It’s October, which means the season for Christmas books is upon us! We’ll start to see contemporary Christian romance holiday releases popping up all over. Are you a fan of holiday books? I’m a sucker for just about any story that happens during the Christmas season. Throw in romance and I’m hooked!
That’s why I’m thrilled to tell you that the one book I’m releasing this year is a Christmas novella! The Last Mountain Christmas will appear in Marry Christmas, the 8th installment of the Christmas Lights Collection, releasing later this month. Other novellas are by Inspy Romance’s own Jaycee Weaver as well as Chautona Having and Cathe Swanson. Each novella in the collection will include a wedding set at Christmastime.
Today, I want to give you a sneak peek of The Last Mountain Christmas by offering you part of the first chapter! First a little about the story:
For two weeks every December, the Macintosh and Reynolds’ families meet at the cabin the parents purchased together twenty years ago to celebrate Christmas in the North Carolina mountains. After missing the last four Christmases, Chelsea Macintosh can’t believe Owen Reynolds, her used-to-be best friend and first heartbreak, is back. Owen must finally face the scene of his own broken heart. When their parents announce that they’re planning to sell the cabin, cheery Chelsea and scroogey Owen are thrust into the role of wedding planners for Chelsea’s little sister Cecily and her fiancé Harry, who decide to marry at the family getaway while they still can. Awkwardness, rekindled friendship, and Christmas shenanigans ensue in this opposites attract, second-chance romance.
Truth was, nothing could ruin Chelsea’s merry mood. Not the dreary weather when she’d left Charleston that morning. Not the vile peppermint syrup accidentally added to her midday mocha. Not even the sputtering tractor she had to crawl behind on Highway 47 for three miles before the turnoff at Hemlock Hollow Road.
She was at the cabin for another mountain Christmas, and all was right with the world.
A few minutes later, with long-ago fallen leaves crunching underfoot, Chelsea made her way down to the ring of Adirondack chairs circling a large firepit a dozen yards into the woods behind the cabin. The cozy aroma of cedar embers and chatter of familiar voices welcomed her.
“Happy Mountain Christmas, everyone!” A faint cloud from her breath punctuated her declaration.
An uproar of excitement erupted as everyone stood to greet her. Chelsea was passed from person to person as though moving through a revolving door of hugs. A tight squeeze from her dad, Mitch Macintosh. A dainty embrace from her petite little sister, Cecily, followed by a friendly grin and wave from Harry Jackson, the tall, lanky—farmer, was it? —she’d brought to their parent’s house for Thanksgiving three weeks ago.
As Chelsea moved around the circle, she tossed her mom a What’s he doing here? with wide eyes. Not that Chelsea objected. But her sister had been casually dating Harry for just over a month. And the last time someone whose last name wasn’t Macintosh or Reynolds visited the cabin for Christmas, it didn’t exactly end well.
A shrug from her mom was no help at all.
Chelsea moved on to Helen Reynolds—Aunt Helen—who wasn’t actually a relation at all, but her mom’s longtime best friend from college. “Good to see you, honey.”
Next was Helen’s husband, Greg, who had the best hug of the bunch.
Just as she thought the hugs were done, another person standing on the other side of the firepit caught Chelsea’s eye.
She squinted to see past the glow of the fire to the tall, broad figure. Before searching out the man’s face, she noticed white dots illuminated on what he held in his hands.
“Hey, that’s my mug!”
He looked down at it briefly then locked his eyes with hers as he held up the hand-painted red mug with white snowflakes. “This tacky thing?”
Chelsea inhaled a short, sharp breath. She’d know that deep, Southern drawl anywhere. Owen Reynolds. Was it possible to get clammy hands in near-freezing temperatures?
It’d been four years since he’d come to the cabin for Christmas. Why hadn’t anyone told her he was coming?
Thankfully, her spunky resolve kicked in with her next inhale. She wiped the hand not holding her coffee mug as subtly as she could manage along the sides of her jeans, squared her shoulders, and forced her merriest smile.
“Well, it’s a Mountain Christmas miracle.” Gravel crunched as she made her way around the fire and offered him a quick side hug.
The light touch of his hand on her shoulder—or maybe hearing him use the nickname he’d called her since they were kids—caused every nerve to go haywire without permission.
Darn her keen sense memory.
If it weren’t for the overpowering aroma of the fire, would she also detect that scent of sunscreen and pine he always had?
Oh, my word. Snap out of it.
He took a sip from the mug and studied it a moment before lowering it to his side. “I thought it looked familiar when I grabbed it. I’d have happily gone for a basic year-round mug if there were any to be had.”
Chelsea didn’t know if she found the almost undetectable upturn of his lips annoying or downright endearing. If her heart stood any chance of surviving this unexpected turn of events, she had to go with annoying.
She pressed her lips to her second-string mug, not daring to break eye contact with him. “Still a bah humbug, I see.”
“Still waiting for your promotion to elf, I see.” His eyes drifted to her cream-colored cable knit sweater with Be Merry spelled out in rainbow letters across her chest.
“Goodness, no two banter quite like y’all do.” Helen patted her son on the arm and giggled before finding her seat.
Owen finally looked away and rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. He reclaimed the chair he’d stood from and turned his attention to a conversation happening between his dad and hers.
Chelsea took the opportunity to settle into an open chair between her mom and sister. She was thankful they were each engaged in their own conversations as well; Harry and her sister were all but cuddling, and her mom had her phone to her ear, probably checking for any messages left at their business back in Greenville.
She tried to resist, but Chelsea’s eyes were drawn to Owen. He hadn’t changed much since she’d seen him four Christmases ago. His dark hair was a bit longer on top and he had grown a short beard. It suited him.
Chelsea drew in a sobering lungful of crisp Blue Ridge Mountain air and turned her gaze to the blanket of stars overhead.
Helen was right about their banter. Since they were kids, Chelsea and Owen had spent visits and vacations verbally sparring like it was an Olympic sport. Both rarely missed a beat, teasing and taunting until the match ended in a rolling fit of laughter.
But what had, for years, been all fun and games had eventually developed a slight edge sharpened by bitterness, which she feared had been one-sided. He didn’t care enough about her to have any regret over how the dynamic between them had eventually shifted. Or to ask why.
Owen seemed to be the only person who could do what the dreary Charleston weather, disgusting peppermint mocha, snail-paced tractor, and mysteriously missing mug couldn’t do: ruin her merry mood.
Then again, Owen Reynolds was also the only person who’d broken her heart.
Read More! Marry Christmas Releases Soon!
What do you think? I hope this little snippet intrigues you and makes you want to know more about Chelsea and Owen’s pasts AND how this last mountain Christmas at the cabin might change everything about their futures!
Follow me on Facebook or Instagram, or keep an eye on my website for news about when and how to get your copy of Marry Christmas, the Christmas Lights Collection that will include The Last Mountain Christmas. It releases late October and I can’t wait for you to enjoy each holiday wedding story! In