Back Stateside after a three-year absence, Staff Sergeant Logan Richards is lacking any enthusiasm for the holidays looming ahead of him. With a heavy heart he unpacks his kitbag and comes across a bundle of letters. Logan is instantly struck by their significance and his head is quickly filled with sweet words, expressions of comfort and pages of hope. He starts to think of the woman behind the neat script, would she be happy to meet him?

Emma struggles to find any seasonal spirit. It has been months since she received a letter from the soldier she has been writing to and it has left her with a persistent empty feeling, her heart aches with thoughts of what could have happened to him. In one last hopeful gesture, Emma sends him a special care package and wishes for contact.

They met as strangers across the miles, letters forging a tentative friendship. Now can the Christmas spirit weave it’s seasonal magic and bring two lonely hearts together.

Cover Design ~ Wicked by Design

Chapter One

He was dying. He had to be. Nothing good could hurt the way that Logan’s head did, or the way his body did for that matter. Then, as he turned over in bed, it all came rushing back to him.

Last night he’d been out with some of the guys from his unit before they headed home for the holidays. All the married or attached ones had made their way home to reunite with their wives or girlfriends. One of his buddies had invited him to tag along and meet his family, but Logan hadn’t accepted. He knew how important this leave was since he’d been deployed as long as his friend had been. The last thing Logan had wanted to do was be a third wheel. Though, perhaps if he’d accepted, he wouldn’t have felt like shit now.

Groaning, Logan rolled onto his back and caught his breath as it hissed between his teeth. Unmoving for a few minutes, he peeled an eye open and caught sight of the bottle of water and painkillers he’d had the sense to leave on his night table before he’d passed out cold.

With the one eye still closed, he grabbed the water and painkillers, and managed to get them down without gagging.

He was an idiot. At thirty-seven, he should be old enough to know not to over do it, but not being in the spirit for Christmas, he’d decided to drown his heartache in a bottle of Jack. It had felt good at the time; he just wished that he’d remembered how he’d felt the last time he’d drowned his sorrows in a bottle.

He needed to get cleaned up because lying in his own sweat, which was mingled with stale beer, Jack, and cigarette smoke, made his stomach roll.

With another groan, he crawled out of bed and staggered into the bathroom. He relieved his bladder first before he scratched his balls—they ached just like his heart did.

A heavy sigh and ten minutes later, he was back in the bedroom with a towel around his hips looking for his kitbag.

He’d checked into a small, pay-by-the-hour hotel near the base last night. He’d dumped his belongings inside before he’d headed out to meet everyone at the bar. A stupid thing to do the minute he was back on U.S. soil, but it was done and his only consolation was that his friends were probably suffering as much as he was.

He did feel marginally better after the shower, but the throb in his head hurt tenfold as he bent to grab his kitbag, which was propped up next to the dresser.

One day he’d have somewhere to actually call home. Most people, at least, had a town or state that they’d call their home, but he didn’t even have that. He always did a short term rental when he was stateside, and then he’d let the rental go when he was deployed. It worked for him. But after this last deployment, he wanted something permanent.

Upending his bag on the bed, he watched everything tumble out…the last to fall was a bundle of letters. The letters had become his most valued possession, which was why they were at the bottom—no chance of them falling out.

He dropped his ass to the bed and picked the letters up, a slight shake to his hand. He turned the bundle over in his hands, and smoothed a finger over the return address, which was written in her handwriting.

 Every time he thought of Emma his heart thudded loudly in his chest. For two years she had written to him, but there had been silence for the last six months, which hurt. It hurt a lot to think that she just stopped without even a letter to tell him there’d be no more. Her letters had been the only thing to keep him going. They’d given him hope, and made him long for her to be the woman that he returned to.

She’d admitted to him that he knew everything about her, even her biggest secret that not even her family knew. Her words didn’t just give him hope, they made him feel loved as though he had to go on and stay safe because she was waiting for him back in the States. Which was why he’d been devastated when no more letters arrived from her.

It was like a claw in the gut not knowing why she’d suddenly stopped writing. He’d continued to send letters to Emma, and hoped that he’d get a response. But there had been nothing.

How would she react if he turned up in her town in Vermont? He’d lost his Christmas spirit somewhere along the way, but maybe, he would find it again if he had Emma to share it with. Would she be happy to see him? What if she was married with two-point-five kids that she’d forgotten to tell him about? He knew that he wouldn’t be able to settle until he knew the reason for her silence; he only hoped it wasn’t because something had happened to her. That wasn’t an option he wanted to think of.

The more he thought about it, the more the idea took root in his head. She probably wouldn’t recognize him from the photograph that he’d sent her two years ago. He looked so different, and the only resemblance now was his eyes. Should he follow his heart, and go and get his girl?

His indecision didn’t help his headache, or perhaps the alcohol still played havoc with his body—either way he felt like shit.

With a sigh, he finally rooted through his belongings for underwear and jeans. It was more difficult finding a clean shirt, but he found one that had more creases in it than the bed sheets. It would have to do until he could get some laundry done.

He felt lighter with the decision made to spend Christmas in Vermont, and he only hoped he wasn’t heading toward an even bigger disappointment.

Holiday Season