Free-spirited journalist Grace McKinnon is happy jet-setting from one adventure to the next. That is, until work beckons her back home for Christmas, to Beckett's Run--the cozy winter wonderland that contains everything she ran away from years ago, including childhood sweetheart J. C. Carson....
Blazing into town in her red convertible, Grace nearly runs J.C. off the road! And working together to organize the Christmas festival, sparks fly even as their past looms between them.
But with the first snowflakes falling, will Grace be able to resist J.C. under the mistletoe...despite all their differences?
The envelope sat on Grace McKinnon's hotel-room desk in Santo Domingo for a good three hours before she picked it up and glanced at the return address.
Beckett's Run, Massachusetts.
Her grandmother had to be pretty determined to track her down all the way out here. But that was Gram. When she wanted something, she got it. A stubbornness Grace had inherited--a curse, her mother called it, a blessing Gram always said. Either way, right now, Grace had bigger issues to deal with, so the envelope would have to wait.
"I just turned in the Dominican Republic piece a couple hours ago," Grace said into the phone. "Where do you want me to go next?"
The cell connection faded as she paced the room, passing the desk and the letter several times before coming to a stop again. She shifted back to the window, perched against the farthest southern pane. Below the ten floors of the hotel, cars congested the roads of Santo Domingo, impatient horns blaring an angry chorus in the bright morning sun.
Grace's hip nudged the desk and dislodged the envelope again. She leaned on the corner of the desk, toward the strongest cell signal she could find, and fingered the envelope while she listened to her boss's latest rant.
"I don't want you to go anywhere next. I skimmed what you emailed and the Dominican piece was okay, full of the usual hotspots for tourists and that kind of thing, but honestly, that New Zealand one was a mess. You kept veering off on other tangents, like the tents set up by the homeless. What tourist wants to see that? That's the kind of piece someone would write for that tearjerker Social Issues. Not what I hired you for and not what you said you wanted to write."
"It is what I want to write."
"Yeah? Then why do you keep sending me these change-the-world things?"
She bit back a sigh. "Wouldn't it be nice to run something different once in a while?"
"Hell, no. The advertisers don't want different. Neither do the readers. So just give me what I'm paying you for."
"I will." She shifted her weight again. In the last couple of years, all those happy vacation stories had gotten on her nerves. She wanted more. The problem was, she didn't have the chops to write more. She'd sent a few pieces to Social Issues, thinking she'd be a shoo-in because the editor, Steve Esler, had been her mentor in college and a good friend since then. For years he'd encouraged her to come over to the magazine and write something with "depth and meaning." She'd sent him those pieces, then sat in his office and watched him shake his head.
"You 're a better writer than this, Grace. You need to put your heart into your stories. Then the reader will laugh and cry right along with you. These articles...they feel like you're afraid to care."
So she'd gone back to travel writing, to the empty kind of writing about the best hotels and zipline tours she'd written before. She told herself she was happy, that she didn't want to be one of those starry-eyed fresh-from-college journalism grads who thought they could change the world with their pen.
Except a part of her had always felt that way. And still did. Even if she wasn't a good enough writer to do that.
"I don't want humanity's woes smeared all over the page," her editor was saying. "I want happy destination recaps and most of all laughing people, who are completely unaware there is a single issue in the world worth worrying about while they sip their margaritas and enjoy a relaxing massage."
Paul Rawlins let out a long sigh....