I always think it’s a bit weird when Christmas books start releasing in the summer. (Hello there, Hallmark!)
But as it gets close to the release of the final installment of Lila’s romantic saga in the sweet, small town of Hollyton, I realized I hadn’t shared a preview of how the romance started!
The series is available on Amazon. Later this year, I’ll be sharing the series on other book distributors too.
For all of you reading this in the summer in the northern hemisphere, stay cool!
Lila spun around the display of colorful Christmas cookies in the bakery aisle, narrowly avoiding a collision with a mom pushing two toddlers. The blue tins of the infamous Danish cookies shuddered ever so slightly as the side of Lila’s purse brushed against them.
“Whoops, sorry about that,” she said with a smile. Her arms were full of odds and ends that were on her grocery list. Why didn’t I grab one of those hand-held baskets? The whole point of going into the store without a cart was so she wouldn’t pick up too much stuff. Going to the grocery store in December was a test of the will. Everything was beautiful, delicious and on sale. It was a shopper’s best and worst dream all at the same time.
It was a week before Christmas. One week. Lila sighed as she mentally counted all the things she needed to get done. Lila glanced back at the display table where blue tins of shortbread cookies were arranged like a Christmas tree. They were the same cookies her grandma had been buying and mailing to her for years. She could get six of these, pair them with a pound of Starbucks Christmas blend coffee and give them to all the people she’d forgotten to buy gifts for.
She reached out to take a tin, then hesitated. The display was pretty but taking one of those cookie tins out of the stack was like trying to play Jenga. One wrong move and the whole thing would fall.
She swung her black oversized purse more snugly behind her shoulder, deciding against the cookies. It would be just her luck to send the whole display to the ground. She bit her bottom lip and tucked her shoulder length hair behind her ears. She needed to pick up something to bring for the office party next week. The holiday party tonight was put on by the firm and the partners for all three branches of the law firm. The office party next week was for their local office. It was an edible gift exchange. An edible gift exchange would be a great idea if the office wasn’t filled with lawyers who barely had time to sleep, let alone bake for a cookie exchange. Who comes up with these ideas?
Lila loved to bake, but she, like everyone else, was floating in work. No, she was drowning in work this December. She’d be lucky if she got the baking done for her family and friends, let alone anybody else. All she’d made was an easy peasy candy recipe that basically involved melting white chocolate, dumping it on a cookie sheet, throwing toppings on it and waiting for it to harden to break it apart. Hardly amazing.
She eyed the stack again. There was a tin that looked like it was a bit looser than the others. That and a bag of her homemade candy might work.
She took a deep breath and grasped the cookie jar. With the stealth of a cheetah, Lila pulled the tin out without even taking a breath. Once she had it in her hands, she breathed a sigh of relief. The tree of cookies stood intact.
She decided to pick up some breadsticks. She could make a quick dip and bring the dip in that cute Christmas serving set she’d found in Home Goods. She turned to go back to the aisle.
The mom with the toddlers had stopped on the other side of the aisle to pick up some breadsticks. The children waved their fingers at Lila. It looked like they were covered in some sort of jam. Yeesh. She turned around and began to walk toward Lila again with an apologetic smile. “It’s a crazy time of year, isn’t it?”
“Sure is,” Lila said. She sucked in her stomach, trying to squish herself against the table without hitting the stack of cookies.
The baby in the cart began to wail. The mom swerved her cart to the side with one hand and stuck a pacifier into the wailing child’s mouth. As the cart swerved, the toddler in the front reached out to grab at Lila. What did she want? The necklace with the Christmas bells? The cookies? All she knew was that she didn’t want those sticky fingers near her sweater.
Lila never did figure out what the toddler wanted. The next thirty seconds were like a slow scene from the climax of a horror movie.
Lila turned sharply to the right to evade the sticky fingers of the toddler. The toddler reached her arms out further, a look of eagerness on her round face. Lila turned the other way as the mom passed. The toddler lunged for the baguette in Lila’s arms.
“Oh, no, not for you.” Lila stood up tall and backed up several steps, right into the same display of well-orchestrated tins of cookies she’d previously tried to avoid.
As soon as her backside hit them, Lila knew she had stepped too far.
There was no way to stop the toppling tins. An expletive escaped Lila’s mouth as several tins toppled to the floor and rolled every which way in the bakery. Lila looked up to see another mom glare at her as she covered her child’s ears. The toddler looked at Lila with big eyes. “Uh-oh.”
“Uh-oh is right,” the mom said. She flipped her hair and strode down the aisle.
“Your toddler causes a catastrophe and you’re concerned about language?” Lila muttered as she set down her items on the floor: two jars of Greek olives, a red bell pepper, two cucumbers, cream cheese, a box of wheat thins, a box of candy canes, a bar of dark chocolate, a baguette, a carton of eggnog and a half pound of vanilla nut coffee. “I should’ve gotten a cart,” she mumbled to herself.
The alarm on her phone went off. Forty-five minutes to get to the holiday party. She picked three tins of cookies and set them on the display table. She set off after the other half dozen that had spread to the far aisles of the baking aisle. After retrieving them, she looked at the display. There was no way this side of heaven she was going to be able to reconstruct the Christmas-tree-made-out-of-cookie tins some talented store clerk had done. Whoever had put this together probably had a degree in structural engineering. Anything requiring that amount of technical ability was out of her realm of skills.
She reached for the last couple of tins. They had slid under the bread table. She’d have to crawl under to get them. Great day to wear high heels, she thought.
As she extended her arm all the way under the table, someone kneeled and picked it up just as Lila’s hand touched it. Lila froze in horror.
“Lila? What are you doing under there?”
Lila scooted out from under the table, two tins of cookies under her arms. She reached out for the last cookie tin. She could feel her face turn red and her whole body broke out in perspiration. “Jason, I, uh—”
Her mind raced with all the possibilities she could make up for why she was crawling around the grocery store in red high heels and a skirt that was a bit too short and too tight. Thank goodness her sweater was a bit on the loose side.
Jason Feldman was one of the new lawyers at the firm she worked at, Abel, Crow & Boone and by far the most attractive one. As one of the few single lawyers at the firm, he’d attracted the attention of all the single female staff and some of the married staff as well. She’d harbored a secret crush on him for several months but told herself they’d always be simply good colleagues.
“I’m just picking up some items for the party tonight,” she said, forcing a smile.
“But the party is being catered.” The twinkle in his eyes revealed his playful side. His tone was serious, but Lila could see the corners of his lips form into a small smile.
“I meant the gift exchange Monday, you know the edible—”
Before Lila could finish, a worker strode around the corner. “Okay, who took out my Christmas tree display?”
Lila closed her eyes and raised her hand. She turned around, wishing Jason would just go away. In front of her was a store clerk dressed in a reindeer costume, complete with antlers that protruded from her head by about two feet.
Sweet Lila! The “most wonderful time of the year” is about to turn in to the craziest time of the year! To get in on the fun and chaos, check out the ebook and print book here.