When the cold of winter sets in and your body shivers, warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, a warm blanket, a comfy chair and a good book. Join the authors as they share stories that will scare you, thrill you, delight you, break your heart and entertain you, all set with a winter theme.
Hearts of Fire by Regina Puckett
Mantequero by Jenny Twist
Christmas Angel by Sharon Donovan
Till Death Do Us Part by S.M. Senden
Long Winter by Paul McDermott
Christmas Hope by Jane Wakely
Burgers and Hot Chocolate by Angela Adams
Saving Santa by Melissa Hosack
If Only by Janet Durbin
Fiction-Winter Anthology 2011
LLC/paperback, 174 pages
LLC/paperback, 174 pages
Another Thanksgiving alone. Karen sighed as she took the cookies out of the oven. She wondered briefly if she should sell the bakery and move to Florida to be closer to her parents. She immediately
discarded the idea. She loved her shop, Delightful, and she worked hard to make it a success in this town, which she loved just as much.
Karen had grown up in Woodland Springs and wanted to live the rest of her life here. She’d dreamt of opening a bakery in the small town and did everything she could to make that dream happen.
She had other dreams, too. She wanted to get married and start a family. She wanted to be surrounded by friends and relatives. Unfortunately, while she’d stayed close to home for school, most
of her friends had traveled to far away colleges and never came back except on holidays. Her parents got tired of the cold winters and moved to Florida. She had made new friends, of course, but
sometimes she longed for things to be the way they used to be.
The holiday season was the worst time of the year for Karen. Not for business, but for her personal life. Maybe she should take a vacation. She would, but she didn’t want to close the store during the
busiest time of the year. The day after Thanksgiving, everyone started to come home for Christmas. Woodland Springs bustled with all of her old friends coming home to spend a white Christmas with
their families and share the experience of the Christmas Carnival with their children.
“I want an abortion,” Eve hissed, glaring at her husband as he struggled to control his SUV during a complete white-out on the northbound lane of Lake Shore Drive. Gusts of bitter wind howled, sleet pummeled the windows, turning one of Chicago’s main arteries into a car graveyard. She cranked up the radio, fiddling until she stumbled upon a rock song to her liking. “And I want a divorce.”
“You’re drunk,” Oliver said, dark eyes flashing in the oncoming traffic. “We’ll talk about this when you’re sober.”
“I’m not drunk, and we’ll talk about it now,” Eve said, turning up the radio a notch. “I’m sick to death of your self-righteous attitudes. Your constant moralizing drives me mad. I only had a few drinks. It was a Christmas party, after all.”
“A few drinks?” Oliver snorted, skidding on the off-ramp from Stevenson Expressway. “Don’t make me laugh. You were tilting back that Sangria like it was cherry soda. You’re pregnant and shouldn’t be drinking at all. You shoulda seen yourself out there on the dance floor in that skin-tight red dress, rubbing up to all the male jockeys, shimmying and kicking up your stiletto heels like you were a
contestant in Dancing With the Stars. You looked ridiculous. Everyone was laughing and pointing. Honey, you made a royal ass of yourself.”
June stood at the edge of the precipice, the wind whipping at her clothes as she looked down into the crevasse. Far below, the river was a tiny silver snake. An eagle circled beneath her, its wings stained red with the light from the setting sun. What would it feel like, she wondered. What would it be like to just lean forward and launch yourself into the void? She imagined herself gliding on the warm air currents, floating, gradually going down, down... You would just have to flex your legs and arch your arms upwards into the air. Unconsciously, she flexed her legs.
“No!” Strong fingers gripped her shoulders and pulled her back from the edge.
She turned to look at her would-be saviour and smiled.
He was a young man, tall for a Spaniard, and pale, but with that arrogant beauty so many young Spaniards had. His eyes were so dark they were almost black below the sweeping lashes.
“Hello, Beautiful,” he said.
--Hearts on Fire--
“Look at those eyes! They’re absolutely gorgeous.”
Even with two heavy trays precariously balanced under each arm, Jordan managed a quick glance in the direction Katie was pointing, but didn’t get to see too much of the man her friend was gushing
over before one of the trays began slipping. She leaned sideways to compensate for the extra weight and when that didn’t help; she wrapped the ends of her fingertips around the edge of the tray to try to keep it from dropping onto the floor and splattering green beans everywhere. With one knee balancing the tottering tray and the other leg braced inwards to offset the awkward position, she gave
a snort of disbelief. “Really, you’re drooling over Santa Claus?”
Katie reached over and grabbed the tray Jordan was trying so desperately not to drop onto the floor. “Don’t be silly. That’s not the real Santa Claus.”
With thirty children under ten years of age milling around, Jordan didn’t want to begin a long, drawn-out conversation about whether or not Katie still believed in Santa Claus, so she set the remaining
tray onto the nearest table and nodded. “You might be right, but even if that is true, the guy is way too old for you.”
Katie set the green beans next to the Jordan’s tray and spun around again. She was quiet for a moment before declaring to everyone within listening distance. “I don’t think so. He appears to be
close to our age, but then it’s really hard to tell with that ugly beard covering up most of his face.”
--The December Bride--
Missy Dewing Jenkins believed she had finally achieved what she had worked so hard to get in her life. It had taken her over forty-eight years and two failed marriages to get it, but she was sure things would now be just as she had always dreamed they would be, because she believed that finally, at long last, she had arrived.
It was the first of December and her wedding day. She had always dreamt of a winter wedding, the world dressed in white and her own dress as pure white as snow. The night before Mother Nature had
obliged her by making the world a winter wonderland, six inches of new snow glistened in the sunlight like sugar spilled across the landscape.
She loved the snow, the winter and the cold. She had been called an Ice Maiden before and it had pleased her. It sounded so clean, so perfect, and so much like the woman she aspired to be. Now it
was all coming true like the Snow Maiden’s dream of her Prince of Winter who rescues her.
Missy knew she had found her prince. At last she had married Kevin Jenkins, the man of her frozen reveries; the man who was going to fulfill all her hopes and dreams.
--Burgers and Hot Chocolate--
All of Main Street heard Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas” from Sparks Café. Huge silver bells and glittery red garland decorated the streetlamps. Bright, colorful Christmas lights hung in store windows. As a dry, brash cold nipped the air, a soft dusting of snow sprinkled the cars and sidewalks. The white flakes added to the festive mood that spread through the quaint, coastal village of Magic
Lake Island. More snow was being forecasted for later in the week. It appeared Bing’s dream of a white Christmas had a good chance of coming true.
As I strolled along the brick path, I mingled and exchanged friendly greetings with the holiday shoppers. This was the aspect of small town living I enjoyed the most. Practically everyone knew each
other, and often for those who didn’t, tossing a smile or a pleasant nod was still the norm. Even if they had just passed each other in the supermarket no more than thirty minutes beforehand, folks always
greeted one another as if they hadn’t been together for years. It was the Friday before Christmas and the town folks celebrated the merriment of the season.
I turned the corner and trotted up the freshly swept steps of a red brick building. Easing open the door, I stepped inside and felt the immediate hot rush of radiator heat. The room was nearly filled to
capacity. Parents, grandparents and anyone with an attachment to a school-age child ambled through, searching for available seats. In typical Magic Lake fashion smiles, hellos, and handshakes
were being exchanged.
This afternoon was the Magic Lake Elementary School Holiday Concert. Framed by evergreens with strings of holly and twinkling lights suspended from the ceiling, the auditorium looked cheerful, warm and inviting. I stood by a pair of double doors in the back which had a pine wreath hanging on each wooden panel. Pulling off my wool gloves, I scanned the massive hall for a vacant seat. While I
wanted to be able to see and enjoy the show, I felt the choice seats upfront belonged to family. I was just a volunteer in the After School Program. I helped by serving snacks, assisting with playground
activities, aiding children with homework, and playing board games with them while they waited for parents to pick them up after finishing work.
"Miss Theresa, Miss Theresa, you’re here!”
“And for tonight's weather… There’s no end in sight for the current freezing conditions, I'm afraid…“
Tom sighed, and turned the radio off. “So true…“ The words, although he'd spoken them sotto voce, without conscious thought, ricocheted accusingly around the spartan tiled kitchen. There were no drapes, curtains or other softer surfaces to restrict the madcap mocking cacophony in the crockery.
'Talking to yourself again; it'll get you locked up if someone ever hears you,' he thought to himself and shrugged. What were the chances of anyone intruding on his late night loneliness? All but zero, he told himself as he debated whether he could really be bothered to brew another pot of coffee. Besides, it was a bad habit, and one he had to lose before it became a problem.
In a fortnight he'd be writing May on his correspondence, and Britain had been Iceland.com since…he paused and thought back. There was no doubt about it: mid-October. Six months, already, and no end in sight. Who'd have thought winter in the UK could ever last this long?
For no reason, a melody threaded its way through his brain, and he knew immediately it would haunt him for hours on end. Such melodies and their associated lyrics invariably did. He'd discovered a long time ago that this was one of the drawbacks of being a writer. For no apparent reason, he recalled that he’d first heard it as a child, on a pre-recorded BBC Music program designed to help non-
specialists to teach young children to sing.
Her father normally ran the business, but he was home sick. Mother felt obliged to stay with him, as usual, hence the reason she was here instead of home studying. She didn’t mind, though. It made her
feel good to be able to help her parents.
Sitting on the tall stool, Jenny looked down at the book lying open on the counter before her again. It was math, one of her worst subjects. She hated this class, but knew it was necessary if she was going to graduate in the spring.
Several hours passed and darkness blanketed everything outside before she knew it. The lights inside the store were bright enough to allow her to see the math problems easily, though, so she
returned her attention to the pages. She was intent on having her homework finished as soon as possible so she could enjoy the rest of the weekend.
It startled her when the door chimed, because she never saw lights from a car indicating anyone had arrived at the store. She looked up at the person or persons entering the building with a sigh of relief.
Customers allowed her to get away from the torture of school work for a little while. There were three people, all of them young men. Jenny didn’t recognize any of them which was unusual because her father’s store was the central hub for the residents in this part of town. There was no other place to get gas and small groceries. Two of the men were shorter and had blond hair. The third was tall. His long, dark flowing hair mesmerized her. All three were very handsome, but he stood out to her the most.
“We need beer. I bet its back here,” one of the blonds said as he hopped toward the back of the store.
“Mercedes, you stupid nut, what do we need beer for?” the other blond asked as he followed.
“Because I want it…that’s why.”
The dark haired man remained close to the counter, staring at Jenny. His eyes were as black as the night. They were captivating.
She felt uncomfortable, her heart racing. She wasn’t sure what his intentions were. Was he going to rob the store? Were he and his friends going to attack her? Or were they just there for beer?
“Raymond, you want any?”
The man wearing a white t-shirt, black leather pants and a long black coat never took his eyes off her as he spoke, “No, not this time, Ben.”
“Suit yourself, man. Your loss.”
I’ve always been a big fan of the Christmas season. As a child, I would stomp through the snow-covered woods near our home to pick out the perfect tree with my father. The two of us would then
drag it home where my mother and sister were waiting with warm eggnog, another holiday favorite. Every year, I wrote a letter to Santa, believing in my heart that he would read it with care.
As an adult, my love of the holiday hasn’t diminished. I now live in a big city, so I’ve traded in the fresh pine for a fake tree equipped with built-in twinkly lights. Nowadays, I spike my eggnog, too. I still write
that letter to Santa, but I no longer mail it to the North Pole.
With all my gusto for the holidays, nothing prepared me for the couple that stood expectantly outside my apartment door. I’d just finished lugging my tree up from storage when I heard the persistent
knock. Dropping the awkward box, I threw open the door with a cheery smile. “Hell…o…” I trailed off in
In the hallway were a man and woman, both no taller than four feet. They were dressed in attire that would have fit right in with the Christmas setup at the mall. They wore green and red elf costumes
made of a fine looking velvet, their outfits completed by little bells on the tips of their shoes and hats.
“Cara Faulk?” the woman inquired in a squeaky yet angelic voice. On my stunned nod, she continued, “I’m Emma. This is Bernie.” When the man didn’t respond, Emma elbowed him in the ribs,
finally producing a cordial nod. “We’re…” She glanced at Bernie before turning back to me with a winning smile. “We’re here to congratulate you on your sweepstakes winning! You’re in for a real
treat. You’ve won an all-expense paid vacation for the weeks leading up to Christmas.”