Christmas Sanctuary


By Lauren Hawkeye

Foreword by James Patterson

Read by Bailey Carr

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Emma Kelly needs a Christmas miracle.

Nick Shepherd loves his life in Salt Spring Island, where he sculpts in a studio with the grizzled and talented artist Mike Nagorski. Mike’s estranged daughter, Emma Kelly, arrives in their quiet haven, and though Nick is immediately drawn to her, he tries to resist his feelings. There may be Christmas magic in the air, but Nick knows it can’t last forever . . .

BookShots Flames Original romances presented by James Patterson Novels you can devour in a few hours Impossible to stop reading


Dear Reader,

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love getting to spend time with my wife, Sue, and my son, Jack. That’s the best part of the holidays, after all—getting to spend it with the ones you love.

And Emma Kelly, the whip-smart, independent protagonist of Christmas Sanctuary, will definitely need a Christmas miracle to spend the holidays with her family. Mainly because she’s just found out that her mother has lied to her for her entire life—and the father she never knew she had is still alive.

Emma embarks on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Salt Spring Island in Canada. She finds love with an artist named Nick along the way, and she finds her father—but most importantly, she finds herself. She finally becomes the woman she’s always wanted to be. And isn’t that just about the best Christmas gift you could ever get?

I hope Emma and Nick’s romance keeps you warm on these chilly winter nights.

—James Patterson

Chapter 1

Here lies Emma Kelly. She chose Tahitian vanilla but the cake was German chocolate.


Emma inhaled through her nose as she gulped at the glass of ice water, holding back a wince as she rinsed away the final traces of sweet icing coating her mouth. She didn’t like chocolate—she never had. Still, knowing what was expected of her, she smiled brightly up at her mother before patting her mouth delicately with a pale-pink paper napkin.

“I like the vanilla.” She pushed at the plate holding five different flavors of wedding cake, sliding it across the small table. She was relieved to be done with the tasting—she’d had three gingerbread cookies for dinner, and it had taken away her appetite for the cake. She regretted nothing, though—the sugar helped her get through the seasonal stressors of gift shopping and the inevitable holiday parties held by distant relatives and family friends she barely knew.

Still, making even the small decision felt like a victory, until she glanced up and saw the way her mother, Rosemary, was pinching her lips together.

“Are you certain?” Rosemary pushed the small plate back to Emma. “Maybe you didn’t get a good taste of the rest. I created the German chocolate just for this.”

Aah. There it was. Rosemary thought that Emma should choose the chocolate, and therefore was going to push until Emma folded and did as she was expected.

Just agree with her. If she just retracted her answer, she would be spared days of hurt feelings, passive-aggressive nudges, and those pursed lips. And she should want to make her mother happy, shouldn’t she? Especially since it was the Christmas season?

Emma opened her mouth to do just that—to take the easy route, the road she’d taken her whole life. The words caught in her throat, combining with the lingering sweetness of the cake, threatening to choke her.

I need to grow a spine and speak up for myself.

The words stayed caught inside. She coughed. “Maybe I should try the lemon and raspberry again.” She was stalling. As had been happening more and more often lately, the sensation of being trapped wrapped around her, locking in the resentment.

Swallowing hard, she looked up at her mother’s eyes, which were almond brown and filled with the kind of disappointment that only a parent seemed able to convey. The two women stared at each other for a long moment as the steam in the kitchen of her mother’s bakery made sweat bead on Emma’s brow.

Irritation rose, hot and tight. She didn’t want to be here. She wanted to be at home, watching reality TV and stuffing her face with more gingerbread—she liked cookies better than cake, anyway, and the Christmas treats her elderly neighbor Agnes had given her were full of cream and butter and deliciousness.

She wiped away a trickle of sweat with the back of her hand as the rear door thumped open.

“I hope y’all left me some cake.” Matthew Phillips, Emma’s fiancé, strode into the kitchen, the open door bringing in a wave of unseasonable warmth. Even now, three weeks before Christmas, the small town of Madison, Georgia, was hot. Not to mention the heat that lingered from earlier that day in the shop, when the industrial ovens had churned out countless cakes, muffins, and loaves.

“For you, always.” Rosemary smiled, an expression with genuine warmth, as the tall man in the well-cut gray suit dropped a kiss on her smooth cheek before crossing to the small table where Emma sat. Tossing a manila envelope beside the plate of cake samples, he dipped his head to kiss her. His lips pressed against hers, the embrace familiar and warm.

But there were no fireworks—there never had been. Maybe there had never been a chance—they’d known each other since they were children, had seen each other through skinned knees and braces and adolescent awkwardness.

But wasn’t a slow burn better than something hot and wild that would inevitably burn itself out?

“I’m starving. My day went cattywampus and I didn’t get a chance to have lunch.” Taking the fork that Rosemary handed him, he slid into the empty chair beside Emma and scooped up a big bite of the lemon and raspberry cake, moaning as he chewed. “As always, compliments to the chef.”

“Suck-up.” Rosemary grinned at her future son-in-law with an openness that she rarely showed to Emma. As always, it stung, but she understood why her mother and her fiancé had always been close. They’d had far more in common than Emma had with her own mother—Matthew had even followed Rosemary into the food industry, something that didn’t appeal to Emma in the least.

“Isn’t sucking up if it’s true.” Quickly working his way through the other pieces, Matthew finally scooped up the chocolate. “Saving the best for last.”

“I like the vanilla—”

“Rosemary, this chocolate is the best thing you’ve ever baked.” Matthew grinned at Emma as though he hadn’t even heard her. “We have to go with the chocolate.”

The thin trickle of irritation that had been riding her since she’d sat down in the kitchen flared into anger. She didn’t want the chocolate. She didn’t like chocolate. She wanted the vanilla.

This isn’t really about cake and you know it.

As always, she swallowed what she really wanted to say. To distract herself, she reached for the envelope that Matthew had tossed onto the table. “Is this the marriage license?”

“Don’t open that!” Matthew spoke sharply as he tried to grab the envelope back. Emma exhaled, startled, reflexively jerking it out of reach.

“What are y’all talking about?” She watched with amazement as her fiancé and her mother exchanged a look that she couldn’t decipher. “I want to look at our marriage license. What is wrong with that?”

“You don’t want to get cake on it.” Smoothly, Rosemary reached for the envelope, her smile faltering when Emma kept her grip tight. “Come on, now. We’ll look at it later.”

“Why don’t you want me to look at this?” Part of Emma—most of her—wanted, as always, to please her mother, to hand over the envelope and smooth things over.

The other part? It was still worked up enough over the cake for her to stiffen her spine, just the slightest bit. Watching the other two warily, she slid a finger under the edge of the sealed flap.

“Emma…” Matthew reached again for the envelope, but an arched eyebrow had him pulling back with a flinch. Her mother watched her slit open the envelope with no expression on her perfectly made-up face, but a flicker in her eyes showed Emma her unease.

What is going on?

The envelope open, Emma pulled out the official piece of paper. She scanned it quickly, cocking her head in confusion when she saw the information listed under “bride.”

“Who on earth is Emma Nagorski?”

Chapter 2

Matthew and Rosemary were silent, but Emma caught another quick look pass between them, and her stomach roiled with unease.

“Didn’t you look at the paper before you left?” she asked Matthew. Surely this was just a clerical error. What else could it be? “I don’t understand what all the fuss is for. Just go back and get it reprinted. But make sure you do it tomorrow. I’d like to check it off the list.”

“I’m sorry, sugar. I’ll go do that first thing tomorrow.” Again, Matthew reached for the envelope.

Why is he so determined? What am I missing?

Pushing her chair back so that she was farther away, she scanned the paper again, noting a second error.

“Who is Michael Nagorski?” Her pulse did a short, nervous skitter when she cast eyes over the document again. Slowly, she set the paper back on the table, pointing at the offending line. “Tell me they pulled up someone else in the database. My father’s name was Sawyer Kelly.”

Rosemary gasped, a small, guttural sound that Emma had never heard from her before. Startled, she twisted to look at her mother, who wore tailored navy slacks and a short-sleeved light knit sweater. Even when she was in the bakery kitchen, was always dressed impeccably.

Rosemary met her stare, and for a moment something passed between them, her mother telegraphing some emotion that was almost instantly repressed—guilt, maybe? Emma blinked and it was gone, smoothed away beneath a mask of calm.

“I’d never planned to tell you this, but I suppose there’s no avoiding it now.” Rosemary cast a glance of exasperation at Matthew, the first time Emma had ever seen anything other than sunshine and roses between them. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, showing a hint of restlessness before she pulled the last chair out from the table and sat primly on the edge of the seat. Emma braced herself, but when her mother looked at her, there was honesty in her eyes.

“Emma, I’ve never been married. My last name has always been Kelly.”

Emma’s world tilted beneath her. “But…my father.”

The father she’d never known…he’d died when she was a baby. But she had pictures. Several albums’ full. There was even a handful of him holding her.

She’d grown up with that picture of her father in her mind, and having it blur made anxiety thrum in her veins.

“There is no Sawyer Kelly, Emma.” What? “All of those pictures are of my cousin Joshua.”

“This can’t be real.” It was so unexpected, Emma hunched slightly in her chair, her breath wheezing out. “Then who the hell is my dad?”

“The license has the correct information. His name was Michael Nagorski.” Rosemary smiled, but it was tight. Emma wondered what she was thinking of as her mother inhaled through her nose and slowly let her breath out through her mouth. “This isn’t easy to say.”

“Just tell me.”

“Mike…Michael…and I had already parted ways when I found out I was pregnant.” Her voice was calm, controlled. Normal, if not for the hint of strain that slid beneath it. “I…I told him about you. When you were three, I wrote a letter. But I never heard anything in return. And that was the end of that.”

“That was the end?” Emma’s mouth had fallen open slightly; it snapped shut as she absorbed what she’d just been told. “My father isn’t dead. I have a father?”

“He is not your father in any way besides DNA, so don’t have a hissy fit.” Rosemary’s voice snapped out, slicing through the instrumental version of “Silent Night” playing lightly overhead. “I carried you. I raised you. I have been there for you. He never has, and I expect you to remember that.”

“I…” What was she supposed to say? “You’ve lied to me! My entire life, my sense of who I am, has been built on lies!”

“I’ve given you a much stronger foundation than your sperm donor!” Rosemary slammed her hands down on the table, making the empty cake plates and Emma’s water glass shake. She rarely showed emotion, at least not in this way, and she’d taught Emma to act in a similar way.

The hurt and upset twining tightly inside of Emma as she tried to absorb everything she was being told were making her shake. Swallowing, she cast a sidelong glance at Matthew.

Guilt was written all over his face. She hadn’t thought that her world could flip yet again, but as realization hit her, she swallowed back nausea.

“You knew?” Slowly, she stood. He grimaced, but didn’t look surprised. “You knew. How long did you know?”

“I needed information from Rosemary to apply for the license.” He held out a hand, pulling it back when she glared. “That’s when she told me.”

“And you didn’t think that was something I needed to know?” She slammed her hands into the table as her mother had done, the sting reverberating up her arms. “You didn’t think that was something you should share with your future wife?

“Emma—” Standing himself, Matthew reached for her, and she jerked away. Rosemary gasped—Emma knew she wasn’t acting like she normally would, but for the first time in her life, she didn’t care. “Emma, it wasn’t like that.”

“Then what was it like?” Shoving her chair back to give herself some space, some room to breathe, she picked up her glass of water, pressing it to a suddenly flushed cheek. It didn’t help, so she smacked it back down on the table with enough force that it toppled. The remaining water and ice cascaded out over the table, instantly soaking the discarded marriage license. The document was ruined, and Emma didn’t care.

“Is he dead?” she demanded from Rosemary, who shifted back, pulling away.

“I don’t know.” Pulling herself together, Rosemary rose to her full height and pinned Emma with a look. “And you need to settle down. Now that you know this, I expect you to accept it like a lady. Don’t be ugly.”

“Oh, of course. That’s the important thing here, that I make sure everyone looks at me and sees a proper lady. Nothing else will do, after all.” Glaring at her mother, she snatched up the cake plate closest to her. The only slice that Matthew had left was vanilla, and she started scooping it into her mouth in giant forkfuls, the sticky icing coating her throat. The cake settled like a rock in her stomach, but she finished it all, scraping the extra icing up off the porcelain as well. Rosemary and Matthew both watched her warily as she slammed the plate back down and stopped to pick up her purse.

“Sugar, where are you going?” Matthew moved quickly, his lean frame circling the table and closing the space between them. Reaching out with arms that had held her a million times, he tried to pull her close, but she was…oh, she was angry. Openly furious. The dam had burst, and there was no repairing the breach. “Come on. Let’s go to your place and talk about this.”

“You don’t get it.” Pulling out of the circle of his arms, she backed away, heading for the door. For freedom. “Matthew, you kept something huge from me, for my mother. You chose her over me. This is a deal breaker.”

“Wait. What are you saying?” Panic flared in his toffee-brown eyes. Emma knew that what she should do right now was swallow down her anger, to smile and make the others in the room feel at ease.

To hell with that. She’d just discovered that her entire life was a lie. She’d pitch a fit if she damn well wanted to. Shaking her head at Matthew, then at her mother, she pushed open the door, feeling the kiss of southern humidity on the back of her neck.

“I’m saying that the wedding is off.” She took a moment to consider her feelings—she was furious at being lied to, but breaking her engagement? That was something that she couldn’t take back. Shaking, she stepped out into the Georgia night.

“And y’all should know. I’ve never liked chocolate.”


On Sale
Dec 5, 2017
Hachette Audio

Lauren Hawkeye

About the Author

Lauren Hawkeye published her first story in 2007 and has since written over thirty short stories, novellas, and novellas with Harlequin Enterprises (Spice and Nocturne), New American Library (as Lauren Jameson), Avon HarperCollins, and Entangled Publishing, and has also built a strong self-publishing career. Her work has been mentioned in Time magazine. James Patterson has had more New York Times bestsellers than any other writer, ever, according to Guinness World Records. Since his first novel won the Edgar Award in 1977, James Patterson?s books have sold more than 375 million copies. He is the author of the Alex Cross novels, the most popular detective series of the past twenty-five years, including Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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