A Dickens Holiday Romance, book 7
Christmas just isn’t Holly’s thing but will a family secret help her find the true meaning of Christmas?
Holly Ivey needs a change. After sacrificing everything for the big city office, her career is over, frozen as firmly as Antarctica. At a loss of what to do next, her father suggests she relocate to the small town of Dickens and run her grandmother’s yarn shop. But Holly doesn’t know a knitting needle from a crochet hook. How is she going to run Ivey’s Knittery? Fueled by determination and sweet memories of her grandmother, Holly accepts the challenge and moves to the quaint town, even though she feels like a fish out of water. Even worse, the holidays are huge in Dickens and, despite her festive name, Christmas just isn’t Holly’s thing.
Gabriel Reyes is the Director of the Dickens Community Center and loves working with kids and the families in town. Every year he runs a toy drive but this year more families need help. Will the town’s Secret Santa step in to fill the town’s needs, and just who is the mysterious benefactor? When Gabriel meets the town’s newest shop owner, he begins to think the lovely Holly Ivey might be the girl to capture his heart. But only if he can help her find the Christmas spirit.
Will the magic of the Christmas season melt Holly’s heart before it’s time for her to leave Dickens and Gabe behind?
Leaning against the counter, he cast a quick look at her meager sandwich. “I was on my way to Dorrit’s Diner to pick up some lunch. Can I get you something?”
“That’s really nice of you but the peanut butter is just fine.” She wasn’t about to confess she hadn’t made time to go to the market and this was all that had been in Grammie’s cupboard. Well, that and a loaf of old bread in the freezer. It was better than nothing.
“It’s no trouble and Amy makes the best soups at this time of year. Trust me, they’re not to be missed.”
A cup of soup did sound a lot more appetizing than the pathetic sandwich drying out as they talked. A smile slipped from one side of her face to the other. Gabriel had a way of making it sound like the best idea of the day.
“You’ve talked me into it, but I don’t think I should close the shop.”
Gabriel glanced around and grinned. “I can see you’re slammed today.” With a twinkle in his eye, he winked. “Not to worry. I’ll pick up lunch, and then we can eat together if you’d like so you can get to know a little more about day-to-day life in Dickens. Chrissy mentioned you didn’t come around much, something about a big job in New York City.”
She didn’t feel that he was baiting her, but did she need to explain why she was here now? “Well…” She shifted from one foot to the other and glanced at the floor. “It was time for a change.”
He gave her a sympathetic smile. “Anything you absolutely can’t stand?”
Gabriel had changed the topic back to soup. She quirked her lips. “I like to keep the roof of my mouth unharmed so take it easy with spicy foods. Other than that, I’m game for anything.”
He tapped the top of the counter. “I’ll be back in a while. Anything else you think you might want or need?”
With a shake of her head, she said no, and then she pulled a twenty-dollar bill from her wallet. “Since you’re flying, I’m buying.”
He held up his hand and pushed the bill back toward her. “I’ve got it this time. You can get it another day. Consider it a welcome to the neighborhood gesture. It’s a small-town thing.”
Without letting on that she thought he was right, there might be a next time, she decided to have a little fun with him. “What makes you think we’ll eat lunch together again?”
“I’m a great lunch partner and working in a shop all day without stimulating conversation for something other than yarn might grind on you.”
He had nailed that one. Especially when nary a customer had come in so far today. “Okay, you got me on that point.”
After a quick, “See you in a while,” he sauntered out the door and she watched him. He was one good-looking man and at least this part of her change was looking up, not that she wanted to date, but that man made her heart beat quicker.
Thirty minutes later Gabriel walked in with a white paper bag looped over his arm and balancing a cardboard cupholder. “Sorry it took longer than I thought. Dorrit’s was busier than normal. A tour bus stopped off for lunch which is good for her business and any others nearby if the driver lets them poke around a bit.”
Her eyes grew wide and she perked up with the sound of potential shoppers. “Do you think they’ll find me?”
“Maybe, if they have time. But maybe in some small way it’s good you’re having a quiet first day. Let you get your feet wet before you have a lot of customers popping in.”
She could feel her shoulders sag. “At least one customer would be nice for today. Just to remind myself this is a viable business.”
He had set out cups of what smelled like chili, a bag of corn bread, and pats of butter on the counter. Handing her a spoon, he said, “I ordered the mild version. I hope you enjoy it.”
“Hold on. I have another stool in the back.” She hurried into the other room and using a paper towel, she wiped off the seat of the stool before returning to the front. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” He dipped his spoon in and sighed. “This is good.” He watched her as she did the same. “Am I right?”
She rolled her eyes back for dramatic effect and his hearty laugh filled the shop. “This is delicious. You can make lunch suggestions any day if you keep this up.”
“Anytime.” They ate for a minute and he put his spoon down and buttered a piece of the corn bread. “Amy’s been running the business for over thirty-five years; she took over from her parents and everything is homemade.”
“That’s good to know.” She ate a little more. “Tell me about Dickens. Have you lived here long?”
“I moved to town two years ago for the director position at the center. Prior to this I lived in a suburb of Chicago and was an AD for a community center there.”
“A small town like Dickens is a little different than Chi-town.”
He gave a half nod. “The same could be said for you. NYC and Dickens don’t exactly have the same vibe.”
“My grandmother was from here; do you have family close by?”
“If you call close Puerto Rico via Miami, then sure.” He scraped the bottom of his chili cup.
“It sounds like we’re both on our own in small-town USA.” She thought of her parents still in New York, living their jet-set life as if nothing unpleasant had happened to Holly.
“Then maybe we need to stick together.” He held out his hand to her. “Want to be partners?”
Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading mystery and romance novels and getting lost in the fun and hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a novelist.
As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for the McKenna Family Romance series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about with mystery and happily ever afters.
Lucinda lives with her two little dogs, a miniature long hair dachshund and a shitzu mix rescue, in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. When she’s not at her day job, she’s immersed in her fictional worlds. And if she’s not writing mystery, suspense and romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on.
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