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Christmas at Lakeside

Christmas at Lakeside

Return to Sapphire Bay, BOOK 4

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 265 5-Star Reviews

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Synopsis

Katie Terry loves her family, but she never wanted to return to Sapphire Bay. After the twelve-month clause in her grandmother’s will comes to an end, she’s moving back to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming a bestselling author.


Peter Bennett has made a fortune developing IT solutions that change people’s lives. His latest project, a 3D prosthetic limb, is creating world-wide interest. Leaving New York City behind, he travels to Sapphire Bay to evaluate the clinical trials and secure funding to commercially produce the state-of-the-art invention.


When he meets Katie, he’s intrigued by her heartfelt desire to make the world a better place—one book at a time. As their lives become more entwined, he can’t help but wonder what it would be like to live with someone who sees sunshine in the darkest of days. But her big city dreams are pulling her away and he doesn’t know if what they have is strong enough to make her want to stay.

Chapter One Look Inside

Katie sat at the kitchen table in The Lakeside Inn, anxiously waiting for her sisters to join her. Each Monday evening, they met to discuss what was happening at their Bed and Breakfast over the following week.  

Apart from welcoming new guests, the next few weeks would be super-busy. With her sister Penny’s Thanksgiving Day wedding behind them, they had another sister’s wedding to look forward to. 

Diana was marrying Ethan on Christmas Eve in a fairy forest in the center of Sapphire Bay. With chocolate fountains, crystal chandeliers, and thousands of lights strung through the trees and flowers, it was the most romantic venue Katie could imagine.

“Sorry I’m late. How long have you been waiting?” Barbara’s laptop banged against the table as she sat opposite Katie.

“Only for a few minutes. Where’s Penny and Diana?”

“They’ll be here soon. Penny texted me a few minutes ago to say they were about to leave Sweet Treats.” 

“They’ve probably sampled every cake flavor in the store.”

“Probably.” Barbara smiled as Charlie, their lovable Golden Labrador, walked into the kitchen and flopped at her feet. “At least they didn’t take Charlie. His nose wouldn’t have stopped twitching at all the delicious scents.” 

Katie glanced at her cell phone. 

“Is everything okay?”

“My agent’s emailing a publishing contract to me.”

“That’s amazing! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Katie sighed. Her family had been incredibly supportive of her efforts to become a published children’s author, but there were only so many rejections anyone could handle. “I didn’t want everyone to get excited in case it amounts to nothing.”

“It’s never nothing. Even though no one has offered you a contract until now, you’ve been given some valuable advice.”

She didn’t say anything. Being told repeatedly that she was a talented author didn’t make up for not having any published books. If the editors really thought she was amazing, they would have snapped up her manuscripts by now.

Charlie’s ears pricked up and he rushed toward the front door. 

“Penny and Diana must be home,” Katie said as she followed him into the hallway.

Opening the front door, she stood on the veranda with her jacket wrapped firmly around her. As she watched her sisters walk toward the inn, she couldn’t help but remember what had brought them back to Sapphire Bay. Seven months ago, their beloved Grandma had died. In her will, she’d left her home to her four granddaughters with one condition. They had to live here for a year. Otherwise, the home would be given to the church for emergency housing. 

Out of all her sisters, she and Barbara were the least excited about living in Montana. It wasn’t that they didn’t love the small town, because they did. They were born and raised here, enjoying an idyllic childhood on the shore of Flathead Lake. But college and their careers had taken them to other parts of the States. She’d moved to Los Angeles and Barbara had made her home in San Diego. After their grandma died it had taken a lot of coercion but, eventually, they’d both agreed to stay. 

With no income and limited employment opportunities, Katie had remodeled their grandparents’ home with her sisters and opened a Bed and Breakfast. The additional income was a welcome relief and meeting their guests was better than anyone imagined.  

But all good things had to end. Even though she was enjoying her time with her family, in five months she would move back to Los Angeles. If she was ever going to be a published author, she needed to be close to her agent, and close to where the publishing houses had offices.  

Katie smiled as Charlie raced across the yard. “How were the wedding cake samples?” she asked her sisters.

Diana lifted a large bag in the air. “You can taste them for yourself. Megan gave us some to bring home.”

Charlie was already wagging his tail, following the movement of the bag as if he hadn’t eaten in days.

“It’s okay, boy,” Diana said softly. “We stopped at Mom and Dad’s store and bought you some treats.”

Penny took a brown paper bag out of her pocket. Without missing a beat, Charlie switched his allegiance and looked pleadingly at her.

“How can I resist those big, brown doggy eyes?” Reaching into the bag, she handed him a chewy treat.

“I wish you were that well-behaved on our walks,” Katie said as he climbed the steps with his treasure. 

As if knowing exactly what she’d said, Charlie looked at her with his eyes full of mischief. The only way he’d stop running into the lake was if she filled her pockets with yummy treats.

Diana walked into the kitchen and sighed. “It’s a lot warmer in here.” Taking two small boxes out of the bag, she handed one to Katie. “This cake’s for you. It’s caramel deluxe.”

“Yum.”

“And for Barbara, we have vanilla cream and huckleberry swirl.” 

“That sounds divine.”

“It’s Ethan’s favorite.” Diana took the last two boxes out of the bag. She handed one to Penny and left the other one on the counter.

Penny made everyone a cup of coffee. “I’m glad it’s your turn to get married. It’s much less stressful being a bridesmaid than a bride.”

Katie’s cell phone pinged. 

Barbara looked at her. “Is that your agent?”

Penny and Diana looked at each other. 

“What does she want?” Penny asked. 

Katie’s heart sank at Penny’s hopeful expression. “Nalini’s emailing a contract for me to review.” 

Diana’s eyes widened. “And you didn’t tell us?”

“It’s not one hundred percent guaranteed. The publishing house was still considering my manuscript when she last spoke to them.” Katie opened the email and wished she hadn’t. 

Barbara took one look at Katie and sighed. “Are you okay?”

Taking a deep breath, she plastered a smile on her face. After too many rejections to count, there was no point getting upset. “I’m all right. The publishing house loved my manuscript, but it isn’t what they’re looking for.”

“That’s crazy,” Diana spluttered. “You’re a wonderful writer.”

“It’s okay. Let’s forget about the email and talk about the inn. What’s happening this week?”

Barbara gave her a hug. “You’re fierce as well as courageous. Don’t let the email get you down.”

“I won’t.” Regardless of what she’d said, a heavy weight settled on her shoulders. It didn’t matter how many times she told herself the rejection letters didn’t matter—they did. All she’d ever wanted to do was write stories for children. She’d spent three years studying creative writing, honing her skills until she was ready to submit her best manuscripts to agents. With more enthusiasm than was healthy, she’d naively thought the editors from every major publishing house would want to buy her books. But that hadn’t happened.

Her parents and sisters had done so well in their chosen careers. But, here she was, still struggling to publish a book after years of trying. Even for someone who was usually positive, the constant stream of rejection letters made her feel like a failure.

Diana sat at the table. “I have some news that will take your mind off the email. If everyone’s happy for Ethan to look after our guests, we can visit my friend in Kalispell on Wednesday.”

Katie’s imagination leaped to her sister’s Christmas Eve wedding. Originally, Diana wanted a fairy theme, but that changed when Ethan saw what he’d be wearing.

Instead, they chose a Christmas theme and, to add a touch of whimsy to the occasion, the bridal party was renting their dresses from a theatrical company. 

Barbara bit into her slice of cake. “Is your friend able to put some costumes aside for us? With all the Christmas parties happening, they might not have any dresses left by the time we get there.”

“We discussed that this afternoon. She’ll hang a few of her nicest ones in a special storage area for us. Mom and Dad are coming, too.”

While everyone was enjoying their cake and coffee, Barbara opened her laptop. “We’d better start our meeting. The first item on the agenda is our guests.” 

As they talked about the bookings and the specific requests each couple had made, Katie tried not to think about the email. She had a lot to be grateful for, and at the top of the list was her family.

Another rejection letter wouldn’t make her any less determined to publish her stories—even if it took her until she was eighty years old.

* * *

Peter leaned back in his office chair and stretched. The view of Flathead Lake from his friend Zac’s house was stunning. Even with a blanket of snow covering the surrounding mountains, everything looked fresh and crisp and almost too good to be true. It was a lot better than the concrete jungle he’d left behind in New York City.

“How’s the report?”

He turned around and smiled at Zac. They’d met at a conference many years ago when they were beginning their medical careers. Zac was a young doctor, full of enthusiasm and ideas for improving the life of veterans. Peter had started his own biomedical company, doing his part in providing cutting-edge, high-tech solutions to medical issues that plagued people from all walks of life. 

Even though they now lived hundreds of miles apart, they’d remained good friends. “I wish I could say the report’s nearly done, but I can’t. At least I’m closer to finishing it than I was last week.”

“Did you get the results from the last two trial patients?”

“They’ll be here this afternoon.” Three years ago, his company started developing a product called an Interactive Neurological Prosthetic. Made from an advanced composite gel, the prosthetic molded to each patient’s stump to create a perfect fit. But comfort was only a small part of the gel’s ground-breaking benefits. Acting as a neural-conductor, the gel sent information from the brain to the limb, helping the prosthetic to move like a normal part of the human body. 

The first steps in its development hadn’t been easy.

After a huge amount of financial investment and rigorous clinical trials, Peter was finally at the stage where he was happy with the product they’d developed. But to take it farther, to bring the state-of-the-art prosthetic into a commercial market, would require even more money. Without the report, there would be no additional funding. The project would come to a standstill and thousands of amputees wouldn’t have access to the life-changing prosthetic.  

Peter handed Zac a copy of a chart he’d compiled.

His friend’s eyebrows rose. “These results are better than you expected.”

“I was worried we’d lose some of the responsiveness, especially after the last round of modifications. 

“What’s the worst that can happen with this design?”

“The limbs will look slightly different, but they’ll cost half of what we initially thought.”

“That sounds like the sort of trade-off most people can live with.”

Peter frowned at the pile of folders stacked on the side of the desk. “I hope so. I had a call from Dave McCauley at NASA. They’ve heard about our project and want to look at ways we can work together.”

Zac crossed his arms in front of his chest. “How much do they know?”

“I’m not sure, but I’m keen to find out. All our trial recipients signed non-disclosure statements. No one except you, the amputees, and the research and development team should know about the project.”

“There was always a risk someone would talk.”

“I just wish they hadn’t said anything for a few more months. At least we patented the technology as soon as it looked promising. Anyone wanting to copy our design will have a fight on their hands.”

“I hope for your sake it doesn’t come to that.” Zac glanced through the window. “It’s a great day. Do you want to go for a run? Willow and Tiffany are visiting some friends and it could be my last chance to get away.”

Peter checked his watch. “Maybe next time. I have to go into town to collect some supplies. Can I get you anything?”

“Not at the moment. We’ve got everything we need.”

With one last look at the pile of work sitting on his desk, Peter stood and grabbed his jacket. “If I was looking for a Christmas cake for you and Willow, where would I go?”

“You can’t beat Megan’s cakes at Sweet Treats, but you don’t have to buy anything. We’re enjoying having you here.”

“We haven’t seen much of each other since I arrived.”

“That’s because you’re busy. Once the report’s done, you can relax and enjoy the mountains and lake.”

Peter grinned. “I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t thinking about work. How do you switch off your brain?”

“You get away from the rat race and live somewhere like Sapphire Bay. I can guarantee by the middle of January, you won’t want to go back to New York.”

Peter grinned and held out his hand. “That’s too easy. Twenty bucks says I’ll be ready to leave before then.”

Zac shook his hand. “Done, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series and Steel Magnolias will love this small-town, feel-good romance!

Katie's big city dreams are pulling her away from Sapphire Bay—and Peter doesn’t know if what they have is strong enough to make her want to stay.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “All the books in this series had me holding my breath with each turn of a page. Five stars!”

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Fell in love with the town and the people in it. Can't wait for more from this author!"

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Finally, a real love story that speaks to the heart! 100% recommend."

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