Publisher: Gumnut Press
Date: 3rd October 2018
Contemporary Romance Novella
ISBN: 978-0-6483729-2-9 (EBook)
ISBN: 978-0-6483729-3-6 (Print)
In Whittaker Springs, Christmas is a magical time—and love is in the air. The tiny Vermont town is gearing up for the festive season ahead, but everything is not as perfect as it appears to be.
After failing to make it big in London’s West End, Tessa Quinn returns to small-town life to care for her ailing mother. If only she could avoid Blake Bryant, the one who got away.
It’s been six long years of failed romances and missed Christmases, but Tessa and Blake can’t deny the attraction between them. The past weaves into the present as hurt, betrayal, and lust sears through their minds and bodies. Will the secrets and lies that kept them apart triumph, or will they finally get the antidote for this Christmas Fever?
Deep breaths, Tessa. Deep breaths.
Tessa Quinn’s gut tightened as she pulled into the driveway of her mother’s Tudor-style home.
It was an icy four degrees outside the car, but her sweaty palms soaked the inside of her new woollen gloves. She gripped the steering wheel and waited for the storm in her stomach to settle. The same storm erupted the moment she’d returned home to Whittaker Springs last week.
It had been six years since she’d left. Six long years of trying to make it as an actor in London. Six long years of failed romances and missed Christmases. Whittaker Springs still looks as wonderful now as it had the day she walked out on her life. Regret flooded her heart.
Tessa headed up the garden path, fumbling in her handbag for her house keys. The overgrown Holly bush stabbed her leg as she walked past. “Ouch,” she groaned, then chuckled to herself. Just like the old days.
She paused at the top of the stairs and glanced across the barren yard. Bland and empty. Void of the usual Christmas decorations her mother insisted on displaying each year. She supressed the sudden pang of guilt churning deep in the pit of her stomach. Their house usually came alive at Christmas. It was always the best decorated house in the street. She could hear her mother’s words in her head, “If you’re going to do it, do it once and do it to perfection.”
I hate to continue to be a disappointment, Mum, but perfection was not something I was born with.
She entered the house, the sharp click of the door closing behind her disturbing her thoughts. The cold, sterile air hit Tessa square in the chest as she moved through the hallway toward the kitchen. Her bag landed with a thud on the kitchen table. The same table her mother slaved over, year after year, to make the perfect Christmas pudding. The same table she’d drawn flowers on when she was five. Tessa smiled, remembering the beetroot-red colour of her mother’s face when she walked in and caught her in the act.
What was she going to do with the house, now that her mother was too sick to live here alone? I could move back home and take care of you, but what do I know about the debilitating effects of dementia? I’m no nurse.
Her hands crept up her arms as her gaze swept the kitchen and living room. It seemed so…stagnant and desolate. Her mother’s perfection used to reign from every angle. Everything in its place and a place for everything. Except, now, chaos engulfed every corner. The evidence of her mother’s ill health hit hard, like a sledge hammer. Oh, Mum, how could I have been so ignorant to not see this coming?
Tessa jumped at the high-pitched ring of her mobile. Great, now what? “Hello, Tessa speaking.”
“Tessa, it’s Sophie. Ahhhhhhhhh,” she squealed in Tessa’s ear. “I can’t believe you’re finally here, and just in time for the Christmas celebrations. Why didn’t you call me as soon as you were back in town?”
Because I was embarrassed and didn’t want to face up to being a failure, especially to my best friend. That’s why.
“I’m sorry, Sophie. I haven’t been back long and I’ve been busy sorting out the stuff with Mum and—”
“I want to know everything. John’s flat-out working for his new promotion and I’ve got my two little cherubs booked in for day care tomorrow, so let’s do lunch and you can tell me all about it. I can’t wait to see you.”
Tessa felt sick to the bottom of her stomach. She used to tell Sophie everything before she’d left town. It was easier to bend the truth on a phone call from London, but now seeing her face to face, Sophie would work out she was lying in an instant. I guess there’s no use putting off the inevitable.
“Sure,” Tessa said. “Lunch tomorrow sounds great. Where shall I meet you?”
“How about Tony’s Bar and Grill?” She asked. “I’m sure you remember it. Tony’s made a special effort with the new Christmas menu this year, you’ll love it.”
Tessa’s heart tore in two at the mention of Tony’s Bar and Grill. It had been the place to hang out in high school, and the place she’d first laid eyes on Blake. She pushed the unwanted feeling of loss aside and rolled back her shoulders, determined to show Sophie the past was buried deep in her heart. Her future was now focused on her mother.
“Tony’s sounds great. Shall we say midday?”
“Midday sounds perfect,” Sophie said. “I’ll meet you in our usual booth. It’ll be just like old times.”
Yeah, just like old times. Guilt shot up Tessa’s spine. “Midday it is, then,” she said ending the call. It had been Sophie who’d encouraged her to pursue her acting career, otherwise she may never have left Whittaker Springs at all.