Title: Kwanzaa Angel
Author: Shirley Hailstock
Erin Scott withstood the humiliation of being abandoned at a high school prom by the man of her dreams. Channelling her personal feelings into work, Erin opened a department store which now flourishes and is about to expand. Just as her family gathers for the Kwanzaa celebration, her nemesis returns to town, opening old wounds and throwing her life in to passionate chaos.
Raimi Price regretted his decision almost as soon as he made it, but he couldn’t undo it. Now sixteen years later he’s back, hoping to stay, but reconciling with Erin Scott is a major priority. When he discovers they are both bidding on the same piece of property, his romantic plans stall. Then history threatens to repeat itself complicating matters more.
Can these two bridge the gap and find a lasting love?
“Can you help me?” Erin Scott felt the tug on her skirt and heard the little voice at the same time. She turned away from the stack of sweaters she’d folded and refolded at least seven times that day. The store was crowded with people taking advantage of the after-Christmas sales. Behind Erin stood a little girl about seven years old with long dark braids.
“My uncle said it was all right to ask a stranger for help as long as I went to the stranger and they did not come to me,” her young voice explained. “He also said a lady would be better than a man.”
Erin smiled as she stooped to the child’s level. “Your uncle must be a very good parent,” she told her.
“Oh, he’s not a parent. He has only me. I’m his favorite niece.” She said it with all the adultness a seven-year-old could muster. Erin stifled a laugh.
“Are you lost?”
“No, ma’am.” She shook her head from side to side. The long braids, clipped with red barrettes, slapped at her face. She had bangs that flowed dark and engaging to her eyebrows and eyelashes that Erin wished were her own. “I know where I am.”
“Then how can I help you?”
“It’s my uncle. He’s lost.” She checked over her shoulder. “He was buying a gift and I looked around. Then he was gone.”
Erin glanced about the store. Everyone was buying something. It was the second largest shopping day of the year, equal only to Black Friday. The store was so crowded Erin had left her office to join the sales staff.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. We’ll find him. Now what’s your name?”
“Alicia Marie Allen.”
She spoke distinctly, like she’d learned her name in nursery school.
“Okay, Alicia Marie Allen, my name is Erin.” She pointed to the small white name tag pinned to the lapel of her red suit.
“May I call you Erin?”
“My uncle makes me call big people Ms. or Mrs.”
Erin smiled broadly. She wanted to hug the child. “Well maybe in my case, he’ll make an exception. Now what’s your uncle’s name?”
Erin stiffened. She lost her balance, putting her hand on the floor to keep from falling. It couldn’t be him, she told herself.
“Uncle Raimi Price?” Erin asked, grasping at a straw, knowing she was wrong even before the child’s head bobbed up and down.
“Uncle Raimi Price,” the child confirmed with the same aplomb with which she’d given her own name.
Erin caught her gasp before it escaped. Raimi Price was in her store. What was he doing here? When had he returned to Cranbury, New Jersey, and why did no one mention he was in town?
The rumor mill here was as lively as it was in any small community. Cranbury was only a few miles square. She could walk it end to end in under an hour. Yet the grapevine had failed to get word to her that the man who’d dumped her at the senior prom was back and likely to cross paths with her at any moment.
The small hamlet in the center of the state was quiet and reserved with only a meager area they could call downtown. On any summer evening you could find people walking down the streets. At this time of year, they admired the holiday decorations and store scenes. Erin’s store sat in the center of town, near the lake. When she’d bought the old warehouse building, people called her idea crazy, but today those same people shopped there regularly and spoke to her with a smile and a nod. Any one of them could have told her Raimi was back. Yet none of them had. Had they forgotten what happened to her? It was years ago. She was thirty-two now, no longer a sophomore, and no longer in love with Raimi Price. But the pain of his humiliation would live with her forever.
What would Raimi’s presence change? Would they remember what he’d done to her? Of course they would, she told herself. It was a hazard of living in a small town. Everyone knew everyone else and memories were long.
“Do you think we could look for him?” The little voice brought her back to her position on the floor.
“I’ll—I’ll get someone to find him,” Erin stammered.
“There he is.” Alicia’s voice rose with excitement, and she scampered off toward him. Erin wanted to turn away, but she was crouched on the floor. She stood up slowly, fear making her heart beat faster, waiting for that moment when he’d make eye contact with her, the moment he recognized who she was.
In one hand Raimi had a shopping bag with the store’s logo on its side. With the grace of a large cat, he knelt to the floor and received the running child. Erin watched him hug her, then push her away, saying something reprimanding before pulling her against his chest and hugging her again. Finally, he stood, taking the child with him, holding her with only one arm. The other he used to pick up the shopping bag.
Erin hadn’t seen Raimi Price since his last day of high school, sixteen years ago. He’d humiliated her so badly at the senior prom that she never wanted to see him again. Yet here he stood, looking directly at her.
He hadn’t changed much in sixteen years. As a seventeen-year-old, he was the best-looking guy in school: tall, athletic, tight buns. At thirty-four any boyishness he had had long since vanished. The man approaching her was blindingly sexy. His skin was dark and rich like smooth silk. His hair was thick, closely cut, and he wore a small mustache. He still had that outdoor athletic look. Erin remembered thinking he reminded her of a Montana cowboy—rugged, strong, capable-of-anything—and how she’d wanted those strong, capable arms banded about her body.
Christmas in July Fete Sackful of Giveaways:
Grand Prize: $75 USD Amazon Gift Card
$10.00 Amazon Gift Card and e-book copy of A Very Romantic Christmas
(plus more prizes…)
Starts July 1, 2017 12:01 am EST and ends August 1, 2017 12:00 am EST
Author’s Favorite Holiday Food/Tradition:
For Christmas I love Sweet Potato Pie. As a tradition, at the first snowfall of the season, I bake cinnamon rolls.
Shirley Hailstock began her writing life as a lover of reading. She likes nothing better than to find a quiet corner where she can get lost in a book, explore new worlds and visit places she never expected to see. As an author, she can not only visit those places, but she can be the heroine of her own stories. The author of more than thirty novels and novellas, including her electronic editions, Shirley has received numerous awards, including the Borders Bestselling Romance Award and Romantic Times Magazine‘s Career Achievement Award. Shirley’s books have appeared on Blackboard, Essence Magazine, Amazon.com and Library Journal Best Seller Lists. She is a past president of Romance Writers of America.
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