Read A Forever Thing: A Contemporary Christian Romance NOVELLA Online

Authors: Debra Ullrick

Tags: #Sweet Contemporary Romance

A Forever Thing: A Contemporary Christian Romance NOVELLA (6 page)

BOOK: A Forever Thing: A Contemporary Christian Romance NOVELLA
3.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“I’m not. But if we go cut one down, we won’t have time to decorate it. And I wanted to help Officer Baker decorate his tree.”

“We’ll have plenty of time to do both, cupcake. You’ll see.” He turned onto the highway heading out of town.

“He calls me cupcake now, Mom. Cuz I’m so sweet.”

“When you want to be,” Kelly whispered.

Certain she never meant for him or Angie to hear those words, he glanced in his rearview mirror to see if Angie had heard Kelly. If she had, he wouldn’t know it because she stared out the window as they drove past a hill where kids were sledding on inner tubes and toboggans. Tate made a mental note to take Angie and Kelly sledding.

He turned the radio on and the three of them sang along with the Christmas carols that filled the truck cab.

In between songs, Angie asked, “Are we there yet? How much longer?”

“If we were there, Angie, we wouldn’t be sitting in Tate’s truck now, would we?”

Angie tsked. “I know that, Mom. What I meant was, are we

“Almost, cupcake. Another ten minutes and we will be.”

Angie sighed dramatically. “Okay,” she dragged out the word in exasperation.

One thing Tate had learned over the years working with kids was girls could be real drama queens. It never really bothered him though because he loved children.

He turned into his cousin Dave’s lane and rolled his window down.

“You still drive with the window down in the freezing cold I see.”

He glanced over at Kelly. She shook her head and grinned.

“Sure do. Just be glad I didn’t have it down on the highway.” He winked and turned his attention back onto the lane.

When he pulled into the yard near the house, Dave stepped out onto his porch, holding his barking dog by the collar. “Dandy. Hush.” Dave ordered the Dingo.

The second they climbed out of his truck, Angie ran toward the corrals. Several horses had their heads draped over the top rail looking on curiously. But that wasn’t what had him worried. It was the two draft horses nearby hitched up to a sleigh and tied to a hitching post that had his heart pounding like a jackhammer and his adrenaline surging because they were the ones Angie headed straight for at a dead run.

“Angie. Stop!” Angie completely disregarded Kelly’s command.

Tate raced toward Angie, stopping her several yards from the horses. “Angie, don’t ever run up to a horse.” He used the same authoritative tone he used while on duty. “You could get seriously hurt.”

She stared up at him. He waited for the attitude, instead tears pooled in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Officer Baker. I didn’t know.”

He bent a knee into the hard packed snow and took her trembling hand in his “I know you didn’t, cupcake. That’s why I stopped you. You never run up to a horse. It startles them and they can end up hurting you.”

She nodded, the tears still visible.

He stood and caught Kelly’s gaze.

“Here.” He offered Angie his hand. “I’ll show you the correct way to approach a horse, okay?”

She nodded, her smile filled with uncertainty. “Can Mom come too?”

Tate rubbed his chin. “Hmmmm. I don’t know.”

“Please.” Angie blinked her eyes up at him.

Who could turn down that face? Tate chuckled. “Okay. But just because you want her to.”

Angie beamed at his answer. The exact result he hoped for.

Hand-in-hand, he led them toward the team of horses. Holding both of their hands in his felt right. It was something he wished with all of his heart could be a forever thing.


♥ ♥ ♥


Kelly still couldn’t get over the change in Angie’s attitude. Before Tate, it didn’t matter what kind of punishment or discipline Angie got, if someone tried to stop her from doing something she wanted to do or even something harmful…like now… she would have pitched a hissy fit. Not this time. Angie clung to Tate and his every word as he explained the proper way to be around a horse. When he finished, he peered over Angie’s head at her. “Well, are you two ready to go tree hunting in style?” He yanked his thumb toward the sleigh.

Angie and Kelly looked at each other, then back at Tate. “We’re going in that?”

“You sure are.” The answer came from Dave who had on a black cowboy hat, a black cowboy scarf around his neck, black insulated coverall type pants, and a black coat that reminded her of the one the guy in the movie
The Man From Snowy River
had worn.

“Dave, these are my friends, Kelly and Angie. Ladies, this is my cousin, Dave.”

“Nice to meet you, Dave.” Kelly stepped forward and shook his hand, a hand covered with lined leather gloves. Just like in the movies.

Angie stepped forward and extended her hand. “I’m Angie.” She yanked her head once toward Kelly. “She’s Kelly. Er. Um. I mean. Mom.”

Dave grinned. “I’m so glad you clarified that for me, Angie. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Angie stepped back beside Tate and smiled up at him. Obviously Angie sought Tate’s approval and she adored him.

In all truthfulness, Kelly adored him too. Always had. In fact, she had a huge crush on him back in high school but he never showed her any encouragement that he thought of her as anything more than a friend. So, when Brad asked her out, she went, in hopes it would make Tate jealous. It didn’t. And over time, she had fallen in love with Brad. It wasn’t hard to do. Brad had been gentle and caring and had such a way with people. Her husband treated her like a queen, made her feel special, loved, cared for. The man constantly put the needs of others before his own and always helped others. Like Tate. Those two were so much alike. No wonder they had been friends. She loved them both. That’s probably why it meant so much to her to be able to spend time with Tate again. Besides, he was good for Angie. And, Kelly had to admit, he was good for her also.

“You ready to go?” Dave asked.

“Sure am!” Angie blurted out in overflowing excitement.

Everyone laughed.

Angie took Tate’s hand and walked slowly up to the horses. She talked to them as she did, just like Tate had shown her. When they reached the sleigh, Tate helped her into the sleigh first, then turned to help Kelly. When her hand settled in his, their eyes met. The softness in those brown orbs, along with the kindness in his gentle, boyish smile, had her heart doing a triple somersault. A heartbeat, and she broke the connection to keep it from going too deeply into the softest spot of her heart, and sat down next to Angie. “Well, this should be fun.”

With a yank up, Tate joined them. Only when he went to sit down, Angie scooted over, and Tate had no choice but to sit in between them. She shifted over as far as she could to give him room, but his broad shoulders took up most of the space. Their shoulders touched, and Kelly found with surprise, she didn’t mind at all. In fact, she rather enjoyed it.

Tate leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Cozy, don’t you think?” He winked and this time her heart didn’t flip, it sighed a huge sigh of contentment.

What was going on with her? This was Tate Baker. Her friend. More than that, she needed to keep whatever these weird feelings were under wraps. The last thing she wanted was for Angie to think she was falling for someone other than Brad.

“Did my daddy like horses?” Angie asked Tate as she snuggled in close to him.

“Your dad loved everything good.”

“He loved you then, too, right? Cuz you’re good.”

“He did. And I loved him too.”

“Do you miss him? Mommy and I do.”

To hear her daughter say how Kelly also missed him blessed her. Especially after all the times her daughter had accused her of not missing Brad or loving him.

Tate glanced over at Kelly before he turned his attention back onto Angie. “I do.”

“Did my daddy…?” The entire ride across a meadow and up into the trees, Angie asked question after question about her dad, about Kelly growing up, even about Tate himself. Tate patiently answered each and every one. She stopped only when they spotted a herd of elk.

For the umpteenth time since Tate’s arrival, Kelly thought about how wonderful it was to see Angie smiling and happy again. And she had Tate to thank for that. Her gaze slid to his profile. His face had matured since school and his shoulders had gotten even broader. His chin was more chiseled, his nose more masculine, and his smile brighter. Braces had done wonders for his smile. Not that there was anything wrong with it before, but the few teeth that were crooked, were now straight, and his teeth were as white as a sweet summer cloud.

All of a sudden, he turned her direction. “You done staring?” he asked with a knowing grin.

As fast as her neck would allow, Kelly faced forward. “I wasn’t staring,” she mumbled.

“Sure you were, but it’s okay. Stare all you want. I’ve been doing a lot of that with you myself.”

Kelly’s mouth fell open. “W—what? W-when?”

“Every chance I get.” He winked again. He needed to stop doing that or the only thing that would be left of her would be a pool of liquid.

“Officer Baker, are you listening to me?” Angie asked.

Tate turned toward Angie. “I’m sorry, cupcake, what did you say?”

Angie’s voice faded as Kelly’s thought traveled down an even larger trail than the one their sleigh traveled. Tate would make a great father. And an excellent husband. If only her heart wasn’t so full of Brad still, but it was.

Really, Kelly? If that’s true, then why is it Tate’s face you see in your dreams now? And why is it ever since you saw him again, he’s the one who fills your thoughts?

Good questions. All of them. She knew the answers to all of them too. The old crush she had for him in high school was rekindled. Only this time it wasn’t just a crush. Her feelings for him went deeper. Feelings she felt when she’d married Brad. How could she have fallen so quickly? Was she betraying Brad by loving his best friend? Or Angie? Could anything ever come of it? Or was she living in a fantasy world right now, hoping for something that wasn’t really there? Would reality be as sweet? She had no idea. But she knew she wanted to find out. She smiled.

“What you smiling about?” Tate asked.

Her eyes met his.



♥ ♥ ♥


There was something about the way she said ‘you’ that got Tate’s attention. He wanted to ask her why the smile about him, but didn’t get the chance.

“Whoa, boys.” In a large snowy clearing at the base of a forest of pine trees, Dave brought the team to a stop, shifted in his seat, and faced them. “This is as far as we go. As you can see there are a lot of great trees to choose from.”

Dave wasn’t kidding. Tate couldn’t agree more. It was like going to a Christmas tree farm, only these weren’t cut.

“Well, ladies, you ready to hunt down that tree?”

“Yeah.” Angie jumped up, her grin spread from ear to ear. Suddenly, her smile dropped, and she sat down abruptly. “Sorry, Officer Baker. I didn’t scare the horses, did I?” Concern wrinkled her forehead.

He tapped her on the end of her nose. “No, cupcake, you didn’t. But you were smart to recognize how you might have with your sudden movement. Good job, Angie.” He held his hand up for a high five.

Angie relaxed and high-fived him.

He climbed out of the sleigh first and helped them down. From the back of the sleigh, he grabbed the chain saw Dave had back there. “You want to go with us, Dave?”

“No. I’m good. You three go ahead.” He put his feet up on the frame, crossed them at the ankles, and leaned back with his arms behind his head. “Take your time and enjoy yourselves. I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet.”

“Thanks, Cuzz.” To the ladies he said, “Let’s go.”

They trekked out through the foot-deep snow. With her short little legs, Angie struggled to walk in the snow so Tate stopped. He set the chain saw down and squatted down enough that Angie would be able to climb onto his back. “Get on my back, cupcake. I’ll carry you.”

“I can carry her.” Kelly stepped closer to them.

“I want Officer Baker to carry me. Please, Mom.”

“Yeah, please, Mom.” He batted his eyes.

“Two against one. Guess I lose.”

“Yay.” Angie wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Hold on.” Tate leaned over and picked up the small chain saw. When he stood, Angie hooked her legs around his waist.

They reached a place where the snow wasn’t as deep. Tate pointed out several trees to them, but none of them would do.

Angie hopped down and ran up to a pine tree so perfect that if he didn’t know better he’d think the thing was fake. “That one it is.” He leaned over and opened the chain saw case.


Something hit his backside. Surprised, he stood and turned around.

“I didn’t do it.” Angie held up her hands. She used her eyeballs and her mouth to steer Tate to Kelly, only a few feet beside her.

Tate laughed and shifted his attention to Kelly. She stood there with an ornery grin and her eyebrows bouncing playfully as she packed a pile of snow into a ball.

BOOK: A Forever Thing: A Contemporary Christian Romance NOVELLA
3.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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