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Christmas in July by @LucindaRace is a Christmas in July Fete pick #free #freebie #holidayromance
Title: Christmas in July
Author: Lucinda Race
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Sylvia Moore returns to Dickens during the annual Christmas in July festival, hoping to land the New England location for a new Christmas romance movie. She knows the town will award only one filming permit a year but is confident the deal’s in Santa’s bag. After all, she’s the hometown girl with the hometown advantage. But her rival, Chase Ellis, is also in town, and he’s out to grab the Dickens location for a movie, too, working the locals and smooth-talking the town council. This is a familiar snowy path and Sylva ponders whether to confront or avoid him. They’re both staying at Holly Hill Inn, so avoiding him—and his molten chocolate brown eyes—is impossible. Then Chase proposes a sweet as Christmas candy deal. When that falls through, Sylvia counters with a deal of her own.
Both know their reputations and careers are on the line. Sylvia assures her boss the contract is in her Christmas stocking. Chase knows if he loses, he risks future jobs for his newly formed company. And if that isn’t enough, the competition takes on an unexpected twist when the two sneak kisses that could scorch even the hottest of days during the Christmas in July festival.
Sylvia parked in the circular driveway in front of Holly Hill Inn and it was a welcome sight. From the holly berry bushes flanking the brick walkway to the deep-red painted clapboards and bright-white trim, the front porch beckoned visitors to relax from the day’s heat. Sylvia checked her hair and makeup in the car mirror, which remained flawless despite the July humidity, before going inside. It had been years since she’d been back in her hometown of Dickens after relocating to Los Angeles. The only thing she wanted was a successful business trip, and maybe show everyone she had fulfilled her dream of becoming a sought-after location manager for films.
With her briefcase resting on top of her roller bag, she walked up the path to the front door. Her footsteps slowed, and she blinked. What the heck was Chase Ellis doing standing on the porch? Was it possible he was here scouting locations for a new holiday film? It couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? She thought of that line from Casablanca. ‘Of all the gin joints…’
He glanced her way but either didn’t want to or just plain didn’t recognize her behind the dark sunglasses. It’s not like they were good friends, but more like rivals, always competing for the best films to work on. As he grew closer, she looked away to avoid him altogether. She couldn’t help but inhale the scent of his cologne. Bleu de Chanel, the citrus combined with sandalwood and cedar was going to stick with her long after he got in his car. Holding her breath, she glanced toward him as he walked away until he paused and half turned in her direction.
“Sylvia Moore.” He walked back to where her feet were cemented to the walkway.
His smile lit up his dark eyes and played across his full lips. She had a fleeting thought about what his scruff of a beard would feel like and her fingers itched to brush back the lock of dark hair that partially dipped over one eye.
“Chase Ellis. This is a surprise.” She didn’t extend her hand like they were friends greeting each other.
“What are you doing in Dickens?” he asked.
He was casually dressed in jeans and a body-clinging black tee shirt, which did nothing to hide his six-pack abs. Her mouth went dry. He was much better-looking up close, and his cologne wrapped around her like a lover’s embrace.
“I could ask you the same thing.” She popped her hand on a hip and thought about how they were dressed very differently. When she wasn’t working scouting film locations, she loved her designer labels, even if she shopped for them at a consignment shop. There was nothing wrong with being a bargain hunter.
With a smirk in his eyes, he said, “I asked you first.”
“I’m just visiting, and you?” She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and watched as his facial expression never changed.
He quirked a brow. “Just passing through and thought Dickens was charming. I decided to stay a night or two, soak up the local color and all.”
Not that Sylvia believed him. Like her, he had to be working on a new project, but she wouldn’t come right out and ask him. “Well, make sure you stop by Kringle’s. A friend of mine opened it and I’m sure it’s fabulous.”
He tapped his finger on his brow. “Thanks for the tip. I’ll see ya around.”
Sylvia watched as he strolled away like it hadn’t bothered him at all to run into her. But he had to be wondering the same thing; what was she really doing in town? Not that she’d tell him she was looking for a location for a new Christmas rom-com. When she was asked to join the preproduction team, she knew Dickens was the only place it could be filmed. This was a very special town, and it had everything the script called for, right down to the gazebo in the town square and prerequisite Christmas tree farm on the outskirts. Surely, he couldn’t be scouting. That would just ruin everything. Who knew if the town council would give permission for two film crews to come to town in a short time span?
She put her sunglasses back on and strode to the large wooden door. It was time to get checked in and start scouting for locations. There was no way she’d let Chase scoop her in her hometown.
Sylvia drove around for the next hour or so, absorbing the sights and realizing just how much she had missed home. Not much had changed. Ivey’s Knittery was still across from the gazebo in the town park and the florist, Petals, was still on Main Street. Even the community center looked exactly the same. Her parents moved to the Carolinas so now that’s where she went for holidays, but Dickens tugged at her heart. She caught sight of the bright carved sign for Kringle’s and parked out front. She might as well get a bite to eat and say hello to Krissy. It had been too long, and it was time to catch up, and who knows, maybe the interior of Kringle’s would be ideal for some shots.
When she walked in with her heels clicking on the tile floor, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust from the bright sun to interior lighting. She spotted her old friend, Krissy, and her smile widened when she recognized Sylvia.
She hurried across the diner and drew Sylvia in for a squeeze. “Why didn’t you call and tell me you were coming? It’s been what two, three years since we saw each other in Minnesota?”
Sylvia tightly hugged her, happy to see that sunny smile light up her blue eyes. “How could I miss your grand reopening? So glad your Christmas pop-up restaurant experiment was a success. Looks like the move to Dickens was a good choice for you, and is Katrina happy too?”
At the mention of Krissy’s daughter, her smile broadened. “She loves it here, so thank you for encouraging me to check out the town. But what are you doing here, business or pleasure?”
Sylvia glanced around the diner and that’s when she saw him sitting at a corner table, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper. He seemed to be completely unaware, blending in with the locals. As if Chase could blend, with his dark hair and eyes and the scruff of a beard. Her heart rate kicked up and she forced herself to turn away.
Krissy asked, “Do you know that guy? He’s been in the last couple of days around this time. He doesn’t talk much but he’s a good tipper.”
Without looking at him, Sylvia said, “I know who he is; we work in the same industry.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Could I get a coffee and pastry to go? I have an appointment, but I’ll stop back later.”
Krissy’s brow arched and she pursed her lips. “Sure.” She glanced at Chase and back to Sylvia. “He leaves by three.”
“Um, yeah, sure.” With a huge smile plastered on her face, she gave Krissy a quick hug with the promise to be back later. She hitched up her shoulder bag and left the diner without her coffee or a backward glance.
Once outside, she placed a hand over her tummy and took a few deep breaths to calm her fluttering pulse. How on earth could simply being in the same room as Chase give her this kind of a reaction? She squared her shoulders and strode off in the direction of town hall. What would it take to gain approval and permits to start filming in September? The gazebo in the town square along with several private properties were perfect for the fall-themed movie.
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Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
“CHRISTMAS IN JULY is a short standalone read with a happy ending. There are no sexy scenes or colorful language so any age can read and enjoy. The story is set in Dickens, a small Christmas oriented town that will only issue one permit per year to allow a movie to be made - think Hallmark.” – Amazon Vine Voice Reviewer
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Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of romantic fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading romance novels and getting lost in the hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a romance 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 Loudon Series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about strong women and the men who love them.
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 romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on.
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