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Endless Love: A Christmas Novella

Endless Love: A Christmas Novella

Santa's Secret Helpers, BOOK 5

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 204 5-Star Reviews

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The New Year is an exciting time in Sapphire Bay! With Shelley and Bailey’s weddings fast approaching, and their sister, Sam, expecting a baby, the Jones family is busier than ever.

With houses to remodel and Santa’s Secret Helpers overwhelmed with wishes, it’s up to Pastor John, Caleb, and Steven to make more dreams come true.

When an emergency throws their lives into chaos, the Jones family discovers the joy in family, faith, and holding on to what’s important.

Chapter One Look Inside

Shelley walked into The Connect Church’s first fundraising meeting of the New Year and smiled. Everyone on the Santa’s Secret Helpers committee had made an effort to be here.

Emma, Mabel, Kylie, and Bailey were all talking at once. John, her amazing fiancé and the pastor of the church, was watching what was going on. As the only male committee member, he was used to their excited chatter and wandering minds.

When he turned toward her, Shelley’s heart melted. She loved him more than she’d ever loved anyone else. 

She sat beside him and kissed his cheek. “I just spoke to Mr. Jessop. He’s found six volunteers to help in the greenhouses this afternoon.”

“That’s good. Two of the volunteers wouldn’t be Andy and Charlie, would they?”

“How did you guess?”

“It wasn’t difficult.”

Andy, Charlie, and their mom, Andrea, were staying with Mr. Jessop for the next few months. With The Welcome Center at full capacity, John was relying on the generosity of the community to provide extra beds for people who couldn’t find anywhere to live.

Mabel, the owner of the general store, tapped her pen on the edge of her coffee cup. “Welcome, everyone, to the first Santa’s Secret Helpers committee meeting of the year. Before we get started, I’d like to officially congratulate Shelley and John on their engagement.”

Bailey grinned at her sister.

She didn’t have to say anything for Shelley to know what she was thinking. Six weeks ago, she’d stepped out of the Brown Bear shuttle van ready to surprise her two sisters with an unexpected visit. Never in a million years would she have realized that the person who gave her a ride to Bailey’s house would be the man she’d want to spend the rest of her life with.

Kylie smiled at John and Shelley. “All you have to do is let me know when you’re getting married and I’ll supply the flowers.”

“That’s really sweet of you,” Shelley said. “But at the rate we’re going, John and I won’t be getting married until next Christmas.”

Mabel leaned forward, the agenda in front of her forgotten. “I thought you were being too optimistic when you said you wanted to get married in January. Even organizing Bailey’s wedding for Valentine’s Day was difficult.”

John placed his hand on top of Shelley’s. He’d been working just as hard as Shelley to find a venue that was large enough for their families. “If we have to get married later in the year, then that’s what we’ll do. What’s the first item on the agenda?”

Mabel picked up the sheet of paper in front of her. “The Christmas wish program. Is everyone still happy to use some of the money we receive from other fundraising projects on this program?”

Emma nodded. “We received a lot of requests for Christmas wishes from the community. It would be a shame not to help more people.”

“I agree,” Bailey said. “As well as making people happy, it encourages the Christmas spirit to last all year.”

Mabel looked at the nodding heads around the table. “It looks as though we’re all in agreement. With that in mind, the next item on our agenda is the flower wishes fundraiser.” 

Shelley took five copies of a spreadsheet out of a folder and handed them to her friends. Two weeks before Valentine’s Day, they were launching their next fundraising event. Single, gift-wrapped flowers would be sold from Blooming Lovely, Kylie’s flower shop. 

“We’re moving along nicely with what needs to be done. Kylie and I are meeting later today to finalize the information on her store’s website.”

Kylie placed a basket on the table. “I brought some samples of what the flowers could look like.” 

When she held up one of the flowers, Mabel gasped. “Oh, my. It’s beautiful.”

Shelley agreed. The outer edges of the crimson rose had been dipped in red glitter. It looked stunning against the fine black tulle Kylie had wrapped it in. 

When Kylie took the second flower out of the basket, Shelley smiled. The bright orange Gerbera looked lovely with its glittery edges and sparkly paper wrapped around the outside.

“I tried to keep the look consistent and simple. Depending on what flowers are available at the market, I can create large numbers of each flower for the fundraiser.”

John held one of the flowers. “Do you need any help?”

“I think I’ll be okay,” Kylie said with a smile. “Jackie and Paris, my part-time staff, will be at the store. And the students from the church’s youth employment program have offered to give us a hand.”

Shelley studied the spreadsheet. “We should have enough money to buy four hundred flowers over the two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Is that too many flowers?”

Emma shook her head. “I don’t think so, especially if we promote the fundraiser to people who are visiting Sapphire Bay. If everyone donated ten dollars for each flower, we’d have four thousand dollars to put toward the Christmas wish program.”

“I’d be thrilled if we raised that much money,” Shelley said. “Are there any questions about where we’re up to with the flower fundraiser?” 

Everyone studied their spreadsheets.

“It looks good to me,” Kylie said. “Once the website’s up and running, Mabel will wave her magic wand over our community Facebook page and advertise the fundraiser. With the posters, media interviews, and other advertising, people will be reserving their flowers in case they miss out.”

“Once we finish the flower wishes fundraiser, we could organize an event with an Easter theme,” Bailey said. “I can call my friend in Bigfork. They had a successful Easter market last year. If we can coordinate our event with theirs, we could attract a lot more people.”

Mabel wrote something on the meeting’s minutes. “Easter isn’t far away. Do you think you could contact your friend in the next week?”

Bailey nodded. “I’ll let you know what she says.”

John looked worried. “Just remember that we still need to hear from the county about our funding application for the budgeting and health sessions. If we’re successful, I’ll need to focus my time on the programs for the residents of the tiny home village.”

For almost a year, John and a group of paid and volunteer workers had been building tiny homes for the people of Sapphire Bay.

Like most towns around the world, homelessness was a growing problem. After speaking to the families who stayed at The Welcome Center, Shelley was shocked by the range of people who couldn’t find somewhere to live. She’d assumed most people would have low incomes or some kind of addiction issue. 

But the chronic shortage of affordable homes was huge. It didn’t matter if people had a job and a good support network. If the price of houses was beyond their budget or no rentals were available, they were left with nowhere to call home.

To help people find safe, warm, and affordable rental accommodation, John was creating a village of twenty-five tiny homes. With the last three homes due to be completed at the end of March, the social housing initiative was one of the most successful in the county.

To make the project even more relevant, the church had applied to the county for funding toward the ongoing costs of wraparound healthcare and financial services. 

“It doesn’t matter if you can’t help us,” Bailey assured him. “We have enough people to organize something for Easter and to help you.”

Mabel handed everyone another sheet of paper. “That brings us to the next item on the agenda; our fundraising program for the tiny home village.”

Shelley read the list of ideas. Bailey must have spoken to Mabel and added her thoughts to the draft program. She had no idea what John would think about a mystery dating night or a classic car exhibition, but at least her ideas were creative.

John’s eyebrows rose. “You left off the Miss America pageant.”

Mabel patted his arm. “I think a mystery dating night is about as adventurous as we want to get.”

Shelley grinned at John. “Besides, we don’t need fifty-one beautiful and talented women arriving in Sapphire Bay. There are plenty here already.”

John kissed her. “And I’m marrying one of them.”

Mabel sighed. “That’s too much sweet talk for me. Let’s go through each idea and see if we think they will work. If they seem promising, we’ll add them to our draft fundraising schedule.”

Shelley liked the way Mabel’s mind worked. Not only would it give them an idea of what they would be doing, but it would also help move the meeting along. 

After she’d spoken to Kylie about the website, she wanted to call two wedding venues again. Hopefully, someone had a late cancelation and could slot John and her wedding into their bookings. Otherwise, she’d have to be as patient as John and wait another few months to marry the man of her dreams.

* * *

Later that afternoon, Shelley stepped out of John’s truck and enjoyed the view of Flathead Lake. Steven, her sister’s fiancé, owned a small cottage overlooking the water. Like most of the properties on this side of the lake, his house was originally a fisher’s cottage. As the years went by, the cottages were sold, and people turned them into their permanent homes or vacation houses. 

With more and more people moving to Sapphire Bay, the simple cottages were in hot demand.

Over the last two months, he’d spent countless hours remodeling the house into a lovely family home. With its soothing colors and beautiful kitchen, Shelley couldn’t wait to see what it looked like in six months’ time.

Next year, Steven wanted to extend his home toward the water. With the extra space, he’d create a beautiful master bedroom and bathroom, and have a more sheltered outdoor entertaining area. 

John lifted a picnic basket off the back seat and stood beside her. “It doesn’t look as though anyone’s home.”

Shelley picked up the orange juice and closed the door. “They might have gone for a walk or they could be late home from work.” She knew her sister wouldn’t be too far away. Bailey was almost as neurotic about being on time as she was.

She walked up the garden path and placed the juice on the veranda. With a smile at John, she lifted the flower pot that was sitting on the right-hand side of the front door and took out a key.

John shook his head. “I can’t believe Steven leaves his spare key there. The Jones family is a bad influence on him.”

“This is Sapphire Bay, remember. We don’t have burglars in our small Montana town.”

“You should still be careful.”

Shelley sent him a cheeky salute. “Yes, sir. Why don’t we leave the food on the kitchen counter and walk down to the lake? Even if Bailey and Steven aren’t there, we can enjoy the fresh air while we’re waiting for them.”

John held open the front door while Shelley picked up the juice. “Sounds good. But if anyone calls the police and tells them someone’s breaking into Steven’s house, I’m blaming you.”

“That’s okay. I’ll just say I’m with the local pastor.”

He sighed. “We’ll end up on the community Facebook page. Mabel will enjoy coming up with a scandalous headline.”

“I’ve never done anything scandalous in my life,” Shelley mused. “It sounds exciting.”

John’s eyes gleamed with laughter. “It could be, but I’m not sure you’d want Mabel knowing what we were doing.”

A truck horn tooted and they both turned toward the driveway.

Steven, Bailey, and Mila had arrived home.

“Sorry we’re late,” Bailey said as she walked toward them holding two bags of groceries. “I needed a few supplies from the general store. Have you been waiting long?”

“Only a few minutes,” Shelley said. “Don’t rush.”

Mila, Steven’s eight-year-old daughter, ran toward them and gave Shelley a big hug. “Did you see Dudley and Miss Monroe? They’ve found a new hiding place in my bedroom.”

“No,” Shelley said with a smile. “We didn’t see your kittens.”

“They’re in my closet,” Mila whispered. “But I’m real careful about not closing the doors in case they need to go potty.”

“That’s a good idea,” Shelley whispered back. “Are there other groceries in your dad’s truck?”

Mila looked at what her dad and Bailey were holding. “Nope. That’s it.”

“Come in and I’ll make everyone coffee,” Steven said.

John took one of the grocery bags off Bailey and followed everyone into the house. “I visited the old steamboat museum this afternoon. The last three tiny homes are looking great.”

Steven placed his groceries on the counter. He worked with the team of people who were building tiny homes inside a large, abandoned building on the outskirts of town. “The last houses are coming together faster than the others. How are the negotiations going on the contract for Polson?”

John was talking with another community group about building more tiny homes in Polson. If everything went to plan, it would give the construction team another twelve months of work. “It’s looking good. We’re negotiating the price and seeing if we can modify the plans. In the next week, we should know what they’ve decided to do.”

“Hopefully, it all works out.” Taking groceries out of the bags, Steven placed them in the pantry. 

“What can we do to help?” John asked.

Bailey looked at her fiancé. “Actually, there’s something we want to help you with. Steven and I know how difficult it is to find a venue for anything, especially a wedding. If you don’t mind getting married on Valentine’s Day, you could get married with us at The Fairy Forest.”

The Fairy Forest was a wonderful venue for children’s parties, but could also cater for weddings and other events.

Shelley looked at John. Even though getting married in February would be wonderful, he was thinking the same thing as she was. “That’s really generous of you, but it wouldn’t be fair. That’s your wedding day.”

Steven wrapped his arm around Bailey’s waist. “It doesn’t matter if we both get married on the same day. Besides, it might make it cheaper for all of us. The same people from the Jones family will come to both weddings, so the number of guests won’t be that much different.”

John must have seen the excitement on her face. Marrying him at the same time as Bailey and Steven would make the day extra special. She had already helped Bailey choose almost everything for the wedding and she loved every decision they’d made.

“Can I take it from the smile on your face that you want to get married on Valentine’s Day?” John asked Shelley.

She nodded. “But we pay for our guests and half of everything else.”

“You don’t have to pay for half of everything,” Bailey said quickly. “Steven and I would have covered those costs, anyway.”

“We’re both renovating houses,” Shelley said to her sister. “If we can save a little money on our weddings, we might be able to go on a honeymoon.”

Bailey grinned at Steven. “Or we could buy the tiles we saw in Polson for the bathrooms.”

“Even with the money we’ll save on having a double wedding, those tiles were way out of our budget.” Steven looked at the hopeful expression on Bailey’s face and sighed. “But we could have another look.” With a rueful grin, he held out his hand to John. “It looks as though we’re both getting married on Valentine’s Day.”

Mila climbed onto a kitchen stool. “Does that mean I can be the flower girl for Bailey and Aunt Shelley?”

Shelley placed her arm around Mila’s narrow shoulders. “It does. And do you know what else it means?”

Mila shook her head.

“You can choose two wonderful presents to remember the day.”

“Yeah! Will you help me choose them?”

Shelley grinned at her niece-to-be. “Of course, I will. We might even find something nice for your two kittens.”

Mila’s eyes widened. “I forgot to show you Dudley and Miss Monroe.” As quick as a wink, she slid off the stool and held Shelley’s hand. “I’ll take you there now. But you have to be quiet. They sleep a lot.”

With Mila’s small hand holding hers, Shelley walked out of the kitchen to find two mischievous kittens. With the date and venue of their wedding organized, she could finally relax. All they had to do was tell their families and send out the invitations—and look for a wedding dress, organize more flowers, and try not to stress about every little detail.

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

The New Year is an exciting time in Sapphire Bay! With Shelley and Bailey’s weddings fast approaching, and their sister, Sam, expecting a baby, the Jones family is busier than ever.

With houses to remodel and Santa’s Secret Helpers overwhelmed with wishes, it’s up to Pastor John, Caleb, and Steven to make more dreams come true.

When an emergency throws their lives into chaos, the Jones family discovers the joy in family, faith, and holding on to what’s important.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "This series is a heartwarming, small-town must read!"

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "It's all about love, community, and going back to where the heart feels fullest. Truly touching!"

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "It's real, it's tender, and it's the kind of love story we all dream of. Absolutely perfect."

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