The draw to every romance I read is always the hero of the story. He's the backbone that holds everything together, the knight in shining armor who rides in at the last moment to save the day and almost always, the hero is the stuff of dreams. Tall, strong, and willing to fight to the death for the woman he loves.
When I starting writing A Willow Creek Christmas, I was faced with a character who was so unlike any I'd ever written before. Noah Lloyd was flawed and didn't fit into my mold of the perfect hero. He left me a bit bewildered. I didn't know how to handle him, so I sat back, gave him free reign and let what happen, happen. He surprised me.
An ex-civil war soldier with more wounds than most. Scared not only physically, but soul deep. He was a man who had given up and lived his life as far from people as he could, but finding a half-starved woman and her two kids in a run down shack in the woods changed all that.
This month over on my Facebook page, I've been highlighting Holiday stories in a big Christmas in July event, which is what made me think of Noah. He's not the typical romance hero, but he's the only one that still comes back to me weekly. Its been over a year since I wrote his book and I still can't get him out of my head. His sacrifice for the heroine of the story was greater than most. He had to tear down the walls he'd put up and learn to trust his heart again.
Here's a small excerpt that was the first turning point between the two, the one that started chipping away at that hardened exterior he'd erected.
Annoyance fierce enough to scald his flesh washed over him and he looked back down at the brush Aaron was hiding under. His temper flared an instant later. "Get out from under there, Aaron. You've wasted enough of my time as it is." To his amazement, Aaron crawled out and stood, his head bowed. "Get back to the marshal's house. You've worried your mother enough for one day."
He followed the boy back, his thoughts a jumbled mess. Keri ran down the walkway when she spotted them, tears leaving wet trails down her cheeks. She grabbed Aaron when she reached him, fell to her knees there in the snow, and wrapped him in her arms and sobbed. Noah stopped at the gate, watching them. Would Keri stay with the Averys or would she try to leave at the first opportunity she had? They'd left the comfort of their home for reasons Keri had yet to tell him about so what was to stop her from doing so again?
She looked up at him, her eyes large and filled with tears, gratitude shining so bright the sight twisted inside Noah's chest. Idiotic thoughts filled his head a moment later. Thoughts of letting her stay with him until her brother could be found. He tried to chase the notion away by reminding himself he'd slept in a chair for a solid week, but the idea nagged at his conscience until he seriously thought about it.
It was a bad idea. The words whispered inside his head until a reason it wasn't chased the doubt away. A reason he didn't want to think about, especially when Keri stood, her hands resting on Aaron's bony shoulders as she held his gaze and smiled. It was the tiniest curve at the corners of her mouth but the effect it had on him caused his entire body to jolt. The strain on her face melted away as she looked at him, her eyes, still glassy with unshed tears, locked with his own, and everything around him seemed to narrow down into a pinprick of light until nothing remained inside of it but her. This waif of a woman with eyes so soulful he felt as if he was drowning in them.
He blinked and looked away, trying to get his overactive imagination under control. The curve of her lips could barely even be called a smile, yet the effect was felt as if she bestowed him with one so blindingly brilliant he'd been dazzled by it. And maybe he had. Maybe the fact she could look at him without disgust or pity filling her eyes was enough. The fact she offered him that tiny smile to begin with. Whatever it was, Noah knew he'd been wrong about one thing. Keri Hilam wasn't the fool. It was him. A fool to even think of keeping her when every fiber of his being begged him to walk away, to forget she even existed. But the moment he looked back up and saw her captivating eyes still fixed on him, his heart gave one mighty thump in his chest hard enough to let him know he was still alive.
And for the first time since the war ended, he was actually glad he was.
This story is priced at .99¢ through the month of July and is available in eBook format at the following book stores.
Running from a life she no longer wanted…
Widowed with two young children, Keri Hilam is desperate to escape her abusive brother in law, going so far as sneaking away in the dead of night in hopes of finding a better life. She never regrets leaving, not even when they find themselves stranded, starving, and alone. Fate brings them to Willow Creek, Montana, where they’re rescued by an unlikely hero, an ex-confederate soldier who seems more monster than man.
Hiding from a past he can’t seem to forget…
The war leaves Noah Lloyd scarred and bitter. When the girl he left behind broke his heart, he turned his back on the life he used to know, and sought refuge in a dusty little town that afforded him the solitude he wanted. Finding a woman and her kids hunkered down in an abandoned line shack in the middle of a blizzard is the last thing he needs. They’re ragged, half starved and vulnerable, but he’s determined to leave the trio in the care of the town marshal.
Can a future together erase all the pain…
But the innocence of a child at Christmas breaks through Noah’s hard exterior and Keri’s tender care allows him to see that life may be worth living. All he has to do is let go of his past and let this unlikely family love him.
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I hope I see you there.
About Lily GraisonUSA TODAY bestselling author Lily Graison writes historical western romances and dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance. First published in 2005, Lily has written over a dozen romance novels that range from sweet to spicy.
She lives in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband, three high-strung Yorkies and more cats than she can count and is mother of two and grandmother of three. On occasion, she can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in civil war reenactments and area living history events. When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.
To see the dresses Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.
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