Christian Holiday Romance
Doctoral student Hannah Wagganer entertains dreams of teaching at a large university and leaving her hometown of Glen Arbor behind. That is until Jasper Morgan, the new mail carrier, arrives in town. Not only does he set Hannah’s heart a flutter, but he has an instant bond with her cat, Jingles.
Preparing for the church candlelight Christmas Eve service and running the family store, Hannah continues to bump into Jasper—and the prying eyes of the locals who suspect there’s more going on than business as usual.
Blessings and suspicions abound when an anonymous donor pays to have the church furnace repaired, and other locals suddenly find solutions to their problems. Is it coincidental, or the work of a secret angel?
HANNAH SCANNED SIDE to side, searching the trees and ground for movement. With every hurried step, billowing puffs escaped her mouth into the frigid December air. She sliced through the snow, pursuing the paw prints leading across her back yard in the direction of the lakeshore. Only last night, three inches of fresh powder had blanketed her hometown of Glen Arbor.
She continued trailing the tracks as her brunette curls whipped in the wind. A half zipped wool coat rustled against her hips, and flannel pajama pants failed to ward off an icy draft running up her legs.
“Jingles! You’re going to make us both catch pneumonia.”
Hannah paused briefly, hitching a ragged breath. Examining the ground, she spotted tracks from some of the local wildlife. One pair led in the same direction as Jingles’.
“Haven’t you learned not to chase the critters?” she mumbled, tramping forward along the trail. The faint sound of twigs snapping just ahead caught her attention. She was getting closer. Two minutes — and ten frostbitten fingers later — she found Jingles perched on a tree stump by Lake Michigan. Evidently, whatever he’d been chasing had gotten away.
Hannah scooped the orange tabby into her arms and swiped at the snow clinging to his fur and the small red bells attached to his collar. Soft purring cut through the cold air, melting her frustration.
“Come on, let’s get you home,” she said, trudging back toward the shop. Jingles snuggled against her chest as they crossed the church parking lot and climbed the wooden staircase leading into Deer Crossings — the store owned by her parents.
Hannah jolted to a halt, swallowing hard. Footsteps overhead in the apartment warned her it wasn’t a customer.
“We have an uninvited guest,” she whispered to Jingles. The cat meowed in response and jumped down, running in the direction of the store room. Hannah tiptoed over to the counter and retrieved one of her dad’s old golf clubs.
She hefted it to her shoulder, holding it like a baseball bat as the creaking sounds on the stairs grew closer. A large shadow appeared at the bottom of the steps. She gulped and swung the golf club, striking the banister.
“Put that thing away before you hurt yourself,” the stranger said, stepping into the light streaming through the bay windows. He adjusted the mail bag slung over his shoulder. “Do you always leave your front door wide open?”
Hannah lowered the golf club, staring into a pair of blue eyes matching the lake.
“M-my cat ran outside, and um, I didn’t want him to freeze out there,” she said, her gaze shifting to his blond hair, downward to the stubble shadowing his mouth. When his lips curled into a smile, she diverted her attention back to his bag and uniform. “I’m assuming you’re Henry’s replacement?” The words came out choked, which made his smile widen.
“I’m Jasper Morgan,” he said, extending his hand.
Hannah set the club on the counter and shook his hand. “Hannah Wagganer. I’m still getting used to the idea of Henry being retired. I’ll miss him,” she said as Jasper’s hand slipped away.
“From what I’ve heard, he’s a local legend around here.” He removed a cap from his pocket and placed it on his head. “I’ll have to see what I can do to help you not miss him so much.” He grinned and edged past her. “Now that I know things are secure here, I better get back to work.”
Hannah followed, locking the door behind him. Moving to adjust a crooked painting of a piping plover, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror mounted on the wall. She scrutinized her appearance all the way from the crusty gunk stuck on her nose downward to the childish cat pajamas. She cringed in disgust. Why couldn’t Henry have been on duty instead of Jasper? No wonder he couldn’t stop smiling.
“Meeow,” Jingles protested from the bottom of the stairs.
Hannah sighed at the pitiful expression on his face and headed upstairs to feed the orange ball of fur his breakfast before changing for work.
“I’M NOT SURE about this color,” Naomi, the preacher’s wife, informed Hannah. “I look like a wad of pink chewing gum.”
“No you don’t.” Hannah tied a brown snowflake scarf around the woman’s neck. The color brought out the richness of her dark eyes. “Lovely,” she said as heavy footsteps sounded on the wooden floor behind them. Turning, she spotted Jasper coming their way. “I’ll be right with you.”
“Take your time,” he said.
“Hmmm. I was wondering if you’d run into him yet,” Naomi said, backing into the changing area. “I’ll take the sweater and the scarf,” she announced.
“Pastor Amos will do a double take when he sees you at the candlelight Christmas Eve service.” She laughed, envisioning the older man letting out a low whistle for his wife. Married forty years, they still managed to maintain an endearing fondness for each other.
“Speaking of the service, you’re still planning to help us decorate the church, right?”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Hannah said, strolling over to a small table where Jasper was thumbing through a stack of woolen socks. “See anything you like?”
He lifted his gaze. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
A sweet holiday novella perfect for anyone looking for a quick read, with characters to enjoy. I won’t get into details, except even with the limited space this novella has, the author does a wonderful job with her characters and draws you into the story quite well. The little bit of innocent suspense is fun to speculate about as you watch the relationship grow between Hannah and Jasper. Nicely done. Reviewed by Cyrene