Nestled into five beautiful acres just outside Hope Creek, Tennessee, Christmas Inn is an unforgettable place known for its joyful atmosphere and festive setting. Holiday decorations adorn each room. Trees glittering with ribbons and ornaments, gorgeous wreaths, velvet stockings and pine-scented candles brighten visitors’ stay at this vacation spot dedicated to Christmas all year, every year. The resort offers all the usual enticements plus one unique amenity…love. The little white chapel behind the inn, built by the Christmas family in the 1890s, boasts bell tower bells that toll when couples fall in love.
But Christmas Inn has fallen on hard times. The chapel bells haven’t rang for many years, and this Christmas may be the final celebration at the resort…unless love finds its way home.
As part of an elaborate birthday gift from her sister, Karynn Michaels gets a pedicure that includes a pretty bell on each toe and a promidiction—part promise, part prediction—for each of the next ten days. Quiet, sensible Karynn finds the whole thing ridiculous. But it’s just for fun and she is, after all, on vacation at Christmas Inn, where bells are legendary.
The same day, she comes face to face with Daniel Sheridan—the male standard by which she’s measured, and found lacking, every man she’s dated since he moved away during their senior year of high school. Is it mere coincidence that her first promidiction hints at a reunion with someone from her past?
A widower, Daniel is at the Hope Creek, Tennessee resort with his adorable little girl and her less-than-agreeable nanny, who’s unpleasant to everyone—except her handsome boss. Karynn refuses to hope for a rekindled romance, but her old flame has lost none of his irresistible high school charm. She should have stayed at home in Quillpoint. She was doing just fine without bells on her toes, a jealous nanny, and a sapphire-eyed airline pilot who might fly away with her heart…again.
“We’re early.” Karynn Michaels glanced at her cell phone screen. “By a whole two hours. How could we have over-estimated driving time by that much?”
“We didn’t.” Her sister swung her luxury sedan into a small shopping center a few blocks from their destination and slid smoothly into a parking slot. She shot Karynn an impish grin and opened her door. “I got us here early so you could get a head start on unwrapping your gift.”
“Savannah!” She climbed out, and then stood for a second, listening for the beep that assured her the doors were locked. “What are you up to now?”
Her gaze swept the storefronts lined up side by side. The little strip mall boasted only a half dozen or so businesses. Which of them was her sister all set to dash into and lay down more money?
Savannah could afford to spend lavishly, now that she’d married Dr. Darren Quinn, brain surgeon extraordinaire. Karynn rejoiced in the couple’s happiness, and was thrilled for her sister—who grew up right along with her in the school of hard knocks, hard work and staying hard at it to keep the wolves from the door.
Still, despite her genuine joy in Savannah’s happiness and financial security, she cringed when the younger woman tossed money around like game board cash. This trip to Hope Creek, for instance. Why couldn’t her sister be like everyone else and just wrap up a bathrobe or a good book for her birthday? But no…nothing would do but to bring Karynn here—several hours from their hometown of Quillpoint—for a ten-day vacation at Christmas Inn. They’d be in Hope Creek all the way through Karynn’s birthday on December 25th. Darren would join them on Christmas Eve.
She didn’t dare think about the fact that Hearth & Home, the bed and breakfast that was her livelihood, would be closed for two entire weeks. She’d manage the loss of income by cutting corners for a while. Growing up poor taught a person how to live on less than most people thought possible.
Savannah rounded the hood of the car and pulled her into a tight hug. “Sis, just let me do this for you. Please? Darren wants me to. He gave me specific instructions to pull out all the stops and show you the time of your life.” She batted her long lashes like a preening prima donna. “He said he owes you for taking such awesome care of his ‘Precious’ until he could take over.”
They both burst out laughing, despite the truth of the exaggerated presentation. Dr. Quinn adored his wife and always referred to her as ‘my Precious,’ never mind the negative connotations brought about in recent years by a popular book-turned-movie. Unlike Karynn, Darren didn’t waste time and effort trying to please everyone.
Savannah grabbed her hand and tugged her along as she stepped out of the parking slot and up onto a wide sidewalk. “Seriously, Karynn, my husband thinks you’re pretty special, and he’s right. You are. So this year, we want to pamper you for your birthday. Will you just let us do that without fretting the entire time?”
“Oh, sweetie…I promise to try, but you know how I am.” Karynn heaved a hopeless sigh. “If life were to roll along without a single kink in the works, I’d fret because there’s nothing to fret about.”
“Well, then I’ll consider it my job to foil your frets. See this?” Savannah whirled in a circle and pivoted to a stop directly in front of Karynn, who came close to barreling into her.
“Vanna!” She brushed off her sweater, which didn’t need brushing. Still, it made her feel better to administer a stinging slap to something.
“Sorry, Sis. But look at me.” Savannah tilted her head forward, raised one perfect eyebrow and dipped the other one. “When you see me do this, you’ll know you’re being an old fuddy-duddy fretter.”
“What are you, eight years old?” Karynn tried to give her sister a stern look, but when Savannah only repeated the ‘fuddy-duddy’ alert, she burst out laughing instead. “Fine. I will try to behave more like my crazy, lighthearted, totally irresponsible little sister. Now, will you stop doing that?” She cast a furtive glance around. “People will think you’re strange.”
“Uh-uh…that’s fretting!” Still, Savannah stopped rolling her eyes, linked arms with Karynn and they were on the move again. “Anyway, I am strange.”
“Well, you got that right.” Karynn giggled, and then blinked. Twice. Giggling? Really? Now who’s the eight-year-old?
“This is it!” Savannah trilled. “We’re here.”
Karynn read the sign on the window and suppressed a sigh.
“I take it we’re getting manicures?”
“And pedicures—a double-digits treat. And we’re right on time for our appointment.” She opened the door, enacted an exaggerated bow, and waved Karynn inside with a flourish. “After you, birthday girl!”
I love the idea of promidictions and the way they've been woven into this charming story. Karynn and Daniel have a past and a present that could very well impact any future they could have. Not to mention a totally adorable child who takes to Karynn immediately.
This was a lovely story to curl up with on a bitterly cold day.
AMAZON US AMAZON UK
1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself?
My name is Karynn Michaels. I’m a few years shy of 30, and I own a bed and breakfast called Hearth & Home. I’m not the most exciting person in the world. I mean, seriously…I’m the official maid, doorkeeper and billing manager for a revolving cast of strangers—not that I’m complaining. I inherited Hearth & Home when my aunt passed away, and having that source of income allowed me to become my sister’s legal guardian when we lost our parents in a plane crash. God had that path all smoothed out for us before we ever knew we’d need to walk it, and I’m so, so grateful!
Oh, I’m not married. Working 24/7 doesn’t offer lots of opportunity to meet people, but I have to be honest—that’s not why I don’t have a husband. My single status probably has more to do with a young man I knew in high school, and a box of memories stashed on a shelf in my closet…
2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there?
I’ve lived my whole life in Quillpoint, Tennessee. It’s where my parents lived, and their parents too. This town’s a Michaels family tradition. It’s not big—population’s around 19,000. Nevertheless, we are proud to be “The Sharpest Little City in the Country.” Pretty pointed play on the word, wouldn’t you say?
3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know?
I’m a fretter. If life rolled along without a single kink in the works, I’d fret because there’s nothing to fret about. But I manage to hide it most of the time, and most folks just think I’m shy (which I am) and withdrawn (which isn’t true, and I don’t like that label!). Savannah knows I fret , and refuses to allow it when she’s around. My high school boyfriend knew too…and he figured out pretty fast that if I’m having fun, I don’t remember to fret. But then, that was a lifetime ago. I’m not even sure why I mentioned it.
4. Name two things you would hate people to know about you?
You want me to tell everyone two things I don’t want them to know. Hmm…odd question. But I’m answering it, and that’s got to be odder than odd. Two things, then.
1. I did mention that box in my closet, right?
2. I’d gladly hitchhike all the way across the country and back to keep from boarding a plane. And the thought of anyone I love going up in one of those metal monsters…well, let’s just say it’s the stuff my nightmares are made of. (Shudder!)
5. Tell us about your special lady/bloke. What makes her/him special?
I did mention that I’m not married, right? I’m not involved with anyone either, but it’s OK. I can always rock my sister’s as-yet-unborn babies and be the doting spinster aunt. My only serious boyfriend was Daniel. That was a lifetime ago, but I’ll talk about what made him special.
He was handsome, sweet, gentle…all that, despite being a “star” quarterback and one of the most popular boys in the school. We spent every waking moment together. We laughed at everything and nothing, talked incessantly, and just…really loved each other. His family moved away during our senior year, and we tried to stay in touch, but eventually we lost contact. Long-distance relationships….they seldom work out, even when the two parties are adults. Daniel and I were teenagers, and that teary goodbye on the bleachers at Quillpoint High was the beginning of the end for us.
My sister says I’m not hard to look at (Hehehe!), and I’ve given the romance thing a shot with a guy or two since high school, but they all lacked that certain something. You know…? Savannah says the missing element was that none of them were Daniel. She’s an incurable romantic.
6. The first time you saw her/him, what did you think? Did you like her/him immediately, or did she/he have to grow on you?
7. What would he/she hate people to know about her?
8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink?
I’m a coffee lover, and I like to experiment with different flavors. Peppermint coffee’s my current favorite, but I still love a great cup of hot chocolate too. And food…oh my, I love the stuff. I’ll try any dish once, and if it isn’t love at first bite, well…I’m a good sport. I’ll give it a second try…or third, or… (lol!) Good thing I make a dozen trips up and down two flights of stairs every day. Gives those calories a run for their money.
9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why?
Can it be a word battle, please?
10. Pepsi or coke
Bite your tongue! Dr. Pepper.
11. tea or coffee
12. elephant or tiger
13. roast dinner or burger and chips (fries for our US readers)
14. classical music or pop
Country isn’t a choice? Now there’s something to fret about!
15. sunrise or sunset
If I didn’t have to get up early to lay out the Continental breakfast for my guests, I’d never see a sunrise. I’ve learned to love them, but I have to admit I still favor a gorgeous sunset.
16. chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers)
Chocolate. Is that a trick question?
17. What would you like on your epitaph?
He really rang her bell. (Let people guess what it means, right?)
Clare, thank you so much! I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. If you’re ever in Quillpoint, Tennessee, please do look me up at Hearth & Home. I promise not to fret while you’re there—we’ll be having too much fun!