Title: Holly Berries and Hockey Pucks
Author: Lucinda Race
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Hockey, holidays, and a slap shot to the heart
Jillian Morgan is a single mom and flower shop owner. She once had a promising career as a women’s hockey player. But life gave her a slap shot to the heart; she left the ice and now has a precocious six-year-old daughter who loves hockey as much as she did. Jillian’s focus is her daughter and the busy upcoming holiday season in the small town of Dickens. Then a newcomer stops in for flowers. He might be good-looking—no, great looking—but Jillian doesn’t need a complication of the male variety. Brett Parsons hasn’t held a hockey stick in ten years, not since an injury ended his dreams of being an NHL star. He’s moved to Dickens to help his newly widowed mother. With a recently broken engagement, he doesn’t have any interest in dating. But he might make an exception for the pretty blue-eyed florist. Brett’s delighted when he takes a job coaching the local youth hockey group and finds Jillian’s daughter on his team. Jillian’s not the average hockey mom, and Brett’s looking forward to discovering her secrets. Despite the attraction, Jillian’s wary. It’s easier to stay single than to have her heart broken again. But both of them know life rarely turns out as planned. In a town that cherishes Christmas, hockey pucks and holly berries might just lead to kisses under the mistletoe.
The door to Jillian Morgan’s shop slammed open with a blast of cold October wind. The large white bucket of flowers, which only moments before had been held in her hands, hit the floor. To make matters worse, water sloshed across the floor and soaked her tennis shoes. It wasn’t even eight, and this was not the way to start a day. She brushed a wayward curl out of her eyes, and even though she wasn’t open yet, she smiled at the potential customer standing in front of her. The only saving grace was that he had remained dry.
“Good morning. How can I help you?”
He pointed to the door over his shoulder. “I just saw your closed sign.” The man was close to six feet tall and slender, with short dirty-blond hair and hazel eyes. He gave her a sheepish smile. “I can come back.”
“No, it’s fine.” She didn’t remember seeing him in her shop before and wondered if he was just passing through town.
He bent over and retrieved the bucket. “Looks like your day isn’t off to a great start.” His smile was bright and friendly. “If you get a mop, I’ll clean up the water and you can save the flowers.”
“No, that’s alright, but thank you.” She stepped over the puddle to stand behind the counter and brushed back another stray curl. “How can I help you today?”
He looked at the flowers still on the floor and flashed her a grin. “Tell you what. Let me help you clean this up, really, and I’ll give you my flower order.” He tipped his head to the side. “And for my trouble, you can give me ten percent off.”
Since he insisted on being a nice guy, she relented. “I’m Jillian, owner of this shop.” She wasn’t used to someone offering extraneous help with much of anything, and that included raising her daughter, Melanie. After a moment of hesitation, she said, “Thank you.”
He stuck out his hand. “I’m Brett and I’ve only lived in town for a couple of months.”
That kind of explained why she hadn’t seen him before. Besides, between running the shop and spending as much time as she could with Melanie, she didn’t socialize much. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. “Welcome to Dickens. And you’re just in time for the holiday season. From Labor Day until the New Year, we’re always up to something around here, but mostly it’s all about Christmas, considering the name of our little town.”
“It’s charming. Even though I grew up near Boston, my parents used to bring me to the tree lighting ceremony here every year.”
She leaned against the counter. “I think that’s one of my favorite nights during the holiday season. It’s magical.” She could hear the wistful tone in her voice and snapped back to florist mode. “Do you have any idea what you’d like today for an arrangement?”
Brett began to pick up flowers and set them in the now upright five-gallon bucket. “I’m not sure. Something bright and cheery, maybe with some daisies.” He held up a lily. “And whatever this is?”
She suppressed a grin. He looked cute with his hands full of flowers dripping water. “I can include some daisies and lilies in the arrangement. Are there any other flowers you’d like?” He continued to fill the bucket with flowers from the floor until the last ones had been scooped up. “Why don’t you look around and see if any of the arrangements in the cooler strike you, or I’m happy to put together something new.”
She hurried through the archway into the back room, where she grabbed the mop and floor bucket. When she came back into the main shop area, Brett was studying each prearranged bouquet with great interest.
“Did you make all of these morning?”
She dropped the wet mop into the squeeze part and wrung it out and proceeded to wipe up the last of the puddle. “Actually, last night.” She pushed the mop and bucket back into the storage room and when she returned, she asked, “Did you find something?”
He gestured to an arrangement that had white roses, lilies, and colorful Gerber daisies. “I like this one. These are much prettier than the supermarket flowers I’ve been buying.” He winced. “Sorry. I’ve been meaning to come in sooner.”
“I’m glad you’re here now.” She pulled it from the case and pointed to the cards on the counter. “I can have it delivered by lunchtime. If you want to add a card, help yourself.”
“Can I take it with me? I’d like to personally deliver it.”
She gave him a smile. “The personal touch is always appreciated.” She slipped the vase into a protective wrapper and stapled the top. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Would it be possible to have an arrangement made up for me each week for the rest of the year? Similar size, but make them with different color schemes each week, and for the holidays, can you create themed arrangements in seasonal colors? Oh, and do you know where I can get a few wreaths?”
“Sure, I can do all of that. Same day and time each week?”
She pulled out her order pad and made notes about the upcoming orders. She was pleased to have the job. “Right before Thanksgiving, I’ll have wreaths for sale and if you’d like, I am accepting preorders now.”
He pulled out his wallet to pay for the flowers. “Put me down for two large wreaths and if I could pick up the arrangements every Wednesday around four thirty, that would be good.”
How sweet. He must have a weekly dinner with his girlfriend. She wondered if Heather, her best friend and owner of the Library Cat Bookstore, might have some idea about this new hunk in town and who he might be dating. “I can definitely do that.” She handed him a business card. “I close at five but if there is any time when you’re running late, just give me a call and we can figure something out so you’ll still be able to pick them up.”
“Thanks. That’s really nice of you.”
She ran his credit card and handed him the electronic pad to sign. “Thank you for your business.” She cringed at how perky her voice was, but a steady customer, not just for the bouquets but wreaths too, was a nice boost for the rest of the year. “One last question. Will you want the flowers in vases each week or will you want to reuse the one you have with today’s arrangement?”
He picked up the flowers and glanced at the clear cut glass vase. “This is pretty and multipurpose but for next week, let’s have another vase. That way they can be washed in between.”
He gave her a warm smile that made the gold in his eyes sparkle. “Jillian, I’ll see you next Wednesday.”
With that, he was gone. She leaned against the counter and watched as he disappeared down the street. He was handsome. Not that she needed a complication of the male variety.
Her cell pinged. It was her mom. Her daughter was asking if they were still going to the skating rink tonight. There were signups for hockey and she was determined to make the team.
Without hesitation, she answered, Yes. She wanted her daughter to gain the same sense of confidence on the ice she’d had as a kid. Hockey had given her more than just confidence; it had helped pay her way through college, and that’s where she had met Melanie’s father, even if he had turned out to be an absentee dad. He was chasing the dream of becoming financially successful and maybe someday he’d figure out she was worth more than a monthly check, fancy gifts for special occasions, and an occasional phone call and an even rarer visit. The last time he had seen her was almost four years ago.
Brett carried the vase of flowers to his car. A smile played over his face. Jillian was a surprise; he hadn’t expected the owner of Petals to be a pretty young woman who jolted his heart into action. It had been a while since Racine had broken off their engagement and he had no interest in getting involved with anyone new, but it felt good to appreciate the pretty woman with cornflower-blue eyes and blond curls. She was the picture of the girl next door and he was already looking forward to next Wednesday. But first a quick stop at his mom’s work, and then he had signed up to start coaching the local youth hockey team and tonight was the first practice.
“Mom, where are you?” He walked through the empty kitchen and carried the vase into the living room, where his mom was sitting in his father’s recliner, a box of tissues on her lap and discarded ones littering the floor.
Setting the vase of flowers on the coffee table, he said, “Hey, Mom.” His voice was gentle as he dropped to one knee and touched her hand. “What’s going on?” His heart was cement in his chest.
Her hazel eyes were rimmed red and bloodshot. “Brett, when did you get here? I must have lost track of time.”
“Just now.” He pointed to the table. “Surprise.”
She patted a hand over her chic-styled silvery-blond hair and placed a freckled hand against his cheek. “Are those for me?”
“They are. I finally made time to investigate the flower shop and I just had to pick some up. Dad always bought you flowers.” A fresh wave a grief washed over him as he remembered all the Wednesdays his dad had come home carrying a bright bouquet for her.
“Your father brought me a bouquet every week all the years we were married.”
“I remember sometimes he picked wildflowers. I think those were some of your favorites.”
Her eyes got a faraway look. “Before we moved to Dickens, we had that huge flower garden where I could cut them every day. Every table in our home had vases of colorful blooms during the summer.”
“And Dad bought different flowers every week.” He handed her a tissue.
She dried her cheeks. “I’m glad you came over today, and thank you for the flowers. They’re lovely, but you should find a special girl you can buy flowers for every week, and not your mother.” A sad smile graced her mouth.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What I love most about the holiday season:
I love getting together with my friends and family and share good food and funny stories.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
This book is fun to read with the family dynamics of a single mom and her daughter and the single professional hockey player turned kids coach. Heart warming and uplifting.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs July 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on August 1.
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.
Social Media Links:
Goodreads – Lucinda Race- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10174985.Lucinda_Race
Youtube Lucinda Race https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=lucinda+race+author
Universal Link https://books2read.com/ap/xyYO2g/Lucinda-Race
Bookbub Lucinda Race https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lucinda-race
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-Race/e/B00Q0MMNUM
Lucinda’s Heart Racers Reader Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/118597305361578