A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 11

We are almost to the final day of this story! Isn’t that crazy?! That means we are almost to Christmas too! So exciting. What do you think will happen in the last chapter? Let me know in the comments!

Welcome to the eleventh chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 11

Chaos reigned in the Tanner household the day before Christmas and Robert couldn’t wait to escape it. Six women were laughing, mixing, baking, bumping into each other and when he’d come into the house for lunch, they’d asked him to taste test three different kinds of cookies, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t needed to get back to the shed to finish the swing.

“Which one, Dad? The gingerbread or the molasses?”

“Um.” He spoke with a mouthful of cookie. “They’re both really good. I think we should have both.”

Liz laughed. “We’re going to cook both. Molly and I just want to know which one you liked better.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked between the two young women. “Is this some kind of competition? Because I don’t want to be the judge of some kind of competition between you two.”

Liz looked at him with wide, innocent eyes. “Robert, of course, this isn’t some kind of compe—”

“It’s totally a competition,” Molly said quickly. “And I’m your daughter so you’d better pick my cookie.”

The other women, which included his mother, his wife, Annie’s mother, Ellie, and his sister all laughed and gathered behind Molly and Liz, pausing in their work.

Robert’s gaze slid to the women, then back to Molly who had leveled a steady gaze on him, a small smile pulling at her mouth. He swallowed the bite of cookie. “I like them both. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

He quickly excused himself to the sound of laughter before any of the women could stop him, snatched his coat off the hanger by the back door, and headed out the door.

Alex was on his way to the house from the barn. Robert grabbed his arm gently. “You don’t want to go in there. It’s a madhouse.”

Alex’s brow dipped in concern as he looked from Robert to the backdoor. “What do  you mean?”

“There are a lot of women in there and they’ll try to make you taste test their food and then make you choose sides by saying which recipe is better.”

Alex grinned and gently removed Robert’s hand from his arm. “That sounds like heaven. See you in an hour.”

Robert shook his head and turned back to the barn. That young man would change his mind when two women watched him intently and waited for an answer. No man wanted to tell a woman that their recipe wasn’t as good as someone else’s.  Not if they knew what was good for them.

Brad had pulled through much to his and Alex’s relief, despite a two-day snowstorm that had delayed his trip until two days before Christmas.

Robert had put the bolts on the swing early that morning and Bert was finishing up the engine. Alex had finished the paint job and planned to pick up the truck the next morning.

 After Robert hooked on the chains, he and Jason would load the swing onto the back of the truck and drive it down to the house covered with a tarp so he could install the swing early Christmas morning. He’d enlisted Molly to keep Annie busy in the kitchen while he installed it.

After chores were completed in the barn and dinner was eaten in a kitchen now emptied of the fairer sex, Robert and Annie showered and dressed and drove to town for the Christmas Eve service. Alex, Molly, Jason, Ellie, Liz, Isabella, and Matt met them there, along with Matt’s mother, brother and sister, and Liz’s parents. Liz’s sister and family also attended, which marked the first time since they’d moved back to Spencer that they’d been able to attend a service as a family.

Robert slid his hand over Annie’s as the music began. The church was lit with candles lining the aisles and spread across the stage and altar up front. Wreathes of pine decorated the wall along the stage and behind the choir and the pastor.

Rush had been the word of the day for the last few weeks and now the entire family seemed to be taking a collective breath and letting the peace of the season seep into their souls, soothe aching muscles physically and worried hearts spiritually.

When the music started to signal that the cantata would begin soon, Robert’s shoulders relaxed, he sat back in the pew, and he closed his eyes. He let the music wash over him and push away any thoughts about what needed to be done tomorrow — for Christmas day’s celebration and on the farm. Farmers never had holidays which meant the cows would still need to be milked and fed and stalls cleaned. Most of the day would be set aside for family time, though. Any repair projects could wait.

Muffled laughter caused him to open his eyes and look around for the source of amusement. Soon the laughing spread and he turned slightly in his pew just in time to see a black and white cat stroll nonchalantly down the center aisle toward the stage. He watched it, eyes narrowing.

Without looking away from the cat he reached over and tapped Annie’s arm.

“Hey, is that —“

“Yes, it is. Whose truck did she climb in the back of this time?”

Scout, one of their barn cats, had climbed in the back of a pickup at least twice before at the farm, once hitching a ride to Walt’s farm and another time to the farm store. This was the first time she’d made it to town, though.

The cat walked up the steps, stretched her long body out, and lay down on the top step as the congregation watched with smiles.

“I’d better go get her,” Robert whispered as the pastor stepped out on the stage.

Annie pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly, then released it. “Yeah. Maybe you’d better.”

z“Well, I see even the domesticated pets are here tonight to worship the birth of our savior,” Pastor Joe said with a smile. “In Psalm 148 it says, ‘Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures, and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Scout had curled up into a ball now, ready for a nap. “I think we’ll just let this visitor stay for now. There must be something comforting to him or her about our church and that, to me, is a very high compliment indeed.”

Robert sat back in the pew again, shaking his head and laughing. For the next hour and a half, the cat napped, waking up only when Robert scooped her up after the cantata was over. He placed her in the cab of the truck with him and Annie, both of them unable to stop laughing over her sudden appearance.

They’d been taught that God had a sense of humor, Robert thought as he drove home, the cat in Annie’s lap. Hopefully, he’d found the humor in Scout’s attendance at a service to honor him


The sun had just started to rise over the horizon when Alex left the barn after the morning chores to head for town.

“Hey! Where are you off to?” Molly called after him. “We’re going to have a full family breakfast soon.”

He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. I have something I need to grab in town.”

He left her standing outside the barn with confusion etched on her face. It couldn’t be helped, though. He’d agreed to meet Bert at the shop and pick up the truck and then they’d both drive back for breakfast and lunch at the Tanner’s for the day.

When he reached the shop Bert had already pulled the truck outside. The men stood and admired the new paint job on the truck, the shine on the bumpers, and even the new tires.

“It looks good, Alex it really does.” Bert smiled, eyes glistening. “My father-in-law would have been really proud to see it in such good shape.”

Alex stepped around to the front of the truck, hands at his waist as he admired the final product. “You had a lot to do with it, more than me even.”

“You did the paint job, shined it up. Reminds me of when I first saw Ned with it. Hannah was in the passenger seat next to him. She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. I never thought she’d give me the time of day that day let alone let me marry her a decade later when we were both old enough to get married.” He winked. “We were only 15 when we first met.” He laughed, touching the back of a finger across the bottom of his eye, and turned away. He pulled a handkerchief from his coverall pocket. “Sorry, I got so emotional there. Didn’t expect that.”

Alex patted his shoulder. “Hey, no problem. Memories are powerful, especially when they are good ones.”

Bert blew his nose and wadded the handkerchief up, shoving it back in his pocket. “My marriage has been a good one, kid. I guess that’s why I keep pushing you to propose to Molly. I want you two to experience the happiness we have. Being married, making that commitment to be there for each other no matter what, in front of all your friends and family – I don’t know. There’s something fulfilling about it.”

Alex pulled his cowboy hat down low on his head and nodded. “I know, Bert, I appreciate it.”

Bert sniffed and tossed a set of keys to him. “Anyhow, here are the keys. I’ll follow you in your truck and meet you at the house.”

Alex slid behind the steering wheel of the 1976 Chevy, cranked the window down, and closed the door. “I have to take a detour, so I’ll meet you there.”

Bert grinned. “Another gift to pick up?”

Alex touched a finger to his hat. “I’m keeping that under my hat, but I’ll see you at Robert and Annie’s for breakfast. Don’t eat all the bacon on me.”

Alex started the truck and listened to it rumble for a few minutes, then slid his hand across the surface of the new red upholstery on the truck seat. He hadn’t thought they’d be able to replace that too, but in the end, Jason had helped and they’d pulled it off.

He took a deep breath and shifted the truck into gear, nodding to Bert again as he pulled the truck out of the parking lot. Turning the radio on, a favorite song came on and he hummed along, turning the truck toward the road that would lead him to Molly, but first her grandmother.

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 10

Welcome to the ninth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 10

Molly unhooked the ponytail she’d had her hair pulled up in and let her curls fall down across her back and shoulders. “Alex, I’m perfectly capable of making the drive to Burdett and back on my own.” She folded her arms across her chest and tipped her head slightly, narrowing her eyes. “Wait a minute. It’s not me you’re worried about, is it? It’s your truck.”

Alex laughed. “No! I am not worried about my truck. You’re a perfectly capable driver. There are snow squalls expected though and I –”

“You thought what? Think you can stop the snow squalls from happening?” She let out a small laugh. “Alex, I’ve been driving these roads in the winter a lot longer than you have. I’ll be fine. Promise. You really need to rest your back.” She pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly and let it go again. “But if you really want to go then I wouldn’t mind the company. I’ll drive though so you can push the seat back and relax.”

Now that the freezers at the store were fixed, more inventory could be added to them and there was a delivery of fresh goat milk and cheese a half an hour away. Molly had volunteered to go, but Alex had overheard and didn’t like the idea of her out on her own in possibly bad weather.

Worrying about her was foolish, and he knew it. Like he’d told many people over the years, including Molly herself, she could handle any situation that rural life threw her. She didn’t need him to protect her. Truthfully, though, he did want to try to protect her. He also wanted her company after a busy few weeks of barely seeing her due to work on the farm, recovering from his injury, and painting the truck.

Once inside his truck, she flicked on the radio, pushing buttons until she found a station playing Christmas music. She pulled her hair back up into the ponytail again and he found his gaze focusing on the skin exposed at the back of her neck. He resisted the urge to trail his fingertips along it.

She made a face as she clicked the seatbelt in, then wiggled back and forth a little in the seat.

He quirked an eyebrow. “What’s the matter with you? You have an itch on your rear or something?”

She laughed, a small dimple dotting the skin next to her mouth. “No. It’s just your truck feels so — I don’t know – clunky.”

He scowled. “Clunky?”

“Yeah, like too big or something.”

“It’s a four-wheel drive. Heated memory seats. Maximum horsepower. Back-up camera. GPS integrated into the dashboard. State of the art paint job. What’s not to love?”

She sighed, shifting the truck into gear. “It’s lovely. It’s just not my truck.”

Oh. Right. That.

He reached over and laid his hand over hers. “Hey, I know. It will be back soon. Have you got ahold of Bert?” Hopefully not. “What did he say?”

“I did actually.”


“He said the engine was in pretty bad shape so he’s working on it. He had some other jobs to finish up first.” Not a lie. Good job, Bert. She lifted her shoulders briefly then dropped them again. “I don’t mind, really. I’m just glad to hear it might be able to be saved.”

If Brad was able to pick up that part tomorrow then the verdict should be that it would definitely be able to be repaired, not maybe.

Houses decorated with Christmas lights, a few with Christmas-themed inflatables in the front yard, slid by as they drove toward Spencer. They drove around the town via the by-pass when they reached town limits and headed on to Burkett, another 25-minute drive beyond.

Alex closed his eyes and enjoyed Molly’s singing as she crooned out carol after carol, mixed in with a few country hits and a couple of worship songs.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Grandpa picked me up in this truck from elementary school?”

Her question came out of the blue, halting her singing.

He’d started to doze and jerked awake to listen to her. “No, actually. I don’t believe you have.”

“He pulled up in front of the school and honked the horn. We were letting out early because of weather and he’d volunteered to get me so I’d get home faster than I would have on the bus. About a mile from home, we hit that bridge over Shaver’s Creek and the snow started falling faster. Right after the bridge there was a left turn and Grandpa hit the accelerator and did a donut right at the end of the road. The truck turned all the way around, 360, and ended up facing back the way we were supposed to be going.”

Alex chuckled. “That totally sounds like something Ned would do. Or did he do it on purpose?”

She looked at him, meeting his smile with hers. “Of course he did it on purpose. He thought it was the funniest thing ever to see my eyes almost bug out of my head, he said. Later he said it might not have been the smartest move because we could have flown over the embankment into the creek by the road, but in the moment it sure was fun. For him anyhow. For me, I almost wet myself. I thought we were going to die.”

The story reminded Alex of his own grandfather. “My grandfather did something similar when he took me flying one time. He had a private pilots license. He took the plane into a nosedive and just when I thought we were going to crash into a mountainside he ripped it back up again. I was ten and I’m not going to lie, I did pee myself just a little bit.”

They laughed together as Molly turned into Brookings Family Goat Farm’s driveway. Josiah Brookings met them outside the barn and within fifteen minutes they had the inventory loaded in Alex’s truck.

“You two be safe out there,” Josiah said as he shook Alex’s hand. “The weather says we’re supposed to get snow squalls.”

“We should be fine. Molly’s driving and she’s a lot safer than I am. Take care and see you next month.”

Josiah waved as he walked back up the long drive to the house, leaving Alex and Molly standing in an orange ring of light under the light pole.

Alex paused, reaching down and scooping up a handful of snow, smirking as he packed it. Molly was already starting to climb into the truck when he tossed the ball, striking her in the shoulder.

She turned quickly, mouth dropping open. “Alexander Stone, what do you think you’re doing?”

He grinned, reaching down for more snow. “Just some minor physical therapy for my back. It’s good to do some light stretches for it.”

She pointed at him. “You drop that snowball.” She took a step back, now waggling the finger at him. “Don’t you dare start something that I’m going to finish.”

He tossed the snowball at her, snow shattering down the front of her winter coat as the ball hit her chest. “Molly Tanner, you know I’m the snowball fight champion five years running. Don’t let your mouth write a check your bottom can’t cash.”

Molly snickered as she stooped to gather snow in her hands. He grunted a few seconds later when a snowball hit him in the thigh. After that the snowballs flew fast and furious. He kept his distance and then decided the one way to win was to get close and get as much snow down the back of her winter coat as possible. She anticipated his move though and put her hands up to block him, which resulted in a brief wrestling match, during which she slipped and started to fall. He caught her under her arms and helped her regain her balance, laughing hard. She stepped back away from him in a fit of laughter and leaned her against the truck, breathing hard. Placing one hand on either side of her he leaned close, catching his breath.

“Looks like I win.”

She smiled, a sparkle in her eyes. “You didn’t win, you cheated. You clearly pushed me onto that patch of ice.”

“I clearly did not push you. You were just overcome by my snowball throwing power.” He moved his head closer to hers. “Besides, anytime I get to be this close to you, I win.”

Her voice was a whisper, her mouth a mere inch from his. “I remember another time we were pushed up against your truck like this.”

“I remember it too. Fondly.”  His lips grazed her cheek, then her mouth.  “Very fondly.”

She smiled as he lowered his head toward hers. They stood there for several moments, her arms around his waist as they kissed, snowflakes falling around them, before she pulled her mouth away slowly.

“We’d probably better get on the road in case it starts getting slick out.”

He reluctantly agreed and they climbed back into the truck cab, him wincing as a light pain shot through his back.

While Christmas songs weren’t what he’d normally listen to alone in the truck, he pushed the seek button until he found one, simply so he could hear Molly sing. He seemed to be catching her love for the season.

Ten minutes into their drive the road in front of them disappeared in a blur of white. He noticed Molly’s knuckles turning white. “You okay?”

She nodded quickly. “Yes. I’m fine.”


“A little bit.”

“You want to pull over?”


He laughed as she maneuvered the truck gently off the road. “I thought you could handle driving in this weather.”

“I can and one way of handling it is knowing when to pull over and when not to.”

She shifted the truck into park. “The squall should pass soon. This will give us time to chat because I realized today that I have never asked you if you have any favorite Christmas movies.” She held up her hand as he started to answer. “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. I’m not debating that again.”

He smiled as he propped his hands behind his head. “It is a Christmas movie, but I’ll let you believe what you want. As for other Christmas movies, I haven’t really watched a ton, but I guess It’s A Wonderful Life is good. Miracle on 34th Street. White Christmas.”

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and laughed. “Jason made you watch those with him, didn’t he?”

“Of course, but I liked them. What’s the one we watched together last year?”

“Christmas in Connecticut.”

“Yeah, that one wasn’t too bad.” He grinned and lowered his arms, leaning toward her. “Of course, anything is good as long as I’m with you.”

She placed a finger on his lips and tipped her head toward the windshield. “Looks like the snow squall has let up. We’d better keep going if we want to get back to Spencer.”

He smiled against her finger. “If you say, so, but there’s nothing wrong with stealing some kisses while we’re here.”

She kissed him briefly. “I’d like that, but I need to get back to pick Liz up from the library. The heat is broken in her car. Mom and Dad said I can borrow their car tonight.” She turned back to the steering wheel and placed her hand on the shift lever but didn’t move it. Her gaze drifted out in front of them, at the road now visible. “You know, this is the first Christmas since we lost grandpa that I really feel happy about Christmas again. This time of year used to give me such a warm feeling but so much about it seemed dull and lifeless since losing Grandpa. This year feels different. I don’t know why.” She sighed, eyes glistening. “There is something wildly beautiful about the spirit of Christmas, the way it reminds us all to take time to pause and tell those we love how much they mean to us.” She pulled her hand briefly from his and wiped at her damp cheek. “Sorry. I don’t know why I’m so sappy tonight.”

He leaned across the seat and kissed her cheek. “I don’t mind sappy if it’s coming from you.”

She squeezed his hand then looked out the windshield. “Looks like that snow squall has cleared up. Let’s see how much closer we can get to home.” He gazed out the window at the now clear sky that moments before had been swirling with white. Stars sparkled against a dark blue sky. She was right. There was something wildly beautiful about Christmas, especially when he saw it through her eyes.  

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 8

Welcome to the eighth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 8

Robert stood back and inspected his work.

His hands ached from the cold. Holding a paint brush wearing gloves had proved too difficult.

The swing itself was ready to go but there were still bolts to be added to attach the chain the swing would hang from. He planned to swing by the hardware store later in the day and see if they were in yet. For now, he had to swing by the house and grab the lunch that Annie had made for his mother and drive it down to her.

When the lunch was retrieved, along with a quick hug from Annie who was on her way to church to finish decorating for the Christmas Eve service, he drove up the hill to his mother’s house, shooing away chickens as he walked down her sidewalk. While the rest of the farm operation had gone to Robert and Walt, Franny had opted to keep a flock of chickens and dutifully fed them and collected their eggs each morning. She said it would give her something to do and a reason for the family to still come visit her if they knew she had all the fresh eggs.

Robert shook his head and laughed. As if they wouldn’t visit her if the chickens weren’t there.

He knocked gently on the front door before opening it. “Mom? I’ve got some lunch for you.”

“I know you do. Get on in here.”

The house was warm, cozy, and smelled of fresh bread – just like when he’d been growing up. A fire was roaring in the woodstove and Robert smiled, knowing she’d loaded it herself this morning from wood Alex and Jason had cut up for her. She was getting older, but she could still outwork most people half her age.

Across from the woodstove in the other corner was a small fake tree that he knew Molly and Alex had helped her decorate the week before. It was sitting in a stand his father had made for a real tree. Franny had said she didn’t have the energy or patience to clean up pine needles any more so she’d purchased the fake tree.

Family photos dotted the wall next to the tree and Robert let his gaze slide over them as he took off his coat and muddy boots. The photo of him, his dad, his brother Walt and his sister Hannah caught his attention as he pulled off his second boot. They were standing in front of the cow barn. He had been about 16, his brother 14 and Hannah 11.

The three of them had never known a life without hard work and determination, with a little bit of heartache thrown in. They’d never known a life without the joy of seeing the good results of all those aspects of life either. Farming wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding in more ways than providing a living.

The lessons Robert had learned and passed down to his children were more valuable than any check from the milking company or from the bottom line at the store. There were some days, however, he had to remind himself of that.

“You coming in or did you fall asleep standing up?”

His mother had stepped into the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, a small smile tugging at her mouth.

He closed the door behind him and headed toward the kitchen. “I’m guessing Annie called to let you know I was bringing you lunch.”

Franny set two plates on the table. “She did, and I made some biscuits to go with it. You’re eating with me, aren’t you?”

He laid the containers of food on the table. “I had planned on it, yes, and I’m even more willing now that I know you made biscuits. I hope you didn’t go to the trouble of homemade.”

Franny huffed out a breath. “Robert Theodore when have you ever known me to make biscuits out of a box or can?”

He laughed and held up a hand as if to defend her verbal blow. “Never.”

“Exactly. Now sit yourself down. I’m sure you’re more than ready to eat after the long days Annie says you’ve been pulling lately.”

He sat as she instructed, taking her hand as she sat to his right and said a quick blessing.

The interrogation began as he served her mashed potatoes and stew fried chicken.

“So what’s been keeping you out so late these days?”

He knew she was fishing for information on how the farm was doing. “This and that. Odds and ends. Like always.”

“Did you get the heat fixed in the barn?”

“We did. It took a bit but got it working before the temps dropped down this week.”

“Walt said it was the second time this month. Did you call the people who put it in and tell them?”

Robert smiled. “I did, yes. They’re coming out Friday to take a look.”

Franny gave a satisfied nod. “Good. They should fix it at no cost. It’s been nothing but trouble since they put it in.” She paused long enough to butter her biscuit and take a bite. “Now, I have something I want to talk to you about. I’d preferred if Annie was here too, but I think I’ll go ahead and take the opportunity since I actually have you in front of me.”

He nodded. “Go ahead.”

“I don’t know if Molly mentioned to you what I talked to her and Alex about last week.”

He shook his head and took another bite of chicken. “She didn’t.”

“I’m thinking of moving into Shady Pines next year.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You are? Why?”

“I think it’s time to pass this house on to someone else.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Molly and Alex.”

He coughed gently. “Excuse me?”

“Robert, don’t be naïve. You know that boy is going to eventually get up the courage and propose to your daughter and when he does and they finally get married, they’re going to need a place to stay. This house is perfect as a starter house. Somewhere for them to raise some children.”

He set his fork down on his plate. “But do you really want to move off the farm into town? The houses down there are pretty close together.”

“Well, yes, they are, but at my age it might be good to have people close by.”

“Mom, if you’re really determined to give this house to Molly, you know you’re welcome to come live with me and Annie.”

Franny made a face. “Oh, Robert, you know we’d never survive living together again. Plus, you and Annie are finally alone again. You don’t need your mother breaking in on kissing sessions.”

Robert laughed. “We’d adapt. We can make sure our kissing sessions only happen after you’ve gone to bed. Like when we were teenagers.”

Franny laughed with him. “Listen, it’s something to think about anyhow. I’ll think about your offer, but I really believe that moving into town will be good for me. It will be a change and I’ll be closer to Leon and Eleanor and we can play cards together without them having to worry about driving home from here late at night. Leon’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be.”

Robert knew his father-in-law’s eyesight wasn’t as good as it had once been. He’d started saying so himself.

“Okay, let’s think on it, then. It’s not like we have to make a decision right away. We don’t even know if Alex is planning on proposing any time soon.”

Franny sipped from her glass of water. “I hope sooner.” She looked around the kitchen, letting her gaze drift into the living room. “The place will need some fixing up, but I think you’ve trained Alex enough over these last six years for him to be able to handle it.”

The idea of his mom no longer living up the road from him left a funny feeling in Robert’s chest – a feeling that was a mixture of sadness and fear. What if his mom needed him? It would take him 20 extra minutes to get to her instead of the five it took now. What if she developed health problems and what if –.  

He took a deep breath, held it a few seconds and let it out quietly. There would always be what ifs and they could address each of them as they each came up. Plus, moving her in with him and Annie was something he and Annie had already discussed in the last year or so. He knew Franny could be a challenge, but taking care of her in her later years would be something he’d be glad to do after all she’d done for him over the years.


It had been three days since the doctor had told him to rest and Alex couldn’t stay at the house any longer. For one, Matt had invited Liz over and Bella was with her grandparents. The couple probably wanted some time alone to watch a movie and snuggle together on the couch. More importantly, though, he had to finish the paint job on the truck.

Bert had already installed the engine and was finishing it up today – if a part he needed arrived that was.  

“It’s about time you got here,” Bert said as soon as he walked in the door. “I just had to have Troy chase off Molly by telling her that Hannah needed to talk to her about how they’re going to handle the situation at the store without the freezers for another week. It wasn’t a lie, but still – it was a close call. She almost walked back here.”

Alex worked to take off his coat, grimacing with each movement.  “Thanks for keeping her away. I appreciate it.”

Bert frowned. “What’s up with you? You look like you’ve been hit by a truck.”

“A concrete floor actually. I fell through the roof of the calving barn last week.”

“Oh man. So that was the accident you were talking about. I’m surprised you’re walking. How did the calves fare?”

“They’re completely fine. Little buggers just wanted to know what I was doing in their sleeping area.” He tossed his coat over a chair and reached for the spray paint can. “Now let’s get these doors painted so I can finish the rest of the truck in the next few days. How is it going with the engine?”

Bert winced. “Still need one part. A supplier about three hours away has it but doesn’t have a truck coming until the end of the week.”

Alex didn’t like the sound of that. “Maybe we’re not going to make it.”

Bert  slapped a hand hard on Alex’s back. “Now, now, my boy let’s not be negative.”

Alex groaned. “I could be more positive if you stop slamming your hand on my sore back.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry about that.” Bert wiped some grease off a car part and laid down to slide under the truck. “So, have you thought anymore about that whole proposal thing?”

Alex placed a painting mask and respirator over his face. “You know, I’d like to talk about it but I don’t think you’ll be able to hear me well under this mask so I’m going to get to work.”

“What?” Bert called from under the truck.

“Exactly,” Alex mumbled glad to have avoided the topic again.

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 7

Welcome to the seventh chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 7

There had been more than one Christmas over the years when Annie and Robert had questioned if they’d be able to provide gifts for the children. Farming didn’t always provide a consistent income. Some years weather made bringing in a profit a challenge. Other years it might be sick cows, falling down buildings, or broken equipment.

That inconsistency had certainly taken its toll on the family’s emotions over the years, but Robert felt like it had also brought them closer. Annie had certainly been his one constant during all the turmoil, besides God.

Christ had been the ultimate anchor for both of them. Without him and his provision, they never would have made it through the trials, the heartbreaks, and the day-to-day uncertainty of life as a farmer.

The seats at Grace Community Church were soft now, unlike when Robert had first started attending twenty years ago. Hard pews had filled the sanctuary back then. They had been pews his own father had helped build, along with the rest of the church, sometime in the early 1960s. Robert couldn’t remember the exact date the church was built but he could remember that for years he had no interest in attending church. He’d been too busy and too independent to think about God in high school and afterward. During those difficult first years with Annie, he’d relied on his own strength to make it through, rarely asking for help from God or thanking him.

That change came slowly, so slowly he thought Annie might give up and walk away, taking the children with him, when he refused to go to church with her. She never gave up hope, though. She prayed for him, loved him, and kept inviting him. It wasn’t a rock bottom moment that sent him back to the hard pews at Grace Community.  It was love and a realization that there was more to life than getting up and milking cows, working on the farm all day, milking cows again, and falling asleep early in the evening just to start it all over again. It was the beauty of the sunrise and the sunsets.

The days he thought he wasn’t going to make it and the farm wasn’t going to make it but they did. It was the smile of his daughter, the laughter of his son, and the feel of his wife’s arms around him. He knew all those blessings couldn’t be something he’d earned or something he deserved. Someone greater than him had given him it all as a gift and he needed to start thanking that someone. It was the same God his parents had raised him to believe in, but he had rejected not out of anger but simple apathy.

Standing outside the church, Robert leaned leaning back against his truck and waited for Annie to stop chatting with town librarian Ginny Jefferies and her husband, Stan. He took a deep breath and took in the view of the church, decorated inside and out to celebrate the birth of Christ. It reminded him that no matter what happened with his gift for Annie, Christ was the ultimate gift of Christmas. The joy and peace He brought to his and Annie’s life could never be matched with physical, earthly gifts.

A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as Annie walked toward him, her Bible tucked in her arm, against her chest.

“What’s so funny?”


“You look like you’re going to laugh.”

He shook his head. “Nothing’s funny. Our life is just beautiful. As beautiful and wonderful as you are.”

Annie’s eyebrows raised. “Wow. That’s sweet of you. What did I do to deserve such praise?”

He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead. “Just by being yourself.”

She leaned back and looked up at him, eyes glistening. Reaching up, she laid a gloved hand against his cheek, and then, without a word, she kissed him, where anyone walking out of the church and to their cars could see them. Robert was sure no one would be offended by the public display of affection. Couples their age would be glad to see an older couple who wasn’t embarrassed to show their love for each other. The younger couples would probably smile and say –

“I hope we’re still in love like that when we’re their age.”

Jason snorted a laugh and Robert pulled back from the kiss and made a face at him. Ellie’s arm was looped through Jason’s and she tapped her husband’s arm with a gentle admonishment.

Robert motioned his son away. “Go on, ya’ whippersnapper. Get on out of here and let an old couple have a kiss.”

Annie playfully tapped his shoulder. “Old? Speak for yourself.”

She winked and pulled out of his embrace to head to the car, sliding her hand down to his. “Come on, old man. We can pick up our kissing session when we get home.” She looked over her shoulder at Jason and Ellie and winked. “Now that all our children are out of the house and living their own lives, we have more private time for such things.”

Inside the car, she pulled her gloves off, laid them on her lap, and intertwined her fingers with his. He raised her hand and kissed it before shifting the car into gear and heading out of the parking lot and down the road toward home.


Another searing pain shot from Alex’s lower back to his upper. He gritted his teeth and clutched the side of the bed. The painkillers he’d taken two hours ago weren’t even touching the pain and he was beginning to reluctantly agree with Molly that he might need to visit a doctor. The pain was coming in spasms now. No surprise since he’d fallen from a height of maybe ten feet. He was lucky he hadn’t broken any bones.

Robert and Annie had urged him to go to a doctor, but he’d declined. He had, however, accepted a couple of ice packs after a hot shower and a warm cup of tea made by Molly. The attention she’d given him, checking on him every hour before he fell asleep, then checking again first thing in the morning, had been nice too.

What wasn’t as nice was the fact he’d missed the tree lighting and then the church – which he’d finally started attending with the family about six months ago – and three days of working on the truck. Molly had connected by video with him for the tree lighting, which also included caroling. She also filled him in on the sermon. Caroling had never been his thing in the past, but for some reason, hearing the hundred or so people gathered around the tree sing Silent Night had caused his throat to tighten with emotion. He’d desperately wanted to be there with Molly in that moment, though he wasn’t sure if he’d been able to hold back the tears. He must be getting old with all these sentimental emotions rearing their ugly heads.

He hadn’t necessarily understood everything Molly shared with him about the sermon, but living in the hopeful spirit of Christmas beyond the actual season had made sense to him.

“Pastor Joe said Christmas is something we can always carry with us in our heart because Christ’s love is something that will be with us no matter the time of year,” Molly told him. “Being a Christian is an all-year-round celebration. Not simply a once or twice a year event.”

All of that made sense to Alex, even as he was still trying to figure out what being a follower of Christ meant.

Bert had found almost all the parts they needed for the engine, pulled off the bumpers to be replaced with new ones, and even found a new pair of headlights. He was leaving the rest of the paint job for Alex. That was if Alex could figure out how to move off the bed without pain spasming through his back.

The door to his bedroom opened as the latest spasm eased up. He raised his eyes slowly and squinted at Jason and his roommate, Matt McGee, standing in the hallway looking in.

“Yep.” Jason nodded. “You’re right, Matt. He looks like garbage.”

Matt folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the doorframe. “I told you. Now we’re going to have to do something about it.”

Alex glared. “Both of you go away.” The last thing he needed right now was their harassment.

Matt stepped into the room and stood over him, hands on his hips. If Alex didn’t know him so well he might have looked intimidating standing there in full uniform for his job as a police officer with the Spencer Police Department.

“Come on, Stone. We’re taking you to the doctor.”

“No. You are not.”

Jason stepped behind Matt and looked over his shoulder. “I’m going to take one arm and Matt is going to take the other and we’re going to hoist you into Ellie’s car, so you don’t have to climb up into my truck, and I’m driving you to town.” He stepped around Matt and wrapped a large hand around Alex’s bicep. “Now come on, we’re not taking no for an answer.”

Alex groaned as he sat up and then let them both swing his arms around their shoulders. “I need shoes and my wallet.” He winced. “And maybe a tranquilizer like we used on the bull last year.”

“One step at a time, bud,” Matt said with a smile. “You can do this.”

“Yeah,” Jason added. “We need you to get better, so I don’t have to keep doing all your work.”

Half an hour later Alex tightened his jaw against the pain as the doctor helped him from the exam table.

Dr. Cartagenese handed him a prescription. “Like I said the best medicine for this, besides these muscle relaxants is bed rest. At least five days worth. I know you work at the Tanners and they aren’t good about resting when they’re injured or sick.” He winked. “Don’t be like them, okay?”

No way. He didn’t have five days to lay in bed.

“Thanks, Doc. I’ll take that into consideration.”  

Outside in the passenger seat of Liz’s car, though, he’d already considered it, and he was going to give himself two days to rest, and then it was back to working on the truck or he’d never get it completed by Christmas.

Jason closed the car door for him and walked back to the driver’s seat.

“What’d he say?” he asked as he started the car.

Alex sat back in the seat slowly. “He gave me muscle relaxants and if it doesn’t get better he wants me to have x-rays.”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah. Bedrest, but I’m not going to do that.”

“If bed rest will help you heal faster, you probably should.”

“Don’t have time.”

“I can pick up your work at the farm. It’s no problem. I can’t remember you taking more than a couple sick days in the entire time you’ve worked with us.”

Alex gritted his teeth against the pain again, closing his eyes. He let out a breath a few minutes later as the pain lessened again. “It’s not that. I’m working on a gift for Molly. I need to get it done.” He glanced at Jason. “You can’t tell Molly, okay? It’s a surprise.”

Jason’s eyebrows raised and he tipped his head down a bit to encourage Alex to continue.

“A surprise for Christmas.”

A small smile started to play across Jason’s lips. “Oh yeah?”

Not Jason too. “It’s not what you might think. I’m fixing up your grandpa’s truck for her.”

Jason turned onto Main Street to head out of town. “Oh. Hey. That’s great.” He genuinely looked pleased. “What all are you doing to it?

“New paint job, new engine. The works. Almost all of my savings is going into it.”

“What else needs to be done?”

“I have the body sanded and two doors painted. I need to get the body finished. Bert is going to help some but he’s also finishing up the engine and he’s got a full shop of cars that need to be worked on for actual customers.”

Jason shrugged. “I can help.”

Alex closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted. “You’ve got enough work to do.”

“I can take some time away from the farm to help with the truck.” He gently tapped Alex’s shoulder with his fist. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure my sister knows it was your idea and you did most of the work.”

“Me and Bert actually.”

“You and Bert. Okay.” A sly smirk pulled at the corners of Jason’s mouth. “Sooooo. You’re not planning any other surprises for Molly, are you?”

Alex narrowed his eyes. “Like what?

Jason held up his left hand and pointed to his ring finger. “You know.”

Alex groaned. “Put your hands back on the wheel and no! Not you too! First Bert then Franny and now you. What is it with you Tanners?”

Jason laughed. “Well, what can I say? Great minds think alike, buddy.”

Alex looked out the window at the houses flying by, many of them decorated with bright lights for Christmas. He hated the idea of being laid up at the house, unable to work on the farm or the truck. He hadn’t always been a hard worker, but for the last six years since moving to Pennsylvania, all he’d known was hard work. Silence settled over the truck as his mind drifted to a mental list of all the work he still had to do before Christmas.

“So, are you?”

Jason’s question pulled him from his thoughts. “Am I what?”

Jason cleared his throat. “Proposing to Molly.”

Alex rolled his eyes up to the ceiling of the truck. “That wasn’t part of the plan, no.”

Jason nodded. “Okay, well if it does become part of the plan, I want you to know —” He reached over and gripped Alex’s shoulder with one hand and squeezed gently. “You have my blessing. I know I harass you and Molly about your relationship but you’re my best friend, and there’s no one else I’d like to have as my brother-in-law.”

Alex nodded. “Thank you, Jase. I appreciate that. I do.”

Jason turned the heat up and the radio on. “Listen, I’m going to head down to Bert’s in the morning after I go to the gym. I’ll see what I can help with. At least take it easy a couple of days. No man is an island, Stone. Don’t be like us Tanners. Take the help when it’s offered.”

Alex grimaced against the pain. “At this point, I really don’t have a choice.”

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season, Chapter 3

Welcome to the third chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 3

Alex’s muscles screamed for a break as he carried another heavy box of meat to Benny Johnson’s freezer truck. They’d been working to save the store’s frozen inventory for two hours now and he had caved and put on a pair of gloves in the first thirty minutes, much to Molly’s amusement.

Once the meat and dairy were inside the truck, they’d work on fixing the blown fuse for the freezers, or call the company who installed them, whichever got the job done first.

He’d been in the middle of sanding the original, chipping paint off Molly’s truck when Robert had called. Before the call about the freezers, he’d been grateful for the break from farm work to work on the surprise and he was glad he had Robert as a co-conspirator or it might not have worked. Of course, Robert had him as a co-conspirator too. He had a feeling there would be more than once in the next few weeks that they would have to chase either Annie or Molly off the scent of what they were up to.

His phone rang as he carried another box to the freezer truck. He ignored it at first, but then thought it might be Molly needing to be picked up from the farm to come help.

He should have looked at the caller ID first.

“Well, it’s about time you picked up your phone. I thought maybe the one cell tower the county had fallen down or something.”

He grimaced, his jaw tightening. “Good afternoon to you too, Mom.”

“I had to call you, I suppose, since you never call me.”

For obvious reasons, Mom, is what he wanted to say, but literally bit the inside of his cheek to keep from saying it.

His mom had been generous in giving the Tanners a check to help save their farm a couple of years ago and he appreciated it but now she seemed to think it was a blank check to have the relationship with him they’d never had while he was growing up.

“You know I’m sure your father would like you to come home for Christmas.”

Ah his father. The man who never spoke to him, other than to help him how much he’d failed in life.

“Is that what he said?”

“Well, no,  but –“

“Mom. You’re divorced from the man. Have you even talked to him?”

“Briefly, yes. Three months ago. He wanted to make sure you and your brother knew about his diagnosis.”

“And that’s all?”

“Yes, but I feel certain he’d want to see you.”

“Isn’t his cancer treatable? I mean it’s been two years since we first learned about it and Sam hasn’t said much about it when we talk.”

His mother sniffed with indignation on the other end of the line. “Yes, from what I understand it is. They caught it early so that’s good. And Sam’s talking to you?”

He chose to ignore the Sam question. “I’m glad to hear that about the cancer but no, I won’t be back for Christmas. I have plans with Molly.”

Another sniff, this one with a little less indignation than the first. “Oh. I understand. Molly’s a sweet girl. And of course, her mother has replaced me in your life so – “

“Mom –”

You can’t replace something that was never there in the first place, is what he wanted to say, but, again, didn’t.

“I know. I know. Nothing can replace the love of a mother. Well, maybe you can bring Molly for a visit in February. Richard and I will be in Spain in January. Actually, if you aren’t coming for Christmas, I guess we will take that trip to the Caribbean after all. Your brother is staying with his girlfriend’s family this year in Cancun. I guess it will be another Christmas without seeing the children I gave birth to.”

He rubbed a gloved hand along the back of his neck, massaging the aching muscles there. “I’ll give you a call on Christmas, Mom.” Guilt pricked at his conscience briefly. “And maybe I can get down to see you after you get back from Spain.”

The sigh on the other end of the line denoted a change in tone. “I hope  you can. Richard has had the whole west wing of the house remodeled and we also enlarged the pool. We have plenty of spare rooms so be sure to bring Molly along. That reminds me – is she ever going to be my daughter-in-law or are you forever going to be dating?”

“Bye, Mom.”

“I mean I was just wondering – “

“Have a nice day. Bye-bye.”

He slid his finger over the call end button and slid the phone into his back pocket.

Carrying heavy boxes of meat in the freezing cold seemed a lot less like a hardship after that conversation.

“Hey, Alex.”

Molly’s hair —  pressed down with a pink knitted hat — framed her face as she carried a box of dairy products toward him. Her brother must have brought her from the farm. “Have you heard anything about my truck?”

Then again – this conversation might not be too much fun either.

He shrugged a shoulder and took the box from her. “All I know is that it’s being worked on. I’m sure it’s fine. It’s only been a week and a half, Mol. What is it you’re always saying? Patience is a virtue?”

Molly sighed. “I know, but I miss it.”

He grinned. “What, you don’t like cozying up to me in my truck?”

Molly smiled and hooked her arm in his. “Of course I like that, but I also like the freedom of having my own vehicle.”

He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “I’m sure it will be done soon and when it is, it will be as good as new.”

Or close to it anyhow.

“Before I forget, Grandma invited us to lunch next week. She says she hasn’t seen us enough lately and to come over for some homemade lasagna.”

Alex laughed softly. “What’s she talking about? We see her every Sunday for lunch.”

“Yeah, but that’s the whole family. She says she wants a day with just the two of us.”

Alex grinned. “Works for me. It’s not like being fed some of her amazing lasagna is a bad thing.”

“Oh, and are you going to help us decorate at mom and dad’s next week?

“Of course. I did last year, didn’t I?”

Molly smirked. “No. You didn’t actually. You watched some action movie with Jason while you were supposed to be decorating.”

“I decorated the outside with your dad and Jason. I figured the inside stuff was up to you girls.”

“Excuse me?” She folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to say that decorating is a woman’s job?”

He shook his head briefly. “No. Just that women are better at decorating inside.”

She laughed softly. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Jason helped one year and just draped the garland over a couple of windows and said that was good enough.” She kissed his cheek. “I’m going for some more boxes. Get back to work, handsome.”

As he carried the box to the truck a few minutes later, his mind shifted to Franny’s invitation. He wondered if the woman had ulterior motives.  Robert’s mother had dropped hints more than once about his future with Molly, at least twice during family dinners where she’d kept her gaze on him for several uncomfortable moments before he, or someone else, changed the subject to break the tension.

She was a sweet woman, but she was also direct, and he knew he needed to have an answer for her if she was going to try to corner him about his future with Molly. An answer that wouldn’t lock him into anything but would halt her personal interrogation. An answer he’d have to start thinking about now if he wanted to escape unscathed.


Robert stood from the kitchen chair and straightened. Stretching his arms above his head, he winced at the pull along his ribcage.

“You should have let the boys do all that heavy lifting.”

The admonishing nature of his wife’s words would have irritated him if there wasn’t a large amount of compassion behind the scolding.

“I’m not an invalid, Annie. I can do some lifting.”

She stepped forward and touched his shoulder. “I know you’re not an invalid, but you are getting older.”

He stiffened at the words. “I’m not ancient. Lifting a few heavy boxes won’t hurt me at all.”

Annie rubbed her hands along his shoulders, then slid them down his arms, laying her head against his back. “I know. I’m sorry. I just worry about you.”

He looked over his shoulder at the top of her head. “I know you do, and I appreciate it.”

The day the tractor tipped over onto him and pinned him underneath, he wasn’t sure he’d have any more moments together with Annie like this. Laying there as rain poured down on him and Alex tried to free him, he’d asked Alex to help take care of her and Molly when he was gone. He’d really thought he’d hugged her the last time before he’d left to mow that field.

Now her breath was warm through his shirt as she sighed. He closed his eyes as she hugged her arms around him. They stood there for several minutes before he turned and pulled her against his chest.

She rested her cheek against his shoulder. “I’m thinking there will be at least fourteen for Christmas dinner this year. Do you think we should kill the turkey or eat ham?”

“I’m good with either.”

“I can’t wait to have them all together. Do you think we should invite Liz and her family?”

“No, hon’. I think Liz and her family will have their own Christmas together. Probably with Ginny and Stan now that Clint and Tiffany are back in town. Like they did at Thanksgiving.” He kissed the top of her head. “We don’t have to feed all of Spencer Valley you know.”

Annie laughed softly. “Oh, I know, but –”

He smiled. “You just want to take care of everyone. That’s one of the many things I love about you.”

It’s how Annie had always been. First, she’d taken care of him, then she’d taken care of him and the children.

She’d done her best to take care of her parents until they had decided it was time to move into a nursing community in town. Now she still took care of them, but in a different way, comforted that they lived close to friends who would notify her if anything went wrong.

She and Molly had taken care of his father when he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and slowly slipped away, passing away a few years ago. They still took care of his mother Franny, even though she was as independent as ever at the age of 73, living on her own at the original farmhouse up the road. And now she wanted to take care of Molly’s best friend, but Liz had her own family, including her sister Tiffany who had recently moved back to the area.

“Well, what do you think. Will Alex propose to Molly this Christmas?”

The question jolted him from his thoughts. “What?” He wrinkled his nose. He hadn’t thought of that possibility. He thought the kid was just fixing up Molly’s truck for her, not fixing to put a ring on her finger. “Maybe? I don’t know.”

She pulled back and looked up at him. “How would you feel if he did? Do you think they’re ready?”

His muscles tightened. He didn’t like to think of his little girl getting married. Even to Alex, who he loved as a member of the family already. “Is anyone ever ready, really?” He smiled down at her. “We were only 19 when we got married. Were we ready?”

She locked her hands behind his back. “There are days I still wonder if we are ready, my dear.”

He cupped a hand against her cheek. “I’m ready for anything as long as you’re with me.”

He kissed her as she smiled, lifting his other hand so he cradled her face. When the kiss deepened, his swirling thoughts about the store, the farm and the Christmas surprise faded. Even after 30 years she had a way of clouding his senses, pulling him under her spell until nothing else mattered other than the warmth of her body soft against his while she kissed away his worries.