Blame the Mistletoe (Montana Born Christmas Book 1)

By: Dani Collins

Dear Reader,

I grew up on the wet coast. That’s not a typo. I mean the lower mainland of British Columbia, which has a lot of rain, very little snow. White Christmases were never something we could count on.

When we had children, we moved to the interior of BC and I finally feel like a real Canadian with a proper winter (even though it’s a lot milder than most of my countrymen put up with.) Snow creates a delightfully reflective mood and I loved using it to create intimacy between Liz and Blake.

Liz has never had a great Christmas, whereas Blake loves the season. He sets out to show Liz everything it has to offer and she ends up falling in love with Christmas as much as him. I hope you’re equally enchanted.

Chapter One

Liz Flowers busied herself arranging her bruschetta-topped baguette slices into a wreath shape, trying to act comfortable, when she was out of her element arriving at a party in full swing like this.

Welcome new people into your life, she chided herself, as she took extra care placing little toothpick bunches of cherry tomatoes and green olives in strategic spots to look like berries. The ‘ribbon’ was made up of strips of lox threaded into a rippling pattern onto skewers. The arrangement looked fantastic, if she said so herself, and spoke of how much time she had on her hands these days.

A pang of loneliness struck, but she ignored it. That emotion was precisely the reason why, despite a mild attack of anxiety at being a stranger in a strange land, she had come here this evening and would stick it out for at least an hour.

Cocktail parties had never been her thing. Her hostess, Skye Wolcott, had assured her this would be more of a potluck get together with neighbors and friends. Skye and her fiancé have a lot of friends, Liz thought ruefully, moving her dish into a more central position on the cluttered table. The gorgeous, high-ceilinged, open-plan house was packed.

To give herself an excuse to scan the crowd, she took in the tasteful extravagance of the Christmas decor. The tree was the focus, as it should be. And real, of course. The one thing she’d begun to learn about this little town was that Marietta was authentic. For some reason, she hadn’t noticed that before, on the few quick visits she’d made over the years.

So, she suspected that the tree might have come from a farm, but was more likely from someone’s ranch. The tree’s base of white lights and tiny silver baubles was layered with colorful ornaments, obviously homemade by children.

Giant poinsettias splashed red and white throughout the room between the shift of bodies as people crossed with drinks and plates in their hands. Their pleasure at seeing familiar faces was genuine. Vases full of frosted sticks vied with bunches of holly encircling candles on end tables and across the mantle.

Whether it was the candles or something in the oven, Liz noted a waft of nutmeg and cinnamon under the heavier aroma of meatballs and lasagna, roasted garlic and ham. This was the kind of home, the kind of Christmas, she’d envied all her life.

So, even though she was having a moment of nerves, she pushed it aside, determined to at least drink in what she’d always yearned for, even if it was second hand.

The table fairly buckled under the mix of finger foods, crock pots, platters of cheese, baskets of buns and bowls of salad. Laughing, joking voices created a lively din over the Christmas music, as people jostled and reached. They all seemed friendly enough, but she didn’t know them and they all seemed to know each other. Their circles looked too intimidating to crack.

Being in an unfamiliar town for the holidays, making new friends, would put butterflies in anyone’s middle, she reasoned. The sense of being an outsider would only get worse if she didn’t take chances like this.

Which was basically what she’d been telling herself about dating for the last couple of years.

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