A Little Country Christmas - Carolyn Brown

Chapter One

Cowboys do not cry.

That’s what Landon Griffin kept telling himself as he listened to Vince Gill sing “Blue Christmas” on the radio that cold evening in Sunset, Texas. His mother had passed her love for everything Christmas on to him, and she would want him to enjoy their favorite time of the year. Teresa Griffin hadn’t been a model mother, but from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, every single year, she had made wonderful memories with Landon. As he thought of those good times, tears welled up behind his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.

He parked his truck in front of the Quiltin’ House in Sunset, Texas, and pulled a red bandanna from his hip pocket to dry his wet cheeks. Snowflakes that seemed to be as big as half-dollars drifted aimlessly out of the sky, as if there were no such thing as gravity pulling them to the ground. He and his mother had always wished for a white Christmas, but that would definitely have been a miracle in Southern California, where he’d been born and grown up.

He’d never even known he had two half brothers in Texas until his mother had passed away. Not having any other family, he was eager to seek them out. So he’d come to the Panhandle last summer, and Pax and Maverick Callahan were everything he’d thought a big, warm family should be. And just like family should do, he was quick to help out. To his surprise, he found he loved working on the ranch. There was something about taming the land and caring for the great big shaggy beasts, the exhausting work, and the sense of accomplishment every day that he couldn’t get enough of. So when an opportunity arose to learn more from his brothers’ friends in Longhorn Canyon, he jumped at the chance.

He opened the truck door, grabbed the sack of groceries from the passenger seat, and shivered against the first burst of icy wind that sent the snowflakes into a frenzy. He made his way across the yard to the old house that had been someone’s home for years before Claire Dawson turned it into a quilt shop.

He heard little Sally weeping as if her heart was broken when he stepped up on the porch. At less than a year old, she was way too young to be crying over memories of Christmases past, but Landon’s eyes glazed with more tears just listening to her. He knocked once on the door frame and then went right on inside to find the little girl hanging on to her mother’s leg. Landon set the bag containing sugar and cinnamon on the floor, dropped to his knees, and held out his arms. Sally had just started walking the week before and didn’t always trust her legs, so she dropped down on her hands and knees and crawled over to him. When he picked her up, she laid her little head on his shoulder.

“What’s the matter with the princess?” He patted her on the back as he stood up with her still in his arms.

“She’s cutting two-year molars, and nothing seems to help.” Dixie Boudreaux carried the bag to the kitchen. “Thanks for getting these things for me.”

“No problem. I was in town to buy feed anyway,” Landon said.

Sally leaned back, tucked her delicate little chin down to her chest, and looked up at Landon with big blue eyes, still floating in tears.

“I’m right here, princess,” he told her. “Want me to rock you and see if that will fix those old nasty teeth trying to come in?” He set her down long enough to remove his coat and hat.

She held up her arms and said, “Lan-Lan rock.”

He tossed his coat and cowboy hat on the cutting table. Then he picked up the toddler and sat down in the rocking chair with her. He had sure gotten attached to the child in the past three months that he’d been working at the Longhorn. Leaving her in a couple of weeks to go back to his brothers wouldn’t be easy.

He glanced over at Dixie, who was standing on her tiptoes to put the cinnamon away on the cabinet shelf. The first time he met her at Longhorn Canyon Ranch at the Labor Day picnic, he had reached out his hand to shake hands with her and stepped in a gopher hole. He dropped to his knees about the same time that she took hold of his hand, and it looked like he was proposing