Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Thanksgiving Treat by Leigh Riker




See the gorgeous turning leaves on my little mountain in Tennessee. I can’t believe it’s already November! That means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And after that, the countdown to Christmas will begin. I haven’t even thought about turkey (although, thanks to my daughter-in-law, I won’t have to cook this year) and I haven’t started my shopping.

But, actually, right now I’m caught up in all the excitement about Harlequin Heartwarming’s Thanksgiving Online Shorts. Thirteen—a baker’s dozen!—stories that center around the coming holiday. A different story will appear each Monday/Wednesday/Friday this month, which began on November 2nd.

Here’s how mine was born: In my first Heartwarming book, If I Loved You (July 2014), a soldier named Henderson appeared briefly via his emails from the battlefield, and this turned out to be the prequel to this new short story, “Her Thanksgiving Soldier.” From the start, he seemed to ask for his own story—and now he has it.

After ten years of war and too much loss, black-ops team member Caleb Henderson must decide whether to stay in the military—it’s all he knows and he’s loyal to his buddies—or to come home. While he’s on leave, his long ago friend Daisy McCall just might be his answer but she doesn’t want to love another man in uniform.

Caleb has never had a permanent place or a real family, and he just hopes to ignore Thanksgiving. Daisy, who manages a local rehabilitation center, isn’t about to let that happen. She can see that Caleb, her onetime friend, is burned out and on the verge of falling apart. Daisy hopes to break through his tough-guy emotional defenses while including him in her family’s holiday celebration.

Yet getting close to Caleb wouldn’t be wise and Daisy won’t risk her heart. Falling for him would also mean having to confront her past personal loss—and herself.

Will Daisy and Caleb be able to find their way back to each other? And their newfound love?

Here’s a brief excerpt:

On Wednesday morning Daisy kicked into high gear. After cleaning house for the upcoming holiday while Caleb apparently slept—he hadn’t shown up for coffee yet—she made her grocery list. And, oh, they had to pick up the now-dressed fresh turkey at the farm. Then Caleb walked into the kitchen. And Daisy felt her heart skip a beat.

She tried to focus on her list, but it seemed his image was imprinted on her mind. Sleepy eyes and tousled hair. He looked good enough to…love? Even after yesterday when she’d cried in the car, and he’d kissed her, she wasn’t going there.

“Good morning. How does a trip to the store sound?”

“Like torture.” He poured his coffee. “I’ll hold down the fort. Got a few calls to make. Other stuff too.”

“Really,” she said.

“Well, no. But I’m not a fan of turkeys—or supermarkets.”

“Too bad,” Daisy said. There was no way she’d leave him at home. Caleb needed to be around people. She had several ex-soldiers at the rehab center who were the same. Whether he liked it or not, she would keep trying to open him up, hopefully without his knowing it. “I need your help carrying that monster bird. And the rest won’t take long. You can let me know what you’d like for dinner tomorrow. Everyone gets a choice.”

“Not in the military,” he said.

She studied him, frowning. “Hmm. And you’re good with that?”

“For now. I’m trying to decide if it’s time to leave the team. Problem is, that only creates another problem. I’d be leaving my buddies behind. And could I even get a job? What job when the military’s all I know? Would I be able to fit in?”

“On the outside,” she finished for him.

“Yeah.”

“That would certainly be safer,” she said, as if anything was….

I hope you enjoy “Her Thanksgiving Soldier.” I loved writing it. And I’m betting you’ll like all these stories as well as the giveaways we’ve planned for some lucky winners this month. Oh—and did I mention all thirteen stories are free?

Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Holidays!


Leigh

22 comments:

  1. Can't wait to read yours, Leigh! Liz Flaherty is up today: http://bit.ly/1RZ27Op

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    1. Hop on over there, everyone, to read Liz's story!

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  2. I look forward to reading your story this Friday, too, Leigh!

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  3. Yesterday, on a blog I was reading, someone mentioned it was only 7 1/2 weeks until Christmas. I practically fell out of my chair in disbelief. Yikes!
    I can't wait to read your story, Leigh. Thank you all for offering these to us for free. What a treat!

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    1. Can you believe it? I need to start shopping! You're so welcome, Jill. Thanks for your support. We all appreciate it.

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  4. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this story, Leigh!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! Yours is my treat for today.

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  5. Can't wait to read your story this week, Leigh!

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  6. Wonderful excerpt. Now I have to find out what happens to Caleb and Daisy!

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  7. All of these notes about Thanksgiving and Christmas are beginning to panic me. But the story sounds great. Can't wait to see more of it.

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    1. You and me both, Roz. I am so far behind already. But I actually bought two presents just yesterday so I guess I have started after all. Hope you enjoy the story.

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  8. I'm with Roz! lol. This story sounds great and can't wait to read the whole thing.

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    1. Patricia, I'm glad the story appeals. It was fun to write.

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  9. Have this great image of the tousled Caleb in my head and want everything to work out for him. And Daisy. It's powerful and sort of primal that that comrades-together bond is often at war with the demands of man-woman love. That doesn't seem to evolve with the rest of us. Sounds intriguing, Leigh. Anxious to read it.

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    1. Poor Caleb. He is quite the mess in this story. I'm really happy I got to tell it, though; he was in the previous book for only a few lines of email to their team's leader yet he spoke to me right away. I love when that happens.Yes, that bond with his men is very strong. I guess we women have the primal experience of kids instead and protecting them.

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  10. Leigh, you've got me hooked already. The trauma and sacrifice our military heroes endure just wrenches my heart. I want them all to have happy endings. I'm already in love with Caleb and it sounds like Daisy is full of compassion even as she's fighting her own battles. Perfect combination for a rocky path to love that is meant to be. I'm so excited to read your story!

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    1. Thank you so much, Carol! Yes, Daisy is full of compassion. And, of course, love. Once they travel that rocky path, good things should lie ahead. I too have such respect for our military. BTW, I'm reading your Christmas Bell right now--and loving it! So cute and often funny.

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