A Peek at Candlelight and Kisses

by Nola on October 23, 2013

Hi Everyone! Happy Wednesday! This week has been hectic. I feel like the time completely got away from me. My folks came and spent the weekend and I drove the three of us down to see my brother in southern Oregon. We had a great – but short – visit and then came home again. The autumn color along highway 38 to the coast was just amazing. I wish I had had a chance to get out and take pictures.

As promised, I’m posting a snippet from my Christmas novella, A Home for my Heart, which will be part of the Candlelight and Kisses anthology, coming November 11th. Hope you like it!

~ Nola
“Small town…big love.”

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C&KCover Image-FinalA twinge of something like irritation made Jonathan frown as Merridee Cresswell slid onto the bench seat opposite him and Rachel. Who had invited her? After a day of eavesdropping at the bazaar, you’d think she’d have better things to do than show up here. But Rick, Annie and Maggie seemed to be expecting her. They all scooted further around the big circular booth to make room.

“Hi everyone,” she said, avoiding any eye-contact with him. “Have you ordered yet?”

“We’re having pizza.” Rachel clapped her hands and beamed.

Maggie chuckled. “That’s right. We already ordered a large pepperoni and a combo. Oh, and a pitcher of beer. Here it comes now.”

“I’ll have a glass of Chablis,” Merridee told the server as the young man put the glistening pitcher and several glasses on the table.

“Coming right up.”

“What’s shablee?” Rachel asked, sipping her milk.

“Wine.” Jonathann said.

“Delicious wine,” Merridee corrected.

Everyone laughed. This time when Jonathan glanced her way, Merridee held his gaze. Those brown eyes were narrowed slightly, as if she were studying him, trying to figure something out. It was the same look she’d been giving him throughout the day at the bazaar.

He could hardly blame the woman for speculating; there were things about this day he himself was struggling to process.

Never, in the past fifteen years, had he imagined returning to Everfield and receiving the kind of warm welcome he’d encountered today. Sure, Rick had promised him as much, but Rick couldn’t know how it really felt to grow up here under the heavy pall of his father’s dark legacy. Even his sister Bev, who had insisted things were different than he remembered, couldn’t have imagined what it was like to be his father’s son.

And yet today, to his amazement, he’d discovered they were right. The community seemed to hold none of his father’s transgressions against him.  

It was a freeing realization. He could almost feel it in his chest and shoulders, a sensation of being lighter somehow. But wasn’t it a bit early to really trust what he was feeling? How did he know the town’s accepting attitude wasn’t some holiday-induced flash in the pan? Maybe his sense of relief was entirely misplaced. He let his mind touch down on it for a moment or two and then lift away again, as the conversation at the table swirled around him.

The cold beer wasn’t hurting anything either.

Maggie turned to Merridee. “How did your day go? It seemed like you and Jeannie were swamped most of the time.”

“Yeah. We worked our butts off. That’s turning out to be a good thing I guess, seeing as you’re feeding me pizza against my will.”

Another round of chuckles circled the table.

“How about you guys?” Merridee’s dark eyes focused on Rick specifically.

“I won’t know exactly till I count the cash box tomorrow, but I think it’s safe to say we made more for the food bank than last year.”

“That’s wonderful. Who won the drawing? I was so busy I didn’t hear the name announced.”

“Pete Laughlin. You know, the guy who owns the Christmas tree farm out on Lakeside Drive. He bought a hundred tickets.”

“Perfect! He can really use a snow mobile to buzz around his tree farm the next time we get a big storm. His kids will love that.” Her dark eyes shone.

God, her eyes are really remarkable! Clear and soft, like shadowed forest pools. Jonathan caught himself staring and quickly turned to Rick. “Is that the same Pete Laughlin who was president of the science club? Skinny guy with a pocket protector?”

The three women at the table all exchanged mysterious smiles.

“He’s not skinny any more,” Merridee said. “All those years of wrangling Christmas trees turned Pete into a super hunk.” She waggled her brows in a suggestive way.

Just at that moment their server brought Merridee’s wine and the first of the two pizzas. In the flurry of activity, Jonathan almost failed to notice the little spark of something like jealousy that flitted through him. That couldn’t really be jealousy, could it? Why should he care if Merridee Cresswell thought some other guy was attractive? It wasn’t like Jonathan had any interest in her.

Copyright 2013 Nola Cross

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