Halfway to christmas, p.1

Halfway to Christmas, page 1

 part  #3 of  Halfway Series

 

Halfway to Christmas
 


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Halfway to Christmas


  Halfway To Christmas

  Steena Holmes

  Elena Aitken

  Contents

  Copyright

  Dear Reader

  Introduction

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Discover the Halfway Series

  ABOUT ELENA AITKEN

  ABOUT STEENA HOLMES

  This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.

  Halfway to Nowhere

  All Rights Reserved

  Copyright © 2015 Elena Aitken & Steena Holmes

  Version 1.0

  This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Your support of author rights is appreciated.

  Sista’ Books

  ISBN:978-1-987877-07-6

  ISBN: 978-1-987877-07-6

  Dear Reader

  Steena and Elena here!

  Merry Christmas!

  It wouldn’t be the holiday season without another Tree Festival and what would be better than tree decorating parties, fresh baked cookies and a hint of romance…

  We both love to connect with readers and chat about our love for books which means we’d love for you to sign up for our newsletters so we can stay in touch (plus we’re both giving away copies of one of our own individual series…so you know you want to sign up!)

  For Steena’s newsletter click HERE!

  For Elena’s newsletter click HERE!

  We can’t wait to hear from you! Happy Reading!

  Steena & Elena

  Introduction

  Christmas has always been one of the busiest times of the year for the women of Halfway, Montana, and this year is no exception.

  It’s barely been a year since Nikki Landon and her son, Ryan returned to town. But a lot has happened in such a short time, and this year, with her new love by her side, the holidays are set to take on a whole new meaning.

  Despite how busy Becky Jennings and her husband Matt are running their tree farm, Christmas has always been a time for love, laughter and…baking. Now, with a baby on the way, their lives are about to change—but is all the stress starting to take its toll?

  Melissa Tait has spent the last nine years celebrating the holidays without her husband Wade. Now that he’s returned, the whole family has a lot of adjusting to do. But is it too much?

  After ten years away, Nyah Henderson has finally returned to Halfway to take over her father’s medical practice. As happy as she is to be home, small town life can be tough. Maybe the holiday season is just what she needs to find her way?

  Join the women of Halfway, Montana as they celebrate love, friendship and the benchmarks of life this holiday season while learning some hard life lessons along the way.

  Happy Reading!

  Chapter 1

  BECKY

  Becky Jennings swung her legs as she sat on the bed of Matt’s pickup truck, her hands wrapped around a thermos of hot chocolate, and giggled as she watched the men drag the monstrous Christmas trees behind them.

  It was the perfect day for a big tree-cutting party. There was a slight chill in the air along with a light dusting of snow but with the sun shining bright, it almost could be deemed as a warm day. Almost.

  “How could they seriously not be freezing?” Melissa Tait muttered beside her.

  “Freezing or not, that’s a sight I’ll never get tired of.” Becky sighed.

  “What? The sight of our sexy muscle men walking toward us?” Nikki nudged her in the shoulder and smiled.

  Becky shook her head. “No, it’s the sight of those muscle men struggling with the trees they’re dragging behind them that I’d pay to see over and over and over.” She giggled as Matt stumbled in the snow. “Where’s my camera phone when I need it?”

  “I don’t know—Parker seems to be having no issues and Wade seems to be doing fine on his own.” Melissa swung her legs out in front of her. “Thanks for inviting us, by the way.”

  Becky smiled and linked her arm through both of the girls beside her. “It feels like old times, doesn’t it?”

  “Someone’s getting sentimental with her pregnancy,” Nikki teased.

  Becky rubbed her swelling belly. “I’m always sentimental. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Everyone keeps warning me of pregnancy hormones, but so far, I’ve been fine.”

  “Oh really?” Nikki’s brows rose. “So that little shouting match we interrupted earlier was normal? Along with the outburst of tears when you hugged Melissa and Wade earlier?”

  “Or how about the way you threatened Matt with the spatula when he tried to sneak some whipped cream before we left?” Melissa added.

  Becky’s cheeks reddened and she knew it wasn’t from the wind. She wrinkled her nose and stuffed back the flood of tears that always seemed to come at the worst times. She blinked a few times and kept her gaze straight so the girls wouldn’t notice.

  “So I’m a little emotional.” She huffed before she smiled.

  “Can you believe I’m actually pregnant? I still can’t. I mean, I know I am,” she rubbed her belly again, “but you know, right? You know?”

  “We know,” Nikki and Melissa said together.

  Becky pulled them in for a closer hug. “So stop busting my balls about being hormonal.” She winked at Nikki before she nudged herself to the end of the pickup bed and shimmied off before she made her way toward Matt.

  The snow was quite deep, she’d give him that. A few times, she caught the way his feet would sink until the snow was close to his knees.

  “Guess we didn’t do a good enough job with the sled to pack down the path, huh?” Becky smiled up at her husband and despite the scowl on his face, she kissed him.

  “Kiss me like that some more and it won’t matter,” he said just as she pulled away.

  “Later, tree man. That’s for later.” She smacked him lightly on the chest before she looked over his shoulder at the tree she’d picked.

  “It’ll all be worth it,” she said to him.

  The look on her face told her otherwise.

  “You just had to pick the biggest tree in the field, didn’t you?” Matt grumbled. “You do realize it’s more than double the size of what the other two picked, right?”

  “But it’s beautiful, don’t you think?” Becky gave him the sweetest smile she could. It really was a big tree and probably too big for their home, but the moment she’d seen it, she knew she wanted it.

  “She’s got you wrapped, man.” Wade Tait laughed. He hauled a fair-sized tree while his daughter, Abby, dragged a Charlie Brown-type tree behind her.

  “I know.” Matt leaned in for another kiss, which Becky was all too happy to give him.

  Becky led the way back to the pickup where she stood off to the side while everyone else helped to load the trees. She’d been given strict orders not to do any type of heavy lifting and she had no problem following them.

  “I’ve got a nice chicken and dumpling stew simmering for lunch,” she reminded everyone.

  Today was going to be the perfect day. She had it all planned. She loa
ded everyone up with some fresh homemade hot cocoa and sugar cookies before they trudged through the snow to find their perfect trees. Becky had filled a container with some treats for along the way, which was a good thing considering they’d been out here for half the morning already.

  “Ryan and I are still building our gingerbread houses, right, Becky?” Abby asked, a hopeful gleam in her eyes.

  “I cut out all the pieces you’ll need yesterday so we should be ready. You up for it, Ryan?” Becky asked.

  Ryan was holding the tip of his tree he’d picked with Nikki up while Parker stood on the bed of the truck.

  “Will there be cookies to eat?” Ryan asked eagerly.

  “Will there be cookies to eat?” Matt gave his son a playful punch in the shoulder. “As if you had to ask. Becky has a special tin set away with all your favorites. I wasn’t even allowed to touch,” he grumbled playfully.

  “It’s a big tin.” Becky shrugged her shoulders as Nikki gave her a look.

  Thanks, Nikki mouthed.

  You’re welcome, Becky replied.

  Ryan’s eyes lit up as he caught the exchange. “I won’t eat them all at once, Mom.”

  “Sure, sure.” Nikki shook her head.

  Becky couldn’t wait for this Christmas. This would be their second one with Ryan in their lives and the last one before their own baby was born. Their family continued to grow and Becky couldn’t be happier about it.

  She glanced over at Melissa and Wade, who stood off to the side. They appeared to be having an intense discussion and ordinarily Becky wouldn’t have thought much about it, except, she’d noticed there seemed to be a tense vibe between the two of them all morning.

  “They’re fine,” Matt whispered into her ear. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. “Wade is still adjusting to being home after so long.”

  She turned in his arms and frowned. “I know. I thought they’d be happier, you know?”

  “Give them time. I’m sure it’s hard going from being a single parent for so long to having to share the responsibility. Melissa’s known for liking things to be a certain way, we all know that, and Wade…it’s gotta be tough. Just give them time and love.”

  “I just want them to know they’re not alone. None of us are. Not anymore. That’s what today is about, you know?”

  Matt touched the tip of her cold nose. “I know. Now, how about we head home before you turn into an icicle?” His stomach grumbled loudly.

  “Oh sure, use me as an excuse, why don’t you. Can we hurry though? I’ve never had to pee so much in my life,” Becky complained.

  She hopped up into the truck like a graceful elephant and moved over into the middle. Eventually Nikki joined her while Melissa climbed into the back. Wade, Parker, and the kids remained in the truck bed with the trees.

  “We might head home early,” Melissa said quietly to Becky.

  Becky half turned in her seat and shook her head. “No way. I’ve got a whole day planned. You’re all going to help us decorate our tree and we’ve got a mean game of Scrabble to play after dinner.” She gave Matt a look.

  “Wade’s a little sore and his pills are at home.” Melissa stared out the front window, not quite meeting Becky’s eyes. “Plus I’ve got an order at the shop I really should work on.”

  Matt’s hand squeezed Becky’s leg moments before Becky was about to call Melissa on her lie. She let out a breath instead and attempted a smile.

  “I’ve got some warm compresses we can heat up if it’s his shoulder and he can snag Matt’s comfy chair. Stay for a little bit at least, okay?”

  “I don’t know.” Melissa hesitated. “I’ll have to talk to Wade.”

  “Becky, didn’t you mention you needed me to run into town for a few things for dinner?” Matt squeezed her leg again.

  “What? I—” She stopped as Nikki kicked her foot. “Right. Yeah, I have a list. I can’t believe I forgot them.” She had no idea what it was she forgot but she went along with whatever Matt was doing.

  “I’ll ask Wade to pick them up. Think he’d be okay with that, Mel?” Matt asked.

  “He might. Thanks.” Melissa relaxed in her seat and Becky turned back around.

  She looked over at her husband but he gave his head a small shake. Did he know something she didn’t?

  Once back at the house, everyone helped to bring in Becky’s enormous tree while she directed its placement. Thankfully Matt had done an excellent job in cutting it down and it was the perfect size, with enough room for the new Christmas star Becky had picked up at a flea market earlier.

  She clapped her hands with excitement as the tree was secured into the tripod and watched as Abby knelt to wrap the tree skirt she’d made years ago around the base.

  “Before we get into decorating, how about some hot lunch?” Matt said. “I don’t know about anyone else but I’m starving. These muscles,” he flexed his arms, “don’t come cheap, you know.”

  “Let me throw the biscuits in the oven and we’ll be ready in a few.” Becky watched the couples in the room to gauge their reactions. Nikki and Parker stood off to the side, arms wrapped around each other, while Melissa and Wade stood a few feet apart, their arms tightly crossed over their chests.

  What was going on with them?

  “Melissa, do you think you could help? I’ve got some apple cider in a crockpot you can hand out, if that’s okay?”

  She didn’t miss the look of relief on her friend’s face.

  “I can’t tell you how happy I am you guys were able to join us today,” Becky said once they were alone in the kitchen. She set the timer on the oven and wiped her hands clean.

  “Thanks for inviting us. Really.” Melissa reached for a cup and filled it with cider. Becky pulled out a tray from the cupboard and placed the cups on there as Melissa filled them.

  “Well, I’m all about traditions and Christmas is my favorite season. What do you think about making this an annual thing…a big tree-cutting day? Next year, we can all head to your home and decorate your tree—or Nikki’s. Christmas is meant to be shared with those you love.”

  Melissa gave her friend a little side hug. “I love the idea.” Melissa smiled.

  Becky added a plate of cookies to the tray while Melissa continued to pour the cider.

  “Are things…okay? Between you and Wade?” She hoped she wasn’t being too forward in asking.

  Melissa bit her lip. “Things are…good. It’s different, you know? Wade being home and back in our lives. It hasn’t been easy. I think—”

  “Mel?” Wade stood at the doorway that linked the living room to the kitchen. “Can we talk?”

  “Sure.”

  Becky tried really hard not to listen in as the couple spoke but their whispers were hardly quiet.

  “Matt asked me to head into town to pick up a few things. I might be awhile,” Wade said.

  “We were supposed to do this as a family, Wade. You promised Abby,” Melissa hissed.

  “I won’t be long. I just…”

  “You promised not to go there during our family days. You promised!”

  Becky kept her back turned and filled the remaining mugs with cider. She didn’t like the anger she heard in Melissa’s voice. Where was Wade going?

  “I won’t be long. I promise. A couple hours, max.”

  “Whatever.” The dismissal in Melissa’s voice was loud and clear and Becky winced.

  She heard the sound of steps retreating, a door closing, and a soft sobbing. Becky immediately turned to find Melissa huddled in the corner, her face covered by her scarf as she quietly cried.

  “Oh honey.” Becky went over and wrapped Melissa in a hug. “Are things okay?”

  Melissa shook her head. “Sorry.” She rubbed her red-rimmed eyes and sighed. “Sorry. It’s fine. I’m just…” She breathed in deep and slowly let the air back out. “It’s fine. Wade will be back.”

  “I couldn’t help overhearing. I’m sorry.”

  Melissa snorted. “It’s no
t like I was quiet or anything. I just hope Abby didn’t hear.”

  “Are things okay between you two?”

  Melissa shrugged. “Like I said, it hasn’t been easy. We’ve been going to family counseling and apparently this adjustment phase is quite normal for ex-convicts.”

  “Is there anything I can do?” Becky felt helpless. A feeling she didn’t like.

  Melissa shook her head. “Thanks. I appreciate that. But just being a friend, doing…this…is all I need.”

  “Being a friend, that I can do. Just remember you’re not alone, okay?” She’d remind Melissa of that daily, if she needed to. Melissa had a tendency to do things on her own, like for the past ten years when she lied about Wade being dead to protect her daughter from the truth.

  “Did you guys get lost or something?” Nikki came into the kitchen and pulled the oven door open moments before the alarm went off. “There, now I can say I helped. I saved the biscuits from their burning death.” Nikki grabbed the potholders and pulled out the pan. The delicious smell of fresh bread filled the air.

  “See, Ryan. I don’t burn everything,” Nikki called out teasingly.

  “You didn’t bake them though, Mom,” Ryan yelled back.

  Becky rolled her eyes. “Parker does know you don’t cook, right?”

  Nikki shrugged. “I cook. As long as it’s pre-made by either you or Greta Wilson, I’m fine.”

  “Uh huh.” She handed Nikki the tray of cider. “Why don’t you hand these out while I get the bowls for the stew ready?”

  “You got it. You’d better hurry up, though. The natives are getting restless.”

  Becky didn’t miss Nikki’s questioning glance at Melissa before she left.

  Becky had no idea what was going on but she didn’t feel it was appropriate to continue prodding Melissa either, not when anyone could walk in and overhear their conversation.

  “You and I are overdue for a good ol’ girly chat, I think,” Becky said.

 
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