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an excerpt from

A Home for Christmas

Set in 1800s Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado

Not in a Series / Single-Title

A Home for Christmas

Excerpt from "Christmas Mountain"

Copper Point, Montana Territory

December 1879

The evergreen left a trail of needles in the snow, and the cold filled August’s lungs, but he didn’t mind. Life outside the four walls of his cabin or clinic brought him great joy. Almost as much happiness as his daughter, Sarah. She trudged alongside him over the mountain, humming “O Christmas Tree” while Crockett, the dog they had rescued three winters ago, sniffed the surrounding trees. Soft flakes floated around them, their path to earth slowing as they passed through or landed on the low-hanging branches of the tall pines.

August caught the scent of smoke from the fire, left burning low at the cabin, and quickened his pace in anticipation of a hot cup of coffee. His daughter’s sweet music stopped filling the air, and the dog raced into the trees, his wild barks alerting August that something was wrong.

Sarah’s eyes opened wide and she ran after Crockett, disappearing behind a boulder that stood half again her size.

“Sarah, wait!” August dropped the rope securing the tree to his shoulder and raced toward his daughter as the dog’s barks quieted. When August caught up with Sarah and the dog, it was the soft form huddled against the rock that drew his attention.

“Stand back.” He knelt on the snow and pulled a thick scarf away from the almost frozen figure’s face. Crockett nudged the stranger’s arm. “Hold onto Crockett.”

“Is she alive?”

August set his hand in front of the woman’s mouth, the faintest hint of warmth released from her lips. “She’s alive, but not for long if we don’t get her inside.” He lifted her carefully into his arms. Movement in the trees brought him around, and Crockett’s low growl stopped as quickly as it had begun.

“A horse, Pa!”

August nodded. “One that had sense to find shelter in the trees. Can you help me and care for the horse?”

“Yes.” His daughter moved with slow and confident steps toward the mare. She stopped almost two feet away, holding out her hand. The horse hesitated but then closed the distance and pressed its nose against Sarah’s hand even as the young girl reached for the reins. She patted the horse, gently smoothing her hand over its mane. Father, daughter, horse, dog, and stranger made their way up the gradual slope to the front porch of the rough-hewn cabin.

“Please get the mare settled into the barn, and take Crockett with you.”

His daughter acknowledged and led the animal away toward the shelter of the large barn. He carefully adjusted the woman in his arms to open the door and kicked it shut behind him. Inside, the embers continued to burn in the stone fireplace, heating the cozy room.

August walked through the main room and into his bedroom where he gently laid the stranger on his bed. After removing his coat and hat, he washed his hands and set about removing her outer clothing.

A soft knock diverted his attention to the doorway where Sarah stood, her apprehension evident.

“Please fetch me some warm water and clean cloths.”

“Yes, Pa!”

August heard the hall cupboard open and close, but his eyes remained focused on his new patient. Her pale skin, smooth hands, and once fine clothing, gave her away as a lady of some breeding. He couldn’t imagine what would drive anyone like her to his mountain, especially in this weather.

His daughter returned and asked, “Is she going to be all right?”

“I hope so.” Although he didn’t know what he would find once he examined the lady, he predicted it would be a long night. “It will be dark soon, and you have your school assignment to finish before tomorrow.”

“But I want to help.”

“I know you do, my darling, but do you remember what I told you?”

“A doctor must be educated.”

He smiled. “That’s right. Now go and finish your assignment and then we can have our supper.”

“May I help after my schoolwork?”

“You may. Please, heat some broth and put the kettle on for tea. When she wakes, she’ll need something warm inside of her.”

Seemingly content with the compromise, Sarah left the room, closing the door behind her. August turned to the patient, brushing her fallen hair aside. Startled at what was revealed, his stomach clenched. She bore a striking resemblance to someone he once knew. With gentle care, he removed her dress and underclothes, careful to cover her and readjust the blanket as he examined her for any injuries, but he found only scratches and a large bruise on her hip. With her weak pulse and shallow breathing, his greatest concern now was hypothermia.

He washed her face, arms, and lower half of her legs before covering her back up with the heavy quilt—the last quilt his wife had ever made before she died. The woman shifted and moaned softly. August watched her lips try to move, but she couldn’t manage more than a few shivers.


Her hoarse words caused August to stiffen. He reached out and placed his hand flat against her brow. “Can you hear me, miss?”

Her eyelids fluttered and then closed. August thought she might doze off, but then she looked at him, and he stared into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen—a deeper blue than even his wife’s.

“Clara?” Her voice sounded low and hoarse.

“She’s not here.” August brought the quilt up to her chin and pulled a chair closer to the bed. “Do you know what’s happened?” He watched her confusion turn to fear. “I’m not going to hurt you. My daughter and I found you in the woods. You nearly froze.”

She blinked a few times as though to clear her vision and seemed to relax. “May I have some water?”

August filled a glass from the pitcher he kept beside his bed and lifted her head while she slowly took several sips.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in my cabin near the base of Shelter Mountain. Do you remember how you got here?”

She nodded and tried to sit up. August reached forward and helped her until she leaned back against the plump pillows.

“Where are my clothes?”

“They’re here but wet. You were unconscious, and I had to check for injuries.”

She pulled the quilt up until nothing was exposed below her chin. “I’m sore but otherwise feel unharmed.”

“Did you fall? You have a rather large bruise.”

“I wounded my pride more than my body. Yes, I fell off my horse. My sister did not warn me about the steep terrain of your mountain.”

August sat back. “Clara. You’re Clarissa’s sister? Katherine.”

“Yes.” She indicated her pile of clothes. “There’s a letter from her in the pocket of my coat.”

August rummaged through the clothes until he found the letter, folded and damp. He removed the single sheet of paper and stared down at his wife’s delicate lettering. He lowered himself back into the chair and looked at Katherine.

“Clara never told me that she wrote to you.” He glanced back down at the letter. “When did you receive this?”

“Last month.”

August stared at her in disbelief. “How is that possible? Clara died four years ago.”

A few tears fell from Katherine’s eyes. “I know, and I am so sorry.”

The gentle knock at the bedroom door reminded August that his daughter was to bring in soup and tea. He opened the door and lifted the tray from her hands before she peeked around him. A child with a natural exuberance for life and people, Sarah walked beside him to the bed, followed closely by the dog.

Sarah smiled, her eyes brightening. “Papa, she looks likes Ma!”

Katherine and Sarah both looked to him. He set the tray beside Katherine on the bed and lifted his daughter onto his lap. “Sarah, I would like to introduce you to your aunt Katherine. She’s your mother’s sister.”

Convincing Sarah to go to bed after she learned that Katherine was her aunt had not been an easy feat. Katherine, despite her weakened state, visited with Sarah, talking a little about Clara. Once she became too weary to continue, she promised Sarah to spend as much time with her as she wanted.

End of Preview


Excerpted from "Christmas Mountain," a short story included in the A Home for Christmas collection by MK McClintock. Copyright © by MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.

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