USA Today Bestselling Author
She’s his Christmas miracle.
Now all he has to do is convince her of that…
Figure skater Tasha Ramson used to love the holidays. But with her career on the skids, she needs a break from the festive season—and Berry Lake is the perfect place to take it. Organizing a Christmas fundraiser was not on her agenda. Neither was falling for the small town’s handsome lawyer. But…she did…
Elias Carpenter needs a break, too. Between the demands of his family firm and managing the ice show fundraiser, he’s at the end of his rope. Tasha showing up is the best thing that could’ve happened for him professionally and personally. Now, if only he could convince her to move him out of the friendzone…
When a pesky ghost from Tasha’s past arrives to wreck her present, will she hang onto Elias when it matters most? Or will she let her happily ever after skate away forever?
A shorter version of this story was published in the A Keepsake Christmas anthology.
Retired figure skater Natasha ‘Tasha’ Ramson manages the ice rink her parents built in their hometown for her brother Alec and her to practice. Her pairs then individual and him hockey. This year however her parents decided to sell the rink without telling anyone. As the rink closes breaking her heart, Tasha decides to spend Christmas alone in Berry Lake. She needs to figure out what she wants to do with her life.
Elias Carpenter, is technically the youngest partner in his family’s law firm. In reality he’s being overworked by his father and grandfather. Now with the holiday’s coming his father puts even more in his lap. His grandmother is having heart issues and she won’t slow down unless her husband does, which means Elias gets the brunt of it all.
I love the way these two meet while she’s skating and his dog gets away from him.
This is a favorite scene.
“Yes, but the committee is still debating this year’s Christmas performance.”
“Let me guess. Penelope Jones and Charlene Culpepper can’t agree.”
Of course Grammy would know what was happening even if she wasn’t involved personally. “You nailed it.”
She sighed. “I’m sorry you had to take my place.”
So was Elias, but he would never admit that to Grammy. “It’s not so bad. The Berry Lake Cupcake Shop provides dessert and Brew and Steep brings coffee.”
“That’s the spirit.” Grammy’s enthusiasm filled Elias with warmth. “Did Sabine drop off the foster dog?”
Elias gripped the phone. “About fifteen minutes ago.”
“Tell me about the dog.”
“His name is Higgins, and he’s potty trained. Sabine said he’s chill.”
The clicking of paws made Elias look over at Higgins. A blur of blue headed out the front door. His stomach dropped. “Grammy, I need to go.”
“Talk to you later, dear. I love you.”
He disconnected from the call. “Dog. Higgins. Stop.”
Pulse pounding, Elias raced out the door. His feet sank into the snow covering his front yard.
Higgins ran toward the end of Pinewood Lane. The blue leash dragged behind him like a malfunctioning kite tail.
The dog wouldn’t get far. Elias’s legs and strides would overtake the dog’s shorter legs soon.
His breath huffed. At least no cars. “Higgins!”
The dog didn’t slow but sped up.
So much for Higgins being smart and chill. The dog needed obedience lessons.
Or a new foster.
Elias picked up the pace, ignoring the stitch in his side and the burn in his thighs. He’d been away from the gym for too long if a brief run wore him out.
Higgins ran past the last cottage. He veered between the tall pine trees onto the path that led to the lake. For a dog who’d only arrived, he seemed to know where he wanted to go.
Please don’t go on the ice.
The lake remained frozen most of the winter, but Elias didn’t want Higgins out on the ice. It was solid enough near the edges for people to skate, but farther out wasn’t as thick.
“Higgins.” His voice hung on the wind.
Elias cleared the trees to a snow-covered area known as Pinewood Beach in the summer. Higgins sat facing the lake at the edge, where a short ridge of snow had built up. He walked slowly so as not to spook the dog.
Movement caught Elias’s attention. He glanced past Higgins to the lake and squinted.
Someone was on the ice. He did a double take. A figure skater, wearing black— except for her skates and a multicolor beanie— glided across the ice. Her graceful movements with outstretched arms and fast spins reminded him of the ice show his grandmother dragged him to when he was twelve. He’d gotten snacks, which made the two hours pass quicker, but he would have rather watched the Mariners or Seahawks. That was well before the Volcanoes, an expansion hockey team, arrived in Seattle.
No music played, yet she skated as if performing for a packed arena. She… captivated Elias.
The skater must have tucked her hair inside the beanie, and he wanted to know what color her hair was. Eyes, too, but he stood too far away.
And then he remembered…
The dog sat facing the skater.
Elias took a slow, careful step and then another. The dog didn’t flinch.
Only another two feet to go. Snow crunched under his left foot. He inhaled sharply.
Higgins bolted across the ice directly in the path of…
“Stop!” Elias yelled.
Neither the dog nor skater listened. The leash slid across the ice right in front of the skater, who skated with her chin up.
The scene played out in slow motion. Higgins froze. Her right skate hit the leash, and she stumbled. The skater tried to keep her balance by sticking her arms out, but her action didn’t stop gravity. She hit the ice with a thud.
Higgins jumped on top of her and licked her face.
The skater laughed. She reached into her jacket pocket. “Well, this is a first. Where did you come from, cutie?”
Her voice wrapped around Elias, as warm and comfortable as a fleece blanket. He wanted to hear it again, only he wanted her to speak to him.
He stepped onto the ice, taking small steps to keep from falling. “Are you okay?”
The skater looked at him.
Gorgeous green eyes. Elias’s mouth went dry. He nearly fell flat on his back.
Forget speaking. All he could do was breathe.
“Is this your dog?” she asked.
“Sorta.” He came closer, unsure why he found himself so tongue-tied. A friend from law school had once told Elias that dogs were a chick magnet. But Higgins running into this woman seemed more like luck. “I’m fostering him for the holidays.”
She rubbed Higgins with a gloved hand. “Friendly.”
“He’d been in my house for less than five minutes when he took off. I’m sorry. Did you hurt yourself?”
She grabbed onto the leash, placed Higgins on the ice, and carefully stood. “I’ve taken much harder falls over the years, but thanks for the concern.”
“You skate a lot?” he blurted.
“Yes.” The amusement in her voice matched the twinkle in her eyes. “Not a fan of the sport?”
He shrugged. “I prefer hockey.”
“Of course, you do.” She appeared more resigned than upset. “Here you go.”
He took the leash from her.
“Thanks. I’m Elias.”
She hesitated. “Tasha.”
Tasha. The name suited her. “You’re not from around here.”
Tasha brushed off the snow from her backside. “No.”
Only locals came to this part of the lake unless… He remembered seeing a car he didn’t recognize drive by when he’d brought in the mail before he ate lunch. “You’re staying in the last cottage on Pinewood Lane.”
Tasha stiffened, and her eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”
“I live in the second house on the right. The one you’re in is the only rental on the lane.” That might change. Dalton Dwyer had bought the cottage where Tasha was staying and would take possession in January. No one knew Dalton’s plans yet.
She laughed. “Small towns are always the same.”
“Everyone knows your business.”
Tasha nodded. “Aren’t you freezing out here?”
Elias wasn’t wearing a jacket, but somehow, he was warm. “I ran after Higgins, so I’m not cold.”
Melissa McClone. The Last Cottage on Pinewood Lane: A Small Town Christmas Romance (Kindle Locations 513-572). Cardinal Press, LLC.
As Elias does the things necessary for his grandmother and the Christmas Fund raiser, Tasha helps with an idea.
This brings them closer to each other and also to resolutions regarding their futures.
A lovely Christmas story with a special Christmas ornament sealing the moment.
5 Contented Purrs for Melissa!
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USA Today bestselling author, Melissa McClone has published over forty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group.
With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters.
Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities.
Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds, and cats who think they rule the house. They do!