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Authors: Debbie Macomber

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The Perfect Christmas

BOOK: The Perfect Christmas
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Praise for Debbie Macomber’s Christmas Stories

“With
The Perfect Christmas,
Macomber has spun Christmas gold… The author’s charming style comes through with every turn of the page, leading readers through a variety of emotions—so keep a box of tissues at hand! Definitely one for the keeper shelf, highly recommended!”


The Romance Readers Connection


Call Me Mrs. Miracle
is an entertaining holiday story that surely will touch the heart… Best of all, readers will rediscover the magic of Christmas.”


Bookreporter.com

“With a wink and a wish, there’s always magic whenever Mrs. Miracle shows up, along with some good old-fashioned romance! Don’t miss this special Christmas book!”


Romance Reviews Today
on
Call Me Mrs. Miracle

“Familiar townspeople, three impulsive brothers on the hunt, and a pair of appealing protagonists bring to life this sweet, humorous romance that, with its many obvious parallels, is a satisfying, almost tongue-in-cheek retelling of the Christmas story.”


Library Journal
on
A Cedar Cove Christmas

“A lighthearted, decidedly modern retelling of the Christmas story, this is vintage Macomber. Its charm and humor are balanced by the emotional impact of heroine Mary Jo’s situation, and many readers will find it irresistible.”


RT Book Reviews
on
A Cedar Cove Christmas

“Macomber’s latest charming contemporary Christmas romance is a sweetly satisfying, gently humorous story that celebrates the joy and love of the holiday season.”


Booklist
on
Christmas Letters

“Macomber’s take on
A Christmas Carol
…adds up to another tale of romance in the lives of ordinary people, with a message that life is like a fruitcake: full of unexpected delights.”


Publishers Weekly
on
There’s Something About Christmas

“It’s just not Christmas without a Debbie Macomber story.”


Armchair Interviews

Also by Debbie Macomber

Blossom Street Books

The Shop on Blossom Street

A Good Yarn

Susannah’s Garden

Back on Blossom Street

Twenty Wishes

Summer on Blossom Street

Hannah’s List

The Twenty-First Wish
(in
The Knitting Diaries)

A Turn in the Road

Cedar Cove Books

16 Lighthouse Road

204 Rosewood Lane

311 Pelican Court

44 Cranberry Point

50 Harbor Street

6 Rainier Drive

74 Seaside Avenue

8 Sandpiper Way

92 Pacific Boulevard

1022 Evergreen Place

Christmas in Cedar Cove (5-B Poppy Lane
and
A Cedar Cove Christmas)

1105 Yakima Street

1225 Christmas Tree Lane

The Manning Family

The Manning Sisters

The Manning Brides

The Manning Grooms

Christmas Books

A Gift to Last

On a Snowy Night

Home for the Holidays

Glad Tidings

Christmas Wishes

Small Town Christmas

When Christmas Comes

There’s Something About Christmas

Christmas Letters

Where Angels Go

The Perfect Christmas

Angels at Christmas (Those Christmas Angels
and
Where Angels Go)

Call Me Mrs. Miracle

Trading Christmas (Trading Christmas
—previously titled
When Christmas Comes—
and
The Forgetful Bride)

Dakota Series

Dakota Born

Dakota Home

Always Dakota

Heart of Texas Series

VOLUME 1

(Lonesome Cowboy
and
Texas Two-Step)

VOLUME 2

(Caroline’s Child
and
Dr. Texas)

VOLUME 3

(Nell’s Cowboy
and
Lone Star Baby)

Promise, Texas

Return to Promise

Midnight Sons

VOLUME 1

(Brides for Brothers
and
The Marriage Risk)

VOLUME 2

(Daddy’s Little Helper
and
Because of the Baby)

VOLUME 3

(Falling for Him
and
Ending in Marriage
and
Midnight Sons and Daughters)

This Matter of Marriage

Montana

Thursdays at Eight

Between Friends

Changing Habits

Married in Seattle (First Comes Marriage
and
Wanted: Perfect Partner)

Right Next Door (Father’s Day
and
The Courtship of Carol Sommars)

Wyoming Brides (Denim and Diamonds
and
The Wyoming Kid)

Fairy Tale Weddings (Cindy and the Prince
and
Some Kind of Wonderful)

The Man You’ll Marry (The First Man You Meet
and
The Man You’ll Marry)

Orchard Valley Grooms (Valerie
and
Stephanie)

Orchard Valley Brides (Norah
and
Lone Star Lovin’)

The Sooner the Better

An Engagement in Seattle (Groom Wanted
and
Bride Wanted)

Out of the Rain (Marriage Wanted
and
Laughter in the Rain)

Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove Cookbook

Debbie Macomber’s Christmas Cookbook

DEBBIE MACOMBER
The Perfect Christmas

To
Gary and Marsha Roche

And
In Memory of Bob Mullen With thanks for sharing their love of Civil War history With Wayne and me

October 2011

Dear Friends,

I believe many of us dream—or dreamed!—about hosting the perfect Christmas. It took me most of my adult life to realize that “perfect” and “Christmas” are two words that don’t really go together….

I remember the year the kids and I bought a
huge
Christmas tree, leaving my poor husband to fit it into a stand about seven times too small. That “perfect” Christmas tree ended up being tossed out the front door with a few choice words from Wayne.

Then there was the Christmas I spent the entire day in the kitchen cooking the perfect dinner for my young family. Just about everything that could go wrong did, including losing electricity in the middle of roasting the turkey. By the time dinner was ready, I was exhausted. Imagine my dismay when I realized all four kids were far more interested in playing with their new toys, and Wayne had been snacking all afternoon and wasn’t hungry. Let me just say—not our best Christmas.

Over the years we’ve refined our family traditions but the idea of the perfect Christmas lingers in my mind, so—as inevitably happens with writers—I decided to create a story based on that elusive goal. This book was first published in hardcover in 2009; you’ll see that I’ve provided a new epilogue, which gives you a brief update on the characters and their lives. I’ve also included additional bonus material, such as a few recipes from my brand-new Christmas cookbook and a knitting pattern. And you’ll also find one of my first Christmas stories—still a favorite of mine—
Can This Be Christmas?

I’d love to hear from you—whether it’s just to say hello, to tell me what you think of the story or to describe your own “perfect” (or not so perfect!) Christmas. You can reach me at P.O. Box 1458, Port Orchard, WA 98366, or through my website, www.DebbieMacomber.com.

Merry Christmas!

THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS
Chapter 1

“W
ho mails out Christmas cards before Thanksgiving?” Cassie Beaumont lamented to her best friend.

Angie Barber looked up from her microscope and seemed to take an extra moment to consider what Cassie had just said. “You got a Christmas card? Already?”

Cassie wheeled her chair back to her station. “Can you believe it?”

“Who from?”

“An old college friend. You wouldn’t know her.” Cassie shrugged. “Jill married Tom two weeks after we graduated.”

“They have children?”

Cassie caught the wisp of longing in Angie’s voice and answered with a nod. “Two, a boy and a girl, and of course they’re adorable.”

“Of course,” Angie echoed.

The Christmas card photo showed the four of them in matching outfits of green and red. The mother and daughter wore full-length green dresses with red-and-green plaid skirts. Father and son had on three-piece suits with vests in the same fabric as the dress skirts. It was too adorable for words.

“There was a letter, as well.”

“Everything in their lives is perfect, right?” Angie asked.

“Perfect in every way,” Cassie grumbled. The unfairness of it all was too much. Jill, who worked as a financial planner, held down a forty-hour-a-week job, kept a meticulous house and
still
managed to be a terrific wife and mother. Despite all the demands on her time, she’d mailed out her Christmas cards a full month in advance.

“Is there a reason the perfect Jill sent her Christmas cards so soon?” Angie asked.

“Jill and Tom just moved into a new home and wanted to update family and friends with their address change. Oh, and there was a photo of the house and it was—”

“Perfect,” Angie finished for her.

“Perfect doesn’t begin to describe it.”

Angie watched her closely. “Do I detect a slight note of envy?” she asked.

“Slight envy? Me?” Cassie asked, exaggerating the words. “Heavens, no. What you’re hearing is a full-blown case of jealousy. The green-eyed monster is alive and well.” Cassie rolled her chair to the end of
a counter filled with an assortment of microscopes, test tubes, slides and other equipment, then stood, hands propped on her hips. “Do you realize how long it’s been since I’ve been on a real date?”

“You went out with Greg last week,” Angie reminded her.

“Greg isn’t a man,” Cassie blurted out. “I mean, he is, but not in the sense of someone I’m interested in,” she said. “Greg’s…completely unsuitable as marriage material.” She didn’t need to explain that, at thirty-four, the ticking of her biological clock got louder by the year.

Angie sighed. “I agree.”

He was eligible in practically every way but he happened to be divorced and in love with his ex-wife. Unfortunately, he hadn’t figured that out yet. The entire date, if it could even be called a date, was spent rehashing the tragedy of his divorce. He went on and on about how much he missed his three kids—and his ex-wife, if the number of times he mentioned her name was any indication. The night had been sheer drudgery for Cassie. It was her first and last date with Greg.

“The problem is, we don’t meet many guys here at work,” Angie said. Cassie was well aware of that. Since they were holed up in a lab eight to ten hours a day, working as biochemists for a plastics company, the opportunities to socialize outside the job were limited.

“What really hit home,” Cassie said, “after receiving that Christmas card, is how badly I want a family of my own.”

“I know.” The longing was back in Angie’s voice, too.

“I don’t understand why it’s so hard to meet men. I’m reasonably attractive, right?”

Angie nodded enthusiastically. “Yes.”

“Thirty-four isn’t so old, is it?”

“Not really.”

Cassie shook her head and wondered why she was still single. She
wanted
to be married, and she liked to think she had the full package—five-five, dark hair, dark eyes. She was attractive, as Angie had confirmed, and she was smart, with a successful career, an engaging personality (if she did say so herself) and plenty of friends. “I blame my mother for this.”

“Your mother?”

“I blame my father, too, even if he didn’t stick around all that long.”

“Or maybe
because
he didn’t stick around.”

“Yeah, I guess. After the divorce, my mother was so down on marriage, the whole idea terrified me.”

“But it doesn’t anymore, does it?”

“No. I want a husband and I’d really like children.” She grinned. “The ironic thing is, my mother’s remarried.”

“Marriage seems to terrify your brother, too. Shawn should be married by now, don’t you think? He’s older than you are.”

“I’m not so sure about Shawn.” Cassie sometimes wondered if Angie might be interested in her brother. There was actually nothing to indicate that, but every once in a while Cassie had this
feeling
…?. “He travels so
much that maintaining a long-term relationship would be difficult for him.”

“True,” Angie said.

Shawn was a well-known artist who painted murals all over the country. Brother and sister were close and kept in touch, calling each other two or three times a week. Currently Shawn was in Boca Raton, Florida, painting the side of a building that stood next to the freeway. He’d sent her photos of the mural from his cell phone—an ocean scene, which Cassie knew was his favorite. Whales rising up out of the crashing waves. Dolphins and sea turtles and all kinds of fish frolicked in the sparkling blue water. His murals made headlines wherever he went and huge crowds showed up to watch him paint.

“Shawn’s a different case,” Cassie said. In her opinion, that summed up the situation pretty accurately.

“But if you were married, I bet he’d show some interest in finding a wife,” Angie commented.

Cassie had never thought of their family dynamic in those terms. Perhaps, in some obscure way, Shawn
was
waiting for her to make the leap first. Angie might be right. It wasn’t that Shawn followed her lead—far from it. They’d both been traumatized by the divorce and by their mother’s reaction. Their father, who wanted his kids to call him Pete, had been in and out of their lives. Mostly out and yet…yet he’d had a powerful influence on his children, whom he rarely recognized as such.

“Shawn won’t feel marriage is safe until he sees
you
happily married,” Angie went on to say.

Cassie scowled at her friend. “What makes you so smart?”

“Just an observation,” Angie said. “I may not be correct, but it seems to me that you and Shawn are afraid of love.”

“Me afraid of love? Hardly.” Not if the longing in her heart was anything to go by. Like her friend Jill, she wanted it all.

“Whenever you meet a man—no matter how perfect he is—you find fault with him,” Angie said.

Now,
that
was categorically untrue. “Not so,” Cassie argued.

“Oh, it’s all wine and roses in the beginning, but then it’s over before you even have a chance to really know the guy.”

“How can you say that?”

“Well, mostly,” Angie told her softly, “I can say it because I’ve seen you do it again and again.”

“You’re not talking about me and Jess, are you? The man had no class. He scratched his private parts in public!”

“Not Jess.”

“Who do you mean, then?”

“Rod.”

Cassie cocked her head. “Rod? Rod who?”

“I don’t remember his last name. You went out with him a year ago.”

“Not Rod Showers? Good grief, he was so cheap I had to pay for my half of the meal and tip the valet because he refused to do it.”

“What about Charles…”

Cassie got the point quickly enough. “Okay, okay, so I have standards.”

“High standards.”

“Okay, fine. High standards.” Cassie had made the effort, though. “I’ve
tried
to meet men.”

“We both have.”

“I had hopes for that online dating service.” The advertisements had looked so promising. Cassie and Angie had signed up together and then waited expectantly to meet their perfect matches.

It didn’t happen.

“I had real hopes for that, too,” Angie returned sadly. “I thought for sure we’d meet really wonderful husbands.”

Cassie sighed. That had been an expensive venture. Her expectations had been great and her disappointment greater. Angie’s, too. In fact, Angie was the one who’d suggested trying the Internet.

“The church singles group was a good idea,” she said now.

“A great idea,” Cassie concurred, “if there’d been any men involved.” They’d gone there to discover the group consisted of thirty women and two men—both close to retirement age.

Angie nodded. “The pickings were few and far between.”

“We’ve read all the right books,” Cassie said. “
Dating for Dummies. How to Find a Man in Five Easy Lessons.
My personal favorite was
Lasso Yourself a Husband and Other Ways to Make a Man Notice You.

“The only thing we managed to lasso was a hundred-dollar credit-card bill for all those books.”

“Divided two ways,” Cassie reminded her.

“They did make for interesting reading.”

“They would’ve been a lot more interesting if we’d been able to make any of them work,” Cassie said in acerbic tones.

“Yeah…”

“We’ve tried everything.”

“I’m not giving up,” Angie insisted. “And I won’t let you give up, either.”

Cassie sighed.

She was close to it. The Christmas card from Jill and Tom was the final straw. For too long she’d been convinced that one day soon, she’d be mailing glossy Christmas cards to all
her
friends and relatives. She, too, would have a photograph that showed the perfect husband, the perfect children, a boy and a girl, all looking forward to the perfect Christmas. But year after year it was the same. No husband. No children. And each Christmas with her embittered mother more depressing than the one before.

The time had come to step forward and find a man, she decided with new resolve. Maybe she did need to lower her standards. She couldn’t allow another Christmas to pass without—

“There’s something, or rather someone, you
haven’t
tried,” Angie said, cutting into Cassie’s thoughts.

Cassie perked up. “Oh?”

Angie grew strangely quiet.

Cassie frowned. “Don’t hold out on me now, Angie.”

“He’s expensive.”

“How expensive? No, wait, don’t tell me.” She paused. “Who is this
he?

“A matchmaker.”

“A matchmaker,” Cassie repeated slowly. “I didn’t know there was such a thing in this day and age.”

“There is.” Angie avoided eye contact. “In fact, more and more people are turning to professional matchmakers. It works, too—most of the time.”

“Now tell me how expensive he is.”

“Thirty thousand dollars.”

“What?”

“You heard me—and apparently he’s worth it.”

“And you know about him because…” Cassie let the question hang between them.

“Because I went to him.”

Cassie slapped her hands against her sides. “Clearly you wasted your money.”

“It didn’t cost me a dime.”

“And why is that?”

Angie’s gaze darted in every direction except Cassie’s. “He wouldn’t accept me as a client.”

“He rejected you?” The man was nuts! Angie was lovely and smart and a thousand other adjectives that flew through her mind. “What’s wrong with this guy, anyway?”

“He was right…?. I’m not a good candidate and I would’ve been wasting my money.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

“I…I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been turned down.”

“If he rejected you, then he’ll probably reject me, too.”

“No…he said he couldn’t accept me because I have feelings for someone else.”

“Do you?”

“I did—a long time ago,” she said without elaborating further. “But don’t let my experience dissuade you. Check him out. Like you said earlier, you’ve tried everything else. At least make an appointment and see what he has to say.”

Cassie was tempted to ask more about this man Angie had feelings for, but her friend had clearly signalled an unwillingness to talk about it. As far as the matchmaker went, she wasn’t convinced. “He actually does this for a living?”

“Yes. He has an office and an assistant. I asked him for his credentials and he has an advanced degree in psychology and—” Angie stared directly at her “—he guarantees his work.”

“Guarantees?”

“Yes. If he doesn’t find you a husband, you get a full refund. So make an appointment and see for yourself. Remember—nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“I’ll consider it,” Cassie said. She hated to admit that the idea intrigued her. Then again, it
was
rather archaic. Besides, if this man had rejected Angie, he couldn’t be any good. Still it was an opportunity, and nothing else had presented itself.

When she got to her condo building that evening, Cassie stopped at her mailbox in the lobby and immediately noticed that her newspaper was missing. No
surprise there. It vanished every Tuesday when the shopping ads came out. Her neighbor Mrs. Mullinex, took it, although Cassie hadn’t been able to prove that yet. On Wednesday mornings, her paper mysteriously reappeared with the coupons clipped out. Twice now, Cassie had met her neighbor in the lobby. The grandmotherly woman didn’t resemble a thief and would’ve been above suspicion if not for the handful of coupons she clutched in her gloved fingers.

Grumbling under her breath, Cassie headed for her apartment. She tossed the mail on the kitchen counter without looking. The picture of Jill, Tom and their two children smiled at her from the refrigerator door.

The perfect family having the perfect Christmas.

Jill’s smile seemed to be telling Cassie “All this could be yours, too.”

“A matchmaker?” Cassie said aloud. “Am I really resorting to this?”

Angie had given Cassie his business card and then for good measure a hug and parting words of advice. “Just do it. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.”

Cassie hesitated and glanced over at the perfect family posed in front of the world’s most beautiful Christmas tree. Oh, for heaven’s sake, what would it hurt?

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