Read Muffins And Mistletoe (A Starlight Hills Holiday Novella) Online

Authors: Debora Dennis

Tags: #Holiday Romance Novella

Muffins And Mistletoe (A Starlight Hills Holiday Novella)

BOOK: Muffins And Mistletoe (A Starlight Hills Holiday Novella)
2.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

 

MUFFINS & MISTLETOE

 

A Starlight Hills Holiday Novella

 

 

 

Debora Dennis

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals , or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2013 Debora Dennis

All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Debora Dennis. Thank you for your support of the author's rights.

 

Edited by Stacey Coverstone

Copyedited by Arran at Editing720

Cover design by Elaina Lee at For The Muse Designs

 

The author acknowledges the copyright or trademark status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Ford F150, Johnny Mathis, "Blue Christmas," and "Winter Wonderland."

 

 

For Paul, the man who inspires every hero I write, and the guy I still want to kiss under the mistletoe. Thanks for inspiring my dreams.

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

Bitty's Gingerbread Muffin Recipe

About the Author

ONE

 

Corinne Mackenzie had no choice but to seek out the help of the town matchmaker.

Her down-filled coat flapped against her knees as she rushed down the street toward the Starlight Hills Civic Center, anxious to get out of the cold. The coat did its job insulating her body from Old Man Winter, but nothing could keep the chill from her heart these days. Though the morning sun glistened on the branches, creating the illusion of warmth, the wind sliced across her face with an arctic blast, reminding her it was December. The thirty-foot-tall Norway spruce stood at the center of Triangle Park to her right. Boughs adorned with festive red bows, the town's holiday symbol barely swayed an inch against the same icy gusts that tugged the hood from her head.

Inside the entryway, she stomped the snow off her boots while she did a quick scan of the area for any sign of Jimmy Crane. Then she came to her senses. Of course Jimmy wouldn't be here. He'd been avoiding her.

She knew it.

The whole town knew it, too.

Her heart sank to her down-covered knees.

Even though she was the editor of the
Starlight Hills Herald
, Corinne couldn't stop the small-town gossip mill from grinding out the sordid details.

For the first time in her life, she had to screen her calls. Amazing how many men crawled out of the woodwork once word got out she had commitment issues. Which she didn't. She got scared, maybe she got cold feet—but she did not have a problem committing!

Jimmy must have had been screening his calls, too. Or maybe her number had been blocked. Either way, he'd made it clear he didn't want to talk to her.

Refusing to step down from the Preservation Society's Holiday Gala Committee was her last hope at forcing them together. He needed to know how wrong she was, how miserable she was without him. She had to apologize and set things right between them, but how could she when the stubborn man wouldn't take her calls?

If she had any hope of not losing the man she loved, she had to resort to desperate measures.

She slipped off her coat, hung it on the rack beside the door and spotted her target. Elizabeth Crane, the muffin-baking matchmaker extraordinaire. Corinne pushed Jimmy out of her thoughts and focused instead on the woman coming to greet her with a bakery bag in one hand and a wide smile on her face. Elizabeth "Bitty" Crane had an uncommon knack for what some would call meddling, but most knew it was pure matchmaking skill. Corinne had never known Bitty to be wrong when she announced that a couple
fit
. If only her brother Dalton had listened before he eloped with Melanie…but he didn't, and now he was alone and miserable.

She refused to follow in Dalton's footsteps, or those of their parents before them. She'd come to her senses, hopefully before it was too late. She wanted Jimmy Crane. They were meant to be together. If that meant enlisting the help of his mother, so be it.

Corinne stood under the fresh pine roping that hung from the arched entrance to the main hall and took a deep, lung-filling breath. Fragrant real trees stood tall at each side of the arch, glittering with tinsel, white lights and red glass ornaments. She pulled off her gloves with a relieved sigh, letting the scents of Christmas surround her. She was determined not to give in to her personal despair and allow it to squelch a festive holiday mood. After all, she had a plan.

Mrs. Crane's blue eyes danced with merriment as she held out the signature yellow bag and gave it a shake. "Good morning, Corinne. Fresh from the oven—I know how you love them warm."

"You do know my weakness, Mrs. Crane." Corinne tried not to let her mind race ahead and think what a wonderful mother-in-law Bitty Crane would be. Then Corinne thought about her waistline and decided she might be better off without the permanent supply of the woman's irresistible carbs.

It was hard enough walking by the
Itty Bitty Bake Shop
everyday on her way to work with the tantalizing smells of muffins wafting through the air—having it in the family would be way too tempting.

On the other hand, maybe it was all those carbs that gave Bitty her boundless energy. Always bobbing here and there, dark brown curls framing her cherubic face, her cornflower blue eyes filled with mischief and love. There were no frown lines on her sixty-year-old face, only laugh lines that reached up to her eyes when she winked.

Everyone agreed the annual Preservation Society Holiday Gala would never be the most talked-about event of the season if it weren't for Bitty Crane and her exuberant dedication.

Corinne looked away from the woman whose eyes reminded her so much of Jimmy's. While Jimmy had inherited his six-foot-one height from his father, there was no doubt those dancing, all-seeing, soul-searching eyes came from his mother.

She let Bitty take her by the elbow and lead her into the ballroom. "There's been a slight change in setup plans and so much to do before the gala tomorrow night."

"That's why I'm here," Corinne said with a sigh, trying not to smile as her little white lie slipped easily past her lips. She popped a bite-sized morsel of gingerbread heaven into her mouth while she followed Bitty to the stage. It was difficult to keep her mind off Jimmy when she was so close to his mother, and her mind raced in search of a way to get her to intervene.

Surely his mother had the power to make him listen, didn't she?

Corinne pulled another piece of muffin from the bag while Bitty pointed to her left. "The rest of the ladies will be here any minute, but why don't you get started moving these tables off to the side to make room for the—oh, good, Jimmy, you're here!"

Corinne turned her head so quickly it felt like her neck snapped.

She blinked and he was there, every tall, dark and sexy inch of him, and all she could do was stare. Her inability to speak was thankfully masked by her mouth being stuffed with gingerbread.

Though this was exactly the scenario she'd hoped for, she was grateful her mouth was full of muffin since she couldn't find the right words anyway. It wasn't every day one groveled for forgiveness.

Jimmy walked to his mother, barely glancing her way. "You said it was an emergency, Mom, so I'm here."

The sound of his voice danced along her spine. Warmth radiated up to the base of her neck. Before her mouth went completely dry, she swallowed the remaining bits of muffin and hoped she didn't choke. Could there be a more embarrassing way to die than to choke to death while praying for the love of your life to save you with some good old-fashioned mouth-to-mouth?

While she tried to catch her breath, he walked up beside them and kissed his mother on the cheek. After a cursory nod in Corinne's direction, he faced Bitty. Though he shouldn't be surprised to see her, the way his fingers ran though the hair at the back of his head clearly showed his unease. "Okay, you've got me and my tools for the next four hours. Then I have to help Dalton at the Miller house. So, what's this idea of yours?"

He wore jeans and a plaid flannel shirt in shades of green that opened to a white t-shirt underneath. The sleeves were pushed up almost to his elbows, exposing the well-honed muscles of his forearms. If she leaned closer, she knew she'd smell the familiar woodsy cologne and it would flood her with memories of being enveloped in those strong arms. The irresistible urge to touch him made her fingers twitch and her palms sweat. Knowing he'd pull away from her was the only thing that stopped her from reaching out and taking the chance. She caught the silver blue of his eyes and he quickly turned his attention back to his mother. Deep in conversation, he pushed a hand through his thick brown hair, which only doubled her desire to move closer and brush the stray locks off his brow.

She was miserable and only had herself to blame.

Jimmy and Bitty talked and laughed, but Corinne didn't hear a word. She nodded and smiled, but her eyes never left Jimmy's face. They could be discussing the gala or making fun of her new haircut—she'd never know. Whatever his words, his voice soothed the ache in her heart, if only for a few minutes.

A day's growth of beard covered his jaw line. Mesmerized by his sensual lips, she found herself hoping she'd catch a glimpse of a smile and she latched on to the husky rumble of his laugh. Had it been a whole week since they'd last spoken, seven days since those lips had touched hers?

The next thing she knew a box of ornaments and fresh greens had been thrust into her arms. She blinked to clear her daydreaming vision to focus on Bitty and her detailed directions.

Jimmy walked away and her gaze followed.

The touch on her arm reminded her to focus on the box in her hands. "Don't forget to hang the mistletoe in the doorway," Bitty said with a wink.

Sometime in the last few minutes, while Corinne had been zoning out to her own thoughts of Jimmy's lips on hers, the other committee members had arrived. The room now bustled with activity as they moved tables and covered them with bright red tablecloths. Festive Christmas music filled the hall; the ladies began to sing as they worked. She just didn't have it in her to share their enthusiasm to sing along.

Maybe if
"
Blue Christmas"
came on she'd reconsider.

She moved about the room, doing her part, but Jimmy was never far away. She caught herself watching him work, putting his carpentry skills to good use. When Marie Trumble handed him a cup of coffee, Corinne's gut twisted at the easy smile that lit his face. Though Marie was ten years older and six months pregnant and Corinne had no reason to be jealous, their laughter still rocked her to the core. He was probably telling her how radiant she looked. Jimmy was never short on compliments.

In what seemed like only minutes, the hall was shaping up to be a winter wonderland. Candles, poinsettias and fresh pine centerpieces arrived in boxes to be placed on every table, and gold and silver decorations were readied to be hung from the ceiling. With her last decorations placed on the buffet table, she pulled the mistletoe from the box and found herself searching for a ladder.

She needed Jimmy and his ladder. Okay, she just needed Jimmy.

She took a deep breath and planned the words in her head as her eyes searched the room for him. The only man carrying two-by-fours with a tool belt jingling at his waist wasn't hard to find.

"Can we talk?" Her voice didn't crack, but she cringed at the desperation she heard.

"I'm a little busy here, Corinne."

She moved to the opposite side of the platform he was building, hoping to make eye contact. "I guess that's why you haven't been returning my texts or my calls?"

"Yeah, well, it's a busy time of year."

He pulled a nail from his belt and hammered it into the wood between them with a thud. Tears welled in her eyes and she didn't try to stop them. Jimmy needed to see them; he needed to see that he wasn't the only one in pain right now.

BOOK: Muffins And Mistletoe (A Starlight Hills Holiday Novella)
2.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

A Mother's Wish by Dilly Court
Car Wash by Dylan Cross
The Other Side of Midnight by Mike Heffernan
The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz
A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters
Enraptured by Candace Camp
Hit by Tara Moss
Rich Pickings by Ashe Barker