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The Best Christmas Ever by Heather Graham

Prologue

 

 

                A Christmas carol was playing softly over the music system at

the Krewe office. It was Michael Buble singing “Oh, Holy Night.”

                Angela Hawkins loved the sound of the talented singer’s

voice, and she controlled the music. Of course, she tried to make sure

she kept the soft sounds of something everyone liked going—just

background music. It didn’t go through to a few of their tech and

lab sections at all. Work mattered first, but she believed music was

something that soothed the savage beast—and made work better. 

                Office decorations abounded. There was a Christmas tree in

the reception area, along with a Menorah. They did their best to pay

homage to everyone of every belief at the Krewe offices.

                But the holidays never stopped the Krewe of Hunters. Indeed, they seemed to bring out some of the most serious crazies or those just seeking help.

                And so, even as she vaguely registered Michael Buble’s voice in her head, she realized she was staring at her husband, Jackson Crow, field supervisor for the unique unit of the FBI, as if he had lost his mind. “I . . . seriously? You think we should leave now—Christmas week? We have agents out in the field; they call in for help. Some of our people have come off tense cases and they need the Christmas break. They call us both when they need help; we know this.”

                And Christmas? She thought what she had was a very special gift for him this Christmas!

                He smiled and took her by the shoulders. And then her ever serious husband swung her around in a slow dance step to go to the music. 

                “We’re covered. Will Chan and Kat Sokolov are covering the office as you and me—and come on, Will and Kat know what they’re doing. Think of all the years they’ve been Krewe, all the cases they’ve worked.”          

 

                “And is it fair—”

                “Afraid they might be better than us?” he teased. 

                She laughed. “I don’t think we have a ‘better than’ thing here at the Krewe; certain people tend to be right for certain cases. But—”

                “I want to buy it,” Jackson said, holding her shoulders, his eyes intent on hers.

                They were blue eyes, striking against the bronze of his features. Jackson presented to Angela what was wonderful about their country—a mix of peoples and cultures. He was the son of a Native American father and a mom with a Northern European background. 

                She thought he was beautiful with the strongly defined lines of his face, the darkness of his skin, and the brilliant blue of his eyes. She found him just as intense now as she had when they first worked together all those years ago, forming the Krewe in New Orleans, and falling in love. 

                She had become so caught up in his eyes she forgot he had spoken. 

                She blinked. “Buy what?”

                “The house outside of Richmond where Brodie and Kody were married.”

                “That would be quite a commute every day, even if we’re considered a D.C. office though our offices are in Virginia. But Richmond is ninety miles, and outside of Richmond—”

                “We couldn’t live there full time,” he told her. “We could . . . hire a caretaker. Rent it out, but Angela, I

want this house.”

                It was the first she had heard of him wanting to purchase it.

                She smiled suddenly. “You know, Jackson, we don’t really make a mint working for the government.” She laughed. “Maybe you could run for Congress; they say you get paid forever. And I always want to know what you’d like for Christmas, but I was thinking more along the lines of electronics, a new sound system for our place, or . . .”

                “We’ll go there again, and you’ll see what I mean.”

                “Jackson, where did you get the idea for buying this house? I mean, I never heard about this until now.

You want to take off Christmas week and go and see a house to buy but not to live in?”

                Worrying about work was real—not just an excuse. They had both gone into the field and worked cases since the Krewe had formed, but they were also the mainstay to help with the work that fell to everyone else. 

                 “Please. Let’s just go. That’s all I want for Christmas. I mean, honestly, I think it will be beautiful. The Newton family has said we can have it for the holidays. We can invite anyone else out who isn’t on a case or covering the office.”

  

                  Austin Newton was Brodie McFadden’s friend.  In fact, Brodie and Dakota had been married there, just last Christmas season.  They were excited about coming back for Christmas, as were Bryan and Bruce and their wives.

                “I—”

                 “Angela, it was once owned by Thomas Jefferson,” Jackson hesitated a second and then smiled. “Okay, in all honesty, I saw it once when I was a kid. My parents and I were on vacation and my dad wanted to get it then. He was in love with the place. But the people who had seen it right before us had already put in a bid that was over the asking price, and my dad couldn’t go any higher. The couple who bought it, Brodie’s friends, Austin and his wife Julia, are moving to Frankfurt because of his job. They’re lovely people, you remember. They’ve decorated for Christmas, though they say you’re welcome to redo any way you want.”

                “You’ve already been talking to them? Without—talking to me.”

                He shook his head, trying to explain. “They’re actually friends of Adam Harrison.” Adam was their Supervising Director and founder of the Krewe. He was also an amazing man who had used his expertise in financial matters to become one of the most amazing philanthropists ever. “I was with Adam and saw the picture of the house and heard a bit of the history and . . .” He paused, offering her his most charming grin. “It’s all I want for Christmas. And, I know you loved it. You’re more dedicated than I am. We almost never get away, and when we do . . . Angela, there’s the main house which was a tavern once, and it has pocket doors. It was built in the late 1700s. It was added on to in the early years of the next century, and it’s colonial, and it’s Victorian . . . has an outside area with a fire-pit—well, that was added about a decade ago—but . . . I don’t know. I mean, I know I sound terrible. I want Christmas to be great for you. And I’m sounding like an all me person, but there’s something about that house that . . .” He broke off, wincing slightly.

                “What?” she murmured, perplexed. They’d been together a long time. They shared so much. He was never afraid to express his thoughts to her. 

                “I—I feel we’re called there,” he said. 

                Her brows shot up with surprise. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been so strange; after all, the Krewe of Hunters was an elite unit. Within the Krewe, it was understood and accepted that all members of the Krewe had the ability to speak with the dead—when the dead wanted to speak, of course.

                But even so, Jackson was a “logic” man. Every possible logical, electrical, scientific, and other natural reason for something that happened was explored when they were on a case. 

                The dead didn’t kill, not in her experience. 

                The dead remained because of love, fear, or because they were seeking justice. Sometimes they remained to watch over people or places.  So often, in the Krewe’s lives at least, the dead remained to bring those who had stolen the lives of others to justice. 

                “Wait!” she said. “Wait—it’s Christmas. We’re not heading there because the dead are rising, because there’s been a murder, because—”

                No! She didn’t want anything harmful or evil, not this Christmas. She wanted them both to appreciate the real gifts one received in life, and murder and mayhem just weren’t going to work this year!

                 “No known ghosts. And it’s in a small county—no murders for years and years,” Jackson assured her. “I

just . . . please. We can be together. Away from insanity. And remember the beautiful old church about ten miles in where they have Christmas Eve services with renowned musicians and a choir to take your breath away. It’s just a great house. Hey—some history is good. It doesn’t all come with murder and mayhem. And I just . . . I feel something for the house.”

                So, maybe it was a great house. No matter what any reasoning might be, Jackson was never one to lend himself to the whimsical. Yes, he knew there was something that survived after death—the soul, the spirit, or whatever it was that made each person unique and themselves. Yes, he might have a rapport with the dead.

                But he didn’t go into the woods looking for werewolves, nor did he believe in faeries, little people, or anything of the like. Maybe the Loch Ness monster—but there would be a scientific explanation for that.  

                “Something?” she asked softly. 

                  He shrugged. “I felt it when I was a kid and then again last year. There’s something very special there.

It’s as if I must find out what it is.”

                Well, she had hoped to spend Christmas Eve romantically alone with him, wake up together on Christmas morning and then, perhaps, spend Christmas Day with Adam Harrison or others of their co-workers who were in the city. 

But this meant so much to him.

                And they could still have a romantic Christmas Eve and invite whatever friends they could out for

Christmas Day.

                It might be the perfect place for her special gift. 

                She smiled up at him. “Cool!”

                “Cool?” he asked, brows lowering with concern first, then arching with hope.

                “Sounds wonderful. When do we leave?” she asked him. 

                The door to the reception area opened as she spoke; Special Agent Will Chan had arrived. He looked at them both, and then said, “Go now! Get the hell out of here. I get to be a field supervisor for a while. Go!”

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