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Blue Chow Christmas
 

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Blue Chow Christmas


  Blue Chow Christmas: The Hart Family

  Have A Hart Series #4

  Rachelle Ayala

  Amiga Books

  Contents

  Have a Hart Sweet Romance Series

  Description

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Excerpt – Valentine Wedding Hound

  Reading List

  Author’s Note

  Many Thanks

  Meet Rachelle

  Dedication

  My sister’s family and their two sweet and darling blue chow dogs, Sierra and Melia

  Have a Hart Sweet Romance Series

  Christmas Lovebirds, Rob and Melisa

  Valentine Hound Dog, Larry and Jenna

  Spring Fling Kitty, Connor and Nadine

  Blue Chow Christmas, Brian and Cait

  Valentine Wedding Hound, Larry and Jenna

  Summer Love Puppy, Grady and Linx

  Description

  Cait Hart has been married to Brian Wonder for twelve years, but does she really know him? The redheaded firefighter is dependable, loyal, and kind to others, but he's never let her probe his feelings.

  Brian’s life is blown open when his former high school teacher and wife of a senator dies in a car crash. When a pair of blue chow dogs show up at his mountain cabin, he is forced to tell Cait his secret—the real owner of the dogs is a boy he believes is his son.

  Cait and Brian are tested on the true meaning of love when the boy goes missing and authorities suspect Brian of wrongdoing. Can two lost chow dogs save this fragile and vulnerable family?

  Copyright © 2016 by Rachelle Ayala

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real events or real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  All trademarks belong to their respective holders and are used without permission under trademark fair use.

  Contact Rachelle at:

  http://rachelleayala.me/author-bio/contact/

  Created with Vellum

  Chapter One

  ~ Glen Thornton ~

  “I’m not going to military school!” I kick the seatback where my father’s driving and arguing with my mother.

  “Steven, at least let him finish the school year,” Mom takes my side, as she always does.

  A horn blares and my father swerves, then shakes his fist. “People out here don’t know how to drive in the rain.”

  “You should slow down,” my mother warns. “There’s a heavy storm front coming in.”

  If you ask me, it’s already here. Sheets of water pour down the windshield, and the wiper blades can’t keep up. It’s kind of cool, like we’re weaving underwater in an express submarine.

  My parents bicker about my dad’s driving and how late we are to his last minute campaign rally, and I go back to the shooter game on my phone.

  My name is Glen Thornton. I’m twelve years old and an only child. I’d be lonely if I actually cared. My parents are always arguing. Mom says I have Asperger’s Syndrome, whereas Dad says I’m spoiled and need to be made a man, whatever that means.

  I don’t agree with either of them. I prefer to think of myself as quirky and weird. I’m definitely too weird to be a hotshot senator’s son. I know he’s ashamed of me, and he blames Mom for my slow social development.

  “Glen is enrolling in Marshall Military if it’s the last thing I do.” My father pounds the steering wheel. “End of discussion.”

  A set of bright lights blind me, and the car lurches to the right, its tires swishing against the wet pavement.

  “Holy cr—!”

  Pow! The sound of crunching metal socks me in the gut. My mother screams, and the car lurches before flipping over the guardrail.

  I’m thrown and tossed with every sickening bounce. I must be screaming, but I can’t hear myself. I couldn’t have been hurtling through space more than a minute, but when we finally stop, I’m upside down, hanging by my seatbelt, and my ears are ringing.

  “Mom? Dad?” I bat at the deflating airbags and reach for the front seats.

  I touch something wet and sticky and I recoil. Mom’s face is gone. I can’t see her eyes through the blood and twisted metal. Only her mouth and her white teeth.

  “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”

  “Son, we have to go.” My dad is already outside of the car and reaches through the open window.

  I fall when he disengages my seatbelt, and I land in a heap on the ceiling of the upside-down car.

  “We have to help Mom.” I take a breath but gag on gasoline vapors flooding the passenger compartment.

  “The gas tank’s leaking,” Dad shouts. His strong arms pull me, but I grab ahold of what’s left of Mom.

  “Mommy,” I cry. “Help Mommy.”

  “Gl-Glen.” Her mouth moves, but her teeth stay still. “Bye. And. One. One. Der. Bye and wonder.”

  A force greater than I can fight drags me from the car.

  Heat flashes behind me, and I smell smoke along with the hiss and splatter of raindrops turning to steam. The night sky fills with an orange glow, and a loud explosion hurtles me into a very dark place.

  I can’t see. I can’t hear. I can’t feel.

  “Mommy!” I think over and over, wondering if she can hear me.

  “Bye and wonder. Bye and wonder. Bye and wonder.” The words loop through my head, over and over, endlessly dripping like bloody rain from my mother’s set of teeth.

  Or was it “bye and wander?”

  Chapter Two

  “How long have you been married to Brian Wonder?” Cait Hart’s baby sister, Melisa, stared her down over a steamy cup of cappuccino. “And you still haven’t changed your name.”

  “She doesn’t want to be known as the Wonder Woman,” Jenna, Cait’s second sister, smirked.

  The three Hart sisters were sitting in their favorite booth at the Love Bean Coffee Shop having yet another wedding planning meeting.

  Their family was well known in the Inner Sunset district of foggy San Francisco because their father and brother were the fire chiefs of the local fire station, and their mother was active with volunteer work and general meddling.

  Cait, however, was a flaming redhead, okay, not quite, but with her dark, auburn hair, she definitely had a few recessive genes in her makeup. Her wonderfully beautiful and very blond sisters, Jenna and Melisa, made her stick out like a sore thumb, a sore red thumb, so she made up for her sticking out by being bossy and demanding.

  Which meant that when both beautiful, and very blond sisters were about to get married, she, Cait Hart, would be the offic
ial wedding planner. Being that she was also the oldest and therefore wisest sister, they would have to do as she said.

  “You’re letting her off the hook.” Melisa looked at Jenna and pointed at Cait. “She says we should change our names when she’s been married the longest, and she’s still Cait Hart.”

  “Melisa Reed has a ring to it, and so does Jenna Davison,” Cait said, undeterred. Being the hot-tempered redhead among two blondes had great advantages for her self-confidence.

  “Jenna Davison sounds like a hawker for pancake mix.” Jenna, who was a fashion designer, smoothed a hand over her sleek, silver-blond hair. “I own Hart in SF Designs, and my name is my brand.”

  “True, Davison Designs doesn’t have that San Francisco thing going for it,” Cait mused. She could see Jenna’s point, especially since she was the only one of the three to own her own business. “But Melisa, you have no excuse. Why won’t you take Rob’s name?”

  “All my students know me as Miss Hart,” Melisa said, taking a bite of her raspberry scone. “I can’t return from Christmas break with a different name.”

  “Of course, you can,” Cait said, zeroing in on the sister most likely to comply. “Teachers are always getting married and changing their names. Besides, you’re marrying a doctor. You ought to show some respect for your husband-to-be.”

  “We all know how little you respect Brian,” Melisa huffed. “You bring casseroles to the fire station, but never give him a home-cooked meal.”

  “That’s because he’s at the fire station all the time.” Cait defended herself.

  “And that doesn’t bother you?” Jenna twirled the end of the scarf she was wearing.

  “Well, no, should it?” Cait gaped at her two younger sisters. Just because they were both engaged to be married didn’t make them relationship experts. “Brian is happy to hang out with the guys, and he’s very dedicated to his work.”

  “Especially since he spends all his off hours playing video games,” Jenna said. Her fiancé, Larry, was one of the firemen and best buddies with their brother, Connor, the fire chief who had to order Brian to go home to Cait every so often.

  Cait felt her face flush at her two younger sisters’ disrespect. As the eldest child in the Hart family, she was the most knowledgeable about family tradition and etiquette for everything from weddings to marriage. Since when had the wedding planning turned to a roast of her and Brian’s marriage?

  She turned the tables back at her baby sister. “I suppose you’re planning on cooking meals for Rob every day?”

  “Of course, I would.” Melisa raised her prim and proper head of blond curls. “He’s busy all day saving lives, why shouldn’t he be rewarded with a home-cooked meal?”

  “How about you?” She zeroed in on Jenna who couldn’t cook her way out of a cereal box.

  “Larry loves to cook.” Jenna flicked a piece of lint from her jacket. “I don’t see what cooking has to do with respecting husbands.”

  “Me either.” Melisa tapped on her electronic tablet. “I do, however, have a question on the budget. Why are you suggesting an open bar before the wedding?”

  “That’s because you’re getting married on New Year’s Eve one minute before midnight,” Cait explained. “An open bar will get everyone in the mood to do the countdown to the ‘I do’ moment.”

  “An open bar can quickly get out of hand,” Melisa said. “I suggest people pay their own bar tab before midnight. We’ll have the waiters pour champagne afterwards.”

  “Come on, you’re marrying a doctor.” Cait threw her hands up like a partygoer winning a raffle. “You’re having the wedding and reception at The Baytop. It’s going to be the swankiest New Year’s Eve party ever.”

  The Baytop was a rotating bar and lounge on top of the Tower of Reeds, the tallest building in San Francisco. Booking their entire venue for New Year’s Eve was way above the means of Cait, Jenna, and Melisa’s father, a retired fire chief. Fortunately, Rob Reed’s father, a prominent real estate developer, owned the entire skyscraper.

  “It’s my wedding, not a New Year’s Eve party!” Melisa slapped her hands on the tabletop. “Cait, this is getting out of control.”

  “You have to think big.” Cait swept her hand across the view in her mind. “Three hundred sixty degrees of city lights, the Golden Gate Bridge glowing in the background, ribbons of red and white streaming across the highways below. You and Rob, holding hands and saying your vows as the clock counts down to midnight and a brand new year.”

  “Wow. Now that you put it that way,” Jenna said. “I wish I could get my gown finished in time and join the fray.”

  “No, no, no, no, no.” Cait shook her head vehemently. “Don’t envy Melisa and Rob. Your wedding will be the loveliest one ever. Picture this. It’s Valentine’s Day in the heart of San Francisco. The Gilded Ballroom is filled with symbols of love: hearts, lovebirds, and arrows.”

  “Arrows?” Melisa smirked. “Wouldn’t they pop all the heart-shaped balloons you were planning on?”

  “Cupid’s arrows.” Cait pantomimed pulling back on the bowstring and releasing an arrow. “Jenna and all her bridesmaids will walk down an elevated runway in front of the guests, modeling the gowns Jenna designed for her Gilded Wedding Collection.”

  “I’m having a fashion show at my wedding?” Jenna’s jaw dropped and she stared, wide-eyed, at Cait.

  “Not just any fashion show, but a premiere of your newest bridesmaid and spring wedding line. Combining it with your wedding will put Hart in SF Designs on the map of haute couture wedding wear.”

  Silence. Both of her sisters stared at Cait as if she’d sprouted antennae. What they failed to realize was they were in the presence of a genius mastermind.

  Cait Hart might be a housewife with a high school education, but Cait Hart thought big, and there was nothing bigger than a person’s wedding, especially since she, herself, squandered hers at a city courthouse without family present.

  “You don’t think it’s big enough?” Cait addressed Jenna. “Shall we add a bachelor’s auction to the reception? Or maybe a dating game?”

  “Stop.” Now it was Jenna’s turn to slap the tabletop. “I’m already crawling up the wall trying to come up with a unique wedding dress, and you two keep changing the design on your bridesmaid dresses.”

  “And I have to finalize the food selections and cross-check them with the guest list,” Melisa said. “Allergies, gluten-free, things like that.”

  “Nothing to worry about.” Cait bobbed her head at her sister who was too timid and careful. “Rob’s an emergency room doctor, and I’m sure most of his friends are, too. Plus we have half the fire station there, ready to give CPR. I’m sure everyone will be fine. Now, for the open bar, I suggest …”

  “Stop it right there,” Jenna said. “Melisa and I need a timeout to confer with each other.”

  “In other words, to plot against me.” Cait jutted her chin at them defiantly. It was always like this growing up, the blondies against the ginger-head.

  Fortunately, all of her brothers were brunettes, and people often wondered why the boys were typical tall, dark, and handsome while the girls were fruit bats, or so Cait imagined.

  Jenna whispered in Melisa’s ear and Melisa nodded, then whispered back, flapping her dainty little hands like a hummingbird’s wings.

  Cait narrowed her eyes at her rebellious sisters. Why wouldn’t they let her have free rein? They were both busy women with real jobs. They didn’t have time for bridal magazines, caterers, party planning, event coordination, bakers and flowers, RSVPs, invoices and bills, and everything else!

  “Okay, we’re making you a deal,” Jenna said. “We’re only letting you plan our weddings if your name is Cait Wonder, and you start a business called Cait’s Wonderful Weddings. We’ll be your first customers. But you need to change your name before Christmas.”

  “Do it, Cait.” Melisa added. “Be a Wonder for a change.”

  “It’s the most wonderful time of the ye
ar,” Jenna sang as she twirled her way around the coffee shop.

  Before long, Melisa joined her and Cait, feeling left out, jumped up to cavort along with them to the applause of the other patrons in the shop.

  Christmas was definitely the most wonderful time of the year. For the Hart family, but not so much for the Wonder family, of whom the only person left was Brian who’d requested to be left alone in the woods this year.

  Chapter Three

  Brian Wonder pulled his car onto the gravel turnout and checked his GPS. The turns on this stretch of road were treacherous, and parts of the shoulder had crumbled away, exposing slippery mud.

  He got out of his car and walked along the edge of a cliff, looking for the spot where the senator’s car had gone down.

  The skid marks had been washed away, but the busted guardrail had not been replaced. Brian’s stomach lurched as his gaze followed the trajectory of the car, flattening bushes and ripping out saplings along the way.

  It had been a single vehicle accident. The senator had been blinded by an oncoming high beam and failed to see the hairpin turn. More likely, he’d been going too fast. It only took a split second, and he’d lost control of the car.

  Brian climbed over the broken guardrail and stepped down the embankment. He followed the trail of broken twigs and scraped earth to a charred area, dark, bare, and rocky. This was the place where Alana Thornton had burned to death, trapped in the car that her husband and son had escaped.

  Had they tried to pull her out? Was she conscious or had she been mercifully killed by impact? What were her last minutes like?

  The senator claimed it was a freak accident. One minute, he was having a conversation with his wife, and the next, they were airborne, having been forced off the road by another vehicle—one which did not stop to render aid.

 
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