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Mistletoe and Wedding Bells (eBook)

Mistletoe and Wedding Bells (eBook)

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Tis wedding season at Hope Springs Inn. Three weddings are planned for Christmas Eve. One bride has known her man less than two months. Another is having cold feet. And the third is in for the surprise of her life.


Excerpt

The sound of bells ringing in the distance silences the crowd. Families with young children migrate to the edge of the stone terrace, looking out into the inky darkness toward the mountains. Thousands of white lights blink on, outlining the barn and trees and sidewalk leading down to the lake. The spectators clap and cheer. A jolly voice echoes throughout the farm. “Ho, ho, ho!” More bells ring, and the night goes quiet again.

“Stella,” Jazz says, tugging on my coat sleeve. She lifts her sweet face to me. “Do you believe in Santa Claus? Mommy says there’s no such thing as Santa.”

My heart goes out to my half sister. Only a callous woman like Naomi would tell her six-year-old daughter there’s no such thing as Santa.

I bend over, eye level with Jazz. “I believe in the magic of Christmas, Jazzy.” I touch my finger to her chest. “That magic lives inside of each of us. You get to decide whether you want to believe in Santa. No one else can decide that for you.”

She drags her pink tongue over chocolate-smudged lips. “But I’m living with you now. If there is a Santa, how will he find me?”

I cup her cheek, my thumb caressing her smooth caramel skin. “He’ll find you, sweetheart. That’s part of the magic.”

“If you say so.” Jazz trusts me, despite not being fully convinced.

Christmas is in three weeks. I have twenty-one days to turn her into a believer.

Jazz draws in a quick breath when she sees a golden retriever puppy on the leash of a little boy about her age. “Aw. Look. Isn’t that puppy cute? Can I go pet him?” The puppy is obviously a male, fat with a boxy face and clunky paws.

“As long as you promise not to wander off.” She skips away, and I call after her. “And ask the boy first before you pet his dog.”

The little boy is as blond as his puppy. When Jazz approaches him, he smiles and sweeps his arm toward his dog.

Noticing Katherine and Presley standing at the edge of the crowd, I join them. “Congratulations on an amazing job with the lights and the illumination party. Once again, you two outdid yourselves.”

Presley jabs an elbow at Katherine. “Our groundskeeper deserves the credit.”

Rosy dots appear on Katherine’s cheeks. “Only for the lights. Our event planner is responsible for the s’mores and the sound effects and getting all these people here. You should see Presley’s calendar of events for December.” Katherine snatches a flyer from the stack Presley is holding and hands it to me.

I scan the long list of events for hotel guests and local townspeople planned for the upcoming weeks at Hope Springs Farm. “You’ve added even more functions since our last meeting.”

Presley takes back the flyer. “Only a few activities to keep the children busy during the week before Christmas. I thought the parents might appreciate an opportunity to enjoy themselves.”

“Good thinking.” Warmth floods my body despite the chilly night. Placing an arm around them, I draw Presley and Katherine in for half hugs. “Our hard work is paying off. For the first time since reopening after the renovations in September, I truly believe the inn will make it. I only wish Cecily could’ve been here tonight.”

“Cecily’s in the kitchen, overseeing our largest dinner crowd to date,” Presley says. “She’s as happy as a pig in the mud. She reports that reservations for Jameson’s are filling up from now until after New Year’s.”

“That’s amazing. And you’re right. She’s exactly where she wants to be. It’ll be a miracle if we can drag her away from the kitchen long enough to get married on Christmas Day.”

Presley’s brow creases. “Now that you mention it, I admit I’m worried. She can’t seem to spare me five minutes to talk about her reception.”

“You know Cecily. She’s super driven. But I’ll talk to her tomorrow. Now that our new sous chef has started, she can afford to take some time off.”

I shift my gaze to Jazz, who is now sitting cross-legged with her new friend on the terrace while the puppy crawls all over them.

“He’s a cutie,” Presley says.

I smile. “Which one, the boy or the puppy?”

“Both,” Presley says with a laugh.

“She looks happy,” Katherine says. “How’s she adjusting to her new circumstances?”

I flap my hand in the so-so gesture. “Mostly, she’s doing okay. But she’s terrified the judge will make her go back to Naomi.”

A look of horror crosses Katherine’s pretty face. “Is that a possibility?”

“Unfortunately,” I say, an all-too-familiar dread weighing heavily on me. “The judge has given Naomi ninety days to prove herself. She’s cleaned up her act before. There’s nothing stopping her from doing it again.”

“At least Jazz has The Nutcracker to look forward to,” Katherine says. “She told me all about it earlier. Dancing Clara in the opening party scene is a huge deal.”

Presley whips out her phone. “When is that again? I hope we’re invited.”

“Two weeks from tomorrow, on Saturday, December nineteenth, at seven o’clock. Put it in your calendar. Jazz would be disappointed if you don’t come.” I mentally increase the number of seats I need to save for the performance.

Presley’s gray eyes glass over, and I can tell she’s scheming. “Should we plan a reception for the dancers and their parents afterward?”

“I love that idea,” I say. “But don’t you already have enough events to organize this month?”

Presley consults her flyers. “We have nothing booked for that date. I’d like to do something special for Jazz. We’ll host it in the solarium. Cake and punch for the dancers and champagne for their parents.”

“As long as you keep it simple. Jazz will be thrilled. I’ll talk to her instructor. We can encourage the families to stay for dinner in Jameson’s afterward.”

Arms engulf me from behind, and I smell the scent of Jack’s sandalwood cologne. He plants a kiss on my neck and says to Presley and Katherine, “Evening, ladies. Sorry I’m late. I got tied up at the house. I recruited a few of my guys to help install wiring for the sound system.”

“How are the renovations coming?” Katherine asks.

I feel Jack’s body tense. “Slow. The kitchen contractor is dragging his feet. I’d hoped to be in by Christmas, but I’m not sure that will happen.”

“I know this is none of my business but . . .” Presley starts.

Jack groans, and I laugh. “You’re going to say it, anyway.”

“Ha ha.” Presley plants a hand on jutted hip. “So, what’s preventing the two of you from getting married? You’re already engaged. Stella has admitted she doesn’t want a big wedding. You could live together as a family in that big old house, and the judge will deem you better capable of giving Jazz a stable life than Naomi.”

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Synopsis

General manager, Stella Boor, is ready to marry her man and live in the home of her dreams. But she can do neither until she wins permanent custody of her six-year-old half-sister, Jazz. Meanwhile, Jazz’s mother, Naomi, is determined to make trouble for Stella at every turn. When tension mounts, Stella takes drastic measures in order to protect her baby sister.

Event planner, Presley Ingram, is keeping the ultimate secret. She’s planning a surprise wedding for Stella and Jack for Christmas Day. As passion ignites with her new love interest, Presley pauses to consider if she’s planning Stella’s dream wedding. Or her own.

Head chef, Cecily Weber, will wed the love of her life on Christmas Eve. But when her fiancé shows an irresponsible side she’s never before seen, Cecily has second doubts. Is she suffering from pre-wedding jitters? Or will she be forced to choose between marriage and the success she’s worked so hard to achieve?

Other Books in the Series

Book Trailer . . .

About the books . . .

Dream Big, Stella!—Stella's life takes an unexpected turn when she inherits a historic inn from her sperm donor father. With only a flaky boyfriend and dead-end job keeping her in New York, she catches the next train to the Virginia mountains. She as unprepared for the inn’s dilapidated state as she is
for the hostile welcome she receives by the inn’s manager. Why does Naomi resent her? What is she hiding? And who was she to Stella’s father?

Show Me the Way—Presley Ingram has often wondered about her birth parents. Yet her 23andMe test kit remains unopened in her bedside table drawer. When she finds an address on a torn envelope in her adoption file upon her adoptive mother’s death, she makes an impulsive decision to travel to the mountains of Virginia in search of answers. In the charming town of Hope Springs, she discovers her dream job as event planner at the prestigious Inn at Hope Springs Farms and the potential for romance with a ruggedly handsome bartender.

Mistletoe and Wedding Bells—Stella is ready to marry the love of her life and
live in the home of her dreams. Yet her dreams are overshadowed by a battle for
custody of her spirited six-year-old half-sister. Meanwhile,
Presley juggles a secret of her own: orchestrating a surprise Christmas wedding
for Stella and Jack, all while wrestling with her own newfound passion. And
Cecily confronts doubt as her Christmas Eve wedding approaches, torn between a
career she's fought for and a marriage marked by her fiancé's sudden
recklessness. In a tale of love, family, and the search for stability, these
women must navigate the complexities of their hearts to secure a future filled
with hope.

Matters of the Heart— The genie is out of the bottle. After decades of secrecy, Stella has finally made her resort’s natural hot springs available to guests. Little does she know, the waters have magical healing powers. Not only do the springs cure physical ailments, but matters of the heart as well. When word gets out, she has a riot of opportunity seekers on her hands.

Road to New Beginnings—The staffers at Hope Springs Farm greet guests with smiles. But trouble brews beneath their calm demeanors. Stella faces her first crisis as an adoptive mom when a second-grade bully wreaks havoc on Jazz’s life. Ollie experiences crippling panic attacks as she struggles to cope with her parents’ death. Cecily is falling in love with Parker. But she’s worried it’s too soon after breaking off her engagement. Presley’s baby is due in a few short weeks. But she’s heard nothing from her country music star husband in months.