Title: Counting Down to Christmas
Author: Patti Sherry-Crews
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Melody Evans grew up as the only child of a single mother, never putting down roots. Instead, they carried family traditions from home to home, none more precious than those surrounding Christmas. Romance? Melody has put a wall around her wounded heart and turned a cynical eye to the concept of happily ever after, despite making a living as a wedding planner.
Veterinarian Leland Jennings IV has roots long and deep at his family’s ranch in South Dakota. What he lacks, according to his meddlesome sister, is someone to settle down with. But he holds on to the unwavering belief that there is only one woman out there for him. Christmas? It’s a holiday for children, not a bachelor living alone.
Once Melody and Leland get over their initial animosity, they come together like two pieces of a puzzle, sparking emotions and nostalgic memories that bring magic to the holiday season. But when tragedy strikes, will their budding romance become a case of the right person at the wrong time, or will they forge a new path together?
A buzzing sound ripped through the air. Melody jumped and put her hands over her ears. She glanced over to see Leland with a chainsaw, slicing off the bottom of a trunk. The first family who’d come in stood around him, watching. With the fresh cut at the bottom, their tree was ready to go home. Leland easily swung the tree in both his hands, and they all headed over to the family’s car.
Oh, no, he must be helping here today too. His presence certainly was going to put a strain on an otherwise happy day. He’d been so mean to her at his mother’s. He wouldn’t even let her take the photo album home. He told her he’d scan the photos for her and give them to his mother to pass on to her. It made sense, but the way he said it implied he didn’t trust her.
Now, he was tying the tree to the roof of the car and laughing at something one of the kids said. He looked different when he smiled. She didn’t know what his problem was but she wasn’t going through the day with this awkward situation.
She set her lips in a stiff smile and marched across the lot. The family had driven away and Leland was heading back to the makeshift workbench. The scowl on his face when he saw her marching toward him wasn’t exactly welcoming but she’d be darned if she let him ruin her day.
Leland gritted his teeth. If he could get through the day without having to interact with her, everything would be okay. A sudden movement startled him. The child in the back seat grinned at him. He held up a sprung Jack in the box. Santa’s elf waved at him before being shoved back under the lid.
Leland shook his head in amusement as he made his way back to his station. But then, oh no, here she comes. He looked up to see her standing right in front of him, hands on hips, stupid Santa hat parked at a tilt on her head.
“I see we’re working together today,” she said in a bright tone, which was at odds with the glacial glint in her eyes.
“I don’t know about the together part, but yes, I’m….” He lost his train of thought. There was a design on the front of her dress that puzzled him. All scrolled and silver. He studied it, following the branches that spread out from a central shape. They curved upward and around her….
She pulled her coat closed and clasped the lapels protectively over her body. He realized he’d been staring at her breasts about the same time he recognized the design on her dress was a stylized Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He felt his cheeks go hot. Now, she was going to think he was a pervert. Nice rack on her, though.
“It looks like you’re all set. You know the color code for pricing, right?” There was a chill in her voice now. When he continued to stand there still recovering from his embarrassment, she clucked her tongue. “You have a copy of the chart on the table. Trees with red tags are twenty-five dollars. Tree with green tags—”
“Yeah, I know all about that.”
“Well, all right then.” She spun around, ready to walk away. Then she turned to him again. “Where’s your Santa hat? We’re supposed to wear one.”
He ran his hand over the brim of his Stetson. “This will do. I’m not gonna wear a silly Santa hat.”
“Oh, I see, we’re all just lucky enough that you’re here today, and you’re not going out of your way to do more than you have to. The Santa hat is so customers know you work here.”
“Don’t you think me standing here at the checkout table holding a chainsaw and a ball of twine is enough of a clue?”
She narrowed her eyes and her lips twitched ready to spit out a retort her mind hadn’t seemed to work out yet. Finally, she spun on her heels and walked away.
Watching her walk away, he felt hollowed out for a reason he couldn’t define. He hadn’t had time to put his finger on it when a fresh-faced young couple approached him.
“We’ll take this tree, please,” said a young man.
Leland looked at the green tag. “That will be thirty dollars. Want a fresh cut?”
The young woman looked at her companion with anxious eyes. “I don’t know. Do we want a fresh cut?” She looked up at him, almost glowing. “This is our first Christmas together!”
“Oh, I see. Well, this is a special moment. So, see here, you let me cut a bit off the bottom of the trunk to make sure it can absorb water. Keep water in the tree stand. You know to do that, right?”
“Yes, sir. I guess we’ll have that fresh cut. I didn’t know about that.”
At the word “sir,” Leland’s hand on the saw stilled. Had he reached the age of being called Sir?
Then a flash of red caught his attention. In the far corner of the lot Melody twirled in circles, her coat falling open. He shook his head. Who dances to Christmas carols?
He spoke, not taking his eyes off the dancing figure. “When the tree is cut down, the trunk seals up again over the injury. You want to give it fresh life by cutting past the seal.”
From a distance, the design on her dress was obviously Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was harder to see when she stood right in front of you, right under your nose. Melody stopped spinning and turned so their eyes met across the lot. She regarded him a moment and then gave him a tentative smile. That’s when Leland realized by the ache in the apples of his cheeks that his lips had been stretched in a big, face-splitting grin.
Share a holiday family tradition:
Setting up the miniature village I inherited from my grandparents marks the beginning of the holiday season for my family. As a child one of my favorite parts of Christmas was playing with the miniature village at their house. It’s a quirky village with the usual light up church but also an odd assortment of things they picked up at garage sales including a deer family, a bear family, skunks, turtles, angels, a doll on skis, and even alligators. The miniature houses are like none I’ve seen before. The houses are simple wooden blocks with wrap-around cardboard details. The buildings, surrounding a skating pond made from a mirror, include houses, a gas station, and a diner. Like my grandmother did before me, after I set it up I gather twigs from the yard to act a forest around the village (the styrofoam base is pockmarked full of holes from generations of “tree” planting). I loved watching my own children play with the animals and houses when they were little just as I used to. And every year our tabby cat immediately moves in for the holidays!
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
Because my book involves a heroine who loves Christmas and a hero who has lost his holiday spirit, I had to dig deep into my own memories of what made Christmas special to me. It’s a nostalgic storehouse of the sights, scents, and sounds that evoke the season: cookie baking, holiday markets, tree lots, putting up lights, Christmas shopping, and family love. The setting in beautiful South Dakota is a winter wonderland. All this plus a sweet couple falling in love! I had fun taking Melody and Leland from a bad first start, to mutual attraction, to awakening feelings in each other they thought they’d lost through cynicism.
Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Runs December 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on January 4.
Patti Sherry-Crews lives with her husband, Bob, in Evanston, Illinois on the shore of Lake Michigan. Other than books, she has a passion for food, which she inherited from her firefighter father, and has now passed this love on to her young adult son and daughter. They enjoy swapping recipes. Sometimes food is all they talk about. She aspires to be a gardener, but she mostly fails at that. Patti is an avid power-walker who enjoys getting out in nature and celebrating the seasonal changes. She is an award winning author who writes historical romances for Prairie Rose Publications, but on her own also writes contemporary romance.
Social Media Links: