There’s no place like seaside Blueberry Cove, Maine, at Christmas—and there’s nothing like a wedding, the warmth of the holidays, and an old crush, to create the perfect new start…
Interior designer Fiona McCrae has left fast-paced Manhattan to move back home to peaceful Blueberry Cove. But she’s barely arrived before she’s hooked into planning her big sister Hannah’s Christmas wedding—in less than seven weeks. The last thing she needs is for her first love, Ben Campbell, to return to neighboring Snowflake Bay…
As kids, Fiona was the bratty little sister Ben mercilessly teased—while pining after Hannah. But Fi never once thought of Ben like a brother. And that hasn’t changed. Except Fi is all grown up. Will Ben notice her now? More importantly, with her life in a jumble, should he? Or might the romance of the occasion, the spirit of the season, and the gifts of time ignite a long-held flame for many Christmases to come…
Something old might just become something new…
Feeling somewhat better about herself now, she disentangled herself from the satchel strap, then began mentally rehearsing a summer-weddings-areso- beautiful speech while she looked around for something to scrape the wool scarf out of her mouth. Deciding to get herself unwrapped first, she fished out the end of the scarf, already feeling her fair skin chapping even as she stood there, the warmth of the kitchen creating something of a sting in her thawing cheeks. The struggle with the scarf started almost immediately. It was as if her curls had begun actively weaving themselves into the knitting, becoming one with every loop and knot.
So, she was more wrestling with the scarf than unwrapping it, really, swearing somewhat creatively, possibly a wee bit passionately even, by the time a deep male voice that was quite decidedly not her big brother’s baritone spoke from far too close behind her.
“I’ve got bolt cutters in my truck. We could just cut you out.”
Fiona froze. Stock-still. And not because of anything having to do with the coastal winter weather or being out of shape. She wasn’t breathing hard. In fact, she might never draw breath again. It had been, what, ten years? Longer. She’d lost track.Or, more truthfully, you’ve blocked it from your memory banks. Blocked it back when the owner of that voice had left Blueberry Cove for college in Boston, excited to get started on fulfilling his dreams—none of which included coming back to his hometown. At the time, blocking her memory files had seemed the only way she’d ever survive not having him in her daily orbit ever again.
She felt his big, broad palms cup her shoulders, turning her slowly around to face him, and stupidly squeezed her eyes shut, as if that would change this sudden new reality. All it did was delay the inevitable.
“Fireplug?” he said, as the top half of her face became visible when he pushed the curls from her forehead and the scarf from where it was now haphazardly draped diagonally across her face. There was sincere surprise in his voice. “Is that you inside all that sheep’s clothing?”
Fireplug. All of the air came back into her lungs in one big, sucking gasp. Emphasis on the sucking. Her cheeks burned again, only the sting of remembered humiliation coupled with the memories of her pathetic, unrequited crush on her brother’s best friend, who’d only had eyes for Hannah, far—far—outstripped anything a Maine winter could do to her fair skin.
They were both many years older now, she reminded herself, and that meant wiser as well. Although she didn’t feel wiser at the moment. At the moment, she felt instantly thirteen again, pining after a guy who’d barely noticed her, and when he had, had seen her as nothing more than the nuisance kid sister of the girl he was trying to impress.
Of course, that girl was now engaged to another man, and for all Fiona knew, her childhood crush was married himself, with a bundle of kids stashed somewhere. Hell, for all he knew, so was she. Which meant, yeah … the distant past was just that. Distant. And past.
She prided herself on taking an extra moment to steady herself and let her breath ease out, then slowly back in again, before opening her eyes. Okay, so she was still half-tangled in a woolen neck scarf and she wasn’t exactly making eye contact with him, but it was a start. A mature, grown-up start. Between two, mature, grown-up people.
So why is your heart racing like it’s the first time a man has ever touched you? More to the point, why are all your other more mature body parts clamoring for him to touch a whole lot more than your shoulders? You’re both potentially married with kids, remember?
Only she wasn’t married. Didn’t have kids. Not even the dimmest of prospects of either on the horizon. A horizon that, at the moment, was completely consumed with a big, tall, rugged reminder of all that she didn’t have. Had never had. A reminder, it should be noted, who still had his hands on her.
All her line of vision allowed, however—now that he’d turned her around so her back was to him, tipping her head forward to allow him to work her hair free from the scarf—was the Michelin Man-style, double-padded red snow coat she’d buttoned around her short, curvy frame, under which was a layer of thick hoodie, a long-sleeved turtleneck, and a T-shirt. She surprised herself by letting out a muffled snort. “Well, if the nickname still fits,” she murmured, proud of herself for embracing the humor in the moment, only to discover a split second later she was blinking back stupid tears.
Maybe no matter how much a person grew up, no matter how much she matured, she thought, mortified all over again, there would always be a part of her who was still that same, invisible thirteen-year-old girl.
Donna Kauffman has seen her books reviewed in venues ranging from Kirkus
Reviews and Library Journal to Entertainment Weekly and Cosmopolitan. She lives
just outside of DC in the lovely Virginia countryside, where she is presently
trying to makeover her newly empty nest into something that doesn’t have to
accommodate piles of sports equipment falling out of her coat closet (okay, out
of every closet…and under every bed….), size 13 cleats and sweaty uniforms
cluttering her foyer (and stairwell, and laundry room, and…), and a kitchen
that should have come with a traffic light. And a pantry monitor. (Anyone with
a clever idea on how to repurpose lacrosse sticks into matching reading lamps,
she’s all ears!) When she’s not stripping paint, varnishing an old auction
house find, or trying to avoid bodily injury with her latest power tool
purchase, she loves to hear from readers!
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl