Forever Santa: A Christmas Novella (Paperback)
Forever Santa: A Christmas Novella (Paperback)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 549 5-Star Reviews
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Gracie McKenzie has everything a woman could want; a husband who adores her, a ranch surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery in the world and friends that make her glad she made Montana her home.
Trent McKenzie thinks he's the luckiest man alive. When tragedy strikes, he's not prepared for the heartache that's about to turn his world upside down. With more than one life at risk, Gracie and Trent learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
“Did you see Santa?”
Gracie looked over her shoulder. Jo-Jo Allen and Stella Lawton had their heads together, knee-deep in a conversation that wasn’t meant for her. They didn’t realize she could hear every word they said and she was too curious to tell them.
She blocked out the other noise in the shopping mall. Gracie didn’t care about the kids running around on sugar highs, or the music blasting out from the stores scattered around the food court. What she cared about was the conversation going on beside her.
Jo-Jo had never been one of her most favorite people. Before Gracie married her husband, Jo-Jo had plastered her five-foot-eight body against Trent like a giant suckerfish and hadn’t let go.
Trent wriggled his way out of her clutches, but not before Gracie saw firsthand what a tease she could be. Knowing Jo-Jo had hormones for a brain made her even more curious about what was going on.
Stella threw her hand in the air, waving it around like an overexcited teenager. “Oh-My-Gosh. The man has a serious case of bedroom eyes. Did you see the way they twinkled at Mary-Beth? The poor girl almost swooned.”
“And what about Doris?” Jo-Jo added. “I didn’t think seventy-six-year-olds were allowed to sit on Santa’s knee?”
Gracie didn’t need to look at Jo-Jo to know she was pouting. Her voice said it all. It took a few seconds for the light bulb moment to go off in Jo-Jo’s head.
“If Doris can do it, so can we.” Jo-Jo's coffee thumped against the table. The mad scramble for napkins to soak up the mess would have been funny, if you discounted the poor guy causing the hormonal disturbance.
“Jake’s on Santa’s elf security team. He’ll shoo us away.”
“It’s his wife that was sitting on Santa’s knee, for Pete’s sake. He was giving her preferential treatment.”
“Is that even allowed?” Stella hissed.
“If he won’t let us sit on Santa’s knee, I’ll say Santa’s human rights have been violated.”
Gracie covered her mouth in case her giggle blew her cover. According to the gossip circulating around Bozeman, Jo-Jo had managed to violate lots of things. Santa would be the icing on the cake.
Two chairs scrapped against the cream floor tiles. “Let’s go, Stella. If we hurry, we’ll get to the front of the line before everyone else finishes their lunch.”
Gracie glanced up as Jo-Jo bumped past her. She couldn’t hide the smile on her face when Jo-Jo scowled. She smiled even more when Stella grabbed Jo-Jo’s arm and strutted across the mall.
After they’d left, Gracie looked at the giant clock suspended from the ceiling. The dark mahogany wood gleamed from behind a garland of green pine and red ribbon. She’d arranged to meet her mother-in-law in half an hour. That gave her more than enough time to watch Stella and Jo-Jo talk their way onto Santa’s lap.
* * *
Gracie walked across the food court, dodged the line of people waiting at McDonald’s and kept moving. She loved shopping for Christmas gifts, finding just the right presents for everyone.
For most of her life, she’d enjoyed the heat and blue skies of Christmas in New Zealand. But, for the second year in a row, she’d been surrounded by snow. Before she’d moved to Montana, she’d never had a white Christmas, never tasted eggnog, and never been kissed under real mistletoe.
Christmas was special. More special because of the wonderful man she’d married and the family she’d found.
As she passed a holiday display, she thought about her mom. Christmas in New Zealand had been filled with lots of love and laughter. Each year they went to the biggest department store in Wellington and had their photo taken with Santa. After the photo they recharged their energy levels with hot chocolate and a slice of cake from the café. Then they’d go downstairs and buy two Christmas tree ornaments. Gracie always chose the biggest, sparkliest decoration she could find. Her mom preferred little stars. Between them their tree always looked amazing.
This was the third year her mom wouldn’t be with her. She pushed down the swell of grief that filled her heart and kept walking. She had a lot be grateful for, a lot of people she cared about. But no matter how much she was loved, she’d miss her mom and the midnight wish they always made on her star.
Taking a deep breath, she focused on what was in front of her. The mall designers had created a magical wonderland where shoppers could meet Santa and his helpers.
Two enormous Christmas trees, decorated with red and blue baubles, stood on either side of an oversized fireplace. Santa sat on a big green sofa, with an elf standing behind him. Everyone was looking at the camera, waiting for another photo to be taken. The little girl sitting beside Santa smiled. Her whole face lit up with the joy that only Christmas could bring.
Gracie looked down the line of children and their moms waiting to see Santa. Jo-Jo and Stella were fidgeting in sixth place. Jo-Jo had her lipstick out, expertly applying a coat of pink gloss. Stella was fluffing her hair and rearranging her blue sweater to the best advantage.
As their chance to sit on Santa’s lap got closer, Gracie paid more attention to the man in red. There was something familiar about the way his eyes crinkled at the corners. He tilted his head, angled his body in a way she remembered someone else doing.
When Santa glanced up and saw her, she knew who he was. And when he winked at her, she smiled back.
Jordan McKenzie was her brother-in-law. He’d be in his element when Stella and Jo-Jo arrived on stage. He had a kind heart, a generous spirit, and a wicked sense of humor. Even though he enjoyed the company of females, his heart had been firmly taken. He’d been dating Tracey for nearly two years and they were never far apart. He was happy, and about to be even happier if Jo-Jo and Stella got what they wanted.
The two Santa groupies were next in line. They smiled at one of the elf security guards, batted their enhanced eyelashes, and made him blush like a beet. He must have said no to Stella’s lap sitting demand. With his arms crossed in front of his chest, he looked about as stern as someone wearing an elf hat and bow tie could look.
Jo-Jo didn’t seem impressed with being told no. She wiggled her way to the edge of the stage and leaned toward Santa. From his two foot advantage, Jordan would have a lovely panoramic view of Jo-Jo’s cleavage. Casually, she flicked her long hair off her face and laughed at something Jordan said.
He sat back in his chair and patted his knee. Before the elf behind Jordan could blink, Jo-Jo and Stella landed in Santa’s lap, posing for a photo you wouldn’t send to grandma.
They kissed Santa’s cheek, accepted the candy cane the stunned elf gave them, and sauntered off to wreak havoc with another unsuspecting male.
Jordan smiled as he watched them leave. Then his smile disappeared.
Gracie followed where he was looking. She looked again, just to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. Jordan’s girlfriend was walking across the center of the mall holding another man’s hand. They stopped to look at a Christmas display, grinning at each other as if they were the only people in the mall. Gracie had a feeling she knew what was coming next, and she wasn’t wrong.
Without a care in the world, they made the most of the mistletoe hanging above the display. Gracie glanced back at Jordan. She couldn’t see much of his face behind Santa’s big white beard and bushy eyebrows, but she saw enough to know he was shocked.
An elf tapped him on the shoulder and a little boy jumped on the sofa. Jordan looked at Gracie and the sadness in his eyes made her want to hug him. Jordan’s heart had just been broken and she couldn’t do a thing about it.
Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!
Gracie has everything a woman could want; a husband who adores her, a ranch surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery in the world and friends that make her glad she made Montana her home.
When tragedy strikes, she's not prepared for the heartache that's about to turn her world upside down. With more than one life at risk, Gracie and Trent learn the true meaning of Christmas.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Every book in the Montana Brides Series is filled with laughter, joy, and tears. The romance and loving relationships are the best!”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "From the first page, you’ll feel like you’re home! It’s so welcoming and warm."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "This isn’t just a romance; it’s about community, family, and heartfelt connections."