By Debbie Mason
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Format:ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 7, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Snow blanketed the small mountain town of Christmas, Colorado, on the last night of the year. The pastel-painted shops that lined Main Street were decked out for the holidays, their colorful lights blinking through the gently falling flakes.
Sophia Dane couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this happy to turn the sign on the door of her boutique, Naughty and Nice, to CLOSED. She’d been run off her feet trying to dress what had felt like half the women in town. They’d begun arriving before eight that morning. She couldn’t afford to lose a single sale and had extended her hours of operation for the holidays.
But the women who crowded into her store today were in search of something to wear to the Danes’ New Year’s Eve party, a hastily organized affair to celebrate both the holiday and their grand reopening. And thanks to the family (of which she was no longer a member) holding their party at the recently renovated lodge, most of her customers had been looking for nice and cozy instead of gold and naughty.
She glanced down at the blush-colored mohair sweater she’d paired with gold-and-silver sequined leggings in an attempt to show her customers glamorous could be just as cozy as flannel and plaid. Her gaze flitted over several still-packed racks of clothing. Her strategy hadn’t worked as well as she’d hoped. It looked like she’d be holding a blowout sale of all things glittery and gold this weekend.
“Autumn,” she called to the sister of her heart, whose sweet shop, Sugar and Spice, was housed in the same premises as Sophia’s boutique. An arched opening in the wall provided access to both stores. Sophia liked to say she was the naughty of their joint venture and Autumn was the nice.
They’d bought the run-down Colonial on Main Street for a steal nine years ago this June. Both their hearts had taken a beating months before they’d decided to go into business together. Autumn’s husband, Logan Dane, had asked her for a divorce, breaking her heart and spirit.
Sophia had understood better than most what her best friend was going through at the time. She’d lost her own husband, Logan’s brother, in a skiing accident just weeks before Logan pulled the plug on his and Autumn’s marriage.
The months of back-breaking work it had taken to get the store in shape had been cathartic. It had brought them back to life just as much as it had the old Colonial on Main Street. And those long hours spent toiling side by side in the dust and heat had served to forge an unbreakable bond between the two friends.
Autumn stuck her strawberry-blond head around the archway. “What is it?”
Sophia’s heels clicked on the white marble as she walked to one of the racks. Her gold-painted fingernails flicked through the clothes until she found the gorgeous sequined dress that would be perfect on her best friend’s willowy frame. She held it up. “Happy New Year. You can wear this to the Penalty Box tonight.”
Even Sophia would admit it was a little much for the local sports bar, but no one would care. They all knew them there. She angled her head in an attempt to read Autumn’s expression. It wasn’t one of delight or gratitude; of that Sophia was certain. “You said you loooved this dress when it came in, and now you don’t?”
“It’s not—” The front door’s holiday chime of “Auld Lang Syne” interrupted Autumn as a customer walked in.
About to turn and tell whoever it was that they were closed, Sophia instead forced her tired facial muscles into a welcoming smile. After all, the customer might buy an entire wardrobe in glitter and gold, was her hopeful thought, just before she realized it was their friend Ty.
Ty was a former Hollywood hairstylist who’d opened Diva, a high-end beauty salon, in town a couple years before. He’d be all in with the glitz and glamour had she owned a men’s clothing store.
Sophia frowned at his army-green parka, plaid flannel shirt, and heavy winter boots. “Why are you dressed like that?” She moved her index finger up and down. Until now his wardrobe had reflected his love of all things stylish.
“I know it’s small-town-goes-country, but it’s all the rage in chalet-wear these days.” He rolled his eyes at Sophia. “I see by your curled upper lip you don’t approve. But look”—he stuck a black fedora on his head—“totally elevates the style factor, doesn’t it?”
“It would take a lot more than a hat to…Wait, why do you care if it’s the rage in chalet-wear? We’re not going to the party at the lodge. We’re going to the Penalty Box. Like we always do. It’s tradition.” Sophia did not like change almost as much as she did not like the Danes.
At least some of the Danes. She liked Calder, the family’s patriarch, and his second wife, Nell McBride, but Sophia did not like her late husband’s brothers, Logan and Adam. Not only had Logan broken Autumn’s heart, he’d broken Sophia’s too. So had Adam. Her husband’s brothers hadn’t thought she was good enough for him. They’d tried to talk Bryce out of marrying her, and then they’d blamed her for his death. She blamed herself too.
“Ah, ah, ah, remember what you promised on Christmas Day, Gloria?”
She made an irritated sound at Ty’s nickname for her. “I do not look like the Modern Family lady, and I do not talk like her either.”
“What was that? I can’t understand you,” he said with a thick Spanish accent, his eyes glinting with amusement beneath his silly hat.
“You are so funny, I cannot stand it.” She gave Autumn the side-eye when Ty drew a laugh from her best friend as he walked around the store swinging his hips while flicking his imaginary long hair back with his fingers. His heavy winter boots were ruining the effect. He was usually much better at impersonating Sophia’s walk.
His right hand went to the hip he cocked, and he glanced over his shoulder to waggle his eyebrows at her. “And tonight we’re going to find you your very own Joe Manganiello to ring in the New Year with.”
She was about to say she didn’t want her own Joe; she was happy with her life just the way it was. But after one glass of spiked eggnog too many on Christmas Day, she’d caved to Ty’s arm-twisting and Autumn’s pleading and gave her word that she’d get back in the dating game. She was too tired to argue with them now.
“New Year’s Eve is the time for making resolutions, and January is a time for keeping them.” Or breaking them, as was the case for Sophia and nearly everyone else she knew. “So I will look for my Joe next week. Tonight is all about having fun with my two best friends.” She smiled at Ty and went to smile at Autumn, but she’d ducked back inside Sugar and Spice.
“Yes, but what if your two best friends have plans to ring in the New Year with their own Joes?” Ty said.
“Which two of my best friends are you talking about?” she asked, because not only did she have a lot of good friends in Christmas, she’d know if there was a man in Autumn’s life. They told each other everything, and they were rarely apart. They not only worked together, they shared an old Victorian house on Holly Lane. They’d bought it last spring.
Ty glanced at the entrance to Sugar and Spice and then motioned for Sophia to join him on the white leather chaise between the fitting rooms. Her stomach took a nervous dip. Ty wasn’t often serious, but his demeanor said this was a serious conversation, one which he didn’t want Autumn to overhear.
Sophia joined him on the chaise, her shoulders stiff, her back poker straight, as though perfect posture alone would protect her from the bad news she was positive he was about to deliver.
So when he gave her an appreciative look instead and said, “You really are one gorgeous woman,” she sagged with relief. She must have misread his expression.
“It’s too bad men can’t see past your centerfold body and your movie-star good looks to the sweet, caring, and funny woman underneath. If they could, you wouldn’t have been alone for so long. But don’t you worry. Now that Uncle Ty is on the job—”
“No, I do not need you on the job.” Emotion of any kind thickened her accent, and right now fear had garbled the words so badly even she couldn’t make out what she’d said. So she repeated them, slowly and emphatically, in English and then in Spanish to make it clear she was serious.
Ty had become as notorious as Nell McBride-Dane for his matchmaking schemes, and his success rate was almost as high as the older woman’s. And that was saying something. Nell had a series of books written about the couples she had matched in Christmas. They were shelved in romantic fiction, but everyone knew they were true. At least in Christmas, Colorado, they did.
But Sophia did not need, nor want, another man in her life. She’d loved and lost and been betrayed in the most horrible way. She wouldn’t put her heart on the line again. As both she and Autumn could attest to, love didn’t last.
“You do so need me on the job, and do you know why?” Ty took her hand, and she hoped he didn’t expect an answer because the sympathy she saw in his eyes had caused her throat to go dry. “Because Autumn has a chance to be happy, and she won’t take it unless she knows you have someone to make you happy too.”
“That is silly talk. The only person who can make you happy is yourself. And Autumn, she is happy. Happy, happy, happy.” Sophia freed her hand from his, waving it in the direction of Sugar and Spice. “Why wouldn’t she be? She has a business she loves, a beautiful home…and me. She has me. You too.”
“Maybe she wants more, and maybe so do you but you’re too afraid to get hurt again and won’t put yourself out there.”
“I put myself out there.”
“Oh, I know you do. You’re hands-down Christmas’s biggest party girl and flirt. The thing is, I spent a decade in Hollywood with some of the biggest names in the biz and can spot someone acting in two seconds flat, so you don’t fool me.” He retrieved her hand, giving it a gentle tug to get her to look at him. “I know what you’re up to. And one day someone will come along who sees past your act and catches a glimpse of the woman only a few of us are lucky enough to call their best friend, and that man will know you’re worth the wait. He’ll settle in for the long haul and win your trust.”
She pulled her hand from his. “Stop with your silly talk.”
“It’s not silly talk, and you know it. But while it might take some time before your special someone comes along, Autumn’s is already here.”
Sophia jumped to her feet. It couldn’t be true. “Autumn! Autumn, where are you?”
Ty latched on to her arm. “No! Don’t say anything. You’ll ruin everything. She told me in confidence.”
“Then why did you tell me!”
“Because! When you find out who she’s dating, you’re going to lose your mind and ruin her chance at happiness. You’re as important to her as he is,” Ty whisper-yelled.
Sophia briefly closed her eyes and then slowly lowered herself back onto the chaise. Logan Dane. It had to be. He was the only man Autumn had ever loved and the only relationship she wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with Sophia. He’d stopped in at Sugar and Spice over the holidays with his two children. Their mother, his second wife, had died the year before.
Logan had spent the last several months overseeing the renovations at the lodge. Before that, he’d rarely come home. Not since he’d left Autumn. And not once on his infrequent visits to Christmas had he ever stopped by the store. Until this year.
Still, she might be wrong. She sent a prayer to the Virgin Mother. “Logan Dane stopped by Sugar and Spice three times. With his children. Those do not count as dates.”
“No, but the two nights Autumn missed our Saturday Mystery Movie Night do. Remember when she claimed to have car trouble and a late work order? She went out with him instead.”
Autumn stuck her head past the archway. “Hey, did you call me? I was taking out the garbage.”
“Yes. Yes, I did.” Ty pinched Sophia, and she pushed his hand away. She wasn’t about to confront her best friend until she knew what she was dealing with. Ty didn’t have a clue how badly Logan had hurt Autumn. Sophia did, and she was not about to let her best friend make the same mistake twice. “Ty is being a baby about going to the lodge. So unless we want to listen to him whine all night, we have to go too.”
An hour later, hunched over the wheel of her candy-apple red Expedition, Sophia drove up the narrow, snow-covered mountain road to the lodge with only the headlights and three-quarter moon to guide her. Out of nowhere, a tree loomed up before her, and she jerked the wheel hard to the left.
“Sophia! You nearly hit that tree.”
“It’s not my fault it’s in the middle of the road!” she yelled at Autumn, who sat in the passenger seat beside her.
“You’re not on the road!”
“OMG, we’re going to die!” Ty cried. “Turn around. Turn around and take us back to town!”
“You be quiet back there. This is all your fault,” Sophia said, her nose practically pressed against the windshield as she tried to follow the tire tracks in the snow.
“When are you finally going to admit you need glasses?” Autumn asked.
“Wait. What? Sophia, you told me you had an appointment for laser surgery the week after mine.”
She did, but she’d canceled at the last minute after talking to a customer whose surgery had gone wrong. It was all the excuse she’d needed. She didn’t like pain of any kind, physical or emotional. “My eyes are fine.” She just couldn’t see street signs unless she was on top of them.
“You were driving in the woods, not on the road!” Ty protested loudly, and near her ear.
“Stop yelling at me! It is dark, and it is snowing, and you are both annoying. How am I supposed to—”
“Hands! Hands on the steering wheel!” Ty cried.
“It’s no problemo. I can drive for miles without using my hands.” She wrapped them around the wheel. She had a tendency to talk with her hands. A tendency she should admittedly learn to curb while driving.
“Oh really? So why is your car in Jake’s body shop once a month?” Ty asked.
“Because Jake’s body is so nice to look at,” she said, which was true. The same could not be said about her car’s body. There was only so much Jake could do with the multiple dings and dents.
“Look, there’s the lodge.” Autumn pointed out the lights twinkling through the trees. “The turnoff should be right about…” She thunked her head on the passenger window on purpose. “You missed it.”
The only place to turn around with a modicum of safety was the lodge’s lower parking lot, and it was a quarter mile down the dark road. It didn’t matter if it was ten feet away. Sophia had no intention of going near the lot. The last time she had been there was the morning after her husband died, almost a decade before.
They’d been overcome with shock and grief, and no one had given much thought to the car Bryce had driven to the mountain. A former Olympic skier, he’d been his family’s shining star, one of Christmas’s favorite sons, and for three years Sophia had been his wife. A good wife, she had thought. And despite how his family had always made her feel, she had taken some comfort in knowing Bryce had loved her as much as she’d loved him. Except everything she’d thought she knew about her husband and their marriage was turned on its head the day she sat in his car in the lower parking lot, reading the letter he’d left behind.
Sophia slammed on the brakes, as much to stop the car as to stop the memories. She’d worked hard to move past her anger and her grief and didn’t wish to deal with the emotions tonight. It would be difficult enough being at the lodge without her memories following her there.
Once the Expedition stopped fishtailing, she put it in Reverse and pressed the gas. Lights from an approaching vehicle turned the inside of her SUV heaven-white.
“Sophia!” Autumn and Ty yelled.
She hit the brakes, causing the tires to spin. They kept spinning. Around and around they went, coming to a stop almost bumper to bumper with a monster truck out of a Stephen King movie.
When the driver’s door of the black truck opened and a tall, broad-shouldered man stepped out, Sophia gasped. And it wasn’t an admiring gasp because the man was so big and so gorgeous; it was a gasp of shock and horror.
Adam Dane was back in town.
“Okay, so I totally forgive you for almost killing us,” Ty said, resting his arms on the front seats as he peered out the windshield to no doubt get a better look at the man now walking around the back of his monster truck with his phone to his ear. “What do you think the chances are that our Knight in Sheepskin is gay?”
“None,” Sophia and Autumn said at almost the same time.
They used to swoon whenever six-foot-four Adam Dane sauntered into a room, blush and stammer when he deigned to speak to them. They’d spend days, weeks, speculating about his latest romantic conquest while secretly wondering what it must be like to date a man like him. But that was before Sophia had fallen in love with Bryce, before she and Bryce were engaged, before she found out exactly what his older brother thought of her.
“You don’t have to sound so definite about it. You could have given me a little…Here he comes.” Ty rattled the door handle. “There must be a child lock on this thing. Let me out, bae.”
“Do not call me ‘bae.’ ‘Bae’ means poop in Danish.” She felt like poop. She always did in Adam’s presence. But it had been years since she’d been within a few feet of him, almost a decade since she’d last spoken to him. At the sound of his boots on the snow, she pressed on the gas, and the engine roared to life.
“No!” Ty, Autumn, and Adam yelled.
The sound of crunching metal cleared up Sophia’s why-are-they-yelling-at-me mystery. She’d put the gear into Drive, not Reverse. Swearing in Spanish, she corrected her mistake and put the car in Reverse.
- "Heartfelt and delightful!"—RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author
- "Christmas, Colorado, will get you in the spirit for love all year long."—Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author
- "Come celebrate a Christmas you won't forget."—Roxanne St. Claire, New York Times bestselling author
- "Mason's heartfelt fifth contemporary set in Christmas, Colorado, is a laugh-out-loud treat. Readers will chortle over the Christmastime antics of the spoiled sister, overprotective mother, meddling grandmother, loyal friends, and jealous castmates."—Publishers Weekly on Snowbound at Christmas
- "Will please fans of zippy small-town stories."—Publishers Weekly on The Trouble with Christmas
- On Sale
- May 7, 2019
- Page Count
- 60 pages
- Forever Yours