A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding, (Book Two) of the Smoky Mountain series.
Since the cover isn't ready yet, I've chosen a temporary image.
There is love and pride among the Southern Souls who live in and around The Great Smoky Mountains. They’ve always held a special place in my heart.
As I bring Tina and Hank’s second book to life, and within their story, I’ve tried to convey the breathtaking beauty that lies in the heart, the people and surrounding areas of the Smoky Mountains. The air is sweet and crisp, clouds hover low, while lush green mountains rise to meet them. In the Spring, nothing compares to its beauty, including abundant wild flowers and rushing waters to dangle your toes for a spell. During Winter, the mountains are enveloped in snow, rendering the rolling hills a spectacular panorama.
Please enjoy the first chapter of A SMOKY MOUNTAIN WEDDING, (Book Two) while I'm finishing the continuation of Tina and Hank's story.
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And without further ado...here we go!
Now I’ve gone and done it.
Reservations at where she’d ditched her brain rolled inside her head. “Not only have I committed to a man I barely know, but a child neither Hank nor myself, know barely more than a stranger.”
“Headstrong isn’t always an enduring quality,” Rae said. “Admit it. You lead with your heart instead of your head.”
Once Hank and Evan boarded the helicopter, its rotors swirled a dusting of snow around the clearing as it ascended, then banked left toward Hank’s Smoky Mountain cabin.
From the open door of her sister, Rae’s, mountain home, Tina sucked in a breath and watched the two special guys in her life disappear into the night.
“That’s ridiculous.” Their opinion of each other reared its ugly head. Tina slanted her head. “And you are forever nosey. Because you’re my sister, I’ll overlook that nasty comment.”
Rae stood beside her and delivered a familiar eye-roll. “Hey,” she held up her hands, palm side out. “I didn’t bring it up.”
“Bring what up?” Tina’s mom rounded the corner with a tray of coffee and tea biscuits. “What’s going on in here? Are you two at it again?”
Tension dangled between Tina and her sister. “Okay. Let’s drop it,” Tina said.
“Drop what?” her mom asked.
“It’s nothing, Mom. I simply made a comment and as usual...Rae’s sarcasm took over.”
“I don’t know why I can never get a straight answer from either of you.” Her mom heaved a sigh. “Why can’t you girls get along? Is that too much to ask?”
“You must admit it’s a little bizarre to agree to marry a man you’ve known less than a week.” Rae looked over her glasses and aimed her chin toward her chest. “Plus, take on a child...a strange child.”
“Leave Evan out of this. You know nothing about him.” As Tina jerked her head around, her heart quickened. “I’d like to think you were here for me no matter what I choose. Since that isn’t the case…”
“With a prisoner for a father,” Rae muttered.
“You never change, do you?” Tina exhaled. “I should’ve known encouragement is too much to expect. You know nothing about Hank or Evan.” And you don’t know me as well as you think either.
“What do you really know about either of them?”
Tina pushed back a wisp of blond hair from her forehead and glared at Rae through her hazel eyes. “For the record, Evan is young, only seven, and extremely bright. Not strange. He has no one else. We’re it. He’s already bonded with us and I won’t leave him to fend for himself. You don’t understand how scared and alone he feels…but you should.”
“As far as encouragement goes? Not a chance. I think you’ve lost your mind. I’d be lying if I said I approved of this crazy stunt you’re about to pull.”
“Stunt? Stunt?” Tina jumped up, stood over Rae and whispered. “One more nasty crack out of you and I’ll—”
With both arms on the table Rae rose and, with her legs, pushed back her chair. “You’ll what?”
Tina’s mom moved between the two, tea pot in hand. “Okay. That’s enough. If you insist on harassing one another, do it outside.” She sat the pot down and glared at them. “You know what? I’m worn out from years of breaking you two apart. Do whatever you want, but don’t come sniffling to me if one of you gets hurt.”
With mouths wide open, both Tina and Rae gawked at their mom.
“Mom,” Rae whined.
“Aren’t you a bit old to whine?” her mom asked.
Tina’s eyes flickered while a smile crept over her face as she faced her mom. How many times had she wanted to put Rae in her place? “Thanks, Mom. Those words are spot on what I’ve wanted to hear all my life.”
Thinking back, Tina envisioned Rae while she threw routine tantrums. Thanks to her dad, Rae had been spoiled and hadn’t gotten over having her own way about most everything, even now. After a while it was easier to give in. But now, she wasn’t a child and Tina refused to repeat the process she’d disliked all her life.
“You’re such a faultfinder—a little past your prime for kid’s games.” She edged toward Rae and pointed at the door. “As long as we’re playing games...Outside.”
“Don’t even think of it.” Rae crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “What’s come over you? You’ve become overbearing since you’ve met Hank.”
“You’re begging me to take Mom up on her suggestion.” Tina grinned and stretched an arm toward the door. “Don’t assume I won’t think twice about going a round or two with you.”
“Of course she didn’t mean it.” Rae slid a nervous glance at her Mom. “Did you?”
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say I didn’t mean what I said. No comment on the subject. Work it out.”
Rae folded her arms again and set her jaw. “Then I’m not going anywhere.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Tina laughed. “Something ought to be done about your sassy mouth, but getting even isn’t my idea of fun or the way to remedy family issues.” She bit down her bottom lip, then rolled her eyes. “Even with you.”
“You two are no longer young girls.” Tina’s mom tapped the table with a French manicured fingernail. “We’re family. Please sit down. See if you can act your age.” While she waited for them to sit, she poured three cups of steaming green tea, placed an orange-cranberry scone on a plate and laid a napkin beside. She turned to Tina. “Now, sweetheart, tell me about Hank. This man you’re so taken with.”
“Mom...” With Hank she’d spent the most unbelievable week ever. Even through all the havoc. He was real. He was honest. He was loving. He had a kind nature and to top all that, he had gorgeous robin’s-egg blue eyes. She wasn’t about to give him up, no matter what her sister thought or said. He was the best thing that ever happened to her. Period.
“Your future is important. It would be generous of you if would share what kind of man has stolen my daughter’s heart. Now is as good a time as ever to discuss your young man.”
My young man.
Tina sat at the long wooden table, a lump in her throat. As she thought of her dad and how much her mom must grieve for him, that old still-missing him, dull ache crawled inside her stomach. She got up and pushed back the curtain with a thumb, and gazed through the window at the snowfall, which was nothing more than a light spit now. Visions of her dad on a sled with herself and Rae, throwing snowballs, building a snowman, brought back happy memories no matter how tough it was to reminisce.
Perhaps Rae didn’t deserve to know her heart’s desire, but she was her sister and she loved her. No matter what. She glanced at Rae, examined the look on her face, and found nothing but that old familiar sulk. Would Rae wait to trip her up? Maybe. But then, Rae was spoiled. Would she jump again at the least slip-up? Maybe. Tina sat back down, sipped at the tea, curled her feet under her, and then decided to have another go at trusting her sister. Good or bad decision, she was going for it. Like her mom said, there was no time like the present to spill her insides.
“After Jerry and the inexcusable experience with him, of which you both are aware, I had zilch intentions of becoming involved with anyone for a long, long time. Fate or God played a hand at the chance meeting with Hank.” Tina winked at her mom. “Okay, let me rephrase that. I don’t believe it was unintended. I believe God brought us together.”
Rae sniffed and rolled her eyes again “Less than a week is not enough time to be with someone, and then plan a life together, however you slice it.”
“Look, it isn’t as though we’ll tie the knot tomorrow.” Tina’s eyes squinted as her nose scrunched. “You can be acquainted with someone forever and still not know them.”
“Good heavens, you have no idea what this man is like. Give it more time,” Rae said. “Time to discover if you have enough in common, time before you make a lifelong commitment. Time to see if you’ll get along.” Rae held up a hand, examined her fingernails, then focused on Tina’s face. “Who knows, you may actually hate each other.”
“You weren’t there, Rae. Hank’s a good man. I believe that. I feel it in my bones. You didn’t see how gentle he was with Hatchet when she delivered her foal. With Sam, his dog.” A soft smile spread across Tina’s face. “The topper is how completely and trusting Evan took to him. His natural fatherly instincts practically floored me.”
“But is that enough for marriage? For a lifetime?” Rae let down her guard and softened toward Tina. “I’m sure you won’t believe it, but I do have your best interest at heart. I only want you to be happy.”
“Since when?” Tina turned and recalled Rae’s jubilant expression on her own wedding day. “Who’s to say I wouldn’t be as happy as you are?” she asked over a shoulder.
“Who’s to say you will? Couldn’t you have waited before you said yes? Can’t you wait? Wait until several months pass?” Rae asked. “Time can bring out the best or worst in a relationship.”
“What would you have me do, Rae? Flip a coin?. Hank’s a special guy, one of those guys you meet once in a lifetime. I believe that. You know what? I’m done here. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to you. To anyone.”
Her mom hadn’t said one word while she and Rae passed remarks back and forth. “Mom, you’re awfully quiet,” Tina said.
“Honey, I’ve always taught you to listen to your heart. Happiness is the only thing in this world I wish for both you and Rae. If Hank makes you happy, then I’m the last person to discourage you. It’s your life. You’re a grown woman If Hank is who you choose, then it’s certainly not up to me to interfere.” She nodded at Rae and patted her shoulder. “Nor is it Rae’s.”
Tina noticed Rae, however, had chosen to cross her arms and clam-up, rather than ramble on about whatever comeback was on her mind.
Tina’s mom took her hand in hers and with tears in her eyes, spoke soft and low. “I’ll always be here for you. You know that. You’re my child, my heart. But if he ever hurts you...I wouldn’t be much of a mother if I weren’t concerned about your happiness or who you choose to spend the rest of your life with.” Tina’s mom laid a hand on her arm. “I haven’t heard you mention once that you love Hank,” she whispered. “Beginning a marriage without love is asking for trouble. Especially with the addition of a child.”
“Falling in love wasn’t in my plans, Mom. It simply happened.”