Christmas isn’t Christmas without snow.
So Dixie Dunham believes.
But she’s about to experience a Christmas with nothing but cold, gray rain after taking a job at the Starlight Winery in Pineview, Oregon, smack in the middle of wine country. Dixie likes her new job at the winery and she’s hoping owners Jamie and Ernest will soon name her to the position of national sales manager. She’s certain the proposal she’s working on for a city-sponsored contest will cement her claim to the job. That would be something to impress the friends and family she left behind in New York.
And Dixie is desperate to impress them, seeing as how she fled after her fiancée jilted her at the altar in favor of her maid-of-honor best friend. Now as the December days shorten and darken and Pineview celebrates the season with lavish decorations and festive events, it’s hitting Dixie hard how much she’s lost. All she has left besides her job is the company of her loyal dog, Bo. And a Christmas without snow.
When Jamie and Ernest introduce her to their good friend Max Pettigrew, who has just moved from Paris back to Pineview after a wrenching divorce, she’s instantly attracted to him. But Max Pettigrew never met a woman he didn’t want to flirt with. All in the strictest of innocence, of course. Too bad what he thinks is charming flirtatiousness is off-putting to Dixie. Ridiculously handsome he may be, but he’s also ridiculously annoying. And she does not need more annoyance in her life. When the two of them turn out to be vying to win the same city contest, her annoyance turns to anger. But Max grows more determined to win her over, inviting her to the Pineview Christmas parade and holiday parties, and turning to a stream of self-help books to help improve himself.
Can Max mend his entitled bro ways? Will Dixie get her promotion, and perhaps more important, her snow at Christmas in rainy Oregon?
“Bo, hush,” she called and commanded him to sit before opening the door, only too late remembering it wasn’t the best idea to open the door without knowing who was there. Well, she’d have the security of the screen door. As if. It was an old wood screen, old-fashioned and lovely but absolutely no protection.
Max Pettigrew stood on the front porch.
She didn’t need protection from him.
He raised one hand in a dorky wave. It matched the dorky grin on his face. “Hi.”
Her heart did a gymnastics flip. Maybe she did need protection from him.
“Um, hi?” She stiffened her shoulders. Was this weird for him to suddenly show up on her doorstep? Maybe he was a mad stalker.
“I’m not a mad stalker,” Max said. “But I am here to kidnap you and take you to the parade. Because I figure you probably have the mother of all hangovers and if there’s one thing I know that cures them, it’s a hair of the dog and some nice fatty treats.” He lifted the large blue tote bag he was carrying. “And I’ve got both in here, in the form of wine and stinky gooey French cheese. And bread—which is also excellent for soaking up the alcohol. Never mind that you’re going to be consuming more. Plus, the parade will cheer you up.”
“I’m not sad,” she said. Lying.
“Yes, you are. You’ve been sad all year. You told me so last night. And that’s no way to live your life.”
Just then, Bo nosed the screen open and pushed his way out, heading straight for Max, who knelt to pet him. Bo, the dog who never let any man get close to her and barked madly at any human of the male persuasion, preened under his touch. Traitorous canine.
Max turned his attention from the dog to her. “So put a warm coat on and some good socks and let’s--”
He was interrupted by a loud alarm. The smoke detector. She whipped her head around and realized the house was filling with smoke. “Oh, crap, the cookies.”
She ran into the kitchen, dimly aware of the screen banging and Max close behind her, Bo following everyone and barking. The smoke grew thicker as they neared the kitchen, where great swaths of it billowed from the oven. She opened the door with one hand and groped for a hot pad with the other. When she didn’t find one, Dixie grabbed a dish towel and yanked the door open, grasping the edge of the cookie sheet.
She promptly dropped it on the floor with a loud clatter. Burned bits of cookie flew everywhere and Bo rushed in to nose at them.
“Shit!” Dixie yelled.
Max bent to the floor and using the hem of his coat, grasped the cookie sheet and wrestled it into the sink. He turned on the faucet and the blackened cookies fell off in chunks. Bo happily scarfed up the cookie bits that remained on the linoleum. Max grinned at Dixie, pointing to his coat. “Thermal,” and then, “Perhaps baking is not your forte.”
“I’m an excellent baker,” Dixie huffed.
Dixie scowled. “Don’t your self-help books counsel you against dissing women?”
Max grinned and waved his hands through the smoke that was now dissipating. He grabbed the spatula and scraped a corner of completely charred cookie off the pan and held it up in the air, inspecting it.
“Excellent baker, indeed.”
She couldn’t help it. She started laughing. He joined in and soon the two of them were laughing uncontrollably.
“I guess this is a sign,” Dixie said when she finally got hold of herself. “I’ll go to the stupid Christmas parade with you.”
When not writing fiction, Charlotte teaches writing in England, the south of France, and around the Pacific Northwest. She also coaches writers privately. She is Director Emeritus and a current mentor at the Writer's Loft, a certificate-in-writing program at Middle Tennessee State University. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and is also the author Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.
Charlotte lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon, in a multi-generational home that is by turns boisterous and exuberant but seldom quiet. She believes no breakfast is complete without a crossword puzzle to work and no Happy Hour can actually be happy without popcorn. (Wine goes without saying.) Despite frequent stays in France, she regularly fractures the language. She is, however, fluent in Carney.
Charlotte writes stories about places you long to live filled with people you’d love to know.
Learn more about Charlotte at her WEBSITE and be sure to sign up for her author newsletter HERE.
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