An Angel for Christmas

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-10-23
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
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A snowy mountainside... A starry night... The makings of a miracle... Christmas has never brought out the best in the MacDougal family. Still, year after year they gather together in the Blue Ridge Mountains to try to make the season merry and bright. But this year is an especially strained one, with Shayne's impending divorce, Morwenna's slavish devotion to work and Bobby's reluctance to face what life has to offer. They've never felt less like a family. Then, in the midst of a snowy sibling shouting match, a mysterious stranger appears. He could be a criminal, a madman-or something far more unexpected. Despite their fears and the growing danger in the dark woods around them, the MacDougals take a leap of faith. But when another stranger arrives on the mountainside, they don't know which of them to believe. One of these men can't be trusted. And one is about to bring Christmas into their hearts.

Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She's a winner of the RWA's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers' Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For more information, check out her websites:,, and You can also find Heather on Facebook.


The landscape was crystal, dusted in a fresh fall of snow that seemed to make tree branches shimmer, as if they were dotted with jewels.

Of course, the same new snow that made everything so beautiful could also become treacherous, Morwenna thought, trying to adjust her defroster as the car climbed up the mountainside.

With her initial reaction of, "How beautiful," barely out of her mind, she wondered why her parents hadn't decided to buy a retreat in the Bahamas, Arizona or Florida instead of forever maintaining the centuries-old, difficult-to-heat rustic old cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If the snow started up again—which forecasters were predicting—the beauty would definitely become dangerous.

"Other people opt for warmth," she muttered aloud. "Birds do it—they fly south for the winter!" If the snow had started up a bit earlier, she might have had a great excuse not to come.

That thought immediately made her feel guilty. She loved her parents. She even loved her siblings—with whom she'd been fighting all her life. But this was going to be a rough Christmas. She winced; Shayne was going to be miserable.His own fault.She'd tried to tell her brother many times that he needed to start working harder at communicating if he was going to save his marriage. Shayne always thought that he was doing the right thing, and, of course, if it was therightthing in his head, everyone knew it was the wrong thing. Then, of course, there was Bobby. Baby brother Bobby, hardly a baby anymore; he was on his third college, having come home midsemester twice. Bobby was brilliant, which made her all the more angry with him, but so far, he'd majored in political science, education and biology. Now, he was once again searching for himself.

She was about to stop the car; the flurries were growing stronger, and even in her nice little Audi, the defrosting system was beginning to wear out. But then it appeared before her. The old family "cottage" in the woods on the mountaintop. Her mother had grown up there, but Morwenna and her siblings had not. When Stacy Byrne had met the rising young attorney from Philadelphia, Michael MacDougal, she had fallen head over heels in love, and had left home behind to follow him, wherever he might lead. But she'd lost her parents at a young age, and the house had become hers. By then, of course, it had needed extensive repairs and just about a new everything to remain standing. Her father might have joined a zillion private firms as a criminal defense attorney and made oodles of money, but he liked working in the D.A.'s office, and that was where he had stayed. They had never wanted for anything, but she often felt sorry for her dad—maintaining the cottage in the mountains had precluded any possibility of him buying one of those nice little time-shares in the islands or a warmer climate.

They were all grown up now—well, more or less. Bobby was twenty-one. But every time Morwenna thought about a brilliant excusenotto join her family for Christmas and accept one of the invitations she so often received to head to Jamaica or Grand Cayman for the holiday, she always chickened out at the last minute. Was that actually chickening out? No! Honestly, it was doing the right thing. Maybe she was feeling an edge—even an edge of bitterness—because Alex Hampton had urged her to join him for a jaunt to Cancun for an eight-day hiatus, a lovely bout of warmth from Christmas Eve until January 2. Of course, she'd asked Alex to join her in the mountains, but others from their office were going to Cancun, and, he'd explained, he had to go since he was the one who had instigated the trip.

Sure, he'd had to go. Why? He couldn't have just explained that the two of them were dating—no, more than dating…They were together. They should have been together at Christmas.

Well, he hadn't. And—perhaps because he'd been so stubborn, she'd been stubborn as well. And maybe she had hoped until the last minute that Alex would realize he was in love with her, and he had to come with her on a family holiday.

But he hadn't.

So Alex was on his way to Cancun, and she was…nearly blinded in the snow on top of a frigid mountain in Virginia.

She should have given in, she thought.

But he should have wanted to be with her; Christmas was a time for family!

At that moment, the cabin appeared before her. For a moment, it looked like a shack in the wilderness. Then it seemed that the snow miraculously cleared. She saw the porches, and the extensions of the wings. And from inside, the lights from a Christmas tree. Red and blue, green and yellow, festive and glittering out onto the snow. Her mother's home was reputed to have once been the property of Thomas Jefferson, or at least the property of a Jefferson-family relative. It had been a tavern way back when, and had eighteenth-century pocket doors that slid across the parlor; at night, when the family had finished with the business of the day, children had been sent upstairs to bed while the doors had been opened, and all in the vicinity came to drink—and, she'd heard, plot against the British. During the Civil War, the MacDou-gals had been what would have been referred to today as "closet" Abolitionists, which had made the place part of the Underground Railroad. It did have history, she thought. She was amused to think as well that, since the area was known a bit for the Hatfield-and-McCoy kind of feuding, it had even survived the aftermath of the war, when grown men had dressed up in sheets as the Klan and come around burning down those who had aided the North in any way.

"So, it's still ours!" she murmured.

She had arrived.

Morwenna wasn't sure if her other siblings had arrived yet, or how they had come, but the garage door was open despite the snow. Her mother wouldn't have wanted them to have to stop to open the doors, and the kids no longer had automatic openers for the door.

She wished that, in all their great wisdom, they'd managed a garage that connected directly to the house. But they hadn't.

She grabbed her bag and, huffing and grunting, dislodged it from her small car. She slipped out the side door and headed for the house.

Once again, she stared at it.

"You're a white elephant!" she said aloud to the structure.

Naturally, it didn't reply.

She began the trudge to the porch. "Home, yep. Oh, yeah, home for the holidays."

Bobby MacDougal added another ornament to the tree, wincing as he heard what had been the low murmur of his parents' voices grow to a pitch that was far louder.

They were fighting about him, of course. They'd fought about him many times in his twenty-one years of life; he was the misfit of the family.

He didn't want them fighting about him. Then again, while his mother had a tendency to view the world through Pollyanna eyes, and his father was more on the doom-and-gloom side and was always practical. But, then, of course, he worked with the worst of humanity at times, and Bobby had to figure that swayed his thinking now and then. On the other side, his mother liked to believe that everything was going to be all right when there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that it would be.

Still, he didn't want to be the cause of their argument.

He'd tried—good God, he'd tried, really—but he hated the law. His father always thought it would be great if he got a degree in anything that was academic, and he had always understood facts and figures, and he honestly loved the different sciences. But he only loved exploration as a hobby, he didn't want to dissect frogs or other cold-blooded creatures that the powers that be had decided were fine to take apart. He now knew what he wanted; he just knew that his parents would be horrified, and so, since he had arrived at the mountaintop a few days ago, he'd tried to keep silent and listen to the lectures.

And those lectures were endless.

He understood that his father was a super-achiever, but his father of all people should have understood. Mike MacDougal made a decent living; he might have swept the world away. He had chosen not to, which would make people think that he'd be understanding of the fact that his son wasn't looking to dominate the stock market, just something to do for a living that would suffice—as long as he was happy. Bobby had tried once to explain that he didn't need to make a fortune; he wanted to get along fine. He'd made the argument that when the economy went down, even computer scientists were struggling for a living, and that nurses might be in high demand, but hospitals couldn't pay them. His father always just stared at him blankly.

Bobby looked at the little ornament he held. He hadn't realized that he'd picked it up, or what it was—one of his mom's cherished antiques. It was a little angel with a trumpet. He assumed that the angel was trumpeting the birth of Christ.

"Ah, but maybe you're just a naked little cherub—advertising!" he told the ornament.

He could really hear the voices from the kitchen now. His father's voice was growing aggravated. "Look, Stacy, you're missing the point. He's going to wind up being a bum on the streets of New York, drinking out of a paper bag and asking for handouts. And for what? Because he 'can't find himself'?"

"Shh! He'll hear you," his mother whispered.

"He should hear me—he knows how I feel. You've got Morwenna, working more than sixty hours a week at that ad firm, and you've got Shayne, who works all dayas a doctor,and comes home to take care of the kids."

"Shayne only takes care of the kids on his day," Stacy MacDougal reminded her husband.

Mike was silent for a minute. "The point is," he said. "He works hard."

"Too hard," Stacy said more quietly.

"If that bitch of a wife of his had just appreciated the time he was putting in for her and the kids, she'd still be with him—and she and the kids would have been here, too," Mike said.

"I am going to miss the children terribly!" Stacy said.

At least they'd stopped talking about him!Bobby thought.Still, he was sad. He'd cared about his sister-in-law. She had her eccentricities like everyone alive; she had probably just been fed up. Shayne was so seldom home; she had little help and no social life.

"The thing is this—no matter what, Shayne and Morwenna are going to be all right," Mike said. "They know how towork.They'll survive. You know, Stacy, life isn't one big Christmas holiday. It's reality. You have to work to make a living. You have to make a living to have food and shelter!"

Back to him!

He set the angel or cherub or antique-whatever on the tree. As he did so, he heard the purr of an engine and hurried over to the window—the Audi. Morwenna had arrived.

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