Christmas Extravaganza 2019
While her own relationships always end up doomed, Emily Colt is still determined to create happily-ever-afters through her wedding and event planning business. In hopes of expanding, she enters her latest project--staging the Christmas wedding of the year--into a town-wide contest. But between crossing paths with the first man to break her heart and dodging a saboteur, she doubts success is within her grasp.
Jilted pastor, Luca Wilson, fled to the mission field to escape a broken heart. All the hurt rushes back when he returns home to officiate his cousin’s wedding, and he finds Emily--the girl to whom he once promised forever--organizing the celebration.
Despite Luca's lost faith in love, their unforeseen reunion rekindles a spark, and Luca vows to help Emily save her struggling business. But to succeed, they will have to learn what it means to trust each other and believe in the God of Christmas miracles.
The curtain slipped from Emily’s fingers as she turned from the window.
“Did you decide about the contest?” Melody leaned against the wall by the front door. Marriage looked good on her friend. Still a newlywed at six months, Melody wanted everyone to be as happy as she was with Quentin.
It had been a long time since Emily was that kind of happy.
Emily pulled her boots out of the front closet and tugged them on. “I’m gonna give it a go. I emailed my entry earlier today, but I’m not sure I can pull a full proposal together in time.”
“If anyone can do it, it’s you.” Melody handed Emily her jacket and leaned back against the wall. “I’m glad you didn’t lease that little storefront off Main Street. Winning a spot on the Mistletoe Mile is exactly what your business needs.”
Winning a spot on the path that wound all around the quaint Christmassy town of Mistletoe Meadows would be amazing, but Emily couldn’t bank on it. Several local businesses far more established than her destination-wedding venture had also entered the contest.
Emily pointedly looked at the front door. “If I don’t get outside to greet Leah, I won’t have a winter wedding to highlight in my proposal.” Emily had photographs from Melody’s wedding the previous summer, but she needed to add images from Leah’s winter wedding to fill out her proposal.
“Oh, sorry!” Melody jumped out of the way to let Emily pass.
Emily descended the porch steps repeating the names of Leah’s mother and stepfather in her head. She followed deep crevices in the snow to an idling high-end sedan.
Alice and Bert. Alice and Bert. Alice and Bert.
She knew their names because she had been in constant communication with Leah during the weeks leading up to this day, but a history of forgetfulness in high-stress moments only amplified this as a high-stress moment. She hurried toward the vehicle. Alice and Bert.
Convincing Alice Woodgrow, Leah’s big-city, hoity-toity mother, to trade a huge, splashy wedding at her golf club for a smaller more intimate affair in the country had been a group effort. What really sealed the deal was Leah asking in front of Melody and Travis’s mom. The only thing that seemed to matter more to Alice than getting her way was appearing generous and kind in front of others.
Leah climbed out of the backseat. “We made it!”
The sunlight caught the diamond on her left hand as Leah exited the automobile, and Emily felt her bare left finger hidden inside her mittens. Even after all these months she still felt naked without the ring. “It’s great to see you again.”
Leah launched forward for a hug.
Emily staggered, but quickly found her footing. She couldn’t let her best client—her only client—fall to the ground.
“I’m so thankful for all the work you’ve done on our wedding. I don’t think I could have pulled it together on my own.” Leah pulled back with her hands still clutching Emily’s upper arms. Her wide eyes, rounded and hardly blinking, darted to her parents. “Come meet my mom and her husband, Bert.”
Emily’s stomach fluttered. She pasted on a big smile that she hoped looked more natural than it felt. Interesting, how Leah referred to Bert as her mother’s husband. Bert was not her dad or even her stepdad.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Emily offered her hand, but Alice wasn’t looking at her. Alice stared at the gingerbread-trim work, white clapboard siding, and dormer windows of Mistletoe Manor Bed and Breakfast.
“Wow,” Alice exhaled the word.
Emily quickly hid her smile at the woman’s slack jaw hanging open in the most unladylike way.
“Not much strikes my mom speechless.” Leah bumped Emily’s shoulder.
Leah stepped up behind Alice. “See, Mom, I told you it was nice. Nicer than that golf club with no character. This place has charm. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting.”
“This is beyond nice.” Bert unloaded the luggage and set it on the snow. “And it’s cheaper than the club.”
Alice glared at him before settling her gaze on Emily. “How long have you been planning weddings, Emily? Have you used this venue before?”
Emily hesitated. She believed in always telling the truth because the Lord commanded honesty, but somehow, she knew the whole truth would not sit well with this woman. Who wanted a wedding planner that was struggling to believe in committed relationships? Despite her experiences, Emily needed to believe in love. If she didn’t surround herself with positive optimistic people in love, she feared she’d grow bitter and hard.
“I’ve been in business for about six months. This isn’t the ceremony and reception venue, although we will take some pictures here. We’ve booked a beautiful church in town. It holds the same nostalgic charm of the manor but on a grander scale. I think you will love the stained-glass windows, hardwood floors, and stunning view. You won’t find a church like that in the city.”
Alice harrumphed, latching onto the negative. “Six months? That’s hardly long enough to handle an event like ours.”
“Mom, remember Melody, Travis’s sister? Emily planned her wedding. I showed you the pictures.”
The corners of Alice’s mouth turned down, and her cheeks flushed despite the cold air.
“Emily came from the city to arrange it,” Leah continued, “and she loved it so much that she decided to stay and establish Magical Mistletoe Marriages here. She’s already made solid connections with the businesses on the Mistletoe Mile. Travis and I walked the mile last year, and he proposed in the gazebo at the end.”
Emily appreciated Leah’s honesty and the thoughtful way she omitted the humiliating details of Emily’s past.
The front door burst open and Carol, Melody’s mom and Leah’s soon to be mother-in-law, hurried down the steps. “You’re here!” She pulled Leah into her arms and rocked her back and forth. “I’ve been watching out the upstairs window on and off for the last hour.” Carol stepped back and looked into Leah’s eyes. “How are you, dear?”
Leah’s entire frame and posture relaxed as she recapped their treacherous drive.
Alice stiffened at their warm interaction.
Carol prodded Leah toward the steps and waved Bert and Alice closer. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’re going to love Mistletoe Meadows.” She linked arms with Leah’s mom and ushered her up the stairs, across the threshold, and into the front room to stand in front of the rustic black woodstove that pumped heat from a red-bricked corner. “Warm yourself up. You must be freezing.”
Daisy, the fat orange tabby cat, stood up and scowled. It lifted its tail high and sauntered out like snobby royalty.
Wayne, Carol’s husband and Leah’s soon-to-be father-in-law, descended the staircase and offered Bert his hand. “Good to see you again, Bert.” Wayne took the suitcases from him and sat them inside the door and out of the way. Everyone looked to Emily for direction.
“There is coffee and tea in the next room,” Emily said. “Janie, Melody’s step-daughter, made cookies for everyone, and Leah, these flowers came for you.” Emily gestured to a beautiful arrangement of yellow roses on the fireplace mantel.
Alice plucked the card from the three-pronged plastic holder, clucking her tongue. “Who would be so insensitive?” She ripped opened the envelope. Her eyebrows shot upward. “Travis?”
Alice focused on Emily. “Isn’t your job taking care of this sort of thing? What are we paying you for if you’re not on top of the details? We wouldn’t see this incompetency in the city.”
Emily searched her brain for some logical reason to explain Alice’s unhappiness over the flowers.
“What’s wrong with roses?” Carol asked. She gave Emily’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. Her gaze landed on Leah. “Yellow is your favorite color, right?”
“Yes, it is.” Leah extended her hand toward her mom and didn’t drop her arm until her mom relinquished the card.
Leah’s features softened, and the corners of her lips turned up in a smile at whatever message Travis had scrawled. “It’s not a big deal, Mom.” Leah slipped the card back into the three-pronged stick. “It was thoughtful. Travis is thoughtful.”
Alice clucked her tongue again. “Yellow means jealousy. Why would a bridegroom send his bride flowers that represent jealousy? Someone needs to educate your young man on wedding etiquette.”
There was no question as to whom Alice thought that ‘someone’ should be. Five minutes in, and any ground Emily had gained by stunning Alice with the beauty of Mistletoe Manor had been lost.