Christmas came a little early this year. My first novel, The Christmas Tree Guy, has a new cover and I’m really excited to share it with you along with a short excerpt from the book. Hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!
Those children need their father…
Click. Deleting her mother’s message before it could finish, Sydnee closed her eyes and inhaled as if she were about to jump into the deep end of a pool. If she heard that phrase one more time, she would scream. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand.
Opening her eyes, she started to call her mother and tell her exactly just what she thought of Matt Garrett, her children’s absentee father, until she heard the unmistakable giggles of her rambunctious twins and their boots crunching against the snow. She sighed, realizing it was a conversation best suited for when she was home and not so tired, and definitely when the kids were asleep. Plus, it was a futile argument. Regardless of what she said, Sydnee’s mother seemed to think Matt walked on water.
“Guys, slow down.” Sydnee watched her spirited boys run through the lot, wishing she had half the energy they exerted on a daily basis. It was the day after Thanksgiving, their usual day to get a Christmas tree and she was having a hard time getting into the spirit of the season. She could feel the weight of all of the things she needed to get done bearing down on her and she wasn’t sure how she would manage before the Christmas vacation she was sorely in need of. And now that one of her co-workers had gone out on early maternity leave, she’d been given one more project to handle, and she hadn’t even begun her Christmas shopping. Not to mention, the father that her children so ‘badly needed’ in their life, hadn’t so much as made a phone call to them in months, and she was just about through with him and anyone else who continually ‘preached’ to her about the merits of his presence in their life.
“C’mon, Mommy.” She could hear Travis yelling through the rows of trees. She smiled at the two running in and out of the evergreens dusted with the icy flakes of an early Louisville snowfall and she stopped for a moment to admire her two precious cherubs. Even though their appearance was identical, they had totally different personalities and mannerisms. Travis was a lot more outgoing and never met a stranger, while Charlie took his time to get to know someone, but once he did, they had a friend for life. Pulling the peppermint colored scarf tighter around her neck, she weaved through the trees and found the boys trying to decide on which one they wanted.
“I want this one.”
“Travis that one is nice, but look at the branches. Those are pretty low at the bottom.” She pointed to a few hanging dangerously low to the ground.
“What about this one?” He quickly pointed to the one beside it and grinned. She shook her head at his impetuous decision-making. Turning, she looked to see where Charlie was and noticed him moving slowly past each tree, taking in the branches and how they looked. He was definitely the more thoughtful and more introspective of the two.
“What do you think Charlie?”
“I like this one.” Looking up at her with big brown sparkling eyes, he smiled and pointed to a fairly medium sized tree. It was full, and the branches seemed to be perfectly proportional.
“That one is pretty.”
“I like that one too, Mommy.” Travis, not to be outdone by his brother, said, running over to stand beside the tree Charlie had picked.
“You do, huh? You think this is the one?”
“Yeah.” Their little voices rang in unison as she pulled them into her sides and they looked at her with hopeful eyes. Looking in their perfect little faces, the long list of things she had to do fell by the wayside and she smiled.
“May I help you?” She heard a deep voice rumble behind her and she turned to meet the pearly white smile of a gorgeous young man working in the lot. He had eyelashes most women would kill for, and a deep set of steel grey eyes beneath them. His dark wavy hair was short and neatly mussed, and he wore one tiny silver hoop earring in each ear. His strong square jaw was covered by a barely-there shadow of dark stubble. She was taken aback at how attractive he was and just how instantly attracted she was to him.
“Um, I think we’ve decided on this one, even though, sweethearts, now that I look at it, this may be a little bigger than what we can handle.”
“But, Mommy,” Travis pleaded, looking at her with his innocent eyes.
“I know, but somehow we have to get it home and in the house and-”
“Mommy, please.” Charlie tugged at her hand as he and Travis took turns asking ‘please’.
“I don’t know.”
“You know, we can deliver it.” She heard the baritone voice behind her and she turned back to the man who was smiling at her sons and their exuberance over his last statement. She was having a hard time taking her eyes off of him and his hypnotic smile was slowly convincing her she wanted, no, she needed to buy the tree. She continued to hear a chorus of ‘Mommy please’ and she grinned at him.
“You really aren’t helping any.”
“Sorry, but I can see this is the tree they have their hearts set on.” She followed his gaze over to the twins who were now dancing their way around the tree.
“I know, but it’s a little bigger than I really planned, and getting it home is going to be a bigger deal than I thought.” She’d been so focused on getting a tree, she hadn’t really put much thought into how her 5 foot 6 inch diminutive frame was going to get it to the car, much less haul it in the house.
“I’m sure their dad will be okay with it knowing they’re happy, right?”
“Honestly, he doesn’t even care. I’m divorced.” Sydnee shrugged at the thought of Matt and his absenteeism in the boys’ lives, and she felt a stabbing pain of loneliness she just didn’t have the strength to revisit at the moment.
“Oh wow, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
“It’s okay. You couldn’t have known.” She put her hands up to keep him from apologizing.
“Oh, well, we’re about to close for the night and I can deliver it for you if you need me too.” There was that smile again. Did he know how unbelievably sexy he was? Focus Sydnee.
“I don’t know. I-”
“Oh wait, here’s our business card and if you need me to, I can give you a copy of my driver’s license. I can sense the hesitation, but I promise I’m not a serial killer or anything.” She watched him grin at her with maddeningly perfect teeth as he handed her the card.
“Well, I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as a serial killer, but you really must want to sell this tree.” Taking the festive card, she was grateful for something else to focus on rather than his beautiful face.
“Well, the quicker I can get it sold, the quicker we get out of the cold.”
“Is that your motto? Pretty catchy.”
“I just made it up. And well, I got to see that beautiful smile of yours, so maybe I’m making progress. So, how about it? You want this one?” She wasn’t sure if he was flirting or just trying to make a sale, but whatever it was, with his playful personality and those luminous eyes, he was persuading her to make the purchase.
Glancing at her boys she nodded slowly, giving in. “Yeah, I guess we’ll take this one.” Well, now that’s off of my to-do list.
“Yay, we got a tree.” She smiled and shook her head as the boys jumped up and down and gave each other high-fives.
They followed the young man as he picked up the tree and carried it to an area where he put a net over it to keep the branches from getting broken. The boys watched in awe while he worked and he even invited them to help him tie the net at the top to keep the branches from escaping.
Sydnee observed the genuine way he engaged the boys, explaining each step, inciting even more excitement in each of them. Once she paid for the tree, he took it and placed it on the top of her SUV and tied it down for her. She admired the way his body moved so fluidly and she caught herself staring at his broad shoulders as he hoisted the tree onto her vehicle. His voice shook her from her daydream and she felt a sudden flash of heat sear through her cheeks when he turned to smile at her.
“I can just close up everything here and follow you so I can help you guys get it in the house.”
“Oh, okay, thanks.” She piled the boys in the SUV and they waited for him to finish locking up. As they pulled out of the lot, she listened to the chatter from the boys and how they seemed so happy with buying just the right tree. Even if she wasn’t doing everything her mother said, she’d at least taken her advice and tried to keep the same family traditions in order to keep a sense of normalcy around the house for them, no matter how hard it had been.
They arrived at her house and she pulled into the driveway. Once she turned off the ignition, the boys piled out and started jabbering away as the young man walked from the curb to her car and untied the tree. He took it down and followed them into the house.
“You can put it over there.” Sydnee motioned to where the stand was already placed near the window in the living room. She still couldn’t believe she let a perfect stranger follow her home, but for some reason she felt comfortable with him. Once again, she found herself admiring his liquid-like movements, and she shook her head trying to clear the immoral and very uncharacteristic thoughts pervading her mind. His strong physique was impeccable and she could tell even with the bulky jacket he wore, he was in very good shape.
“Okay.” He walked over and placed the tree in the stand, securing it before cutting the netting away from the branches. “It hasn’t been tied up long, so you shouldn’t have to wait to decorate it.”
“Oh great. Thank you again for doing this. I’m not sure we would’ve been able to get it in the house in one piece without you.”
“No problem. Just doing my job.”
“Well, thanks. Boys, what do you say to the nice gentleman?” She blushed again, realizing she didn’t even know the young man’s name and here he was standing in the middle of her house. Of course, the boys were oblivious to anything since they were occupied going through the boxes of decorations. They barely mumbled ‘thank you’ before they went back to talking about how they were going to decorate the tree.
“You’re welcome, and it’s Quinn.”
“My name…it’s Quinn.” Sydnee felt her stomach do a flip-flop as he looked at her. And, she saw just how strikingly beautiful his eyes really were. They were like newly minted silver dollars and she was mesmerized by his gaze. Standing so close, she could smell his cologne mixing with the crisp smell of the evergreen in her house and every nerve ending in her body stood at attention.
“Oh, uh, well thank you, Quinn.” She shook herself out of her haze and handed him a $20 dollar bill. When his fingers grazed hers, she felt a slight buzz of electricity shoot through her skin and she wrung her hands together.
“Oh, no, you don’t have to-” He tried to refuse the money, but she wouldn’t take it back from him for reasons that were purely selfish. She wasn’t sure she could handle the electric feel of his hand on hers again and she hugged her arms close to her sides.
“Please. I insist. Thank you again.”
“You’re welcome.” Sydnee moved to open the front door to usher him out. As he headed out of the house, the young man turned when he got to the top step. “I hope you and your boys have a Merry Christmas.”
The Christmas Tree Guy is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. Check it out. I’d love to hear what you think.