artistic control he
wanted. Therefore, Sam put up his own money to buy the screen rights to the
hottest book in the world. In the right hands,
had the potential
to be that rare breed, a critical and box office success. Sam believed those
hands belonged to him.

Investors weren’t exactly lining up to back a first-time
producer/director/screenwriter. Sam wasn’t discouraged. He sidestepped the
usual money resources. He used his considerable charms on anyone who would
listen. This was not going to be a cheap production. He only wanted the best.
Best locations, best actors, best costumes. Best music. The last item being
what brought him to Harper Falls. Rose O’Brian.

Of all the women he knew, she was the only one who could say
no with any conviction. She turned down his offer to share his bed. Boy, had
that been a surprise. At the time, they were both single, healthy, sexually
active adults. He knew that about her because Rose was not a shy little prude.
When he asked her to share his bed, she told him in no uncertain terms that she
liked sex. Sex with men. She thought he was handsome, and intelligent. Yet she
refused. She just didn’t want him in that way.

Sam’s ego could take a little female rejection. He refused,
though, to let her walk away from
Rose argued that she had never
done an entire movie score. She didn’t think she was right for the job. He
didn’t agree. In the end, he got his way. Rose’s music turned out to be the
perfect complement to his vision. If the critics were right, come February,
they would both be rewarded with Oscars.

The last time they met in person was at the world premiere
. Rose’s big ex-football player future husband acted as her
very protective escort. Jack Winston trusted Rose. Sam, he wasn’t so sure of.

Before becoming a billionaire security mogul, the guy worked
in Hollywood as a bodyguard. Sam could take care of himself in a fight. Jack
was bigger, but not by much. Still, when he kissed Rose, it was lips to cheek
only. He didn’t want to find out who was tougher; he had a feeling it wasn’t

Rose half-jokingly invited Sam to spend Christmas in Harper
Falls. The invitation was sincere; she just didn’t think there was any chance
he would accept. She was right. Under normal circumstances, he spent the
holidays with his family. If not with them, skiing with friends. He never went
away with a lover. This time of year was always about family, and friends.
There were eleven other months to feed his voracious libido.

Sam cleared his schedule, ready to depressurize with his
family, when word came from his mother that she and his dad wouldn’t be home
for Christmas this year. An old Army buddy was getting married. Almost sixty
years old, this was his first time down the aisle. Sam’s parents wanted to
share in the holiday-themed ceremony. They were flying to Boston, and staying
until after the first of the year.

Colorado skiing was an open choice. Then he remembered
Rose’s invitation. To be honest, he was intrigued by Harper Falls. What was the
allure? From what he understood, the place boasted an array of people even a
city ten times the size would be proud of.

Besides Rose, there were her two best friends. Dani Wilde, a
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, and Tyler Jones, an artist on the rise.
Sam even owned one of her sculptures.

Then there were the two billionaires. They brought a
massively successful cyber-security company to Harper Falls. Why? They could
live any place in the world.

Sam turned onto the main street. Apparently, Harper Falls
shut down during major snowstorms. A few lights, from still open businesses,
shined through the blizzard with an eerie glow, but there were no other cars to
be seen. People wisely stayed home, out of the weather.

According to his GPS, the turn to Rose’s house was at the
other end of town. Sam had no idea what the condition of the road would be. She
lived on a mountain. He looked around, wondering if one of the lighted windows
was a hardware store. A set of chains might be needed to get where he was

Sam moved along at a snail’s pace, his attention on the
storefronts, not the road, when out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of
movement. What the hell? Reflexively, he slammed on the brakes, the back end of
his car swerving left, and then right before the whole thing came to a stop
crosswise in the middle of the road. Thank God for small towns and no traffic.

Sam opened his door, sliding out. He hadn’t heard or felt a
thump. Nor had he seen any more movement. Fearing the worst, he quickly walked
to the other side of the rig. What he saw stopped him in his tracks. No blood.
No broken body lying in the snow. Instead, he found a big, wet dog.

Unmoving, man and dog stood for several moments, staring at
each other. Sam in amazement. The dog appeared to be unconcerned by the
narrowly avoided tragedy he was almost a part of. His head cocked to one side,
his mouth open in what could only be called a goofy grin.

He sat waiting. Waiting for what, Sam had no idea.

“You crazy mutt,” Sam said, shaking his head.
“If I hadn’t noticed you at the last second, you would have been

Sam knelt, his hand checking the dog’s neck for a collar.
Nothing. He turned, his blue eyes meeting big, brown ones. The dog leaned
nearer, practically begging for a pet. Shaking his head with a chuckle, Sam
obliged, smoothing back the wet hair on the big guy’s forehead.

“Other than being soaked to the skin, you look like
you’re in good shape. Well-fed. Did you lose your collar and tags?”

Sam laughed again. Did he think the dog was going to answer?
The big animal had intelligent eyes, but he doubted speech was among his

“You go on home now. You’ve had your little adventure
in the snow. I’ll bet your owner is worried sick.”

The dog gave him one more look before trotting off the road
and down the sidewalk. Sam stood, his nose wrinkling at the smell of wet dog on
his hand. He picked up some snow, scrubbing off a few hairs and the worst of
the scent.

Climbing in the Porsche, Sam noticed colored lights
outlining the window directly across from him.
Even in the
falling snow, he could tell the place would be a cheery haven. The sales clerk
might be able to tell him his chances of getting up Crossfire Hill in his
four-wheel drive vehicle.

Sam hopped into the cab. Convenient. He could get some
information and pick up some flowers. Rose would be his hostess for the next
few days. While the gifts he came with were more than adequate, a bouquet was
never a bad idea.

Sam parked, turning off the ignition. Getting out of the
cab, he didn’t notice the big, grinning dog at the end of the block. Sitting.


LILA FLEMING KNEW opening the shop on a day like today was an
exercise in futility. The streets were deserted. In all likelihood, they would
stay that way until tomorrow when the snowplows cleared the roads. Right now,
she could be snuggled down on her couch with a cup of hot chocolate and that
new mystery she’d meant to read for the last month.

When she spoke to her brother earlier that morning, Alex
told her that’s what he and Dani were going to be doing. Snuggling that is.
Lila was sure that the lovebirds would find something more interactive to do
than read a book.

She asked herself,
Why am I standing behind the counter
waiting for customers who weren’t going to arrive?
Because she was
restless, that was why. She felt like something was about to happen, something
big. What and when, she had no idea. The waiting drove her crazy.

There was always something to do when you owned your own
If anyone asked, she always said the shop was what she knew.
Back in Oregon, flowers had been the family business. From the time she was old
enough to hold a garden hose, she helped water the plants, weed. Later, she
graduated to running the cash register.

The sudden death of her mother and father in a plane crash
was a shock from which Lila had never recovered. She was in college at the
time, Alex in the army. His leave was short, just long enough to arrange the
transportation of the bodies from Wyoming, attend the funeral, and jumpstart
the sale of the business. At the time, Lila was in no state to take over. She
was more than happy not to have the burden.

Sometimes she wondered how she finished school. From the
moment she heard about her parents’ death, Lila felt like she was walking
around in a haze of disbelief. A phone call from Jack Winston was what finally
snapped her out of her cloud of gloom.

Jack was her brother’s best friend, kindergarten through
twelfth grade. Alex joined the Army; Jack went off to play college football.
Lila knew they kept in touch. That they talked about her had come as a big
surprise. Jack asked her to come to Washington State. He and his business
partner, Drew Harper, were moving their company to Harper Falls. It was Drew’s
hometown; his family founded the place near the turn of the last century.
According to Jack, it was a great place to start over.

Lila didn’t need much convincing. She needed something new.
Something fresh. Flowers were all she knew; it made sense to open a shop. With
the help of Jack, Rose, and all their friends, her business thrived from the
get go. Last summer when her brother, fresh out of the Army, moved to Harper
Falls, everything was perfect. Or rather, it should have been.

It wasn’t that Lila was unhappy. She liked her life. Alex
was safe, and in love. She had friends. She dated some very nice men. The
problem was she once had dreams. Dreams that seemed unimportant after her
parents died. Now, four years later, she wondered if maybe she gave up on those
dreams too soon.

The bell over the door startled Lila out of her melancholy
wanderings. Surprised, she turned to see who was crazy enough to wander out in
this weather. She at least had an excuse. Not only did she own
she could close up at any time. Her home was above the shop. At the end of her
day, no snow boots were required.

“Good afternoon.”

“You think? I haven’t decided yet.”

“Maybe I can help get you there.”

Lila turned. She poured hot cider into one of the cups from
a set made as a birthday gift for her by Tyler Jones, Harper Falls’ resident
artistic genius. It was difficult to believe she knew people like Tyler, Rose,
and Dani. They were famous, celebrities. Not only could she wave when they
passed on the street, they often stopped to talk. They had dinner together, met
socially. They were her friends.

“Take this.” She handed him the steaming mug.
“Nothing bad can happen when you’re sipping a hot beverage.”

“I never knew cider was magical.”

“It isn’t.” She twisted over the counter, coming
back with something in her hand. “Unless you add a cinnamon stick.
Now,” she plopped it into his cup, “protection complete.”

Sam laughed. His eyes sharpened with interest when he
finally stopped being annoyed long enough to get a good look at the woman in
front of him. Curvy. Oh, he liked curvy. A mass of brown hair streaked with
gold and dark eyes shot with just a touch of green. She wasn’t tall. Then
again, she wasn’t short. From where he stood, everything was just right.

“I know you.”

“Have we met,” he asked, certain he wouldn’t have
forgotten this beautiful woman.


Puzzled, Sam watched as she walked back behind the counter.
he thought, appreciating the way her jeans molded a well-rounded butt.
Normally, he was a breast man. When she turned, he couldn’t help thinking —
JACKPOT. Great ass; spectacularly filled out sweater.

BOOK: If I Had You (Christmas In Harper Falls)
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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