On October 7, I have a digital-only release coming out from St. Martin’s Press. I’m really excited, because this book is part of my Jewell Cove series and Oh My Gosh writing about Jewell Cove during the holidays was SO MUCH FUN!
When my editor asked if I’d be interested in writing it as an addition to our planned books, I had to come up with a couple to write about! I automatically thought of Charlene (Charlie) Yang, the town’s other doctor, and her new husband, Dave. How did they meet? What obstacles did they face getting to their happy ever after?
Keep reading for an excerpt – where Charlie and Dave attend the town’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony!
It’s Christmas in Jewell Cove…
And local doctor Charlie Yang finds her quiet, steady life disrupted by both an abandoned baby in the nativity manger, and a real-life mystery man. Sure, she’s always wanted a family of her own, but she didn’t imagine it coming from a baby that wasn’t hers and a man who was more interested in living day by day than making long-term plans.
Ex-SEAL Dave Ricker hadn’t planned on making Jewell Cove his forever home, but the talented and tender-hearted Charlie has him reconsidering his position on settling down. Can a beautiful woman, adorable baby and a small-town full of holiday spirit change his mind for good?
Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iTunes / Kobo
“Hey, is there room for one more to hide over here?”
A delicious shiver ran up her spine. She looked over her shoulder and saw Dave, cradling his own cup of chocolate, a thick knitted hat on his head and a heavy winter jacket making him look even bigger than he had yesterday. She vowed that she would not be as awkward as she’d felt in front of the church.
She smiled. “You realize you’re ginormous, right? Good luck hiding anywhere.”
He chuckled. “It’s in my genes. My dad’s six three and my mom’s five eleven. I was bound to be big.”
“Brothers and sisters?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Two of each. I’m smack in the middle of the birth order.”
Good heavens. Five of them? “You must be intimidating when you’re all together. Any big plans to get together for the holidays?”
“We’re all grown. My older brother and sister are both married and have kids. My younger brother, Jason, is engaged and my baby sister, Samantha, is just finishing college. We’re spread out too, so having us all together doesn’t really happen very often, though we try. This year Mom and Dad are spending Christmas in Texas at my brother’s, spoiling grandkids.” He took a sip of his chocolate and then looked down at her. “What about you? Siblings?”
She turned her gaze to the very tall Christmas tree in the center of the square. His family sounded wonderful, even if they were spread out across the country. She focused on the huge star at the top of the tree as she answered. “There’s just me. My parents live in Boston.”
“So close enough you can all be together for Christmas. Lucky.”
He’d think so, wouldn’t he? Because that’s what families did. But not hers. She forced her voice to be light, nonchalant. “Oh, they’re traveling over the holidays. A cruise or something.”
She knew how it sounded. The problem was, the situation was exactly how it appeared. They weren’t a warm and fuzzy family. Being together felt like work. She supposed it had been nice of them to invite her along for the trip, but the idea of being stuck on a cruise ship for Christmas, playing third wheel to her parents wasn’t Charlie’s idea of a perfect holiday.
They stopped chatting as the mayor, Luke Pratt, got up to make a short speech. The elementary school choir then performed three verses of “O Christmas Tree,” their sweet, youthful voices filling the air as a few errant flakes of snow drifted through the darkness. As the last note faded into the night, there was a breathless pause and then the tree came to life, multicolored bulbs lighting up the square and causing a chorus of ooohs and aaahs to wave through the gathering, and then clapping broke out, the sound muffled by heavy mittens and gloves.
“That’s pretty impressive,” Dave remarked from behind her.
She nodded, staring at the tree, the beautiful colored lights sparkling in the chilly evening. “I’ve always liked the lights with all the colors.” She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him. “White ones are elegant, and I know some people like all red, or green, or whatever. But I think the variety is so cheerful, don’t you?”
“Oh, absolutely.” He was grinning, and she knew he was teasing her a little bit. She liked it. It was far better than the formal “Dr. Yang” she got when she crossed the square.
They were interrupted by someone from the church, thrusting a caroling booklet in Charlie’s hand. “We’ve got a bigger crowd than we expected,” the woman explained. “Would you mind sharing?”
“Of course,” Dave answered. He stayed where he was, a few steps behind her, even as the church choir led the first carol, easing into the evening with a familiar and rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells.”
Charlie turned around and stared at him. “Either you’re incredibly farsighted, or you’re not singing.”
He squinted at her—and then laughed.
“Nuh-uh,” she chided. “If I’m expected to sing, so are you.”
“Believe me, you don’t want me to.”
“Then fake it.” She smiled at him sweetly. “Aren’t we supposed to be suffering together, here?”
“You’ll only suffer if I sing. We could demonstrate our solidarity by abstaining.”
They were talking during the singing and a few dirty looks were aimed their way.
She shoved the booklet in his hands. “Just mouth the words,” she commanded. “And smile.”
He held the booklet, but had to hold his arm straight down so it was low enough for her to see. Not that they needed the words to “Jingle Bells.” Charlie joined in, feeling awkward and singing softly. Just enough so she could hear herself, but not loudly enough that anyone nearby could discern her voice from the others.
And then she heard it, a deep rumble an octave below hers, slightly off-key, slightly mumbled, as Dave started jingling all the way. She hid a smirk behind a sip of hot chocolate, then joined in for the last chorus.
As the next carol was announced, he leaned over, his mouth ridiculously close to her ear. “I saw you laughing.”
She put on an innocent expression. “I swear I didn’t.”
“I told you I couldn’t sing.”
“Yes, you can. What you should have said was you can’t sing well.” And then she did giggle.
And he gave her shoulder a nudge as if to say, Brat.
The next song was more somber, and the crowd started singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” That was followed by several others, both religious and secular until Charlie’s hot chocolate was long gone and her fingers and toes were starting to get cold. She shivered and wrapped her arms around her middle, shifting her feet to get warm. How long did these things go, anyway?
And then Dave moved closer behind her, blocking her from the cold with his broad body, putting his left arm around her and pulling her back against his puffy coat while the right one encircled her, holding the lyrics booklet so they could both see.
She should pull away. She should simply say she was getting cold and leave. But she didn’t. It felt too good, having the bulk of his body close to hers, barely touching and yet sheltering her just the same. He was near enough she could feel the gentle vibration of his voice through his chest as the crowd started singing “Silent Night.” The mood had turned soft and reverent, the voices blending beautifully as the earlier cloud cover shifted away and left a sky full of twinkling stars. Something stole through Charlie then, a lovely yet wistful sense of contentment. Maybe she wasn’t perfect. Maybe she didn’t quite fit in here. But right now, the heart of Jewell Cove wasn’t such a bad place to be.
Her eyes stung a little and she blinked quickly, picking up the words of the second verse. It had always been her favorite carol, so calm and peaceful and beautiful. A few voices sang in harmony, and Charlie realized that this was the happiest she’d been in a long time.
The song faded into the night and there was a pause while everyone, by tacit agreement, let the last note linger on the air.