Read Home for the Holidays Online

Authors: Rebecca Kelly

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

ISBN-13: 978-0-8249-4786-6

Published by Guideposts
16 East 34
th
Street
New York, New York 10016
www.guideposts.com

Copyright © 2009 by Guideposts. All rights reserved.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.

Distributed by Ideals Publications, a division of Guideposts
2636 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 120
Nashville, Tennessee 37214

Guideposts, Ideals
and
Tales from Grace Chapel Inn
are registered trademarks of Guideposts.

The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from
The Holy Bible, New International Version
. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Scripture quotations marked (
KJV
) are taken from
The King James Version of the Bible
.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.

Cover by Deborah Chabrian
Design by Marisa Jackson
Typeset by Nancy Tardi

Printed and bound in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Introduction

I
t’s starting to snow, and there are some wicked-looking dark clouds heading toward us from the west,” Jane Howard said to her sisters as she came into the parlor of Grace Chapel Inn.

“A blizzard?” Louise Howard Smith, her oldest sister, looked up from her knitting. Her gaze went to the window. “In March?”

“Looks that way.” A few crystalline flakes made Jane’s long dark ponytail sparkle as she produced the small bundle of envelopes she had retrieved from the mailbox. “Did either of you listen to the latest weather report?”

“I heard the news at noon,” Alice Howard said as she brought her younger sister a steaming cup of hot cocoa. “There was a large storm moving across the Appalachians toward us.”

“I think it’s here.”

Concern appeared in Alice’s gentle brown eyes. “The forecaster predicted ten to twelve inches of snow for central Pennsylvania northeast into eastern New England.” She grimaced. “I was hoping it would skip us.”

“Well, it didn’t.” Jane shivered as she gratefully exchanged the mail for the mug and cradled it between her chilled hands. “I wish spring would hurry up and get here. I’m so tired of cold and snow and more snow. I think my chilblains are getting frostbite.”

“The next time you decide to go out to the mailbox, put on your coat and gloves first.” Louise completed another row of stitches in the pullover she was making before she glanced at the darkening window. The scrolls of frost on the glass were almost the same shade of silvery white as her elegantly cropped hair. “I thought it felt a little colder than yesterday.”

“I haven’t felt anything since December,” Jane complained as she picked up a crocheted throw and wrapped it around herself. “To think, for
this
I left sunny California.”

“Sunny?” Alice snorted. “You used to complain all the time about how cold and damp it was in San Francisco when you lived there.”

“True.” Jane gave a theatrical shudder. “Maybe I should try moving to Florida. Or Brazil. Or the Sahara.”

“A hot bath is what you need,” Louise advised. “We should check the firewood in the event that we lose power again. May I see the mail, dear? I’m expecting a letter from Cynthia.”

“Of course.” Alice handed Louise the bundle before she returned to her chair and picked up the nursing journal she had been reading. “We don’t have any guests scheduled to arrive, do we?”

“We don’t have any reservations until next week. That’s a blessing: With this storm the driving conditions will probably be atrocious.” Louise put on the reading glasses that hung from a chain around her neck and sorted through the bundle. “Why, look at this.” She extracted one thick envelope. “It’s a letter from Mr. Venson.”

“Ted wrote to us?” Jane came over to sit beside her on the sofa as Louise opened the envelope, which contained a single sheet of notepaper wrapped around a thick stack of glossy photographs. “Hey, he sent pictures too.”

“He said that he would,” Alice said. “I thought he had forgotten.”

“‘Dear Ladies,’” Louise read out loud from the letter, “‘I am keeping my promise to send you copies of the photographs I took during our visit to Acorn Hill. I think that they tell the story of what happened to us far better than I ever could.’”

Jane chuckled. “People won’t believe that story unless they
see
some pictures.”

“I also have a surprise for you, but that I must inform you of in April,’” her older sister continued to read. “‘Who would have thought that what promised to be the most dismal holiday of my life would have turned out the way it did? Until April, Yours sincerely, Ted Venson.’”

“What a lovely note.” Alice set aside her magazine as Louise passed the first of the photographs from the stack to her.

The snapshot showed six people, one of them a middle-aged man in a driver’s cap, standing next to a small tour bus.

“Oh, I think I actually took this one. Ted handed me his camera and asked me to take a picture the day they arrived in town.” Alice looked up. “Remember, Louise?”

“I doubt that I could forget, even if I tried,” Louise said as she passed another photo of the group for Jane to see. “What an impossible situation that was.”

Dimples appeared in Alice’s cheeks. “Now you sound like you’re quoting Max Ziglar.”

“Max certainly looked depressed in this one.” Jane handed her the second photo, then took another from Louise. “Yikes, and in this one too. Look at how he’s chewing on that cigar.”

The corner of Louise’s mouth curled. “I rather thought that look—and those cigars—were permanent fixtures on Max Ziglar’s countenance.”

“Here’s one of the group standing by a fireplace with Viola Reed.” Alice frowned. “Was Viola unwell that day? She seems a little pink in the face.”

Louise shook her head. “Ted took that photo just after Laura Lattimer and Viola had a clash over Viola’s English chandelier.”

Jane perked up. “You mean those two got into a tussle and you never told us?”

“It was a verbal disagreement, dear, not a fistfight,” Louise corrected. A self-deprecating smile brightened her face. “At the time I remember feeling very relieved that the group would only be in town for the Christmas home tour.”

“This only proves that you’ll never be a psychic, Louise.” Jane picked up a snow globe from the side table and shook it. White snowflakes swirled around the three carolers inside. Across the room the wind moaned within the parlor’s fireplace chimney. Her gaze grew thoughtful. “I wonder what we would have done and what choices we would have made, if only we’d known.”

“Had I known, I think I might have gone to visit Cynthia for the holidays,” Louise said wryly. “A daughter at Christmastime is a wonderful companion.”

“Father used to say that everything happens for a reason.” The next photograph made Alice laugh. “Why, Ted took a picture of the three of us that day too. He never mentioned it.”

Jane chuckled. “Ted was sneaky.”

Alice smiled at a photo of herself with Louise and Jane as they stood looking at one of the shop windows in town. There was snow in her younger sister’s dark hair and on the shoulders of Louise’s dark green jacket. They had all been carrying shopping bags filled with holiday purchases. “You know, all I could think about that morning was how wonderful it was going to be, spending a quiet Christmas at home with my sisters.…”

Chapter One

W
inter had come to the little town of Acorn Hill, Pennsylvania, and brought with it crisp cold air, bright blue skies and just enough snow to adorn every rooftop with a shimmering cover of pure white.

Although the temperature had dropped enough since Thanksgiving to make hats, gloves and heavy coats a daily necessity, the residents of the small town welcomed the month of December with joy and expectation.

Christmas was only a week and a half away.

Signs of the season were everywhere, from the festive outdoor lighting and decorations that dressed up every home and business to the smiles and cheerful greetings shared by the busy residents. Every merchant had put up a grand holiday display, and passersby could view beautifully decorated Christmas trees through the windows of nearly every home.

This period just before Christmas was especially busy for the people residing in the little town. There were presents to wrap, cookies to bake, relatives to meet and dinner
menus to plan. Church committees held their end-of-the-year Christmas parties and no pastor in town was allowed to dine alone.

Enjoying the traditions of the holidays was something everyone looked forward to and indulged in, welcoming the time to express their faith, love for family, and thankfulness for the abundant blessings of life.

This year the three sisters who ran the bed and breakfast on the edge of town were particularly eager for Christmas to arrive. After busy months of looking after their many guests, Louise, Alice and Jane Howard felt they had earned some time for themselves, and had just closed Grace Chapel Inn through the weekend until after Christmas. They had looked forward to this time for so long and now they wanted nothing to interfere with their holiday enthusiasm.

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