A Scrooge meets her match in the Colorado mountains when their worlds collide, quite literally, on the slopes in this heartwarming holiday romance. My latest novel, THAT OLD EMERALD MOUNTAIN MAGIC, is available now on Amazon.
Read the first chapter below.
Joy Turner could feel tears forming in the back of her throat. She wasn’t the crying type, though, so she swallowed hard and pressed her lips into a thin smile as she pulled her best friend, Danny, into a hug.
“You’re going to do great,” she said over his shoulder as she made sure the tears would stay at bay before releasing the embrace. “They’re gonna love you.”
“Yeah?” he asked with a nervous smile. “What makes you so sure?”
“You’ve been playing the guitar since you were twelve years old,” she said, then she rolled her eyes and teased him with, “and you make me listen to you practice every damn night so I know how good you are. Anyway, they wouldn’t have called you if they didn’t know exactly how awesome you are.”
Two nights ago, Joy had been in the middle of brushing her teeth for bed when Danny appeared in the bathroom doorway with the biggest grin on his face, telling her that the front man for The Hero’s Journey had just called and told him to get his butt to Memphis to fill an emergency vacancy. He’d auditioned to join the band six months earlier and been passed over, but they’d just had to fire a guitarist mid-tour and now they wanted Danny.
He hadn’t hesitated to quit his restaurant serving job in town and start packing his bags, and Joy knew that this could be Danny’s big break. Still, she felt a certain amount of foreboding as she saw him off.
Danny was her oldest friend, and one of the few that had remained in their little resort town of Emerald Hill after high school was over. Denver was less than an hour away and it had enough of a music scene to keep him satisfied for a while, but deep down, Joy always knew this moment was coming. If the holiday tour went well, The Hero’s Journey would probably offer Danny full membership in the band, and then the chances of him returning to Emerald Hill would be pretty slim.
She felt like she was saying goodbye to him forever.
“I better get in there,” he said, pulling a hastily-packed duffel bag and his guitar case out of the trunk of Joy’s car. “They’ll kill me if I miss my flight.”
“Yeah, that wouldn’t be a good first impression,” Joy agreed, her voice a little shaky. She’d promised herself she wouldn’t be emotional in this moment, and in fact she’d been subconsciously steeling herself for it for quite some time, but it was hard not to think about how much she’d miss her best friend while he was touring the south central United States and living his dream.
“Hey,” he said, picking up on her emotion. “I’ll be back in a few weeks.”
“Sure you will,” she said with a wry smile. She knew that The Hero’s Journey was based in Tennessee, and if he became a member he’d have to move there, too.
For now, Danny shrugged and said, “Hey, all my crap’s still in the apartment so you know I have to come back for it.”
“Yeah, you wouldn’t want to be separated from your framed Die Hard poster for too long,” Joy said with a snort. She’d teased him relentlessly about his choice of décor ever since they moved in together after high school, and in the intervening five years she started to think that he kept that particular relic of his teen years hanging over the living room couch just to spite her.
“That is an American classic,” Danny answered firmly, but he couldn’t keep a straight face. He pulled Joy in for one last hug, his guitar case thumping against her shin, and then he pulled away and said,
“Hey, I want the Emerald Hill gossip. Keep me posted on your resort guests’ crazy antics.”
“Of course,” Joy promised.
She’d been working at the Emerald Mountain Ski Resort ever since high school and Christmas time on the picturesque, snowy mountainside was always the busiest time of year. With a fully booked resort always came a few crazies, and Joy would come home from work at night and regale Danny with stories of the strange and extravagant requests they came up with. It wouldn’t be the same this year without him, but she’d find a way to get through it.
“And find yourself a girlfriend,” he said with a wink. “You work too hard.”
“Yeah, right,” Joy said with a roll of her eyes. She’d had a couple of short flings with resort guests over the years, but Danny himself knew how hard it was to find something permanent in a town built around seasonal tourism.
Then Danny turned and walked into the airport, and Joy climbed quickly back into her car. She didn’t want to linger on the sidewalk where her tears would begin to threaten again, and it was too cold to stand outside for long anyway. She could see her breath as she turned her keys in the ignition, rubbing her hands together and trying to get warm again. There were only ten days til Christmas, and that was good news – it meant that Joy would have plenty of work to do at the resort to keep her mind off the very real possibility of losing her best friend.
Her manager had told her at the beginning of the winter season that he saw management potential in her, and that he would have time to mentor her after the holiday rush died down. Of course, Danny’s response when she told him had been to snort and say, “Who wants that? We both need to get out of Emerald Hill and start living our lives.”
He was probably right, and if Joy needed any further kick in the pants to start looking for jobs in places that had a more permanent air then his departure provided that motivation. But change was hard, and she had the holiday rush to get through first.