The Christmas Gift by Anna Adams
Jack Banning promised to support the mother of his unborn child... But she doesn't need money, she only needs him.
The Christmas Wish by Anna J Stewart
Callie Banning's student has declared war on Christmas, so it's up to her to help the little girl—and her widowed father—believe again.
The Christmas Date by Melinda Curtis
Gina Vernay is about to meet her online mystery date...and she's in for the surprise of a lifetime!
Heat level: As with all Harlequin Heartwarming books, this story is sweet (has no overt sensuality, rated PG).
In the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning, Gina stood at the edge of the town square and traced the deep, jagged scar that ran from her left temple to her jawline with the tip of a gloved finger, as if her touch could erase the past. The small ball of worry, the one that hadn’t let her sleep last night, expanded like bread dough in her chest, pressing against her lungs.
I should have told him.
Snow fell silently, blanketing the square and the balsam firs lining it. The trees, mistletoe gazebo and surrounding quaint old buildings were draped in holiday lights. The town square looked like a snow globe, beautifully pristine and peaceful. The wind swirled around her, stealing her worried breath.
A whistled tune drifted through the darkness. “Jingle Bells.”
A block away, a figure appeared on Taylor Street. Nick Banning, the town handyman and whistler.
Gina sucked in cold, much-needed air. There was too much to do today for her to wallow in what-ifs. She hadn’t told him and this afternoon she’d face the consequences.
Carefully, Gina walked along the snowy sidewalk toward The Tea Pot. She’d bought the corner shop from her aunt last summer, trading in safe columns of numbers and isolated cubicles for early morning pastry making and running the place where everyone in town gathered.
Arriving at her doorstep just as she did, Nick finished a whistled chorus, his breath mingling with snowflakes. “Morning.” He had a boxy tool bag slung over his shoulder. Holiday lights softly illuminated his handsome, reassuring features. Nick was one of the few people in the world who made Gina feel at ease, despite her scar.
She hurried to unlock the door and get them out of the cold. Once inside, she scuffed her boot soles across the extra large doormat, ridding them of snow. “When I asked you to show up first thing, I didn’t really think you’d show up this early...whistling.”
“No reason not to whistle.” He stomped the snow from his feet, first on the outside grill, then on the inside mat. “Big day today.”
She had the distinct impression that he knew she had a date this afternoon, and was teasing her about it. Gina flipped on the lights and peered at Nick. He tugged off his knit cap and slid it into a coat pocket, revealing short dark hair, a gaze that didn’t mock and a familiar, lopsided grin.
Nick caught her staring. His grin widened. “What? You forgot today’s Christmas Eve? The annual Christmas pageant? The night Santa Claus comes to town?”
“No...I...no.” Of course he didn’t know about her blind date. Well, it wasn’t exactly a blind date. In her continued quest to de-comfort zone herself, she’d signed up for an online dating service and had been instant messaging a guy named Football20 for a week. He was going to introduce himself to her in person this afternoon. They planned to have coffee together. That was, if he didn’t take one look at her scar and bail.
The Story Behind the Story
Every month, I have a cyber meeting with 2-3 other writers. We aren’t exactly a critique group, but we don’t meet just to chat. We plot stories and work out story dilemmas and sometimes talk about pie-in-the-sky projects. One of these sessions resulted in a book pitch to Harlequin Heartwarming.
Anna Adams, Anna Stewart and I were talking about our love of holiday stories and the idea for Christmas Town, Maine was born. We created a family and a town filled with holiday traditions. We each wrote a novella and moved on. Except, we didn’t exactly move on. The following year we asked nine other Harlequin Heartwarming authors to revisit Christmas Town and created a collection of connected, holiday stories in A Heartwarming Christmas, something we plan to do annually. So if you enjoyed reading Christmas, Actually, and visiting Christmas Town, you’ll enjoy our annual anthologies!