Authors: Jax Garren
A frozen heart…
Three years ago, amid grief and defeat, the man who once made Carrie Martin believe in happily-ever-afters deserted her on New Year’s Day. Ever since, she’s seen no reason for holiday joy amid the materialism and chaos of the most stressful time of year. So when a tipsy guy in a mall elf costume falls into her lap at happy hour and starts spouting poetry, it’s just one more reason to be disgusted at the season’s excess.
A man who’s more than he appears…
Brett Vertanen, part-time elf and a caterer-in-training, is smitten with Carrie’s strength and sass. Having faced down a painful past of his own, he’s determined to be the one to warm her frozen heart. But when Carrie’s job forces her to attend a gala hosted by her ex—and his new wife—it could take more magic than a costumed elf can conjure to make this ice princess once again believe in love.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hinson
ISBN (Kindle) : 978-0-9911641-0-3
ISBN (.epub) : 978-0-9911641-1-0
Edited by: Rhonda Helms - http://rhondaedits.com/
Proofread by: Abby Weber - [email protected]
Cover Design by: Crystal Posey - http://posey.crevado.com/#609000
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Jax Garren.
Visit Jax at www.jaxgarren.com
To Betty, Carolyn and Laura—three generations of awesome.
very December the ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia by unchaining their harvest god.
Hanukkah’s olive oil miracle happened in 165 BCE. A couple of hundred years
before that, the Persian holiday Shab-e Chelleh commemorated the sun’s annual
return, and the Chinese have recognized Dongzhi, the balance of light and dark,
for who knows how long. Jesus is only one of many,
reasons for the
season.” Carrie sipped Shawn’s latest craft cocktail, hoping to ease the annual
gut-clench that started around Thanksgiving and would last until the New Year. “I told the guy at the mall that, and judging by his reaction, you’d think I’d
punched a toddler, not stated facts.”
friend Lora, sitting in the swank, faux-leather seat next to her at the bar,
blinked in consternation.
shifted in her seat, trying to find a more comfortable position, and took
another drink. It no longer tasted quite right. Had the whiskey gone down
smoother without the sour shot of self-righteousness? Probably. Ugh. Three more
weeks until peace and normalcy replaced explosions of tinsel and false cheer,
and she couldn’t wait.
Carrie’s knee in that way she had when she wanted to be nice but thought Carrie
had dropped off the deep end. “Is whipping grumpy old men into an angry froth
part of the new holiday spirit?”
frowned. She hadn’t dropped off anything. “He lectured me first. Why? Because I
wished him ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ I wasn’t making a
political statement. I was trying to be nice. It’s not like
anything.” Bad memories hovered, threatening to crash in and make her blubber,
but she cast them back. It wasn’t really this guy and his campaign that had her
so worked up. The memories were of two years ago, the last Christmas she’d ever
celebrated—and ever would.
escaped her as she tapped her fingers on the table and tried to analyze without
feeling. “Fine. I know better. He reminded me of Lincoln’s father. I think
that’s why I went nuts. Some Pagan group was collecting money for coats right
next to us. I dumped my whole wallet in because I knew it would’ve pissed Mr.
Bryant off, and it
wasn’t even him
.” It amazed her how memories had the power
to leap up at the worst times and turn her into somebody she didn’t like. Not
that making a donation was a bad thing, but she didn’t normally do it out of
She shook her
head to clear it, and the motion caught her hair in a low-hanging pine swag.
Grunting with frustration, she untangled it. Good thing she kept it bobbed or
she’d have left brown curls among the gold-painted cherubs. “I
have every right to, but don’t let overzealous people get to you, okay? It’s
not worth it.” Sympathy rolled through Lora’s voice, making it even harder not
to tear up.
meeting her friend’s gaze like a brave woman who didn’t let strangers at the
mall make her cry, Carrie looked around the room. The dark wood tables and pub
décor of her favorite craft cocktail bar were maxed out in evergreen and gold,
providing no safe seats. Her house had once looked a lot like this, cheerful
and decorated to the hilt like a medieval castle. Now, though, walking through
the day, pretending to feel the cheer she used to genuinely possess made her
hollow inside. The guy today had been just too much to take, making her all
grouchy. It was easier to feel grouchy than barren.
. She muddled over the awkward silence. “This place looks like a
Renaissance holiday card, like it’s just waiting for madrigal singers to come
caroling forth with a boar’s head. They have amazing venison stew, with that
rosemary turnip puree, and now we have to avoid the bar until New Year’s.”
on an apple cider martini and eyed her critically, as if determining what tack
to take. Everyone wanted to help and no one knew how. Grief made people
uncomfortable, and Carrie felt bad for her friends who had to put up with her.
Finally Lora said, “
avoid the bar. I’ll be here for our happy hour eating
turnip puree. Don’t be a grinch. I love you no matter what, but maybe getting
back into a festive spirit would be good for you.” She grinned and teased, “And
you are wearing a holiday-colored sweater in December.”
sake of her friend, Carrie forced a smile onto her face and levity into her
voice. Fake it ’til you make it, right? Not that that had worked last year.
“It’s my favorite sweater! Green goes with my eyes.”
whistled, a bemused smile on his face. He’d been listening.
She waved at him,
including him in the conversation. “What do you think, Shawn? Is yuletide
merriment a requirement?” As surly as the talented mixologist normally was,
he’d have to be on her side.
surprise, his grizzled face turned almost jolly as he barked a laugh and said,
“Only for happy people.” He swiped under the counter and returned with a Santa
hat. “Want to try it?”
lurched with the lead weight of his words. No, she wasn’t happy, as the raw
feeling climbing up her throat would attest. Sometimes she worried she never
would be again, and that terrified her.
But that wasn’t
his job to point out, and wearing a silly hat wasn’t going to fix it. Shawn
meant well, but this was it. Limit breached. She stood to make a bathroom
mistake, the bartender pushed another drink her way. She’d give him a smile and
drink his apology when she came back, but now she needed space.
Should I come with you?” Lora asked, eyes all wide in concern as she stood to
I’m fine. Just picking debris from my hair.” Everything
she’d just had a bad day and needed five minutes alone to get it back together.
Five minutes of peace.
and crashed into an elf. The cold stickiness of a mixed drink seeped through
her favorite sweater as the tall man in a puffy green and red costume stumbled
back, muttering, “Sorry…sorry…sorry…”
looked down at her shirt, now splotched with peppermint-scented red and likely
ruined. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
came from the doorway, followed by a muttered, “G’luck, Brett,” and the front
door pounded shut.
sir—” The elf turned to the door, drunkenly lost his footing, tripped…and
regained his balance.
arms, up to defend herself from accidental elf molestation or, maybe, to help
the man stay upright, lowered. On his next step, though, the elf-man slipped on
spilled drink and slammed backward onto her. She fell back into her chair with
an inelegant “oof.”