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A Christmas Wish (Paperback)

A Christmas Wish (Paperback)

Sapphire Bay, BOOK 3

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2250 5-Star Reviews

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After a tragic accident, Megan Stevenson is determined to give, Nora, her five-year-old niece, a loving and stable home. With her fantasy cake business thriving and her niece’s nightmares finally over, Megan’s life is more stable than it has ever been—until a stranger knocks on her door and warns her that her life is in danger.

FBI Special Agent William Parker knows what it’s like to lose the people you love. He has convinced himself that his job is all he needs to be happy. But while he’s protecting Megan and Nora from a brutal terrorist group, his emotionless and solitary life is torn to shreds. With Christmas fast approaching, can Megan and Nora convince him that it’s safe to love again…even if loving them is harder than letting them go?

Chapter One Look Inside

“Remember your jacket,” Megan said as she picked up Nora’s backpack.

Nora raced out of the kitchen. “Got it,” she yelled from the living room. 

Sometimes, Megan forgot her niece was only five years old. Nora was a fiercely independent little girl and wanted to be part of everything. And today, that included delivering a birthday cake to one of Megan’s friends. 

Nora ran back into the kitchen, dragging her jacket behind her. “I need Dolly.”

Dolly was a red-headed rag doll that Megan’s sister had bought Nora before she was born. It didn’t matter how many times Megan stitched Dolly’s seams, or carefully hand-washed her cotton body, nothing would make her last forever. 

“Put on your jacket and I’ll find Dolly.” Megan ran upstairs and found the rag doll tucked under Nora’s blankets. She took the quick find as a good sign. Sometimes Dolly ended up in the oddest places, making any exit from the house a lot longer than it should have been.

With Dolly in one hand and Nora holding the other, Megan made her way toward the garage. 

November in Milwaukee wasn’t for the fainthearted. Bitter nor’westers blew across the yard, creating flurries of fresh snowflakes. Today was so cold that she could taste the ice on Lake Michigan. It mingled with the smoky scent of pine, oak, and spruce coming from her neighbors’ chimneys. It was the Milwaukee she remembered. The city she loved.

With Christmas not far away, Megan had an enormous amount of work to get through. After two years, her fantasy cake business was finally taking off. But, with only herself to fill the orders, life could get hectic very quickly. Especially with a five-year-old running around the house.

She buckled Nora into her seat and ran to the other side of the car. “Are we ready?”

Nora waved Dolly in the air. “We ready,” she yelled.

With a two-tier dragon cake sitting in the trunk and an excited little girl in the back seat, Megan reversed out of the garage. As a Bob Dylan song played on the radio and Nora cuddled Dolly, Megan smiled. Life didn’t get much sweeter than this.

* * *

William pulled away from the curb. As he drove along North Second Street, he kept his truck three vehicles behind the small red car that had reversed out of the driveway. 

For the last week, he’d watched Megan Stevenson and her niece. It wasn’t the most exciting assignment he’d ever had, but it was necessary. Her situation was less complicated than some of the others his team was observing, but that didn’t mean it made her any safer. 

Megan lived the kind of life that never drew anyone’s attention. She ran her own business from home, had a small group of close friends, and spent more time at activities for her niece than in doing something for herself. 

On the surface, she didn’t appear to be anyone the FBI would be interested in. But sometimes, the people you least expected caused the most issues. 

Megan’s car turned right into East Vine Street. She’d been here before. One of her friends lived in a brick and plaster apartment halfway along the street. Sure enough, she stopped in front of her friend’s home. 

William slowed but kept driving. As Megan opened the driver’s door, she didn’t appear to notice him. Had she always been this careless about what was going on around her? He was good at his job but, after four days of being followed, she should have known he was there. 

As soon as he could, he made a U-turn, parking his truck a short distance from the house. Reaching for the camera on the passenger seat, he pointed it toward her car. 

He already had enough photos for the FBI, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Tomorrow, he was flying back to Montana. Megan would be on her own and more vulnerable because of the little girl. Anything he documented might save her life, especially if the terrorist group found her. 

Megan’s brother was creating one of the most advanced military defense systems of the twenty-first century. A terrorist group had threatened to kill him. Now she was in danger because of her connection to a brother she didn’t even know existed.

* * *

Megan carried the cake box inside. 

Her friend, Sarah, held tightly onto Nora’s hand, opening all the doors as they made their way into the kitchen.

“Did the cake survive its journey across town?” Sarah asked. 

Megan placed the box on the counter. She hoped so. It had taken two days to decorate the cake. Most of the individual elements could be fixed but, if the dragon’s wings were damaged, it would be disastrous. 

Holding her breath, she lifted the lid. “It’s perfect. Would you like to have a look?” 

Nora tugged Sarah’s hand. “You have to be careful. No touching.” 

“I’ll remember. Would you like to look at the cake with me?” 

Nora’s head bobbed up and down. 

Megan pulled a kitchen stool out from the counter. From this distance, Nora’s little fingers couldn’t touch the icing. But she was close enough to still feel as though she was part of the unveiling. 

The dragon birthday cake was for Sarah’s husband, Josh. With bright blue and green buttercream scales, sparkling eyes, and purple candy melt wings, it sat majestically on a rocky ledge made from chocolate. Apart from seeing the cake, there was another surprise that no one would be expecting. Cradled beneath one of the dragon’s wings was a golden egg. Megan thought the way Sarah wanted to tell her husband she was pregnant was adorable. 

“Oh, my goodness. It’s just like the picture I gave you.” Sarah hugged her. “I love what you did with the egg. It looks incredible.” 

“Do you think Josh will get the connection between the egg and becoming a dad?” 

“I hope so. If he doesn’t, I’ll give him some hints.” Sarah continued to admire the cake, pointing out her favorite things to Nora. After she’d finished, they carefully carried it into the living room. 

In the next hour, Josh’s friends and family would arrive for his surprise party. About half an hour later, Josh would come home from work. Megan couldn’t wait to see his face when everyone yelled, ‘happy birthday’. 

Sarah carefully placed a cover over the cake. “You do realize I’m paying you for this.” 

Megan sighed. They’d had this discussion before, and her answer had been the same. “You’re not paying me. I loved making this for you and Josh. It’s my way of saying thank you for everything you’ve done for us.” 

She could only imagine what her life would have been like if Sarah hadn’t been here. 

“We only did what anyone else would have.” 

They’d done so much more. Returning to Milwaukee after her parents and sister were killed in a car accident had been terrible. Even though her heart was torn in two, she’d done her best to look after Nora. 

Sarah had been her rock, her shoulder to cry on, and her safe place to fall. Nothing Megan could say or do would ever be enough to repay her kindness. But Josh’s birthday cake was a good place to start.

* * *

Later that evening, when everyone else was enjoying Josh’s party, a sense of dread made Megan shiver. She didn’t know what was wrong with her. For the last couple of days, she’d had the feeling someone was watching her. It didn’t matter where she was or how many people were around her, something was making her nervous. 

“Are you okay?” Sarah asked. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

She shook her head, trying to get rid of the uneasy feeling. “I’ll be okay. I must have been standing in a draft.”

Sarah looked behind her and frowned. “Maybe you need a drink. Josh’s mom brought alcohol-free eggnog with her. Why don’t you have a cup?”

“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll find Nora and see if she’d like something to drink, too.”

“She’ll be okay. I saw her a couple of minutes ago with one of my sister’s nieces. They were playing on the landing with their dolls.”

Megan looked across the room at the staircase.

“Don’t fret,” Sarah said as she wrapped her arm around Megan’s waist. “She’ll be okay.”

“I know she will. It’s just that I—”

“Worry too much. Let her be a little girl. She needs to learn how to be independent.”

“But she’s only five years old.”

Sarah nudged her across the room. “Before you know it she’ll be nineteen and going away to college. She’ll be all right.”

Megan knew she was overprotective but, after her sister and parents died, she wasn’t taking any chances with Nora.

“I know that look,” Sarah said with a sigh. “Come on. We’ll check on Nora before we find the eggnog. Does that sound better?”

“Much better.” Megan didn’t know when she would stop worrying about Nora, but she guessed ‘never’ would probably cover everything. 

They wound their way through the room, finally making their way up the staircase. Nora wasn’t there. Megan frowned at the two young girls who were playing with their dolls. “Have you seen Nora?”

“She went to look at the stars,” one of the girls said. 

Megan’s heart raced. The temperature had plummeted. If Nora had gone outside, she could get hypothermia or—

Sarah’s hand landed on Megan’s arm, but her friend’s attention was focused on the little girl who had spoken. “Where did Nora go, Marianne?”

The little girl pointed to one of the bedrooms. “That way. She said that was the best room for looking at the stars.”

“Thank you,” Megan said as she hurried down the hallway. She opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief. Nora was curled in a ball, sound asleep on the window seat. 

Sarah must have seen the look on her face. “I told you so,” she whispered. “Nora’s okay.”

“This time she was okay,” Megan whispered back. “I shouldn’t have let her out of my sight.”

With a smile, Sarah handed her a fluffy blanket. “Wrap this around her. When you’re ready, come downstairs. I’ll have your glass of eggnog waiting.”

“I won’t be long.” Megan opened the blanket and gently placed it over Nora. With a heavy heart, she sat on the edge of the window seat and watched her niece as she slept.

Nora had her mom’s cute button nose and the same big, blue, mischievous eyes that could light up a room. Sometimes, she was so much like Christine that it made Megan cry.

She glanced at the floor and picked up a sheet of paper. 

Nora turned over and sent her a sleepy smile. “You found my Christmas wish.”

Megan angled the picture toward the light. Two big stick people and one little one held hands in a field of flowers. The sun shone down from a clear blue sky, and a star twinkled overhead. 

“I want a daddy for Christmas,” Nora whispered. “You said if I was a good girl, I could ask Santa for anything.”

“Santa doesn’t make daddies,” Megan said softly. “But he has lots of other wonderful things in his workshop.”

“I want a daddy.” Nora snuggled under the blanket and closed her eyes. Within minutes she was sound asleep.

Megan took a deep breath. It wasn’t the first time Nora had said she wanted a father. And each time it happened, she was even more unsure about what to do.

Three years ago, Nora was happily living with her mom and grandparents in Milwaukee. 

Megan was living in Dallas, working in a job she loved, and engaged to a man who meant the world to her. 

In one horrific moment, everything changed. And it had never been the same since.

Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!

After a tragic accident, Megan Stevenson is determined to give, Nora, her five-year-old niece, a loving and stable home. With her fantasy cake business thriving and her niece’s nightmares finally over, Megan’s life is more stable than it has ever been—until a stranger knocks on her door and warns her that her life is in danger.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “This series is outstanding! I can't wait for the next book!”

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Lots of action and intrigue along with a softer side. Hard to put this book down."

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "What a fantastic story. Parts brought moist eyes, laughter, and the flutter of true love."

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