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A Magnolia Christmas

A Magnolia Christmas

The Red Stiletto Bookclub Series, Book 8

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Welcome to Magnolia

Maggie

It's Christmas time in Magnolia and I’m determined to mend the fissure between Spencer and Penny. So I come up with a plan: create a Christmas extravaganza for them to participate in. After all, who couldn’t fall in love during the Christmas holiday?

Plus, focusing on someone else helps keep me from thinking about my own heartbreaks.

All the women of the Red Stiletto book club join in to help. Some have found their happily ever afters. Some have hiccups of their own.

Abigail

I join in with Maggie’s plan and discover just what’s I’m missing at home. The women of magnolia have something I don’t have, a sisterhood and I’m left feeling determined to find a tribe of my own.

Christmas holds a lot of magic, but is it enough to heal broken hearts and broken dreams?

 

MAIN TROPES

  • Christmas Time
  • Coming Home
  • Healing Relationships
  • Bookclub/ Friendship
  • Small Town
  • Starting Over

Synopsis

Maggie

It's Christmas time in Magnolia and I’m determined to mend the fissure between Spencer and Penny. So I come up with a plan: create a Christmas extravaganza for them to participate in. After all, who couldn’t fall in love during the Christmas holiday?

Plus, focusing on someone else helps keep me from thinking about my own heartbreaks.

All the women of the Red Stiletto book club join in to help. Some have found their happily ever afters. Some have hiccups of their own.

Abigail

I join in with Maggie’s plan and discover just what’s I’m missing at home. The women of magnolia have something I don’t have, a sisterhood and I’m left feeling determined to find a tribe of my own.

Christmas holds a lot of magic, but is it enough to heal broken hearts and broken dreams?

Enjoy the final book in the Red Stiletto Bookclub Series.

Grab your copy today!

Chapter One Look Inside

Abigail

The cool ocean air whipped around me as I pulled my sweater close
and hurried over to the front door of the bookstore. After rifling around in my
purse, I found my shop keys and slipped them into the lock. I sniffled as I
stepped inside and turned to shut the door behind me.

Fall had come early here on the island, which I both welcomed and
cursed. Sure, I loved the idea of crackling fires and hot chocolate, but for
some reason, the holidays made me feel sad. Memories of my past were waking up
and forcing me to face them. Which I wasn’t ready for in the slightest.

It didn’t help that Dad suddenly reappeared in my life. The last
few weeks had been strange. I knew he would leave eventually, but he hadn’t
picked up on my hints that I wasn’t interested in reconciliation.

I hated that I got my stubbornness from him.

I made my way around the bookstore, flipping on the lights and
warming up the coffee maker behind the cafe counter. It was a mundane chore
that I could now do in my sleep. I’d had everything planned out when I hired
Naomi—I was finally going to be able to spend time writing the book that had
been haunting me for a while now—but that dream came crashing down around me
when she turned down the job and moved away a week later. I was left alone once
more, and during off-season, it was harder to find part-time workers. The
college students were inland, and the other residents had their own things
going on.

Once again, my dreams were pushed to the back burner.

The front door opened, and fear filled my stomach. I hurried to
glance down a row of books only to see Sabrina shut the door behind her. She
furrowed her brow as her gaze ran up and down me.

“What?” she asked, shrugging.

I fiddled with the dust jacket of a nearby book, trying to calm my
pounding heart. “Nothing,” I said with a sigh.

Ever since Dad had barreled back into our lives just a few short
weeks ago, I was perpetually on edge. No matter what I did, he kept coming
back. Sometimes he just stood in the corner of the shop, hurrying out once I
met his gaze. He would then proceed to stand on the other side of the road with
his gaze focused on the shop.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with him. I tried to approach
him to talk, but every time I got close, he retreated. Which only reminded me
of when Mom died. He’d retreated and eventually disappeared for years.

To have him suddenly reappear had turned my life upside-down, and
I was struggling to find my new footing.

Dad’s presence also caused a strain on Sabrina and me. Even though
we weren’t talking about it, I knew she was bothered by his sudden appearance.
And I felt bad for her. After all, I just had the bookstore.

Sabrina had her pregnancy and the disappearance of Trevor to
contend with. I tried protecting her from meeting up with Dad by forcing her to
stay home, but eventually she emerged and, day one, ran right into Dad at
Godwin’s.

I’d never seen her retreat so fast into herself.

After their encounter, I confronted Dad and told him to leave her
alone. The last thing I needed was for my sister to go into preterm labor
because he suddenly wanted to be a part of our life. We were hanging on by a
thread as it was, and Dad needed to respect us enough to keep his distance when
we needed him to.

He agreed to stay away, but said he needed to talk to me before he
left Harmony Island for good. I stared at him, wondering what he wanted to say
to me, but then dropped my gaze and told him I wasn’t sure I was ever going to
be ready to hear what he had to say.

As I walked away, I heard him mumble, “I’ll wait as long as you
need.”

And that was where we were. Me trying to live my life, Sabrina
sobbing quietly in her room most nights, and Dad waiting.

We were truly a holly jolly family.

I sighed as I moved toward the cafe. Times like these called for
hot chocolate and cookies to dip into it. “Want some with me?” I asked as I
held up the cookies and hot chocolate powder.

Sabrina had been hugging her chest while she stared out the front
picture window. Her gaze drifted to my hands, and then she returned to staring
outside. “Sure,” she whispered.

I hated how broken my sister had become. Her once happy life took
a turn when Trevor disappeared, and she hadn’t fully come back to me. I knew
she wanted to believe that he was coming back. That he was going to fulfill all
of the promises that he’d made to her when they were together, but there was a
point where she needed to face reality.

I was afraid that reality was coming quicker than she wanted to
admit.

I turned my attention to heating up the milk in a pot on the
stove. I also started warming the oven and laid the cookies out on a pan to
heat them up.

Soon, the bookstore filled with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and
chocolate. My mouth watered as I pulled out the cookies and set the sheet on
the marble countertop. I filled two mugs with the steaming chocolate and plated
the cookies.

I set them down on the small table in the corner, and Sabrina
moved to meet me. She didn’t say anything as she sat down, and I didn’t wait
for her to start. I was starving and ready to eat.

I was in the midst of dipping my cookie in the hot chocolate when
she glanced over at me. She still had her arms folded and her lips pursed. I
shrugged as I dusted the crumbs off my lips.

“What?” I asked.

I hated how broken our family had become. After Mom died, everyone
broke. Dad left. Sabrina retreated. And I buried myself in work. I wanted to be
angry with the people in my family, but the truth was, I had disappeared into
myself.

It wasn’t until recently that I found myself coming out from
behind the cloud I’d been living behind. I guess I just got tired of living my
life in reverse. I wanted to move forward. I just wished my family felt the
same.

Sabrina snapped out of the trance she was in and shook her head.
“Nothing,” she whispered.

I studied her as she turned her focus back to her cookies and hot
chocolate. I wanted her to talk to me. I wanted my sister back. But I feared
that she’d disappeared so far into herself that I was going to be alone
forever.

Movement by the front window drew my attention. There weren’t a
lot of people out this early and certainly not lurking around the bookstore.
Business didn’t normally pick up until lunch, and even then, it was more for
the goodies I whipped up in the cafe than for the books. But if it paid the
bills, then I wasn’t going to complain.

I searched the street outside only to stop when my gaze landed on
Dad’s face. He was clutching his jacket closed in the front, and I could tell
that it was cold out there by how red his hands were. His nose was pink as
well, and when his gaze fell on me, the look in his eyes turned stormy.

I hated that he just lurked outside of the store in hopes that
Sabrina and I would let him in—or just to remind us that he was there. Whatever
the reason for his constant hovering, I had had just about enough of it. I
wanted to face him and get it over with.

I locked gazes with Dad and then nodded toward the back of the
store. He seemed confused. He frowned and glanced around the inside of the
store. I met his gaze again and waved toward the back of the store.

“Hmm?” Sabrina asked as she glanced up to look at me.

“Um, nothing,” I said as I hurried to stand.

“Oh,” she said.

“I’ll be right back. I have to do something in the back,” I called
over my shoulder as I pushed through the swinging door and into the storage
room. Once I made my way over to the back door, I unlocked it and swung it
open.

Thankfully, Dad seemed to be adept at understanding mime because
he appeared a few seconds later. He looked confused and a tad terrified. My
heart pounded and my stomach twisted at the sight of his greying hair and dark
eyes. He looked old—I was sure I did as well—but underneath it all he looked
like…my dad.

And that thought made tears form in my eyes.

“Hey, Gaily,” he said, using the nickname he’d given me.

I cleared my throat and folded my arms, hating how vulnerable I
felt. “Why do you keep coming around?” I asked, my voice a whisper as emotions
coated my throat.

He swallowed, his Adam’s apple rising in an exaggerated manner. I
could tell that he hadn’t been prepared to face me this morning. He’d just been
making his daily rounds to check in on us and had figured it would be just like
any other day.

“I just want to make sure you girls are okay,” he said as he
shoved his hands into his front pockets.

It was strange to see the man that I’d grown up with—who’d raised
me—appear so broken. So weak. I knew Mom’s death had crushed him. I just
figured he would have eventually found a way to pick himself back up and move
on.

Apparently not.

“We’re fine,” I said as I folded my arms across my chest. It was
silly, but I was protecting myself. I needed to keep some distance between my
father and me. I’d watched him walk away from me before, and I was fairly
certain I couldn’t do that again. But I also couldn’t live my life with him
lingering in the background.

I wanted to face whatever he wanted from me so we could move on
with our individual lives. I sighed and leaned against the doorjamb. “So,
what’s the plan? What will move this forward?”

Dad blinked a few times as he glanced around. “What? Really?”

“Are you going to murder us?” I asked, snorting at my own joke.
Then I shook my head. “Never mind,” I mumbled when his eyebrows knit together.

“I just want to spend the holidays with you. Your mother would
want us to.”

I sucked in my breath at his mentioning Mom so casually. I wanted
to demand who he was to even talk about her, but I knew that was selfish. He
missed her as much as I did. I needed to be gentle even if my stomach churned
when he mentioned her.

“And what does ‘spend the holidays’ mean?” I asked, quirking an
eyebrow.

He frowned. “Christmas?”

I swallowed. “Christmas.” Was I ready for this?

He nodded. “Spend Christmas with me. If you still hate me at the
end of it, I’ll walk away and never come back again.” Then he whispered, “If
that’s what you decide.”

“My tiny apartment isn’t really fit for tons of guests and holiday
cheer.”

Dad studied me. “Would you be willing to come up to Rhode Island
with me?” He shrugged. “I have a house. And the town works hard to really
create some festive cheer.”

I hated how hopeful Dad looked. His eyes were wide, and as much as
I wanted to hate him, I could tell that he was genuinely worried about me and
wanted to make me happy. It was harder to hold grudges against people like
that. But I wasn’t sure I was ready to spend that much time with him.

“At your house?” I asked. That meant awkwardly quiet dinners and
TV time together in the living room. I needed to be in a place where I could
leave if I needed to.

A strange town. A strange house. A strange father.

This felt like a disaster waiting to happen.

“We could stay at the inn,” he whispered.

“Inn?”

“The Magnolia Inn. It just reopened not long ago, and I…” A
sadness grew in his gaze as his voice trailed off. There was something about
the Magnolia Inn and Dad, and that intrigued me.

“You?” I asked, leaning forward.

He swallowed and shook his head. “I’m sure I can get us a few
rooms. That way, if you need some space, you can have it.”

My thoughts lingered on what he had refused to say, until his last
words landed in my ears. He understood why I didn’t want to stay at his house
and that made me feel bad.

I parted my lips to apologize. I hated making people sad. But the
words never came out. Instead, I closed my mouth and nodded.

Dad looked relieved. “Good. I’ll call Maggie once we are done.” He
scrubbed his face as he looked around. “Sabrina?” he asked.

My gaze moved to study the building. Even though I didn’t have
x-ray vision, I knew Sabrina was on the other side of the wall and had no clue
that I was talking to Dad. Would she feel betrayed if she found out?

“I’ll talk to her.”

Dad let out his breath.

“I can’t guarantee that she’ll say yes, but I’ll try.”

Dad nodded. “That’s all I can ask.”

A crisp breeze floated around us, and I pulled my sweater closed
and shivered involuntarily. Dad must have picked up on it because he clamped
his hands together and took a step back.

“I’ll let you get back inside,” he said as he bowed slightly and
extended his hand toward the back door.

For a split second, I contemplated asking him if he wanted to come
inside. He looked as chilly as I felt. But then I pushed that thought from my
mind. I wasn’t ready to face any of that right now. I had plans to spend the
holidays with him in a few weeks, and I was going to leave it at that.

Plus, I had my work cut out for me in trying to convince Sabrina
to go with me. I knew she was going to put up a stink, but the last thing I
needed was for my sister to be here alone in her condition.

So, I ignored the nagging in the back of my mind as I hurried up
the back stairs and pulled open the door. I didn’t turn around until I was
safely on the other side of the door. I watched as Dad studied the ground and
then nodded and disappeared around the building. With him gone, and the reality
of what I’d just agreed to crashing down on me, I collapsed against the wall,
using its support to keep me up.

Why had I just said yes to spending Christmas with him? Why hadn’t
I just told him that I didn’t want to reconcile? Why hadn’t I walked away and
never looked back?

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I knew why. I knew why I
wanted my dad back. I knew why spending the holidays with my estranged father
was better than hanging on here, all alone.

The truth of the matter was, I was lonely.

I was depressed.

And for the first time, I just might have a way out of this
hellhole that I’d found myself in. Call me crazy, but I was ready to climb out.

I was ready for something different. Even if “different"
meant everything that I used to have.

I was ready to live again.

 

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The Red Stiletto Bookclub Series

A bookclub started out of desperation soon because exactly what the women of Magnolia needed...a sisterhood.