Kissing Mr. Mistletoe, Christmas in Wine Country Novella, (excerpt)
It seems a little nuts to think about mistletoe before we've opened our Halloween candy. I've barely finished decorating for the princesses, ghosts and super heroes coming to visit, but I have promises to keep. I vowed to share the first chapter of Kissing Mr. Mistletoe before it's released. November 15th is rapidly approaching, so it's time to unveil the first chapter.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Trace, Monique and Adele as much as I loved writing their story.
Synopsis: Kissing Mr. Mistletoe Novella- A successful country singer, home just long enough to sell an inherited Christmas tree farm. His old flame, now a single mom struggling to make a life for herself and her little girl. When they're thrown together for a wine country Christmas, a sprig of mistletoe may just rekindle love.
Monique Jacobson climbed another step above the rows of Santino cabernet vineyards. She reached out as far as she could without losing grip of the ladder. Stretching another half inch, her fingertips almost touched Bunny Fru Fru’s gleaming metal nose. Frustrated, she loudly exhaled a breath of air.
After allowing only thirty-five minutes of her packed schedule to turn the massive bunny sculpture into Rudolf for the party, Monique spent fifteen minutes she didn’t have finding a ladder. Then, she’d used another twenty finding someone to help her drag the clunky sixteen-footer to the vineyard and situate it under the landmark. Panic started to set in. The annual Santino Winery holiday party that Monique was in charge of for the first time started in six hours.
“Is he ever going to turn into Rudolf, Mommy?” Adele’s voice chirped from below. With her pink cheeks glowing and surrounded by grapevines shimmering in the sun, her daughter looked like a wine country cherub. “Of course he will. Bunny Fru Fru always turns into Rudolf at Christmas. We can do anything we set our minds to, baby. Just you watch.”
Spotting the red plastic nose parked in a pile of brown grape leaves at the base of a vine behind Adele, Monique turned away, cursing herself under her breath. Why didn’t she take the schnozzle with her up the ladder? “See it honey?” Hanging on to the ladder tight enough to lose circulation in her left hand, she cautiously lifted her right, and pointed to the shiny red object. It looked like a deflated soccer ball. “It's behind you.”
Adele scrunched her nose and circled. Perusing around her feet, she then lifted her head. Her eyes became huge and she took off running. “I see it.”
“Good job.” Monique encouraged her without daring to change her grip. “Now hold on to it, and come closer.”
Adele sucked a big breath of air, appearing to gather enough steam to make a beeline to the ladder. Monique yelled, “No running. Don’t come too close sweetheart.”
Standing still and clutching her prize, Adele craned her neck all the way back and squinted. “How many giant steps should I take?”
“Five honey.” Monique held on to the ladder and took a breath. “I think five big-girl steps will do it.”
Adele lifted her right leg and dramatically plunked it down on the dirt two feet in front of her and then brought her left leg up. “One,” she announced, touching down and repeating the process. “Two!”
Monique hadn’t intended to take Adele to work with her, but had forgotten all about the preschool teacher holiday she’d circled on her calendar months ago. With her favorite sitter booked, she wasn’t about to leave Adele with anyone she hadn’t thoroughly investigated. Thankfully her idea of turning a day of decorating the winery into a holiday outing with Adele seemed to be working.
“Three!” Adele shrieked.
A loud sputtering engine and blaring music caused Monique to turn in time to see the Napa Pines and Wines jalopy come down the driveway. From the elevated vantage point, she saw the tree she needed for the tasting room in the bed of the truck. Heaving a sigh of relief, she rotated back to Adele.
“Four, Mommy! I’m getting close. . .” Adele took another step. “Five!”
“Perfect honey. Now stay right where you are and remember to never, ever, climb a ladder like this without my help.”
“And Daddy's?” Adele asked, cradling the red nose.
Her heart sank, knowing her former husband Jarod would never help his daughter with a ladder or anything else. Why must Adele always ask about that deadbeat? Time after time Monique covered for Jarod’s negligence, hating to see Adele’s hopes smashed. They always were. Jarod never showed up, kept any of his promises, or followed through with anything except getting her pregnant. The privilege and joy of being Adele’s mother made up for all of her disappointment, but it didn’t ease any of her daughter’s pain.
“Yes, and Daddy’s help too.” Monique’s stomach roiled looking at Adele’s innocent expression. Maybe this year, he’d finally see her for Christmas.
“Do you think you can throw Rudolf’s nose up to me so we can turn this bunny into a reindeer?” Monique carefully let go of the ladder with her right hand and leaned, stretching it out to Adele. “Throw it now, honey.” She held her breath.
Adele didn’t wait for further instruction and hurled the plastic nose cover into the air. Spinning, the snout missed Monique’s outstretched hand and continued its path of projection several feet over her head and to the right.
Rudolf’s schnozzle caught the light and sparkling in the sun, made its descent . Monique shifted her weight to grab it. Almost there. She reached up and over feeling the ladder sway and rock beneath her.
Quickly seizing her perch with both hands, the sole of her boot slipped sideways on the metal step. Instead of regaining her balance, Monique skidded down one rung, and then another with her left foot and then another and another, until she found herself rappelling backward down the ladder, desperately grappling to hang on to whatever she could and praying for a soft landing.
She missed the last step and hit the ground, landing flat on her back.
“Oh no!” Adele scampered to her and laid her soft chubby hands on Monique’s cheeks. Snuggling close, her sweet breath touched her skin. Adele inspected her eyes from an inch away. “Are you hurt bad?”
“I’m okay, baby.” Reaching behind her back, Monique found the rock digging into her spine. She plucked it out of the dirt and flung it.
“You shouldn’t be climbing on top of something you can’t handle.”
Every cell of Monique’s body froze. Her heart paused mid-thump. The familiar drawl of the deep, sexy, voice coming from above propelled her back in time at warp speed to six years ago. But it couldn’t be him. Not in a million years. She wrapped one arm tightly around Adele, and shielding her eyes from the glare with the other, looked up. Shit.
Trace Montgomery towered over her. He folded his arms over his chest making his smooth, muscled biceps bulge under his navy T-shirt. Wearing jeans that fit him as precisely as a fireman carries a hose, and with his swagger apparently still intact, he leaned back on the heel of his boot and tilted his face, rubbing his jaw. His unmistakable green eyes sparkled down at her.
“W-what are you doing here?”
“You’re hardly in a position to be asking questions.” He reached with a powerful hand and lifted her up off the ground, along with Adele.
After removing a twig wedged between her legs and butt cheek, Monique attempted to get her bearings. Her brain stuttered, stopped and skipped over the right words to say. Her libido, however, operated flawlessly. Tingles charged from her neck to her toes and she broke into a sweat. Steadying her gaze on his preposterously handsome face, a result of mixed genetic magic, her heart beat out of her skin. Trace opened his arms for a hug. Before she could think, he wrapped them around her and squeezed, smelling like—well, smelling like Trace, a combination of clean, fresh and help me now, Jesus.
Pulling out of the embrace, he took hold of her hands, and gently swung them. “My God, it’s good to see you again, Monique.”
“W-what—I thought you were on the road—with your band?” Suddenly remembering Adele, Monique pulled her close to her hip.
A dimple flashed next to his devilish grin and Trace reached for her face. The world skidded into slow-motion. Monique held her breath, watching his bicep flex and his hand move closer and closer to her ear.
“So you’ve been checking up on me? Brushing her skin with his fingers, he pulled a crispy grape leaf out of her hair and then stepped back. “I’m flattered.”
“I-I asked Joe Rozzi at the Christmas tree farm how you were doing when I ordered the tree. I’m not one of your stalkers—if that’s what you’re worried about.”
She could find him anywhere and had DVR’ed his Kimmel appearance three days ago. Even though they’d only dated for six months, a man like Trace Montgomery would leave an indelible impression on any woman.
Only three feet away from his twinkling green eyes, she averted her gaze, trying not to remember the private songs he used to sing to her, how safe she felt wrapped in his arms, or the way he tasted… No. Let’s not go there. What would her life be like now if she had joined him on tour when he asked? It’s all in the past. Adele came into her world and nothing else mattered.
“Tour’s over,” he grinned, checking her out, not seeming to mind when she caught him. “Maybe we’ll have some time to get together? I’m only back for a week”—his voice sank—“I’m finally settling my uncle’s estate. Wish I had the place right after he died.”
“Oh.” She should’ve called, but didn’t have the strength to not run back into his life. After the release of his number one hit, “Love me Like Crazy,” Trace should’ve been celebrating. Instead, he’d suffered more heartache than anyone she knew. Both of his parents had died in a head-on, less than a mile from here. And last year, he lost his uncle Glenn.
“I’m very sorry for your loss Trace. I should’ve reached out.”
He ran his boot over some loose dirt. “Thank you. I appreciate it.” Rubbing his bottom lip, he brought his focus back to her. “You look good enough to. . .” His mouth curved up and he laid a devilish smirk on her boots. From her ankles, he eyed her legs, then his gaze traveled slowly up her thighs and paused at her hips.
Putting a stop to his strip search by stare, Monique crossed her arms before his eyes got to her chest. Unfortunately, the move had the opposite effect and pushed her boobs out over her arms.
His eyebrows shot to his forehead, with a question. “You look fantastic by the way.” Monique caught her mouth hanging open and clamped it shut, but couldn't stop beaming.
Forgetting mommy duties for a second, she flipped back in time to her former flirtatious self. Caught in his snare, she blurted, “You’re looking pretty hot there yourself—cowboy.” Saying it out loud brought her back to earth. Trace wrangled women, not steers, and wondering what on earth possessed her to call him of all people hot, she wanted to take the words back. She didn’t have time for flirting. She rarely had time for a bath. Monique brushed the dirt off her butt. “I’m sorry if I’m so—I’m—Joe mentioned you were coming out to visit the farm, I just didn’t expect to see you”—she waved a hand over the vineyards—“here.” (To be continued.)
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this excerpt, check back soon. I'll post the remainder of the chapter before Kissing Mr. Mistletoe's release date: November 15th!
*Kissing Mr. Mistletoe is available on Amazon for pre-order on Amazon here and will be available at other online retail stores after November 15th.
Until next time,
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