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?”