Authors: Emily March,Geralyn Dawson
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
A CALLAHAN CAROL
Geralyn Dawson/Emily March
Copyright © Geralyn Dawson/Emily March, 2010
All rights reserved
For My Readers
A few years ago, I was in the midst of a writing funk, ready
to throw in the towel on this publishing career of mine and move
on to something else. Then I started hearing from you. You offered
me support, encouragement, and repeated demands of
When do we get John Callahan’s story!
You helped me find the joy in writing
again and for that, I am extremely grateful. Now I have a new a
pseudonym and a new outlook on the writing life, but I continue to
write about those things that matter most to me: love, home and
family, and friendship.
In that spirit, I have written this story for you. It is my gift
to you, my way of saying thank you.
I hope you enjoy A Callahan Carol. Merry Christmas!
A Summary of Prior Events
Once upon a time following years of infertility, the beloved
wife of Texas oilman-and-rancher, Branch Callahan, gave birth to
a son. A religious woman, Margaret Mary named her child for the
apostle Matthew, and life in Brazos Bend was good. The following
year, the Callahan marriage again was blessed, this time with
identical twin boys, Mark and Luke. Four years later, Branch and
Margaret Mary welcomed yet another son. He was given the name
John and he was treasured by all.
The Callahan family lived, loved, and thrived in their small,
Texas Hill Country town. As children, the mischievous boys earned
the nickname Holy Terrors, but they were good boys at heart and
the townspeople tolerated their highjinks.
Sadly, when the boys were in their teens, tragedy stuck the
family. Margaret Mary fell ill and died.
Branch sank into mourning so dark, deep and powerful that
he neglected his sons completely. Because of Branch’s depression
his boys essentially lost both parents. The boys dealt with their
own intense grief by elevating mischief-making to recklessness
which culminated one night in an act of drunken carelessness that
burned a local factory–the town’s largest employer–to the ground.
In the aftermath, an angry and bitter Branch Callahan
banished his boys from Brazos Bend.
Years passed. The boys grew to men. Fine men. Matt’s
calling took him to clandestine service with the CIA. Mark found
his place as a Military Intelligence investigator, and Luke worked
undercover for the DEA. John’s talent for languages took him to
the State Department. As adults, the Callahan brothers
reconnected and eventually reconciled with their father–until
tragedy again struck the family.
John was attacked, kidnapped, and held for ransom by
Eastern European criminals. Branch’s misguided efforts to secure
his release failed, and the Callahans learned that their beloved son
and brother was dead. The Callahan family broke.
Years passed. The surviving sons remained estranged from
their father until, one by one, exceptional women entered–or in
Mark’s case, re-entered–the lives of the Callahan men. First, Luke
met Maddie Kincaid, aka Baby Dagger, the infamous rocker love
child who helped mend the fence between father and son. Then
Matt tangled with Torie Bradshaw; loving her precipitated his
reconciliation with Branch. Finally, the healing of Mark’s
damaged relationship with his ex, Annabelle Monroe, allowed
forgiveness to enter his heart. On the occasion of their wedding,
they and the rest of the Callahan family received a priceless gift
from an old enemy: news that John was still alive.
The Callahans were ecstatic. Each of them reached out to
contacts all over the world trying to locate him. Months passed,
then years. Despite vigorous and intensive search, the Callahans
never uncovered so much as a sliver of evidence to support their
Was it just a vicious lie? Another wound inflicted by the
cruelest of enemies? Privately, Mark began to wonder. Lying
awake in bed in the middle of the night, Luke despaired. Each time
he held his young son, Johnny, Matt fought back fears that the
boy’s namesake no longer lived.
Branch Callahan, the aging, but still stubborn patriarch of
the Callahan family, remained convinced that one day, John
Gabriel Callahan would walk through the front door of Callahan
At least, he did until John’s most recent birthday. Faced
with yet another milestone that tore his heart in two, the months
and years of futile searching finally defeated him. Branch lost his
faith, his hope, and his love.
Branch Callahan became the Scrooge of Brazos Bend.
Brazos Bend, Texas
“I can’t believe Grandpa Branch wants to cancel Christmas,” seven-year-old Johnny Callahan declared as he hopped down from the cab of his father’s pickup on a clear, crisp December morning. He kicked a brittle leaf from a cottonwood tree that lay in the driveway of his grandfather’s house as he waited for his father to open the built-in tool box on his truck.
Johnny’s cousin, nine-year-old Samantha, put her hands on her hips and frowned at the facade of Callahan House. “Grandpa Branch is sad. My mama says he’s lost his belief in miracles because no one has been able to find Uncle John. Christmas is all about miracles.”
Johnny spied a big black beetle crossing the driveway. He ran to it and squashed it with his tennis shoe. “My mom says he’ll be really mad when he gets home and sees that we’ve decorated and put up the Wonderland.”
“My mom says the same thing.” Samantha tucked a strand of curly red hair behind her ear as she stood patiently beside the truck.
“Your mothers are brilliant women.” Johnny’s dad, Matt Callahan, handed child-sized leather tool belts to his son and niece.
“So...why are we trying to make Grandpa mad?” Johnny asked as he buckled the belt around his waist.
Matt gazed out over the lawn. “We’re not trying to make him angry, but the fact is, he can’t cancel Christmas. Not the Callahan Wonderland display, anyway. It’s a tradition in this town.
It’s important to our friends and neighbors.”
Samantha’s freckled nose bobbed up and down as she nodded. “Mrs. Branson told my mom that for her family, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to the Wonderland.”
“I know I would miss it.” Johnny followed his father’s gaze out over the huge, empty lawn at Cavanaugh House and imagined how it would look at the end of the day. “Did you love the Wonderland when you were a boy, Dad?”
“Absolutely. I still love it.”
“Me, too!” Samantha said.
“Me, three!” Johnny agreed, then added, “I wonder if Stinkweed will love it four.”
“Better not let your mom hear you calling your sister that again, Johnny,” Matt Callahan cautioned. The toddler’s real name was Daisy. Johnny’s parents had adopted her last fall after the girl’s parents died in a plane crash.
“She calls her Buttercup,” Johnny protested.
His dad shook his head, then asked, “You ready to get to work?”
Samantha nodded and Johnny called out, “I’m ready!”
To illustrate, he pulled the kid-sized hammer out of its loop and smashed a pecan lying at the edge of the driveway, then he kicked it into the grass in just about the spot where they would put Santa’s workshop. “Dibs on putting Santa’s feet in the bucket.”
Samantha folded her arms and scowled. “Hey, no fair! You did it last year.”
Matt frowned at Johnny over the top of his sunglasses. “It’s Samantha’s turn.”
He’d hoped they wouldn’t think of that. Putting Santa’s feet in the bucket was the final step in decorating his grandpa’s house for Christmas, sorta like putting the star on the top of the Christmas tree. It was special.
Oh, well. The whole day was special. Excitement added a skip to Johnny’s step as he followed his dad toward the storage building in the backyard.
The Callahan Christmas Wonderland yard decorations were the oldest and the biggest and the best in Brazos Bend. Johnny’s great-grandmother had begun the collection back in the 1930's and his grandmother had continued the tradition and added to it. Now the displays filled the entire yard, and Grandpa Branch’s yard was humongous.
People drove from all over the county to see the Wonderland at Callahan House at Christmas. Samantha’s twin sister Catherine said that people even drove over from Fort Worth to see the show. Johnny didn’t know if he believed that–Catherine told stories a lot–but cars did line up for blocks.
The hinges on the Christmas storage shed squeaked loudly as his dad opened the door. Johnny peeked inside, then gasped with delight at his first sight of the bubble robot. Next to the last decoration in the display--Santa’s workshop where a tired Santa sits in a rocker and soaks his feet on Christmas morning– the bubble-blowing robot was his absolute favorite.
His dad handed a coil of yellow extension cord to him and a plastic tub full of twinkle lights to Samantha. “All right, you two.
You know the drill.”
“Yes, sir, Uncle Matt.” Sam toted the bin toward the front yard. Johnny looped the cord around his shoulder and followed.
Johnny had made three trips between the shed and the front yard when another pickup rolled to the curb and parked. The doors opened. Two men climbed out. Both wore jeans and flannel shirts and looked so much alike that, as usual, Johnny had trouble telling them apart.
The truck was Uncle Luke’s so he guessed that the driver, wearing the blue shirt, must be him. The uncle in the red shirt waved and said, “Hey, Chip. What’s with the empty yard? I thought you were going to have all the work done before we got here.”
Now, Johnny was sure which uncle was which. Uncle Mark was the one who liked to call him Chip (as in
chip off the old
“You know what Dad says, Uncle Mark. That’s what you get for thinking.”
“Where’s your cousin?” Uncle Luke held up a purple TCU
Horned Frogs windbreaker. “Her mom sent a jacket for her.”
“Here I am, Daddy.” Samantha came around the corner of the house with another box of lights. “I don’t need a jacket.”
He tossed her the windbreaker. “Put it on anyway so I don’t get into trouble.”
With his uncles’ arrival, work began in earnest. Soon the Old Woman in the Shoe display had joined the Bubble Robot, along with the Gingerbread House and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. When the Christmas shed was empty, Johnny’s dad made a phone call and within minutes the work crew from Brazos Bend Electric arrived. Next, the big truck from Brazos Bend Storage showed up. It held the displays that were too big to fit in the Christmas shed.
While the crew unloaded the truck and the head electrician directed the installation, Dad and Uncle Luke went to work stringing lights on Grandpa Branch’s house. The kids helped Uncle Mark place the lights on the bushes. With the setting of every spotlight, the connection of each new string of lights, Johnny’s excitement grew. It was hard but exciting work. Within hours they’d turned Callahan House into the familiar–and magical– Callahan Christmas Wonderland.
Johnny was so proud he’d been born a Callahan.
“What time is the Christmas play rehearsal at church supposed to be over?” he asked Samantha as they ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.
“Not until 1:00,” she replied, swiping at a smear of grape jam with the back of her hand. “I’m so glad Mom isn’t making me do that this year. I always had to be a shepherd.”
Johnny wasn’t in the play this year, either. Being on stage made him feel like throwing up, so Dad said he didn’t have to do it anymore. He glanced at the clock. “I hope they get here pretty soon. I heard my mom tell your mom that we’d better have everything done before Grandpa Branch comes home.”
At 1:20, Johnny’s mother and aunts arrived with more of his cousins–Catherine, their little sister Savannah, and Uncle Mark’s kids, Emma and Tanner. Uncle Mark’s son Chris was grown up and he’d taken Grandpa Branch to the Dallas Cowboy football game, which was why the family had been able to assemble the Wonderland without interference.
They put the finishing touches on the Wonderland, and the family gathered around when Samantha put Santa’s feet in the bucket. Everyone cheered, then headed inside where the women took charge of decorating. Aunt Maddie hung the Christmas stockings, Aunt Annabelle put up the wreaths, and Johnny’s Mom wrapped a fresh evergreen garland around the banister of the staircase. Callahan House began to smell like Christmas. Then it was time to tackle the tree.