Born in a Small Town Page 1

Midnight Sons and Daughters

Debbie Macomber


Hard Luck is a fictional town situated fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle, near the Brooks Mountain Range. It was introduced in Debbie Macomber’s MIDNIGHT SONS series (Brides for Brothers, The Marriage Risk, Daddy’s Little Helper, Because of the Baby, Falling for Him and Ending in Marriage—first published in 1995 and 1996 and reprinted in three volumes in 2000).

The town was founded in 1931 by Adam O’Halloran and his wife, Anna. By the time of the Second World War, its population was fifty or sixty people, all told. During the war, the O’Halloran sons, Charles and David, joined the armed services. Charles was killed; only David came home—with a young English war bride, Ellen Sawyer.

After the war, David qualified as a bush pilot. He then built some small cabins to attract the sport fishermen and hunters who were starting to come to Alaska. Eventually, he built a lodge to replace the cabins—a lodge that later burned.

David and Ellen had three sons born fairly late in their marriage—Charles (named after David’s brother), Sawyer and Christian.

Hard Luck had been growing all this time, and by 1970 was home to just over a hundred people. These were the years of the oil boom, when the school and community center were built by the state. After Vietnam, ex-serviceman Ben Hamilton came to live here and opened the Hard Luck Café, which became the social focus for the town.

In the 1980s, the three O’Halloran brothers formed a partnership, creating MIDNIGHT SONS, a bush pilot service. When the original series started, the O’Hallorans were losing qualified pilots at an alarming rate—because there were no women in town! So, the brothers came up with a plan: Offer jobs and land to women willing to move to Alaska…

“Midnight Sons and Daughters” takes place almost twenty years later. Scott O’Halloran, stepson of Sawyer, and Chrissie Harris, daughter of Mitch, are keeping the great tradition of Alaskan romance alive!


Midnight Sons and Daughters

Cast of Major Characters (introduced in the MIDNIGHT SONS series). The stories in which they play a central role are indicated in parentheses.

Matt Caldwell: Brother of Lanni (Caldwell) O’Halloran; married to Karen. Co-owners of Hard Luck Lodge, built on the site of the original lodge (Because of the Baby)

Ben Hamilton: Owner of Hard Luck Café Bethany’s natural father

Mitch Harris: Public Safety Officer (equivalent of sheriff or police); married to Bethany (Ross) Harris; father of Chrissie (Daddy’s Little Helper)

Charles O’Halloran: oldest brother; geologist and silent partner in Midnight Sons; married to Lanni (Caldwell) O’Halloran, editor of the local paper (The Marriage Risk)

Christian O’Halloran: youngest brother, pilot; married to Mariah (Douglas) O’Halloran, who runs the Midnight Sons office (Falling for Him)

Sawyer O’Halloran: middle brother, pilot; married to Abbey (Sutherland) O’Halloran, a librarian; stepfather of Scott and Susan (Brides for Brothers)

Duke Porter: bush pilot employed by Midnight Sons; married to Tracy (Santiago) Porter (Ending in Marriage)


THE FIRST THING Chrissie Harris intended to do when she saw Scott O’Halloran was slap his face—hard. And she might have the opportunity today, she thought, reluctant to get out of bed on this clear August morning. The man had broken her heart, not once but twice—and she’d let him!

The first time she’d been seventeen, and she’d stood at the Midnight Sons airstrip one frigid winter morning and watched him fly out of Hard Luck, Alaska. Unable to get along with his mother and stepfather, Scott had enlisted in the army. Chrissie had thought her whole world would cave in without Scott. She’d been crazy about him from the time she was in grade school, when his mother had moved him to Hard Luck with him and his sister and married Sawyer O’Halloran. In third grade Chrissie had decided that as soon as they were grown-ups, she’d marry Scott; she’d believed he loved her, too—a belief she’d maintained for the next decade.

She’d been wrong.

Two years out of high school he’d clashed with his stepfather and promptly volunteered three years of his life to Uncle Sam. Chrissie had moped around for weeks, missing him dreadfully but pretending otherwise. In retrospect she realized she hadn’t fooled anyone. Least of all Susan, her best friend and Scott’s sister.

Every afternoon Chrissie had beaten a path to the post office, eager for a letter. Every night she’d poured out her heart to him in long missives. In the beginning Scott did write. Boot camp was hell, he’d told her. Following graduation he volunteered for Airborne Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia. Eventually his letters became less and less frequent. Finally they stopped altogether.

What hurt most was that Scott had asked his sister to break the news. As gently as possible, Susan let Chrissie know that Scott had met someone else.

That was the first time he’d broken her heart.

The next time happened five years later, the year Chrissie and Susan graduated from college. The two families had thrown a huge celebration party in Hard Luck, which half the town attended. Who should unexpectedly show up but Scott O’Halloran? He’d occasionally come home during the intervening years, but Chrissie had always avoided him. After the heartless way he’d dumped her, it was what he deserved. But at twenty-two she was older, more mature. Smart, too. She hadn’t graduated magna cum laude for nothing.

Only, Chrissie wasn’t nearly as savvy as she’d assumed. It took Scott less than a week to maneuver himself back into her life. He told her how much he’d missed her, how he regretted the way he’d treated her. He’d gone on to claim that every woman he’d met since paled compared to her. Blah, blah, blah.

Chrissie had swallowed his lies, every one of them. She was so in love with him her brain had virtually ceased to function. Then Farrah Warner had arrived and declared herself Scott’s fiancée. Scott had tried to explain, to apologize, but Chrissie had refused to listen. Before another day had passed, Scott and Farrah had flown out of Hard Luck, leaving everyone, including his own family, upset and confused.

Chrissie vowed that was the second and last time he’d ever break her heart.

Recently she’d heard that Scott was returning to Hard Luck permanently as a partner in Midnight Sons, the bush plane service owned by his father and his uncle Christian. Chrissie swore she wouldn’t allow Scott O’Halloran to come anywhere near her. She would not give him the opportunity to break her heart a third time.

That determined, she rolled over and turned off her clock radio before the alarm could buzz. Sitting up, she rubbed the sleep—what little she’d managed to catch—from her eyes. She’d spent most of the night reviewing her history with Scott, going over and over his betrayals, hardening her resolve. At twenty-six, she wasn’t a schoolgirl any longer. The law degree hanging in the office she shared with Tracy Santiago Porter said as much.

When the phone pealed at five minutes after seven, it jolted Chrissie so badly she nearly fell off the bed.

“Yes,” she snapped.

“Scott’s flight is due in at ten,” Susan cheerfully informed her. Despite everything, her best friend continued to believe that Scott and Chrissie were meant to be together. As far as Chrissie was concerned, it wouldn’t happen in this or any other lifetime.

“Oh, Scott’s coming home?” Chrissie asked, hoping she sounded bored and uninterested. “Is that today?”

“You know it is.”

“Yes,” Chrissie said, faking a yawn. “I suppose I did.”

“This time it’s for good. My brother’s here to stay.”

“Really?” Chrissie feigned a second yawn as if she couldn’t care less. She cared, all right, but only because she wanted to tell him he was lower than a tundra rat—and then follow that with a resounding slap to his face.

“Mom and Dad are thrilled.”

Chrissie tensed, struggling to hide her reaction.

“He’s going to be flying for Midnight Sons. Mom and Dad have been wanting this for years. With Anna and Ryan older now, Dad’s hoping to cut back his hours and… Oh, Chrissie, this is what we’ve all wanted!”

Chrissie knew that, but she wasn’t sure Hard Luck was big enough for the both of them. All right, fine, she could deal with Scott living in Hard Luck. It wasn’t as though her world revolved around him. Not anymore. Whether he stayed or moved on didn’t make one iota of difference to her.

She could certainly be civil if she ran into him, although that wasn’t likely to happen often. Hard Luck wasn’t as small a town as it had once been. Twenty years ago the population was around fifty—mostly cantankerous men in need of women. The O’Halloran brothers hadn’t been able to hold on to their staff of professional pilots and were losing them at an alarming rate to other commuter-airline companies in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Something had to be done, and quickly. The best way to keep their pilots, the O’Halloran brothers had decided, was to lure women north.

Their plan worked, too. Surprisingly well. Abbey, Scott and Susan’s mother, was the first woman to arrive, and a number of others had followed soon after. In the years since, Hard Luck had expanded, and its population had reached a robust six hundred. More families moved in every year.

Susan’s husband, Ron Gold, and his partner, Matt Caldwell, did a booming winter tourist business, which involved dogsledding, camping and more. Midnight Sons flew in the adventure-seeking sight-seers. That was only part of their business; they also functioned as a commuter line and a courier company. Actually the airline had a corner on the market, because the only way to reach Hard Luck was by plane.

It wouldn’t be long now before the next group of visitors showed up. The last days of summer lingered on, but in early September the weather would start to turn chilly; snow would come by October—and with it, the winter tourists.

“Chrissie, Chrissie. Have you heard anything I said?”

“Sorry,” Chrissie muttered. “I let my thoughts wander.”

“I want you to be pleased Scott’s moving home,” Susan insisted. “You two make such a perfect couple.”

Chrissie snickered. She couldn’t help herself. She and Scott? Not anymore. She didn’t trust him, couldn’t make her heart vulnerable to him a third time. The first two times had hurt too damn much. No, she was a sensible attorney now, a woman who wouldn’t be swayed by a glib tongue and a pair of bright baby blues, even if they did belong to the one and only man she’d ever truly loved.

“Scott could move next door and it wouldn’t make any difference to me,” Chrissie said in as matter-of-fact a tone as she could muster.

“You sure about that?”

“Positive.” Leave it to Susan and her romantic inclinations. But then, Chrissie supposed Susan was entitled to feel optimistic on that score; the year she graduated from college, she’d married the boy she’d loved half her life. “Listen, I’ve still got to shower,” Chrissie said. Knowing Susan wouldn’t be satisfied until she had her way, she added, “When you see Scott, tell him hello for me.” As soon as the words left her lips, she realized her mistake. Scott might consider that an invitation to look her up, and there was nothing she wanted less. Quickly she said, “No, don’t. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t mention my name at all.”