A MAGICAL CHRISTMAS- GAMBLING HEARTS SHORT STORY
When a little girl goes missing, it takes faith, love, and the help of a Christmas angel to guide her to safety.
Traditions—forging family ties.
There was no denying the first few years were a steep learning curve; she’d been a town girl and he was the heir apparent of a sprawling cattle ranch, but they’d made it work. Their son had thrived on the land, following his father everywhere he went. At first, Madeline worried about a small child running wild in the countryside, but their new maid, Consuela—hired by Joseph as a companion as much as housekeeper—assured her the ranch-hands would never let anything happen to the pequeño.
And she’d been right.
Madeline could smile now, remembering the gangly cowboys who’d made her curious son their priority—not an easy task. He’d been a handful, even back then.
It was the reason she was here today. Her heart fluttered. Oh, how she dreamed of seeing her son holding her beloved husband in her arms again.
Soon, my love. Soon.
But she had business to finish before she could see them again. Her instincts clamored, warning her trouble was afoot in paradise. She hoped she was wrong; her grandkids had been through enough turmoil.
She smiled, remembering the shy young woman Matthew brought home to the ranch posing as his fiancée. The only one he’d fooled was himself. Now they were married with children of their own, proving fate works in mysterious ways.
She’d wished her beautiful, tempestuous granddaughter, Sophia, would find the same kind of happiness and her prayers were answered by the ranch foreman, Tony. Unfortunately, Madeline passed away before the wedding, though Consuela assured her it was dreamy.
And now, her stubborn, headstrong grandson, Aaron, was preparing to wed his true love on Christmas Eve, here at the cabin. She loved the melding of past and present. Joseph and his father would be proud.
A sudden commotion beyond the door, accompanied by a series of shrill cries, sent her dashing to the window. Her husband’s graceful gray stallion paced the yard, head held high, mane and tail flowing.
Madeline stepped onto the wraparound porch. “What are you yammering about? You’re going to wake the dead with those screeches.” It had taken her a while to overcome her fear of the great beast, though Joseph swore it would never hurt her. After he died it had disappeared, and only rarely showed itself, earning the title Ghost Stallion of Balmoral Ranch.
It reared now and paced away from the cabin, heading toward the narrow pass leading into the valley, before wheeling to trot back to her. Clearly, he wanted her to follow.
“What in blazes is wrong with you?” she muttered, soaring down the steps.
A far-off scream rent the air and Maddie froze, her heart jumping into her throat. That sounded like a… child.
Without further thought she raced to the horse and leaped on, gnarled fingers wrapping into the mane. “Hurry, boy. Hurry.”
As they galloped across the field and tears blurred her vision, Joseph’s words rang in her ears. “Alive or dead, my spirit will ride by your side—always.”
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