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Fairy Christmas, Darling


by Christine Arness

Fairy Christmas, Darling by Christine Arness

It's not every day a guy gets a chance to go from feeling like a zero to being a hero by saving a little girl's Christmas!

Delaney struggles with her daughter's worsening eyesight and their failing farm. She's got a new neighbor, a veteran who suffers from PTSD, but the "never give up" attitude of Lilly and Delaney brings him back to life. A frightening flashback causes Charlie to retreat, but it's Lilly's fascination with fairies that brings them together as a family.



 


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Release Date: December 4, 2014



Excerpt

Chapter One

 

“Get a clue, lady! Did you even realize your kid was ankle deep in the lake? I’ve got better things to do than to keep someone else’s child from drowning.”

Startled by the male voice blaring in her ear, Delaney dropped the spade she’d been hunched over for the past two hours and whirled, her abused muscles protesting at the pain of the abrupt movement.

Looking up, she gulped, realizing the angry voice had come from an angry man attached to her daughter, his fist enveloping Lilly’s tiny hand.

Delaney, her heart pounding, reached for the four year old smiling up at her and the intruder immediately released his grip.

“I saw a fairy, Momma! A fairy! I chased it but I couldn’t catch it.” The precious, piping voice with its singsong rhythm brought tears of relief to Delaney’s eyes.

But tension had turned her muscles into wires. How could she have lost focus on the most important person in her life? Crouching to Lilly’s level, she extended trembling hands to coax her baby into her embrace.

Lilly hurried to her mother. Still talking. “I’m gonna keep looking for my fairy, Mama. Wait and see, I’m going to catch her and show you how pretty she is! Her wings—they were, oh, so floaty—and the colors, oooh!, she sparkled, just like Grandma Nana said fairies do!”

The breathless voice made Delaney clutch at her offspring even tighter, guilt making her heart hurt as much as her legs.

With an indignant huff, Lilly protested, “Mama, you’re squishing me!”

Delaney relaxed her grip and held her little girl at arm’s length, gazing into golden brown eyes peering back with such trust. She squinted up at her mother through thick lenses that did little to improve her view of the world. A fairy! What on earth could Lilly have seen through her blurred vision that made her imagine she’d glimpsed a magical creature?

But there were more important things to discuss than Grandma’s fantasy tales. As usual, Delaney had more chores than hours in the day. Today’s outdoor task list included hoeing potatoes.

It had been an unusually hot July in northern Minnesota and the beginning of August was no cooler. As part of their usual routine when working outside, Delaney had parked her little girl under a nearby tree and instructed her not to move from the shade, “no matter what!’. Lilly faithfully promised not to even stick a toe into the sunshine and they’d pinkie sworn, her earth stained finger linked with Lilly’s small one.

The two of them had sung countless songs to help Delaney keep track of her little one, so many that her voice had begun to sound like a chicken with laryngitis. With each chop of the hoe, Delaney maintained a routine: swipe at the stinging sweat dripping into her eyes with the bandanna tied loosely around her neck, flex her fingers around the handle and glance over at Lilly. But somehow, she’d gotten caught up in the automatic movements of turning the soil. In pursuing that mindless routine, she’d lost track of the person who mattered most in this world.

“Sweetheart, I’m glad you saw something wonderful, but we need another talk about Mama’s rule that you can’t leave without permission—”

A grunt reminded Delaney a stranger was also listening, one who’d had to step in to rescue her child. His looming presence served as a reminder how she’d once failed again as a mother, this time with possibly disastrous consequences.

Forcing her groaning muscles into motion, she straightened from her hunched position, her legs trembling from both the exercise and the fear that continued to ebb and flow inside her. One arm curled protectively around Lilly, her fingers automatically smoothed back the cloud of dark hair that insisted on obscuring her daughter’s already limited vision.

Delaney offered the newcomer a stiff smile, his original gruff designation of her loving little girl as a “kid” ringing in her ears. “I’d like to thank you for watching out for Lilly—”

Again, his rumbling voice interrupted her. “Don’t you know how dangerous even shallow water is for kids? She’s not even wearing a life preserver! Playing in the dirt isn’t your job—keeping an eye on her is!”

“I know, I know, and it won’t happen again.” Delaney hated how her head kept bobbing like one of her barnyard chickens. Being lectured by someone whose scowl displayed how much he disliked both little ones and troublesome neighbors also stuck in her craw.

She decided to attempt a brief explanation, both to let him know exactly how this incident happened and to soothe her own conscience. “I thought Lilly was playing under the tree over there.”

Delaney waved her free hand toward the pine near the edge of the potato patch. A scattering of toys, including a riotously colorful herd of “My Little Ponies”, testified that an active child had spent a considerable amount of time there. “Listen, I got caught up in what I was doing, which is no excuse, but anyway, I can’t thank you enough—”

But Mr. Tall, Frowny and Rude didn’t buy a word she’d tried to sell him, not even a vowel. With a gruff, “Just keep an eye on her in the future—or get a babysitter if you can’t be troubled to watch her!” tossed over his shoulder, he lumbered off.

“I said ‘I’m sorry’!” Delaney shouted after his retreating figure. “Grow up and learn to accept an apology, mister!”

A muffled sound brought her spinning back to Lilly, whose baby soft chin trembled, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Mama, so sorry I forgot to stay under the tree and sorry I made you mad. I forgot I pinky swore when my fairy floated by and I just had to try to see where she went. Her wings—”

When her daughter’s apology broke down into gulping sobs, Delaney enfolded her into a soothing embrace and glared after the retreating form as he disappeared into the trees marking the boundary between their pocket sized farm and the neighboring cabin.

“It’s my fault for not paying attention, Lilly, not yours. Don’t cry, sweetness. He shouldn’t have spoken so rudely and I lost my temper and shouted at him—but I was also being naughty. Sweetie, you behaved better than both of us grown-ups.”

Lilly’s voice quavered. “I got my sandals all wet, Mama.”

“Sandals dry. Just like little girls. Why don’t you sit in the sun with me for a moment and we’ll cuddle. You’re all right, honey child. Hush, now. Hush.”

Rubbing Lilly’s back through the cotton of her tee-shirt and appreciating the feel of the sun warmed little body tucked against her heart, Delaney aimed a vicious kick at her spade, wincing when the toe of her sneaker made contact with the metal portion. Her neighbor may have saved her daughter, but he’d given her another reason to hate this farm and anything and everything to do with CSA.

 

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