A Christmas Blessing
Widowed Jessie was about to give birth, and she needed help fast. Unfortunately, the closest ranch in town belonged to her brother-in-law. Though this charismatic rancher was her only hope, he was the last person Jessie wanted to be with.
A Christmas Blessing
Table of Contents
Getting Consuela Martinez out of his kitchenwas proving to be a much more difficult task than Luke Adams had ever envisioned. Hishousekeeper had found at least a dozen excuses for lingering, despite the fact that herbrother was leaning on his car’s horn and causing enough ruckus to deafen themall.
“Go, amiga,” Luke pleaded. “Enjoy your holidayswith your family. Feliz Navidad!”
Consuela ignored the instructions and the good wishes. “The freezeris filled with food,” she reminded him, opening the door to show him for thefourth time. Though there were literally dozens of precooked, neatly labeled packages, aworried frown puckered her brow. “It will be enough?”
“More than enough,” he assured her.
“But not if you have guests,” she concluded, removing hercoat. “I should stay. The holidays are no time for a good housekeeper to beaway.”
“I won’t be having any guests,” Luke said tightly,picking the coat right back up and practically forcing her into it. “And if I do,I am perfectly capable of whipping up a batch of chips and dip.”
“Chips and dip,” she muttered derisively.
She added a string of Spanish Luke felt disinclined to translate. Hecaught the general drift; it wasn’t complimentary. After all this time, though,Consuela should know that he wasn’t the type to host a lot of extravagant, foolishparties. Leave that sort of thing to his brother Jordan or his parents. His brotherthrived on kissing up to his business associates and his parents seemed to think thatfilling the house with strangers meant they were well loved and well respected.
“Consuela, go!” he ordered, barely curbing his impatience.“Vaya con Dios. I’ll be fine. I am thirty-two years old.I’ve been out of my playpen for a long time.”
One of the dangers of hiring an ex-nanny as a housekeeper, he’ddiscovered, was the tendency she had to forget that her prior charge had grown up. Yethe could no more have fired Consuela than he could have his own mother. In truth, forall of her hovering and bossiness, she was the single most important constant in hislife. Which was a pretty pitiful comment on the state of his family, he decidedruefully.
Consuela’s unflinching, brown-eyed gaze pinned him. Hands on amplehips, she squared off against him. “You will go to your parents’ onChristmas, sí? The holidays are a time for families to be together. Youhave stayed away too long.”
“Yes,” he lied. He had no intention of going anywhere,especially not to his parents’ house where everyone would be mourning, notcelebrating, thanks to him.
“They will have enough help for all of the parties that areplanned?”
Luke bit back a groan. “Consuela, you know perfectly well theywill,” he said patiently. “The place is crawling with your very own niecesand nephews. My parents haven’t had to cook, clean or sneeze without assistancesince you took over the running of that household forty years ago before they’deven met. When you came over here to work for me, you handpicked your cousin to replaceyou. Maritza is very good, yes?”
“Sí,” she conceded.
“This trip to see your family in Mexico is my present to you.It’s long overdue. You said yourself not sixty seconds ago that the holidays aremeant for families. You have not seen your own for several years. Your mother is almostninety. You cry every time a letter comes from her.”
“After all these years, I get homesick, that’s true. I am avery emotional person, not like some people,” she said pointedly.
Luke ignored the jibe. “Well, this is your chance to see foryourself how your mother is doing. Now stop dawdling and go before you miss your planeand before your brother busts our eardrums with that horn of his.”
Consuela still appeared torn between duty to him and a longing to see hermother. Finally she heaved a sigh of resignation and buttoned her coat. “I willgo,” she said grudgingly. “But I will worry the whole time. You are alonetoo much, niño.”
It had been a long time since anyone had thought of Luke Adams as a littleboy. Unfortunately, Consuela would probably never get the image out of her head, despitethe fact that he was over six feet tall, operated a thriving ranch and had built himselfa house twice the size of the very lavish one he’d grown up in.
“Ever since—“ she began.
“Enough,” Luke said in a low, warning tone that silenced hermore quickly than any shout would have.
Tears of sympathy sprang to her eyes, and she wrapped her plump armsaround him in a fierce hug that had Luke wincing. For a sixty-year-old woman she wasastonishingly strong. He didn’t want her weeping for him, though. He didn’twant her pity. And he most definitely didn’t want her dredging up memories ofErik, the brother who’d died barely seven months ago, the brother whose deathhe’d caused.
“Go,” he said more gently. “I will see you in the newyear.”
She reached up and patted his cheek, a gesture she dared only rarely.“Te amo, niño.”
Luke’s harsh demeanor softened at once. “I love you, too,Consuela.”
The truth of it was that she was about the only human being on the face ofthe earth to whom he could say that without reservation. Even before Erik’s deathhad split the family apart, Luke had had his share of difficulties with hisfather’s attempted ironclad grip on his sons. His mother had always been too muchin love with her husband to bother much with the four boys she had borne him. And Lukehad battled regularly with his younger brothers, each of them more rebellious than theother. Erik had been a year younger, only thirty-one when he’d died. Jordan wasthirty, Cody twenty-seven. Consuela had been the steadying influence on all of them,adults and children.
“Te amo, mi amiga,” Luke said, returning her fiercehug.
Consuela was still calling instructions as she crossed the porch andclimbed into her