Sweet & Clean
Christmas in the Rockies
A Collection of Three Holiday Romances
Christmas in Moose Creek
A Second Chance Romance Novelette
On a winding mountain road in Moose Creek, Montana
THE 4X4 CAREENED to a stop and the driver waited in disbelief at the deplorable timing of Mother Nature. Moose Creek, Montana, had its share of wildlife—bear, deer, elk, mountain lions—but in her thirty-three years, Saige Travers had never seen a moose on this mountain. Until today.
No one waited for her in her swank two-bedroom condo in Seattle except the goldfish her brother gave to her as a joke for her birthday. She’d needed a break from the city and the cataclysmic string of end-of-the-road relationships she’d been in the past five years. More like dates, if she was going to be honest with herself.
Saige Travers didn’t have time for relationships.
She didn’t believe in settling for less when she wanted more. The “more” included her position as an ad executive for one of Seattle’s elite marketing firms, a corner office, and the respect of her colleagues while she worked her way up the time-honored ladder to the top floor.
Unfortunately, no one ever told Saige that when she reached the top, she would be alone more often than not. She enjoyed her work and the success she’d attained, but whenever the holiday season approached and her artfully constructed campaigns graced billboards, television spots, and magazine covers, Saige always experienced a moment of doubt and a touch of sadness.
Saige had completed her campaigns ahead of schedule, and while the leaves began to change in the landscaped park next to her office building, she’d found herself wondering how she ended up in a sky rise 500 miles from home. Autumn was her favorite season in Montana, and staring out her office window overlooking Elliot Bay, Saige realized she was exactly where she didn’t want to be.
In a moment of nostalgia, she clicked the bookmarked tab on her PC that took her to the chamber of commerce website for her hometown of Moose Creek. The town had put up a web camera overlooking Main Street and the tranquil bay of Eagle Lake. Out of habit and enjoyment, she perused the classifieds page, which featured five advertisements from local businesses. She smiled. It was a busy week for the chamber.
Whether it had been fate, luck, or good timing, an idea sparked. Saige had planned everything. From the day she graduated high school, packed up for college, and said goodbye to her high school sweetheart, every second had been part of a careful strategy to conquer the world.
One week ago, Saige had tossed aside every plan she’d ever made, and now she waited for a moose on a road she’d forgotten remained untraveled unless her parents happened to drive to and from town. According to the last conversation with her mother, they’d been holed up planning this year’s Halloween festival for a town that managed to fill every month with some kind of fair, feast, or special event.
If she’d told them she was coming, they would have asked questions, and right now, she didn’t have all the answers.
Coming home tripled Saige’s doubt because it forced her to face what she’d left behind fifteen years ago for her career—Owen McGregor. She had escaped Montana, or so she’d thought, without ever telling Owen how she felt about him. If she had, Saige might have stayed. All she managed was a hug and a few tears when she drove away. She’d kept busy, worked her way to a successful career, and accomplished her goals, but a week hadn’t gone by in those fifteen years when Saige didn’t regret her choice.
Saige pressed on the horn, the sound reverberating off the mountainside only to be muffled by the thick wall of pine trees on the opposite side. She pressed down again, this time gaining the attention of the moose.
“Okay, you win.” Saige held up her hands. “You win. I’ll wait right here until you decide not to stand in the middle of the road, you wacky-looking creature.” She exhaled, removed her wool cap, and lowered the heat a few degrees before she rolled down the window. Winter had come early to Montana, and she relished in the cold, crisp scent of the pine forest. Saige looked back out at the animal and wondered how its head would look above the great fireplace in her parents’ living room.
She shook her head and stared at the moose who stared back. “I know you don’t know what I was thinking, but I’m sorry anyway. Now, will you please get out of the way? I promise to never, ever hunt one of you in my life.”
Saige credited the moose’s departure to its own desire to be off the road rather than her nonexistent telepathic abilities with wild animals. She nodded her thanks to the lanky beast, shifted her car back into drive, and continued up the mountain.
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Excerpted from Christmas in Moose Creek by McKenna Grey. Copyright © 2016 by McKenna Grey. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
McKensie's Christmas Gift
A Second Chance Romance Novelette
McKensie Cutter stomped snow off her boots and entered The Wycliffe Hotel. She closed her eyes and savored the familiar aroma of fresh bread. A beautiful autumn bouquet of flowers, twigs, and greenery sat on the reception counter that had been a part of the small hotel since the 1800s when her great-great-however-many greats-grandmother founded the inn.
Everything looked the way it had the last time she had visited two summers ago. She had been too busy to travel from Connecticut to Wyoming last summer, even though she had come every summer since age ten. Unfortunately, the “too busy” excuse was one she couldn’t take back.
Regret weighed down on her as she veered away from the lobby and reception area to the dining room. The summer white linens had been replaced by autumn greens and oranges, though she noticed a subtle difference in this year’s seasonal décor, as though the staff had attempted to mimic her aunt’s graceful and perfectly balanced style with their own.
She walked past the kitchen and storage area to her aunt’s office behind the small country hotel. No, McKensie reminded herself, this was now her office. She smoothed a hand over the desk situated in the center of the room. She recognized the nineteenth-century William IV mahogany writing table desk and complementary leather desk chair.
McKensie’s mother would have been disappointed if the years spent in their exclusive antique shop hadn’t rubbed off on her daughter. “Well, Aunt Olivia, you had spectacular taste.” Both pieces were new since she’d last visited, as was the round oak table and English bookcase that McKensie estimated was circa 1870. The room was a blend of rustic warmth and rich antiques, a look that shouldn’t have gone together, but did.
She lowered herself into the leather chair and smiled. Her aunt had positioned the desk to offer a view of the Teton Mountain Range and expanse of open land and forest between. The only office item missing was a computer, a tool McKensie knew her aunt refused to allow into what she considered her private sanctum.
“I’m sorry but you can’t—”
“It’s okay, I’m—” McKensie rose and faced the doorway. “Shirley!”
“Oh, my! McKensie Cutter!” Shirley Jessup, the longtime cook at The Wycliffe Hotel, hurried into the room. “You’ve come back!”
McKensie embraced the older woman and stood at attention for the same inspection she’d received every summer.
“You’re too skinny.”
“Not for long. I gained a pound just walking past the kitchen.” She grinned and brought the woman into her arms for another hug. “Do you still make that amazing coffee cake?”
“Same recipe since . . . oh heavens, 1880 when Caitlyn Marsh introduced it to the hotel menu. But I doubt it can compare to your cooking.” Shirley looked around the room, her smile somewhat faded. “This place has been in your family a lot of years. Hard to imagine it . . . without your aunt.”
The regret McKensie drove across the country with returned to the surface. “Yes, it is. She loved this place more than anything.”
“Now that isn’t so, and you know it. There was nothing on this earth Olivia loved more than you, but this place was a close second.”
The women shared a knowing smile. McKensie studied the room again. “It looks like she’s done a bit of decorating. I noticed a few new pieces when I walked through the foyer.”
“You know Olivia. She hated the idea of life moving forward and times changing. She upgraded where needed to keep the place standing, but she preferred living in the past.”
McKensie’s gaze fell on the beautiful English bookcase. “What happened to the original furniture she had in here? They belonged to Caitlyn.”
“Your aunt moved those into her cottage behind the hotel last year. Said she wanted them close to her.”
Last year, McKensie thought. Had her aunt known even then that her time was nearing the end? She shook the melancholy thoughts away and faced Shirley. “Does everyone know I’m back?”
Shirley nodded. “Your father and aunt’s lawyer sat us all down last week. You’re really staying?”
McKensie hadn’t been sure of her plans when the lawyer called. She’d only heard the day before from her father about her aunt’s passing. Now she owned The Wycliffe Hotel and had no idea what to do about it.
Her previous employer regretted losing McKensie. However, when you’re the head chef of a top-rated restaurant in a small town, business didn’t stop for any reason. The sous chef, trained by McKensie, had eagerly taken over the position. If asked, McKensie would admit to a sense of loss when she watched her apprentice take over the kitchen whose reputation she’d built over five years.
Life happened, and in McKensie’s case, it came with a new direction, a direction which terrified her. “Yes, I’m really staying.”
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Excerpted from McKensie's Christmas Wish by McKenna Grey. Copyright © 2016 by McKenna Grey. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.