Title: His Christmas Wish
Author: Melissa McClone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Carly Bishop loved Christmas…until tragedy struck.
Distraught and grief-stricken over the deaths of her fiancé and brother, she left Hood Hamlet and her Christmas spirit behind, to start over somewhere new. But now, six years later, her family needs her. Carly returns home to face her past and give her niece and nephew the best Christmas ever. Burdened with guilt, Jake Porter believes he could have saved his two friends on that fateful day and kept Carly from experiencing such a heart-wrenching loss. When she arrives in town, Jake wants to make amends so they can both finally move forward with their lives. As Jake helps Carly experience the magic of Christmas so she'll embrace the holiday again, will he also be able to open her heart to something else she’d given up on…love?
As snow flurries fell from the gray sky, Carly Bishop stared at the charming log house surrounded by towering fir trees and decorated with strands of white icicle lights. A lopsided, four-foot-tall snowman, complete with carrot nose, stood in the front yard. A single electric candle shone through a wood-paned window, the flickering flame-shaped bulb a welcoming light.
Carly walked along the snow-dusted path, dragging her wheeled suitcase behind her. A green wreath tied with a red velvet bow hung from a brass holder on the front door. The scent of pine was sharp in the air. The same way it had been…
Her breath caught in her throat.
The house, the wreath, the candle, the snowman. It was as if time had stopped, as if the past six years had simply been a bad dream. Any second, Carly expected Nick to fling open the door wearing a Santa hat and greet her with a jolly ho-ho-ho. And Iain…
She closed her eyes, fighting an onslaught of unwelcome memories.
I can’t believe you’re going climbing two days before our wedding. Why don’t you just admit it, Iain? You love climbing more than you love me.
She’d wanted to forget. The argument and tears before and as he’d left to climb. The thoughts about his selfish behavior while he’d been climbing and dying. The grief and guilt after his body and Nick’s had been found.
Carly thought she’d forgotten. Put the past behind her. Moved on.
She forced herself to breathe.
Returning to Hood Hamlet had been a mistake.
She should have stayed in Philadelphia, where she’d made a new life for herself, far away from the shadow of Mount Hood and all the mountain had stolen from her. If only staying away had been an option, but her brother’s widow, Hannah, was expecting a new baby and needed help with her two children.
So here Carly was. Ready to be an aunt extraordinaire for her niece and nephew. For better or, most likely, worse.
All she had to do was survive her time here, including December twenty-fourth, the twenty-fifth, and New Year’s Eve.
How difficult could that be?
Given she hadn’t celebrated the holidays in five years, she didn’t want to know the answer.
Carly tightened her grip on the suitcase handle before climbing the steps to the front porch. With a tentative hand, she reached for the doorknob before remembering this was no longer her brother’s house. She pressed the doorbell and waited.
The doorknob jiggled.
Straightening, Carly forced a smile. Years of working with customers had taught her how to put on a happy face no matter how she felt inside.
The door cracked open.
“Welcome back, Carly,” a male voice greeted her warmly.
She’d expected to see Hannah’s husband of two years, Garrett Willingham, but the man standing in the doorway looked nothing like the clean-cut, non-risk-taking, business-suit-wearing certified public accountant. This guy was too rugged, too fit, too…familiar.
Over six feet tall with brown hair that fell past his collar, he still had piercing blue eyes, a killer smile, and a hot, hard body that made the girls, herself included, swoon back in high school. Those features had only improved with age.
Her pulse kicked up a notch. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you.” His grin widened, the same way it had whenever he and Nick teased her. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry…” Simply thinking the word left a bitter taste in her mouth. She couldn’t bring herself to say it. “Season’s greetings. Where’s Hannah?”
“At a doctor’s appointment,” Jacob explained. “Garrett drove her. She didn’t know if they’d be home by the time you arrived or before the school bus dropped off Kendall and Austin, so they asked me to come over.”
Carly noticed Jacob’s clothes—a light blue button-down oxford shirt, khaki pants, and brown leather shoes. A bit more stylish than the T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers she remembered him wearing. He must have come from work.
“Thank you.” Though she wasn’t surprised. Jacob had always gone out of his way for them, a surrogate everything to what remained of the Bishop family. He’d found her the job in Philadelphia. He’d taught Nick’s two kids to ski and fish. He’d even introduced Hannah to Garrett.
“Come inside before you get too cold.” Jacob reached for Carly’s suitcase. His hand—big, callused, and warm—brushed hers. The accidental contact startled her, and she jerked away. “You city girls aren’t used to the temperatures up here.”
Forget the cold. She wasn’t used to her response to his touch. That was unusual for her. “Philadelphia gets cold, too.”
As she stepped inside, heat surrounded Carly, cocooning her with the inviting comforts of home. The homey touches—a fleece blanket on a chair, throw pillows, candles, and framed photos—were ones missing from her apartment.
His gaze ran the length of her. “You look the same.”
He looked better. “So does this place.”
And that somehow made everything…worse.
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His Christmas Wish is a heartwarming holiday romance about a woman returning home after six years away. Her goal is to give her niece and nephew the best Christmas ever with the help of her late brother’s best friend. Together, they’ll celebrate holiday traditions from a visit to Santa to a kiss under the mistletoe.
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USA TODAY bestselling author Melissa McClone writes heartwarming women’s fiction and sweet contemporary romance novels for Cardinal Press, Tule Publishing Group, and Harlequin Books. When she’s not writing relatable characters and sigh-worthy happy endings, she spends her time in the rainy Pacific Northwest reading from her Kindle’s ever-growing TBR, napping with her dog and cats, and decorating her Happy Planner.
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Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-McClone/e/B001HOIG4K/