Christmas Spirit (Cutter's Creek Book 12)

By: Annie Boone & Cutters Creek

One


Cutter’s Creek, Montana 1882



She could hear a conversation as she stepped out of the store, clutching a package of calico bolts. Felicity stilled, listening. A very familiar masculine sound made a flutter trickle over her heart. Though she knew it was wrong to pry, her mother had told her that many times, she couldn’t help but be drawn towards the sound of his voice.

She walked down the wood planked floor to the edge of the store where a small alley was situated between the mercantile store and the sheriff’s office. She glanced around the corner and then snapped back around, falling against the wall.

The image of Josh’s bare arms, muscles bulging as he ran a hand down his horse’s leg brought heat to her cheeks. The wide-brimmed hat he wore covered some of his dark blond hair, but the longer length stuck out underneath.

She rubbed her fingers together wondering what it would be like to touch his beautiful hair. But she’d never get a chance. Apparently, only one of the Pershing sisters would ever be allowed to do that. He just needed to go ahead and pick one of them before her heart burst.

“Josh, you have it all wrong. Those spoiled daughters of the mayor have never had to lift a finger for anything. Pretty and privileged girls are just too pampered,” Josh’s friend Nick said.

Without thinking, Felicity reached to her wavy jet black hair and pushed a stray tendril back behind her ear. The thick tresses were luxurious and the most visible trait she’d inherited from her grandmother. Though her eyes were almond shaped, she looked less Chinese than her mother did.

She imagined that most people in Cutter’s Creek didn’t consider her pretty, though maybe they didn’t think she was ugly. The children in school had teased her sometimes because she looked a little different from them. Those memories were in her past, though, and she tried not to worry about them now.

Sometimes, she couldn’t help herself and today was one of those days. Comparing her darker looks to the mayor’s fair daughters was the source of her insecurity lately. Their blonde hair and blue eyes must be what Josh Garrett deemed appealing. Those girls were completely opposite to her. Darn him.

“You’re an expert now, are ya. So, what should I be looking for in a woman?”

Felicity could hear him slapping his horse on the neck as he saddled him. She clutched the fabric she was holding over her calico dress. Josh had doubts about the sisters? Then why had he been courting them for the past few months?

“I can’t believe you don’t already know what to look for in a wife. Don’t worry about a pretty face, man. Worry about one thing and one only.”

“And what’s that?”

“Whether or not the lady can cook. There’s only one important question. Can she fill your belly with some tasty grub?”

Josh laughed out loud but didn’t respond to Nick’s advice.

Felicity had to fight to keep from rolling her eyes. Yes, it all came down to simple things such as can a woman keep a hearth warm and a tasty stew bubbling in the cast iron pot. She huffed, turning away. She definitely didn’t want to hear more of this conversation.

The good Lord and maybe a few others knew she couldn’t even shell peas the right way. She had tried to learn to cook. Her mother had tried everything she could think of to teach her. For some reason, she just couldn’t get it. Some disaster always happened to ruin the meal. Though she had to admit it usually was her fault, she needed to blame something else.

She remembered the time a cottontail had wandered up on their back porch. So what if she fed it carrots while the biscuits burned? That bunny had the cutest fluffy white tail she’d ever seen. She shook her head at the bittersweet memory and headed out on her way.

A chilly wind brushed across her face, stinging her cheeks. Her boots crunched the dead, brown leaves covering the road as she walked to the wagon. Few people were out and about in town; most huddled at home, nice and warm. She sped up to get back home before the storm hit.

Laying her package in the back of the small wagon, she looked up at the sky. The clouds were rolling in quickly over the mountains. She hopped in the front and picked up the reins so she could be on her way. She took another look around her and took in the majesty surrounding her.

In the distance, the tall mountain range with snow caps stood proud as they closed around the valley. Soon there would be snow on the ground. The potential rain and dipping temperatures were welcome after the dry and hot summer they’d just been through.

“Felicity! Wait!”

She turned, spotting Lana, rushing after her. And here was the perfect image of beauty. Her best friend had bright blue eyes and blonde curls that always found a way to lay just right against her cheeks. The light pink calico she wore brought out the pink hue in her cheeks, making her look like a doll.