Holly Montrose has created a captivating town named Christmas Cove, located in Northern Colorado, where it's always Christmassy and always covered in a pristine blanket of crisp, white snow. It's the sort of place Hallmark photograph for their Christmas cards.
THE CHRISTMAS COVE CUPCAKE WAR is Book One in the series and is OUT NOW in Paperback and ALL eBook Formats! Click on one of the stores after the excerpt to buy.
Enjoy the first chapter!
(NOTE: These excerpts have been reformatted for easy reading online.)
THE CHRISTMAS COVE CUPCAKE WAR
...Sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe,
I want a white Christmas so let it snow,
Everybody is home for Christmas,
Everybody is home, it's Christmas time...
“Good morning, Mrs. McTavish! How you doing today?” Chrissy asked her favorite customer. “It's not Friday already, is it?”
“I'm fine, sweetheart, just fine,” the old Scottish lady said. “I ken it's only Wednesday but Mrs. Ferguson down at the butcher told me about your new eggnog cupcakes. I just couldn't resist!”
Chrissy laughed. Mrs. McTavish and her cupcakes was the romance of the century. She just loved them.
“Theresa, eggnog cupcake and a cuppa for Mrs. McTavish – on the house,” Chrissy said.
“Coming right up. Have a seat, Mrs. McT,” Theresa said.
The old lady had been here every week since Chrissy opened the store, with one exception; Mrs. McTavish had a fall and gave herself a bang on the head that needed a few nights in hospital for observation. Chrissy visited her and took her in a fix of cupcakes and a flask of hot tea with just a splash of milk, just the way she liked it, every day.
* * *
Across town at Ye Olde Cupcakes and Coffee Shoppe, Lisa arrives for work and is about to makes sure her boss has a bad day.
“Norma! Norma! I heard somebody talking on their cellphone on my way here. They were saying how fabulous the new Holiday cupcakes are over there at you know who's. Eggnog! Eggnog with nutmeg buttercream frosting! Oh, and right now, she's putting up her Christmas decorations as we speak,” Lisa told her, breathlessly.
Norma's cheeks immediately flared angry red like Lisa's words had slapped her in the face. Lisa managed to suppress the smirk that threatened to spread over her mouth. One of her guilty pleasures was bringing her tyrant of a boss down a peg or two.
Although Chrissy and Lisa were not friends, Lisa had heard of her and knew she was a really nice girl. She'd never heard anybody say a bad word about Chrissy, except her boss. The way Norma talked about her, anybody would think she was Satan himself. Chrissy Massie was most definitely Norma's nemesis. The mere mention of her name could send her into a meltdown.
Norma had been in business in Christmas Cove for over twenty years. Ye Olde Cupcake & Coffee Shoppe had always been the only coffee shop in town, the only bakery, the only place to buy gourmet cupcakes and other sweet confections.
Then one day, out of the blue, another coffee and cupcake shop opened up across town.
Norma was furious; this was her turf. To her, Chrissy was no more than a trespasser, even although Chrissy had been born here and Norma had only moved her a couple of years before she opened her coffee shop.
But to Norma, this was her town, and she'd been in business in this place since Chrissy was in junior high. That gave her the right to own the one and only coffee and cupcake shop in town, she figured. If she was Queen of Christmas Cove, then direct competition with her business would be punishable by death and Chrissy's head would likely be on a pike next to the Welcome to Christmas Cove sign on the outskirts of town.
Before Lisa had her coat off and her purse stashed in back, Norma was cursing up a storm as she struggled with boxes of Christmas decorations in the store room. She'd be damned before she'd let li'l Missy Chrissy get the jump on her this Christmas.
Norma dropped the box of Christmas decorations, ignoring the shattering sound that came from it as her son, Chris, walked through the door of the coffee shop.
“Christopher! Oh, my baby boy!” she screamed and launched her self at him.
“Hi, Mom,” he said, trying not to lose his balance and just keep breathing whilst having all the air squeezed out of his lungs by his mother's embrace.
“What are you doing here?' It's only November 1st. I wasn't expecting you for weeks yet. In fact, I wasn't really expecting you at all. I didn't think you would actually come home for the Holidays. You are going to stay for the Holidays, aren't you?” she asked, rapid fire, not even stopping for breath.
“Geez, Mom; let me get in the door already, huh?” he said, grinning.
“Oh, I'm sorry, honey. I'm just so happy to see you and I don't want this just to be a flying visit. I want you to stay a while,” Norma said.
“And I'm gonna. Honest,” he told her.
“Hi, Lisa,” he said, winking at her. He knew Lisa had a bit of a soft spot for him. She had since they were in school together. She'd been crushing on him forever.
“Hiya, gorgeous!” Lisa yelled and planted a kiss on his cheek.
“I figured I'd come home for a little while. I'm working on a new novel and I thought the change of scenery would do my muse some good,” he said.
“Is your fiancee with you?” Norma asked.
“Ah, no. About that – we broke up. A few weeks ago,” he said, hoping she didn't endlessly question him about the whys and wherefores, but knowing she would at some point. He just didn't want to go over it all again right now.
“Oh, honey, I'm sorry,” Norma said.
“Don't worry. I'm fine. I'm over it already. In fact, I'm glad we broke up. I think I had a lucky escape,” he said.
“You don't think it'll all blow over and you'll get back together then?” Norma asked.
“No. No, no. Not a chance. We're done,” he said.
Norma bit her lip to stop the barrage of questions she had from spilling out. She'd leave it for now. She didn't want to scare him away and miss out on having him here for the Holidays.
“What sort of coffee shop is this anyways? Where's my coffee and cupcake already?” he said, smiling, hoping that would put an end, at least temporarily, to him having to regurgitate the whole sorry story of the break up. Again.
And that was part of the reason he decided to come home for the Holidays in the first place. And the reason he decided to come home early. He was just burned out on the endless questions and interrogations about what happened.
And besides, it was so embarrassing admitting his nearly wife had been sleeping with his so-called best friend for the greater part of a year and he hadn't a clue what was going on. Until she told him it was over and gave him back his ring.
* * *
Chris spent the afternoon in the coffee shop with his mom and Lisa helping with the Christmas decorations.
“Isn't is a teeny bit early for the Christmas decorations, Mom?” he asked. “I mean, Halloween was only yesterday.”
“Probably, but the coffee shop across town has theirs up already and their special Holiday cupcakes. That means more festive money in the cash register. People love the Holidays,” Norma said. “And besides, I'll be a monkey's uncle if I let her poach all my Christmas trade by getting a couple weeks head start on me. People see the decorations, they'll come in for hot chocolate and pumpkin pie,” she said.
“Her?” Chris inquired.
“She's talking about her nemesis,” Lisa said.
“Her nemesis? You have a nemesis? Who knew?” Chris said, giggling.
“This is no laughing matter, Christopher. She tried to wipe me off the face of the earth. You know I've been in this business here since you were in Junior High. Twenty years. Twenty years! This is my territory,” she said.
“You sound like a drug dealer!” he laughed.
Lisa covered her mouth to stop any sound coming out and looked at Chris with laughter in her wide eyes. Norma would not take kindly to being laughed at.
“Go ahead, make fun. But I built this business from the ground up. And she came along and tried to destroy it, by opening up another cupcake bakery in this tiny little town,” Norma said, hurt by her son making fun of her.
“Wow, she sounds like a real piece of work,” he said, humoring her, rather than agreeing.
“Actually, honey, if you're going to stick around for a while, you could help me out with something,” Norma said.
“Yeah, what's that?” he asked.
Norma shot a look over her shoulder and saw that Lisa was in earshot. Lisa could be a gossip at times and she didn't want to risk her being able to repeat her plans.
“We'll discuss it at home later. Actually, let me call your dad and see where he's at – he went to a conference in Denver yesterday but he should be getting back any time now. He'll be so glad you're home, but I'm not going to tell him you're here; let's surprise him,” Norma said.
* * *
“Oh, Chrissy, the place looks richt bonny,” Mrs. McTavish said.
“Richt bonny? That's a good thing, right?” Chrissy asked with a grin.
“Of course!” the old lady said.
“I'm just teasing you because you talk funny,” Chrissy said.
“Och, you!” Mrs. McTavish said, her dried-apple-doll-face wrinkling as she laughed. “So, what other fine cupcakes and sweeties have you got planned for this Christmas, darlin'?”
“I've got so much cool recipes I'm trying out right now; my new cupcakes and hot chocolates will blow your mind, Mrs. McT. I'll let you know as soon as I finalize the menu. I know I love the Holidays anyway, but I'm really excited about this Christmas. I think there's a special magic in the air this year,” Chrissy said.
“Oh? What makes you say that?” asked Mrs. McTavish.
“I don't know. Just a feeling,” Chrissy said with a smile.
“At my age, you think it's magic if you make it to Christmas!” Mrs. McTavish said and cackled.
Chrissy broke up laughing and hugged the old lady. She was such a character.
Theresa was giggling in the back as she made up cake boxes and almost sprayed her iced eggnog latte all over them.
“Hey, Mrs. McT; I'm about to kick around some ideas for the Holiday menu – maybe you could help me, be a sounding board, tell me what you think. You are my best and favorite customer,” Chrissy said.
“I'd love to! Do I get free tea all day? Actually, I better not drink too awfy much – I'll be up all night piddlin'!” Mrs. McTavish said, making Chrissy laugh.
“Oh, my God; you're too much!” Theresa said as she brought Mrs. McTavish her order.
Buy THE CHRISTMAS COVE CUPCAKE WAR at...
Amazon iTunes Barnes & Noble Sony Smashwords
Sheriff Alex Love hates Christmas and wishes it was January already.
Long gone are the days he would help his mom bake Christmas cookies and not give two hoots about the crap his friends flicked him about it.
It was a lifetime ago that the whole family would sing carols at the Christmas Cove Tree Festival the week after Thanksgiving every year.
He was the guy who proudly wore the hideous Christmas sweaters that seemed to wing their way under the Christmas tree every year with his name on the gift tag, either from grandparents or an aunt or some distant relative who had forgotten kids grow up.
It was forever ago that he would sit in church with his mom and dad every Christmas Eve, even when he was grown, instead of going out drinking and getting up to goodness knows what else with his buddies.
He was the Christmas geek of the whole town.
But that Alex Love was long dead. He died the same summer his mother was murdered.
* * *
Alex popped the top off a cold one and sank into his couch.
He'd have about one minute of peace before his phone rang at noon on the dot.
~ shrill electronic ringtone ~
It was another Groundhog Sunday.
Alex picks up his phone and looks at the glowing screen, sets it back down on the table again without answering.
He's had that conversation before, many times, which is the reason he doesn't answer his dad's call at noon every single Sunday.
Why does he even bother calling me?
He finds it annoying and sees it as his father not respecting his wishes.
“You coming to church today?” Jack Love would ask his son.
“No,” Alex would say, every time.
But his father never stopped calling every Sabbath. Never stopped asking the same question.
Eventually, Alex just stopped answering.
It had been along, hard road from idealistic priest-to-be to cynical atheist County Sheriff.
Entering the priesthood was the only thing he had ever wanted to do. He made that decision at twelve years old.
Even his devout mother who was overjoyed that he wanted to be a priest would frequently ask him if he was sure that was what he wanted to do with his life, and that nobody would think any less of him if he changed his mind about something he said when he was a child.
But he had never wavered. His resolve was unshakeable. Until the day his mother was murdered and took his faith with her to the grave.
He had not set foot inside a church since the day of her funeral. He even refused to get married in the church and instead had a civil ceremony in the local park.
If there had ever been a shred of his former faith left buried somewhere deep inside him, then his ex took it with her when she left with their son.
Twice he'd had his heart ripped out of his chest and each time he drifted further and further away from his family. The one and only constant in his entire life now, was his best buddy, Chrissy, whom he'd known since they were born.
An unexpected knock on his door interrupted his brooding.
“What are you doing here?” Alex asked his dad with utter disdain in his voice.
“I'm your father. I came to see if you were still alive or if your liver had finally exploded,” Jack said.
“Oh, don't be so melodramatic. I don't drink that much,” Alex said. “What do you want? Or did you just come over to share your sparking wit?”
“I just came over to ask you, since its almost Halloween and I want to give you plenty advance warning, if you're coming over for Thanksgiving?” Jack asked.
Alex rolled his eyes.
“Christ,” Alex said.
“What was that for? Since when do you blaspheme? You never used to do that,” Jack said, disappointed.
“Why do you even keep asking me this crap? The answer is always going to be no,” Alex said, finality in his voice.
Jack was angry at him but he sucked it back down. If he blew up at him, he'd just have the perfect excuse to slam the door in his face.
“I keep asking because you're my son and I love you. I always will, Alex, no matter how badly you treat me,” Jack said.
“I can't treat you all that badly if you keep on calling me and coming around,” Alex said.
“Actually, you do. But I'll keep trying to reach you, regardless. Just remember, Alex, I lost your mother too, you know. I loved her more than I could ever even tell you. I have no words for how much I loved her. But I lost more than you did – I lost my son too,” Jack said, tears filling his eyes.
“You done? I'm kinda busy right now,” Alex said.
“Alright. I can take a hint. But can I ask you one question? I've always wondered but I've never asked you,” Jack said.
“Go ahead. You will anyways whether I say you can or not,” Alex said.
“OK. Tell me, why did losing your mom make you hate the rest of your family and God? That's when you should have loved us the most. And Him,” Jack said.
Alex's face flushed scarlet with rage. He was sick and tired of being made to feel like the bad guy for simply wanting to be left alone.
“Are you not gonna answer me?” Jack asked.
“Goodbye, Jack,” Alex said.
“Oh. Wow. You can't even bear to call me Dad now?” Jack asked.
That hurt. Badly. And Alex knew it.
Jack left without saying another word, wounded that his son wouldn't even call him Dad anymore...