Sunday, January 30, 2011

Brody Gets His Wish

Brody Gets His Wish tells the story of Drew Teaberry's son, Brody from the Harlequin Romance A BABY BENEATH THE CHRISTMAS TREE. In the book, Brody was a sort-of-bad 16-year-old. He's 22 in Brody Gets His Wish, and about to find the love of his life in the most unlikely place -- hs family's Christmas Tree Farm, where wishes come true in the most unexpected places.

Enjoy! And feel free to leave a comment!

Installment 1


Brody Gets His Wish

Brody Teaberry maneuvered his car along the snow slicked mountain road to Teaberry Farms. His home. He might not like the cold, snowy, West Virginia mountain winters, but he liked Teaberry mansion. A lot. It was big and roomy, and always smelled like muffins because his stepmom, Gwen, loved to bake for his incredibly spoiled dad.

He loved the squeals that Gwen’s now six-year-old daughter Claire made as she ran through the house, chasing his two-year-old half sister, Emmalee.

Now, there was another Teaberry baby on the way and pretty soon there’d be even more noise on Christmas mornings. His car slid on the ice and he quickly corrected, getting himself back on the road. It was too bad he couldn’t pack them up and take them back to California with him.

The last half mile of the trip was a winter wonderland of snow-covered fir trees and icy electric wires that glittered in the midday sun. When he finally pulled his car into a spot beside Teaberry mansion, his entire body relaxed. He told himself he was just happy to be off the slippery roads, but, truth was, he was home. And he knew it.

He got out of the car, stuffed his sunglasses into his jacket pocket and looked around. The place hadn’t changed much since he’d left for college almost five years ago. Snow covered the pool and the swing set that hadn’t been in the yard back then, but bundled trees still leaned against the weathered boards of the outbuilding where Mary Alice Burkett made holiday wreaths. Customers milled about, some examining the precut trees, while others walked back the long sleek rows between the shimmering pines looking for the special tree that would bring light and life to their holiday this year.

“Hey, lazybones! Come help with the customers.”

That was Max Peabody. Caretaker for Teaberry Farms for as long as anyone could remember. With his white hair and beard, twinkling blue eyes, and tummy that really did shake like a bowl full of jelly, Max could have been Santa.

“At least let me go inside and tell everybody I’m here.”

“Ack!” Max batted a hand. “College kid. Wants to see his mommy.”

Brody laughed. Max was a bit of a task master, but he had a heart of gold. He’d taught Brody more about life in their few weeks of working together selling Christmas trees every year than Brody had learned in four and a half years of college. And that was the problem. He was graduated now. The money train from his dad had pulled into the station. There’d be no more paid apartment, no more food allowance, no more clothing allowance. He had to make his own way and he had no idea how. Or where. Or even what he wanted to do.

He walked the short sidewalk to the front door of the red brick house. Black shutters trimmed in snow and tall pine trees that stood like sentinels gave the mansion the look of a gingerbread house, even if it was the wrong color.

He stopped short of the door, flanked by the two sentinel trees. Teaberry Farms wasn’t just pretty. It wasn’t even just home. According to legend it was a magical place where wishes came true with a mere wisp of your hand across a soft pine branch. In six plus years of living in this house, he’d never once wished. Not because he thought it was a lot of malarkey, but because he’d always believed wishes were for people who truly needed them.

He was a young, healthy, twenty-two-year-old, college-educated guy. Did he really need a wish to get a job? Wasn’t that sort of lazy of him?

Not in this economy.

With a laugh, he brushed a black-leather-gloved hand across the soft pine. “I have to figure out my life.” He said it aloud. No one was within twenty feet of him. “So if you could just point me in the right direction, I’d appreciate it.”

The words weren’t out of his mouth before a snowball slapped into his back. He spun around and there stood the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.

Blond hair swung in the wind that whipped snow from the ground and tossed it back into the air. A soft blue coat accented equally soft blue eyes. Her cheeks were pink from the cold air. And her hands currently wrapped around the arm of a kid who looked to be about nine.

“No snowballs. Or I find your mom and you leave.”

“Aw, crap. This place is a rat hole.”

Brody couldn’t help it. He laughed. “I thought the same thing about six years ago.”

Shrugging out of the girl’s hold, the kid said, “Who cares about you, dip stick,” and scrambled off.

The girl brushed her hands together as if saying good riddance, then smiled. Brody swore the Alleluia chorus played. Her lips were full and pink. Her smile as warm and sweet as his stepmom’s hot chocolate.

“Don’t mind him. He’s a customer’s kid. Doesn’t want to be here. Thinks he’s too old.” She stepped over and caught Brody’s arm. “And you shouldn’t be here either.” She flashed him another smile. “At least not this far away from the fields. These two trees aren’t for sale.” She pointed to the rows beyond the outbuilding. “Those are the ones you choose from.”

“But I don’t want a –“

Her gaze met his and he stopped. Swallowed. She was just so God blessed beautiful.

“I know. You don’t want an ordinary tree. You want one of the ones that grant miracles. You’ve heard the story that Gwen and Drew both wished on trees on the way into the house, so you want one of those trees. But that’s exactly why those two trees aren’t for sale. They’re personal, private stock of the owners.”

“I know.” He held out his hand for shaking, finally having realized who she was. Stella Linstrom, this year's cashier. “I’m Brody Teaberry and you must be Stella.”

She took a step back, pressed her hand to her chest. Brody braced for the forthcoming apology, so he was completely taken aback when she said, “Well, of all the stupid things. Letting me run my mouth while you stood there knowing who you are.”

With that she turned and flounced away.

Snow floated around him in the whipping wind. Flooded by equal doses of annoyance that she’d yelled at him and enchantment, he stood silently. She was so pretty that he kind of felt like a man who’d been hit by a truck. But that was ridiculous. He actually knew Stella Lindstrom. They’d gone to high school together. True, she’d been a year behind him, and also true high school versions of people looked and behaved very differently than adult versions…but he couldn’t like her…could he?

He turned, ready to go into the house and his hand brushed across the branch of the tree again.

His wish.

He’d forgotten that he’d made a wish. He spun around, his gaze seeking Stella as she slid behind the cash register on the checkout table, and his heart did something totally weird. It felt like a cartwheel. But that was wrong. She couldn’t be part of his future. Plus, he hadn’t wished for a woman, or a romance, or anything sappy like that. He wanted a job—

Still, he hadn’t said job. He’d made a vague wish like point me in the direction of my future.

Thinking he should have been more specific, he took the branch in his hand again, ready to very clearly state that he wanted a job, but the wind whipped up, tossing him away from the tree.

Damn, it was cold. And he hated cold much more than he believed he needed to correct a wish. He yanked open the door.

Warmth hit him first. Then the scents of pine and cinnamon. Shiny gold ribbon laced between the banisters of the long cherry wood staircase. Red ornaments nestled into the bows tied on each rung. Green fir branches accented it all.


Gwen saw him first. Standing at the top to the stairs, with one hand holding six-year-old Claire’s hand and the other balancing two-year-old Emmalee on her hip, Claire looked like an angel mom. Her pretty blond hair gleamed. Her smile could light the room. And her nearly nine-months-pregnant belly only added to the picture.

“Well, if it isn’t my wicked stepmother.”

Racing down the stairs, Claire giggled. “She’s not wicked.”

Brody scooped her into his arms and tickled her. “Then you’re the wicked stepsister.”

“Only Cinderella has wicked stepsisters!”

He deepened his voice to make himself sound scary. “Seems to me, I have one, too.”

By that time Gwen had reached the bottom of the steps. He slid Claire to the floor, hugged Gwen and snagged Emmalee. “And how’s my second favorite girl?”

Emma smiled shyly then burrowed her face into his neck.

“It’s a phase,” Gwen explained.

“And she’ll come around by the time you’re ready to leave.” That was Brody’s dad. Six-foot-something and broad shouldered from the work of the Christmas tree farm, Drew Teaberry was the kind of dad every kid aspired to be. “Then you’ll go back to California and we’ll start the whole shyness thing over again at Easter time.”

But that was part of the problem. His dad was rich, successful, a family man. It was hard for a twenty-two-year-old to even consider stepping into those shoes.

“I’ve told you before, Dad. I can’t move here. I can’t handle the snow anymore.”

“He’s been Californized.” That came from the last, but not least, resident of Teaberry Farms, Sunny Peabody, Max’s wife. Short and well padded, with white hair pulled into a bun and little wire frame glasses, she could have been Mrs. Santa. “Let’s hope he still likes cookies.”

He slid Emma to the floor. “He loves cookies!”

* * *

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