Thursday, January 14, 2021
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
|Photo by Jill Wellington|
Rose sat with a sketchbook in her lap and her feet up on the desk while her favorite tunes blasted through her earbuds. Hannah assumed her cousin didn’t hear a word she said. Most likely, Rose was working on a new tattoo design, because she spent all her time involved in drawing—unless she was actually tattooing.
Rose took out one of the earbuds. "He wants to straighten out his sister’s life."
"He says that, but maybe it’s not the truth. Maybe...he got cold feet." Hannah’s eyes grew misty, but she refused to let her emotions get the best of her.
"His sister nearly died." Rose put her feet on the floor, closed the sketchbook, rolled up the wires to her earbuds, and stuffed them in her pocket.
Hannah sniffed. "Yes, she looked terrible in the hospital, but she went right back to her habit when she got out."
Rose shrugged. "From what I’ve read, taking drugs changes the chemistry of the brain, which makes it almost impossible to stop."
"Still, Logan ought to give me some attention—if he loves me." She pouted as she ripped the backing paper off the bulletin board and jammed it into the trash.
"But does Logan love me or not?"
Rose blew a huge pink bubble with her gum and popped it, loudly. "I told Mr. Grimm we’d be at the park before four o’clock."
Hannah sighed. "Everything must be off the floor and in the closet before I leave."
"Should I put the puzzles away next?" Rose asked.
"Yes, thank you." Hannah filled another box with textbooks and hoisted them into the closet. "What if I give Logan some space? Break the engagement, hand him the ring, and later, when his sister improves—"
"If you love somebody you don’t abandon them." Rose started stacking the puzzles in a plastic bin. "Whoa! This is a fantastic image of the cow jumping over the moon. Once a farmer wanted a cow tattoo, but I gave the job to Farrell." She chuckled, grabbed her sketchbook again and began to draw the cow. "Awesome udder thing going on..."
Rose drifted off into her own world, which happened all the time and Hannah didn’t mind it except when Rose forgot to do the dishes or take out the trash. More like sisters than cousins, they shared the small bungalow on Beach Drive where Rose had grown up. When she went to study art in college, she gave her mother, Hannah’s Aunt Deborah, plenty of gray hairs. Then her mother got cancer. Rose quit college and stayed at her mother’s side through the long ordeal.
Hannah originally thought staying with her cousin would be a temporary situation, but since Logan kept putting off the wedding date, she might be there forever— or until she had enough money to rent an apartment of her own. Of course, moving back into her parents’ place was a possibility, but she longed to be more independent.
It was a sad situation, but as Logan’s intended spouse, Hannah didn’t think it was wrong to plan ahead for their new life together, starting with a wedding.
Logan sent Hannah a text message two days ago. He said Nina was missing—again. So instead of Hannah and Logan enjoying a date this weekend, Logan would be out searching for his sister. Hannah’s hope of a beautiful wedding faded away.
Rose held up her drawing. "What do you think? It’s terrific, isn’t it?"
"Should tattooed cows smile?"
"When they’re happy cows they do," Rose pointed out. "If you were a dairy farmer wouldn’t you want your cow to appear delighted eating grass and making milk?"
"Why would someone advertise their business on their arm?"
"It’s cheaper than buying an ad in the newspaper." Rose went back to putting the puzzles in the bin. "Aren’t you almost done? Mr. Grimm saved the best summer job for you. It should take your mind off things."
Hannah studied her list and checked off all the tasks she had completed in the room. "I worked in the amusement park when I was in high school. Don’t you think I’m a little old for it now?"
"Age means nothing when it comes to having fun. One seventy-five-year-old senior citizen works the train ride. He laughs more than the kids."
"Your old car is going to breathe its last one of these days," Rose reminded her. "If you work for a couple months, you might have enough for a down payment on a newer one."
Hannah glanced at the classroom. One entire year of teaching had flown by. It had been a challenge, but one she enjoyed. She already missed the students, but she shouldn’t mope around all summer. Working at the amusement park would give her something better to do than lament her lack of a groom and a wedding.
Rose shoved the puzzles into the closet. "We’re done. Let’s hurry up before someone else gets the water balloon booth."
"That’s the best job?"
"It’s the best spot in the entire park." Rose laughed. "You’ll get drenched every night."
Hannah sighed. "I guess I better keep my hair in a ponytail."
"Cut it short like mine." Rose rumpled her blue spiked coiffure.
Hannah smiled but shook her head. Logan once admired her long, auburn hair and made her promise never to shorten it. While he adored her silky mane, he didn’t seem to miss her much.
Her dreamy plans floated off like high cirrus clouds, thin and wispy and far, far away. "Do you think I’ll wind up an old maid?"
"Our Grandaunt Rose, my namesake, never married." Rose shrugged. "Did she mope around?"
"No." Hannah managed a weak smile. "She was still riding the roller coaster when she was eighty."
"She dated plenty of men, but she never wanted to marry any of them." Rose chuckled. "She said they were too much of a bother."
As the streets of Baywater whizzed by, Hannah closed her eyes. Logan ignored her. Did he love her? Did she love him? Had he forgotten his promise?
Should she dump him?
Hannah stood in the water balloon booth with Mr. Grimm as he explained what she was supposed to do.
"You gotta get the attention of the people who pass by." He held one of the prizes in his hand and shook it above his head. "Say things like ‘I bet you got good aim,’ or ‘You only need two to play,’ or ‘See what you can win. Don’t you wanna give your girlfriend something special to remember the day?’"
"That stuffed monkey is very small." Hannah thought it was ugly—even grotesque.
"If they win three games, they get the better prize, which is this incredible stuffed panda." Mr. Grimm pulled the toy down from the shelf. "Bet you never laid eyes on anything like it."
"You’re right," Hannah admitted. The panda was large. However, instead of being black and white, it was a rather garish purple and the white fur had metallic silver streaks in it.
"Don’t sit down when you’re working," Mr. Grimm warned. "Make sure you wear your uniform every night, too."
"This t-shirt?" Hannah held it up. Emblazoned on the purple cotton were the words, "Baywater Amusements, Fun Times for the Whole Family."
"I only give those out to the employees. Don’t hand it out to anyone. I don’t want somebody impersonating an employee."
"Yes, before I bought the shirts. Some kid opened up the frog pond game one night and ran off with all the money," Mr. Grimm growled. "It ain’t gonna happen again, though."
"But—but you know everyone in the county. Don’t you?"
"Yeah, but the kid picked the day I had to go to my sister-in-law’s wedding."
"Did the police catch him?"
"No. I figure somebody told him I wouldn’t be around." Mr. Grimm frowned at her. "Weren’t you getting married? There’s a diamond ring on your finger."
"Yes, I’m engaged, only...we haven’t set a date...yet." Hannah bit her lip.
"What’s taking so long? My wife and I dated each other for two weeks, I asked her to marry me, and two months later we tied the knot."
Hannah blinked. "You planned a big wedding in two months?"
"No, we celebrated in her parents’ backyard. I came with a keg of beer. We put it in the garage in case it rained, but it didn’t. The guests brought casseroles. My wife laughs and says she had a potluck wedding, but everyone had a good time." He sat on the stool in the corner of the booth, crossed his arms, and smiled. "We skipped out after a few hours and went on our honeymoon. I got us a little cabin up at Stokes. Saw bears, went fishing, and rowed around the lake. We had a great time. Ain’t been on as nice a vacation since. Where you gonna go on your honeymoon?"
"Aruba." She sighed. She would be spending her free time this summer on Baywater’s own small crescent of sand.
"There’s your problem. How much is Aruba gonna cost? Why can’t you do something simple like I did? You’d save yourself a ton of money and you could get married right away."
He winked. "She was a great cook. She was cute, and she was as sweet as pie. How could I go wrong?"
Mr. Grimm showed her where to stash the cash and explained a number of other details about the job. When he finished he told her to grab something to eat, and put on the shirt before he opened the gates.
She hurried across the street to the tattoo parlor where Rose worked. Rose was showing a customer some of her designs, but she looked up when Hannah came in the door.
"Is purple a good color for me?" Hannah asked as she held up the t-shirt.
"Absolutely. It shows off the highlights in your hair," Rose said. "You’ll probably receive several more proposals tonight. Remember not to take them seriously."
"I won’t." Hannah’s hopes were already dashed. Was it wrong to end what had once seemed right? Was she unreasonable to expect Logan to give her some attention despite the difficulties he had with his sister?
Aunt Deborah firmly believed in prayer. The foundation of hope is faith, she often said.
Hannah wondered if her lack of hope meant her conviction needed an extra boost. She prayed as she walked back to the amusement park. After eating a hotdog, she hurried to the water balloon booth. People started streaming through the gates for a night of family fun. At least, she wouldn’t be alone and brooding about Logan tonight.
She did her best to attract attention to her booth and by eight o’clock she was so busy she didn’t have time to think. At one point, every water gun was occupied and people were waiting in line to play.
She gave away twenty-six of the ugly stuffed monkeys but only three of the purple pandas to the winners.
Her feet ached by the end of the night and her stomach rumbled. She regretted not buying fries with her hotdog.
At closing time, she picked up her inventory list along with the cash bag. Part of her proceeds had been collected earlier, but during the last hour she had more business than the rest of the night combined. As she pulled down the gate to close up the booth, a dark shadow startled her. When she turned around, someone grabbed her t-shirt and held a knife in front of her face.
Hannah choked back a cry as panic swept through her. She didn’t move a muscle.
"Nina," Hannah whispered. Logan’s sister was dirty, disheveled, and emaciated, but she had the same impossibly curly brown hair as her brother along with pale blue eyes. Her wild, wide-eyed gaze chilled Hannah to the core.
"Give me the bag!" Nina didn’t let go of her weapon, which gleamed in the beams of the security lights. "Otherwise, I’ll slide this right across your throat." The blade shook in her hand. Her black pupils were small pinpoints.
Hannah stared at the point of the knife. The handle appeared worn, but she didn’t want to find out how sharp the tip of it was. She handed the bag of money to her attacker.
Nina released her grip on Hannah’s shirt, but she did not release her knife, which was still pointed toward Hannah who was cornered between the end of the booth and the fence. Nina hugged the canvas bag close to her chest. In doing so, she pulled her ragged shirt down over her
Hannah didn’t dare move, but she asked cautiously, "Who is Paul?"
Nina spat on the ground. "I hate him." She suddenly threw the knife away, turned, and fled.
Hannah clutched the edge of the counter. She didn’t think her legs would hold her up.
She took a deep breath and screamed for help.
Read more at https://www.amazon.com/Hoping-Joy-Love-Book-13-ebook/dp/B01N2U0XE6
Thursday, December 24, 2020
We delivered gifts to two of our daughters and hubby’s mom. We mailed a package to our Brooklyn daughter. She hasn’t gotten the package yet. She mailed packages to us and we received them. According to the post office’s tracking system, her gifts are languishing in Jersey City. 😢
This has been a very strange year. I’m hoping the coronavirus will soon be controlled and we can go back to enjoying the company of our family and friends.
Of course, Christmas isn’t about family feasts. It’s about God’s gift to us. Even through we’re going through this pandemic, God is still with us. His love remains with us and in us. His love is a gift that will not wear out.
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Clare Revell, Carol James, and Stacey Weeks have all posted excerpts here at my blog of their Christmas Extravaganza stories. Last year, Lilian Duncan was a guest at this blog with her book All I Want for Christmas is Johnny Rocker Dead, and. Lisa Lickel with her Crazy Creek Christmas. I posted reviews of Susan Baganz’s Sugar Cookies and Streetlamps and Clare Revell’s Waltzing Matilda. I’ve been stocking up on the newest novellas for this year. When it’s cold and snowy, it’s nice to sit inside, snuggle up with an afghan, a book, and a hot cup of cocoa.
The best place to keep up with the latest in Pelican Group Book’s offerings is at their Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/PelicanBookGroup/ So, hurry up and download a bunch of these sweet novellas before another storm comes along.
Monday, December 07, 2020
VIRTUALLY YOURS AT CHRISTMAS
It Started With A Typo…
While working from home, accountant Carlyle Stevenson is told by his boss to contact a client ASAP by video call, and berate her for not filing her accounts for the last several months—long before social distancing began. Since the request is urgent, Carlyle fires off the email, and sits and waits for her to answer. Only thing is he’s sent the invite to the wrong person.
Being stuck at home is nothing new for candle maker Kristen Lawson, as she usually works out of her garage or kitchen. She’s in the middle of making a new batch of candles for her online business, when she receives the email marked urgent. Even though it’s not her accountancy firms she clicks the link and begins the call.
What begins as an honest mistake blossoms into something more, but can a socially distanced relationship ever really get off the ground?
Here's an excerpt from the book!
A second or two later, the call connected. An empty room greeted her. The red office chair stood in front of a tall bookcase. What she could see of the brown desk was cluttered with files and a steaming cup. So much for this being urgent. “Hello?”
No reply seemed forthcoming, so she turned away from the laptop and gave attention to her melting pot of wax. It smelled divine. She double checked she’d written things down correctly. There’d be no point in crafting this new scent, or putting it on the website, if she couldn’t recreate it.
“Hello. Sorry about that. The dog wanted to go out.”
She smiled at the pot of wax and answered the man’s voice coming from behind her. “I know how that goes. Give me a couple of minutes. I’m in the middle of something.”
“I don’t have time.”
Biting back a rude response about how he’d been the one not there when she’d called, Kristen held up a hand. “I need to pour this into the moulds. Can we talk at the same time? Your email did say urgent. I’m assuming you need to talk to me about my accounts?”
“That would be why I set up the meeting, but I’m afraid I’ll need your full attention. I’m Carlyle Stevenson.”
Kristen turned around. The bloke on the screen in front of her was…fit. Short, spiky dark hair, five o’clock shadow, baby blue eyes, and obviously dressing down as he was in a shirt and jumper, rather than a suit. “Kristen Lawson. I’m assuming Viceroys’ passed on my details to you. I’ve been with them up until now, but Mr. Viceroy is retiring and as he handles everything himself, the firm is closing. But then of course you know that, else you wouldn’t be calling me.”
“Ummm… No, there is nothing anywhere here from Viceroys’.” The man frowned and checked the folder in front of him. “I’m after a Kirsten Lawson. Overdue accounts for the last five months.”
Kristen shook her head. “Not me. I’m Kristen Lawson.”
The cheeks of the handsome hunk on the other side of the screen turned a delicious shade of pink, and tapping echoed from the speakers. “Can I ask your email?”
“How about you tell me which email you thought you’d sent the invite to?” Kristen hadn’t come down in the last shower. She wasn’t about to give her email out to any Tom, Dick, or Carlyle who asked. Even if he was the most exciting thing to have happened to her all week.
“It’s not protocol. I can’t give out confidential client information like that.”
“Surely you have the email in front of you or a copy of it in your sent folder, but OK, fine. Kristen Lawson at…” She broke off as he held up a finely manicured hand. Wow. That she wasn’t expecting. And he wasn’t married, either. Unless he was one of these modern males who didn’t do wedding rings.
“Can you spell that?”
“T-h-a-t,” she shot back. Then quirking a brow, she continued. “Kristen, spelled K-r-i-s-t-e-n.”
His cheeks turned even rosier. “Then I apologise, Miss Lawson. I typed the name wrong and put K-r-i rather than K-i-r. It wasn’t you I needed to get ahold of at all. If you wish to make a complaint you can email the firm directly or call them. All the details will be on the email I sent you as I used my work account. Once again, my apologies for disturbing you. Have a good day.”
The call ended abruptly.
Kristen didn’t know whether to laugh or let the irritation build within her. A twenty-first century wrong number. But who would have imagined two similar names at the same email server?
DARK STREETS SHINETH
You’d better watch out. You’d better not cry. Santa Claus is going to die.
DCI Boaz Matthias isn’t a Christmas person. He never has been. Not since he discovered the truth when he was seven. Christmas is a lie and a con and nothing is ever going to change his mind. Being given a temporary six week assignment isn’t helping his mood either—as it means Christmas with the family. Only good thing is the accidental meeting of someone he thinks he could grow very fond of.
On the other hand, DC Isabel York on the other hand loves Christmas. So much so that she decorates her desk with lights, tinsel, and a novelty advent calendar. When her boss is called away, his replacement is the last person she’s expecting to see—her fledgling boyfriend.
In the middle of a nasty case, Isabel is nevertheless determined to show Boaz the real meaning of Christmas. Problem is work and pleasure just doesn’t mix—at least not according to him.
Here's the excerpt for this one!
What was the matter with him? Had Isabel broken through his defences already? He’d known her less than a week, been speaking to her less than a day, and all he really knew about her was her name.
Once they were seated, steaming plates in front of them, she took a deep breath and bowed her head. Guessing she was saying grace, he reached over and took her hand. Warmth shot through him and it was all he could do not to gasp out loud. Somehow he managed to get his voice to work. “May I say grace for us?”
Her bright smile reached her eyes. “Of course.”
He prayed and then reluctantly released her hand. This so wasn’t him. He was normally in control, did everything methodically, carefully, and deliberately. Yet, his heart was pounding, his stomach spinning, and his emotions running away with themselves.
“Are you OK?”
Her voice brought him back down to Earth. “Yeah, I was just thinking.” He picked up his knife and fork.
Isabel tucked into her meal. “Tell me about your family. You said your brother and family are with your parents.”
“Older brother, Asher, and his wife, Sylvie. They have three children. Jacob and Clara are six, and Tim is five. I’m the youngest of three…” He paused. “My sister died when she was seventeen.”
“How old were you?”
“Seven. They don’t think I remember, but I do.” He swallowed hard, eyes burning. “I’m sorry. Getting all emotional over here.”
Her hand touched his, the same electrical charge as before racing through him.
“Don’t apologise for being human. Even Jesus wept when his friend died.” Her fingers moved slowly. “I’m an orphan. I grew up in a series of foster homes. My adopted gran was killed a few months ago. So this is my first Christmas alone for a long time. Well, I say alone. There’s Zander and Gramps—that’s Zander’s grandfather. We both call him Gramps as it’s easier.”
Boaz managed a smile. “Her name was Marlah. She went out to a party about two weeks before Christmas with her boyfriend. He was several years older than her. Dad didn’t approve, but hoped she’d come to her senses. They were both killed in a car crash. That same year I discovered Father Christmas didn’t actually exist. I found Dad sneaking around filling the stockings. Of course he insisted he was helping out, trying to take my mind off things…” He shrugged. “So there you have it. Christmas, at least the popular version, is a lie and a con.”
“But fun,” she said. “There are the parties and dinners, games evenings with friends, carol singing, skating in the park.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Skating in the park? You’ll be quoting chestnuts roasting on an open fire next.”
She stifled a giggle. “Well, actually, we have skating, chestnuts, and a fun fair. You should check it out before you go home. It opened last weekend.”
“Maybe we could check it out together.”
The rest of the evening passed in a blur of laughter and conversation. If he could capture a moment in a bottle it would be this. The way the lights on the wall behind her glowed and bounced off her hair, the lights to the side sparkled in her eyes. If he knew her a little better, if this wasn’t the first date he’d take a photo. Just to etch the memory further.
She laughed. “You can if you want.”
His cheeks scorched. “Did I say that out loud?”
She inclined her head. “You did. But that’s fine. By all means, take a photo. But I’d better be your lock screen.”
CHRISTMASTIME IN LONDON TOWN
Needing a change of pace, elementary school teacher Kelly Seda accepts the school exchange position and flies from Ottawa to London. Exchanging jobs and houses for a year, he and six-year-old daughter Wendy have a less than a day to adjust before starting work.
Single mum Staci Kirk has carved out a life for herself and her young son Tommy. Fiercely independent and self-reliant, she’s found a good place where she can settle in but she’s all too aware that happily ever after applies only to other people—or in the romance books she writes.
The arrival of Tommy’s new teacher, also her next door neighbour, threatens to upset her carefully balanced apple cart but Staci knows it’s only a matter of time before Kelly packs his bags and flies back to Canada. No sense in starting anything she can’t finish.
However, life is never that simple. When the worst happens, there is only one person she can rely on to help.
Read the excerpt for this one!
Staci sat on the couch beside Kelly as Tommy and Wendy coloured happily at the table. The picnic lunch she’d prepared after the service had gone down a treat—despite the rain which had poured down in torrents since they’d left the church. She’d turned the table into a palace with a couple of blankets, made crowns out of sheets of cardboard, and the four of them had eaten inside it, with the kids pretending to be a prince and princess.
Kelly sipped his coffee. “That indoor picnic was a stroke of genius.”
She smiled. “We do that a lot in the winter. As long as Tommy eats, I don’t care where. Within reason, that is. The bedroom is a no no. It’s not easy being both parents.” She paused. “I’m a single parent.”
“I’m with you on that score. Hair, for example. I can’t braid to save my life and as for getting her part straight—forget it. Hence her really short hair.”
Staci laughed. “Whereas Tommy wants his hair cut like my dad’s. Nothing on the top and very little around the sides.”
Kelly roared with laughter. “Did you tell him that happens naturally when he gets older?”
“I tried, but he doesn’t want to wait. I placated him by promising a multi-coloured Mohican during the Christmas holidays.”
“How are you planning to do that? Just in case Wendy wants one at some point.”
“He did it for world book day back in March. He went in full Native American dress. He wanted to go as Pocahontas.”
Kelly tried to hide a grin but failed. “Isn’t Pocahontas a girl?”
“Uh-huh. Tommy’s argument was if the pantomime dame is a bloke why can’t he go as Pocahontas? But in the end I convinced him to go as Hiawatha instead. Funny enough, he preferred being the leader of a nation to a princess living in a foreign land.”
Kelly sipped his coffee. “I can totally understand that one. I think I would as well. Thanks again for bailing me out this morning with the dress.”
“It’s the least I can do. If I can get it off of her I’ll sew it tonight and let you have it back tomorrow. Will you hire a car whilst you’re here?”
He pursed his lips. “I honestly haven’t thought that far ahead. Both work and the school are within walking distance. The subway will get me most places—once I find the nearest station.”
“Half a mile up the road, but you need the mainline train to get to the nearest underground station. We’re too far out of the city for our own station. Buses work as well. Which school is Wendy going to?”
“Cannon Street Primary.”
“The same one as Tommy. It has a really good reputation and the scores are good. December is a bit of a late start for the year though.”
“Couldn’t be helped. Work transferred me here later than anticipated.”
“They’ll be gearing up for Christmas with nativities and parties and carol concerts. Bit like all the houses. The American way of decorating seems to be creeping over more and more each year. Tommy wants the tree and outside lights up now. I told him he has to wait another week or so.”
“Going back a bit.” Kelly finished his coffee and set the cup on a coaster. “What’s a pantomime?”
Staci paused. How on earth did she explain something so quintessentially British in a way he’d understand? “It’s a theatre play only put on at Christmas—with lots of songs and slapstick humour. Where the hero is played by a girl, and the dame is played by a bloke. There is usually a cow involved somewhere no matter what the story. It’s normally a fairy tale. So, Dick Whittington or Cinderella or Peter Pan. This year it’s Jack and the Beanstalk. I took Tommy last year, and he loved it. Are you here for Christmas?”
He nodded. “I’m not planning on going home until July. I’m hoping my parents will come over at some point, but Mom hates to travel. Despite having a passport, she’s never been outside Canada.”
Staci failed to contain her surprise. “Not even to step over the border at Niagara Falls? I did that one year, just so I could say I’d been to Canada.”
“Not even that.” Kelly shook his head. “The farthest she’s ever been is Toronto to visit my brother. Maybe a car would be a good idea. I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the country while I’m over here.” He glanced at the rain pounding on the windows. “Assuming it stops raining. Does it ever stop raining here?”
Thursday, December 03, 2020
My guest this week is Stacey Weeks, a ministry wife, mother of two teens and one tween. She is an inveterate sipper of hot tea with honey who loves to open the Word of God and share the hope of Christ with women. A multi-award-winning author and the primary home-educator of her children, she is also a frequent conference speaker. Her messages have been described as rich in the truths of Scripture, gospel-infused, and life-changing. Stacey is currently working on a graduate certificate in women’s ministry with Heritage College and Seminary.
Stacey's newest release is Mistletoe Moviestar, which is built around the magic of Christmas. As jingling sleighs cart rosy-cheeked lovers around the Mistletoe Mile, Charlene’s holiday dream is more complicated than photoshopped perfection. She proposes a compassion ministry initiative called the Gingerbread House but struggles to convince the town that their need for a homeless shelter is real.
Famous for his made for television holiday movies, Jonas longs for a happily-ever-after that isn’t as neat and tidy as his unrealistic films. Partnering with Char to champion her ministry invigorates him with a new purpose and provides an excuse to spend time with the girl he never forgot. But when they embrace three young sisters fighting to stay together while living on the streets, their project becomes deeply personal.
Together, they prove to a town reluctant to see anything other than holiday perfection that the greatest gift of the season isn’t found under a tree.
Read the fantastic excerpt below for a taste of this wonderful story:
“Where is home for you, Nat? I know most of Janie’s friends. You’ve only lived here for a few months now, right?”
Nat blinked several times, and then her gaze darted away.
Char extended the puppy out toward Natalie to force an interaction. “Would you mind holding Cinnamon? She’s chilled, and if you hold her against your skin, it will warm her up.”
Natalie’s chest rose as she puffed out her cheeks and slowly exhaled. After a few beats, she unfolded herself and took the puppy.
“Open your jacket and tuck her against your body,” Char explained. “Your body heat will help her warm up.”
Nat complied, but she still didn’t say anything.
Char kept her hands busy checking the other pups in the whelping box. She purposefully avoided making eye-contact with Natalie. Hours volunteering in the community had taught her that working alongside someone rather than interacting face-to-face often encouraged them to open up.
“I know what it’s like to move around. My dad was in the military, and I associated the word home with boarding school.”
Nat tipped her face in Char’s direction.
“Even Jonas knows what it is like to be the new kid. His parents were missionaries, and they moved all over the world. When you’re born into one culture but raised among others, it’s hard to know who you are.” Char made notes in the book Jonas had started, her belly fluttering with nerves. To help Natalie, she first needed to reach her. She held her breath.
“We’ve moved a lot,” Nat offered.
Thank you, Lord. “I can’t count the number of times my parents had told me that my new room would be nicer than my old one, and that I’d make new friends. But all I wanted was the room and friends I already had.”
Natalie blinked away tears. She opened her mouth as if she wanted to speak, but she closed it again. She swallowed.
“Tell me about the places you’ve lived.” Char opened her medical bag and rooted around inside of it.
Nat straightened. “We used to live in a house, but then we moved to an apartment. After that, we stayed with friends.”
Char tipped her head to the side. “What has been the hardest thing to leave behind?”
Nat’s eyes widened.
Char doubted anyone had ever asked her that before. Most people asked where you were from or stuff like that. Stuff you couldn’t answer when you were forced to cycle through grief again and again with every move.
Something in Nat’s demeanor broke. “I miss my mom,” she whispered. “I miss my friends.” She pulled up her knees and pressed her face against them while cradling the puppy.
The barn’s floorboards creaked as Char shifted to sit beside Natalie on the floor. Her gut clenched. Their mom wasn’t with them? “Where is your dad?”
“He died a long time ago.”
A chill swept down Char’s spine. Nat was in Mistletoe Meadows with neither parent? Who was caring for her? Suzy couldn’t be more than sixteen.
“Where are you living, Nat?” Her scalp prickled. She feared she already knew. It would explain the guilt flooding Nat’s face.
What people are saying about Mistletoe Movie Star:
“Everyone wants a place to call home. We have physical homes and spiritual homes but sometimes ‘home’ is wrapped up in the ones we love. No matter what we do or where we go, we all long for a home.” Julia Wilson Christian Bookaholic
“I’ve enjoyed all three of Stacey Weeks’ Mistletoe Christmas novellas, but this was by far my favorite.” Carol James
“An impactful Christmas story. Cute ending, too!” Katy Eeten
Find links to Stacey’s books here: https://www.staceyweeks.com/books/
Sign up to Stacey’s newsfeed and receive the free short story 12 Days Under the Mistletoe: James has 12 days to win Wendy’s heart.