Christmas at Apple Lake is included in Christmas on Main Street- Book 2. With Five Fabulous new romances in the boxed set, each book is sure to warm your heart.
I wanted to create a character that had lived too long under someone else’s control and finally comes to realize she’d lived in her husband’s shadow. Now she’s ready to break the mold, but finds her children are unwavering in their persistence to continue where their father left off before his death. They’d learned control too young and too well.
When Gage Landon meets Matt Street, her entire thought process takes a life changing turn for the better. She’s ready to live. Really live.
Does Gage come into her own or will she allow her girls to send Mom back into the plastic mold where they want her to remain?
Christmas Eve, Gage Landers stacked the girl’s Christmas presents and began to wrap. She envisioned the girl’s excitement the next morning, their sweet faces aglow with anticipation of secrets underneath the paper wrappings. Presents strewn under the lighted tree, the girls squealing and thrilled at the thoughts of waiting for Christmas morning surprises. Life was as good as it was going to get.
Gage and her husband, Ken had argued over money—again. In an outburst of rage, Ken had stormed out of the house without a word, slammed the door behind him, and roared off in his souped-up Chevy. He’d been drinking and his car had rammed a telephone pole. Ken had died in a freak accident along with the woman he’d cheated on Gage with.
That was the last time she’d seen her husband alive.
Twenty-nine had been way too young for Ken to die. If only she’d known, she’d have taken steps to improve their declining marriage. In addition, she’d have developed more independence.
Now, her girls blamed her for their father’s death. They’d thrown his death in her face, that if they hadn’t argued, he’d still be alive and at home where he belonged.
Gage knows that isn’t true.
She believes in a higher being. She believes we are on this earth for a reason and it’s the same in death. We leave this world when our time here has ended, not before.
Gage fights to help her girls understand death and how to deal with their grief, but as in real life, working through grief is a long process. Gage realizes it’s hard to absorb death, much less accepting why, especially when the girls oppose her on every level.
No one ever said happiness was forever. Gage knew all about forever. It wasn’t.
Her life was upside down now and righting it was up to her. No one could do it for her. But how was she going to go about it? Certainly her girls had their own idea of how she would get back on track. No, maybe that was an understatement. They wanted her to become a shadow of them, just as she’d been a shadow of their father. To live the way they wanted her to exist. Well…that wasn’t going to happen. She’d had enough control.
A shadow of what she’d known would keep her from being what she wanted to be. What she knew she could be. What she wanted was to overcome her situation without being under someone else’s thumb, even her girls. Maybe, especially her girls. As much as she loved them, and as much as they loved her, relying on them wasn’t fair to either of her girls, whether they realized it or not. And, they didn’t. At least now. Gage prayed both girls would come to appreciate she’d have to make her own way.
Ken hadn’t wanted her to work after they’d married, and since they both wanted children right away, Gage hadn’t argued, but felt blessed to have a husband take care of her and the children that blessed their home.
Now, being taken care of had blown up in her face. She wasn’t prepared, but life wouldn’t be put off.
Ken had been the decision maker for the biggest part of their marriage. She’d had enough of control during her marriage. Control she hadn’t wanted or needed, but she’d allowed her husband to feed on her insecurities, steal her identity and her free will.
Ken hadn’t been physically abusive he just liked things to go smoothly and his way. Gage’s decision to go along had been a terrible mistake. Still the marriage had been mostly good and she’d learned to adjust. Now adjustments from the past and into the future would be a test. A test she was ready to meet head-on once she realized control was a form of abuse.
Gage tossed in the king sized bed, finally flipped back the sheet and stared up at the ceiling. Her mind’s eye followed the swirls embedded in paint, paint she and Ken had applied together. For ten years she’d shared the bed with Ken and now that he was gone, she had a second chance at making things right for her girls.
Ken had no knack for finances. But, it wasn’t entirely his fault the house was mortgaged to the hilt, and the credit cards maxed out. The medical bills had stacked up and now it was up to Gage to do something about them. But what? She had no job, nor any skills other than organizing the house as one would a business over the years.
Gage wanted more for her children. More for herself. More than to simply exist.
So, the time had come to get up off her duff and do something about being head over heels in debt, to find a way to do what she had to do. By herself.
Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:
Christmas at Apple Lake
Since there was a chill in the air today, she’d dressed in sweats and a warm top, and then ran a brush through her blonde hair and pulled it back in a ponytail. She snagged Radar’s, her buff/white Cocker Spaniel, leash, then set off for the park a half mile away.
For fifteen minutes Radar dragged Gage along the trail until she veered onto another track and headed around the bend toward Apple Lake. Gage ran until she was satisfied Radar would lay quietly so she could rest and think about dinner plans for the girls.
With both girls now away at college, they were so busy with their own lives they barely remembered to call once a week. It would be like old times if they’d spend Christmas with her this year since they’d spent the last three in Coldwater Creek with friends, but she wouldn’t push. On the other hand maybe she would urge them. It would be nice to have them for the holidays again. Maybe she would set her wishes in motion, and hopefully the girls would agree.
She couldn’t bear the thoughts of Mr. Moore spending the holidays alone, and considered asking him if he might join them and enjoy Christmas with a family this year. Her spirits lifted at the thoughts of Christmas with the girls. A family Christmas just may be possible this year.
Gage looped Radar’s leash over the back of a wooden bench and watched while runners came and went. They seemed so free from care, so together. Gage had finally learned to relax and treasure each day, whatever life offered.
Gage wrapped her hands around her knees on the chilly, but beautiful mid-December day in the park, the leaves blowing across the winding walking trail. I’ll Be Home For Christmas played in the background from the coffeehouse around the bend. She leaned her head back and took in a breath of the cool, lazy breeze that blew across the lake, which was motionless, except for a ripple here and there.
The past six years had been hard on the girls and herself. The last three were much better, financially and emotionally. Some issues never changed though.
The girls still denied that their father had an affair even when she’d confessed, that months before, he’d had an affair with the same woman who’d died in the car with him. She hadn’t wanted the girls to discover Ken’s cheating, but they’d overheard her on the phone one day. They wouldn’t listen to reason and had resented her ever since.
“My father couldn’t possibly have cheated on you,” Keri had said, and Lynn had agreed.
“We won’t speak of this again, girls. You can believe what you choose, but the truth will never go away.” Gage had long given up explaining their father had stormed out of the house on his own. He alone had made the choice to spend time with another woman, and not his family. One day she hoped they’d be old enough to understand.
Gage sighed and prayed this evening’s dinner would be peaceful. The girls still hadn’t given her their Christmas list. Christmas was two weeks away and that gave her little time if there were any gifts that required hunting down. She sighed. There was at least one for each of the girls that she ordered online or ran all over town to find. Plus she still had to put up a tree, deal with Mr. Moore and Mrs. Devon’s contract, and The Children’s Center.
Radar paced back and forth, then came that pitiful little whine Gage was familiar with. Radar had enough inactivity. “Aww…you hungry girl?”
Radar jumped up, and put her paws on Gage’s lap and yelped. “Okay then. Let’s get you home so you can tear into your food.”
When Gage grabbed the retractable leash and swung around, she bumped her knee against the bench and then stumbled onto the track and into a runner.
“Ouch,” Gage cried out. “Sorry.” She hobbled back to the seat and checked out her knee.
She was such a klutz. The man she’d bumped into stood over her, holding back a beautiful Chocolate Lab with one hand and a paperback book in the other.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I think I’ll live. It’s a simple surface scratch, the skin’s mostly intact.” She dabbed at her knee with the towel tucked in her belt loop. “Once I get back home, I’ll take care of it with a bandage and anti-biotic cream.”
Despite the sting of the injury, her mind was on the handsome hunk standing in front of her. True the Chocolate Lab was a perfect specimen, but not as much as his owner who stared back intensely. She couldn’t take her eyes off the man beside the dog. Oh wow. Don’t I look fetching this morning? No make-up and the worst clothes I have.
Hard as it was, she forced herself to take a deep breath and snap out of ogling the good-looking man.
“Good.” A concerned look crossed his face. “I shouldn’t have been reading while walking, otherwise I’d have seen you. It’s too busy on the trail. Would you like me to take a look at it?”
“Thanks, but no. I’m afraid it’s entirely my fault. I wasn’t watching what I was doing either.”
Radar danced around and tangled the leash around her legs. Gage bent and unwound the leash. When she did, Radar sat back on her hind legs and whined again.
The man’s lab sat quietly and cocked her head at Radar, as if to say, “What’s your problem, little one?”
“Matt Street.” He reached out a hand and gave Gage a firm handshake and a dazzling smile.
She liked a man with a strong handshake. Most of the time, it proved he was honest. “Gage Landon. And this,” she pointed to her dog. “Is Radar.”
Matt cocked an eyebrow. “Strange name for such a feminine little beauty. Sounds like a name a guy would use,” he said, and grinned.
“She honed in on every little thing when I got her. So I named her Radar.”
Matt patted his lab’s head. “This is my Prissy. She’s a great gal.” He grinned and stooped to pet Radar and introduce her to Prissy. “There, you see? They’re friends already. You two will get along fine.”
You two will get along fine. Did that mean he expected they’d see each other again? Matt was the first man since Ken’s death she’d had even an inkling of interest in and had resulted in a strange sensation inside her heart. Not to mention the chill bumps running over arms. She’d steered clear of men the past nine years, she simply hadn’t wanted to deal with the emotions relationships presented.
While Matt petted Radar, Gage gazed down on his head. There was nothing more charming than a full head of salt and pepper hair on a great looking guy. She’d always thought it was so distinguished. Well, most of the time anyway, but definitely in Matt’s case.
“I guess we’d best be getting back. Radar’s pretty hungry. I didn’t feed her before we left.” She grinned. “Me too. Hungry that is, and I could stand a cup of coffee right about now.”
Matt stood and rubbed a shoulder. “Coffee sounds good, I haven’t had any this morning either.” Matt settled a stare on her. “Maybe we could feed our dogs early tomorrow and pick up coffee at Joe’s Shack after our run. What do you say?”
“I’m not sure.” They’d just met. She knew nothing about this man. Gage gawked at him until she embarrassed herself. “I’ll grab coffee at home. Thanks though. Nice meeting you, Matt.” She pulled on Radar’s leash. “Let’s go, girl.”
Matt smiled, waved and then headed in the opposite direction. He turned back around and called to Gage. “I usually run about this time every day. It would be good to see you again. Think about coffee tomorrow. Okay?”
Gage couldn’t keep the smile off her face. “Maybe. I’ll see,” she said. “Take care of that shoulder.” Why in the world had she said that? She wasn’t his mother. She could smack herself sometimes.
“Sure thing,” Matt called over his shoulder. “And you take care of that knee.”
Christmas at Apple Lake is a stand-alone book. I hope you enjoy each of the FIVE books in the set.
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