Home for Christmas – read an excerpt.

Read an excerpt:

Here’s the traditional, Fortune Bay girl’s night solstice scene from Home for Christmas.

[Louise] pulled the quilt up over her chin. She’d be happy to stay right here until winter was over, curled up on the couch in front of the fire with her cat on her chest. Not talking to anyone. Not having to see Blue ever again.

Or she could go away. Far, far away. That would work too. Except she wanted to stay. Have her baby here in Fortune Bay, be there for her family and let them be there for her. But not if she had to worry about running into Blue at every turn.

So, in other words, she was screwed.

Darkness had fallen when she heard a knock. She groaned and rolled over, turning her back to the door. It opened anyway.

What was wrong with these people? Couldn’t they see she wanted to be alone?

“Louise?”

It was Frankie. “Go away.”

“I can’t. I’ve come to get you.”

“Get me for what? I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s our winter solstice night at Maddie’s. We already put it off last night because you wouldn’t answer your phone. Don’t worry, it’ll just be the three of us. And Colleen. Whatever is bothering you, we’ll talk it out.”

Then Frankie materialized beside the couch and was tugging off the blanket. As she pulled Louise to her feet, a disgruntled Brawny rolled off the couch, protesting with his squeaky-gate meow.

“Hi, boy,” Frankie said, and gave him a pat as, tail in the air, he headed for his soft spot behind the woodstove.

“There’s nothing to talk about. Leave me alone.”

“There’s always something to talk about. Come on. Maddie’s waiting. Colleen’s already there. Candles are burning. Chop, chop.”

“Chop, chop?”

But Louise allowed herself to be towed to the door because if nothing else, Maddie would have food.

She pulled on some outdoor clothes, grabbed the last box of now-stale, chocolate cookies and stumbled outside.

The full moon reflected on the lake, highlighting the waves in silver. The air was cold. Very cold. She shivered and pulled her collar up around her neck. An iconic winter solstice night.

Frankie prodded her from behind. “Let’s get moving.”

They walked through the trees, along the shore and a minute later came out into the field where Maddie and Jake had built their house. A soft light glowed in the kitchen windows, but other than that, the house was dark.

This reminds me of Louise’s childhood home in Home for Christmas.

Following the path across the field in the moonlight, Louise’s boots crackled the frozen grasses that lined the way. An expanse of stars scattered across the sky over the lake, disappearing into infinity. They made her problems seem very small. Small, but still painful. He didn’t even want to be her friend.

Rex hobbled out to meet them.

“Hi, boy,” she said, scratching his ears.

Maddie met them at the door in a long black gown, her red hair pulled up in a loose knot on top of her head.

“Good. You found her. You can’t just disappear like that. We worry about you.”

The winter solstice marked the darkest day of the year, the turning point to increasing light, and they always celebrated by candlelight. In the dimly lit kitchen, candles burned on every flat surface, the dancing lights reflecting in the dark windowpanes. Maddie finished lighting the candles grouped on the table with a long white taper.

Frankie took a seat. As usual for their quarterly gatherings, over her jeans she wore the blue silk robe Stephanie had batiked for her.

Colleen swung into the room, calf length skirts swirling over high boots, a large silver moon-shaped pendent hanging around her neck. “There you are. Good job, Frankie.”

Louise collapsed onto a kitchen chair. She picked at the frayed cuff of her oldest sweater, wishing she’d taken the time to change. She’d been wearing the same clothes since her final showdown with Blue.

Colleen pulled out a chair and sat, too. “Thanks for inviting me. I’ve always wondered what you do on these nights.”

“We’re pretty informal,” Frankie said, taking the tarot cards out of their embroidered velvet bag and starting to shuffle the oversized deck. “It’s a time to regroup, hash over the past three months, set a few goals for the coming season. The tarot is just a jumping off point. It raises questions to think and talk about.”

“It’s mostly been an excuse for a woman’s night with wine and chocolate,” Maddie said, wincing slightly. “And seriously, it’s okay if you two want to open a bottle of wine. Just because Louise and I can’t drink is no reason for you to abstain.”

“I’m good,” Frankie said. “There are enough goodies. I brought whipped cream for the hot mocha drinks.”

Colleen nodded in agreement. “We don’t need wine. And I have to drive later.”

Louise watched Frankie slowly shuffle the cards, and gradually felt herself relax. When Frankie had first bought the deck, Louise hadn’t been a believer. But when Frankie said she’d read the cards in college, she made it sound like a fun activity for their solstice and equinox parties, so Louise had gone along.

She had never wanted to delve too deeply into her psyche, or jim-jam, or whatever it was the cards tapped into, but she’d seen how spot-on the readings had been for her friends and tonight, for the first time, she was eager to hear what the cards had to say to her.

No one could make her decisions for her, she’d take the reading with a grain of salt, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t use some guidance right about now.

The hair on her arms stood on end. “I’ll go first.”

Frankie raised her eyebrows, but otherwise didn’t comment, just continued to shuffle the deck.

Louise concentrated on the soothing motion of Frankie’s hands. Gradually her heartbeat slowed.

Then Frankie put the brightly colored deck on the table in front of Louise. “Think of a question, then cut the cards. The tarot knows the question in your heart.”

What exactly was her question? She’d had so many in the past few weeks, but had resolved most of them one way or another. To the question of if she should have this baby, the answer was a definite yes. And she had decided to stay in Fortune Bay, which was actually quite a relief. And soon she would talk to Max and, hopefully, could work at the resort.

So, the only question that remained was, could she win back Blue’s friendship, or had she lost him forever?

“Ready?” Frankie asked.

Louise nodded.

“Okay, we’ll do a five-card spread.” Frankie set the deck on the table in front of Louise. “Pick five cards, one at a time, and place them face down on the table.

“In the center, a card that represents Your Present. The second card, on the left, is Your Past. The next card, on the right, is Your Immediate Future.”

Louise chose the cards, one by one, placing them where Frankie indicated.

“Lay the fourth card above. It’s The Impediment. And the last card, on the bottom, is The Possible Outcome.”

Although Louise had done this before, she’d never felt this shaky. Of course, previously she’d never had so much at stake.

As Frankie turned over the center card, she said, “The Present.”

It was The Tower, a picture of lightning striking a tower on a mountain top, setting it on fire and flinging people head first out the windows.

Louise laughed out loud. “Well, I asked for it. That’s exactly what my life feels like right now.”

Frankie smiled. “The tower signifies upheaval and change. Everything you thought you knew before is suddenly up for grabs. It signifies a major change of perspective—and sometimes a change in your situation. But even if it seems bad at the time, the outcome is ultimately for the best. That’s not to say it won’t be difficult, though. Hard to wrap your head around.”

Louise nodded. “You can say that again.”

Frankie turned over the card on the left. “The Past.”

It was the Three of Swords. On the card, rain pelted down from black storm clouds overhead onto three swords piercing a blood red heart. The black fog and the miscarriage. Could it get any clearer than that?

All three women stared at the card in silence. Finally, Louise said, “My past.” She nodded grimly. “There were a few rough years.”

She tried to spark a smile, but didn’t feel too successful. She shrugged. “We all have our baggage.”

“Right. And that’s the past,” Frankie said firmly. “Moving on to the Immediate Future card which is—the Hanged Man.”

“Oh come on!” Louise objected, huffing a laugh as she studied the young man on the card, hanging upside down from a post, bound by a rope around his foot.

“No, it’s good,” Frankie insisted. “He’s alive—and smiling—just seeing things from a different perspective.”

Louise laughed. “You’re not kidding.”

Frankie nodded. “It’s all about changing old patterns and letting go. Something we all have to learn. And it’s a good omen in this position, right before The Impediment card.”

She turned over the card at the top of the spread and Louise was pleased to see a woman dressed in white patting a friendly male lion. She twisted her head to read the upside-down card. “Strength. That looks good. Look, he’s licking her hand.”

Frankie grimaced. “Right-side up, this card represents conquering fear, but upside down, like this, it means, letting fear reign. It’s saying that what is holding you back from your potential is that you let fear control you.” She pressed her lips together and raised her brows questioningly.

“I may have had a few rough years, but I don’t let fear run my life,” Louise said defensively.

“Possibly not,” Frankie murmured, moving on to the last card.

“This is Your Potential. The Queen of Cups. Now that’s a good one. She’s warm and nurturing and often, in a reading, is, uh, …” Frankie gave a little cough to clear her throat. “Nudging you to take a chance and open your heart.”

There was a silence as the women contemplated the cards. Louise reached out and picked up the Three of Swords. “This is uncanny. Three swords piercing the heart. First I lost my mom, then my boyfriend, and a pregnancy. A baby. One, two, three.”

Okay – that’s all. I can’t give it all away or you’ll be sorry when you read the book!

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Happy holidays! Drive safe.

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