Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Every Day

The Handsome Fellow

By Alison Bruce

While Christian missionaries have a lot to answer for in many of the places they invaded, the message of Christianity did strike a chord with many Amerindians. The story of Jesus paralleled parts of their own traditions and, when they were allowed to, they could adapt and mesh their ancient beliefs with the Christian ones.

This practice of adapting was the norm when Christianity first spread throughout Europe. It is the reason why we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December instead of in the spring when he probably was born. It is also why there were so many variations on the theme. The Coptic Church in Egypt had different liturgical practices and traditions from the Iberian Church in Spain or the Celtic Church in Ireland and Britain.

A similar process occurred as Christianity spread throughout the Amerindian nations. Christmas practiced among the Iroquois is different from a Navaho Christmas. What gets adapted, assimilated or replaced is different from culture to culture.

Being a firm believer in Old Father Christmas, the first thing I looked up was an equivalent to Santa Claus. I found him in The Handsome Fellow. Dressed in white buckskins, accompanied by a wolf, he played the role of gift bringer. Although adopted into Christmas traditions, he is based on a real chief.
"There was a real Native American man in the 1800s, who was an important leader and warrior in the Creek tribe. His Indian name was Chief Hobbythacco, which means Handsome Fellow. Chiefs in Native American cultures were often the beneficiaries of many gifts. According to the traditions of Native Americans, the chief would then share these gifts with others of the tribe who were less fortunate."
The image of a handsome warrior stepping out of the wilderness appeals to my inner storyteller. The historian is more interested that The Handsome Fellow played Santa whenever there was a need and only became associated with Christmas later. The idea that there is only one day a year when presents are distributed is literally a foreign concept.
"Everyday is our Christmas. Every meal is our Christmas. At every meal we take a little portion of the food we are eating, and we offer it to the spirit world on behalf of the four legged, and the winged, and the two legged. We pray--not the way most Christians pray-- but we thank the Grandfathers, the Spirit, and the Guardian Angel."

Monday, December 23, 2013


Even during the holidays, those of us who write historical romance are interested in history. Recently, I found an old copy of WILD WEST MAGAZINE from December 1996. In it was featured an Apache about whom I knew almost nothing, Mangas Coloradas. The name Mangas Coloradas is the translations of his Apache nickname Kan-da-zis Tlishishen (Red Shirt) by Mexicans and is Spanish for Red Coloured Sleeves. His other name was Dasoda-hae, which means He Just Sits There. A Bedonkohe by birth, he married into the Copper Mines local group of the Chihenne and became also leader of the neighboring Mimbreño local group of the Chihenne. He is regarded by many historians to be one of the most important Native American leaders of the 19th century due to his fighting achievements against Mexicans and Americans.

Mangas Coloradas

When I think of Apaches, I picture a shortish person of small frame. Physically impressive, Mangas Coloradas was a giant of a man at six inches over six feet and weighing around 250 pounds. He was extremely intelligent, with a large head, and said to have equaled orator Daniel Webster. Born around 1793. He was a member of the Eastern Chiricahua nation, whose homeland stretched west from the Rio Grande to include most of what is present-day southwestern New Mexico.

During the decades of the 1820s and 1830s, the Apaches' main enemies were the Mexicans, who had won their independence from Spain in 1821. Mangas Coloradas was considered courageous, wise, generous, and always sought peace. Some believe he was a legend in his own time. Mangas Coloradas was a peaceful man until 1837 when the Mexican Government offered a $100 bounty for each Apache Indian scalp. He became chief of the Mimbreño in 1837, after his predecessor, Juan José Compas—together with a number of Mimbreño men, women, and children—had been betrayed and murdered by a group of trappers for the Mexican bounty on their scalps. Mangas Coloradas and his warriors avenged the treachery by slaughtering trapping parties, attacking supply trains to the region, and starving the citizens of Santa Rita, killing the remainder on their attempted escape. For a time the area was cleared of its white and Mexican inhabitants.

In 1846, when the United States went to war with Mexico, the Apache Nation promised U.S. soldiers safe passage through Apache lands. Once the U.S. occupied New Mexico in 1846, Mangas Coloradas signed a peace treaty, respecting them as conquerors of the hated Mexican enemy. An uneasy peace between the Apache and the United States lasted until an influx of gold miners into New Mexico's Pinos Altos Mountains led to open conflict.

In December 1860, thirty miners launched a surprise attack on an encampment of Bedonkohes on the west bank of the Mimbres River. Historian Edwin R. Sweeney reported, the miners "... killed four Indians, wounded others, and captured thirteen women and children." Shortly after that, Mangas began raids against U.S. citizens and their property.

Cochise, by Edward Curtis

Mangas Coloradas' daughter Dos-Teh-Seh married Cochise, principal chief of the Chokonen Apache. Cochise had long resisted fighting whites. In early February 1861, US Army Lieutenant George N. Bascom investigating the "Indian" kidnapping of a rancher's son, apparently without orders, lured an innocent Cochise, his family and several warriors into a trap at Apache Pass, southeastern Arizona. Cochise managed to escape, but his family and warriors remained in custody. Negotiations were unsuccessful and fighting erupted.

This incident, known as the "Bascom Affair," ended with Cochise’s brother and five other warriors being hanged by Bascom. Later that year, Mangas and Cochise struck an alliance, agreeing to drive all whites out of Apache territory. They were joined in their effort by Victorio (supposed to be another of Mangas Coloradas’ sons in law), Juh and Geronimo. Although the goal was never achieved, the White population in Apache territory was greatly reduced for a few years during the Civil War, after federal troops had been withdrawn to the east.


Mangas Coloradas was a skilled strategist in guerrilla warfare. In January 1863, he decided to meet with U.S. military leaders at Fort McLane, in southwestern New Mexico. Mangas arrived under a flag of truce to meet with Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West, an officer of the California militia and a future Reconstruction senator from Louisiana. In spite of the truce, armed soldiers took Mangas into custody. West allegedly gave an execution order to the sentries.

Men, that old murderer has got away from every soldier command and has left a trail of blood for 500 miles on the old stage line. I want him dead tomorrow morning. Do you understand? I want him dead. ”

That night, while tied on the ground, Mangas was provoked with red hot bayonets until he moved to simulate his attempt to escape. Then he was shot "trying to escape." The following day, U.S. soldiers cut off his head, boiled it and sent the skull to Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist in New York City. Phrenological analysis of the skull and a sketch of it appear in Fowler's book. The murder and mutilation of Mangas' body only increased the hostility between Apaches and the United States, with more or less constant war continuing for nearly another 25 years.

Mangas Coloradas died January 18, 1863 and is buried in an unmarked plot in Mangas Cemetery,
Grant County, New Mexico.

Souces for post:
Encyclopedia Britania 

I write as well as read about the West. Try one of my contemporary or historical romances in print or ebook from my page at Amazon: 

Also available is the audio book BRAZOS BRIDE from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. HIGH STAKES BRIDE will soon be available.

Books made wonderful gifts for yourself or others!

Merry Christmas to all y'all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Welcome Kristy McCaffrey to Cowboy Kisses

While I'm (Ginger) enjoying the Christmas holidays in Arizona, Kristy was kind enough to fill in for me today with an interesting article and an introduction to her new release, set in the very state I'm visiting.  Thank you, Kristy, and happy holidays to everyone.

Indian Boarding Schools
Guest Post by Kristy McCaffrey

During the 1800’s, when many Native Americans were forced onto reservations, the American government agreed to provide money, food, and education for their children. While this exchange proved to be largely detrimental to the Indian population, it was still believed that if they could learn to speak English, become Christian, and farm the land as European Americans did, then they would become successful in life. To this end, Christian churches began to open mission schools on reservations. Later, boarding schools were created with the idea that it would be easier to teach children a new way of life if they were taken from their own families and people. Boarding schools were established in 15 states or territories including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, California and Idaho. Children stayed anywhere from four to ten years.

While some parents readily agreed to send their children, believing they needed to learn English and new job skills, others refused. In many instances, the government forced the children to go. In 1895, a group of Hopi leaders were sent to Alcatraz Island for seven months because they wouldn’t sent their children to a boarding school.

New students were stripped of their native clothing and given uniforms. Their hair was usually cut short and they were given English names. They were punished if they used their native language. Their spiritual traditions were forbidden, replaced instead with church services and the observance of Christian holidays. The schools were often over-crowded and many children became sick, contracting influenza, tuberculosis, and measles.

While overwhelmingly negative for most children, one positive aspect was that many built lasting friendships with Native Americans from other tribes while at school together. It wasn’t until the mid-1900’s that most boarding schools were closed.

Works Cited
Littlefield, Holly. Children of the Indian Boarding Schools. Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 2001.

Photo Credits
Don’t miss Kristy’s new book, Into the Land of Shadows, a historical western romance set in the Arizona Territory, now available from Prairie Rose Publications. As Ethan Barstow and Kate Kinsella search for Ethan’s brother, Charley, they find three Hopi children along the way hiding in the desert, on the run from nearby Keams Canyon Boarding School.

Ethan Barstow has come to Arizona Territory to search for his younger brother, Charley. It’s been five years since a woman came between them and it’s high time they buried the hatchet. He soon learns that his brother has broken more than one heart in town, has mysteriously and abruptly disappeared, and that an indignant fiancée is hot on his trail.

Kate Kinsella pursues Charley Barstow when he skips out of town without a second thought. Not only has he left Agnes McPherson alone and pregnant, but everyone still believes that he and Kate are engaged, a sham from the beginning. An ill-timed encounter with a group of ruffians has her suddenly in the company of Ethan Barstow, Charley’s brother and a man of questionable repute. As they move deeper into the shadows of the Arizona desert, family tensions and past tragedies threaten to destroy a relationship neither of them expects.

Visit for more info.

You can also find Kristy at:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Under the Mistletoe


My mother always had mistletoe hanging in the house at Christmas, and I have to admit, it’s been years since I purchased any. I might have to change that this year. We've probably all heard of a kid that ate a berry or two and didn’t die, and birds do eat the berries—yet the plant is poisonous, so do be cautious of it around animals and children. There are several varieties, and all should be treated with respect, though not avoided. Handling it is fine. It’s digestion of the leaves themselves that is harmful—from what I read. 

Here’s a bit more about mistletoe.   

It is a parasite plant that needs another plant to grow, often times a tree due to the fact birds love Mistletoe berries and after eating them usual fly ‘home’ to sit on a tree branch, where they leave droppings that contain seeds. Within six weeks those seeds can become a plant, however it will take five years before it blooms, which can be a variety of colors, from red to yellow and green, with either white or red waxy berries. Mistletoe is easy to spot in winter because its leathery leaves stay green.  

Mistletoe has been claimed to be many things: magical, can heal wounds, increase fertility, ward off evil spirits, bring good luck, an aphrodisiac, and a symbol of peace. 

It even has its own etiquette—A man is to remove a berry after kissing a women. When all the berries are gone, there is no more kissing under that plant.

A few myths: Married couples who kiss under the mistletoe are assured good luck, those who refuse- bad luck, and a maiden who isn’t kissed under the mistletoe will remain single for another year.

A maiden who places a sprig of mistletoe under her pillow will dream of her Prince Charming.  Also burning a sprig of mistletoe will foresee a woman’s happiness. A full flames means a happy, long lasting marriage, a smoldering weak flame means she’ll marry a fool.

It’s also just fun, which is how I used it in Christmas with Her Cowboy, a story in the Christmas Cowboy Kisses anthology. 

A short mistletoe snippet from Anna and Tanner's story: 

Whatever medicine the Doc brought home for Lamont Key’s son must have worked, because the kid was at the party, too. He and a couple other boys his age, fifteen or so, were running around with sprigs of green, claiming it was mistletoe and holding it over people’s heads. Kent Key held it over Anna’s head right now, and she was laughing.
She and John stopped dancing and after nodding to the crowd, Anna puckered her lips for John to kiss.
Tanner’s jaw twitched as he watched the man take Anna’s shoulders and kiss her, longer than necessary. The crowd whooped and clapped as they broke apart, and Tanner considered turning away when Anna’s eyes found his. Instead, he held her gaze for a moment, wishing he could read her mind. Guilt at kissing her, the way he had yesterday was playing havoc inside him, and mixed with the desires now closer to the surface. He was about as twisted as he’d ever been.
A commotion surrounding him pulled his eyes away and he found Kent holding the sprig over Rosalie’s head. She’d already closed her eyes and pursed her lips much like Anna had done for John.
As much as he didn’t want to, Tanner couldn’t not kiss her, so he leaned forward and placed a tiny peck on her lips.
The crowd groaned with disappointment, and John, still beaming and receiving pats on his back for the way he’d kissed Anna, yelled, “You call that a kiss?”
 That didn’t get to him as much as how Anna slapped John on the front of his shoulder. Tanner gestured for Kent to hold the sprig over Rosalie’s head again, and this time, he took her in both arms. Bending her over backwards, he kissed her until the crowd cheered.
“Oh, my,” Rosalie muttered when he stood her on her feet again.
The crowd cheered again. The kiss had done nothing for Tanner, not like the one in the barn last night. When he lifted his head, already regretting what he’d just done, he expected a glare from Anna, but all he saw was the back of her green dress as she left the room.

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bounty Hunters in the Old West by @JacquieRogers

The law was a bit sparse in the Old West, often not a lawman around for hundreds of miles. If a criminal knew how to live off the land and he owned a fast horse, he was pretty well guaranteed an escape. What's a sheriff to do?

In 1872, the Supreme Court ruled that bounty hunters were a part of the U.S. law enforcement system with a decision in Taylor vs. Taintor:

“When the bail is given, the principal is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. Their domain is a continuance of the original imprisonment. Whenever they choose to do so, they may seize him and deliver him up to his discharge; and if it cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done. They may exercise their rights in person or by agent. They may pursue him into another state; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose. The seizure is not made by virtue of due process. None is needed. It is likened to the arrest by the Sheriff of an escaped prisoner.”

As you can see by this decision, bounty hunters didn't have to adhere to the same rules of due process that lawmen did. (This is still true in some states.)

One of the greatest bounty hunters was Pinkerton Detective, Charlie Siringo. Siringo had a long and distinguished, if not controversial, career. He had steely nerves and his cleverness got him out of more than one jam. But he wrote a book, and the Pinkerton Agency wasn't too keen about that, so he spent several years at the end of his life arguing with them. Could be that the Pinkertons were the only ones to ever best him.

Lots of town marshals and county sheriffs supplemented their meager incomes with bounties. Of course, they had to follow the rules of due process while a bounty hunter had no such restrictions. Then again, if there's no one around for a couple hundred miles, who's to know? This is part of how the West was tamed. Many lawmen straddled the fence between law-enforcing and law-breaking.

In order for a bounty hunter to get his money in British Columbia, he had to bring the criminal in alive. The US had no such compunctions, but the bounty was half if the prisoner died before making it to jail. Bounty hunters didn't receive payment until later, so when they brought in prisoners, they'd either have to wait, or have the money sent to a bank. (They'd probably wait, considering the state of banking at the time.) But the most important thing was that bounty hunters' names were never, ever recorded, because their anonymity was their protection. This little item is what makes research difficult.

(From Wikimedia Commons)
Much to movie and TV viewers' delight, popular lore glorifies the Old West bounty hunter. The role of Josh Randall in Wanted: Dead or Alive in the 1950s made Steve McQueen a star. "Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) was a man of few words. A bounty hunter by trade, he tracked his prey all over the West. Randall carried an 1892 44/40 center fire Winchester carbine that he called "Mare's Laig." It handled like a revolver by had the punch of a rifle. Unlike other bounty hunters, Randall had scruples. He tried to bring the prisoner in alive and often found himself called upon to protect people in need."

Then there's my personal favorite, Paladin, played by Richard Boone on "Have Gun-Will Travel." (Okay, so he was more of a hired gun than a bounty hunter, but they go together well.) 

I haven't written a novel with a bounty hunter character yet, but I have a few planned.  My Christmas story, A Gift for Rhoda, in Wishing for a Cowboy (Prairie Rose Publications) has a retired bounty hunter hero.


Rhoda Johnson is stranded in a lonely cabin without a groom. The townsfolk say she's better off without him, but her drunken groom sends a message that he'll claim her as his Christmas bride. Gunman and ex-Confederate soldier Nate Harmon comes to Idaho to make peace with his abolitionist preacher father. When half-frozen Nate reaches the cabin on a snowy Christmas Eve, instead of finding his folks, he's greeted by a pretty blonde with a shotgun who keeps calling him Mr. Snyder. Will she shoot him, or melt his heart?

Excerpt of
A Gift for Rhoda
by Jacquie Rogers
a short story in 

With trepidation, Rhoda stoked up the fire in the stove, then leaned her back against the door and closed her eyes, praying for strength. It was Christmas Eve, a stranger—a hulking grizzly of a man, but a stranger nonetheless—had come bearing gifts, so sharing her shelter in the blizzard was the Christian thing to do. Maybe.

Before she gave herself a chance to think again, she turned around and yanked open the door. The wind caught it, blew it open, and nearly mashed her into the wall.

Rhoda grabbed her shotgun and pushed the door nearly shut, and yelled, “Mr. Snyder, you can come into the house.” She slammed the door again, not sure whether she was frozen from fear or from the cold.

Within a minute, boots clomped on the porch. She had said she would let him in and she’d go through with it—that was that. With false bravado, she swung the door open.

Aiming the shotgun at him, she said, “Leave all your weapons outside, Mr. Snyder.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He held his hands out to his sides, likely wanting to assure her that he had no intention of using his weapons. “But who the blazes is Mr. Snyder?”

♥  ♥  ♥
There are eight wonderful stories in this Christmas anthology, and at the end, there are recipes that go with each story, and mine is Rhoda's Wedding Custard Pie (bonus—it's gluten-free!).

Hearts of Owyhee series

(and available for Christmas...)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


     Let's take a trip on a train in 1870, just to see what it was like. Ads and handbills guaranteed a colorful experience. First, of course, we have to take a wagon or buggy ride to reach the train depot. The waiting room is lined with wooden benches, heated by a potbellied stove, and lighted  by oil lamps. Westward bound emigrants swarm the building and boarding platform, many still wearing costumes common in their home countries, and not knowing a word of English.
Inside the ticket office
     At the ticket window, we buy our tickets from the station agent who is in shirt sleeves, with fancy sleeve garters above each elbow and paper cuff protectors, like gauntlets to protect his real cuffs. On his head rests an eyeshade made of celluloid, a type of paper common in the day. A fat watch chain drapes across his middle and, as he hands us our tickets, he checks his watch against the station clock on the wall of the waiting room. But this is railroad time, not necessarily real time.
     There are more than seventy kinds of railroad time, all in use at once. Newspapers post train times but of course we know better than to rely on their schedules. What time our train arrives depends partly on what the clock in the last depot read, or what the railroad engineer's watch read when he left the station house. Some depots fire a gun at noon to help passengers know the right time to follow. Others drop a large ball from the top of a high mast to mark noontime. But who determines when noon is?
     To complicate matters, for each nine miles, east or west, our watches will lose or gain close to a minute. What a mess, simply trying to determine the time of day. Eventually, in 1883, railroads will adopt our present standard time system. Boundary lines between zones will be determined by railroad division points.
     A "highball" is an early railroad signal, a large red metal ball, hoisted on a pole in front of each station. All the way up, it is indeed a highball, telling the engineer to sail right on through. Down, it is a "lowball," meaning stop. The expression "to highball," meaning to get or keep going, is still in use.

     Our train stops at the next town, several miles down the line. If we're hungry, we might get off and seek a meal for 50 cents to a dollar at an attached restaurant. We might even be able to get a packed lunch basket for later for 50 cents. Railroad prices, of course. Food in cities is cheaper, but we're in a small town and don't have time to go hunting for restaurants as our train leaves soon. Yes, there goes the blast of the train's horn.
     Behind the smoke-belching engine is an open tender loaded with wood. In back of that is a U.S. Mail car, a railway post office, or a combined mail and baggage car. Then there are the passenger coaches, only three or four, as passenger trains in the 1870's aren't very long. The cars are wooden, except for the running gear, and 44 to 45 feet long, with open platforms on the ends and only a light iron rail to protect the passengers from falling into the swaying, clanking void between cars. Coaches are connected by a primitive link and pin coupling. To operate these, the switchman has to go between the cars and are frequently killed. In 1887, Pullman will introduce the enclosed vestibule.
     The seats in our coach are wooden, upholstered in red or green plush. A potbellied stove provides heat (steam heat piped in from the engine won't coming into being until the late 1880's). Coal-oil lamps provide light. Pintsch gaslights will come along in 1883, Pintsch gas being an oil product, and we'll have electric lights in the late eighties and nineties.
     Eating houses at railroads are notoriously bad, until Fred Harvey opens the first of his Harvey House restaurant in 1875 at Topeka, Kansas, on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line. If we want luxury, and a Hotel Train to our destination is available, we could go to the dining car and enjoy an out-of-this world meal, Turkey carpets, inlaid woodwork, fancy hangings, wall mirrors, snowy linens in the sleepers, mile-long menus, and prices to match. Hotel trains hauled mainly Pullmans and Silver Palace sleepers, about three each, two coaches and a baggage car.
     The train is frighteningly fast, traveling an amazing 25 mph, and we are gravely concerned about whether or not our human constitutions can endure such speed. Remember, we don't have automobiles or airplanes to use for comparison. We have horses, which can move about 15 miles an hour, wagons-- 2 to 1-1/2 miles an hour, steamboats-- perhaps 10 mph, and stagecoaches-- 5-6 mph. Why the train is a veritble speed demon likely to scorch the earth as it moves.
     My, I'm tired. Which way is the sleeper car?

Charlene Raddon likes to say that she began her fiction career in the third grade when she announced in Show & Tell that a baby sister she never had was killed by a black widow spider. She often penned stories featuring mistreated young girls whose mother accused of crimes her sister had actually committed. Those were mostly therapeutic exercises. Her first serious attempt at writing fiction came in 1980 when she woke from a vivid dream that compelled her to drag out a typewriter and begin writing. An early love for romance novels and the Wild West led her to choose the historical romance genre but she also writes contemporary romance. At present, she has five books published in paperback by Kensington Books (one under the pseudonym Rachel Summers), and the same five digitally published by Tirgearr Publishing. 

This blog was written with the help of the Foster-Harris book, The Look Of The Old West

Find Charlene at:



Monday, December 9, 2013

Children’s Holiday Games of Long Ago


Holidays, especially Christmas, have always been most exciting for children. In the old days they didn’t have iPhones, iPads or any of the modern “toys” we provide to keep them busy while we cook Christmas dinner, set our tables and greet guests. Instead, they played games. Here are a few of their favorites.

Bag and Stick

A treat-filled paper bag is hung from from the ceiling or possibly a tree branch in warm climates. One child is blindfolded and spun around. Using a stick he or she is given several chances to hit the bag. Everyone takes turns until the bag breaks, spilling out its contents. The kids rush to snatch up as many treats as they can. Sounds like the piñata game, doesn’t it? Probably not a coincidence.

Famous Romance

Kind of appropriate for romance authors! This game was popular at Valentine’s Day. A heart is attached (pinned, I imagine) to each child’s back with a name on it of one half of a famous couple. The players ask each other questions to learn their identity, such as “Am I a woman?” or “Am I alive now?” Once the player knows his or her name, they must find their partner in romance.

The Cobweb Game

This game was often played at Christmas parties. A big, pretty spider (if a spider can be called pretty) made of wire and decorated, is hung from on high. Long strings or ribbons, one per player, were attached to the spider and wound around the room, under furniture, through doorways, maybe up and down stairs. They formed a complicated web. Each child chose one “thread” of the web and followed it to the end, where a Christmas gift waited.

There were also outdoor games, weather permitting. I describe one called Ring Taw in a short story titled A Texas Devlins Christmas, posted on Alison Bruce’s site today. I hope you’ll join the Devlins’ Christmas gathering. 



Now here’s a snippet from my short story, Christmas Cookies for Twoman with cookies 2ristan


Tristan Jameson isn't happy to attend a stuffy New York Christmas party, but when Charlotte Dixon walks in, the evening promises excitement. A tin of homemade Christmas cookies helps bring the two of them together. Recipe included!


Tristan tensed when he saw a striking auburn-haired woman hand her coat to a butler in the penthouse foyer and walk into the crowded living room. He’d never met her, he was certain, yet he felt instantly drawn to her. Despite his avoidance of female companionship over the past two years, his pulse quickened and the chatter of partygoers faded away as he watched her.

She wore a cranberry red dress with tiny cap sleeves that went surprisingly well with her mahogany hair. Smiling brightly, she exchanged air kisses with Johanna Cantrell, their hostess and Tristan’s distant cousin, who had opened up her lavish Park Avenue suite for this early Christmas party. So gracious of her, everyone agreed. Of course they all knew tonight’s party was aimed at garnering backers for the lady’s upcoming mayoral campaign.

The redhead had arrived unescorted. Was she a personal friend of Johanna’s or some high-placed business executive who might be convinced to throw her support behind the candidate? Tristan doubted it was the latter. She didn’t look old enough to fill such a role.

Curious to discover her identity, he edged his way through the crowd and followed the woman down a hall toward the kitchen, admiring the slender curves revealed by her subtly flowing skirt. Members of the catering staff buzzed past like worker bees, carrying empty food trays to be refilled and filled ones back out to the buffet table in the spacious living room, or salon as Cousin Johanna called it.

Pausing in the kitchen’s open doorway, Tristan leaned against the door jam and observed the redhead as she held out a large Christmas tin to a portly, bearded man in a white chef’s uniform. 

“Please arrange these cookies on a tray and set them out with the other desserts,” she said in a low, smoky voice reminiscent of actress Kathleen Turner’s.

The man scowled. “Madame, I personally prepare all food for every event I cater, including the desserts.”

“Oh, but I baked these especially for tonight as a gift for Jo . . . I mean Mrs. Cantrell. She told me to bring them back here for you to serve.”

“I doubt that, young woman,” the pompous ass sneered. “That good woman knows I never allow anything prepared by another hand to be served at one of my events.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” The redhead’s voice shook slightly, either with distress or anger.

Read more:

Christmas cookies

Source: Games from long ago (Historic Communities) by Bobbie Kalman