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At Christmas, Laura Fleming lived her fantasy adventure. Paid to house-sit for the fabulously wealthy financier, C.W. Banley, while he traveled, she eagerly headed for New York City. As mistress of his elegant townhouse, she baked cookies and dressed the old gent’s richly-furnished residence for the holidays.As December rolled around, the lonely, lovely writer eagerly anticipated soaking up the Christmas atmosphere in the grand city. With only the cat for company, she’d turn Banley’s elegant home into a wonderland of sparkling lights, fragrant garland, and shiny tinsel. Every year, she wished, in vain, for a happy ending. Will this be the year that Miss Fleming discovers her dreams can come true, even in a big city, like New York?A sweet, New York City Christmas Fairy Tale.CAUTION: There is some violence, and a bit of cursing, but no sex.
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A Romantic Fairy Tale
Jean C. Joachim
The House-Sitter's Christmas
A Word from the Author
About the Author
ABOUT THE E-BOOK YOU HAVE PURCHASED: Your non-refundable purchase of this e-book allows you to only ONE LEGAL copy for your own personal reading on your own personal computer or device. You do not have resell or distribution rights without the prior written permission of both the publisher and the copyright owner of this book. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee, or as a prize in any contest. Such action is illegal and in violation of the U.S. Copyright Law. Distribution of this e-book, in whole or in part, online, offline, in print or in any way or any other method currently known or yet to be invented, is forbidden. If you do not want this book anymore, you must delete it from your computer.
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A Moonlight Books Novel
Sweet Romantic Fairy Tale
The House-Sitter’s Christmas
Holiday Hearts series
Copyright © 2017 Jean C. Joachim
Cover design by Jean Joachim
Edited by Sherri Good
Proofread by Renee Waring
All cover art and logo copyright © 2017 by Moonlight Books
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
To all who love holidays, happy endings, and believe in fairy tales.
To the late Marilyn Reisse Lee,
my dearest friend.
Homer, my muse
Thank you for your support:
My readers. Without you there would be no books. And to Steve Dimitriou, for his insightful suggestions regarding my cover.
THE HOUSE-SITTER’S Christmas is a romantic, holiday fairy tale. It was written originally as a romantic serial, with an episode released each day during the month of December. It’s not a chaptered novella or short story but consists of short episodes instead. There is an element of suspense woven into the fabric of this tale, as well.
Although the story could continue, there is a happy ending. But those who know me, recognize that characters may stay with me, reappearing in additional books or short stories, sometimes a year or more later. I don’t swear that this is the final chapter for Laura and C.W.
However, the ending wraps up the events in this novella. If you wish to have another story with these folks, please tell me. You can contact me by email (email@example.com) or on Facebook and make your wishes known.
I hope you enjoy this story. Thank you for reading my work.
Jean C. Joachim
P.S. Look for George’s story next year.
LAURA FLEMING’S PULSE kicked up as the bus approached the Lincoln Tunnel. Something magical happened whenever she crossed over from upstate onto Manhattan Island. And, it being a week before Christmas only made it more fantastic.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal was as bloated with people as usual. Mr. C. W. Banley had arranged for a car to pick her up. She was the hired help—the house-sitter, paid to keep his majestic townhouse occupied and to care for his cat while he traveled on business over the holidays.
This was Laura’s third year house-sitting for C.W., as she affectionately referred to him—but never to his face. In fact, she’d never met him. What mattered was her chance to step into the ultimate Christmas fantasy, occupying a grand townhouse on West 81st Street for three delicious weeks.
A man in a livery outfit stood on the crowded sidewalk, holding a sign that read Laura Fleming. She approached him, vouched for her identity, and slid into the comfortable vehicle. He closed the door, and they were off, wending their way through the dense, holiday traffic.
“First time in the City?” he asked, while they waited at a stop light.
“Oh, no. I’ve been coming during the holidays for several years.”
“It’s a beautiful, if crowded, time to be here.”
“I love it. I live in the country. During the winter, I get cabin fever with all the snow and ice.”
“You own a place here too?”
She laughed, her light brown hair swinging with the motion. “Oh, no. I could never afford that. I’m the house-sitter.”
“Now that’s a great gig!”
“You bet it is,” she agreed.
Laura looked out the window as the chauffeur maneuvered his way through congested Amsterdam Avenue. All the restaurants, and even the delis, had strings of Christmas lights. She raised her gaze to the apartment buildings and spied many with holiday decorations or elaborately decorated trees in the windows.
He pulled up to the gorgeous, Neo-Renaissance townhouse. The driver set her small suitcase on the sidewalk. He refused a tip, saying he’d already been paid, then handed her a sealed envelope. Laura gazed at the beautiful, cream-colored building with windows lined in black. A large, circular, black, wrought iron staircase beckoned her.
The winter sky turned teal blue as the sun set. She climbed the steps to the carved, wooden door. A wreath of evergreens, red berries, and pine cones hung there, welcoming her. The sharp wind penetrated her coat, making her shiver. She ripped open the envelope and retrieved the front door key. She smiled. Mr. Banley was a bear about security and would never leave a key under a mat. Eager to get to the antique pot of hot chocolate Maeve, the housekeeper, always left for her on the little wooden table by the fireplace in the study, Laura wondered if there would be a chocolate croissant, or a scone, waiting too. She licked her lips as she crossed the threshold into luxury she could only dream about.
LAURA CLIMBED THE STAIRS to a small room facing the street. Though only big enough for a leather loveseat, wing chair, and small round table, Mr. Banley had managed to find space for a little tree in the corner. A small tub of ornaments and lights sat parked neatly under the table.
C.W. Banley had left New York early in December and delighted in returning to a home decorated for the holiday.
There were two more trees, a large one in the living room and a small one in her bedroom, each with its own set of decorations. An extra tub of ornaments and lights resided next to a box of candles and another envelope. As usual, he expected her to decorate them all.
Laura loved the task, having the freedom to place exquisite pieces wherever she wanted. After heating the flue, to create a draft, and lighting the fire, she eased back in the seat, and opened the envelope with her instructions. As she read, she sipped on the finest chocolate to warm her bones and nibbled on a scone.
While thinking about which room to tackle first, her gaze rested on a photograph of C.W. and his nephew. The white-haired gentleman was handsome, though distinguished might better describe his looks. The strong family resemblance in his nephew struck her. Two good-looking men. She wondered if she’d ever meet C.W. and guessed probably not.
Opening her phone, she played holiday music, starting with Carol of the Bells. She surveyed the tree and opened the tub, then fished out the strings of lights. Humming along with Nat King Cole, she listened for the crackle of the logs and breathed in the strong, fresh scent of pine.
This was a traditional Christmas, her traditional Christmas, even if she celebrated it alone. Actually, not quite alone. Jasper, a male, orange tabby cat, scampered into the room. He rubbed against her legs, in greeting, then hopped up on the loveseat and curled up to watch her work.
RITZ HOTEL, 15 PLACE Vendôme, Paris, 4 a.m.
Craig Watson Banley, phone in hand, perched on a sofa in his hotel suite, sipping excellent hot chocolate and staring out the window. He couldn’t sleep.
“I suppose I should check to make sure my house-sitter arrived. How do I access that security crap, George?”
Bathrobe sashed, George Manfred, Craig’s indispensable assistant and father substitute, joined his boss. C.W. didn’t feel uncomfortable rousing his aide at such an ungodly hour because part of his job was to keep C.W. company, even at odd hours.
“It’s supposed to be on your phone. Let me see. I think we have to add the app.” George divested the thirty-five-year-old of his cell and fiddled with it like a master. Craig chuckled.
“People in the office would laugh if they could see that you’re more proficient with that fucking thing than I am.”
George grinned but continued to work his magic. “There! We have the Safehouse Security app installed. Now, let’s see. We have to find your house. We need a password. Want to use the usual?”
“Jasper? Yeah, sure.” Craig pushed to his feet and strolled to the window. Paris in December was a charming place. But then, Paris in any season was breathtaking. He wondered what it would be like to be here with a beautiful woman instead of old George. He sighed. Not happening this year, maybe not next either. In fact, there was no special one in the foreseeable future.
Maybe if his dotty old uncle decided to stop playing house in the mountains of Colorado with young women, Craig could have a life. Uncle Chet, Chester William Banley, had had enough of business. Now, sex, eating, and drinking were his major pastimes. Craig wished he had stock in the company that made Viagra.
When Uncle Chet stepped off the business merry-go-round, he’d handed the reins of his multinational businesses over to his favorite nephew—in fact, his only nephew, Craig. The old bachelor had kept the family fortunes alive for forty years. Now, he’d decided to have the life he’d missed. How could Craig blame him?
“Got it! Here you go,” George said. Craig joined him and listened while the older man explained how to access the new security system installed in his New York City townhouse. A broken window and a theft had convinced the young billionaire to install protection, including placing tiny cameras everywhere.
Craig sat back and fiddled with his cell. “Let’s see. Hmm. It should show me someplace if anyone’s been through the front door. Hold it! Whoa! Yeah. I see.” A fuzzy picture of a person from the top showed on the screen. He frowned. “I guess that’s Laura Fleming.”
“Did you tell Miss Fleming about the cameras?”
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