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Christmas With You
A feel-good holiday romance anthology
By L.P. Dover
By Cindi Madsen
By Amy Briggs
Formats and Prices
Format:ebook (Digital original) $4.99 $6.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 20, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Snowflake Lane Inn, by L. P. Dover
The owner of a picturesque inn gets a holiday surprise when a well-known fashion designer comes to stay and redesigns his future.
Runaway Christmas Bride, by Cindi Madsen
Making a new life in Friendship certainly wasn’t the plan, but the spirit of Christmas – along with the rugged local sheriff – leads to a change of heart for this runaway bride.
Christmas Lights, by Amy Briggs
A visitor to Friendship learns the true meaning of Christmas from a single dad and his young daughter.
Christmas Encounter, by R. J. Prescott
A famous Formula One driver finds all roads lead to Friendship -and love – this Christmas.
It’s a Wonderful Holiday, by Heidi McLaughlin
A workaholic finds just the right Christmas magic to remind him about the most important thing in life: spending time with his wife and family.
What readers are saying about Christmas with You…
“A touching, funny Christmas anthology packed full of entertaining, likable characters and great Christmas romance short stories.”
“If you love Christmas romance…this is an anthology you won’t want to miss.”
“The perfect collection for the most wonderful time of the year.”
“Beautiful, heartwarming Christmas stories…new couples, warm loving relationships…perfect for young adults and older.”
Snowflake Lane Inn
L. P. Dover
This book is dedicated to everyone who loves Christmas just as much as I do.
"Looks like everything's ready to go," I said, walking through the house one last time. The place was spotless. But was it good enough for a diva like Layla Aberdeen? I hoped so, because she had rented it for the following year.
My sister, Brianna, walked in with a basket full of goodies and set it on the table. She was twenty-three, thirteen years younger than me. Sometimes it felt like I was her father instead of her brother. For the past ten years, I guess you could say I was. Our father died of lung cancer, and I had to help Mom take care of her.
Her dark brown hair fell in curls down her back, and she was dressed up as if she was going to a dance club.
I looked at her like she'd lost her mind. "What are you doing?"
Grinning sheepishly, she rearranged the chocolates and the bottle of wine. "It's a basket for Layla." Brianna was a college student who loved anything about fashion, even though she was going to school to be a nurse. Guess it didn't really surprise me that she wanted to make an impression on Layla Aberdeen.
"Since when do we do that?" I asked.
She waved me off. "Since now. One of the top designers in the world is coming to stay here. I can't wait to meet her. What time did she say she was coming into town?"
I hadn't personally spoken to Layla, but my real estate agent had. "Jane told me two o'clock. She's going to meet Ms. Aberdeen then. Is that why you're all dressed like—" I waved my hand down her body "—like that?"
Brianna had on a silver sparkly top that hung off her shoulders along with a pair of jeans and heels. Not exactly something you see a lot of people wearing in the winter.
She looked down at her clothes and then glared at me. "Seriously? You're so clueless. These are Layla's designs." She bounced on her feet. "I wish I could be here to welcome her. Think I can maybe hang around and casually stop by when she shows up?"
Grabbing the keys off the counter, I nodded toward the door. "That's a bad idea. You're bound to see her around town. Just don't get your hopes up. She looks like she'd be a—"
"Colin," she shrieked, "you don't know her."
I shrugged and followed her out the door, walking close so I could catch her if she slipped on the snow. The air was cold and crisp, a perfect December day with clear blue skies. It wouldn't be that way for long. We had a snowstorm brewing that'd hit us by the end of the night. "She's probably like every other Hollywood celebrity. Full of herself and obsessed with money."
Brianna shook her head. "I don't think Layla's like that. She was devastated when her last line didn't do well. Honestly, I think it's a good idea she's coming here. She has to be under a lot of pressure."
We got in my truck and headed down the road. "Maybe so, but I don't want you bothering her, Bri."
She huffed and focused her attention at the window. "Fine. But you're shattering my dreams, brother."
I burst out laughing. "You'll get over it. I'm going to drop you off at the inn. Mom's waiting for you. I have some things I need to pick up in town."
The Snowflake Lane Inn was one of the top-rated inns in all of Friendship. After my grandmother died, she left it to me in her will. It was supposed to go to my father, but since he died before she did, she passed it down to me. I intended to keep her legacy alive by keeping it the way she always wanted it. We turned onto Snowflake Lane, the gravel kicking up underneath my truck. The road was lined with magnolia trees, all decked out in soft white lights, and the white fence was draped in garlands. It was exactly how it'd been decorated for decades at Christmastime.
Our mother was on the front porch with the town mayor, George Lingerfelt, when we pulled up. Brianna hopped out of the truck and said hello to George as he made his way down to me. I lowered my window and held out my hand. "Mayor Lingerfelt," I said as he shook my hand. "What brings you by this morning?"
"I came to see you. Is everything ready for the tree lighting tomorrow?" George was in his late forties, short and a little plump in the middle, with salt-and-pepper hair.
I nodded. "I wired everything up first thing this morning. You should be good to go."
His smile widened. "Excellent. Will I see you there?"
"Of course. I wouldn't miss it. But right now I need to run into town. I'll see you tomorrow." I waved at my mother and headed back down the road. Everywhere you looked, everything was decorated for Christmas. We had tourists who came up here just to experience the lights. It was what kept the Snowflake Lane Inn one of the best places to stay during the holidays. We booked guests a year in advance. Our goal was to have the inn stay booked all year, and not just for the holidays.
Once I reached Main Street, I parked behind the general store and walked around to the front. The best coffee shop in town was right beside it, and sitting on the bench out front was a man I'd never seen before. By the old, filthy clothes and skin, I'd almost say he was homeless, not exactly something that was common in our little town. We all knew each other, but I didn't recognize him at all.
"Good morning," I called out, approaching him slowly. The man looked up at me and smiled, his face slightly wrinkled and smudged with dirt. His dark brown hair was hidden underneath a black cap and he had crystal blue eyes. He stood, and I shook his hand.
"It's a little chilly this morning, don't you think?" I asked.
He blew out a breath and rubbed his hands together. "It is. I smell snow too. I think we're going to get some tonight."
"The news this morning said we have a storm coming in, at least six inches of snow." Which, obviously, wouldn't do him any good if he had nowhere to go. "I'm Colin Jennings," I added to keep the conversation going. "Are you new in town? I don't think I've seen you around before."
His lips pulled back into a kind smile. "Yes, I'm new to this quaint town. The name's Gabe. I rode a bus in from Boston. I didn't know where it was going to drop me off at, but I like this place."
The thought of him being alone in the impending snow didn't sit well with me. "Do you have a place to stay tonight?" I asked him.
Gabe focused back on me, almost like he was studying me curiously.
Clearing my throat quickly, I held up a hand. "Not that I'm assuming you have nowhere to go, but if you don't, I know a place where you can stay."
His lips pulled back into a smile. "That's very kind of you. I haven't run into too many people willing to help an old man like me."
"It's no trouble at all," I said. "I have an extra room at the Snowflake Lane Inn that I always keep open." It was a small room with a twin bed, but it'd give him a warm place to stay.
Gabe placed a hand on my shoulder. "Thank you for your generosity, but I'll be fine. I appreciate the offer."
"Are you sure? You could always help me around the inn. There's always something needing fixing."
He chuckled, and it sounded so carefree. His hand slipped off my shoulder, and he waved me off. "I'm sure. Thank you again. I know where to find you if things change."
I held out my hand, and he shook it again. "Sounds good, Gabe. You take care of yourself." I nodded at the door to the café. "Want anything to eat? They have awesome blueberry muffins in there."
Gabe shook his head. "Don't trouble yourself with that. You've already done enough for me as it is by offering me a place to stay."
I patted his shoulder. "Just trying to help."
He smiled again. "I appreciate that."
A part of me wondered if he was just being polite in not accepting my hospitality. Pride was a huge thing for me, and I could see myself doing the same thing if the situation were reversed. Then again, maybe he did have somewhere to go, and I shouldn't assume he was homeless by the way he looked. There were days I was covered in dirt after doing the landscaping at the inn.
The bell jingled on the door as I walked into the café. It was warm, a definite contrast from the chilly air outside. I was accustomed to the cold, especially since I'd been living in crazy winter weather my whole life.
Jill waved from behind the counter and placed a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin onto the counter. "You know me well," I said, laughing.
She shrugged. "It's what you've ordered for the past two years. When I saw you outside with that man, I figured I'd get it ready for you."
I gave her the money and smiled. "Thanks. You're the best."
Peering out the window, I saw that Gabe was still there, watching people walk by with a smile on his face. Not many people acknowledged him, and others hurried to get away. It was obvious the people of Friendship weren't accustomed to seeing a strange man dressed in shabby clothes and roaming the streets.
"Jill," I called out. I glanced at her over my shoulder and nodded at Gabe. "Do you mind fixing another coffee and grabbing another muffin for me?"
A sad smile spread across her face. "Of course."
Grabbing the extra coffee and muffin, I took it all outside. Gabe was still sitting on the bench, so I set his coffee and muffin down beside him. With a heavy sigh, he looked at it and then up at me. "You are a miracle, son."
When I decided to rent the house in Friendship, I knew it was going to be in the middle of nowhere, but I didn't realize how far away it was from the main town. There was a dusting of snow on the ground, and it terrified me to drive on it. As long as I was in my house before the snowstorm hit tonight, I'd be fine. It wasn't that I was scared of how people would drive around me, it was the fact that I was afraid for them given the way I drove in the snow. I'd end up in a ditch somewhere, stranded in the freezing cold.
I was used to the bustling streets of big cities. I'd lived in New York for a while during college and then moved back to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. I already missed the smell of the ocean and the feeling of the warm breeze dancing around me. Moving to a place as desolate as Friendship really put in perspective how sad my life had become. Luckily, in a small town, there was a ninety-nine percent chance no one would know who I was.
I pulled into the driveway and looked up at the house. The place was small, just three bedrooms and two baths, with dark blue siding and a burgundy front door. It wasn't what I was used to, but it was quaint and by the river, with not a neighbor in sight. All I wanted was some peace and quiet to rejuvenate my mind. My career depended on it.
A woman walked out of the house, dressed in a navy pantsuit with her brown hair in a bun. She waved as I got out of the car. "Good afternoon, Ms. Aberdeen. I'm so glad you made it safely."
"Me too," I said with a laugh. I walked toward her and held out my hand. "You must be Jane?"
She nodded and shook my hand. "I am. I wanted to welcome you to Friendship and make sure you got settled before I leave. My husband and I are spending the holidays in Bermuda. We wanted a change of scenery this year."
"Nice. It's amazing down there. You'll love it." I'd been a couple of times over the years.
Jane held up the keys and dangled them in the air. "Here are the house keys." She pointed at the second key. "This one opens the back door."
"Thanks," I said, taking them from her. "How is cell service around here?"
She waved me off. "You're not that far from everything. Cell service can be pretty spotty out here though. The closest supermarket is fifteen minutes away, and so is our downtown square. We have tons of shops and an amazing bakery. We're also having a tree lighting tomorrow night. Might be a good way for you to meet some of the locals."
It sounded exciting, but I didn't know if I was ready to be around the public. "I'll think about it. I still need to get settled in."
We walked into the house, and it smelled like cinnamon apples. I breathed it in and smiled. It made me feel like I was at my cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. Unfortunately, I had to sell it when my business started to tank. I followed Jane into the living room, which had an amazing view of the river. The furniture was made of brown leather, and the whole place had a warm, yet rustic feel.
"Does everything look okay?" Jane asked.
"Yes," I said, turning to face her. "This house is amazing."
A wide grin spread across her face. "Great. I hope you enjoy it here. Friendship is an amazing little town. I've lived here all my life."
I shook her hand again. "Thanks, Jane. I'm sure I'll love it here as long as I have cell service. Have fun in Bermuda."
"Oh, I will. Take care of yourself, Ms. Aberdeen."
She walked out, and I stood at the door, breathing in the clean, frosty air. The sun shone across the snow, making it glitter and shine. It was breathtaking.
Once Jane was gone, I brought in my suitcases and unpacked. Since I had no food in the refrigerator, I left to find a grocery store. Jane was right—the cell phone service wasn't that great, so I drove around and finally got good reception when I reached downtown Friendship. It was like I'd stepped into a Hallmark movie. I parked on the street and got out. The wind had picked up, so I buttoned my jacket. I definitely wasn't used to the cold.
The general store was up ahead, so I decided to check it out. I always loved the ones in the mountains back home. It was a place you were for sure going to run into some nice people. That was what I loved about small towns. I walked in and looked around at all the provisions. I grabbed a few jars of homemade apple butter and pickled vegetables. My grandmother used to make them both on her own until she passed away. My favorite was her pickled beets.
Arms full of goodies, I walked up to the front and set them on the counter. The man at the register looked at me, his face wrinkled with age and his snow-white hair combed over. I smiled, only he didn't smile back. In fact, he looked uninterested in talking to me at all. "It's cold out there today, isn't it?" I said, hoping to strike up a conversation.
He snorted. "It's December. What'd you expect?"
There were other people in the store, staring at me, clearly not welcoming either. Was it my Southern accent? It was obvious I was an outsider. Clearing my throat, I paid for my things and hurried out of the store, only to run right into someone.
"Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry," I shrieked. The man had fallen to his knees, and I grabbed his arm to help him up. "Please forgive me. I came out of the store too fast."
The man grunted as I pulled him upright. "It's okay, miss. I know you didn't do it on purpose." He was taller than me, with dark brown, shaggy hair and a beard. His tattered clothes, old boots, and dirty skin made me wonder if he was homeless. His bright blue eyes stared right into mine, and then he looked down at the paper bag hanging on my arm. "It's a good thing you didn't drop your glass jars."
Taking a deep breath, I nodded. "True."
His brows lifted. "You sure you're okay? You walked out in a hurry."
I glanced into the window of the general store and shrugged. "They weren't exactly nice to me in there. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. Guess I thought a small town like this would be a little more welcoming."
The man chuckled and looked around. "From what I can tell, the people around here don't like change. You're different. I think it's the clothes that make you stand out."
I looked down at my designer outfit and high-heeled boots. "I thought it was my accent," I replied with a laugh.
He held out his hand. "That too. Don't worry, though, they'll come around. So far, I've met several nice people. Don't give up on them just yet. My name's Gabe."
I shook his hand. "Layla. I moved here from Charleston."
"It's nice to meet you, Layla," he said, letting my hand go. "What brings you to Friendship?"
"Lots of things, I guess." I turned my gaze to the Christmas lights, twinkling in the trees. Every single building was decorated with garlands and ribbons. "My career took a major hit, so I thought it best to move away for a while. Maybe find some inspiration."
Gabe smiled when I looked at him. "You'll definitely find that here. I have no doubt." He stepped back and moved out of the way. "I'm sure you have to get going. It was nice meeting you, Layla. I'm certain I'll see you around town again."
"It was nice meeting you, too, Gabe." I walked past him to my car. When I turned around, he was nowhere to be found.
All through the night, I dreamed about my new fashion line and how it skyrocketed across the globe. Imagine my disappointment when I woke up to find it wasn't real…and that it was ice-cold in my house. The three quilts piled on top of me weren't enough.
"What in the world?" I griped, teeth chattering. I slid out of bed and slung one of the quilts over my shoulders. When I got to the thermostat, it said it was fifty-eight degrees. I turned it off and then on again, hoping it just needed to be reset. Nope. It was dead. "This can't be happening to me." What made it worse was that it was snowing outside. I looked out at the tiny specks of white, falling from the sky. "Wouldn't that make for some great news…Designing diva freezes to death as she escapes scrutiny from the fashion world."
Grabbing my phone, my fingers trembled as I punched in Jane's number. I knew she was leaving for vacation, but I was hoping to catch her. The line rang and rang, the reception going in and out. I didn't know anything else to do besides drive into town.
I dressed quickly in a pair of jeans and a double layer of sweaters. If it was freezing inside my house, it had to be even worse outside. However, when I got out there, it wasn't nearly as cold as it was inside. My house was colder than a meat locker.
When I got into town, I dreaded going to the general store. There was a bank close by, but it was Sunday and they were closed. The only other place was the coffee shop. It just so happened that a familiar face was right outside, sitting alone at one of the tables, his head resting on his arm. I parked and walked up to his table, silently taking the seat beside him. He slowly lifted his head and sat up quickly when he noticed me. "Miss Layla, what brings you out so early in the morning?"
"My icebox of a house. It's much warmer out here than it is there. I came into town to see if someone could help me."
Gabe's brows furrowed. "What can I help you with?"
"Do you know of anyone who does heating and air? My heater died on me sometime last night, and it's so cold. I don't know who to contact."
He patted my hand. "Don't worry, I know just the guy. His name's Colin Jennings." He pointed at the street. "If you go up that way and take a right, all you have to do is follow that road until you get to Snowflake Lane. The Snowflake Lane Inn will be at the end. He'll be able to help you."
"Thanks," I replied, feeling ever so grateful. "He's not like the people in the general store, is he?"
Gabe chuckled. "Not in the least. Colin's a good man. You'll like him."
Squeezing his arm, I stood. "Thanks again." I turned to leave but then stopped and glanced at him over my shoulder. "Gabe, forgive me if I'm being too nosy, and you can tell me to mind my own business, but…" I paused for a second and glanced around to make sure no one heard me. "Do you have a home to go to?"
A sad smile spread across his face. "Friendship is my home, Layla. Whether it be sleeping at this table or in a box behind the bank, this is where I belong for now."
My heart broke for him. Reaching into my purse, I pulled out a fifty-dollar bill. It was all I had on me. "Take this," I told him.
He shook his head. "I'm not taking your money, young lady."
"Please," I begged, setting it in front of him. "You don't strike me as the kind of man to beg for money, but I want you to take it. You've helped me, and I want to return the favor."
With a heavy sigh, he held the money in his hands. "Thank you, child. This means a lot."
"You're welcome. Stay warm out here."
He chuckled again. "You too."
Getting in my car, I followed his directions to Snowflake Lane and down to the Snowflake Lane Inn. The second I saw the large, yellow house all decked out for Christmas, I gasped. It was exquisite, and more beautiful than any house I'd ever seen. There were garlands draped with white lights everywhere, and red ribbons at the top of each fence post. It was something you'd see on a postcard.
I pulled up and saw a man on a ladder, cleaning out the gutters…in the snow. It wasn't like Charleston here. When it snowed back home, everything would shut down, and people would seclude themselves inside where it was warm. Not here, apparently. All I wanted to do was grab a good book and drink hot chocolate.
When I got out of the car, the man on the ladder looked down at me. Even from the distance, I could see his eyes were a bright shade of green, almost magical. His dark brown hair was mussed like he had just ran a hand through it, and he had on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt that no doubt hid his muscular arms beneath.
"Can I help you?" he asked, slowly making his way down the ladder.
I cleared my throat. "Gabe sent me here. He told me to find Colin Jennings."
The man smiled and approached me. "He did, did he? I guess you came to the right place then, Miss Aberdeen."
My breath caught. "You know who I am?"
He snorted. "I think everyone in this town does."
Groaning, I ran a hand over my face. "That must be why I got a cold greeting at the general store."
His smile faded. "I'm sorry to hear that. Some people in this town aren't too fond of outsiders, even if they are famous."
"That's not the way I imagined it would be here," I said softly. "Besides, I'm not famous anymore."
The man shook his head and waved it off. "Give it time. So why did you come to see Colin?"
I pulled my jacket in tighter. I was freezing, and he was outside in the snow with just a flannel shirt on. "The heat died in the house I'm renting. I didn't know who to call to come and fix it, but a man in town told me to come here. I was hoping Mr. Jennings could either help with the heater or help me get in touch with the owner. The real estate agent is the only one I know who has his number, but she's on vacation."
The man chuckled. "You're in luck. I know just how to contact him."
"Great. If you give me his number, I'll call him up."
Pulling a set of keys out of his pocket, he backed up toward the big, red truck in the driveway. "No need. I'll head over there now."
"You don't have to do that. Let me call the owner."
He opened his truck door and smiled. "I am the owner. I'm Colin Jennings."
Layla wasn't anything like I expected her to be. She was much more beautiful in person. She followed behind me to her house, and I had to slow down several times to make sure she caught up. It was obvious she wasn't used to driving through the snow.
I pulled into her driveway first and grabbed my toolbox out of the back. The snow had slowed down, but we'd gotten the six inches the weatherman had predicted.
Layla rushed out of her car and ran over to the door. "I don't know why I'm hurrying. It's probably warmer out here."
That I found hard to believe…until I stepped through the door. It was unnaturally cold.
- On Sale
- Nov 20, 2018
- Page Count
- 160 pages